Stick to the script!

“[M]en are not bound, or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple, and condemn him as a heretic.”

–– St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30 [cf. this post for a sanity-ballast].

“I have studied at Barcelona, at Salamanca, at Alcala, at Paris; what have I learned? The language of doubt; but in me there was no harbor for doubt. Jesus came, and my trust in God has grown by the doubts of men.

–– St. Ignatius of Loyola (reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 599.)

“The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith: Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

–– Catechism of the Catholic Church §2088

“I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending [the] difficulties [of faith on the one hand] … and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt…; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.

–– Bl. John Henry Cdl. Newman, Apologia Vita Sua, ch. 5

+ + +

In two prior posts I have briefly examined, first, how Pope Francis’s neo-Jesuit training informs the head-scratchers that I keep pondering, and, second, the assumptions behind some of them.**

And now it’s time for more.

Recall with me this familiar but still no less amazing confection of neo-Jesuit, Whiteheadian-process truthiness from the Spadaro interview (emphasis mine):

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything [i.e. all things in life and in faith to be] clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. … You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. … You have to trust God.”

What incredible loathing for orthodox “traditionalism” radiates from these words! What is wrong with desiring “things in life and in faith to be clear and safe” or with a fundament of “doctrinal security,” or with “disciplinarian solutions” in some cases, or with trying humbly to recover our Catholic and classical past, and why is only the Pope’s “dogmatic certainty” spared his immediately preceding critique of “doctrinal security”? I urge you to read the quotation again without the underlined words, so that you may grasp why the remainder of the statement has jostled so many of us. Those underlined modifiers of extremity only serve to caricature the Pope’s target by forcing a false dilemma on a straw man. (“Do you want everything in life and in faith to be clear and safe?” – “Well, no, but––” – “Ah! See! If you want your faith to be clear and safe, then you’re a coward!” – “I’m not–– What?” – “Do you always look for, etc.”) Once they are removed, the claim is very chilling: we can be certain that God is in every life, but dare not be certain what that entails doctrinally.

You may think I am being dishonest, trying to shoehorn the Pope into a progressive mold that doesn’t fit, but you would be wrong about that, and the best evidence I can muster is another quotation by him from the Spadaro interview:

“[In the] quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the [certain?] proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation [or, certainty?] in spiritual consolation [i.e. Confusion is in every off-the-cuff interview that is open to stirring up adulation in spiritual confabulation… or something].”

[«Sì, in questo cercare e trovare Dio in tutte le cose resta sempre una zona di incertezza. Deve esserci. Se una persona dice che ha incontrato Dio con certezza totale e non è sfiorata da un margine di incertezza, allora non va bene. Per me questa è una chiave importante. Se uno ha le risposte a tutte le domande, ecco che questa è la prova che Dio non è con lui. Vuol dire che è un falso profeta, che usa la religione per se stesso. Le grandi guide del popolo di Dio, come Mosè, hanno sempre lasciato spazio al dubbio. Si deve lasciare spazio al Signore, non alle nostre certezze; bisogna essere umili. L’incertezza si ha in ogni vero discernimento che è aperto alla conferma della consolazione spirituale».]

Did you catch that? At first I thought he meant that religious leaders must aways leave a margin for doubt in the sense that hearers of the message always retain their free will to accept or reject God. Fair enough, thanks for the truism.

But then the Pope undermines my own effort to read him charitably by plowing into yet another mystical mystification.

He explicitly pits “our [arrogant] certainties” (like, say, the unflinching recital of the Nicene Creed and other related solemn nonsense?) against the “humble” necessity of leaving a chair open for Jesus at the table of doubt. He is even more explicit in the next paragraph after the words quoted above: “The risk in seeking and finding God in all things … is the willingness to … say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ [By making a certain declaration of faith, we] will find only a god that fits our measure.” As much as it displeases me to conclude, the reality is that, in Pope Francis’s mind, leaving room for Jesus means leaving room for doubt. Consequently, actively welcoming doubt would mean welcoming Jesus.

