Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Critique of the Pope

Every military organisation has them. Barrack-Room lawyers. They are untried and untested usually, and young. They delude themselves and others in thinking (hah!) that they know better than the Generals who have generally tasted the fight at least and have Experience.  Not that Generals have immunity from criticism and assessment; not that the Generals may differ in competence; not that some indeed, may be 'desk-men' rather than having a tank or aircraft as  favoured work-space.  
See. Hands-off.
But the  young Knight yet to earn a battle spur, and the young squire who cleans his boots often think (hah!) that they have sufficient nous to comment unfavourably. 

I was a military youngster m'self once. Fortunately I resisted putting my meagre knowledge up against that of my superiors but instead listened, watched and learned. OK, Sometimes. I still had a mouth  which would often try to operate without a brain in gear behind it.

We see much the same in the Ultimate Military. The Church. The Commander-in-Chief has been under much criticism lately, and while some might have some justification, we must be mindful that many if not most doing the criticising are  quite 'unlearned'; some are from 'other churches'; some are totally opposed to religious orrganisation altogether or seem unable to tell one mob from another. Plus of course the ignorant and unstable who enjoy the chaos of distorting things.
They never studied.

Frankly, the atheists and even some protestants, as well as any other religious sects are in no position to add anything cogent.

Even the well experienced and studious criticise and can see things from different perspectives, and they at least are worth listening to for something sensible and sensitive and knowledgable. And while we have had folk in the Tavern speaking their confusions about Pope Francis we here are always welcoming to sound views and encouraging cautions too. 

Two came by this week. Both of 'stature'. Not that I as a simple Tavern Keeper had much to add despite the odd difference of view here and there. You form your own.

First up a fairly tough line from Michael Voris's barracks.  I caught only the 'stop it or you will go blind' part of a longer chat. Very military. Go in hard:then ease up. (Remind me to tell you one day about Stacy and Greene and the orgy in the temple). 

I cannot knock that because it works and saves souls. He was followed by a more constructive one from Michael Cook, for the thinking person whatever their current view.
Public Criticism of the Pope
It is our judgment that most Catholics should neither read nor have easy access to articles and essays that could be judged insulting to the Pope. 
Such writings should be published and reserved for those capable of engaging them without risk of damage to their faith in the Church and the Vicar of Christ.

I always have difficulty with this. Most troops in barracks, and even their Sergeants and Captains do not like the 'confidentiality' system that puts some matters out of their hearing and reserves it for the  Generals only. It is a fact of life that the generals have 'aides' of dubious experience too who do get to see, hear and comment.  

Michael and his team would baulk at being refused sight of articles 'judged insulting'.

And in this era of ubiquitous communication we are swamped by reports and comments, and woe betide those who try to impede it. 

