Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pope vs Popes

This is your pope on drugs
This is your pope on drugs ... 
John-Henry Westen, writing at, compares the recent comments of Pope Francis to things that his most recent predecessors have said: Pope Francis contrasted with Popes Benedict, JPII re: emphasis on abortion, gay marriage.

First, here is what Pope Francis is saying. Westen says, “Pope Francis has recommended that the Church pull back from her perceived emphasis on ‘abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.’”

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis said.

“This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he added. “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

In the interview the Pope says that the Church’s preaching must begin first with the “proclamation of salvation.” “Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence,” he said.

Other key lines from the Pope’s interview which pertain to this point include:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all…

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.

We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

Westen: “The comments are very different from those of his two predecessors.” He cites from “Blessed” John Paul II:

Speaking specifically to the proclamation of the Gospel, Bl. John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical on The Gospel of Life that the Church’s teaching on the respect for life should be taught “constantly and courageously.”

“To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity,” he wrote.

John Paul II was insistent in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life that the Church “need[s] to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.”

And while he said that it meant above all proclaiming the love of God, he added: “It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable….”

Stressing that he is writing to bishops, JPII said (from the encyclical “The Gospel of Life”):

May it resound above all for us who are Bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integrity.

Francis interrupts this. More JPII:

We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained and more fully investigated.

May Paul's exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium.

In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33).

According to Pope Francis, “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time” and this cannot but be something he considers to be “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

And Ratzinger/Benedict said:

“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable,” he said.

Pope Benedict continued:

Among these the following emerge clearly today:

- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

Note to Pete Holter: There was no literal bus involved. It was a figure of speech.


  1. I know, I know, neither of these is officially articulating a dogma. Nevertheless, as Pope Pius XII said:

    What is expounded in the Encyclical Letters of the Roman Pontiffs concerning the nature and constitution of the Church, is deliberately and habitually neglected by some with the idea of giving force to a certain vague notion which they profess to have found in the ancient Fathers, especially the Greeks. The Popes, they assert, do not wish to pass judgment on what is a matter of dispute among theologians, so recourse must be had to the early sources, and the recent constitutions and decrees of the Teaching Church must be explained from the writings of the ancients.

    Although these things seem well said, still they are not free from error. It is true that Popes generally leave theologians free in those matters which are disputed in various ways by men of very high authority in this field; but history teaches that many matters that formerly were open to discussion, no longer now admit of discussion.

    Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

    But apparently they are open to revision by subsequent popes.

  2. Note to Pete Holter: There was no literal bus involved. It was a figure of speech.

    Ha. Thanks for making me laugh. :)

    I don’t think these three popes have a different perspective on these issues. John Paul II and Benedict XVI didn’t talk about abortion all the time either. Pope Francis is trying to answer the criticism as to why he’s been so quiet, apparently, on these issues. He tries to answer the criticism by saying that we shouldn’t be expected to talk about this or that doctrine all the time. Pope Francis believes that “homosexual acts [are] acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered… Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC, 2357). We should refer to the Catechism to explain his thought because he clearly said that “[t]he teaching of the church [related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods], for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church.”

    You quoted from Pius XII, who wrote that “many matters that formerly were open to discussion, no longer now admit of discussion.” And to provide an example of this, in his interview on the plane back from World Youth Day, Pope Francis said that “with reference to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and she said: ‘No.’ John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That is closed, that door is closed.”

    You are aware that he spoke about abortion last Friday:

    [B]e witnesses and speakers of this ‘culture of life.’ Your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, to be committed to being consistent with the Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, to contribute to recognising the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception. This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the current, at a cost to the person. The Lord counts on you to spread the ‘Gospel of life.’

    It’s worth pointing out that in that speech he drew from two documents from the CDF and an address and encyclical from Pope Benedict.

    You may also be aware that an Australian priest was excommunicated by the Vatican back in May because “he continued to celebrate the Eucharist publicly and preach contrary to the teachings of the church” after having been defrocked. The teachings of the Church that he preached against involved his support of “women's ordination and gay marriage.”

