Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pope Francis

Cardinal George makes a great point about Pope Francis.
Before his election, Cardinal Bergoglio warned his brother cardinals about the danger of a “self-referential” church, a self-absorbed church that speaks more about itself than about Christ. Today, ironically, it seems that many are speaking more about the pope than about either the church or Christ!
What is going on is that papal interviews are coming so fast and furious that they are consuming a lot of attention. The trouble is that when we talk about Pope Francis we are actually doing exactly what he does not want us to do. We are focusing on the political dynamics of the church and not focusing on being Christ to the unchurched the way he wants us to.

The trouble is Pope Francis' way of speaking makes hard to ignore. He says a lot of things that need to be clarified. People take things out of context and intentionally or accidentally trumpet this great new papal teaching that is actually not what he is saying at all.

Sometimes it is a person who is panicked that the pope might be destroying the church. There really is not need to panic. Pope Francis is a solid Catholic. Besides, it is God's job to preserve His church. It is not ours. So if Pope Francis is taking the barque of Peter off course the Holy Spirit will correct it back. Of course there is also the chance you could be wrong and his course turns out to be exactly right for the church. We always tend to underestimate how likely that is!

So what do we do? Don't fight about what he said. Just do what he does. Try and interact with people who are on the edge of the church or completely lost. Be yourself. Don't be overly focused on theological precision. Just love people and let your love for Jesus show. Don't worry about the details. Don't worry about looking foolish. You are a new creation. Show yourself off!


  1. After the dust has settled, it's clear he hasn't really said anything erroneous or scandalous. The points I'm seeing people most frustrated on are points where he's just speaking inconvenient truths that make us sad to hear but are none the less true. For example, it's basically futile trying to preach morality to a culture that doesn't believe in Jesus. If a person doesn't understand the Church's position by now, they're blind or deaf. Yeah there can be more preaching on sexual ethics, but Francis was merely curbing the dangerous trend to conflate Christianity with mere commandment keeping.

    As for his comments in the 2nd interview that the most urgent problem in the world today is young adults who cannot find a job and elderly people suffering loneliness, many misunderstood this to mean Francis is only concerned about earthly things. But in reality, Francis was explicitly talking about how this is causing 'hopelessness', and he was actually calling to mind the massive Encyclical on Catholic Social Teaching, Rerum Novarum (one of the rare Encyclicals which every Pope since Leo has confirmed). The basic premise of Catholic Social Teaching is that the human person will not grow spiritually if their temporal needs are not being met. The young adult male demographic is a key example. They want to get married and start a family, but they're basically stuck because they either cannot find work or cannot find sufficient work to start a family. As a result, they're too worried about life to really be growing spiritually, including the spiritual growth that happens only by having a family.

    In other words, real Catholic Social Teaching has been forgotten by the "traditionalist" and "Conservative" wings of the Church, mostly due to the fact Liberals took and twisted authentic CST and spun it into mere hand-outs for the poor and immigration. And the failure to properly teach/implement CST will prevent society from recovering.

    And in the 2nd interview, the last half of it Francis just manhandles the atheist journalist. Francis nailed the guy on the subject of transcendence (which the atheist version was just laughable) and on the fact the atheist considered Descartes a model atheist despite the fact Francis pointed out Descartes was a good Catholic.

    Also, reports are coming out how the English translation was seriously botched in certain key quotes.

    All that said, while I don't think it's the best idea to be speaking to the world via "interviews," the truth is he hasn't said anything heretical or even scandalous, just mostly very inconvenient realities. I'm NOT just blinding defending everything he says, but rather recognizing the profound things being said that are being completely missed by the great majority of Catholics. I would hope future preaching was done in his homilies or even encyclicals though, so the language would be more precise and less off the cuff.

  2. Good to hear from you again Nick. In know everything he said is fine once you dig into the details. Typically the truth he is teaching is a very good and important truth but people want to push it too far. Heresy is taking one Catholic truth and destroying another. GK Chesterton talks about Catholicism as walking on a log. An inch wrong either direction and you have lost it. That can really cramp your style. Yet Pope Francis does not let it cramp his style. He just does not care if someone hears it and falls off the log. He makes his point in his flamboyant style and makes no apologies. We live in interesting times.