Houston, we have a problem

Against the hope that comes from Pope Francis’ popularity, however, must be weighed the danger that comes from the notion he has abandoned doctrine for love. Plainly, the pope has done no such thing: In Catholic teaching, love and doctrine (or truth) are one. But it is equally plain that many who celebrate this pope do so precisely because they take the message that doctrine no longer matters.

In his original interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica, the pope said that when the church talks about its teachings, “we have to talk about them in a context.” By that, he means we cannot simply spout orthodoxies to an uncomprehending world.

Pope Francis is right. But it would help if the pope could remember he is not always master of the narrative. His conversations take place within a context that is often out of his control and shaped by those hostile to his message….(Source)

In the whole clatter of opinions on the papacy of Pope Francis, the above article is probably the closest to my personal view of how things stand.  I think the Pope is trying to say many important things that need to be heard by the world and by us conservatives.

His refreshing message on getting out of our comfort zone, helping the Poor more, keeping Catholicism as one unified whole is a necessary and much needed message.  I think he is correct in identifying one obstacle in evangelizing an unbelieving world.  But he just keeps focusing on the problem with the “Right”.  Are there problems with the “Right”?  Yes, and he does a really thorough job in cleaning out the stalls.  I know because I was pretty pissed off when I read it, but on reflection he is right is many respects.

The problem that I see is that his comments are way too one-sided.  Whenever he does criticize, it’s basically to excoriate and upbraid the traditional/doctrinally-focused Catholics, while he only give passing rebuke to the pastoral/social justice side of the Church.  As a result, the “pastoral” side of the Church and the debauched secular World are having a field day with his pontificateThe German bishops and their heretical view of marriage are just one example that his comments are encouraging all the wrong people at the wrong time.   The problems with the Right are really only just now emerging.  But what about the Left’s?  Has the past 50 years of social justice disaster been so ingrained in the Church that this Pope cannot see the proverbial corpses that it has spread throughout the Church?  Talk about straining the gnat to swallow the camel.

Sooner or later, the fruit of Pope Francis’ approach – for good of for ill – are going to come home to roost.  A Pope must always steer a middle path to keep the barque of Peter away from the storms on either side.  The way it looks now, the barque is steering way too left, and there will be some seriously negative consequences to that course which I don’t think any of us can really envisage.  The conservative Pollyannas in the Church who refuse to speak up at this change of course are doing no one any favour, least of all the Church or even the Pope who at least is open to criticism and correction (God bless him).

The other major issue is the “one step forward, two steps back” approach.  The Cardinals did not elect a Pope and Clarification Committee.  And yet, it seems that when the Pope gives an off-the-cuff interview, remark, or even prepared speech, the Catholic Clarification Committee and the Pollyanna Social Media Brigade swing into full action: “what the Pope meant to say was…”  How many times in John Paul II’s 27 year pontificate were daily clarifications required by the Vatican’s official spokesmen?  Not a heck of a lot…and certainly nothing the media could use.  We are not bound to listen to the Clarification Committee, and yet many people need this “Committee” in order to understand the Pope’s words within Catholic Tradition. There is a real problem here.

I’ll tell you, when we need Fr. Rosica to clarify Catholicism for us after a Papal homilyHouston, we have a problem.

3 thoughts on “Houston, we have a problem

  1. Pope Benedict had to be clarified, too. Remember the condoms comment? Remember the Regensburg address?

    And it’s true that Pope Francis has criticized the right, which is something that Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul never did. But he does criticize the left.

    I looked up some quotes from Pope Francis on my Catholic Breadbox blog (handy reference!) and here are some anti-left comments:

    Relativism is, oddly, absolutist and totalitarian. It does not allow anyone to stray from its own relativism. Basically, it means ‘shut up’ or ‘don’t meddle.’

    When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we confess a Christ without a Cross, we are no longer disciples of the Lord. We are mundane. We are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, everyone, but we are no longer disciples of the Lord.

    You know that marriage is for a lifetime? “Yes, we love each other, but we’ll stay together as long as love lasts. When it’s over, we go our separate ways.” That is selfishness.

    Throughout history, the people of God have always been tempted to chop a piece off faith, not to be too rigid. But when we start to cut down on faith, to negotiate faith, selling it to the highest bidder we take the path of apostasy, we begin to lack faith in the Lord.

    And then of course there are all those quotes against abortion.