    With love in Christ,

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  4. Hey John!

    Let me fix that last comment I just tried to make...

    I thought I’d share my bishop’s thoughts on the recent interview with Pope Francis.

    In Christ,


    1. The Pope, through his humility and personal warmth, has invited many to see the Catholic Church and her teachings with new eyes.

      What’s wrong with looking at it as it has been? You’ve just had two great popes. Why the need for “new eyes”? The infallible Church gives the one infallible interpretation, doesn’t it? If it’s truly God’s word, it will resonate with the souls of the hearers.

      People with their regular eyes have looked at the Roman religion and rejected it. In some cases, they have rejected it for the wrong reasons. But many have left it simply because they’ve found Christ in the evangelical churches.

      the Holy Father is helping us to see something really fundamental: oftentimes we think about how we are to serve, what our moral life is to be, without first focusing on knowing and loving God

      This pope is very confused. As I’ve mentioned somewhere else, there are and ought to be two different ways of talking to Christians and non-Christians. With his message to atheists, “Christ has saved you”, this pope has totally missed Christ’s message.

      You can’t “know and love God” without giving a person accurate information. And it is inaccurate information to tell an atheist, who has rejected God, “Christ has [already] saved you”.

      This is as egregious an error as any heresy found in early Christianity.

      Through his simple and loving approach and personal example, the Pope is reminding the entire Church that, much like a field hospital, we must prioritize, and that our first priority must be to help people encounter the person of Jesus Christ and to be open to His love so they can be transformed by that love and begin to radiate it

      Who, in fact, is the Pope talking to? The church is NOT a field hospital – for it is Christ who prioritizes those who are His, it is Christ who heals. This is where Roman hubris is large: Rome says “we are Christ”, as if Christ cannot operate in the world He created without their help.

      It is HIS job to resurrect souls (not our job to heal them).

      our first priority must be to help people encounter the person of Jesus Christ

      How do we encounter “the person of Jesus Christ” in our day? – The only way we can do this is through His Word. The little round white circle crisps you hand out each day as if they were Christ are not Christ. [In fact, even if you say they are Christ, “the world” cannot have them, so “the Church” necessarily is self-defeating in that practice, if the pope’s words are correct].

      Encounter Christ how else – by telling sinners, “We don’t judge your sin”? It’s ok to keep on sinning, just come on in to the field hospital”.

      What a far cry that is from “Repent”. Paul’s charge to Timothy was “preach the word”. And what is that word? “Turn away from your sin and turn to Christ” – that is how you “encounter Christ”.

      After reading and reflecting on the Pope's comments, I was reminded of the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who ushered in this Year of Faith with the image of a door being opened widely for all to enter.”

      After reading and reflecting on the Gospel, I was reminded of the words of Christ to his disciples, which had nothing to do with “a door wide opened for all to enter”.

      The Gospel says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

      Jesus said to those who rejected him, “The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” Jesus does distinguish, whereas the pope invites in the robbers and the wolves where they do not belong.

  5. John Bugay wrote, This pope is very confused. As I’ve mentioned somewhere else, there are and ought to be two different ways of talking to Christians and non-Christians. With his message to atheists, “Christ has saved you”, this pope has totally missed Christ’s message.

    You can’t “know and love God” without giving a person accurate information. And it is inaccurate information to tell an atheist, who has rejected God, “Christ has [already] saved you”.

    Happy Lord’s Day, John!

    Where did Pope Francis say that atheists are saved? He did say that they are redeemed back in May, but I do not know where he said they are saved.

    His comment about Christ having already saved us is within the context of pastors ministering to the faithful. It is within a discussion about “the hearts of the faithful” and repeated mention of “the people of God.” I would not take this comment as being directed towards an atheist who has rejected God. But if somebody did take it in that way, I would help them to see that they would need to understand it in the same way that we understand a verse such as Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (NASB).

    With love in Christ,