Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why I Read So Few Catholic Blogs

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I had an interesting run in with a Catholic blogger recently. The blogger is Paul Anthony Melanson and he has a blog entitled, "La Salette Journey." He wrote a post criticizing Pope Francis for his "Urbi et Orbi" message. His post is entitled, "Does Pope Francis offer an authentic Gospel or the 'Social Gospel?' " [HERE].  His answer is that Pope Francis is preaching only a social gospel, and not telling the world about spiritual salvation. Therefore, Pope Francis is preaching a false gospel. Melanson quotes extensively from Dietrich von Hildebrand to show just how wrong Pope Francis is.

It is interesting that Melanson gives no direct quotes from Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi message. He does link to another Catholic blogger, "The Radical Catholic", who is also harshly critical of Pope Francis and - surprise, surprise! - "The Radical Catholic" also does not give any direct quotes from Pope Francis. Neither of these two Catholic bloggers even give any links so that we can read for ourselves the message from the Holy Father.  These bloggers offer only harsh criticism and condemnation.

Since these two self-proclaimed models of Catholicism refuse to play by any rules of fairness, I will make up for their deficiencies. You can go HERE to read the full Urbi et Orbi message from Pope Francis.

ISIS in Iraq
Credit:  rt.com
In his message, Pope Francis said, "Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people" and then went on to list several hot-spots in the world such as Iraq and Syria "who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution." The Holy Father prayed for "all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation."

The Holy Father prayed: 
May Christ the Savior give peace to Nigeria, where (even in these hours) more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.
Victims of terrorism in Nigeria
Credit:  www.thecuttingedgenews.com
Pope Francis mentioned the suffering of millions of children in the world:
The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence.
Further:
I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods.
Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.
Credit:  womennet.am
Pope Francis concludes his message by saying:
Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit today enlighten our hearts, that we may recognize in the Infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth.
May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalization of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into plowshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness.

Then we will be able to cry out with joy: "Our eyes have seen your salvation"
Both Melanson and "The Radical Catholic" are very upset that Pope Francis would equate "salvation" with being concerned and praying for an end to the the physical suffering of so many millions around the world. From the Radical Catholic:
While I wish to distract neither from the horrible plight of so many suffering around the world today nor from the genuineness of the Holy Father's sentiments, I find myself wondering: Did Christ come to save us from these things? Did He come to save us from poverty, famine, persecution and suffering? Did He come in the glory of His power to establish a kingdom in which there is no want, no calumny, no corruption? Is this the reason for His appearance two millennia ago? Is this the meaning of His Advent?
I can only wonder:  are these two bloggers for real?  Did they never read Matthew 25 - "whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me?"  Christ talks about clothing the naked, feeding the starving, caring for the poor.  He said that those who don't do these things will not be in the Kingdom of God.  A Christian never separates concern for the spiritual state of persons from concern for their physical state.  It is just as wrong to not care for people physically as it is to neglect them spiritually.  

I wrote a comment to Melanson's blog in which I said, "I guess Dr. Hildebrand wouldn't like Pope Benedict XVI either. What up with these popes trying to give comfort to the world?! That is something Jesus would never do."  

I then linked to the 2012 "Urbi et Orbi" message from Pope Benedict XVI [HERE].  In this message, Pope Benedict mentions the tremendous suffering of people in various countries, such as Syria and "the Land where the Redeemer was born", North Africa, "the vast continent of Asia", Mali, Nigeria, the "Democratic Republic of Congo" and Kenya.  Pope Benedict ended his message with:
Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace.
Eerie how similar these messages are, and yet Melanson has the audacity to say in his comment to me:
Actually, Dr. Hildebrand would have no problem with Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict never advanced a Social Gospel. Read your own link, if you are capable. Nowhere does Benedict hold Christ as the Savior from poverty and all the ills of society.
Oh really?  What do you call this:
May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.
May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.
It is obvious that these bloggers hear only what they want to hear and read only what they want to read.  They certainly don't let reality intrude.

I wrote back to Melanson quoting from James 2:16:
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
I cannot remember my entire comment because Melanson refused to post it.  Instead, he alluded to it by writing this:
Since "Catholic in Brooklyn" doesn't care to engage in honest dialogue, I won't be publishing her comments.
She left another comment asserting that men are primarily interested in the food for the body. She misses the point.
Lucifer was the first preacher of the Social Gospel. He said to Jesus, "Turn these stones into bread."

And how did Jesus respond? With the most succinct rebuttal of the Social Gospel: That man does not live by bread alone but by the Word of God.
I guess Melanson's idea of dialogue is that he talks and unless you agree with him - shut up.

I have a question for Melanson, "The Radical Catholic" and all the other radical traditionalists who see Pope Francis as basically a heretic.  Do they honestly believe that Pope Francis is not preaching the message of salvation to the world? Pope Francis wrote a book-length apostolic exhortation which is entirely concerned with preaching the Gospel to the world.  From that document:
Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.
John Paul II asked us to recognize that “there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel” to those who are far from Christ, “because this is the first task of the Church”. Indeed, “today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church” and “the missionary task must remain foremost”. What would happen if we were to take these words seriously? We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity. Along these lines the Latin American bishops stated that we “cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings”; we need to move “from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry”. This task continues to be a source of immense joy for the Church: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15:7).” (14-15)
Melason, "The Radical Catholic" and others would do well to read carefully the following statement from Pope Francis:
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).” (49)
Are these the words of a man who is preaching only the "social gospel"?  The purpose of "Urbi et Orbi" is to speak to the world.  Should we just ignore the world's tremendous suffering and instead tell them that they had better repent of their sins or they're going to hell?  Is that how we will reach them?  There is a time and place to preach repentance to people.  But that is not the purpose of "Urbi et Orbi."  To accuse Pope Francis of preaching a false gospel because he shows compassion and empathy for the suffering of the world is truly appalling.

Melanson banned me from his "Catholic" blog because I support the Holy Father.   One of those commenting on Melanson's blog wrote this in response to my comment:
Actually Jesus didn't come to bring comfort to the world. He came to bring peace to individual souls who turn to Him and away from their sins with humility and contriteness of heart in complete surrender. And that can only happen if those individuals openly reject the world.

Oh but hey, don't take my word for it, let Him tell you:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’" - Matthew 10:34-36
So what do you think you know that Christ doesn't know?
If this was true Catholicism, I would immediately turn in my card. Is following a Christ a matter of just pointing out the sins of others and telling them to shape up or ship out and disregarding their physical suffering since they brought it on themselves anyway? How can anyone possibly say that because you care about the physical suffering of people, then you obviously don't care about their souls? This is exactly what Melanson and "The Radical Catholic" are saying about Pope Francis. They would do well to heed the words of Our Lord as recorded in Matthew 12:36 - "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,"

For Paul Anthony Melanson and "The Radical Catholic" and so many others whose main occupation seems to be condemning the Holy Father, here are the words of Pope Francis from Evangelii Gaudium:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centred lack of trust.” (85)
UPDATE:  I have invited Paul Anthony Melanson to comment, but he refuses to acknowledge me.  
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