Pope FrancisMore doubt, more Jesus! Fuhgeddaboutit!

Who is this Jesuit Pope? Certainly no one whom his Jesuit master, St. Ignatius, would have recognized (well, not without a lot of charitable squinting). “In me,” says St. Ignatius, “there was no harbor for doubt. Jesus came, and my trust in God has grown by the doubts of men.” Alas, it turns out that the founder of the Jesuits was a legalist: by leaving no room for doubt, his Bergoglian descendant would argue, St. Ignatius left no room for Jesus. A further irony is that Our Jesuit Pope would endorse doubt as cat nip for Jesus, since the foundation of the Jesuit order is the Spiritual Exercises, one aim of which is precisely to deliver the exercitant from doubt!

The takeaway?

We’ve all been duped: Francis is not the first Jesuit pope; he’s the first neo-Jesuit “Bishop-of-Rome-full-stop.

“If it is deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.” –– CCC §2088

As with the “restorationist” quotation, this quotation is pure caricature of whomever it is that the Pope thinks it targets. If the Pope endorses the statements even without the underlined words, then we must wonder how well he understands Christianity at all. Take a moment to read his non-underlined words again.

“[In the] quest to seek and find God … there is still an area of uncertainty. … If a person says that he met God … and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. … If one has … answers to [important] questions — that is the [indubitable!?] proof that God is not with him. It means that he is [can we settle for “might be,” Pope Francis?] a false prophet using religion for himself. The … leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have … left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for … certainties; we must be humble.

If only Francis could see the irony: precisely in denouncing as a false prophet him who has answers to all questions, Our neo-Jesuit Bishop of Rome provides an answer to all our questions: “Leave room for doubt; trust me on that; courageous Christians have unfailing trust in doubt.”

My ongoing goal is to discern what is inside Pope Francis that motivates him to makes such bizarre claims. In this case, it’s short work: the authenticity of doubt being endorsed by Pope Francis is just the overflow of boilerplate Hegelian-Teilhardian-Process gobbledygook stewing within him.

To translate it back into the original Hegelian: every act of faith finds its sublimation/perfection in an antithetical act of doubt, and only thus ascends to a higher act of faith which in turn finds its sublimation/perfection in a correspondingly higher antithetical act of doubt, until eventually the first act (or thesis) of faith evolves into its own contrary, at which point all contradictions are resolved into an absolute “omega” unity that transcends the dichotomous, finite illusion of truth and falsehood. And now in the translation Pope Francis provided to Scalfari: “our species … will end but … the light of God will never end. At that point, this light will flood all souls and all will be in all. … Transcendence remains because that light, the all in all, transcends the universe and the species that will then inhabit it.”

“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallises them. God is in history, in the processes. We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics.” –– Pope Francis to Fr. Spadaro

“[God] weaves all these feelings of the actual world into one unity of feeling. Just as in all other actual entities, God’s concrescence is a process by which he brings a diversity of prehensions into one fully determinate unity. The achievement of every actual occasion in the antecedent universe is preserved by its integration into the harmony of God’s satisfaction.” –– John W. Lansing

Whatever he may actually believe when the world isn’t listening, his actual words provide yet another instance of the Pope’s trademark false dichotomies, of his penchant for mystical mystification, namely, that the more one seeks security in the Church’s “tradition and memory,” the less courageous one is; the more one looks to disciplinarian solutions, the more egotistical one is; the less willing you are to be “open” to the “new,” the less you trust God. Yet, as Joseph Shaw’s four-part (1, 2, 3, 4) response to “Our Francis of the Interviews” shows, if anyone faces such a ham-handed dilemma, it’s neo-conservative Catholics (i.e. soft ultramontanists), not traditional Catholics.

