“14 Wherefore, dearly beloved, … be diligent that you may be found before him unspotted and blameless in peace … as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, brethren, knowing these things before, take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness.” — II Peter 3
“‘Pope Benedict’s statements [about Muhammad] don’t reflect my own opinions’, the then  Archbishop [Bergoglio] of Buenos Aires declared. ‘These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years’. … Reacting to the threats from Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio cancelled his plans to fly to Rome, choosing to boycott the second synod that Pope Benedict had called during his tenure as pontiff.”
Does obedience equal obsequiousness? Is faith opposed to reason? What does it mean to love Christ and His Church even when it’s not all to your liking?
A: How do you like the new C.O.?
B: I don’t.
A: What? Why not?
B: I don’t like his style. I think his conduct is unbecoming his rank. I think he’s a blowhard sometimes, and I wonder about his training.
A: What do you mean?
B: He’s inconsistent about how he treats us. He’s boosted morale for most of the reserves, but he’s humiliated a lot of most decorated troops. He’s also very confusing when he gives orders.
A: So what are you going to do?
B: What else can I do? I’ll obey what I understand, seek clarification on what I don’t, and try to keep up morale in the barracks.
A: What you mean, “keep up morale”?
B: You haven’t noticed? Lots of us–even some of the other officers–are getting demoralized. How do you maintain unity in the ranks when everyone’s hearing confusing messages and constant criticism just for doing what we were trained to do? Plus, some of his battle simulations are insane: I’ve never seen so many soldiers injured in the normal line of duty! The base should be a safe place, but the number of “walking wounded” has gone up month after month. So, I’m just trying to reassure them not to doubt their training, not to go AWOL, and not to shirk their basic duties and protocols. If the C.O. wants to change the ways we serve and fight, he needs to tell us officially and precisely.
A: Crap, man! You’re secretly defying the C.O.! Are you going to go AWOL?
B: Not at all. I look up to him in terms of how far he’s come in the line of duty, and sometimes I think he’s an awesome shot in the arm. But…
B: Well, my personal opinion is irrelevant. I am bound by the oaths I took when I was sworn in. When he gives us new orders, I’ll obey. Otherwise, I’ll keep trying to sort out the confusion among the ranks, and keep doing what the military has always done. Let’s just say I’ve known better C.O.’s, but I wish this one the best.
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Any Catholic worth his salt knows that papal infallibility does not ensure papal impeccability. We trust that God will preserve the pope from error when solemnly defining a binding truth about faith and morals, but we have no assurance that He will give us a perfect role model in all things, much less a “sweet old man” whom we find personally appealing. If anything, I’ve found my loyalty to the Church purified and deepened these past few months, since it is a cheap loyalty which assents to an authority that pleases us on personal grounds.
Strange to say, but I pity Catholics who “always like” what the pope does, and “always agree” with what he says–did someone say confirmation bias?–since their loyalty to the papacy may rest as much on personal psychological affinity as it does on faith. The pope is not intended to be a celebrity, and he’s certainly not required to be an entertainer. He’s a teacher and a witness. Who cares if my temperament and background don’t “mesh” with those of the pope at any given time? I did not find Benedict XVI personally interesting, and I am not alone in thinking that much of the swooning adulation he received was well-meaning compensation on the part of loyal Catholics considering how poorly he filled the “celebrity” shoes of John Paul II. Paradoxically, it’s refreshing not to like the person occupying the Holy See, since it’s now that much easier to (try to) focus strictly on his authentic teaching voice.