Well, this is disheartening.
Yesterday, I “went to bat” to defend what I think is a harmless, though typically needlessly provocative expression from Pope Francis, “holy cunning”. However, after hearing further concerns about it, and praying about it, I realize that his use of the term is only minimally defensible. Ultimately it just serves to undermine once again the purity of his witness. This pope never knows when to leave well enough alone and stop talking! :sadface:
As one friend noted, the Magi did not practice “la santa furbizie”, since they were “told in a dream” to return “by a different way”, it is incorrect to say that they themselves practiced “holy cunning”. They simply practiced obedience to a King higher than King Herod. This error is akin to the Holy Father’s suggestion that, in the miracle of the fishes and loaves, the disciples themselves the virtue of sharing and solidarity. In fact, Jesus ordered them to share and give, and they simply obeyed. Without guile, I might add.
Once again we see how Pope Francis projects his own imaginings onto his less favored subjects. He derides the “Promethean neopelagianism” of traditional Christian Catholics, yet he himself insinuates all kind of Pelagian stumping into his sermons (e.g. by promoting holy cunning and the miracle of human solidarity, as well as by lambasting non-servant Christians as “pagans”, scorning the “mediocrity” of the doctrinal security, deriding the Pharisaism of those who stay inside the visible bounds of God’s grace “in the doors of the Church”, etc.). The reality is that a zealous hewing to the Tradition is more akin to the obedience of the Magi than the cunning of Herod.
“Now the serpent was more crafty [Heb. arum] than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” — Genesis 3:1
Consider these data about the term “cunning” (or “crafty”) in the Bible:
panourgia – lit., all-working, i.e., doing everything (pan, “all,” ergon, “work”), hence, “unscrupulous conduct, craftiness,” is always used in a bad sense in the NT, Luke 20:23; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:14, AV, “cunning craftiness.” See SUBTLETY. In the Sept. it is used in a good sense, Proverbs 1:4; Proverbs 8:5; indifferently in Numbers 24:22; Joshua 9:4.
The related term “guile” receives an equally inhospitable welcome in the New Testament witness:
adolos – without guile” (a, negative, and dolos, See GUILE), “pure, unadulterated,” is used metaphorically of the teaching of the Word of God, 1 Peter 2:2, RV. It is used in the papyri writings of seed, corn, wheat, oil, wine, etc.
NetBible gives a good summary of the treatment of “guile” in the Bible. Specifically, consider the directness of these Scriptures:
“14 That henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive 15 But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ”. — Ephesians 4
“1 Wherefore laying away all malice, and all guile, and dissimulations, and envies, and all detractions, 2 As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation…. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul…. 21 For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” — I Peter 2
“4 These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb: 5 And in their mouth there was found no lie [or guile]; for they are without spot before the throne of God.” — Revelation 14
Granted, St. Paul does seem to endorse a kind of “cunning” in 2 Corinthians 12:16, “I did not burthen you: but being crafty, I caught you by guile.” Yet he is only aping accusations from his detractors, and goes on to rebut the charges. Cf. Haydock’s Commentary and the IVP New Testament Commentary for details.
Why does the pope give us stones for bread? I’m really trying to read him charitably. My diagnosis is that he’s pervaded by Henri de Lubac’s fixation on “paradox” (cf. this 62-page thesis on the topic [PDF], if you’re interested), which, alas, translates into Bergoglio taking the most vulgar terms (worldliness or cunning, for example) and “spiritualizing” them in some “higher” sense. Behold, the magic of Hegelian sublimation. Behold, the shepherd who scatters the flock by dazzling them with theological flashbangs.
NB: On an earlier post, a reader suggested that the Holy Father might simply have meant that we should be “wise as serpents and simple as doves,” as Jesus said in Matthew 10:16. However, once again, by overemphasizing only one half of a teaching from the Lord, Pope Francis effectively mangles the entire teaching. Go to this link for Matthew 10:16, click on the blue flag, and read the sensible commentary on the verse. Why is it so hard for Pope Francis to add these tiny yet all-saving nuances? He’s the Gallagher of Catholic preaching.
Anyway, here’s an ASSIGNMENT:
Let’s read the passages in the Septuagint that are said to speak of “craftiness” in a non-negative way, and discuss how Pope Francis might have meant “la santa furbizie” in that sense.
REMEMBER: Comments on protected posts are invisible to the outside world, so if you’re skittish about “being frank,” feel free to speak freely, albeit charitably.