Before leaving you with the Pope’s magnificent words which he spoke at the Prayer for the Marian Day on Saturday, 12 October 2013, I want to remind my reader of some ongoing principles that are guiding my codgitations these days. Think of them as hermeneutical principles for understanding my current codgitations.
Bottom line, I honor Pope Francis as the true Vicar of Christ in the one Catholic Church which was established by God for the salvation of all mankind. I also believe Pope Francis is authentically orthodox in his faith.
Why, then, am I going on about some troubling comments he’s made in the past few months? There are two reasons.
First, as the Catechism says (§2088), “The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.” I have felt the damage the Pope’s reckless words have done to my faith, and I am all too aware of similar damage being wrought in the lives of other Catholics by them. (Dale’s plight is just one example, albeit the one with which I am most familiar.) So, I am responding to the malalpapalisms very much for the good of my own soul. The Year of Faith is drawing to a close, and I think it only makes sense to take the time to plumb the depths of my faith as an act of reclaiming and enriching it.
Second, it is precisely because I have no personal beef with the man Jorge Mario Bergoglio that I am treating his malapapalisms as sources of error that precede and transcend him as an individual. He is, in other words, a thermometer, not a thermostat, of how Vatican II was hijacked. Even if, God willing, the Vatican removes the interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro and/or the interview with Eugenio Scalfari from the Holy Father’s public witness, the words have gone out like arrows all over the world. In response, I feel compelled to fortify at least one small outpost against the impact of those errors (not that I’m the only one fortifying such an outpost).
Providentially enough, just tonight I read Katrina Fernandez’s characteristically punchy explanation of herself as a “damn Catholic”:
I am Catholic because Catholicism is Truth and outside of Truth there is nothing else.
This explains why I am Catholic but it doesn’t articulate how I became such a big damn Catholic. That too is easy to summarize… the Eucharist and beauty. … Those two reasons alone, and nothing else, is why I sought to convert. You wanna know what had absolutely no bearing on my decision to convert … the pope.
Who was pope didn’t matter to me then, so I suppose it really shouldn’t matter now. It helped that Benedict loves the same things about Catholicism as I do, but it really wouldn’t have made any difference to me if he didn’t. And it just so happens, Francis doesn’t. He’s [sic] still loves the Church, just for reasons that differ from my own. So what of it?
As much as I, another “damn Catholic” Catholic, agreed with her, there was an inchoate hesitancy within me, which a commenter there put into the words that I could not find:
It is only damn Catholics, catholic in their bones like this, who can feel the gruesome, bone-deep pain of modernity, festering afresh with this papacy. This pope tears at the old wounds. A great heroine of mine, Alice Thomas Ellis, wrote this about the Church in her novel The Sin Eater:
“It is as though…one’s revered, dignified and darling old mother had slapped on a mini-skirt and fishnet tights and started ogling strangers. A kind of menopausal madness, a sudden yearning to be attractive to all. It is tragic and hilarious and awfully embarrassing. And of course, those who knew her before feel a great sense of betrayal and can’t bring themselves to go and see her any more.”
This, to put it mildly, is an important and cathartic point.
Just take a multimedia-moment to let it all soak in:
“The Church has appointed this year as a time of renewal, both of faith and of style.”
Now that that’s all cleared up…
Even if, as I am compelling myself to believe in charity, the Holy Father were pressed on certain of his claims and qualified and/or retracted them as admittedly badly formed ideas, that might not be enough to cleanse the mind of one whose mind has been infested by such subtle errors. The malapapalisms of Pope Francis are much bigger than Pope Francis; I think they reveal distortions of and defections from Catholic truth that have long been developing in “the Church in the modern world.” I do not have a personal animus against “this Pope” and I do not for a moment think he’s a genuine threat to “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim 3:15). Indeed, as I have said many times, one of the main reasons I keep probing these malapapalisms is that they are simply beneath the Petrine chrism and orthodox faith that Cdl. Bergoglio freely accepts. The incongruity I am finding between “Our Francis of the Interviews” and the good “Pope Francis” in most other settings, is as fascinating to me as it is disturbing. It is the source of that incongruity––that “Spirit of Pope Guido” that I sometimes discern in Pope Francis––which I am trying to tease out.
