Somewhere in the avalanche of articles and blog posts about The Big Interview, a writer I don’t remember chose to emphasize this passage:
“The dicasteries of the Roman Curia are at the service of the pope and the bishops,” he says. “They must help both the particular churches and the bishops’ conferences. They are instruments of help. In some cases, however, when they are not functioning well, they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship. It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally. The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.”
Indeed, this is an astonishing statement. These appeals go to Rome, presumably, because the bishops are already unresponsive. Often enough the bishops themselves are enabling and even promulgating the “lack of orthodoxy” (i.e., heresy). And now he wants turn these cases back over to the bishops? What is this but a total abdication of Rome’s responsibility to guard the deposit of Faith? Tragically and inexplicably, Pope Francis is more worried about “censorship” than heresy.
For decades now, the only thing that kept many Catholics going in chronically bad parishes was the knowledge that, at least, there was pope in Rome who “had their backs”. Well, they’ve just been cut loose. We’ve all been cut loose. Pope Francis is right about one thing: we’re all going to need to learn “new ways” of being Catholic under this pontificate.
This is a painful thing to admit for any Catholic, but denial is no use: Pope Francis is creating enormous difficulties for the Church. His problematic statements are too numerous for me to document or even to remember. Barring a miracle (for which we should all pray), it’s only going to get worse in the coming months and years. The members of a largely modernist hierarchy, along with leaders of Catholic institutions, have been emboldened by this pope in their liberalism and dissent. Already Pope Francis is being invoked to justify heterodoxy. Note the recent comments by Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of the University of St. Thomas, in her convocation address at 24:15 in the video:
We can certainly expect more of the same in the parishes, seminaries, and other institutions as this pontificate progresses.
Many Catholics with good intentions think all of this confusion is the fault of the media. I beg to differ. It’s not the media, it’s the pope himself. He gives a certain impression with his words, and he’s been around the media long enough to know how to do that. We’re only six months into this papacy: orthodox Catholic commentators are eventually going to get tired of scrambling to do damage control, and indeed this is already happening.
The fact is that Pope Francis is enamored with novelty. He believes we need “new ways” of doing practically everything. He has dismissed the efficacy of contemplation and mortification in the spiritual life. He derides “outdated manners and forms which …. are no longer meaningful.” He speaks as though Christ is found only in performing corporal works of mercy. In short, the pope doesn’t like the Church he has inherited, or her traditional piety and discipline, or even, one suspects, some of her doctrines. His many not-so-subtle jabs at “restorationists”, “Pelagians”, “triumphalists”, “legalists”, those “obsessed” with “doctrinal security” and “rule keeping”, etc., are obviously directed at traditional Catholics for whom he apparently has much contempt.
If there were any doubts about his deep hostility to the Church’s venerable Latin liturgy, his abrogation of Summorum Pontificum within the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – the first serious disciplinary act of his papacy – should put those doubts to rest. I think we can safely assume that the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” is not going to enforce Summorum under this pontificate.
I must admit to feeling orphaned by this pope in other ways. Pope Francis seems unaware that those of us who do not suffer material poverty need the Church just as much as the poor need the Church – perhaps moreso. Most of us in the prosperous developed world are on the “existential periphery” when it comes to the salvation of our immortal souls. Can we have a little love too? That is not to say that he doesn’t call the non-poor to repentance, but he seems only to call us to repentance for treating our neighbors unkindly, and never for our faithlessness and unbelief, our immorality and licentiousness, our sins against God, our infidelity to Christ and His Church. As for the poor, it almost seems they cannot sin at all in the eyes of Pope Francis.
And yet, there is much to admire in this pope. His simple style of preaching inspires and convicts. He is a man of decision and authority by temperament. His personal austerity – while occasionally misapplied to things proper to his office – sets a good example for those of us soaked in the consumer-driven materialistic West. The car he drives, his place of residence, his impulsive personality, even his irrepressible loquacity do not bother me at all. These things have been criticized, but the problem with Pope Francis lies elsewhere.
Since I cannot possibly address the crisis adequately on this blog, below are just a few links detailing the growing unrest and confusion this papacy is creating among the faithful. Please pray for the Holy Father, the Holy Catholic Church, and all Catholics in this difficult time.
When I need a spiritual boost, I must remember to read my son’s blog (archives included) –
St. Claude de Colombiere – Prayer of Hope and Confidence
My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things; therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee.
People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.
Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. “For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope.” This confidence can never be in vain. “No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.”
I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. “In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded.”
I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.
Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”
Many of you are already familiar with these recent stories:
For Catholics, the question is this: to what degree can a small business cooperate – without sin – with the evil of same-sex “marriage” and the legitimization of homosexual behavior? I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that the bakery and photographer in the stories linked above were asked to engage in mediate material cooperation with evil, defined as follows:
Mediate material cooperation is concurrence in the morally wrong action of another, not by actually doing the act in any way and not by intending to do the act, but by supplying some peripheral assistance, or preparation for the act to be performed. This assistance must be in itself a good or at least morally indifferent act.
Mediate material cooperation with evil is sometimes licit, and sometimes illicit, depending on circumstances. My current understanding of the problem is that such cooperation would be licit if: a) refusal of cooperation would result in an unreasonable burden (e.g., closing the business); and b) the cooperation is protested to the best of one’s ability.
If the LGBT regime in the state of Oregon requires one to sell a wedding cake for a homosexual couple pretending to get married, and the price of refusal is going out of business and losing one’s economic livelihood, it seems to me that the cake can be licitly baked and sold if done under protest. If I’m right about that (and I could be wrong), here are some suggestions for doing so:
1. Include with the packaged cake a tract on the four sins that “cry out to God for vengeance”.
2. Include a statement of protest on the receipt: “This cake was baked and sold under compulsion by the state of Oregon. Smith’s Bakery strongly protests this unjust law, opposes homosexual behavior, and affirms that marriage is impossible between two people of the same sex.”
3. Issue a public statement along these lines: “All proceeds derived from same-sex ‘wedding’ cakes will be donated to Courage, the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, or similar organizations.”