Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Traditionalist Defends Pope Francis

Jesus Christ said the identifying sign of his followers would be that they would love one another.  "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:35) If that is the case, then I would suggest the many of those who run Catholic blogs and websites do some real soul searching because you are not displaying a whole lot of loving at the present moment, especially when it comes to our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

The Catholic blogosphere has lit up with rants and raves against Pope Francis in light of his two recent interviews. There have been those who have written favorably of the Holy Father, but I would estimate that they are outnumbered by about 50 to 1. Many have gone right up to the edge of accusing Pope Francis of being a heretic. has gone out of its way in gathering together many of the posts by Catholic bloggers who are on a rant about the Pope. From a blog called "Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II" (I don't think this particular blogger likes Vatican II):
Having absorbed the bitter reality of yet another revealing papal interview, one that somehow managed to offend Catholic sensibilities even more than the last, all but the most detached among us are now struggling to come to terms with what the future holds under a Bergoglio papacy.

Let’s be honest; modernist popes aren’t exactly the exception to the rule in this post-conciliar age. Hell, we’re even gearing up for their canonization!
So why then are Catholics today reeling in what appears to be an unprecedented way?
Simply put, because they should be.
I think it's obvious where that particular blogger is going.

Pewsitter also linked to a Catholic blogger by the name of Steven Skojec who titles his post, "It Doesn’t Take a Rigorist: Why All Catholics Should Be Concerned About Pope Francis."  It doesn't take a genius to guess what that post will say.

Pewsitter also linked to a gem by a blog called "Mundabor's Blog" in a post entitled, "Letter To A Proddie Friend":
You read now everywhere about the scandal caused by the disgraceful Pope Woodstock, and perhaps you think the man’s antics expose the intrinsic weakness of the Church. Perhaps you even think – in your lack of proper knowledge of Catholicism – that Francis may change the tenets of what you call the Roman (meaning by that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) Church.
Dear friend, you couldn’t be more wrong. Allow me to explain to you why.
The Pope doesn’t own the Church. He isn’t her CEO, either. He is merely the custodian and the caretaker of the enormous edifice entrusted to him; an edifice he has the duty to transmit, intact and properly maintained, to the next custodian.
The caretaker of a huge palace cannot decide that a wing should now be demolished, and a new one built in its place. He cannot add, or take away, anything from the real estate entrusted to him. His job is to care that everything looks good, everything works properly, the walls remain solid, the garden is properly maintained, and so on.
Granted, the caretaker could be a lazy man. Or he could be corrupted, and steal the money meant for the maintenance. The palace will, at some point, look shabby. The light bulbs will not work, the doors will start to squeak, mildew will appear in the basement, and the gardens will be a proper mess.
In extreme cases – like, well, now – the caretaker will be a kind of socialist hothead, a Che Guevara fan not only uncaring, but outright resentful of the splendour of the palace; a splendour that he considers offensive to the poor outside, living in their small cottages. Don’t ask me why he applied for the job of caretaker, or why no one tells him the poor living in the college love the palace and its splendour, and know that the Palace embraces and makes place for all the good villagers. This letter is not about these issues.
The socialist hothead caretaker will, then, do his work as… badly as he can. The palace will look miserable when seen from the road, and its state of disrepair will be evident to the blind. The caretaker will, in the meantime, go around in the village, boasting that he has brought the palace nearer to the people and clearly implying if he could he would knock down the whole thing and build a sanitised favela instead, where everyone can do pretty much whatever he pleases provided he loves.
This post is dripping in disrespect for the Holy Father, not even trying to understand what he was saying.  Just total condemnation.

Then there is "Ches" who does a blog called, "The Sensible Bond."  He has actually done a few posts about Pope Francis, all involving a large amount of hand wringing, with statements such as the following, which do nothing to add clarity but only to turn people against the Holy Father:
The most visible wreckage of what has just happened lies in the confusion, disillusion and demoralization of faithful men and women - small ones and those at the very top of the Church's life - whose battles against the culture of death or with the perversity of post Vatican II liberal Catholicism was travestied by Francis's radically ahistorical portrayal of the Church as doctrinally obsessive, imbalanced and small minded.
Father Z has tried his best to point out to his mostly Traditional Catholic readers what he feels is positive about the Pope's remarks.  But he does so with statements such as this:  "Sigh… are we going to have to do this everyday? Is this now my fate?"

There are dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands more blog posts like these out there, but they all say basically the same thing.   The Pope has gone off the rails and doesn't even sound Catholic anymore.

