The battle within… (part 1)

[1 Nov 2013: I have slightly revised and expanded this post. See the text in red.]

“I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith, in Her liturgy, Her theology and Her soul. … I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject Her ornaments and make Her feel remorse for Her historical past. A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, ‘Where have they taken Him?'”

–– Eugenio Pacelli, future Pius XII (in Roche, Pie XII Devant L’Historie, p. 52-53)

In an earlier post I tried to encapsulate the mystery of Pope Francis’s inconsistent orthodoxy like so:

This isn’t hard. Pope Francis does not want to dress or live like past popes, does not want to interact with the world like past popes, does not want to administrate like past popes, so it makes perfect sense that he just as seriously does not want to sound like past popes. This reality only heightens the tragicomedy of his ex post facto media handlers trying to mesh certain strategically launched statements of his with past papal teaching, since he intends them to be as different in design as his shoes are from Pope Benedict’s.

My research and codgitations since then have only confirmed the above diagnosis, and a couple days ago I had two small epiphanies that have filled in major sections of this Papal Puzzle.

The first key to understanding our “Jesuit” Pope is his tacit espousal of Hegelian-Teilhardian-Process theology (also mentioned around the middle of this post), at least as far as his theology of dogma is concerned.

The second key is the Pope’s penchant for mystical mystification, which not only motivates him to posit maddening false dichotomies against the targets of his criticisms, but also gives him impunity to make theologically imprecise and reckless claims without ever making explicit and obvious (or “actionable”) heretical statements.

The third key is the primacy of “the human,” especially “the communal” among humans, although I have yet to discuss this topic at any great length. I think this is the Rosetta Stone in my explorations of Pope Francis, and not the least because it is a cipher to the trends that preceded and transcend Pope Francis. Let me leave it at that for now. [NOTE TO SELF: It’s all about Henri de Lubac.]

The fourth key is the first epiphany I recently had, and it is the key that I’ll be broaching in this post: while there have been counter-Reformation popes before (beginning with Leo X or Pius III), and while there have been post-Counter-Reformation popes (beginning with John XXIII), Pope Francis is the first anti-Counter-Reformation pope. To attempt to substantiate this claim is almost to reiterate everything Pope Francis has done since being elected, but I will focus only on his treatment of a few tell-tale liturgical and apostolic matters.

Oh yeah, what is the second epiphany I had?

I finally understand how to account for, or at least visualize, the erratic inconsistency we see in the unshakably pious Pope Francis when he’s reading from a script among the faithful and the disturbingly sloppy Francis of the Encyclical-by-Interview-and-Private-Correspondence: Pope Francis is the Manchurian Candidate of the Spirit of Vatican II. He is a living confluence, and thus a confusion, of the two streams that have most shaped him. This internal conflict of visions is perfectly captured in his famous dictum that he has “the humility and ambition (!) to do something” as Pope.

On the one hand he is a simple, ardently pious South American Catholic boy of Italian immigrant parents: this is the scripted and admittedly rather solemn Pope Francis whom I love. On the other hand, though, he is the neo-Jesuit “sleeper” agent––the dash of anti-clerical (CTRL+F) “leaven”––that is so busy canvassing and agitating for a more horizontal, more feminine, more flexible, more universalist, and at bottom a less particularly Roman Catholic, Church. This “Manchurcian” metaphor resolves my ongoing and very nettlesome bafflement towards him; the erratic conflicts we hear in his papal witness are evidence of these two mutually opposing currents roiling beneath his joyful mien.

And I’m not just whistling dixie here.

If you haven’t already watched it, I encourage you to take the time to listen to Fr. Rodriguez in this video:

The pertinent point is Fr. Rodriguez’s notion that, as the decisive battle between the Devil and the Church escalates in our age, we may be seeing the battle unfold in the person of the Pope himself.

Consider….

Why, as I heard on EWTN this morning, might Pope Francis speak more about the Devil than any other Pope in recent memory? Does it not seem plausible that his relative fixation on the Devil derives from the Devil’s relative fixation on him as the Vicar of Christ?