What is more pertinent is the veracity and validity of what we see, hear and say. And our ability and facility to discuss and counter carping criticisms that are ignorant, mendacious, destructive and intended to deceive.
We make these recommendations for the same reasons that we discourage people from visiting sedevacantist and pornography web sites: They are potential occasions of sin, from which masters of the spiritual life are unanimous in their recommendation of "flight" rather than "fight."
I understand the rationale, but again discriminate between those who 'have studied' and those that have not, but are in progress. 
They lead people to think or do things they would not otherwise have thought or done and, almost without exception, those things are harmful to one's spiritual life.
Since this judgment is not self-evident, let's try to understand it by way of hypothetical scenarios.
Assume, for the sake of argument, that everything one learns from such sites and articles is true. Every claim, every allegation, is true. Bad news all around for the Church. 
Question: How are you a better Catholic for knowing all this, and what is the proper Catholic response? 
Will reading these sites strengthen your faith, or will they cause you to question the validity of the One True Faith, or the legitimacy of the Supreme Pontiff?
Conversely, what if everything one learns from these sites and articles is false? Every claim, every allegation, is false, but they are so persuasive that all is accepted as if true. Again, bad news all around for the Church. 
Question: How are you a better Catholic for believing what is false as if it were true, and what is the proper Catholic response to all that?
The first hypothetical scenario is more troubling and requires a response: How can it ever be a bad thing to know that something true is true? 
The second hypothetical scenario is more obviously harmful: believing something false to be true is always a bad thing. 
But for both hypotheses, the same questions arise: How is a Catholic better off believing bad things about the Church, whether those things be true or false, and how should a Catholic respond to those things? 
If someone believes that the Catholic Church has become a bad place to be, what is that person supposed to do? Join another Church? Break away from the visible, corrupt Catholic Church and form an alternative, allegedly more faithful version of the Catholic Church? Leave the Catholic Church and join a more faithful Evangelical Christian assembly? Give up on religion entirely and go the "I'm spiritual but not religious" crowd? Organize "Recognize and Resist" movements within the Catholic Church and relentlessly attack Her from the inside? Seek Church reform via some kind of coup d'etat and replace current leadership with ... what?
None of these responses is authentically Catholic. 
Each is facilitated and encouraged by harsh papal criticism almost indistinguishable from what is found in the writings of virulent anti-Catholic apologists. 
The only authentically Catholic response is the example of Our Lady who, throughout Her Son's Passion, stood by Him with full confidence, in spite of all appearances, that God's will was and would be done. 
No matter how bloodied, beaten and defeated Our Lord appeared throughout His Passion and death, He was still Our Lord, and neither the flight of the Apostles nor their fear is remembered as a positive example to follow.
No good is served by giving people the impression that the Pope is not Catholic, even if it can be alleged that there is reason to believe he is not. Trashing the Holy Father discourages those struggling to remain faithful to the Catholic Church as well as those considering conversion to the Catholic Church. 
OK. I do not disagree with any of that, but we are still left with the ubiquity of communication. Even a Hermit Tavern Keeper hears things. We all have to deal with it. Follow the link to see what else he said.

So, hearing the cacophony of cant from all sides, how are we to discern any 'Truth' ? Perhaps different hearing aids are needed. 

It is the 'criticisers' making all the noise and confusion that need to consider their views. It is they, who even when having the 'best intention" (the one's that so often lead to Hell) who need to take a broader, deeper and more comprehensive view. Get the Big Picture'. It is also a means for the troop in the field to gain confidence that his generals know what they are doing. 