But there was one blogger in particular who really intrigued me.  His blog is called, and entitled, "FideCogitActio:omnis per gratium."  He entitled his post, "Catholic Is As Catholic Does", which I guess is a take on the Forrest Gump statement, "Stupid is as stupid does", a subtle message to be sure. His name is Elliott Bougis.  I will call him "Fide" from the title of his blog, fide, I assume, being a shortened version of fidelius, which of course means "faithful". I have no doubt Fide sees himself as a faithful Catholic.  But I believe he needs to rethink his position on Pope Francis, as I will show.

Fide starts out with a couple of quotes, one from Pope St. Pius X condemning modernism, and the other from Cardinal Ratzinger telling us that popes need to be able to take criticism.  Fide has set the stage for what is coming.  He tells us that he does pray for the pope, but that his prayer life "is pretty forced and bleary-eyed these days. I'm fortunate enough to attend a parish that has, so far, been free from the spreading 'Francinsanity.' "  Francinsanity?  Hmmm.  We haven't even started the post yet and already he is being disrespectful.

But we'll keep going.

Fide next tells us:
I admire his warmth and vigor as a “people guy”. I value the softening of hearts that is reported to have happened in some quarters in response to his presence. That’s all good and very good! Praise God!

So, if you’re not interested in reading what follow, maybe I can sum it all up like this and spare you the trouble:
I’m having as hard a time adjusting to Pope Francis’s doctrinal voice as I think many had adapting to Benedict XVI’s pastoral awkwardness.
Okay, I can accept this.  Many Catholics operate from a certain paradigm, and the Pope is saying things that do not seem to fit into their paradigms.  So I can understand having problems with some of the Holy Father's statements.

From Fide:
I realize that Pope Benedict said things very much in keeping with some of Francis’s recent head-scratchers, but he always made a distinct effort to speak as carefully as was necessary in virtue of his office. By contrast, I, along with others, can’t shake, and can’t simply abide, Pope Francis’s almost willful obscurity on key matters, since his basic approach is that the details don’t matter as long as people feel loved and the Church looks more “attractive.”
A turnstyle jumper
I have a little different take on that. Bear with me while I explain. New York City had an extremely high crime rate back in the crack cocaine days of the 1980's and into the 1990's. At one point, our murder rate was over 2000 people a year. Neighborhoods were in shambles and people were afraid to walk the streets. Rudolph Giuliani was elected mayor in 1992, and his crime fighting style was to go after "little" crimes like subway turnstyle jumpers. What? People are being gunned down in the street and you're going after people who jump the turnstyles? (Sound anything like "millions of babies are being aborted and you're worried about unemployment?") Well, it turned out that many of those jumpers were also big time criminals. The cops couldn't catch them in the big crimes, but were able to catch them in the "little things" and get them off the street that way. The theory is, take care of the "little problems" and the big problems will take care of themselves. This tactic drove crime down drastically in New York City, and NYC is now the safest big city in the United States.

It seems to me that this is exactly what Pope Francis is doing on a spiritual level. There is no "willful obscuring" going on with Pope Francis. Do you really believe that Pope Francis has no concern about the Culture of Death? He has condemned such things as abortion and same sex marriage many times. But let's face it, the world has not and will not listen to the church on these matters. Abortion and same sex marriage are now accepted worldwide. Even Ireland, once the most Catholic country in the world, has legalized abortion.

So Pope Francis is concentrating on "little" things (which really aren't little at all) like "unemployment among the youth" and "loneliness among the elderly" because these are issues upon which everyone can agree. Lots of Catholics seemed to get very upset at these remarks, but the world at large nodded their head in agreement to these words:  "The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present?"  Because many in the world connected with these words, the Catholic blogosphere pointed to that as proof that the Pope had completely lost it.

The reason Catholics and other people of faith care about issues such as abortion is because we have hope, which we receive from our faith. This hope helps us see the value of life. Pope Francis pointed to two issues which not only destroy hope but actually engender hopelessness and despair in people. When people see only bleakness in the future, why should they care about anything else? Nothing makes sense. What difference does it make if babies are being killed and families are being destroyed? It's all hopeless. As Pope Francis says, "they have been crushed by the present." If a person is being crushed under a rock, do you think he is going to care about anything else? But if we can give people a sense of hope and help them discover the true value and dignity of life, then they too will start to care about the "big" issues. Only then will things start to change.

