A really fine exchange between Tom Kreitzberg and a reader upset by Pope Francis

A reader writes:

Mark, any chance for a little compassion for people who are feeling nervous? Could you maybe come alongside us and walk with us a bit and maybe share your faith and optimism? Any chance that instead of yelling and shaming people who are feeling uneasy, you could maybe instead show us the reasons for your hope? Maybe be a big brother here. I know I could use one. I’ll be spending time with my evangelical family this week. The family that still thinks I’m a flake for abandoning the sound teachings of AW Tozier, Max Lucado, Josh McDowell, and Rick Warren for the curious barque of Saint Peter. I’ve spent six years trying to explain to them that the Catholic Church is the unbroken line back to Jesus, the repository of faith for once and all time. For months I’ve been trying to parse Pope Francis for them. For months I’ve been trying to explain why what the Pope is saying doesn’t represent a rupture in the faith. But I know they’re starting to think that maybe I’m parsing a little too much. Maybe I sound a bit too much like a guy who bought a pig in a poke and wants to save face. Any chance I could get a, “I understand the source of your nervousness. I can see that you are suffering a bit for the faith right now. But here, let me give you the reasons for hope…” Instead of, “You guys need to get with program here! You need to suck it up and put some points on that scoreboard!” Because honestly, it isn’t working for me. I hate, hate, hate that I’ve been nodding along while reading Rod Dreher lately as he trumpets his relief about jumping from the Church of Rome to the Church of the East. But I have been. And I’ve lost sleep and felt sick to my stomach over it.

Tom’s a much better man than me, since I don’t think “Not instantly accepting the claim that Francis is a Catastrophe” is “putting points on a scoreboard” but “common decency and common sense” and pretty much say that (and I also don’t think that Rod Dreher, God bless him, has said anything coherent about the Church since he bailed so I’m puzzled why Catholics find him persuasive, much less devastating).  And I would have thought “Fantastic!  Francis is articulating the heart of the Tradition” would be a very big reason for hope.  But what this reader needed was a more sympathetic approach than mine.  So I’m grateful that Tom writes:

Maybe you *are* parsing a little too much. Maybe your stomachache is a sign you should just say to your evangelical family, “Yeah, Argentinian Jesuit popes, amiright? Pass the butter, please.”

Me, I look at Pope Francis this way:

Within the Church, he is making his office a pastoral one, not a kingly one. A pastor smells like his sheep, he is out among them. People don’t follow pastors around, writing down their every word in gold ink. You don’t parse your pastor’s words, you listen to them and see how they apply in your own life. Maybe a king, up in his castle, only rarely lets fall a word heard by his subjects; a pastor talks to people every day — and yes, if you don’t like the sound of his voice, that can get old quick.

Stepping back, I’d say the big-picture message all of this has for Catholics is this: It’s okay if a pope emphasizes the pastoral. Bigger picture: It’s even okay if the pope over-emphasizes the pastoral, or if he spends all of his waking hours solving crossword puzzles in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo. It’s good for the Church, and good for the world, to have a good pope. But the Church is not the pope’s property, nor are Catholics his chattel. There is no “X” for which “The pope has done X, therefore the Church will collapse,” is true.

I’d guess you’re most concerned with the reports of the Pope’s words to the world beyond the Church (which, I’d say, includes most reporters on airplanes). Here, I see Pope Francis as acting on his prudential judgment (which, the Church teaches, may be wrong) that the way he should relate to the world is, first, to establish a relationship — in particular, a relationship of loving service. If what we have to give to the world is Jesus Christ — if you read his homilies and audiences, you know Pope Francis believes this — then the way he sees us being able to give the world Jesus, such that they accept Him, is the way of mercy.

I happen to think he’s pretty much right about all that. But let’s say he’s not. Suppose he is naive, or reckless, or a disaster, or even a heretic. So then maybe I picked the wrong papacy to stop sniffing glue (probably don’t want to use that line with your evangelical family unless they’re big fans of the Zuckers), but none of that would touch what the Church herself teaches about the papacy itself, much less what she teaches about the Church as a whole.

You know, there are plenty of Catholics alive today who have thought one or more of the previous popes they’ve lived through were naive, or reckless, or a disaster, or even a heretic. The response is not despair (much less paying any attention to what a professional anti-Catholic like Rod Dreher says). The response is to recognize that, while the Church was founded *on* the Rock of Peter, it was founded *by* Jesus Christ, Whose Bride and Body it is, and will forever be.

