Some converts to Rome, such as Called to Confusion, act like the legendary Japanese MIA who stumbles out of the jungles of Bataan 50 years later, still convinced that he is on the winning side, loyal to the emperor right up to his last dying breath. But it's revealing to see some of the more intelligent converts/reverts to Rome becoming very skittish about Francis. Their reaction presents a Catholic conundrum. How can there be a bottom-up criticism of the Magisterium departing from dogma and irreformable tradition when the Magisterium is supposed to be the authoritative interpreter of what constitutes dogma and irreformable tradition in the first place?
Jay Wesley Richards is a convert/revert to Rome, yet at The Stream, he's posted articles siding with the critics of Francis on the admission of remarried divorcees to communion.
Likewise, Douthat has been pretty outspoken in his criticisms. And as he indicated back in this 2014 article:
He's a convert for "contingent" reasons. His commitment to Rome is conditional rather than unconditional.
Then there's a long post by Feser in which he leaves his options open, even though he's tipping his hand in the direction of the pope's critics:
It's clear to me that he's laying the groundwork to disassociate himself from Francis, if that becomes absolutely necessary.
Then, on the comment thread, is this comment by Catholic ID theorist Torley:
Vincent Torley said...Hi Ed,
Thanks for this post. Just a few quick questions:
(1) Who, in your opinion, is in a position to judge whether a Pope's teachings and/or writings are compatible with: (a) the infallible extraordinary magisterium of the Church; and (b) the infallible ordinary magisterium of the Church?
Laypeople? (But that presumes that laypeople are sufficiently competent to read a papal document and figure out either (i) what its author really meant or (ii) what its "plain meaning" is - which is highly doubtful, in both cases.)
Theologians? (But they're not teachers of the faith. And who counts as a theologian, anyway?)
Bishops? (Yes, but how many, and do they have to meet first, before issuing a judgement?)
An ecumenical council convened without the Pope's approval? (That sounds like an oxymoron to me.)
(2) No disrespect intended, but given that your return to the Catholic Church took place in 2001 [mine was about four years later], it follows that you've only been a well-informed Catholic for 15 years. Pope Francis is 80. Are you really in a position to be judging the orthodoxy of his pronouncements?
(3) As a Catholic, you'd be the first to ridicule the Elizabethan notion of the "plain meaning" of Holy Scripture. What makes you think you're capable of figuring out the "plain meaning" of a papal document?
(4) You mention the four cardinals, 45 theologians and "new" natural lawyers who have taken issue with Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia . Just as a layperson, upon hearing experts disputing the mainstream scientific view of global warming, might argue that it's safer to stick with the consensus, likewise a lay Catholic might appeal to the consensus of bishops and theologians applauding Pope Francis' document, Amoris Laetitia, and conclude that it must be right after all. How would you argue with such a person?
(5) Pastor Hans Fiene, one of the contributors to "Lutheran Satire" (great Website!), has written an interesting article in The Federalist, titled, "8 Steps The Catholic Church Could Take To Approve Gay Marriage Like Tim Kaine Expects" at https://thefederalist.com/2016/09/14/8-steps-catholic-church-take-approve-gay-marriage-like-tim-kaine-expects/ . What are your thoughts? (On the bright side, Fiene thinks that liberalism in the Church has reached its apogee, as the liberals are getting old, and the millennials remaining in the Church are more traditional. I'm not so optimistic: surveys show that young Catholics are much more in favor of gay marriage than older ones. See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/16/young-u-s-catholics-overwhelmingly-accepting-of-homosexuality/ .)
(6) Tough but brutally honest question: you returned to the Church under Pope St. John Paul II. I returned under Pope Benedict XVI. Do you think you would have returned to the Church had Francis been Pope?
(7) Do you think there is any possibility, however faint, that Pope Francis might be right after all on the issue of whether some Catholic couples who have divorced and remarried are eligible to receive Communion, even though their current relationship is not a celibate one?
For my part, I have very mixed feelings about Pope Francis' pronouncements over the years - some strike me as very charitable, others as confused. Nevertheless, I completely agree with you that Pope Francis needs to address the questions that have been put to him by the four cardinals. Cheers.
And here's a follow-up post in which Feser takes a tougher line: