panic over Pope Francis yet again. JoAnna Wahlund grabs them by the shoulders as they scream incoherently like a little girl with a spider on her blouse, and talks them down. Turns out Pope Francis is pretty much saying, you know, what the Church has always said about the possible salvation of non-believers.
It also turns out that compared to some Popes…
- Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.
- Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.
- Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who “sold” the Papacy
- Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante’s Divine Comedy
- Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.
- Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.
- Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors’ reserves on a single ceremony
- Pope Clement VII (1523–1534), also a Medici, whose power-politicking with France, Spain, and Germany got Rome sacked.
…a Pope who says thanks to Mary with a beachball, washes a Muslim girl’s feet and takes a spin in a Renault is not really that big of a deal.
I’m coming to think that the principal reason Reactionaries loathe Francis (as they loathed John Paul II and loathe the Council and loathe what the Church calls the *Ordinary* Form of the Mass) is that Reactionaries loathe the Church’s missionary imperative. Not Traditionalists, mind you–Reactionaries. What ties everything in Reactionary culture together better than any other theory I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s not that Reactionaries think the Church is evangelizing wrong and want to do it better. It’s that they hate the whole idea of bringing new people into the Church at all (except for a vanishingly small sample of like-minded Reactionaries) and seem to be bent on making sure as few are allowed in and as many are driven away as possible.
- It explains the loathing of the New Evangelization.
- It explains the contempt for World Youth Day.
- It explains the contempt for converts.
- It explains the constant drumbeat demand for excommunicating as many people as possible.
- It explains the disgust with anybody who “sounds like a Protestant”, not on theological issues but merely on cultural buzzwords and shibboleths.
- It explains the contempt for the popularity of Francis and John Paul and the fact that many ordinary people–believer and non-believer–found and find them deeply attractive.
- It explains the Reactionary tendency to treat the sacraments, not as our surest encounters with the love of God, but as reducing valves whose principal function is to keep as many people as possible out of the kingdom of heaven
- It explains the everlasting tendency to sneer at any mention of love as Kumbayah Catholicism and to perpetually appeal to Jesus cleasing the Temple as their main way of relating to the rest of the Church
- It explains how rather sensible attempts to reach out to people outside the Catholic communion and to speak in terms comprehensible to them are so routinely greeted by Reactionaries as betrayals of the Faith and compromises with the world and all the rest of it.
The one and only time I ever run across Reactionaries speaking of evangelization is when it is used as an excuse for attacking the Pope. So, for instance, recently there were screams in the comboxes over at Jimmy Akin’s blog because the Pope, being a Latin of the old school, bowed to a Muslim woman as a gesture of courtesy! More bedwetting panic! By this gesture he was betraying the faith! He might as well just convert St. Peter’s into a mosque right this second! Why isn’t he evangelizing her by telling her she and her disgusting co-religionists are all going to burn in hell?
This is the Reactionary notion of “evangelization”: threatening people with hell as a conversation starter. And it only comes up in order to bash Francis for not grabbing a teenage Muslim girl by the lapels and chewing her out, but rather washing her filthy infidel feet. Beyond that, you never hear of evangelization in Reactionary circles. You hear instead the repeated appeal to something Benedict never said: that we need to shrink the Church and make it purer.
What Benedict actually said was that the Church goes through natural cycles when people leave for various reasons such as persecution, spiritual laziness, apostasy, etc. Somehow Reactionaries take that as a mandate to drive out the people who screw up their private vision of the Church of Pure and Perfect Liturgy. Evangelization screws up that private vision because it constantly calls into the Church, not just Reactionaries, but every oddball, factory reject, weirdo, loser, jerk, and incorrigibly average person in the world. Such people screw up the system by not getting with the Reactionary program of recreating an imaginary past when everything was perfect. Many of them (such as Yr. Obdt. Svt.) have no burning interest in the EF and actually prefer the OF if have our druthers, though are grateful for any Masss Holy Church offers. And we want very much for as many people–ordinary folk–to become Catholic, warts and all.
And so, curiously, I find that the people in the Church who tend to draw most of the Reactionary fire and the bitterest hostility are not the Pelosis or Bidens or Catholics for a Free Choice people. It’s not John Dominic Crossan with his Jesus eaten by wild dogs or Dan Maguire, theologian apologist for abortion.
Rather, the bulk of Reactionary hostility, in my experience, is directed at the Karl Keatings, Scott Hahns, Fr. Robert Barrons, Jimmy Akins, Tim Staples, Al Krestas, Pat Madrids, Patrick Coffins, EWTNs, and various evangelization apostolates, not at the people who are trying to tear the Church down and remake it as either the Episcopal Church or as a branch office of Planned Parenthood.
Why? Because those people are bringing in new Catholics! And new Catholics screw up the Reactionary dream of the perfect Church with perfect liturgy.
If you’ve got a better explanation for Reactionary behavior, I’m all ears. But as near as I can tell a huge amount of the loathing directed at Pope Francis fits this theory very well. Reactionaries don’t loathe Francis despite the fact that he is an enormously attractive evangelical witness. The loathe him because he is an enormously attractive evangelical witness.