Back to Fide and his blog post.  Fide tells us that he is actually doing Pope Francis a favor by being critical of him because:
The intransigent feeling I have about Francis comes from Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Thus, the hand-wringing by many of his conservative brethren is, in a very real way, saving Pope Francis from the “woe” of being liked by the world for bearing a corpseless Cross.  [The "corpseless Cross" attack is going too far and is a very unfair and untrue attack on His Holiness. Pope Francis has never backed down from the Suffering Christ.  See below]  I express my “extreme” disasppointment [sic] with Pope Francis on some matters precisely because I esteem him as the Pope.
Huh?? I'm afraid this statement shows Fide's confused state of mind. Beating someone up is doing them a favor? Especially when that someone is the Vicar of Christ?  As far as the "corpseless Cross" comment, here is what Pope Francis said about the Cross on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (from Vatican Radio):
At the Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Pope Francis said the mystery of the Cross is a great mystery for mankind, a mystery that can only be approached in prayer and in tears.

In his homily, the Pope said that it is in the mystery of the Cross that we find the story of mankind and the story of God, synthesised by the Fathers of the Church in the comparison between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in Paradise, and the tree of the Cross:

“The one tree [tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden] has wrought so much evil, the other tree [the tree of the Cross upon which Our Lord hung] has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross save us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world  This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”
Hmmm.  "Self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world." Now why would His Holiness use these words?

Back to Fide.  He admits he has gone against I Tim. 5:1 which says not to rebuke an elder but exhort him as a father, and I Thes. 5, which says to respect those who labor among you.
I admit that I have erred against the above counsels by excessive sarcasm here and there, and that I need to trust as much as I can in God’s redemptive power over the power of scandal and compromise.
Well, I’m trying.
So, without further ado…
Fide then tells us that he is a Catholic convert, but not a Traditionalist.  He actually sees some benefits of the Second Vatican Council (some benefits?) and doesn't have a "strong hankering for the Tridentine Rite."  So this seems to be his way of saying he is not an "extremist."   (BTW, I love the Traditional Mass and all things traditional Catholic and I have very little problem with Vatican II.  And no, that is not a contradiction.)  But he says that "As a convert, though, I am extremely sensitive to the distinctive realities of being Catholic."  He wants Catholics to be Catholic and not try to be anything else just to please the world. That is why he is upset with Pope Francis' statement that "there is no Catholic God." Fide ties himself up into knots over this. He tells us in a very confusing statement, "If, then, there is no Catholic God, and if God is the One who calls the Church into being, then there can be no Catholic Church as, precisely, that communion called by the God known in Catholic teaching."

Fide, you wrote this:
Indeed, I have no recollection of a Pope, much less any Catholic priest or orthodox theologian, ever saying, "there is no Catholic God," full stop. This is yet another case of the Pope resorting to needlessly abstruse and scandalous phrases when just a few extra words would have clarified his point. HELP! WHAT AM I MISSING? In what follows, I want my analysis to be shown to be faulty, based on translation problems, dogmatic teachings, etc.
What are you missing?  Read on if you really want your "analysis to be shown to be faulty."  It is actually quite faulty.

The Catholic Church's teachings are a direct reflection of God, and that cannot be said about any other religion in the world. But does reflecting God in our teachings make God Catholic?

The Catholic Church was
born from the side of
Jesus Christ
I don't know how much Church history you have studied, Fide, but it is obvious from your post that you are very intelligent, so I'm sure you know that the Church was founded in 33 A.D., at the time that the spear was thrust into Christ's side and blood and water gushed out. There was no Catholic Church prior to that time. If God was Catholic, He would have to be a convert like you. Up to that time, God was working through the Israelites, which is why He came to us as a Jew. Does that mean God was a Jew? Of course not. Jesus was a Jew in his human form, but was his Divine nature Jewish? Obviously not. God predated the Jews and the Israelite nation. He predated the Catholic Church. He existed before time itself!!!! God always was and always will be, no beginning and no end. We as human beings have a beginning and the Catholic Church also had a beginning, meaning there was a time when the Church did not exist.

No, Fide, God is not human and God is not Catholic. God is not subject to the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church. Unlike we sinful human beings, God does not need the church in order to exist.  Also, God is not subject to the Pope's authority to which we Catholics are subject (no Pope, no Church).

The reason for founding the Catholic Church is the same reason for the building of Noah's ark. Noah, on the orders of God, built his ark to physically save mankind from the flood. But commanding the building of the ark didn't make God an ark. The ark was distinct and separate from God. Jesus built the Catholic Church to spiritually save mankind from eternal damnation.  We must become Catholics because it is the only way to inherit eternal life with our Creator. But our Creator exists above and apart from the Church. He does not need the Church to inherit eternal life. He founded and built the Church, but that does not make Him Catholic.  His identity is independent from the Catholic Church.