Michael Cook acknowledges the problem and points to that better view.  I pulled a pint of fine Ale for both Michaels.
Reframing Pope Francis
His critics need to adopt a new approach
Perhaps annus horribilis is too strong to describe Pope Francis’s experience of 2016. But it cannot be far off the mark. Apart from events like refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and flooding into Europe and the pulverisation of Aleppo, there was a drumbeat of criticism in the media after the publication of his document on marriage, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).  
The most entertaining of these was La sacrée semaine: qui changea la face du monde (The Holy Week which changed the world), a novella by an eminent French anthropologist, Marc Augé. This is a fanciful tale about Pope Francis. He steps on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on Easter morning 2018 (which, as it happens, is April Fool’s day) and announces to an immense crowd: “God is not dead – because God has never existed.” Immediately the cardinals whisk him off to a mental hospital and he submits his resignation the next day.  
Augé is a modern pagan (the more gods, the better) for whom rationalism and relativism are religious dogmas. The point of his jeu d’espirit is not to criticise Pope Francis but to show that the world would be much better off without religion.
More troubling is the stance of Catholic critics who feel that the world would be much better off without Pope Francis. 
Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times who has been channeling this hostility into the mainstream media, recently wrote that “same-sex couples, polygamists and unmarried straight couples can all reasonably claim that the most liberal interpretation of ‘Amoris’ applies to their situations”.
This is as preposterous as Augé’s novella; as in a failing marriage, Douthat & Co can see almost nothing good in Papa Bergoglio. Vaticanistas and bloggers have been decoding shuffles in the Vatican bureaucracy, doorstop interviews with the media, and appointments of bishops and announcing that they have uncovered a plot to explode the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.
The latest broadside comes from two highly respected moralists from the English-speaking world, both laymen: Germain Grisez, an American theologian, and John Finnis, an Australian who is an emeritus professor at Oxford. They wrote a letter to the Pope and then published it online in the Catholic journal First Things in early December.
In it they listed eight positions opposed to traditional Catholic teaching which, they say, could be supported by passages in Amoris Laetitia. 
No doubt this is true. 
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose,” 
says Shakespeare. In fact, twisting the meaning of church documents has a long history. 
The first Pope, Peter the Apostle, wrote to his flock in about 65AD that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
But surely the Pope cannot be held responsible for the misuse of his words. If he can be, shouldn’t his critics consider un-canonising St Pius X, in whose name the most serious schism of the last century took place?
The real point is: did Pope Francis affirm any of these supposed errors? And the answer, thanks to the careful documentation of Grisez and Finnis, is: 
No, he did not. 
Despite their best efforts, they failed to catch him in flagrante haeresi.
In any case, Finnis and Grisez’s eighth position is curious: they appear to have created their own dogma and then criticized the Pope for not teaching it. 
The offending position is: “A Catholic need not believe that many human beings will end in hell.” 
But the Church has never taught that hell is crowded, only that it exists and that each of us might end up there. There may be standing room only; the hotels may be half-empty. This is one area of Catholic belief which is open to debate. 
We’ve all heard of fake news; this is fake dogma.
Why are some highly intelligent and faithful Catholics so jaundiced towards Pope Francis that they see heresies everywhere, as if they were playing a theological version of Pokemon Go in the Vatican Gardens?
We are somewhat (hmmmm - To a large and perhaps overwhelming extent)  at the mercy of the newspaper reporters.  They can be merciless.

It is through their eyes and ears that we get to hear what the Pope says in the aisles of the planes he travels around in. 

