Sunday, March 24, 2013

Will the Real Pope Francis Stand Up?

Pope Francis' Pontificate is not even two weeks old at the time of this posting, and he has already come under intense scrutiny as to how he will conduct himself as pope and whose interests he will serve.  Liberals are tending to claim him as one of their own, convinced he will loosen up the teachings of the Catholic Church to bring it more into line with the modern world.

From American Spectator:
“I was overwhelmed by joy,” said Hans Kung, the dissenting European theologian, in a radio interview after the elevation of Pope Francis. “There is hope in this man,” gushed Kung, who predicted that Pope Francis will conform to the progressive interpretation of Vatican II and not follow the “line of the two popes from Poland and Germany.”
Leonardo Boff, one of the fathers of liberation theology, was quoted in the German press as saying that Francis is “more liberal” than commonly supposed.
Cardinal Roger Mahony took to Twitter to proclaim that the Church would move from high church to “low” church under Francis: “So long Papal ermine and fancy lace!”
The National Catholic Reporter approvingly quoted an unnamed Vatican diplomat as saying that “the Traditional Latin Mass brigade is finished.”
Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, told the Washington Post that Pope Francis is “known for being moderate” and when “he came out strongly against gay marriage, he did it under pressure from the conservatives.” According to Sergio Rubin, whom the Post calls his authorized biographer, Pope Francis initially “urged his bishops to lobby for gay civil unions” as an alternative to gay marriage.
Many Traditionalists are afraid Pope Francis will undo everything Pope Benedict XVI did and take away the Traditional Mass. 

The Rorate Caeli blog, written by Traditionalist Catholics, is deeply apprehensive about Cardinal Bergoglio’s elevation to the papacy, in particular because they say he was hostile to the traditional Latin mass in his archdiocese. But that’s not the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt they posted sympathetically from an analysis by an Argentine Catholic journalist:
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.
We reject all false optimism, and this is the spirit we will keep here, and it does not matter if many do not like it. In the web, it is quite easy to avoid things one does not like.
The article quotes from another traditional Catholic blog:
UPDATE: My trad Catholic TAC colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty is grim:
There are reasons to believe that Pope Francis is a transitional figure, unlikely to affect major reform at the top of the church. He is not known as a champion of any theological vision, traditional or modern. He is just two years younger than Pope Benedict was upon his election eight years ago. He has deep connections to Italy, but little experience with the workings of the Vatican offices. A contentious reading of Pope Francis’ rise is that Benedict’s enemies have triumphed completely.
It is unusual for a one-time rival in a previous election to triumph in a future one. And there is almost no path to Bergoglio’s election without support from curial Italians, combined with a Latin American bloc. Low-level conspiracy theories already flourish in Italy that Benedict’s resignation was the result of a curia determined to undermine his reforms. This election will only intensify that speculation. An older pope who does not know which curial offices and officers need the ax, will be even easier to ignore than Benedict.
Many seem to be viewing this pope in terms of what they want from him, as in the case of liberals, or in what Pope Francis might take away, as in the case of Traditionalists.  All, of course, are judging him on what they perceive to be his action and the rumors - true or false - that are flying around about what he has allegedly done in the past.

Peter Denies Jesus
I thought of this today at Mass when the long Gospel of Matthew 26:3-75 and 27:1-60 was read.  Part of this Gospel involves the scandalous behavior of our first Pope -  St. Peter - and how he reacted at the Crucifixion of our Lord.  We are told that he actually denied Jesus Christ, saying he didn't even know the Man:
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Can you imagine how the media and others would treat the election of St. Peter to the Papacy: "And this man is going to lead the Church? He is weak and selfish, breaking down in the face of adversity. How can we ever trust him? Do you know that our Lord actually called him Satan at one point? He constantly puts his foot in his mouth, and you can't trust anything he says. He pledged his undying loyalty to the Lord, and only a few hours later he was denying he even knew him! We're all doomed."

