Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are You Driven By Faith Or Ideology?

Christianity, before being a moral or an ethic, is the event of love, it is the acceptance of the Person of Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI

I love the Traditional Latin Mass, which in many circles defines me as a "Traditionalist."  I think of myself as just Catholic, but it seems that in our world today we must have precise labels for each other or we don't know how to relate.

Because I attend the TLM, I also interact with many other "Traditionalists." Lately, especially since the election of Pope Francis, I have felt more and more estranged from many of my fellow "Trads". Like many of them, I use to be big into Vatican II bashing (Vatican II is the "root of all evil"), bishop bashing and even a little Pope bashing now and then, as past posts on this blog will show. However, I have come to realize that that I do not and cannot see the whole picture and it is not my job to sit in public criticism of the hierarchy of the Church.

As a result of my changed attitudes, I am now being shunned by those with whom I once agreed. At a recent all night prayer vigil which we spent before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, one woman, whom I thought was my friend, quite literally turned her back on me after I made it clear that I did not agree with her harsh criticism of the bishops and Pope Francis. How does one spend all night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and then shun people?

There is another man I know who tells me he goes to Mass twice a day, to adoration several times a week, and spends many hours outside of abortion clinics, and yet also tells me that his "Catholicity" tells him he has to reject Pope Francis and most bishops, most especially Cardinal Dolan. This man has also begun to shun me. How does one engage in all these devout Catholic practices, and yet remain so hard of heart?

This has really puzzled me. How does one profess a deep love for our Lord, and at the same time profess a "my way or the highway" attitude exhibited by so many Traditional Catholics? This can be seen quite clearly on Traditional Catholic blogs, which I have highlighted in past posts.

Pope Francis gave me some answers to my questions in a recent sermon in which he discussed the difference between "faith" and "ideology." Father Z says we need to read Pope Francis through Pope Benedict XVI. This is one time when I think this will be extremely helpful.

Pope Benedict XVI gave us an excellent definition of faith, which can be found here :
Faith, in fact, is an encounter with God who speaks and works in history and converts our daily life, transforming within us mentalities, value judgments, decisions and practical actions. Faith is not an illusion, a flight of fancy, a refuge or sentimentalism; rather it is total involvement in the whole of life and is the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News that can set the whole of the person free.
Pope Francis warns us that if we are not careful, this life giving faith, infused into by the Holy Spirit, can be transformed into a deadly ideology, which does not come from God but from our own fallen nature:
“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”
I have to say, very sadly, that this is what I am witnessing in many who call themselves Traditional Catholics. As stated by Pope Francis, I do not see the "tenderness, love and meekness" of Jesus Christ. Instead, I see, as Pope Francis says, that they are very rigid and unbending, very sure and unquestioning of themselves.  What is the result of this?
The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens. Ideology chases away the people. It creates distances between people and it distances the Church from the people. But it is a serious illness, this ideology in Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh? Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness. This can be the question, no? But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.
But how does the life giving faith we receive from Holy Spirit change into a toxic ideology which creates division and drives people away?  From Pope Francis:
“When a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.” He who does not pray is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement.” Instead, he said, “when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus.”  
Pope Benedict XVI said the same thing using different words:
Many people today have a limited idea of the Christian faith, because they identify it with a mere system of beliefs and values [this is ideology that Pope Francis speaks of] rather than with the truth of a God who revealed himself in history, anxious to communicate with human beings in a tête-à-tête, in a relationship of love with them [this is the faith we receive only through prayer, as Pope Francis said]. In fact, at the root of every doctrine or value is the event of the encounter between man and God in Jesus Christ. Christianity, before being a moral or an ethic, is the event of love, it is the acceptance of the Person of Jesus. For this reason the Christian and Christian communities must first look and make others look to Christ, the true Way that leads to God.  [Our relationship with God can only be grounded with prayer]
But the Traditionalists I know do pray. Many of them faithfully say the Rosary and other devotions. They express a very devout and reverent attitude towards our Lord, as I have shown in the two examples I have given. What is missing?
And, the Pope said, “I say to pray, I do not say to say prayers, because these teachers of the law said many prayers” in order to be seen. Jesus, instead, says: “when you pray, go into your room and pray to the Father in secret, heart to heart.” The pope continued: “IT IS ONE THING TO PRAY, AND ANOTHER THING TO SAY PRAYERS.”
So the Pope is saying that just mouthing words to our Lord does not in itself constitute praying.  Our prayers must come from our heart in order to transform us and make us more like Our Lord, filling us with love for other human beings.  As Pope Benedict XVI would say, our prayers must be an encounter with God.  That cannot happen if we let our own ideology stand in the way.  Pope Francis reminds us here that the Pharisees in Jesus' time said many prayers, and yet they were filled with pride and hatred.

