Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scolding Pope Francis: “naïve and undisciplined” in recent interview

NARAL thanks Pope Francis
While some in the media and in official Roman Catholicism itself are falling all over each other to be excited about the Pope's recent remarks, others are much less hopeful about the prudence of the path this pope is taking:

R.R. Reno, the editor of First Things, writes:
Francis, Our Jesuit Pope, First Things Blog, September 23, 2013:

I know Jesuits. They tend to be extremists of one sort or another. They’re trained to speak plainly, directly, and from the heart rather than according to the standard script.

Many passages in this interview reflect Pope Francis’ identity as a Jesuit. He speaks about himself in frank, personal ways that have the ring of authenticity. I don’t mean his comment that “I am a sinner,” which some secular commentators imagine a novel modesty. That sort of remark is Christianity 101. Instead, I mean: “I am a bit astute . . . but it is also true I am a bit naïve.” “I am a really, really undisciplined person.”

We’re not dealing with a modern politician who surrounds himself with handlers and carefully stays “on message.” Pope Francis is relatively unfiltered. He’s also not entirely self-consistent….

By my reading, Pope Francis was being a bit naïve and undisciplined in parts of this interview, which although reviewed by him before publication has an impromptu quality I imagine he wished to retain. This encourages a distorted reading of what he has in mind for the Church. This is a problem related, perhaps, to his Jesuit identity….

We’re not to allow ourselves to fixate on “small things, in small-minded rules.” The Church needs to find “new roads,” “new paths,” and “to step outside itself,” something that requires “audacity and courage.”

These and other comments evoke assumptions that are very much favored by the Left, which is why the interview has been so warmly received, not only by the secular media, but also by Catholics who would like the Church to change her teachings on many issues.

Such comments by Francis do not challenge but instead reinforce America’s dominant ideological frame.
It’s one in which Catholics loyal to the magisterium are “juridical” and “small-minded.” They fear change, lacking the courage to live “on the margins.” I heard these and other dismissive characterizations again and again during my twenty years teaching at a Jesuit university….

Pope Francis has been undisciplined in his rhetoric, casually using standard modern formulations, ones that are used to beat up on faithful Catholics—“audacity and courage” means those who question Church teachings, the juxtaposition of the “small-minded” traditionalists to the brave and open liberals who are “in dialogue”, and so forth. This gives everything he says progressive connotations. As a consequence, American readers, and perhaps European ones as well, intuitively read a progressivism into Pope Francis’ statements about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. Thus the headlines.

This is not helpful, ….

Reno, at least has some positive things to say about this pope as well. However, another occasional First Things writer is even less “hopeful” than Reno is. Reading the Natural Signs, Professor Hadley Arkes, writing at “The Catholic Thing” blog:

What came as quite astonishing then in that recent, bizarre interview, was that a man so fully aware of himself as a teacher could have been so casual, so heedless of how his words would be misunderstood. At first I thought that he had fallen into the mistake of speaking off the cuff again in his folksy way. But then it turned out that he had added material to the interview, and that the transcript had been reviewed carefully as it was translated and prepared for publication. This was no inadvertent sally.

It was all the more curious then that when he turned to the most central and burning moral issues of abortion and the taking of life, or sexuality and marriage, he would not say anything that marked the place of these issues in the fuller sweep of the concerns and teaching of the Church. He would say merely that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” – as if the Church had ever insisted only on them.

John Paul II had taught the centrality of that question of “the human person”: just who counts as a human being, whose hurts and injuries matter? We seem to be engulfed these days by a relentless wave of denial that human lives are destroyed in abortion, and an insistence that not all human lives really “count” or claim our respect. There is not a day in our politics, or in our ordinary lives, in which we don’t encounter the blithe willingness to put that question of “the human person” safely out of mind….

One friend, in a commentary, took the pope to be saying that we must come to an understanding of Jesus before we can absorb the teaching of the Church on those moral questions.

But if that is the line conveyed here, it surely does cut against the most strenuous efforts of the faithful to teach against the currents of the culture for the past forty years….

In a speech just last Friday, to medical professionals, the pope affirmed the teaching on abortion, grounded in science and moral reasoning. But I’m afraid that the refined corrections and restatements may no longer matter. For a deeper “sign” has been given, and many people are now confident, with a telling wink, that they know what the pope “really means.” That sense of things promises to run deeper than the “clarifications” bound to come….

The faithful have been disheartened; people hostile to the teaching of the Church have become buoyant.
And as Pope Francis himself notes, spiritual “discernment” will require in part “reading the signs of the times.”

Matthew Bellisario, “The Catholic Champion” blogger, writes (HT: James Swan): This Is What We Get:

Now many bishops and priests are going to be more lax than ever before, if you can imagine that! Although you would probably be hard pressed to hear a sermon about the immoral acts of abortion, contraception or sodomy in most parishes over the past 50 years, which is why we are in the state we are in, you are probably going to be targeted now by "fellow" "Catholics" for even talking about them. It is clear the liberal clergy and laity alike are taking this open door for all it is worth. You think the Church was weak before in not combatting evil in the world? You haven't seen anything yet! The permissive tone of the last 50 years just got more permissive. According to Archbishop Dolan, we should not even address these issues in a negative tone….

He then lists a litany of bishops throughout the US who speak glowingly of Francis’s words, “taking this open door for all it is worth”.

A commenter in that thead went even further: “I respect the Papal office, but this Pope is a disgrace to that office. I honestly believe he doesn't understand the importance of his position or the function of the same. He doesn't even want to be known as the Pope, he insists on being called the Bishop of Rome. He even refuses to wear papal clothes. What would a private in an army think of a general who refused to wear his uniform? I pray God will get a hold of this poor confused man, and scream, "You're the Pope, act and talk like one, or I'll find someone else who can do the job right!”

Matthew later clarified in a comment:

As far as the Pope goes, infallibility is not the issue, its prudence. JPII made many poor appointments which explains the the current climate in the Church. The Pope can create problems by acting imprudently, that is nothing new in the history of the Church. Ultimately we as Catholics should understand that Jesus Christ rules the Church and we should not be ultramontane. Am I worried that he will formally try and proclaim heresy? No. Do I think he could cause serious problems in the Church by making imprudent decisions? Yes.

Simply another “bad pope” serving as a useless and even harmful “placeholder” in the glorious “unbroken succession”.

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