As with his statements in the Spadaro interview about moral truth––”The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”––we are left wondering whom exactly the Pope has in mind: who exactly, and in reality, are these inward-directed Christians that always, stubbornly desire exaggerated certainty about everything?

So this is what it feels like to be a legalist.

Heretofore I’ve only given a rhetorical critique of the Pope’s words to  Scalfari. He could have spoken better by speaking more guardedly. Etc. The usual soft ultramontanist water-carrying.

But what about the substance of his claims as they have been sown into the listening world?

Well, let me first note what a leading body of stubborn restorationists say about certainty in faith (emphasis mine):

“‘I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH’ – The meaning of the above words is this: I believe with certainty, and without a shadow of doubt profess my belief in God the Father… with the greatest ardour and piety I tend towards Him, as the supreme and most perfect good. …

The word believe does not here mean to think, to suppose, lo be of opinion; but… it expresses the deepest conviction, by which the mind gives a firm and unhesitating assent to God revealing His mysterious truths. …

The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them.

[W]hen God commands us to believe He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable faith, by which the mind rests content in the knowledge of eternal truth. And … since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, … how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration. …

We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery.

–– The Roman Catechism, “The Creed,” Article 1

Are we clear now on where a discrepancy might lie between Our Jesuit Pope and the Biblical Tradition?

The siren song of soft ultramontanism is apparently impossible to resist once it’s been embraced, so I’m willing to admit that, no, some of you are not yet willing to admit that Our Jesuit Pope is wildly wrong about the necessity of doubt for authentic faith.

In case the Roman Catechism wasn’t clear or, ahem, certain enough, let me cite those guys’ editors on the topic of “doubt”:

Mt 21:21 –– Amen, I say to you, if you shall have faith, and stagger not, not only this of the fig tree shall you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done. 22 And all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Heb 11:1–2 –– Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. [Yes, I know that Francis mentions this very passage in the Spadaro interview, but it’s just… just stop it.]

Jam 1:5–8 –– If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.

“Well played, St. Tom! To honor your making room for me, I’ma call you The Doubter.” (John 20:27, Open To The Modern Edition)

As I’ve learned to expect, no matter how at odds certain of Pope Francis’s statement appear to be, it behooves us to devise a way to read them in the most charitable way, with which I concur, of only it didn’t seem that “charitable” now seems to mean “convoluted and question-begging”. My hunch is that a lot of the soft ultramontanism we’re seeing is being generated by Protestant converts to the Church. Many of them probably have friends and family who disagreed with them swimming the Tiber, but who, after years of prayer, conversation, and seeing fruit in the Catholic converts’ lives, are finally open to joining the Church as well. But as soon as some of the Pope’s howlers hit the press, those would-be Catholics vamoosed like scared coral. So there’s a great deal of pressure for these soft ultramontanist advocates to convince their beloved would-be Catholics that nothing is amiss.

Alas, as Dale Price puts it, “The orthodox-as-Chip-Diller response is losing its effectiveness.”

“Yippy! It’s cool to be Caflick again!”

So, to the soft ultramontanists out there who might be reading this, can I “prove” that Pope Francis is a heretic?

No.

But!

I had not been struck by the enormity of his words about doubt and certainty until I wrote this post, and if you can’t admit that those stand in all-but-heretical contrast to Catholic truth, then I really think you and I might adhere to different faiths.

Moreover…

As I intend to demonstrate in two upcoming posts, the Pope’s claims about “the Catholic God” and about the autonomy of conscience (cf. his letter to Scalfari and his interview with Scalfari) implicitly but logically convey ideas that are so inimical to the Catholic faith that they should be as spurned by a healthy Catholic mind as are claims that explicitly propose heresy. Such non-explicitly heretical propositions I shall call heterodoxoid: To be heterodoxoid, one must endorse or espouse doctrines which logically entail heresy a) if one obstinately defended those doctrines and b) unless one makes an effort to qualify and contextualize the orthodox sense of one’s erroneous doctrines.