Lastly, since I seem to have picked up a couple new visitors to my blog, I need to clarify that I am not a one-trick pony. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis was pretty much just in the background of my mind. I prayed for him as our universal pastor, but generally ignored the media chatter. And long before that, as my long-time reader can verify, I normally don’t fixate so much on the Pope’s comings and goings. If you peruse my archives, you’ll see that I write about a very wide range of topics, but I also do so in a very intensive way. I might write just as intensively about hylemorphism as about these malapapalisms as about economics as about the Thomistic Third Way as about the history of science. Only once I feel I have explored every relevant nuance and implication of a topic on which my codgitator seizes, do I feel “sated” and thus prepared to move on to a new query. I realize, of course, that this “manic” style of blogging is not for everyone. (Did someone say “tl;dr”?) Mine is not a “popular” style, I know, but I think it is one that certain webizens value, for their own perverse reasons.
[The football/chili cook-off we had at my parish this afternoon showed me, almost more clearly than I would have liked to see, how much of a “serious Catholic” I am compared to “the average Catholic.” My parishioners are, as far as I know, as knowledgeable about the faith and as loyal to the Lord as I try to be, but I seem to be an atypically “consumed” type of person. While others were sipping their tea and nibbling their cookies, I was trying to read the preface to an edition of the Vatican II documents. Now and then I was tempted to ask a few of what seemed like the more serious Catholics there what they thought about the Pope’s recent statements, but I knew that they’d have probably just blinked at me. They have jobs, kids, large TV’s, social engagements, they don’t blog, and so on; who cares what the Pope said in some interviews? Such is the awkwardness of being a “damn Catholic,” I guess.]
A penultimate point: If you’ve come this far down the codgitative rabbit hole, you need to know that it’s often highly advisable to read my posts at least twice, some time apart, since I tend to revise and expand them in the following day or two. Kind of like how I give myself haircuts over two or three days. #truestory
Apropos, as I seem to be re-entering my old life as a regular blogger, I want to ask something that I’ve asked every now and then (e.g. here and here): Why do so few people leave comments on my posts? When I first started blogging, the radio silence was, honestly, very troubling. I put a lot of information and ideas out there, saw the page views mount up, yet saw virtually no responses from those anonymous viewers. I quickly became inured to the radio silence, but it always makes me wonder…
In any event, without further ado, I give you some truly wonderful words from Pope Francis about our Mother in faith, the New Eve and the Icon of Redeemed Humanity.
(Oh, and just to remain consistent: notice in the video how the good Pope Francis is reading from a prepared text. No off-the-cuff malapapalisms here!)
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When we do not listen to [God], when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo. But we know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. …
Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, to undo those knots, to change? She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: “Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you”. And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies. …
[W]hat took place most singularly in the Virgin Mary also takes place within us, spiritually, when we receive the word of God with a good and sincere heart and put it into practice. It is as if God takes flesh within us; he comes to dwell in us, for he dwells in all who love him and keep his word. It is not easy to understand this, but really, it is easy to feel it in our heart. Do we think that Jesus’ incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst. It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially to offer our hearts to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will. …
[Mary] precedes us on this pilgrimage, she accompanies and sustains us. How was Mary’s faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he – Jesus – is the way, he is the path! To press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments. And what are these sentiments of Jesus? Humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also a firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry. The way of Jesus is the way of a love which is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross. The journey of faith thus passes through the cross.
Faith always brings us to joy, and Mary is the Mother of joy! May she teach us to take the path of joy, to experience this joy! That was the high point – this joy, this meeting of Jesus and Mary, and we can imagine what it was like. Their meeting was the high point of Mary’s journey of faith, and that of the whole Church. What is our faith like? Like Mary, do we keep it burning even at times of difficulty, in moments of darkness? Do I feel the joy of faith?