Pope Francis and Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew meet at
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
to pray together
The afternoon Pope Francis was elected I had to go to the airport to pick up an English priest who worked in Rome and whom I had engaged to give a lecture. The first question he asked as he came through customs was “Did they elect a Pope?” I answered “Yes, an Argentine Jesuit who has taken the name Francis.” Now I have a bit of a reputation for stating the improbable in jest but Father X looked at me in disbelief and it was only when he heard it on the radio on our way back from the airport did he believe it. An “Argentine Jesuit calling himself Francis” was more than improbable, it was world-shattering. And indeed many have found their worlds shattered by this Pope and his penchant for new models of the papacy as well as of discipleship.
I have an eye for the signals that one finds in the details. I watch papal ceremonies with a close eye. I had noticed immediately when the new pope came out on the balcony that he was not wearing the traditional rochet and mozetta. Hmm, I thought, this is curious. Pope Benedict was a stickler for protocol and even had reverted to some of the archaic vesture his recent predecessors had abandoned. And then there was the gesture of asking the crowd to “pray for him” in which he was really asking for them to “bless” him. This is a different ecclesiology, I thought. The next day there was a picture of him celebrating Mass for the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel where he had ordered an altar to be placed where he could face the assembly while Pope Benedict had used the old altar, celebrating in the pre-conciliar position of having his back to the congregation. Hmm, I thought again. Word began to spread of tension between the new Pope and his Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, whom Francis inherited from the previous Pope and who was known for retro-style worship. While time has taught the two men to work together as a team, Francis was not budging on his determination to do things his way which reflected a return to the ‘70’s sort of less elaborate liturgy. Francis insisted on the plainest of vestments, a definite step away from both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict who favored the most gorgeous of robes. And then the new Pope decided not to move out of the hotel where he had been living during the conclave, but to commute in an old car to his offices in the Apostolic Palace. This was all symbolic, but at the least it portended significant change in direction for the Church. A few savvy souls on the right saw this and began to get very nervous. They didn’t know what Francis was up to, but they knew he wasn’t Pope Benedict.
They began to check out his record and discovered as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he was far from enthusiastic about the pre-conciliar liturgy. Then they found out he was close friends with an Argentine rabbi and had not only co-authored a book with him, but had jointly led services with him. Pictures emerged of him washing the feet of—gasp!!!—women during the Holy Thursday rituals in Buenos Aires. The more they investigated the more anxious they became. This guy was not on the JPII/Benedict team. There not only was a new sheriff in town, there was a maverick in the papal office.
The very day Francis was elected, the Restorationist blog Rorate Caeli (http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-horror-buenos-aires-journalist.html) launched an attack on him saying:
Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.
A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum.
Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.
His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehavior.
He has not missed any occasion for holding acts in which he lent his Cathedral to Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and even to partisan groups in the name of an impossible and unnecessary interreligious dialogue. He is famous for his meetings with protestants in the Luna Park arena where, together with preacher of the Pontifical House, Raniero Cantalamessa, he was "blessed" by Protestant ministers, in a common act of worship in which he, in practice, accepted the validity of the "powers" of the TV-pastors.
Probably Francis’ first real bombshell was probably his famous “who am I to judge” response when asked about an allegedly gay priest in the Vatican service. The Pope’s response went viral and while many Catholics were happy for a less disparaging response to the LGBT community, there were those who went into all out alarm on this pastoral softening attitude. Then in September he said that some Catholics were too “obsessed” with issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and that more emphasis had to be placed on the issues of Social Justice. Now the fire alarms were ringing among Catholics on the right. Bad enough that we aren’t locked in on the two great moral questions of our day—abortion and same-sex marriage—but to say that we have to focus instead on the roots of poverty and injustice: that was a double whammy. All of a sudden Francis’ call when he was elected that we should be a “poor Church for the poor” was beginning to take on some ugly consequences. In November Rush Limbaugh—not a Catholic—attacked Francis as a “Marxist” for his “radical” ideas about social reorganization to give the poor of the world a better chance at bettering their situation. Just a month ago or so when the Holy Father received Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and the heads of various UN economic fora and talked about redistribution of resources, Limbaugh and his Katholic Krazies fans went ballistic all over again about how wrong this Pope gets it.
The initial attack on the Pope by Rorate Caeli spread as other self-appointed guardians of the “true faith” chimed in with their remarks rejecting the authority of this mad dog of a liberal Jesuit.
By December one Catholic blogger was writing (http://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/2013/12/pope-francis-effect-upon-catechesis.html)
As many concerned Catholics have expressed, the silly statements from the Pope are damaging to catechists, parents, grandparents and Catholics who are intimately aware that the mission of the Deposit of Faith is to teach the substance that gives every person right judgment about their actions as they relate to the salvation of their soul.
Another Krazy Katholic blog recently opined http://mundabor.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/the-bloggers-the-orks-and-the-uruk-hai/
It is clear enough, what is happening: Francis is paving the way for a full-scale Modernist attack on the Church. He thinks, speaks and act (sic) like a Modernist because he is one of them. It is very clear that to him everything can be changed, if the “Spirit” – that is, himself – says so.