And so, as I began with §2088 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I shall end in the same precincts.

The reason I don’t want to brand Pope Francis as a heretic is because he has not proven himself to be obstinate in making erroneous statements of the kind I’ve been analyzing. As Catechism §2089 explains, “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same”. It should be undeniable by now that Our Francis of the Interviews has spoken against certain (!) truths of the Catholic faith, but I am trying to be charitable enough to say that these were merely inadvertent and loose errors, instead of being an “obstinate post-baptismal denial” of those truths.

Meanwhile…

Vatican Dudes, seriously… would you please remove those interviews with Spadaro and Scalfari?

Lest it be presumed that I am boasting of my own charity towards Our Jesuit Pope, I must say that the refusal outright to tar Pope Francis with the brush of heresy has more to do with him as a Jesuit Pope than with me as a supposed model of sanctity. Like all Jesuits of his time, Our Jesuit Pope excels at hewing very closely to heresy without ever saying anything ‘technically’ wrong, kind of like how kids play the “I’m not touching you” game.

“I’m not touching heresy! I’m not touching heresy! I’m not touching heresy!”

We don’t need a Pope who is a manifest heretic; galvanizing heretics and sowing confusion is enough. Let me once again cite Steve Skojec’s important essay in this time of confusion:

I don’t have any ill-will for Catholics defending the pope, but I do wish they would stop already. He is doing a lot of damage. He is muddying the already unclear theological waters and making it very, very easy for a world hell bent on seeing Catholics as the bad guys to misinterpret things until we have no chance of having an honest conversation about anything anymore. They’re already using “but the pope said” arguments against people out there defending the unborn and arguing against gay marriage. It isn’t going to stop. So while there may not be malice at work, I think these papal apologists need to step back and ask themselves if they’re maybe, just maybe, being a bit willfully obtuse. …

[The worst danger is when enemies speak] in half-truths. When they veil themselves in cryptic language that can be taken to mean one thing by the orthodox and another by the progressive. When they speak in code that tells their brothers in revolution that the fight is still on, that the 1960s aren’t dead yet and getting better. When they say nothing at all the can be definitively denounced as heterodox but everything that can be embraced by the heterodox if they so choose.

Stalin had a word for the people who sympathised with the Soviets in the West: useful idiots. This papacy is looking to be a continuation of the revolution that began before Bl. John XXIII invoked the council. This is a battle for the soul of the Church that is happening within the boundaries of papal infallibility, but make no mistake – a lot can go wrong without changing a single doctrine. …

If you want, in charity, to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, you have every right to do so. But I urge you to ask for discernment. To question with boldness whether your benevolent papism — an entirely noble but ultimately unnecessary aspect of the life of faith — is enabling something that will damage the Church’s ability to evangelize for years to come.

So, again, do I think Pope Francis is a manifest heretic? No, although in a perverse way I might prefer that: if we had a manifestly and obstinately heretical pope, at least we’d know how to read him on a consistent basis.

Short of that, we have but the keys I’m trying to unearth to make sense of this Pope’s sometimes erratic voice.

Stay tuned.

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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16 Responses to Stick to the script!

  1. When the pope emeritus renounced the office, the part of me that loved Pope Benedict continues to, another part of me pitied him, that he he felt so helpless against the challenges, yet another part was overwhelmed with great disappointment because of his decision…. It was the beginning of this unbelievable time of confusion. Two living popes. Not even a year has passed and the confusing messages have not abated, they have only gotten worse. Unfortunately for the pope emeritus, I think he will live to regret it, if he hasn’t already. That shot of lightning which hit the dome at his renunciation actually gives me some solace. God will protect and preserve the Church despite those within and without.

  2. I know this probably sounds psychotic, but have you seen the post that I may or may not have already published that contains a facepalm by B16?