Tom, a fan of Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples (which you badly need to read), also remarks elseswhere:

 There’s a model (which comes from work done by Evangelicals, but Sherry Weddell & Co, have found it to be very useful in Catholic settings) of the “five thresholds” in the spiritual journey, from no faith to a full embrace of Jesus Christ. The evangelist figures out which threshold the other person is standing before, and then helps them to cross (all with God’s grace).

The five thresholds are: Initial Trust; Spiritual Curiosity; Spiritual Openness; Spiritual Seeking; and Intentional Discipleship.

You will fail (according to the model) if you try to get someone to cross a later threshold when they’re still standing at an earlier one. (Sherry’s major message, by the way, is that so so much of what the Catholic Church does assumes Catholics are across the “Intentional Discipleship” threshold, when empirically huge numbers of baptized and even Mass-going Catholics are back at trust or curiosity.)

What I think the Pope has done, in terms of this model. is to bring many people — who used to, and probably for the most part still kind of do, hate the Church — to the threshold of trust. They trust that he, at least, doesn’t want to stand over their graves gloating at the thought that they are burning in hell.

If so, then yes, they’re still at a point where disillusionment would follow an attempt to explain what “I am a son of the Church” means in terms of the hot-button issues.

But if they ask questions, they are curious. The Church can handle the curious. If they aren’t yet open though, we won’t accomplish much by forcing them to digest Catholic moral doctrines.

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  • Rebecca Duncan

    If you think that other people need to show more charity and understanding toward Pope Francis, then you need to show those people more charity and understanding.

    • HornOrSilk

      Depends upon what one means by showing charity. The truth is charity, remember, and the people who are being uncharitable to the Pope are doing more than acting without charity, but disregarding authentic authority in the Church. There clearly is room for charity with people who disagree who do so in a non-so-disagreeable fashion, who engage in charity. But when it is all name calling, saying the Pope is hell bound to destroy the Church and other such nonsense, pray for them, be kind, but call nonsense for what it is.

      • Rebecca Duncan

        I don’t know who you are thinking of in particular, but simply being nervous and confused about what a new Pope is saying is not disregarding the authority of the Church. That’s what I was talking about since most people fall into that category like the commenter in the post.
        People who disagree in a disagreeable way and name-call, need more charity, not less.

        • HornOrSilk

          http://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/ I see quite a few people like this. I also see people already suggesting Francis is a heretic, an anti-Pope, etc.

          • Rebecca Duncan

            Just wondering, why are you reading stuff like that? If I see a blog that is like that, I just don’t read it.

            • HornOrSilk

              There are many reasons. Among which, it is good to know what is being said, so I know what kinds of replies need to be given to help others who are getting confused. And these people often come on blogs like Shea’s, or Terry’s Abbey Road, or others, and influence with their pessimism those who are not so theologically sound.

              • Rebecca Duncan

                Alright, but I think if you read poisonous stuff like that it will have an affect. Maybe not in your attitude towards the Pope or the Church, but perhaps in your attitude towards others. In general, I think this may be why people assign others such terrible motives when, in fact, they are just confused people who don’t have bad motives at all. Just a thought.

                • HornOrSilk

                  Well, it is not for everyone, but there is always need for some to know what the undercurrents are to help steer people away from trouble. Especially since I do get people asking me questions based upon these sites.

                  • Rebecca Duncan

                    I hope you can answer them well and help those who need it.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Some, I have, others I have not. But hopefully other voices might help them look and change views later. It’s part of dialogue, though, to get to know the other. And it is risky because as you say, it is easy to get into uncharitable ways when doing so. I’m not perfect there, but, for the most part I know to go beyond and try.

        • Bill

          Sure, nobody needs to be a dick, right? We’re all called to charity and love.
          I just think sometimes people WANT to be assuaged because it means their opinions are validated, that they can legitimately have doubts because that way they can ride the edge… not have their own belief system, wants, and desires be criticized.
          To me, many folks view religion, politics, etc, as a kind of security blanket and a form of self-actualization. If their beliefs hold less influence, it cuts like a knife. Or, they cannot understand how things can change and modify.

    • Dan C

      1. I more than recall the conversation that was gleeful about Benedict’s ascension in 2005. People were eager for “the smaller Church.” Ready to have someone throw the bums out, Benedict did not, and Francis is unlikely to do so either. I think many are despertely disappointed in this. So, I think this needs to be called out,

      2. If I though this pope was anything different than Benedict, I would be more sympathetic. But the right wing so misread and ignored Benedict who appointed Muller as head of CDF. Muller, in a recent interview, said liberation theology is not evil, or incorrect. This is from an appointee of Benedict. I, a close Benedict-watcher, has been flabbergasted since 2005 at how the right wing ignored him. Misread him. Ignored him.

