I get the Pope’s point, though I think it’s typically heavy-handed and abrasive. Did the unsatisfactorily gleeful faces of the nuns in his presence suddenly guide his “off-the-cuff” comments to chastise them on camera? Is that what Pope Francis means by discernment? I honestly don’t know.
Meanwhile, leave it to The Fishwrap to have anticipated and exult in this chintzy note in the melody of our Zeitgeist. Sigh. WARNING: If you are at risk of developing diabetes, do not read this priest’s article, “In Pope Francis, the smile of God is back”!
Again, I’m not saying the Pope caused these and related sentiments, but he has undeniably galvanized them. The adolescent, emotive fervor that has swept the world is why I get dizzy at a lot of the saccharine goop coursing through the Church these days. One of my highest mentors, Fr. Stanley Jaki (RIP), made the point many times that “those universal wrapping papers,” the Three (sometimes Four) S’s of Sport, Sex, Smile (and, increasingly, of Science) can be used to sell almost anything in Americanized Western culture. Who’s our pope, again? A smiling fan of soccer who pooh-poohs the Church’s imbalanced obsession with sex? Check, check, and check!
Ironically, the exchange I had weeks ago on Facebook, which finally convinced me that I was and am profoundly estranged from contemporary neo-conservative Catholicism, involved another fan of Fr. Jaki assuring me that Jaki would have unequanimously backed “Our Francis of the Interviews.” I can never prove I’m right, of course, but having communicated with Fr. Jaki many times by e-mail and phone, having met with him in person for a day, and having read nearly all of his tracts and books, I find it almost delusional to think that the same Fr. Jaki, constantly pegged by fellow clerics as a traditionalist pitbull, would have had no qualms about Our Smiling Pope.
In any event, try as I might, the depressing fact is: I get little to no spiritual sustenance, much less any theological edification, from Pope Francis. When I try to shut down my critical faculties and docilely tune in to the Pope’s “message,” there’s just no “there” there. All I see are his trademark thumbs-up, “humble” glomming onto social media, astoundingly maladroit explanations of basic moral positions of the Church, raised eyebrows and toothy smiles, unpredictable showmanship, off-the-cuff spiritual metaphors and cliches, seasoned with not-so-subtle digs at the devoutly religious, a rejection of gaudy papal accoutrements which paradoxically just draws more attention to the person of Pope Francis. And so on. And so on.
Even Protestants are tired of it.
It seems that I have been renditioned into the First Church of the Foursquare Handshake of the Great Belly Laugh.
My fundamental problem is a crisis of glibness. In the Church that I thought I knew, glib spirituality–the chirping out of Christianish bromides in order to gin up good will towards the Catholic “faith tradition”–seems to have trumped the mundane confidence of joyful religiosity. So much glad-handing phoniness. So much Evangelical canvassing.
To be sure, none of the above makes for profound insights on my part, but it is a fresh reminder that I feel utterly, almost surreally, out of place these days.
Happily, though, (?) I’m not the only one rattled by the Pope’s chummy style. (Misery sho ’nuff do love company, eh, Dale?) Many of those closest to him, including those curial aides whom the Pope so non-judgmentally referred to as the leprosy of the Papacy, are being demoralized day after day. Don’t tell Pope Francis, but maybe clerics are human, after all.
And, as if on cue, yet another uninformed, arch-traditionalist has outed himself as a pope hater.
“Is [Pope Francis] aware of the damage he causes?” — Michael Novak
Wait a minute… MICHAEL NOVAK??
“‘In the more than 20 years, we have known him, it’s never happened before that, perhaps the most famous Catholic philosopher in the U.S., who was closely connected to and , has uttered critical words about a Pope,’ said Vatican Insider….”
As for the claim that most of the griping about Pope Francis comes from narrow-minded, monocultural American Catholics…
Wow. Take a seat to read this.
An Open Letter to Pope Francis from a famous writer of children’s books, Silvana De Mari, slightly edited.
Dearest Papa Francesco,
I address you in a familiar manner because I now realize how much you love being an ordinary person, without frills, without gold and without ermine, an ordinary person, like anybody else. An ordinary person who likes to watch soccer. An ordinary person who like many chat amiably in the airplane … A common person like many others. [Yet…] We need a Pope.
