In my prior post on the “mystical key” to Pope Francis, I briefly examined the background and formation of Pope Francis, and then closed with a consideration of the primacy of “the mystical” as a key to understanding him. In this post we’ll explore the assumptions and implications detectable in his anti-clericalist claims about St. Paul.
In order to refresh your memory, O faithful reader, I will reproduce the statements that led to the above codgitations.
In the airplane interview on the way back from World Youth Day in Brazil, the pope said
This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. [Questo è importante: una teologia del peccato. Tante volte penso a San Pietro: ha fatto uno dei peggiori peccati, che è rinnegare Cristo, e con questo peccato lo hanno fatto Papa.]
“They made him Pope”?
In that prior post, I asked, “Are we hearing the voice of the neo-Jesuit, post-Tridentine Bergoglio betraying a subliminal belief that all the old-fashioned Catholic hierarchy stuff is just human politics by another name?” and then said that the answer lies in the context given by something else the Pope said to Scalfari:
“[W]hen I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity. St. Paul, who was the first to speak to the Gentiles, the pagans, to believers in other religions, was the first to teach us that. … St. Paul is the one who laid down the cornerstones of our religion and our creed.”
Having analyzed the above quotations in terms of the Pope’s formative background, I will now analyze the assumptions and implications evident in them, or rather, those found primarily in the second quotation. Understanding the Pope’s neo-Jesuit background helps us try to explain how the Holy Father, this Pope of the Open Mic, could even say such things “off the cuff”; understanding the assumptions in his “off the cuff” malapapalisms helps us know how the faithful should appraise them in the light of our Biblical Tradition.
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Let’s be real.
In his obiter dicta about St. Paul, Francis begins by assuming that there’s this awesome guy Jesus over here who luvved everyone, and then there are these admittedly pretty cool other guys called apostles and saints who actually laid the “cornerstones of [the Catholic] religion and [the Catholic] creed.” In the same interview, he further assumes that there’s this awesome egalitarian thing called the People of God over here, while there’s this crusty, overly elaborate, hierarchical thing way over there called the dogmatic and magisterial (or “ascetical-instructive”) Catholic Church. In not so many words, he assumes, also in the interview with Scalfari (NB: that interview is still on the Vatican website, now in as many as five languages), that there’s this Awesome Shiny Thing in everyone and in everything called God, and then, well, there’s this quaintly provincial thing called “the Catholic God,” and only sometimes shall the twain meet.
In every case the logic is the same: we must not simply “scrape the barnacles off” the hull of the Barque of Peter, but must downsize and reshape the whole Catholic Thing in order for it to be lighter, faster, more comfortable, more inviting, more primitive, more efficient, more utilitarian, more humane––in a word, more modern. Whoever “they” were that made Peter the Pope, they got a whole bunch of other shit wrong, but we can’t judge them too harshly: maybe clerics are human, too.
Who am I to judge?
Let us now ponder two crucial claims the Pope made to Scalfari, which provides insight into the Pope’s apparent tendency to see most of the Church’s “superstructure” as merely human––and, yes, I use the word “superstructure” with a tentatively Marxist connotation (emphasis mine):
[The Curia] manages the services [i.e. the dicasteries] that serve the Holy See. But it has one [only one!?] defect: it is Vatican-centric. … This Vatican-centred vision ignores the world around it. [Oh, really, now?] I do not share this vision and I will do all I can to change it. The Church is and must become again [Huh?] a community of the People of God and the clergy, parishes, the bishops who are charged with the care of souls, are at the service of the People of God. … It’s not without reason that the word [“Church”] is different from the Holy See. The latter has its own important role but it stands at the service of the Church. …
This [?] is the beginning of a [new?] Church whose organization is not only vertical but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini [Peekaboo!] spoke about this and emphasized the role of the Councils and Synods, he knew only too well how long and difficult the road ahead in that direction would be. It must be taken with prudence, but also firmness and tenacity.
Look out world, here comes the First Sub-Apostolic Church of the Mystical Martini!
As some wag recently put it, Pope Francis is turning out to be Eva Peron with a Y chromosome.
Meanwhile, I’m dumb enough to try to untangle the false dichotomies continually foisted upon us by Our Jesuit Pope.
So here I go again….
If the Curia serves the Holy See, and the Holy See serves the People of God, then doesn’t the Curia serve the People of God? As such, how is that Vatican-centric?
If the Vatican ignores the world around it, why is there a Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and a Congregation for the Oriental Churches? Or why again are there councils for the Laity, Promoting Christian Unity, the Family, Justice and Peace, the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Interreligious Dialogue, Culture and for Social Communications?
If this is the beginning––might we even say a “new spring”?––”of a Church whose organization is not only vertical but also horizontal,” does that mean the Church was not horizontal before?
Oh, you! How ’bout a hug? Fuhgeddaboutit!
Once more and once again, Our Jesuit Pope is reading straight out of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Evangelical Mega-Church Pastors; chapter 3 is about the anti-clericalist, horizontal, universal priesthood of believers.