      3. And, I claim the right wing deliberately misled their followers and themselves about Benedict. As such, I think criticism is due when I see the Archbolds freaking out, or Akin trying to assuage his audience. Because they never really listened to Benedict.

      • Rebecca Duncan

        I never said there could be no criticism. I said to show people charity and understanding even if they don’t ‘deserve’ it.

      • Bill

        Well I think Jimmy Akin is trying his best here.

      • Akin “never really listened to Benedict”? Why on earth would you say that? What evidence can you provide?

        • Dan C

          I read Mr. Akin. In the beginning of 2006, little was noted in depth on JimmyAkin.org (now a “.com”) about Deus Caritas Est. Less on on Caritas in Vertate, one encyclical few Catholics conservatives, except maybe Rick Garnett, Sam Rocha and Jody Bottum treated deeply and with respect.

          What gets play? Assuring the audience about Benedict and condoms and the MP. Fine. Blog as one wishes, but when Francis comes along and is unavoidable, and one did not properly prepare his audience (which Mr. Akin does teach seriously and obviously identifying this as an important aspect of his mission) with the fact that Benedict was often quite radically progressive, I suggest a strategy of “catch up studying” not damage control with “what Francis did not say.” Francis is not different than Benedict, and if one is shocked by the assertion that atheists can be saved, then one does not know Benedict on this topic. If one is uneasy about the political-economic leanings of Francis, one does not know Benedict on these topics. If one is uneasy and uncomfortable with Francis by the content of his message, one does not know Benedict.

          Here is a tweet of Ms. Welborn about Benedict’s support:

          “Sorry to be That Blogger, but where were all the helpful water carriers during his papacy?”

          I agree. If one read Vox Nova, one got many writers who intellectually engaged (Sam Rocha with both acceptance and critique) B16. Morning’s Minion shows deep knowledge of the pope emeritus’s writings.

          Why is Francis more accepted among liberals? We are prepared for him. Liberal Catholic icons include (as I do in my daily prayers), requests for intercessions from the martyrs of UCA (Francis’s Jesuit brethren), Oscar Romero (someone already addressed earlier in this pontificate) and the martyred churchwomen of El Salvador. We have community centers at inner city churches named after Oscar Romero. There is a spiritual preparation for this pope that is very uniquely and routinely Catholic.

          Despite the rumors, liberal Catholics are not embracing a false expectation of swimming in the permitted use of condoms in the bedroom. I’m not reading this.

          So, yes, I think the intellectual challenge and the deep writings of Benedict were ignored by the right. I think his writings did not coincide with the libertarian leanings which were and still are considered acceptable in common conservative Catholic parlance. (“I am a classic liberal” is an acceptable profession by conservative Catholics-not very “B16-ish”.) Professor Garnett identifies that this pope clearly is politically different than he. That he didn’t see similarly with B16, or didn’t profess this, for example, is part of my critique.

          I am a lefty. My message is a criticism that the right wing audience of conservative Catholics has been a bit taken back by Francis because they had not been really paying attention to Benedict nor has Benedict realy been presented to them. Benedict is nearly word for word matched by Francis. The approach can now be one of two ways- damage control, the “what Francis really meant” work or study of the depth of these views of Francis and how they really relate to recent popes. For those wanting “continuity,” the code word for “I hate the liberal interpretation of Vatican 2,” I recommend pursuing an attempt at seeing that continuity between Benedict and Francis. I do not want anyone on the right following Dreher out the Church door, because we need conservatives in our Church. I therefore prescribe a radical “teach-in” for conservatives, linking Benedict to Francis.

          The consequence of noted conservative Catholic intellectuals and writers avoiding B16 is that Francis is very disruptive to their audiences.

    • Bill

      If people’s faith is shaken by Francis, to me that seems like their faith maybe isn’t as strong as they think it is. I don’t think people need to enable that.

      • Rebecca Duncan

        how is showing charity and understanding enabling something bad?

        • BillyT92679

          It can be if it means allowing people to not break free from doubt.

          • BillyT92679

            and because, frankly, some folks are being extremely passive-aggressive when they claim they have “concerns”

            • AnsonEddy

              Yes. Thanks for diagnosis. Very charitable of you.