Forgive me, dear Papa Francesco, not to call you, your, I believe you to be a delightful person, the ideal neighbor, but we need a Pope. They kill Christians as dogs. , between a soccer game and the kissing of a disabled child or two, could you do a little something more in line with your role? In the last couple of hours 10 churches have been burned in Egypt. Could you do something?
Perhaps put on your trappings, the gold and ermine, which are not trash, your Holiness, but are symbols of 2000 years of history and with that “stuff” go to Egypt instead of watching soccer? It’s not just Balotelli who wants to talk to you, there are also the parish priests of thein that would have something to say, I mean those who survived; those already dead have nothing to say.
At a time when Christianity is under attack as never before, we need Holiness in a Pope. We need someone to appoint as the first problem the Christians massacred in Nigeria and Christians massacred in Pakistan during an Easter homily….
I do not want to jinx you with the comparison, but Christianity gives me the impression of the Titanic. The iceberg is called Islam: you say it’s so good and spiritual, if you say that as an expert, it may be so. But, I insist, the captain of the Titanic was also an expert, one of the best.
St. Peter was an amateur, however, for half his life he’d been a fisherman, zero theological studies, a duckling compared to you. St. Peter said to the Romans that they, as human beings, of course, were brothers, sons of the same God, but that their religion was false. His task was to convert them or die in the attempt of converting them to the one true faith, not finding merits in a false faith so that those who are born into it never leave it.died in the attempt, but eventually converted them. Should not this be your role? Convert to Christianity. Or die in the attempt.
On the island of Lampedusa you need had to utter a single sentence I bring the love of God. Throughout the Koran the word love is not mentioned once. It would have sufficed. On Lampedusa you bowed in front of the “spirituality” of Ramadan, you bowed to Islam, and you represent Christ. He Who represents Christ does not bow before anyone: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I am the Life, the Truth and the Way, but no matter what efforts to evangelize, even to proselytize, because it appears so much all religions are equal; Your Holiness, in my Gospel it does not say this. Or is yours is a different gospel, or there is an excess of professionalism that is crushing.
St. Peter to the Romans had said that they, of course, were brothers, but that their religion was false. He was killed because of saying this. Holiness people die. People are murdered. People die a horrible death. You go to watch soccer. We need a Pope. Someone who is the heir of Jesus Christ and St. Peter, someone who is willing to be hated. …
Whoever tolerates everything the opposite of everything with the usual happy face is a conniving. … You are loved by all, Your Holiness. Are you sure that’s an advantage? I think the time has come to be hated. Put on all your trappings, which are not trash but symbols of 2,000 years of history, give the weight of those 2000 years, and go to Cairo, and fight for Coptic Christians, and weep over their burned churches and then go to Syria and then later to Pakistan. Then, if you have time, you can also go to a soccer game but I don’t think that time will allow it. We are at the darkest moment of Christianity since the beginning of time. We need a Pope.
In closing, the sobriety and range of the following video is SUPERB, and anticipates much of part 3 of “The Battle Within.” Even so, it can’t hurt to hear truth from more than one voice.
“Where does this leave the Catholic Church? … I throw up my hands!”
I’m of pretty much of 100% accord with this video, so, if you want to know how to read this blog, WATCH THIS VIDEO. Even more than that, if you are looking to find your bearings under Pope Francis, WATCH THIS VIDEO. As I keep reiterating, I am not out to attack the person, much less the office, of Pope Francis. I’m blowing off a bit of steam with this post, but there is a serious point that I am trying to make: it behooves us to vanquish a cult of personality that perpetually seems to congeal around Pope Francis, put his malapapalisms in their place (i.e. well to the side), focus on his frequently very solid remarks, and keep pressing into God’s holy mercy.
P.S. I also want to reiterate a policy of mine: I TRULY WELCOME comments, but I do not want a fan base; I will never post things just to generate traffic. I don’t resent having “my audience” diverted from my blog to a better site, which is why I so openly link to others. I welcome all edifying links and ideas.