Monday, September 16, 2013

Is This Pope Catholic?

Is Pope Francis Really Catholic? 
“Catholic faithful are asking, ‘Will the Catholic Church survive Pope Francis’ papacy?’”

That’s a question that World Net Daily (WND) reporter Jerome Corsi is asking. I don’t typically read WND, and I know that they spend some time selling their DVD (based on the prophecies of Saint Malachy (1094–1148), to the effect that this pope is the last pope.

But still, Corsi has pulled together some important “outliers” for which this pope is responsible:

Instead of saying that homosexuality is “an intrinsic moral evil,” as did his predecessor Benedict XVI, Francis responded to a reporter’s question, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” …

Can atheists be saved?
Then, on Sept. 11, in a letter published on the front page of the Rome-based newspaper La Repubblica, Pope Francis answered a question posed by the paper’s founder and long-time editor, the 89 year-old Eugenio Scalfari, who asked whether God would forgive someone who lacked faith for having committed a sin.

The pope’s answer suggested that not only does God not require belief in Jesus for salvation, but God does not even require belief in God.

Specifically, the pope wrote: “So, I come to the three questions you put to me in your article of Aug. 7. It seems to me that, in the first two, what is in your heart is to understand the attitude of the Church to those who don’t share faith in Jesus. First of all, you ask me if the God of Christians forgives one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith. Premise that – and it’s the fundamental thing – the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart; the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience. Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience. To listen to and obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action.”

That last sentence is an amplification of a statement from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, repeated in the CCC. Speaking of “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church”:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

CCC 847, quoting Lumen Gentium 16.

Francis Sullivan, in his work “Salvation Outside the Church?”, points to two statements by Pope Pius IX regarding “invincible ignorance” and suggests that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus refers only to those who are culpably outside the church” (pg 114, author’s emphasis). Sullivan continues, “It is true that the pope does not use the word “culpably,” but he uses equivalent ones when he declares that those who are contumacious against the authority of the [Roman] Catholic Church, or are pertinaciously divided from the unity of that church, cannot obtain eternal salvation.”

One might expect that poor Scalfari, now warned by the pope, no longer is “ignorant” (if he persists in his atheism). In that case, does he not become contumacious and therefore culpable, now, having been alerted to this fact? With Bergoglio, the lines are fuzzy. For Pius IX, the question centered upon the difference between those who had never heard of the Roman Catholic Church and those who, having heard of it, “remained contumacious against the authority of the [Roman] Catholic Church, or are pertinaciously divided from the unity of that church”.

Bergoglio has further blurred the lines between the savage who has never heard of Christ and the atheistic reporter (“those who don’t have faith”), who has lived and worked in Rome all of his life.

Of course, given the amenities of “development of doctrine” and also that “infallible” statements are made only “under certain conditions” [eh Michael Liccione?], every Roman Catholic is totally free either to disregard what this pope is saying as “private interpretation” or (if they are so inclined) to embrace this “new morality” as an opportunity to “sin boldly” and to put their consciences at ease about it.

Finally, more speculation:

Can priests and nuns marry?
While Pope Benedict XVI forbade any open dialogue on whether or not priests and nuns should be allowed to marry, Pope Francis, who famously said priestly celibacy could change, may be about to put the subject on the table for serious debate and discussion....

That prediction appears to be coming true after Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the apostolic nuncio from Venezuela who was recently appointed to be papal secretary of State, the Vatican’s second-in-command, told Venezuela’s El Universal newspaper that celibacy for the clergy is not dogma.

Translated out of formal Catholic Church terminology, with this pronouncement Archbishop Parolin was signaling that celibacy for the clergy was not a required article of faith in which all practicing Catholics must believe, but a practice or tradition that should be open to debate.

As I said yesterday, really the only thing that matters to Roman Catholicism is the fact that there is a pope – a placeholder in the succession. Nothing else matters. And it seems as if, “anything goes”.

This whole papacy, and the way various Roman Catholics are responding to it, strikes me as a perfectly ridiculous way to handle truth claims.


  1. I just want to know how "the Catholic faithful" can be concerned at all whether the Pope is Catholic enough. It seems he's the God-given definition of Catholic to the faithful. So whatever he decides, goes. They should be happy with that.

    1. Jim, I don't know enough about Corsi, and the position he's taking. It seems to me that Bergoglio is throwing bones to all sides -- some are happy on some things, others are happy on others -- and the converse is true.

      The Pew poll I cited yesterday had his "approval rating" still around 79% among Roman Catholics, so there aren't too many who are dissatisfied. I think the "atheists" issue has to concern some of the more conservative "faithful", given that he's stretched what Vatican II said. It's not very "conservative" to be expanding on a 50-year-old teaching that had already turned a centuries-old notion on its head.

    2. he's the God-given definition of Catholic to the faithful. So whatever he decides, goes. They should be happy with that.

      I actually think that "whatever the pope decides" is ridiculous sometimes, and honest people can see that.

  2. Remember, the dyed-in-the-wool conservative Roman Catholics are the "true" Catholics, in the sense that they tend to actually know their doctrine, bone up on church history, dig into arguments regarding the Reformation, and study the church Fathers. They almost always favour the Tridentine Mass, lament VC2, and long for the return of the days of Old Rome. That's why Benedict XVI was so beloved by that segment - he was a traditionalist who seemed to be inching the old ways back in.

    But the larger percentage of Roman Catholics do not really know what the church teaches. There was a document published some years back by the U.S. Catholic Bishops where they found something in the order of 70% of Roman Catholics did not understand or believe in the "real presence" in the wine and bread. In other words, a majority of Catholics did not really understand Transubstantiation - a central dogma - and I doubt things have improved.

    It works to Rome's advantage to have people ignorant of the Church's beliefs, since some of them are so patently ridiculous that people's superficial take on them is actually more reasonable. That said, you still get mass rallies outside of Marian-looking water stains and the purchase of Marian tortillas, so rationality has its limits.

    Francis will be loved by most Catholics - as John Paul II was before him. He's sufficiently doctrinal-lite, sufficiently tickling to the ears, and sufficiently obsessed with gestures and performing his good works for the cameras - all embroidered with kitschy folk music, that they swallow it up. Rome knows its audience. And the majority ain't theological conservatives any more.

    1. Hi Thoughtful -- I pretty much agree with everything you say here. Thanks for commenting :-)