              • BillyT92679

                MY PLEASURE ANSON.
                Your post literally. I mean, literally, could not have been a more dead-on accurate example of the passive-aggressiveness I was referring to. I mean, it’s extraordinary in your lack of irony here.

                Honestly, if I could frame your comment, I would.

                • chezami

                  Perhaps it would be more helpful if you imitated Tom Kreitzberg right about now.

  • Patty

    Note comment from vatican in linked story re: interviews garnering far more attention than encyclical.


  • contrarian

    As a convert, I’m in a similar situation as this reader (besides for the evangelical thing), so I appreciated that comment.

    But one thing about the response from Tom Kretzberg (whose comments I always enjoy): what’s the whole, “…much less paying any attention to what a professional anti-Catholic like Rod Dreher says…” ?

    What’s up with that, yo? I’ve been reading Dreher since forever, and I’ve never seen anything ‘anti-Catholic’. Perhaps he’s just that subversive?

    By ‘anti’ do you mean ‘non’?

    P.S. Hey AnsonEddy–in addition to paying heed to Kretzberg’s great advice, you might also tell your family to check out some of the very Catholic, very reputable, very intelligent commentary from folks who are less than gaga about this pope. That might save you from having to parse what can’t be parsed.

    Also–as for the Orthodox–I feel ya. But the grass is always greener. 🙂

    • capaxdei

      By “a professional anti-Catholic,” I mean, in the narrow sense, that Rod writes anti-Catholic articles for money. In the broad sense, I mean his habitual anti-Catholicism has been a trope of his writing for more than a decade.

      • contrarian

        Hi Tom,

        What I’m asking is: how are you using the word ‘anti’?

        If ‘anti’ means 1) the Catholic Church holds false doctrines, and 2) the Church ‘on the ground’ is shallow, weak, ineffectual, declining, that many of its priests hold to the faith tepidly and preach a luke-warm version of the faith, that Francis isn’t the bee’s knees, and that some of the Church’s prominent members (and many clerics) are corrupt and duplicitous…then he’s definitely anti-Catholic.

        As he’s Orthodox, he of course holds to 1.

        But that means I’m partially anti-Catholic, as I hold to 2, and I’d put the points stronger than he would.

        And it means that everyone in my family is fully anti-Catholic, as they hold to both 1 and 2. In fact, that would mean that most people in America are anti-Catholic.

        But I’m assuming you are referring to specific writings where he says more than what is contained in 1 or 2?


        • capaxdei

          I’m using the word “anti” to mean “enemy of.”

      • Elmwood

        It’s telling that he instead of talking about the orthodox church, spends most of his time dwelling on the catholic church, indicating that something is unsettled in his conscience. I have a orthodox study bible that was written by evangelical converts who unfortunately spend an inordinate amount of time attacking the catholic church.

        it’s always a back-handed compliment and says we have to constantly justify ourselves for not becoming catholic.

        • contrarian

          He talks a lot about the Catholic Church because he blogs on the passing scene. Catholic issues take up more cultural real estate than orthodox ones. Simple as that. Let’s please refrain from psychoanalyzing him or anyone else, for that matter. Anyone can psychoanalyze. It’s not falsifiable.

          He’s not anti-Catholic. He’s just *not Catholic*. His writings on the Catholic Church (including his stuff on Francis) are often spot-on. Non-Catholics of good will are sometimes the best sources of insight on the Catholic situation. His writings are a case in point.

          • JohnMcG

            Let’s please refrain from psychoanalyzing him

            Sorry, no. Especially when people start citing him as an authority against the Holy Father.

            He has put himself out there, for example here (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/demonic-moi/) where he says Francis shouldn’t have said what he said because it’s not what the collegiate version of himself needed to hear.

            It’s worth considering whether this is a problem with what Francis is saying or a problem with Mr. Dreher’s ears.

          • capaxdei

            “He talks a lot about the Catholic Church because he blogs on the passing scene. Catholic issues take up more cultural real estate than orthodox ones. Simple as that.”

            Was Rod mistaken, then, the many times he wrote — often while bashing the Catholic Church — that he doesn’t write about Orthodox scandals (in which he has actively, though not always overtly, taken sides — and not always the side his anti-Catholic writings might lead you to assume) to protect his own faith?

            “Non-Catholics of good will are sometimes the best sources of insight on the Catholic situation.”

            Asked by Time to write about Pope Francis — do you suppose they found his name in the Rolodex under “the passing scene”? — Rod wrote an article arguing against joining, and for leaving, the Catholic Church.