    I think the discomfort that conservatives have with Pope Francis is that he does not have an orthodoxy agenda the way JP2 and B16 did. Dissent is not on his agenda, neither are the intellectual roots of this agenda. This agenda item is precisely why conservatives loved the last two popes.

    That being said, JP2 and B16 didn’t exactly kick butt, either. They said a lot of nice stuff, but there wasn’t nearly the stall cleaning that needed to be done.

    But I think Pope Francis’ agenda might be positive for conservatives in that he is trying to get away from “clericalism”, this idea that you need the priests to do everything. I think this approach will take away a lot of power from professional Catholics. Pope Francis is not too keen on the approach of staying our little chanceries and running the church like it’s a paper-shuffling exercise.

    The pope’s problem is that he has his own theological language and if you don’t get it, it can be easily manipulated and this is what leftists do. I get the feeling Pope Francis hasn’t woken up to this.

    But you know, Pope Francis is open to suggestions. Maybe you can write him a letter. 🙂

  2. Pope Benedict had to be clarified, too. Remember the condoms comment? Remember the Regensburg address?

    I would argue that there was little clarification in the Regensburg address required at all. Lots of fall out, but little in the way of clarification needed. He said exactly what needed to be said. On the condoms, yes, but not really either. Besides, that was over 8 years. And with JP2? Not a heck of a lot.

    And it’s true that Pope Francis has criticized the right, which is something that Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul never did. But he does criticize the left.

    I looked up some quotes from Pope Francis on my Catholic Breadbox blog (handy reference!) and here are some anti-left comments:

    Relativism is, oddly, absolutist and totalitarian. It does not allow anyone to stray from its own relativism. Basically, it means ‘shut up’ or ‘don’t meddle.’

    When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we confess a Christ without a Cross, we are no longer disciples of the Lord. We are mundane. We are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, everyone, but we are no longer disciples of the Lord.

    You know that marriage is for a lifetime? “Yes, we love each other, but we’ll stay together as long as love lasts. When it’s over, we go our separate ways.” That is selfishness.

    Throughout history, the people of God have always been tempted to chop a piece off faith, not to be too rigid. But when we start to cut down on faith, to negotiate faith, selling it to the highest bidder we take the path of apostasy, we begin to lack faith in the Lord.

    And then of course there are all those quotes against abortion.

    But these comments don’t make it into an Encyclical or with the same force or emphasis. Besides, the Pope needs to understand the times in which we live. You can speak Orthodoxy 99% of the time, but if you speak confusion or unorthodoxy 1% of the time, that’s what’s going to be focused on. This is the reality.

    I think the discomfort that conservatives have with Pope Francis is that he does not have an orthodoxy agenda the way JP2 and B16 did. Dissent is not on his agenda, neither are the intellectual roots of this agenda. This agenda item is precisely why conservatives loved the last two popes.

    Progressives might not like war. But war likes them. Dissent will need to be confronted and +++Francis will need to confront it head-on soon enough.

    But I think Pope Francis’ agenda might be positive for conservatives in that he is trying to get away from “clericalism”, this idea that you need the priests to do everything. I think this approach will take away a lot of power from professional Catholics. Pope Francis is not too keen on the approach of staying our little chanceries and running the church like it’s a paper-shuffling exercise.

    The pope’s problem is that he has his own theological language and if you don’t get it, it can be easily manipulated and this is what leftists do. I get the feeling Pope Francis hasn’t woken up to this.

    But you know, Pope Francis is open to suggestions. Maybe you can write him a letter. 🙂

    There is a real possibility that his papacy can ignite the Church in the right direction, but his focus and his message needs to be more balanced. There are definitely a lot of positive things and I don’t think the Left clearly understands that he is undercutting their foundations in many respects. They are too stupid to realize it. I just hope he doesn’t alienate conservatives too much in doing it.

    All that is required from him is just a small turn in the barque, a bit more prudence, and we could be on the edge of something spectacular.

  3. Thanks for the insights and quotes, Suzanne.

    To me, this boils down to what Fr. Z said about the “Pope of the media”. All your above quotes are true and accurate, but few Catholics have heard them. They’ve mostly only heard the “liberal” quotes cited in the article above. So it’s no surprise that Francis comes across as being leftist. JP2 and B16 didn’t give the media many quotes that could be spun as leftist.

    Francis has a great heart and is an admirable man. But he needs to stop the off the cuff comments and get a new speech writer.

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