More cheery news from the Codgitator…

zombie smileyTo be spiritual is to smile?

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.

Vatican PopeHow could I not see this until now?

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.

Michael-NovakIs [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 Michael Novak, perhaps the most famous Catholic philosopher in the U.S., who was closely connected to John Paul II and Benedict XVI, 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…

silvana de mariThis is what Christian feminism and anti-clericalism are all about.

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 Holiness, I believe you to be a delightful person, the ideal neighbor, but we need a Pope. They kill Christians as dogs. Your Holiness, 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 the Catholic churches in Nigeria 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. St Peter 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.



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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27 Responses to More cheery news from the Codgitator…

  1. Eustace says:

    I wish you would use your excellent word skills to support the Church that you chose, perhaps not in its entirety. Pope Francis is trying to let the 99 be and bring in the 1 sheep that has gone astray… or is it the 49 that are now away, thanks to our very purified way of doing things.

  2. “I wish you would use your excellent word skills to support the Church that you chose, perhaps not in its entirety.”

    Thank you, I guess, but I’d say exactly the same thing to Pope Francis. There’s no need to poison the well, by the way: I went into the Church with my eyes open after an extensive exploration of Her teachings. And I am not defecting, not in the least. In fact, it’s precisely because I love Her FULL teaching as much as I do that I am stricken by what seems to be a benighted “soft sell” strategy to win the one lost sheep. Do you really mean to imply that the Church did not reach out to the lost until Francis was elected? God forbid that faithfully pronouncing and abiding by the fullness of divine revelation would alienate “the 49.” Would you prefer that we “purify” the Church’s teaching so we can win back the masses? Truth is the best magnet, the only magnet, really, which God has given the Church. We need to cut out the cheesy, Evangelical canvassing.

  3. Branch says:

    On the point of what Francis meant by “ideology,” I think you’re mistaken. A good explanation of this here:

  4. I’m happy to be mistaken.

  5. Dale Price says:

    The fact that the reflexive (as opposed to thoughtful) defenders of this papacy invariably fall back on bumpersticker retorts–“older brother!” “just like Jesus!” “lost sheep!”, etc–does nothing to advance their argument. Or the discussion in general.

  6. Dale Price says:

    Bear with me on this one, but I think it is another significant interpretive key: I really think he’s trying to offer a re-imagining of the papacy of Paul VI. He wants to represent the Second Vatican Council afresh, the way it should have been done, right after 1965. Look at the interviews–his words read like we just completed the last session of the council and are going home to implement it. Only he’s really gonna do it this time.

    Which is why he reads like he’s reaching out to the world of 1966, and not the much more utilitarian, relativist and, yes, savage world of 2013. Frankly, the world that the Second Council was reaching out to had a lot more virtues than

    So, when he reaches out to one outside of the fold, his first interlocutor is an even older atheist but one who would have similar memories and interests. Can you imagine a similar discussion between the Pope and, say, Sam Harris? No–he picked a guy who would remember the council– and almost certainly fondly, at that. Similar general aspirations, as it were. Pre-culture wars, too. What we have here is the New Frontier Pope.

  7. Dale Price says:

    Which also explains his emphasis on internal renewal and dealing with similar temptations facing the Christian in the Christian life. Which is good, and useful, but….Note also the almost complete absence of any discussion of cultural threats, persecution, clashes between world views, and the like. He seems to be hearkening back to a world that didn’t have such concerns, at least not front and center like they are now.

  8. Dale Price says:

    Finishing incomplete thought:

    “Frankly, the world that the Second Council was reaching out to had a lot more virtues than the one we have now, which is more grim, ignorant, arrogant and implacably hostile to anything Christianity has to offer.”

  9. Dale Price says:

    And, last in the spamming series:

    It also explains his constant jabs at traditionalist sentiments: it was traditionalist resistance of the Ottaviani/Siri/McIntyre variety that was the main roadblock to implementation of the Great Vision. He’s re-fighting the war of 1966-70 against dour, no-no traditionalists who can’t get with the times. Which is why he’s so bloody hard to understand.

    Finally, it helps explain his particular animus against the curia: many V2 boosters blame the curia for shortcircuiting the Superdogma–er, reforms. Now, I agree that the curia needs a housecleaning–even Benedict did. But it does explain the level of invective–leprosy? Yikes.

  10. Ironically, of course, Jesus was all about lepers! (I really like your “lost in time” theory of his rhetoric. He’s like a hippie stuck at Woodstock–or a veteran stuck in Nam… and maybe a blend of both! Hence, once more, the hot-cold, good-cop/bad-cop CONFUSION.