Why, again, might Pope Francis have made a special request to include the original Fatima statue on the recent Marian Day in order to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart (a little more information here)? Is it not plausible to see his actions as a personal cry for divine assistance as the battle rages in and around him? In consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart, was not the Pope also including himself under her mantle?

So, am I advocating that we revile the Pope as a weakling and crypto-heretic? I am not. We must heed his leadership, ignore his erratic malapapalisms, and above all pray for him! As I intend to show, the conflicting commitments Pope Francis has to old-school orthodoxy and the progressive “spirit of Vatican II” result in a torquing action in his papacy which is bucking off traditional dimensions of the papal witness in unprecedented ways.

+ + +

Christ said that when He is raised up, He will draw all nations to himself (Jn 12:32), and this is why at every Mass the Lord is elevated in the Holy Gifts, and why every Church is adorned with a crucifix up to which we may lift our eyes and be saved. Understandably, then, I was initially of one mind with Fr. Blake’s negative impression of the Pope’s liturgical, ehhm, style:

Pope Francis demi Mass

We wouldn’t want all that talk of “the Cross” to be undermined by a big, gaudy, Vatican-centric, restorationist, or even, like, visible crucifix, now would we?

…but then I saw that there is in fact a large crucifix in Domus Sanctae Marthae:

“I will do all in my power to fulfil the mandate that has been entrusted to me” –– Pope Francis to Scalfari

But then I saw the rest of the chapel:

Not too shabby, for a neo-Jesuit.

Whoops, I keep getting those mixed up.

Here’s the actual chapel:

Well done. We’ve almost got a universal Spiritual Care Chamber in the Vatican! The precious “red light” which Pacelli mentioned is still there, but only barely.

Pope Francis has gone out of his way to divert the papal focus to that hideous little chapel in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Why? Because it sends a distinct, and notably unscripted, message, at least to those who have ears to hear. (It was completed in 1996, so it’s very modern, don’t worry.) He could celebrate the Mass in any of a dozen magnificent chapels designed to stand out from the mundane utility of secular architecture and thus to glorify God with the offering of magnificent human craftsmanship, but instead he choose what could just as easily serve as a lecture hall.

Or as a Revolutionary Cell.

How many of the causes on the banner has Pope Francis explicitly championed? How many has he galvanized by his “off the cuff” leadership? Indeed, “if his embrace of uncertainty can even in a few cases overcome his filial docility, Pope Francis could initiate the reform the church so desperately needs.#AntiCounterReformationPope #FTW

Think about the name of the Pope’s preferred Christian base community modernized chapel: The Home of Holy Martha. And what famous dichotomy does the Church teach involving Martha in Luke 10?

38 Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord’s feet, heard his word. 40 But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. 41 And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I am aware that Pope Francis, in his own sermon on this passage, says some beautiful things about the unity of prayer and service, but on the crucial, concluding point, he can only manage to say that the episode does not posit a

…contrast between two attitudes: listening to the word of the Lord, contemplation, and practical service to others. They are not two opposing attitudes, but, on the contrary, both are two essential aspects to our Christian life[,] aspects that should never be separated, but lived in profound unity and harmony. … [But] why is Marta rebuked, even if gently, by Jesus? Because she considered essential only what she was doing, because she was too self-absorbed and preoccupied by things by doing [sic].

If pressed on this point, could Pope Francis frankly utter the words of Jesus that only “one thing is necessary” and that “Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her”? Don’t hold your breath. We’re in the presence of mystical mystification again, where the lesser part is somehow equally essential. (Jesuitically speaking, this is logically true, but it is pastorally and exegetically specious.) The point is that, by shifting the center of gravity into the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Bishop Francis is choosing to dwell in the house of Martha, and is urging the Church to join him in her lesser, “troubled” manner of imbalanced discipleship.