            Maybe you and I mean different things by “good will.”

            • contrarian

              Hi Tom,

              I don’t understand what you’re asking in the first question (probably my fault there), so I’ll address the second part. I’ll happily address the first part too, if I can get you to clarify your point.

              Rod’s Time article was probably hard for Catholics to hear, but it contained a lot of truth. The church ‘on the ground’ is soft, effeminate, happy clappy, and in major decline. The average homily contains much talk of mercy and love, and does not obsess in the least over pelvic stuff (or anything disciplinary). The average RCIA program is theologically minimal and morally avoiding. There is much talk of your ‘conscience’ and little (or no) talk of natural law. Priests and religious teachers all claim (and no doubt think) they are ‘faithful sons of the Church’ all the while saying little more than what any Methodist would find acceptable. The average Catholic high school teaches mercy and love up the ying, but these same Catholic schools graduate kids who know nothing about the Faith, its morals, and its dogmas. Moreover, their attitudes on things moral mirror the secular culture to the T. I should know: they are in my classes. Moreover, as recent polls have told us, they are next to us in the pews. The church ‘on the ground’ is all about dialogue and accepting protestants and unbelievers in their own okayness, and is simply embarrassed of the Church Militant, its dogmas, and its moral stances. As Cardinal Dolan pointed out, priests were (and still are) ‘gun shy’ to talk about discipline and morals and dogma. The church on the ground is big on ‘Jesus Christ has saved (read: redeemed?) you’ and being nice, but not much else. Polls simply confirm this sad fact. As we prattle on about love and mercy and the ‘saving’ (redeeming?) love of Christ, we shrink, and shrink, and shrink. Rates of conversion have never been so low. Back during the mean old days prior to VII, conversion rates were much higher. The mercy and love thing–seemingly in effect since VII, isn’t working. Or, as the popular meme goes, we are doing it wrong.

              The interviews of Francis, argues Rod, seem to confirm that the MO of the church ‘on the ground’–endless talk of love and mercy, and not much else besides–is a feature, not a bug. Francis’ message seems to be: “Things are going to fall like a house of cards because we aren’t doing near enough of this stuff! We’ve been doing the love and mercy thing on 9. We need to crank it up to 10…or 11!”

              As Rod sees the pope’s words confirming the fact that the church on the ground is a feature and not a bug, he is thankful that he previously bailed on the whole thing entirely. I don’t blame him, even if I think he’s wrong on this point. But I agree with him that the answer–the truth–lies somewhere other than the current MO of the church on the ground, the same MO that the current pope seems to be wanting *more* of, not less. For Rod, this ‘somewhere else’ was the Orthodox Church. I, for one, think there are other options *in* the Catholic Church.

              So yes, I think Rod is certainly of good will, not only because he defends Catholics when they are shat on by the MSM, but also because he tells it like it is. He’s not an enemy of the Church: he’s an enemy of the MO of the church on the ground, one that he quite justifiably sees the pope as wanting more of, not less.

              The truth hurts sometimes!

              • capaxdei

                “I don’t understand what you’re asking in the first question…”

                I was trying to point out that you are wrong to say that the reason Rod ignores Orthodox scandals is because “Catholic issues take up more cultural real estate than orthodox ones.”

                The reason Rod himself has given, several times, is that to write about Orthodox scandals would hurt his Orthodox faith.

                His writing about the Catholic Church injures the faith of Catholics, and you praise him for it.

                • contrarian

                  Hi Tom,
                  i responded to this yesterday, but I’m just checking it now, and it looks like the comment disappeared. Oh well.
                  In short: good point. If that’s the explanation, then my quip about cultural real estate is indeed wrong. Thanks for the correction.

                  However, as to the other part, we’ll just have to agree to disagree was to what constitutes an injury to the faith.

              • JohnMcG

                The mercy and love thing–seemingly in effect since VII, isn’t working.

                I’m thankful Christ and the apostles didn’t reach a similar conclusion when things looked dark.

                I guess someone should have told Mother Teresa and other saints that “the mercy and love thing .. isn’t working.”

                • contrarian

                  Hi JohnMcG,
                  Sorry for the poor wording. “The mercy and love thing’ was meant to refer to the particular MO in effect since Vatican II–one that is long on God’s ‘saving’ love and short on Catholic-specific dogma, discipline, and natural law. To say it ‘isn’t working’ is to say that as a consequence of this new MO, the Church is also short on conversions, and that it is shrinking like all get out.