This sermon by Pope Francis, like almost everything the Holy Father says and does, had many "Traditional Catholics" criticizing and decrying His Holiness yet again.  Father Z mentioned this sermon on his blog but shed no light on it whatsoever, instead writing:  "The Pope’s language about ideology is so vague that I can’t for the life of me make out who or what he is talking about. It could be that he has a first name and a last name in mind, but I have no idea who she might be."

I personally don't find the Pope's language to be vague at all.   I say with all sincerity that it is possible that I'm just not smart enough to see the "vagueness" in the Pope's words.  On the contrary, these words of Pope Francis have actually helped bring much clarity to my life.

If Father Z is interested in seeing a shining example of the "ideology" which the Pope speaks of, he should take a look at a video produced by Remnant Newspaper and the Remnant Forum, a Traditionalist Catholic group. In this video, Michael Matt and Christopher Ferrara discuss and criticize this sermon given by Pope Francis.  You can go here to watch the entire video. This video is an excellent example of the Pope's words, "when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements."

Michael Matt starts out with a very negative statement, "Is this another sort of papal bombshell in the making?"  Chris Ferrara laughs and shakes his head and says, "One of many.  I mean, the ground is littered with craters from the bombs that have been dropping from the mouth of this Pope."  Ferrara goes on to say that the Pope's statements are a "false disjunction that is typical of modernist thought as if there is a dichotomy between saying and praying prayers."  Well, yes actually, there is a huge difference between "saying" and "praying" prayers,  and Chris Ferrara, who holds himself out to be a very learned Catholic, should know that.

Michael Matt responds by saying, "Am I being paranoid?  When I read this today, it struck me once again, since Tradition minded Catholics are among the few who are still saying rosaries. . . is this another, just another sort of brush off against the Traditionalists on the part of Pope Francis?"  I am really amazed that neither Michael Matt nor Chris Ferrara seem to be aware that our Holy Father prays three rosaries every day. He has led public rosaries several times since being elected Pope, the latest being on the day of prayer and fasting on September 7 which he called in regard to the war in Syria. On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, Pope Francis said the following:
“Mary joins us, she fights at our side. She supports Christians in the fight against the forces of evil. Especially through prayer, through the rosary. Hear me out, the rosary... Do you pray the Rosary each day? I don't know, are you sure? There we go!”
Pope Francis publicly praying the Rosary
Read the entire article on this sermon here. This is only one of many statements by Pope Francis in promoting the Rosary. But you wouldn't know this from listening to Michael Matt and Chris Ferrara. They have no qualms in falsely accusing the Pope of bashing the Rosary. 

Chris Ferrara actually made a very astute statement in the following: "Obviously, if one recites the Rosary in the manner of a machine gun, a completely rote manner without meditating on the mysteries, then one is not really praying. If that all is that Pope Francis means, that is completely unobjectionable."

In light of the Pope's constant promotion of the Rosary, what else could he mean? Yet, Ferrara and Matt just go right past this. Ferrara puts words in the Pope's mouth when he says: "The idea that saying prayers without actually having a spiritual consolation or actively meditating and seeking communion with God is in itself an ideological activity that should be rejected by Catholics. This is just bad pastoral advice."   Ferrara is drawing this false conclusion from the Pope's statement that we should go to our room and pray to the Father in secret, which is a quote from Our Lord found in Matthew 6:6.

In actuality, this is a complete misrepresentation of the words of Pope Francis (and Jesus Christ). The Pope never said anything about "spiritual consolation." Many saints, if not most, went through long periods in their lives when there was no spiritual consolation. That can actually be a sign of great holiness, as we saw with Blessed Mother Teresa, who spent 50 years in the Dark Night. Pope Francis is obviously talking about the need for prayers to be more than just words, empty gestures and motions. Shouldn't that always be our goal? Why would anyone criticize this statement? Yet, that is just what Ferrara and Matt do. Ferrara actually accuses Pope Francis of "anti-pastoral naivety." Ferrara falsely accuses Pope Francis of saying that our prayers mean nothing unless we achieve the "unitive state". Michael Matt chimes in and says, "there is a certain Protestant flavor to it. I'm not saying that is what was intended, but there is a certain Protestant flavor."