Another striking portrayal of the fundamental Marthan imbalance in the Pope’s theology comes from his Angelus address for 2 June 2013 (emphasis mine):

“Jesus’ outlook is …dictated by his union with the Father and his compassion for the people…. Jesus senses our problems, he senses our weaknesses, he senses our needs. … From this small amount, God can make it suffice for everyone. Jesus trusts in the heavenly Father without reserve; he knows that for him everything is possible. Thus he tells his disciples to have the people sit down in groups of 50 — this is not merely coincidental, for it means that they are no longer a crowd but become [base] communities nourished by God’s bread. Jesus then takes those loaves and fish, looks up to heaven, recites the blessing — the reference to the Eucharist is clear — and breaks them and gives them to the disciples who distribute them… and the loaves and fish do not run out, they do not run out! This is the miracle: rather than a multiplication it is a sharing, inspired by faith and prayer.”

The first step is Christ’s compassionate “sense” for “the needs” of “the people” (or maybe, “the demands of the proletariat”?).

“[O]ur objective is not to proselytise but to listen to needs, aspirations, disappointments, desperation and hopes.” — Papa Francesco

Or again, a little closer to the bone:

Not-so-solemn nonsense. 

The second step is to organize The People into small fellowship communities––let’s just call them base communities for short. (About fifty people each, you say? You mean, something like the seating capacity of the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel?)

Leading from behind.

The third step is the miracle of the multi––wait, what? Ohhh, actually the miracle is a prayerful act of community sharing “rather than a multiplication”.

“So, you mean it’s like a, like, mystical multiplication? Coooool.”

I am aware that the Italian says “più che” (more than) a multiplication, but this is still redundant. The Pope is saying that the true significance of the feeding lies in the sharing, not in the mere act of multiplication. The real lesson for Pope Francis is not that Jesus performed a supernatural marvel, but, “più che” that quaint little parlor trick, The People equally distributed their common resources! Hugs for everyone!

The above message came only three days after the Pope’s homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi (30 May 2013), the latter which sheds interesting light on the shorter Angelus message (emphasis mine):

First of all: who are those who must be given something to eat? … [I]t is the crowd, the multitude. Jesus is in the midst of the people, he welcomes them, he speaks to them, he heals them, he shows them God’s mercy; it is from among them that he chooses the Twelve Apostles to be with him and, like him, to immerse themselves in the practical situations of the world. …

Wait. Is not the Church meant, like Christ, to immerse Herself in heavenly things (Col 3:1–2) and, like Christ, to draw “the practical situations of the world” into the light of the heavenly Kingdom? This is a perfect example of Francis’s Marthan imbalance: even though the Bishop of Rome cannot bring himself to admit this without qualification, Christ chastised Martha precisely for immersing herself in the practical concerns of the world! (I’d also genuinely like to know how the Pope preaches on those Scriptures that speak of Jesus withdrawing from, hiding from, and sometimes even chastising “the people”, but that’s probably asking for too much consistency on his part.)

This evening we are the crowd of [which] the Gospel [tells]: let us also strive to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with Him in the Eucharist, to accompany Him and in order that He accompany us.

There’s that word (CTRL+F) “accompany” again! I’ll have much more to say about the frequency and connotation of this term, among others, in the Pope’s discourses. Stay tuned.

The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out from individualism to live together our journey in His footsteps, our faith in Him. We ought, therefore, to ask ourselves before the Lord: How do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord, [and] also with many brothers and sisters who share this same table? How are our Eucharistic celebrations? …

This is very good and a needed reminder, so I don’t want to pretend the Pope is a raging socialist. I commend this passage as the wheat in the chaff! The rest of the Pope’s words on the multiplication of loaves, however, is more of the same swaying-crowd communitarianism (emphasis added):

A final element: where does the multiplication of the loaves come from? The answer lies in Jesus’ request to the disciples: “You give them…”, “to give”, to share. What do the disciples share? The little they have: five loaves and two fish. However it is those very loaves and fish in the Lord’s hands that feed the entire crowd. … And this tells us that in the Church, but also in society, a key word … is “solidarity”, that is, [in making] what we have, our humble capacities, available to God, for only in sharing, in giving, will our life be fruitful. … The Lord in the Eucharist makes us follow His path … of sharing, of giving – and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it. [Fiscal transubstantiation, eh?]

Where, according to Francis, does the multiplication come from? From the sharing done by the disciples. What we have, if shared, becomes abundant wealth. Any supernatural multiplication is just a traditionalist fixation.

