Monday, September 23, 2013

Pay less attention to his words but to the Spirit of Francis

Last time I talked about The Idea of Francis. I suspect that Andrew Sullivan will be caught in an endless Borg-style logic bomb when he learns of this: Pope Francis just excommunicated a pro-gay "marriage" priest.
From all of last week's headlines saying that the Pope wants to forget this nonsense about abortion and gays, you'd imagine that Germaine Greer had been elected to run the Catholic Church. Actually what the Pope was saying was that he wants the Church to talk more about what it's for than what it's against. But that doesn't mean it won't still be against those things that contradict its teachings and traditions.
Just ask Greg Reynolds of Melbourne – a priest who appears to have been both defrocked and excommunicated because of his radical views on women clergy and gay marriage. From Australia's The Age:
The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.
Now I suspect it will be progressives who darkly mutter about traitors within the Church, of bad eggs in the curia, of dead enders who are carrying on the dark designs of Francis's much despised predecessor. Francis has become the papal equivalent of Vatican II. He's no longer a man, but an event. Fifty years from now Catholics will be vigorously arguing over the text of Francis's words and the "Spirit of Francis." Still, Sullivan's ecstatic that for the first time in thirty years or so he can finally proof text a pope's words to attack his ideological opponents.
The people in the hierarchy and the hard-right of the American Catholic church have put their best face forward after Pope Francis’ categorical rejection of their entire project. 
The hierarchy is on the side of us reactionary restorationists? That's news to me.
One of those whose writings have been almost obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception ...
Call me crazy, but I get the feeling the Church would hardly ever talk of those things if the world was not obsessed with them. I wish I could live in the universe of Andrew Sullivan and other progressive Catholics. Outside of the local FSSP parish, not once in my eight years as a Catholic have I ever heard any priest utter a peep about abortion, gay marriage, or contraception. Not once. Neither from the pulpit or in private conversation.
But that latter point got lost, did it not, in the recent past as an authoritarian Pope demanded “catechetical fundamentals” on everything all the time, often with more dictatorial fear than Christ’s love. Nothing better illustrated this in recent years than Benedict’s disciplining of America’s off-message nuns...
Please. Pope Benedict XVI himself said that the Church must emphasize what she is for in addition to what she is against. It was under Benedict that "affirmative orthodoxy" became a buzzword. Sullivan knows this, but his white hot rage against Benedict will not bend to reality. The "crack down" on the nuns (does the Vatican ever do anything besides crack down in the media's lexicon?) was much too little about forty years too late. Many of the orders which fall under LCWR are heretic or apostate. Granted, they're heretics and apostates who do good social work but heretics and apostates nonetheless. That's why they're dying out and women's orders of the kind that would make white smoke come from Sullivan's ears are growing by leaps and bounds.
On this, how can the theocons ignore the following:
If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.
To whom do they think the Pope was referring? Who else if not them? Or do they have alternative suggestions?
For the sake of argument, let's pretend that this statement by Francis is as thorough a rejection of Traditionalism as if he had hurled a thunderous anathema from on high against all Trads everywhere (Sullivan would no doubt welcome that bit of papal dictatorship.) First of all, a papal interview with a magazine is not Church teaching. Second, I agree with Francis that all Catholics tend to expect too much from the hierarchy. Many Trads harbor secret dreams of some future pope bringing back all of the stuff by fiat. That isn't going to happen. Whatever else one says of Vatican II, what came after the council was a complete destruction of Catholic culture. It's not coming back overnight. It's not coming back within my lifetime. Legalism by itself will get us nothing. On that I think the pope is right on.

Third, Francis is his own man so obviously he's going to differ from his two predecessors. Even so, the progressive's portrayal of JPII and BXVI as radical right-wing tyrants who policed our every thought and action is so bizarre and nonsensical that it scarcely rises to the level of being wrong. Exhibit A: Hans Kung is still a Catholic priest in good standing. I rest my case. Francis's methods are not infallible. His prudential decisions are not dogma. Time will tell if his approach is what's best for the Church in these days. If it brings souls to Christ, that's good enough for me.

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