Matt then goes on to state that Pope Francis is "giving the impression" that he "doesn't care" for the rosary, "and that repetitive prayer is useless or that memorized praying is not praying at all."  Ferrara responds with, "Yea, where is the vaunted sympathy for the sinner and weak of heart?"  He then says, "This is part of a pattern.  It seems there is an inescapable pattern of a total lack of sympathy for Catholics of Traditional orientation."  He then goes on to recite a litany of statements Pope Francis made that are supposedly attacking Traditional Catholics.  He carries this argument to an extreme by saying that criticism of Traditionals means that the Pope is actually attacking all traditions in the Church and is ready to throw it all away.  

Traditionalists have to stop playing the victim. All this does is drive people away from them, just as Pope Francis warned in his sermon. Instead of immediately coming up with counter-arguments and criticisms to everything the Pope says, they would do much better to humbly and prayerfully meditate on the words of the Vicar of Christ to determine if these words have any relevancy in their lives. Humility is the key to everything.

Ferrara and Michael Matt continue to discuss the Pope's sermon using a totally false premise by continuing to attribute ideas to the Pope which he never conveyed in any way. Michael Matt says, "If memorized prayers are somehow problematic [something the Pope never said], what do you do with all the indulgenced prayers?" Ferrara says this shows the "cruel school master", again accusing the Pope of not caring about people. This is a pure straw man argument because the Pope has never at any time said we should not use the memorized prayers of the Church.

Ferrara then says "I'm sorry if I sound acerbic and sarcastic, but I've had enough of this!!"  Yes, Mr. Ferrara, you sound very strident, and that is not going to draw anyone to Christ, exactly what Pope Francis was warning against.  

Michael Matt, later in the video, says, "What is going on?  I don't want to believe that the Holy Father is intending to say these things and I want the spin.  I want the good, favorable positive spin, but he keeps saying things that are getting increasingly difficult to spin in a Catholic direction. What in the world is going on?"

Ferrara once again accuses Pope Francis of being sympathetic to modernists and wanting to destroy everything in the Church that is not in line with the evil Vatican II.  Here are two men who hold themselves out to be good, loyal Catholics but yet are warning other Catholics against this "liberal, modernist" Pope who is seemingly out to destroy the Church.    

Towards the end of the video Michael Matt laments, "I look to Pope Francis and I don't see any clarity.  In fact, I'm finding more confusion looking to Rome right now, and I know I'm not alone in that."  Ferrara responds by saying that he loves the Church and reveres the Pope and the office that he occupies.  He said he was hopeful when Pope Francis was elected.  "I don't enjoy sitting here doing a postmortem on the latest papal statements that make the Church and us look ridiculous, which they do."  He says he wants The Remnant to be a "papal loyalist newspaper" as he says they were under Pope Benedict XVI, basically conceding that they are not loyal to Pope Francis.  

Ferrara says that he now has a "queasy feeling":  "we haven't been to this place yet in the post conciliar epic.  This is a new destination on the train ride to disaster."  Matt responds, "I think I'm going to let that be the last word because that pretty much sums it up.  I don't know what to say to people other than to agree with you absolutely this is terrifying."  Ferrara tells us that "the enemy is inside the household of the faith and is running through all the rooms of the house right now.
How does this type of thinking happen?  How do supposedly loyal, devout Catholics come to see the Holy Father as the enemy of the Church? As Pope Francis, said, they are a "disciple of their ideology", and they will attack and destroy anything that threatens their ideology, even if it includes the Holy Father himself. Nowhere in this 27 minute video is there even a hint of humility, of questioning themselves and where they are going with their often blatantly false accusations and misrepresentations of the Pope's words. 

I am not questioning the sincerity of these two men or even of those who feel they are justified in shunning me. My prayer is that they will truly pray as Pope Francis has exhorted us to do and get beyond their ideology, which is destroying them. We must remember that Satan can appear as an angel of light, and his greatest trick with believers is to make us believe that we are right and everyone else, especially Church hierarchy, is wrong. This is the genesis of all heresy. As the Apostle Paul warned us in I Cor. 10:12, "Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."

It seems that no one is more sure of their "firm footing"' than Traditionalists, and therefore, no one should be questioning themselves on a regular basis more than Traditionalists. We need to constantly be asking ourselves and asking God to reveal to us whether we are truly following the lead of the Holy Spirit, or blindly following an ideology born of our pride and our fallen nature.

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