  11. I left this at another blog a day or two ago: “Just when I had regained a measure of peace in the Lord about our neo-Jesuit Pope (whom I affably call “Pope Guido” when he’s not reading from a prepared script), it was this “off the cuff” homily that sent me back into battle mode, and I am convinced he is intentionally sowing confusion, targeting conservatives even as they carry water for him, and marginalizing traditionalists in order to scare neo-cons (soft ultramontanist water carriers) away from the only real inoculation, Holy Tradition. “These do not pray, abandoning the faith and transforming it into moralistic, casuistic ideology, without Jesus. And when a prophet or a good Christian reproaches them, they the same that they did with Jesus: ‘When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him’ – they are ideologically hostile – ‘and to interrogate him about many things,’ – they are insidious – ‘for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.’” The Vatican has STILL not retracted or qualified the notorious interviews from its website, and the Pope is obviously aware that people are catching him in his statements. He’s a bully!”

    Bully or not (and my somewhat informed hunch is that he’s renouncing his past self as an authoritarian over Jesuits in Argentina, bashing traditionalists as projections of his past self), the distinct odor of a Messiah complex does not strike me as very humble. I just want to finish up my posts on the few key points by which I’ve been transfixed, and move on; I can’t keep listening to this Pope. Soulache.

  12. geekexist says:

    I disagree. Pope Francis is encouraging the 1 sheep that has gone astray to simply continue on… She’ll / he’ll get to heaven because Christ will eventually open their hearts, and the Holy Spirit has probably already done so. In fact, I cant beliveve you’re being so jugemental here, when te Pope himself encourages us nit to judge.

    Jesus Christ gave us a mandate to make disciples… Which is to come under discipline. Perhaps the Pope is doing a Jesuit 12 Step, wherein the first step doesn’t mention God, but acknowledges the problem. But to the Pope, and evidently to you, the problem s the people who are reading and attempting to live via the Gospels and the Catechism, and the works of mercy.

  13. Branch says:

    I think it is true, after all: the Church from Benedict to Francis can be interpreted with a hermeneutic of continuity:

    If the Church continues to open itself to the world in the Cardinal Marini sense that Francis seems to espouse, then, indeed, the Church will become small and her adherents will diminish, as Benedict said (though as Cardinal Ratzinger). Each individual, who then shall bear the burden of the “much bigger demands” will, ironically, be rather like the Mother of God, whom Francis spoke of on October 12:

    “Through the night of Holy Saturday, Mary kept watch. Her flame, small but bright, remained burning until the dawn of the resurrection. And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was the culmination 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 and darkness? Do I have the joy of faith?”

    It will be those meek adherents who “keep it burning” in its authenticity during these wearisome and confusing times that will be there when the dream of false progressivism gives way to the alarming dawn of unspeakable loneliness of a world (and a Church) polluted by compromises and half-truths – a truly poor world (and Church) that now must face the horror of having exalted the so-called humble and realistic social Gospel over the Good News of salvation, just as Satan tempted Christ in the desert to do: make of the world a utopia of no more suffering (for that’s what God would do); play down your divinity (and the authority of the Church); acquiesce to the demands of the world and then believe in their praise and approval as signs of authentic conversion – bow before an illusion.

    Francis was correct: loneliness is the worst evil of all, but Benedict was more insightful. It is the silent, invisible, existential loneliness that borders on despair, the unforgivable sin.

    In God’s Providence, the confusion and noise of the current era will be sift the little flock until clarification surfaces—they themselves will be part of the answer for which the unspeakably lonely and misled have always been searching in secret. It will all point to the real Jesus of Nazareth, the one whose mission is ordered to Heaven.

    Until then, it is anyone’s guess if the predicted real crisis has officially begun yet or not, though we have already seen terrific upheavals. We will probably have to endure more proposals of a Marini-ish Jesus who has a ‘better way’ than what His Church seems to be obsessed with. But the truth was never in doubt and Scripture and Tradition are unmistakably clear: Jesus is for the salvation of mankind and the glory of the Father. His Messiahship is relevant and will be known. Someday, all will know Jesus as He is: “dying He destroyed our death; rising He restored our life.”

  14. Branch says:

    I think you were right, by the way, wherever you wrote it, that there is a connection to Whitehead.

    And it jives with the hints of liberation theology, too. I saw on Wikipedia the following:

    “C. Robert Mesle, in his book Process Theology, outlines three aspects of a process theology of liberation:
    1.There is a relational character to the divine which allows God to experience both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.
    2.God is not omnipotent in the classical sense and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good.
    3.God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.”

    Two reminds me of Francis’ comment to the atheist about seeking the Good. Three reminds me of the emphasis on dialogue, on getting to know each other.

  15. Brian Ortiz says:

    Hey, Codg. Could you explain the differences between conservative, neo-conservative, and traditionalist Catholics? I do not know the differences. What do you mean you find yourself estranged from neo-conservatives? (In your evaluation, where do you think I would fall in those camps based on my comment below.)

    I think what the Pope has said so far in his public remarks and responses to interview questions can all be charitably interpreted as orthodox, especially in light of his more informal style. They could also be interpreted as heterodox, though, and that is part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that his continual ambiguity does raise questions about his personal orthodoxy. If he were orthodox, why wouldn’t he more careful in his words? etc. And some of his remarks also raise questions about his attitude towards those who are orthodox. I think that is the real reason why many Catholics are unsure about Pope Francis. They have been suffering from marginalization in their local parishes for years, and now their own pope is in on it?