  3. Darwin says:

    I’m not sure to what extent it’s worth posting a response, because it seems like fellow Catholics trying to contextualize or explain Francis’ remarks is one of the things that annoys you, but you also say in your post below about Mark Shea that what you look for out of blogging is conversation, so I’ll give it a go since I’ve been following your posts for a bit due to Dale’s links:

    It strikes me that with the section you’re responding to, the essential context is the question that Francis is asked, which is:

    I ask, “So if the encounter with God is not an ‘empirical eureka,’ and if it is a journey that sees with the eyes of history, then we can also make mistakes?”

    Now, as I gather is also the case for your, this language of “encounter with God” is honestly kind of foreign to me. For the 27 years since my first communion, I’ve received God whenever possible in the Eucharist. I pray to God as best I can. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I “encounter” him. And although there are through the Church’s history many people who like to look at certain events as signs of God’s active hand, I tend to be on the skeptical side of things and figure that things just happen. After all, free will and all that.

    However, translating this into my own idiom, if what we’re talking about is the extent to which we can discern God through looking at history and at our own experiences, I can see why the pope’s response begins:

    Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.

    Looking back at my life, I can’t say with certainty, “At that time, God told me to do X” or “I am certain that God gave me a special consolation at that point.” That doesn’t mean that we must have faith in doubt or that we must always doubt God or doubt doctrines, it has to do with how confident we can be on the ways in which we think we experience God in this life.

    The second paragraph of his response seems to expand on that:

    The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever. Often we seek as if we were blind, as one often reads in the Bible. And this is the experience of the great fathers of the faith, who are our models. We have to re-read the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11. Abraham leaves his home without knowing where he was going, by faith. All of our ancestors in the faith died seeing the good that was promised, but from a distance…. Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing…. We must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.

    Again this is about encounter with God in this life: Was that really an answer to my prayer? Is this really my vocation? Am I being called to go do XYZ activity?

    In the second half of the third paragraph, he addresses the question of relativism:

    At this juncture, someone might say that this is relativism. Is it relativism? Yes, if it is misunderstood as a kind of indistinct pantheism. It is not relativism if it is understood in the biblical sense, that God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter. Discernment is essential.

    So he seems to be specifically rejecting the idea that God is Himself indistinct or unknowable or contradictory, but saying that rather we do not know when and how we will experience God in our own lives here on Earth.

    This is when the “restorationist” paragraph comes in:

    If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

    Following after those others, and taking it to be part of the same train of thought (which seems, really, the only way to take it) it seems to me that he’s talking about a legalism or formalism which tries to nail down exactly when we are experiencing God in our lives, what God’s will for us in terms of concrete choices, vocation, etc. Like you, my first blush is to think, “That’s hardly a problem,” but then I’m reminded of some friends who got sucked into the Regnum Christi / Legionaries of Christ before that blew up, and there there definitely was a legalistic formalism, which claimed to discern a lot of answers with suspicion and did end up proving to have some cult-like (and evil) things going on at its roots. So maybe there are some times when that too needs to be warned against.

    I won’t drag this post-length comment out any longer. But suffice it to say that I think that read in context as an answer to the question, this isn’t bringing up the broad theological statements it looks to me like you’re taking it to.

  4. Elliot:

    Brendan has just said most of what needed to be said about this post. I want to extrapolate from and generalize his point here.

    The difficulty Pope Francis presents for many Catholics such as yourself is that his approach, indeed his very language in most cases, is primarily that of “encounter” not of doctrine. Traditionalist Catholics, and even many “conservative” Catholics, are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with such language; they think of Catholic faith almost solely in terms of a set of authoritative truths and practices, not *also* in terms of a certain sort of experience. Now Brendan shows how Francis’ talk of “doubt” and “uncertainty” makes sense when understood in the context of the linguistic genre of encounter. And I learned to appreciate that genre when I was involved with Communion and Liberation–an “ecclesial movement” which, ironically enough, is dismissed in many quarters as too “conservative.” But when understood in the context of doctrinal exposition, the language of encounter appears as it does to you and evokes the corresponding, predictable reaction. That’s why I understand your point of view, without of course endorsing it. I reacted to CL that way too, until I “got” Don Luigi Giussani’s perspective and way of talking. And I hear many echoes of Don Gius in Francis’ words. It’s not my preferred way of talking, but it’s legitimate and, for many people, quite helpful.