God created Catholicism to save us, but He is much bigger than the Catholic Church, just as He was much bigger than Noah's ark.  He is bigger than the universe, bigger than our finite minds can ever grasp.

You jumped to some pretty startling conclusions because you are trying to reduce God to your level.
For all you fans of “context” these days [context has nothing to do with it], keep in mind that the run up the Pope’s denial of the Catholic God is that he asks Scalfari the following question: “I am asking what you think is the essence of the world, indeed the universe.” Scalfari answers, “I believe in Being, that is in the tissue from which forms, bodies arise,” whereupon Francis, not, mind you, having been asked about religious pluralism or Catholic chauvinism, but as from the bottom of his heart, says, “And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation.”
The mind reels.
Fide, your mind should not "reel" at this statement from the Holy Father. It does make perfect sense. God is far, far beyond the Catholic Church. God cannot be contained by anything, not even by His own Church. By the way, I do know of at least one other priest who said God is not Catholic: Father Benedict Groeschel. Take a look at the following video from EWTN (less than a minute).  Hopefully, with the explanation I just gave you it will make sense and not send your mind "reeling":

You also wrote this, Fide:
The key here is that Pope Francis explicitly pits a “Catholic God” against “God” per se, and thus implies that we must choose between them: “Are you with me for God, or are you with the restorationists for a Catholic God?” [The Pope nowhere says or implies this]  In Francis’s eschatology, when we finally see God as He is, it will turn out all those Catholic-God features were just accessories, concessions, illusions, and mere metaphors–Praise God, turns out God’s not Catholic, after all! [Again, you are attributing ideas to Pope Francis that he nowhere conveyed] For whatever reason, Francis favors a God of whom the distinctively Catholic theology (theory?) of God is at best only contingently and partially applicable, for if it were wholly and essentially true of God, then God would by his very nature be a “Catholic God.”
Think about it: by saying that he does not believe in the Catholic God, the Pope is saying that he does not believe in the God of Catholicism.
You probably aren't aware of this, but shortly after Pope Francis was elected, he gave a sermon on April 23 in which he said the following (you can read the entire sermon here):
And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.
Do you think Pope Francis is contradicting himself by saying on the one hand that Christ cannot be found outside the Church, and then saying he does not believe in a "Catholic" God? There is no contradiction here. Who and what is God? Jesus told us He is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" in John 14:6. I John 4:8 tells us, "God is Love." None of these verses say "God is Catholic."
Noah's Ark
What makes us human beings Catholic? How do we identify as Catholics? Why do we need to be Catholics? The reason for Catholicism, as stated above, is the same reason as for the construction of Noah's ark. It is to save mankind. Those who were not in Noah's ark perished, and those who are not a part of the Catholic Church (and that doesn't mean just being on a parish membership role, which actually means nothing in the long run) will perish spiritually. Yes, the Catholic Church proceeds from God and leads us to God, but unlike us, God does not need saving. So why does God need to be Catholic? He doesn't. God didn't need to be saved in Noah's ark, and He doesn't need the Catholic Church to survive, either. God is infinitely bigger than the Church. 

To say God's identity is wrapped up in Catholicism or any other belief is to limit Him to the level of sinful human beings. Do you now understand the faultiness of your statement: "by saying that he does not believe in the Catholic God, the Pope is saying that he does not believe in the God of Catholicism"? A "Catholic God" and the "God of Catholicism" are two different things. To conflate the two as one is to completely miss the meaning of Pope Francis' statement.

Fide then goes beyond the Pope's statement about a Catholic God:
The above analysis concerns only one of the Pope’s statements lately that have unsettled many in the flock. As lengthy as my analysis might have seemed, it’s actually just indicative of the more fundamental worry I have with Pope Francis: he often seems oblivious to, or even to disdainful of, the fact that he is never not speaking on behalf of the Church. [This is your emphasis, Fide].
Which is where what I’ll call the Papal Categorical Imperative comes into the picture:
In light of his duty always to form consciences according to the truth, every word the Pope utters, regardless of the anterior context, and regardless of the interlocutor–but especially when it’s uttered from a global platform–is to be judged based on whether the Church itself could and should consistently speak in the same manner.  [Again, Fide, this is your emphasis]
I mean no disrespect, but the hubris contained in this statement is breathtaking. Do you realize that what you are actually saying is that if the Pope won't agree with you, then he had better just shut up. Do you honestly believe that you know better than the one specifically chosen and led by the Holy Spirit? Or do you believe Pope Francis is a false pope. You can't have it both ways. You either believe Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ or he is an imposter.  And if you believe he is the Vicar of Christ, then as a Catholic, you owe him respect and allegiance, no matter what your personal feelings are.