At the Mass for All Saints tonight [1 November 2013], our priest reminded us of the soup dinner for the poor to be held afterwards. On the flyer he’d made was a quotation from none other than Pope Francis, which he’d spoken to the Varghina (Manguinhos) community in Rio de Janeiro on 25 July 2013. I think it shows even more clearly what deflationary point the Pope is making out of one side of his mouth about the “miracle” of multiplied shares (emphasis added): 

“[W]hen we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them … not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always “add more water to the beans”! Is it possible to add more water to the beans? … Always? … Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied! Think of the multiplication of the loaves by Jesus!

Now, can you definitively catch the Pope denying that there was a literal supernatural miracle of multiplication? On both dates it seems pretty unambiguous that he’s trivializing the “supernatural” multiplication in favor of the “spiritual” miracle of sharing, but, as always, the Pope’s neo-Jesuit formation and his penchant for mystical mystification give him plausible deniability, especially in the fawning eyes of soft ultramontanists. “Come on, he’s THE POPE, he wouldn’t teach such an obvious error! You gotta be charitable, you Mad Trad, you!” Leaving aside the casuistry involed in his mention of the “multiplication”, it can’t be denied that the Pope’s emphasis on the feeding of the multitudes is distinctly Marthan in nature, distinctly communitarian as opposed to unqualifiedly supernatural, as if the supernatural “sign” would not, and is not, adequate without the engine of human sharing to make it, what, relevant? As such, I wonder when Catholic Answers will feel obliged to remove the vicious hit piece that Steve Ray wrote for them against the wishy-washy, love-is-something-if-you-give-it-away interpretation of the miracle of the loaves in the Pope’s messages.

Oops, no, wait––Ray wrote that piece back in 2008.

But that’s not all.

Even one of the most famous online soft ultramontanists has joined the fray, arguing brilliantly against Pope Francis’s hyper-Marthan Miracle Of Sharing and his implicitly naturalistic exegesis:

“…one can play with the (exceedingly lame) “explanation” of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes where everybody was so moved by Jesus’ warm fuzziness that they all shared their lunches. The Church does not forbid this stupid way of reading the text, just as the Church has never issued an infallible decree that 2+2 does not equal five, nor a formal dogma that you should not play in traffic.

Nonetheless, all these things are wrong and stupid, as is the naturalistic reading of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. That’s because all common sense is against it. The notion that it is a wonder worthy of mention in all four Gospels that ancient Near Eastern semites shared their food is something that *only* suburban American cheapskates could believe. The duty of hospitality and sharing one’s bread with the stranger is ancient and deep-rooted in Near Eastern culture. It did not take Jesus’ warm fuzziness to prompt it, nor would anybody have remarked on it as something amazing.

No, what impressed the Gospel writers was that, well, Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes miraculously. What also impressed them was that Jesus himself directly connected this sign with the miracle of the Eucharist, which has now been multiplied to feed a billion souls every day.

So your teachers are wrong, having doubtless absorbed this silly theory from some source they trust without giving it any thought—because they trust the source. The Church does not condemn this dumb theory—or endorse it. It’s just trendy in certain circles for no more reason than that it is trendy.”

–– Guess Who

You really should read Ray’s article on “fashionable priests and the ‘miracle of sharing'”. Padre Guido, reporting for duty, señor! As always, when you hew closely to traditional orthodoxy, you get the straight dope along with the feel-good lessons about communion and solidarity: of course Christ multiplied the loaves to be shared! Contrary to the Pope’s Marthan exegesis, however, only one aspect of the incident is truly miraculous, as the Church has always held. Down with false dichotomies! Away with mystical mystification. As for Guess Who, you may want to contact him and scold him for mocking the Pope like that.

Where were we?

Ah, yes: Signs and wonders, actions speaking louder than words. The Marthan imbalance. The first Anti-Counter-Reformation Pope.

Remember when Francis suddenly––unscripted and off-the-cuff-like––changed the Maundy Thursday Mass from St. Peter’s to the Casal del Marmo? He was sending a message without saying any words: out with liturgical ‘decadence’ and clerical dignity, in with iconoclastic populism and a progressive leveling of the Church. This is because he is the first anti-Counter-Reformation Pope. He’s doing exactly the same thing by shifting the Church’s liturgical and administrative center of gravity from St. Peter’s to the ugly little house of Martha.