How can we, then, react to this to the best of our ability? My answer is simple: sound the alarm now, strongly and insistently. And do not refrain from exposing the man for what he is: a danger for Catholicism, a sower of confusion, and a buffoon…
Can't you see how Francis becomes bolder with every passing month? When you see huge scandal in the making, do you speak against it or do you think “oh well, the Holy Ghooost is guiding the Chuuuurch for the beeest” like an old Pollyanna?
We can't give this Pope any slack, because he has not deserved any. If anything, he has made very clear there is no monstrosity he would not put into place, if he could. With his blabbering about not closing the door to the “Spirit” he has, once and for all, thrown away the mask. The Modernist machine is now working full steam, and we must not allow this and him to go unpunished – yes, unpunished – because he is the Pope. Yes, he is the Pope. Which is why the situation is so grave, why he is so gravely culpable, and why we must see him as the worst enemy of Catholicism.
Corruptio optimi pessima. Francis is certainly not optimus for any particular virtue of him – which he does not have -, but because of the absolute preeminence of his earthly position. A Pope sabotaging Catholicism every day is what the Germans call GAU, Größter Anzunehmender Unfall or the worst possible (nuclear) catastrophe; and the nuclear plants that gave rise to the expression are very fitting for our situation, because a huge accident is about to happen in the Vatican Power Station, and mad or evil men have taken control of it.
Francis is a popularity addict. His religion is himself first, Socialism second, himself third and fourth, and Christianity nowhere. What to do?
Mock him, ridicule him, let him drown in a sea of laughter and scandal. This is what is most likely, or least unlikely, to stop him or at least put a brake on his devastation. If every day thousands of Catholic blogs were to openly ridicule Francis, this would have two very salutary effects: it would show Francis he is the Kasperle (how fitting) of the sound Catholic world, and it would contribute to cure a large part of the Catholic masses from the Papolatry that has afflicted the Church for so many decades now. In time, the phenomenon would be registered by the mass media. At that point, Francis would have failed, and he would stay there like the old dangerous or evil nincompoop he truly, truly is.
This is not your usual Pope, to which the usual rules of utter deference apply. This here is a new breed of Pope….
We are, as I have already written, at the point that Francis has brought such disrepute to the office, that to criticise the man is the only way to defend the office. Ridicule him, so that the contrast with a decent Papacy and his predecessors may become more evident. Mock him, so that his delirious novelty may be discounted before he even opens his mouth. Make of him a laughing stock, so that you will hit him where he is hurt most effectively: in his boundless vanity.
Another blog that has moved into a position of open hostility towards this papacy is Eponymous Flower (http://eponymousflower.blogspot.com/2014/05/bishop-williamson-holds-forth-on.html)
The crazy words and deeds of Pope Francis are presently driving many believing Catholics towards sedevacantism, which is dangerous. The belief that the Conciliar Popes have not been and are not Popes may begin as an opinion, but all too often one observes that the opinion turns into a dogma and then into a mental steel trap. I think the minds of many sedevacantists shut down because the unprecedented crisis of Vatican II has caused their Catholic minds and hearts an agony which found in sedevacantism a simple solution, and they have no wish to re-open the agony by re-opening the question. So they positively crusade for others to share their simple solution, and in so doing many of them – not all -- end up displaying an arrogance and a bitterness which are no signs or fruits of a true Catholic.
Is Pope Francis driving many believing Catholics towards sede vacantism? I think that is a pretty gross overstatement, though not nearly as extreme as Mundabor’s rant. These are the Katholic Krazies and they represent less than 3/1000ths of a percent of American Catholics (20,000 out of 65 million.) I think what is more significant, much more significant, is that this same group had been ultra-loyalist during the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and now is in open contempt moving towards rebellion. The vast majority of American Catholics are more than happy with the direction in which Pope Francis is guiding the Church. I think the vast majority of American Catholics are also appreciative that this Pope has toned down the rhetoric on same-sex relationships and adopted a more pastoral approach to LGBT Catholics. No one expects a doctrinal statement on the matter, but Francis has sent strong signals that the human dignity of individuals come before moral strictures, something the Pharisee party in the Church has a tendency to forget. On the other hand, it does look like there may be a major policy change towards the pastoral treatment of the divorced and remarried. That could send a significant number of old-line Catholics searching for a new spiritual home. It would be difficult to know where they would go because the Orthodox and even the most morally rigid of so-called Evangelicals have accommodated the divorced and remarried. Certainly some would go to the Lefebvrists but just because people may not agree with lifting the sacramental penalties for remarriage after divorce doesn’t mean they want—or even would accept—the Latin Mass. The greater number would most likely be divided between those who would still come to Church grumbling that everything was going to the dogs or those who would stay home on Sunday mornings because everything is going to the dogs. On the other hand, there would be a considerable number of those who were in “irregular marriages” and abandoned Catholicism for the Episcopal or Lutheran Churches who would return to the Catholic fold. There would also be a significant number of former Catholics who would stay in the various Protestant congregations which they joined because they had gotten used to women clergy, more welcoming and inclusive congregations, and more flexible worship. Francis is changing the face of Catholicism, hopefully he is also changing the heart, but I don’t think it will significantly change the number of people in the pews one way or the other.