A Catholic Spring or a Catholic Springtime? You Choose.

Pope Francis at Varginha
“Pope Francis at Varginha” by Tânia Rêgo/ABr

A Catholic Spring

During the presidential campaign, we heard that some dark forces in the liberal world were trying to foment a Catholic Spring rebellion, much like what was witnessed in the Muslim majority world a few years ago. Now that the election is safely behind us, I fear that many conservatives still high on the promise of Supreme Court justices may be walking into a Catholic Spring of another type.

This morning, the New York Times reported on the machinations of Steve Bannon to orchestrate just such a rebellion.

For many of the pope’s ideological opponents in and around the Vatican, who are fearful of a pontiff they consider outwardly avuncular but internally a ruthless wielder of absolute political power, this angry moment in history is an opportunity to derail what they see as a disastrous papal agenda. And in Mr. Trump, and more directly in Mr. Bannon, some self-described “Rad Trads” — or radical traditionalists — see an alternate leader who will stand up for traditional Christian values and against Muslim interlopers.

“There are huge areas where we and the pope do overlap, and as a loyal Catholic, I don’t want to spend my life fighting against the pope on issues where I won’t change his mind,” Mr. Harnwell said over a lunch of cannelloni. “Far more valuable for me would be spend time working constructively with Steve Bannon.”

As I read the whole article, a pit grew in my stomach. It has long been a frustration of mine when people choose politics over faith. Certainly, a person’s faith has a great role to play in their politics, but the inverse is not true. Faith should inform politics; never the other way around. When I became Catholic, I left behind the tribalism and warlord-like mentality of Protestantism, where we each rally behind our chosen leader and march forth into battle. I vowed myself to adhere to CCC 87, “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: ‘He who hears you, hears me’, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.”

A Catholic Springtime

Thankfully, my friend Sr. Theresa Aletheia FSP also wrote a piece this morning.

There have been many times in Church history when all seemed to be lost. During the Trinitarian controversies, heresy reigned, even among the bishops. Saint John Fisher was the only bishop in England to oppose King Henry VIII; all the others caved. But time and time again, against all odds, the Holy Spirit has prevailed (and he has never needed the help of bloggers and social media activists).

Church history and divine revelation teach us that we can count on the Holy Spirit’s protection in matters of faith and morals. When we doubt the Holy Spirit’s power, turn inward, and focus all of our reforming energy on those in authority, we miss our own call to reform ourselves and to bring Christ to the world.

As Pope Benedict XVI, once said, the laity are invited to “make a gradual synthesis between configuration to Christ (union with him, life in him) and dedication to his Church (unity with the Bishop, generous service to the community and to the world).”

In her generous way, she encourages us all to ‘Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Whether you find that you agree with the Pope or not, we are obligated to respond in a way that is respectful.

The Greatest of These is Love

In the end, you contribute to whether we experience a Catholic Spring or a Catholic Springtime. Will the Church be rocked or restored by your actions? Will outsiders be deterred or drawn by your demeanor? Only by faithful submission to the Magisterium, and zealous ardor for the Gospel will the Church be strengthened and renewed. Remember the words of Christ, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Choose to walk in love, with humility, recognizing that your place and mine is to advance the Kingdom of God, not to admonish the Pope.

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