(Irony! Pope Francis immediately chose to live in a guesthouse adjacent to the Apostolic Palace––maybe he’s just “poping in” for a visit?)

Famously, he did the same thing with his wardrobe and transportation choices, but I think the more significant revolt is against the titles ascribed to the Pope: anti-clerical, de-latinized, solidarist and synodal, collegial instead of primatial, etc. Ratzinger chose the name Benedict explicitly to reclaim the West for Christ as a diplomat for the Gospel in a time of great upheaval. Bergoglio, however, chose the (unprecedented) name Francis on the premise that he is called to re-build the Church in ruins in a “poor,” “missionary” mold. When he could have carried on with the project of rebuilding Christendom in Benedict XVI’s steps, Francis chooses instead to scrap the entire Christendom project, and with it the entire Counter-Reformation. His is a not a call to restore the Tradition, but to flatten it. Why else would Ratzinger feel wounded by Pope Francis’s suppression of what Summorum Pontificum intended to restore? While I wouldn’t call Benedict XVI a Counter-Reformation Pope, by any means, he was a post-Counter-Reformation pope in the sober Vatican II mold. By contrast Pope Francis is, as I’ve said, the Manchurian Candidate for the Spirit of Vatican II. The turbulence we are all experiencing is the unprecedented shift from a post-Counter-Reformation to an anti-Counter-Reformation papacy.

And why would Pope Francis agitate for so many innovations?

One of Pope Francis’s overriding goals is to “out-Evangelicalize” the Evangelicals and “out-NGO” the NGO’s, which is well and good, as long as it’s equally recognized that these aims compromise his desire to fulfill his preeminent duty to speak and act consistently as the Shepherd of God’s Church. He wants to make the Church seem relevant again in a world that is quickly bifurcating between pentecostal Christianity and UN-style humanitarianism on the “good”, Marthan side, and Islamic extremism and Catholic “restorationism” on the “ungood”, interiorised side. This is why Francis said the following to Fr. Spadaro in “the interview” (emphasis mine):

The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people [!], who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

[NB: I sincerely wonder if this is what the Pope had in mind about being “in the midst of the people,” of the Church “immersing” itself in the world, of priests “descending themselves into the people’s night … without getting lost”. Let us pray to the Lord that there is no truth to the scandalous claims. Then again, who am I to judge? Read more in this L.A. Times piece on how curas villeros (slum priests), in what is now a popular refrain, help the lost get by without trying to convert anyone. In addition, this post puts everything in a much needed positive light.]

In Pope Fuhgeddaboutit’s mind, it’s outdated to expect the clergy to lead or teach the people: all they need to do is sense their needs, listen to their opinions, accompany them wherever they wander, and follow the faithful on the new paths. Always recall from his interview with Spadaro how he pit the open-ended mystical stance he favors against the vertical idea of dogmatic teaching and leadership: “The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. [I reject] an environment of closed and rigid thought, more instructive-ascetic than mystical.”

Accordingly, elsewhere in “the interview” Francis elaborates on the sovereignty of the People of God versus the authority of the Church’s Magisterium (emphasis mine):

Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of [immersed in?] this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.

“This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. [Yet. Another. Mystically-Mystifying. False. Dichotomy. Sigh.] In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

Yes, I know that the Pope tried to avoid misunderstandings of the above by conceding the following caveat:

…of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.

However, this brief concession he makes to the hierarchical church is obscure, so I will bracket the issue and keep researching.

[However, apropos making concessions and caveats, the above quotation is proof that Pope Francis does in fact have the wherewithal, even in “off the cuff” interviews, to consider how his words will impact the Church and lost souls in the world, and of the need to revise or contextualize them accordingly.]

“I don’t care what he means, I just love what this new Pope says! More cookies, more sharing, more people power!”

So.

I repeat.

This isn’t hard.

It’s just hard to admit.