    What we have, here, then, is a clash of hermeneutics or interpretive paradigms (IPs). One way of looking at and talking about spiritual reality is being judged and found wanting in terms of another. But such a judgment begs the question against Francis: It assumes that what falls short in terms of one’s preferred IP falls short simpliciter. That’s the sort of thing I see happening in most conservative-Protestant polemic against Catholicism. And it fails for similar reasons.

    Such Protestants generally assume that the content of the deposit of faith can be adequately known by a study of “the sources” without any permanent reliance on ecclesial authority, so that individual believers can ultimately judge the orthodoxy of any church–including and especially the Catholic Church–in terms of the knowledge they have thus acquired. That’s basically the conservative-Protestant IP. So one will often hear adherents of the CPIP criticizing the Catholic Church for “adding” man-made doctrines to the deposit of faith, because said doctrines cannot be deduced from Scripture alone, or Scripture-cum-the-early-church-fathers, or whatever ensemble of sources this-or-that adherent happens to deem pertinent. And it’s true that distinctively Catholic doctrines do not flow by any sort of logical necessity from the written sources that have come down to us from the first few centuries of the Church. Of course, that’s only a problem for Catholicism if one assumes that the CPIP is authoritative. But since the very question at issue is which IP, the Catholic or the conservative-Protestant, is authoritative, criticizing the former in terms of the latter is simply begging the question. And I think you’re doing something similar, though not identical, to Pope Francis.

    You’re assuming that the sort of faith-language you’re familiar with is authoritative–which indeed it is–and inferring that Francis’ preferred genre is not only not authoritative but also and arguably incompatible with the authoritative one. Thus he appears as, if not a crypto-heretic, then at least sympathetic to heresy. And when Francis’ talk is interpreted solely in terms of the authoritative genre, that inference has considerable inductive force. But what I want to suggest is that you interpret Francis’ talk not as a substitute for, but as a companion and supplement to, the way of talking you prefer. I think that, if and when you follow that suggestion, everything will gradually fall into place.

    Best,
    Mike

  5. Can’t say that I have. I only just recently found your blog through a scripture link back to my site.

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  7. Re-reading my above comment, I see that my last point is unclear. I was writing in haste because I had an appointment to make. I want to restate and clarify here.

    The difficulty is not that your take the IP of the faith-language you prefer as authoritative. After all, it is authoritative. The difficulty is that you evaluate the complementary IP of the language of encounter as incompatible with it. But the two are not mutually incompatible. They only appear to be if you interpret the latter solely in terms of the former. But that would be question-begging.

    Similarly, the difficulty with the CPIP is not that it calls for studying the early, extant written sources so as to understand the deposit of faith. We ought to do that. The difficulty with the CPIP is that it takes such study as the unique, supreme, and authoritative method for learning the faith, so that all other methods and sources are to be evaluated solely in terms of it. You can see the error in that. By the same token, you should be able to see the error in your critique of Pope Francis.

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  11. Brock Fowler says:

    Perhaps a Pope–who is after all, speaking to the whole world at once–cannot communicate successfully through “encounter” language at all.

    A Pope cannot really be “pastoral” because the needs and communication styles of people are so different: particularly on a world-wide basis.

  12. Brock Fowler says:

    If it comes to the Pope’s mind to say something that is not clear and transparent, he should remain silent. The exception to this would be if he is writing on a complex point of doctrine which needs clarification for the good of the Church.

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