I remember being at a dinner party the week before the 2008 presidential election. I was a reluctant guest—I was brought to the party under false pretenses by a friend who knew that I didn’t care for the host and found his opinions boorish, but who wanted to “liven up” what he feared would be an otherwise dull evening. “Jack” is a retired army officer from Brooklyn with a strong ethnic identity and a propensity towards stereotypes whether they be matters of race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. He also is a devout Catholic—devout in terms of Mass attendance but not necessarily in terms of the Church’s teachings on social issues. The other guests at dinner ranged from moderate Republicans to the tea-party positions of our host. I was definitely in the wrong company and still wonder what our mutual friend was possibly thinking of in dragging me along. I did my best to stay out of the conversation, but after a half hour of hearing how Barack Obama is a Muslim and a Marxist and a “mongrel”—an obvious reference to his mixed race background, I had had enough and told my host that his opinions brought to mind my favorite line from a movie is from the Emperor’s Club when Professor Hundert says: “Aristophanes once wrote, roughly translated; "Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but STUPID lasts forever." It cast a pall on the conversation and has caused a slight drop in the number of invitations I receive to dine, but my point is that in certain circles Obama was doomed from the beginning and for no reason other than his color. I am not saying that there are not reasons to be disillusioned with the President—he has made enough blunders to disillusion his most ardent supporters—but rather that he didn’t stand a chance with the crazies from moment one. Pope Francis didn’t have it any better. While most of us were bewildered at the entire process—it had been centuries since a Pope had resigned and since a papal election was held with a still-living Pope (or in this case, Pope emeritus) on the scene—there were those who immediately sounded the tocsin that the Church was doomed. Every action the man has taken since has only confirmed their irrational fears.
The election of Cardinal Bergoglio took us all by surprise. I remember greeting a friend of mine at the airport that afternoon. Father Kevin had just flown in from Rome to give a lecture I was organizing and asked me if a Pope had been elected while he was airborne and out of news-contact. I said “Yes, an Argentine Jesuit who has taken the name “Francis.” Kevin laughed and said “No, seriously….” He did not believe me until he heard it for himself on the news. I don’t blame him—the whole thing was improbable. For some, it was more than improbable. Here is what Steve Skojec reports from readers on his blog (http://blog.steveskojec.com/2013/11/13/intuition-infighting-and-our-divided-house/)
“I read the link, “New Pope Chosen” on my computer earlier this year. I immediately jumped up to watch the event unfold on my TV upstairs. En route to the TV, I stopped at the sink in my kitchen, where the Sacred Heart of Jesus was enthroned. I immediately heard the message broadcast to my soul, “This is a bad decision.” When I saw him, I felt just like you.”
“I too had a similar feeling when Francis stepped out on the balcony for the first time. It is disturbing but I like many continue to look for Satan’s influence on my thinking in regards to Francis.”
And yet another
“When Pope Francis came out on the loggia, my stomach did somersaults, I wanted to vomit — for hours. I had a sense of foreboding.”
The problem of course was not the color of the Holy Father’s skin. The problem is that he was not Benedict and his style immediately signaled a change away from that of his immediate predecessors. And his being a Jesuit didn’t help.
The “old goat” wrote in a response to a Free Republic (http://www.freerepublic.com
I’m of the mind that this is a very dangerous papacy. The Jesuits have been a very poor example of Catholic orthodoxy for a very long time.
So his lack of a scarlet mozetta and the SJ after his name, was enough to raise the fears that the doctrinaire tone of the two preceding papacies would vanish and with it would disappear fidelity to the faith itself. Here is a man, according to his critics, who undermines the very office with which he has been entrusted. Going back to Steve Skojec for a moment: Skoject is no fan of the Holy Father. He too sees Francis as betraying the Petrine Office of guarding the deposit of faith, if not by outright heresy by an ambiguity
That obligation of “guarding with the greatest vigilance the deposit of faith” is one I don’t see Pope Francis taking very seriously at all, at least in terms of the never-ending stream of misinterpretations of Catholic teaching or the direction of the Church that seem to follow in his wake.
Skojec is not alone. Many neo-trads are convinced that the Pope has betrayed the faith. In that same New Republic article cited above, another commentator writes:
The Creed Pope Francis recites at Mass is far from the creed he speaks outside the Mass, in his interviews. And a reader of LifeSite News posted this remark attacking the fidelity of Pope Francis to our Catholic faith:
As far as I can see, the new approach is to meld both Catholics and Protestants into Christians, without worrying about doctrine or dogma, at the risk of being labeled a sect. That seems to be the roadmap for the future, and it worries me.
This is serious stuff. Another respondent to the same LifeSite News article writes:
If that happens, then those of us in the Romanist Church will have to go Lefèbvrist - which may yet prove to be a good thing!! Bishop Fellay, who really seemed to be working well with Benedict XVI, seems to be a genuinely good man (just like Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict XVI). However, I'm really getting suspicious of Francis...
What has Francis done to bring such suspicions on him that people are thinking of going into schism over his papacy? No doctrines have changed. The permission for those who prefer the unreformed rites to resort to their arcane ceremonies has not been abrogated. But Francis is labeled a Marxist, a heretic, and whatever else the crazies want to call him. A priest friend of mine says that in his 37 years of priesthood, the subject that gets him in the most difficulty with the heresy-hunters is the Mercy of God. I guess Pope Francis is finding the same thing. But then Jesus was never very popular with the Scribes and the Pharisees either.