Pope Francis is on record as probably the most anti-traditionalist Pope ever; he scorns both restorationism and a “static and inward-directed” (i.e. conservationist) faith; he has “the humility and the ambition to do something [Crude, take note!]” order to implement the changes that Vatican II was supposedly never allowed to manifest; he insists the Church must be less ideological and more open to the new and the modern.

If, as Francis does, you oppose restorationism and conservationism, then you support progressivism.

If, as Francis does, you oppose triumphalism, then you support defeatism.

If, as Francis does, you oppose the proliferation of wealth and beauty, then you support the metastasis of poverty and ugliness.

If, as Francis does, you prefer a warm encounter to theological precision, then you support confused ecumenism.

The preference Pope Francis has for modernist progressivism, biblicist iconoclasm, Catholic defeatism, and populist banality are all marks of him as the first Anti-Counter-Reformation pope.

If you, dear reader, don’t or won’t recognize these kinds of words and actions as the worst kind of “spirit of Vatican II” shibboleths, then your head is in the sand and your ass is ripe for a kicking–and not a kick from me, but from the very progressives whom you say are hijacking Pope Francis’s papacy.

They get it. As long as the pontifical “son of the Church” does not officially and emphatically denounce certain progressive causes for as wide an audience as his interviews have had, then progressives know they can keep running with the ball. They don’t care what he really believes, nor how orthodox he actually is among the orthodox. They care about the message he is sending, not the words he is or is not saying––and being vindicated by the Vatican on precisely that dichotomy doesn’t help. The press is picking up on what are being called a “diplomatic” message, realizing, without much effort, how Pope Francis elides certain crucial words about, say, marriage which his predecessors made sure to enunciate. Indeed, he seems to be the first Pope ever blithely to use the word “gay”, thus ontologically legitimizing it as far as “the Catholic voice” is concerned. Despite the endless refuge soft ultramontanists, on their water-carrying errands, take in the idea of the malapapalisms being merely “off the cuff”, there is nothing accidental about this Pope’s choice of words. As far as they’re concerned, Pope Francis is giving progressives all the latitude they’ve been waiting for. Let him shout the old pieties to the faithful at this or that gathering in Italy, but meanwhile, in the media, the laxist logic is metastasizing.

The following comment on this story about a correspondence (informal and “off the cuff”, of course) between the Pope and an Italian LGBT group captures perfectly the logic that is compelling people to look again at the Catholic Church: “[The Pope] is merely a human Pontiff. He is not the authority of homosexuals. The Creator is the judge. And Judgment Day is everyday.” That’s the theology that “Our Francis of the Interviews” is, wittingly or unwittingly promulgating: Every day is the Day of the Lord; every place is a holy place; every human is a saint-waiting-to-be-found; every path is a road to God. Francis says he loves mysticism, but he errs far too often on the side of mystification. He says he prizes discussion and discernment, but repeatedly practices dissembling and distraction.

Fuhgeddaboutit!

+ + +

In light of all the above, let me close by citing again a crucial passage from the Scalfari interview (emphases mine):

The Church is and must become again a community of the People of God and the clergy, parishes, the bishops who are charged with the care of souls, are at the beck and call service of the People of God. … [O]ur objective is not to proselytise but to listen to needs, aspirations, disappointments, desperation and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, help the elderly, open up to the future and spread love. To be poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by John XXIII and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open up to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that opening up to modern culture would mean religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. Subsequently, however, little was done in that regard. I have the humility and ambition to want to do it”.

… [Scalfari:] [Y]ou described this generation as crushed by the present. We who are non-believers also feel this quasi anthropological unease. This is why we want to dialogue with believers….

“… [Francis:] Providence has placed me at the helm of the Church and the Diocese of Peter. I will do all in my power to fulfil the mandate that has been entrusted to me”. …

I think that love for temporal power is still very strong inside the walls of the Vatican and throughout the institutional structure of the Church. I think that the institution predominates over the poor and missionary Church you would like.

That’s in fact the way things are, and you can’t expect miracles [hopefully sharing will suffice, then].

[Scalfari:] Will you have to follow the same path?

“…I am the Bishop of Rome and the Pope of the Catholic world [?]. … This is the beginning of a Church whose organization is not only vertical but also horizontal.

Not to restore but to flatten the Tradition.