Our greatest role model is our Blessed Mother., and certainly no one ever showed as much allegiance and loyalty as she did.  She was often perplexed by the words and actions of her Son and by the events in her life. But never once did she speak out against Jesus or His Father, never once did she question events and circumstances that seemed to make no sense. For example, Christ was lost for three days, nowhere to be found. After being sick with worry, she and Joseph finally found Jesus in the Temple. Mary asked him why he had worried her so. He did not give her an answer except to say He had to be about his Father's business. The scriptures tell us she did not understand this, but she "kept it in her heart."

In 2013, when so many of us have access to the Internet and a public voice, we don't keep anything in our hearts.  We forget the Pope is the Vicar of Christ - Christ's literal representative on earth, answerable only to Christ Himself (which also makes him subject to a much harsher judgment than any of the rest of us will face).  We look at the Pope as just another political figure, and when he doesn't meet our expectations, we feel completely justified in hammering him.  We never stop to think that it may just be possible that we have an incomplete understanding, or that it is possible we don't have the clear picture that the Holy Father has.   We just know he doesn't agree with our thinking and therefore, he must be wrong and he better shut up.

I can only wonder what would happen if Christ walked the earth now and said for the first time to His followers, "You must eat my body and drink my blood or you have no life in you."  What if we saw Christ consorting with prostitutes and the lowest of society.  What if we saw Christ going against the important religious rules of our time, such as picking food on the Sabbath and not washing His hands as commanded in the Law!   We would be no different than the Pharisees.  The blogosphere would light up with condemnation, telling us that this is a mad man.

When I first read the headlines about the interviews with the Pope, I admit to being concerned. The Pope says abortion and same sex marriage aren't important issues? The Pope says all we need to do is follow our own conscience? How can this be? Then I took the time to read the interviews, and was both enlightened and delighted at the message of love and compassion from the Holy Father. I saw the words of a man who truly loves humanity and wants, above all else, to save as many souls as he can. In other words, I saw Christ in Pope Francis.

No, I'm not some soft hearted liberal. I'm about as conservative and traditional as any Catholic you will find. I listen to and read Venerable Fulton Sheen all the time (so much so that I'm beginning to feel like he is a personal friend). My iPad is filled with traditional Catholic prayers and devotions and spiritual reading from 100 years and more ago (right now I'm reading a book by Fr. William Frederick Faber about the Sorrows of Mary). As stated, I love the Traditional Mass. I wouldn't receive communion in the hand for any amount of money or even if my life depended on it. I go to confession frequently and pray the Rosary every day. I'm not stating any of this to impress people, but to let you know that I love the Catholic Church - the traditional Catholic Church - and I love Pope Francis. The two, despite all of the ranting and raving on the Internet, are not only not exclusive, they are very much inclusive.

For all of you who think Pope Francis is a left wing liberal out to do away with the clear teaching of the Church, remember that he says 15 mysteries of the Rosary every day and spends an hour every day in Eucharistic Adoration.  Pope Francis is one of the busiest people in the world, and yet he still manages to do this.  How many of us can say we do as much?  Pope Francis obviously has a deep love for our Lord, for his Church and for people in general.  He is the Vicar of Christ.  We need to listen to him, and like our Blessed Mother, when we don't understand something, we need to keep it in our hearts and ask for the understanding, not announce to the world that Our Holy Father is a crazed lunatic. When it comes to doubt, the first one to doubt is always ourselves.  

Fide ended his blog with this (after sarcastically renaming the Holy Father, "Pope Guido"):
And so I write.

And write.

And keep writing.

But do I defect? Do I renounce the Pope as a heretic?

I do not. I remain Catholic. For that is what being Catholic means: to abide with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, the Tradition, the Liturgy, the Magisterium, and the brethren even in spite of many headdesks [head aches??] that “the world’s parish priest”, or any other of the brethren, may induce in me. Despair is not an option, but groaning out loud certainly is. (Scroll back up to see the first papal intention for this month.)
When you decide you need to "groan out loud," first remember who the accuser of the brethren is. Make sure you're not aligning yourself with him.

Related Posts  0