Some are quite smart and some are well 'immersed' in Church matters, but ALL have their eys on the Headline and the columns and their 'commercial',  career aspirations.
Perhaps we need a fresh framework to understand him. 
Francis is not a conventional Bishop of Rome. After 150 years of Popes who have been mostly diplomats or intellectuals, in 2013 the cardinals elected a Latin American Jesuit, a bishop with a 
profoundly pastoral heart. 
In John Paul II, the Church had a strikingly original philosopher; in Benedict XVI, one of the world’s finest theologians; and in Francis, a distinguished spiritual director.
The figure of the “spiritual director” is a familiar one in the Catholic Church and the Jesuits are famed for producing them. They are priests (usually) who “direct souls”, that is, give prayerful and practical advice to people one-by-one.
Their role is to help each person reach the heights of Christian life, sometimes by comforting and consoling, sometimes by scolding and berating, always by helping people to be more prayerful and centred on Christ. It’s no accident that the Pope’s Christmas present to the members of the Roman Curia – the officials at the Vatican – was an Italian translation of stern textbook by a 17thCentury Jesuit, Industriae ad curandos animae morbos (Curing illnesses of the soul).
The harsh side of Francis as a spiritual director seems to have deeply offended some clergy. “We’ve stuck with the Church through thick and thin, we get paid peanuts, and this guy rips into us for not being holy enough! Just who does he think he is?” But this has always been the reaction of weary clergy in past eras of reform. Just read the lives of the 16th Century Counter-Reformation saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. 
It’s an understandable complaint, but it’s not holiness.
Sadly, a bit of berating seems to be in order after the world-wide sex abuse scandals, profligacy in the Vatican, and, worst of all, a collapse in the number of church-goers. 
Francis seems to believe that if there had been more Padre Pios in the pulpits, there would be more Catholics in the pews.
The important thing to remember about a spiritual director—unlike a philosopher or theologian -- is that his advice is imparted personally, soul by soul. It is not delivered in sermons, books, or Facebook groups. It is not an off-the-rack suit but bespoke spiritual tailoring. 
All of Francis’s advice in Amoris Laetitia is perfectly conventional if viewed through the prism of personal spiritual direction. 
He is showing the Church how to apply to prodigal sons and daughters the principles of Vatican II and of the two great Popes who implemented its spirit.
There are risks, of course. 
Francis’s approach will only work if priests (all Catholics, actually) are willing to be shepherds with the smell of the sheep. If too many of them settle for being managers or “collectors of antiques or novelties”, it will fail.
History will be the judge of how effective this will be, but Francis is taking for granted that John Paul II and Benedict XVI had already created a robust intellectual framework for evangelization by producing the Catholic Catechism and their brilliant encyclicals. Now it is time for action, for reaching out, for bringing the Gospel message to a secularized world.
So the critics’ view is topsy-turvy. 
Instead of contesting traditional Catholic notions like exceptionless moral norms, the indissolubility of marriage, or the possibility of living according to the moral law, Francis assumes them. OK, he is saying, we’ve spent the last 40 years updating the language of traditional moral theology. It’s time to roll this out on the battlefield and set up our field hospitals.
That is what he means when he writes in Amoris Laetitia:
""...this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church. For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it”. These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours. When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard (n. 300)..'''
In fact, he insists time and again in this document that only the truth can heal and that priests (working as spiritual directors) must remain faithful to traditional moral teachings. But the path to the truth may be different for each soul. To use a homely analogy, a doctor cannot cure recalcitrant patients by giving them poison or by redefining what it means to be healthy. But he can and should try different treatment programs, some shorter, some longer, to nurse them gradually to health.
It is amazing that the Pope’s critics have seized on Amoris Laetitia like a dog with a bone but ignore his first encyclical, which is the real key to his pontificate, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). When I wrote about it in 2013, shortly after it was published, I was bowled over:
It is a challenge for Christians to scrape back the layers of paint and dust and soot which have darkened the glowing light of the Gospel message. Evangelii Gaudium has a vigorous innocence and freshness about it; it is a young man’s shout to the world that love is possible, justice is possible, anything is possible, if the world would only listen to the plain words of Jesus Christ.  
Critics have every right to insist that Jorge Bergoglio, like every Catholic, must be faithful to the traditional teaching of their Church because these are the teachings of Christ. 
But doesn’t the traditional teaching include the command “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations”? 
No one could accuse Pope Francis of not taking the re-evangelisation of the world seriously. Would that the same could be said of all of his critics.
 Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

While I refreshed the tankards of these two fine men, I found that I was refreshed too.

Drink up. Be less ignorant. 

The alternative is .... what? A celebration of the deadened souls around us? Or should we be trying to rescue them?  

Up above we had a 'Ghostbuster' musing on 'study'.  Let us see Bill Murray fronting an award ceremony where he dares to mock in his own quiet way the very fallen world he finds himself in and the dead he looks out over.  His 'ovation' is more 'Hillside Church' than the sort of Catholic gathering that the Pope generally sees. And while the Pope gently blesses, Bill gently ridicules.

He still gets the wild cheers from the dumberatti, who simply do not know what he is saying.

"You are all dead".

Don't be.



  1. A couple of years ago you introduced me to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his service during WWI, which lead me to his teachings. They inspired me:-)

    Shortly after that when I was visiting the Tower of London 'Poppies in the Moat' I saw a brief tale about an English Jesuit Priest; John Gerard. Although the tale was brief I was inspired enough to blog about it. One of my readers, Lisl directed me to his autobiography 'The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest'. An inspiring read for anyone, but even more so if you have spiritual inclinations :-)

    That being said, it is no wonder that I like Pope Francis who is being true to the faith in difficult modern day circumstances.

    1. I am pleased that you were inspired to search further and even become more aware of other sound and courageous clerics. I have to admit to having a similar confusion about Francis that some others have but I try to be generous at least in my assessment of him and his period as Pope. There are some who have leadership thrust upon them.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..