Did you ever wonder why a Pope must take a new name when he is elected? It is because he no longer belongs to himself. One he accepts election to the Chair of Peter, he is Peter: "Tu es Petrus." The pope is no longer Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger or Jorge Mario Bergoglio. All of those men, in effect, ceased to exist when they became pope. Everything a pope says and does in his official acts as Pope from the time of his election and acceptance is guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

I'm certainly not saying that a pope cannot sin and rebel in his personal life against God. We, unfortunately, have seen many examples of this in the 2000 year history of the Church. But not one of those sinful popes ever misled the church in faith or morals. "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." That was said to St. Peter and all of his successors. The Pope is the rock of the Church on earth.

All of those liberals who are salivating at the thought that major dogmas of the Catholic Church will be changed or those Traditionalists who fear that everything they love and believe in will be taken away are showing that they place no trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or the promises of Jesus Christ.

The Pope is not just a political figure. He is not just some guy who happened to be at the right place at the right time (or wrong place and wrong time, depending on your point of view). And he is no longer the same person he was before he became pope. Of course he still has his own personality and style. But he is not free to take the church in any direction he chooses. He still has freedom of will in his personal life, but he does not have freedom of will as Pope. That is why no one is ever allowed to judge a pope's actions.

It is for this reason that no sane man would ever desire to be pope. Although it is the most powerful office in the world because the Pope is the divinely chosen head of the one true Church of Jesus Christ, in actual fact the Pope has no personal power at all. He is a puppet of the Holy Spirit.

Before resigning, Pope Benedict pledged his complete obedience and loyalty to his successor, even though he had no idea who that would be. How could he do that? Didn't he want to make sure first that his successor would be the kind of pope that he, Benedict, thought he should be? Pope Benedict XVI was telling us with this statement that it does not matter who, individually, occupies the Chair of Peter. The real One occupying the Chair of Peter is the real Head of the Church - Jesus Christ. When we pledge our obedience and loyalty to the Vicar of Christ, we are making this pledge to Jesus Christ Himself.

The secular media is going to do what it is going to do. They see the pope as just another political figure. But we, as Catholics, must realize that the Pope is unlike any other man on earth. There is no politician or head of state who can compare to him. He is going to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It may or may not be what we think is right, but like the Pope, we need to get our own pride and ego out of the way and realize that as smart as we are, the Holy Spirit knows better than we do.  

The Israelites were ready to throw Moses over when he led them out of the land of Egypt to the Red Sea. They were being pursued by Pharaoh's army with no escape. Moses' command to them was "Be still and see the salvation of the Lord." I think that is some of the best advice that has ever been given in the history of mankind.

In other words, when it comes to the Pope - SHUT UP!!!  Or as they say here in Brooklyn - "SHADDUP!"

Thank you.


  1. Popes can lead astray in non infallible venues and did so: Leo X on burning heretics in Exsurge Domine,1520...Nicholas V on slavery and coercion in Romanus Pontifex, mid 4th large paragraph. John Paul has obscured this in his oath for profs etc. but Lumen Gentium 25 obscured it prior to that. Real Catholicism requires thinkers not robots in the non infallible. Most morals come from scripture like the ten commandments; and scripture is inerrant or you might say constantly infallible on morals.

    1. Nice to see you here, Bill. You know that I absolutely agree with you that popes can be wrong in "non infallible venues." But that's not what we are talking about here. This is about leading the church down a wrong spiritual path, and that is not possible.

      Also, using the example in my post, what can sometimes seem to our finite minds to be the completely wrong path - e.g., Moses leading the Israelites into an apparent death trap between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army - can be exactly the right path. We live by faith, not by sight. And we live by the words of our Lord, who said the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church.

  2. It shouldn't be about personal style in the Papacy. It should be about Papal style and one should conform to the Traditions of the office. Otherwise it runs the risk of each Pontificate being externally opposed to the next. As a parish tries to mimic each Pontificate more money is spent on vestments, whether plain or more elaborate then switched back again. I think the office would be above the man. Sending messages by refusing things connected to the office of the Pope tells us all that we can pick and choose those things that suit us personally and cast off things that don't. I think the Pope's actions are starting to confuse people.


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