If this is not an Anti-Counter-Reformation, I don’t know what would be.

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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22 Responses to The battle within… (part 1)

  1. c matt says:

    I know you don’t want fans, but well done!

  2. Thanks, c matt! I’d appreciate any news you might be able to get me about perspectives on Francis from Argentine Catholics.

  3. Ella Mae Howard says:

    I have just found your site recently and I really appreciate your most interesting analysis of this papacy. I came to the Catholic Church nine years ago partially for sanctuary from the relativism in Protestantism. I love the security safety and clarity of doctrine. These seem to be all reasons disparaged by Pope Francis. I just had a feeling of dread from the first week when he broke the rules on Holy Thursday. I have never bought into the ‘humble’ show since it seems to me that true humility would be to accept the trappings of the office even if they are
    against his personal sensibilities. This way it’s always all about Pope Francis’ latest ‘humble’ action rather than the gospel. I just can’t get some of the things he has said in the interviews out of my head since they didn’t sound even Catholic at all. The worst of it is ( I feel a kinship with Dale Price in this) that the faithful Catholics in my parish all praise Francis profusely and gently ‘scold’ me if I bring up any concern. We even read the interview with the atheist in our Bible Study and they thought it wonderful!
    Sorry to be so long but I just wanted to thank you for your help. You are providing much needed encouragement and understanding.

  4. You want to apologize to ME for writing too much?! ;p I know my posts can go on but I’m just glad my research is helping faithful Catholics. There is SO MUCH involved in who this Pope is. It’s almost unfathomable, but I’m trying to make it all a little less so.

  5. Oh and I fully agree about the paradox of humility. Past popes were humans, too, and surely they could see how elaborate some of the customs and trappings were, perhaps at times even stifling–dare I say a Cross? Yet they submitted to such burdens and symbolic maskings of their unique individuality for the good of the Petrine office. With Pope Francis, though, it’s unmistakably about him as a pastoral “personality”. Stay tuned.

  6. E.M. Howard says:

    The ‘paradox of humility’ – that’s a good way to describe it. A truly humble person would have their humility go unnoticed and would certainly not tout it himself – to wit – ‘ I have the humility and the ambition’!

  7. Quite so. As I shall show in part three, this is a conscious tactical procedure, old-fashioned misdirection. Just one example: Francis execrates the Vatican-centric vision of the Church, yet he has vigorously activated Vatican-based plans to reform the entire Church FROM THE TOP DOWN. Ugh.

  8. E.M. Howard says:

    Am waiting with bated breath for parts 2 and 3!

  9. c matt says:

    I am hoping to get a chance to talk to my dad about his impressions (my parents moved to NY from BA back in the 60’s). I do know at least two things about Argentines first hand. Humility in Argentina is about as rare as a stable economy, as is being short and concise. Don’t know if you have been to Mundabor’s blog, but there are a couple Argentines that comment there with their take on the HF.

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  11. Andrzej says:

    Dear Author,
    Please help me understand one thing:
    (Surely) Benedict knew, in virtue of being in the conclave that elected him, who would be the likely next pope. I think there is a good chance that he knew it would be Bergolio.
    Should we see his abdication as being also a blessing conferred upon Bergolio?
    Surely he could imagine what kind of Pope Bergolio would be. Why did he abdicate?

  12. Honestly, I haven’t wanted to admit this, but I am now fairly convinced that Benedict did indeed choose to vacate the seat in order to let Bergoglio get picked. I don’t know why. But I will address the point in a very grim post that I began last night, and which I may post next week. :s

  13. Andrzej says:

    Is it possible to contact you via email?

  14. Andrzej says:

    Actually, you have my email. I just want to say something off the record. You can remain anonymous if you want.

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  18. The ability to predict popes from before the conclave is more difficult than exhibiting the gift of bilocation. The last several popes were not even on the short list.

  19. Quite right, but wasn’t Bergoglio, as the stand-in candidate for Martini, the runner-up to Ratzinger last conclave?

  20. [—
    Quite right, but wasn’t Bergoglio, as the stand-in candidate for Martini, the runner-up to Ratzinger last conclave?
    —]

    Very true… i forgot about that.

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