Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Expect the Bergoglio papacy to lead to more inquisition and less discussion

the bergoglio inquisition is coming
The Bergoglio Inquisition is coming
Ross Douthat, who considers himself to be among the conservative Roman Catholics, has a pretty good take on what’s happening in the Bergoglio papacy. The down side for Douthat is that his “only serious” solution to what’s happening may only exacerbate the problem that he sees.

Expect the Inquisition” is a headline that probably some editor gave to the column, but the real heart and soul of the Roman Catholic Church is on display, and it shows why this editor is right and Douthat is probably wrong.

In his opening statement, Douthat himself has noticed “In the Catholic Church of Pope Francis, it is dangerous to be too conservative.” He then recounts the story of “a distinguished Catholic philosopher” who was removed from his university position for having “raised questions about ‘Amoris Laetitia’”.

The sniping goes the other way, too. “Meanwhile, in the Catholic Church of Pope Francis it is also dangerous to be too liberal.” He recounts the travails of “Father James Martin”, author of “Building a Bridge” (from the Roman Catholic Church to “the LGBT community”) who was not only disinvited from giving a speech at the “Theological College of the Catholic University of America”, here’s the key: “after an internet campaign by traditionalist priests and laypeople”.

“Father Martin”, in his own response article, lamented the “Catholic cyber-militias”. I find myself hard-pressed to describe what these “Catholic cyber-militias” are because the Catholic apologists who visit Triablogue are, well, so kind all the time.

Douthat relates several more “conflicting inquisitions”, including some sniping that he himself has gotten caught up in, but he accurately describes what is at the heart of it all:

… Pope Francis, whose personalized style has made the lines of authority within the church maddeningly unclear.

On issues large and small, Francis has decentralized authority informally while retaining all the formal powers of his office and encouraged theological envelope-pushing without changing the official boundaries of what counts as Catholic teaching and what does not.

It is, he says, “a situation calculated to make everyone feel self-righteous and self-justified, to complain about toxic rhetoric while flinging insults frequently themselves.”

This is the result of, the fruit of, the pure Roman Catholic teaching on, well, self-justification and self-righteousness. And it is also the learned way that Roman Catholics have learned to self-justify – purely by appeals to the pope, appeals to authority.

At the end of the article, Douthat suggests that “the only serious course is to invite serious argument and encourage respectful debate”. But the Roman Catholic Church understands none of that. It has trained its people to (yes, with the help of the grace of God) seek their own self-justification, their own self-righteousness. And in doing so, the only way (the ONLY way) to check one’s progress is recourse to some authority figure.

Douthat may find that he is inviting on yet another source of “Reformation” – theses to be debated on the topic of Rome’s ability to be infallible in matters of “faith and morals”. He may not like the result of that discussion.


  1. My takeaways:

    Catholic apologists are involved in a massive bait & switch campaign. They sell this conservative church that Christ founded when they are about 50 years behind Mainline Protestantism.

    On top of that, conservative Catholics always seem to freak out about the possibility that an infallible interpreter won't be there to tell them what to believe. Stop and think. How did they figure out there is a bunch of liberals running their church? Why didn't they need an infallible person to tell them that? And...

    On top of that, doesn't this mean they don't have a church that can help them figure things out?

    1. Hi Geoff -- You are right about the bait and switch. They want an infallible interpreter, and they dismiss the notion that they can determine the fine line between "divine revelation and mere human opinion". Until they want to push their own opinions.

      I think the problem goes a lot deeper than the "infallible interpreter" thing though (although that is looming large now). They have lost their "infallible interpreter" (one of the conservative popes of the past), and, to paraphrase Douthat (who paraphrased R.C. Sproul), "it's all opinion, all the way down". And as you say, it means they don't have a church that can help them figure things out.