    That being said, I think it is imprudent to play up the controversy over these ambiguities. It gives ammunition to our enemies, and it could create unnecessary panic among some of our Catholic brothers and sisters. I am not saying you are doing that, Codg, I just have to throw that out there because there are some Catholics out there acting like the whole building is burning down. I want to wait a bit longer to see how things go. We will really be able to “read” Pope Francis when he starts making substantive decisions. I don’t think he’s made one quite yet.

    In the meantime, what are you guys doing to help change things at the parish level? Are you guys making friends with liberals and heterodox, forging relationships with them? Having conversations, making headway on some issues? Through kindness, fellowship, and food, I think I have been able to soften some liberal minds, and now they are leaning a little bit orthodox. I think that’s the way forward.

  16. I think neo-con is a term of art that emerged from the deligitimization of “traditionalist” Catholicism in the C20. Until the Tradition became a target of modernist assault, all Catholics were “traditionalist”: adhering to Holy Tradition is par for the course. However, when conservatives reacted negatively to modernism, some wanted to find a middle ground, namely, to reject modernism while still being open to modern adjustments to evangelism, worship, etc. As a result, some conservatives branded others (anti-modernists) as “traditionalist” Catholics, while those “traditionalist” Catholics insisted that they were just being conservative (i.e. faithful) to Tradition as all Catholics had done before modernism tried to square the circle. And so, in order to keep the valor of conservatism without the “rigid” nature of traditionalism, the anti-traditionalists became known as neo-cons. Let’s call them Modern Conservatives, while traditionalists are just Traditional Conservatives. As Fr. Ripperger explains: “The term “neoconservative,” on the other hand, refers to those who are considered the more conservative members of the Church. More often than not they hold orthodox positions, but they would not assert that it is strictly necessary to reconnect with ecclesiastical tradition. The prefix “neo” is used because they are not the same as those conservatives in authority in the Church immediately before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. The current conservatives, that is, the neoconservatives, are different insofar as the conservatives of the earlier period sought to maintain the current ecclesiastical traditions that were eventually lost.”

  17. 2) As far as the sky falling, no I’m no longer as gloomy as I was. I don’t think Pope Francis will do as much damage as many others fear he will do. Even so, the distinct likelihood that some of his howlers have greased the tracks for some souls into Hell, is literally damnable and I don’t what, or even if, he thinks about that and how he accounts for it in his mind. Also, as I showed with the Paprocki news recently, the Pope’s “style” is making things a lot harder for the Church. I’m just very skeptical about all the Pollyanna expectations that his “fresh air”, his new “tone”, is going to achieve what he thinks it should. If anything, I think it’s going to demoralize the serious-minded faithful and harden the apathy of those outside the Church.

    As for what I do at my parish, well, I don’t know too many folks, but those I do know are probably secretly as wounded or baffled by the Pope’s deflationary, anti-triumphalistic rhetoric as I am.

  18. Oh, yeah, it’s all over the place, like snake holes in the ground: once you see them, you start seeing them everywhere. Consider:

    “Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture,” says the pope. “Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. …a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualising its message for today … is absolutely irreversible.” (interview with Spadaro)

    “I would not speak about “absolute” truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship. Truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, truth is a relationship. As such each one of us receives the truth and expresses it from within, that is to say, according to one’s own circumstances, culture and situation in life, etc. This does not mean that truth is variable and subjective, quite the contrary. But it does signify that it comes to us always and only as a way and a life [a process].” (letter to Scalfari)

    Again, the Pope’s Jesuit formation makes this reading of those dog whistles even more understandable. That’s where all this started, actually: as I read the Spadaro interview, my blood chilled by degrees as I kept reading and seeing those dog whistles crop up. The room started spinning and everything went black. When I woke up a month later, I saw more than a dozen posts on my blog, apparently written by myself, about all the “knots” I’m trying to “untie” with this Pope. So, yeah, I feel like a Catholic version of Memento.

  19. 3) Oops, I’d say you sound like a neo-conservative. Then again, I think I’m one, too. By “you guys” do you mean we hardcore anti-Vatican II Radical Traditionalists? If so, I’m not in that group. I’m just a Catholic, and being Catholic entails holding fast (i.e. conserving) to tradition. All the rah-rah-rah about opening up to the modern world in a new way, using new words for new needs, etc., ON TOP OF BEING villified by neo-con Pope Francis apologists for voicing my concerns — blech, give me the obscurity of Tradition and Scripture any day.

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  24. Proph says:

    I hear homilies like this locally all the time, even posted about it here:

    Besides the obvious implication of Pharisaism here, there is the obvious problem that some people are sad for good reason and often can’t help it, and those people have as much a right to partake in the life of the Church as anyone else.

  25. Branch says:

    I saw another commenter had linked to this concept in another context but I was thinking about it in relation to this post:

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