It is certainly true that the Holy See exists to serve the Church and that the Pope is the Servus Servorum Dei, but that does not entail the grassroots, communitarian, horizontal anti-clericalism being agitated for by the Pope. After all, Canon 1404 states, “The First See is judged by no one.”
While under normal conditions that should settle the matter for faithful Catholics, we are six months deep in the Pied-Piper-like obeisance that most Catholics feel obliged to give Our Jesuit Pope’s erratic casuistry.
In so far as “the Holy See stands at the service of the Church,” Francis would deem the certainty of canon 1404 too stubborn, too rigid, too vertical, insufficiently maternal, and maybe even a little legalistic.
And, whoo boy, that’s double-plus ungood.
Last time I checked, though, teachers, nurses, and mothers also “stand at the service of” their students, patients, and children, yet that service-role only reinforces the vertical nature of the relationship; it certainly does not negate the legislative and juridical dimensions of the relationship.
As bad as the logic is in the Pope’s ideas about the Holy See qua House Nigger, I’d honestly like to believe it’s just a blooper, but given the context of all the rest of what he’s said in “the interviews,” I must regrettably attribute this howler to his by now trademark penchant for “mystical” false dichotomies. In his interview with Spadaro, Francis argues that “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free … [and therefore] it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
As I said, in a normal world this kind of gibberish could be answered by our trusty friend, the Code of Canon Law (§§1401, 1404, 1405):
 By proper and exclusive right the Church adjudicates: 1) cases which regard spiritual matters or those connected to spiritual matters; 2) the violation of ecclesiastical laws and all those matters in which there is a question of sin, in what pertains to the determination of culpability and the imposition of ecclesiastical penalties. …  The First See is judged by no one.  It is solely the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge … the cases mentioned in canon 1401.
But these are not normal times anymore.
So we need to keep discussing
Immediately after the gibberish about not interfering in a person’s spiritual life, the Pope ascends to the mystical plane:
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
[«Una volta una persona, in maniera provocatoria, mi chiese se approvavo l’omosessualità. Io allora le risposi con un’altra domanda: “Dimmi: Dio, quando guarda a una persona omosessuale, ne approva l’esistenza con affetto o la respinge condannandola?”. Bisogna sempre considerare la persona. Qui entriamo nel mistero dell’uomo. Nella vita Dio accompagna le persone, e noi dobbiamo accompagnarle a partire dalla loro condizione. Bisogna accompagnare con misericordia. Quando questo accade, lo Spirito Santo ispira il sacerdote a dire la cosa più giusta».]
Lieber Gott, retirement’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Attention, fellow small-minded restorationists, here are a few things to note:
1) Pope Fuhgeddaboutit simply dodges the question. He was asked, point blank, whether he approves of homosexuality (se approvavo l’omosessualità), and all he could do is muse whether God also “approves of” the existence (ne approva l’esistenza) of a homosexual person.
Having been around the block a few times on this issue, I would bet good money, no, I guarantee that the Scripture which Pope Francis has in mind for his mystical mystification is Wisdom 11:24–27 (although verse 24 might be too ascetical-instructive for the Pope’s tastes). After all, this comes from a man who refers to “homosexual persons” as “‘socially wounded’ because they … feel [!] like the church has always condemned them.” (This is why I’ve got even more money ready to lay on the wager that Pope Francis believes that the sin of Sodom is actually about hospitality, not, well, sodomy.)
He dodged the obvious reply in the same way in the airplane interview (Fakes On An Airplane?) when he addressed a question about “the gay lobby”: “So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with ‘gay’ on it.” More mystification! No badges. Garsh, I guess that that settles it. (Just be sure not to tell Randy Engel.)
2) His dodgy scenario of a dodge muddles the classical Christian distinction between a person and the person’s sinful actions. The Pope might as coherently have asked, “When God looks at an adulterous, greedy, or deceitful person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” To which the obvious answer is, “Well, Holy Father, God loves each person and sustains him in existence as a human made in God’s own image, but He also hates the sin in that person’s life and wants to remove it as a burden on his existence, to cleanse it away as a stain on his created likeness to God. As Catholics, we deny that a person is intrinsically wedded to his sins––much less that his ‘identity’ fundamentally arises from some sin or sins. This distinction allows us to ‘hate the sin and love the sinner.’ Precisely because our sins––including the sin of leading a ‘gay‘ life––are ontologically separable from our personhood, God can endorse our existence while still condemning our sins. He calls us out of our sinful identities into His likeness in Christ.”
3) His reference to “the mystery of the human being” is a red herring for that other mystery, the one that is actually being asked about: the mystery of iniquity.
4) He then goes for broke by espousing what, if spoken by any less esteemed a mouth, would be condemned as a totally invalid option for Christian thought, namely, situation ethics. Once a priest, out of mercy, confines his confessional judgment to the internal limitations and logic of an individual’s “situation,” then the Holy Spirit will inspire him to “say the right thing”––not to say the truth, mind you, but simply “the right thing” in order to make that person feel like they’ve been “accompanied.”
In any event, the above four points all tie into my description of Pope Francis as the Emmaus Pope, so at least I’ve got some more grim confirmation that I’m not totally off target.