                  • kirthigdon

                    I don’t see how it can be said that the Church is “shrinking like all get out” when in both the US and the world, the number and percentage of Catholics is at a record high. I often find myself to be the real “contrarian” since I consider the present era to be one of the best in Church history. And the Popes God has given us in the last two hundred years have been extraordinarily good.
                    Kirt Higdon

                  • JohnMcG

                    I’m thankful for you taking the opportunity to clarify, and I will bow out, since I think I’m adding more heat than light.

  • Spastic Hedgehog

    I think a lot of people forget just how foreign a lot of Catholicism is. We, in the west, live in a post-Christian world. Many people are so poorly catechized they don’t understand things that are fundamental to those of us “in the know” like the concepts of “salvation” or even “charity” and “love.” Of course each of those words holds a huge theological concept with 1000+ years of scholarship argument and nuance. But when you’re trying to reach someone who’s only knowledge of Jesus is that he’s the bearded guy on a cross who has something to do (maybe?) with Christmas, you can’t start from the nuance. You can’t even jump to it soon after you start talking. He’s explaining Christianity to people like they’re 5 — and managing to do it in a non-patronizing way — because spiritually? that’s where they are.

    I have a 3 year old. She loves this book that compares the Trinity to an apple. Technically that’s partialism (and maybe modalism too). But how else do you explain the Trinity to a 3 year old except through metaphors? And don’t metaphors always run into some theological trouble? But you don’t throw Augustine’s De Trinitatis at a 3 year old and expect her to read it and discuss it after dinner. You build from the broad to the nuanced and you stay in discussion.

    I think those of us who have been cruising on the Barque of Peter for a while are used to the Pope speaking to us and throwing us theological red meat that the rest of the world doesn’t have teeth to chew yet. We’re the 99 sheep hanging out on the hill like we’re supposed to or the good brother who does what he’s told while little bro goes on his rumpsringa. And maybe there’s some fear that because he’s not speaking to us, the shepherd has abandoned us. But truly, and I believe this with all my heart, I think he’s going after the lost sheep out there. He’s leading them back instead of dragging them kicking and screaming. It’s okay to be nervous but know that the shepherd is coming back. And this time with more friends to sit at the table.

    • Andy

      I think not only is he looking for the lost sheep he asking us to join him – to offer a hand and to be models of the gospels.

    • kmk1916

      Yes, you are right, he is running out to meet them on the road.
      Thanks, SH!
      It is even necessary to propose to post-modern folks that people of all cultures have always, everywhere worshipped someone(s) or something greater than themselves, and that there ARE basic questions: Who am I, How did I get here, Where am I going. We are at the beginning of the beginning.

  • Tim H

    Mark and others,
    It has just hit me so hard in the last month or so with the interview and the conversation you’ve had here Mark – and from that post (last week?) where you gave quotes from the last 3 popes about not wanting to get drawn into this or that cultural argument – that in fact “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is the message. I know you’ve been trying to say it for a while Mark even more than a year ago when you were taking heat for saying things like opposition to abortion is not the heart of the Church. But I finally caught it in more depth with this latest round of criticism of Francis.
    Francis is about the the message of Jesus (and as Tom says – even if he weren’t that is still what the Church at it’s heart is about). So it’s time to focus more on that and getting people into that rather than focus on how people fall on the issue of abortion or same sex marriage.
    How about this for an analogy: We’ve got this Jewish friend, vibrantly alive, absolutely captivating. In fact the guy is so captivating, so truthfilled, so astoundlingly, beautifully, brilliantly, magically alive and captivating that you want to live your life with him. We want you to meet him at a dinner party he is having. All the things on the table were chosen by him. When you meet him, do you concentrate on the food he chose or on him?

  • Clare Krishan

    Chuckle re: “You will fail (according to the model) if you try to get someone to cross a later threshold when they’re still standing at an earlier one.”
    I misread that as “when you’re still standing at an earlier one.” which is what IMHO see often, myself included (and what I would diagnose is Rod’s predicament, see conclusion, pls excuse the lengthy interval). Holiness is a vocation, a road map, not — as Calvinist Protestant-evangelicals “once saved always saved” are wont to claim, a place called “truth of life” located on the Way.

    IAMWHOAM/Christ IS the Way, the Truth, the Life and we can only ever have a subjective experience of approaching or BECOMING the way, the truth, the life (for its perfection is not of this world, this life, it is a born again life, in Heaven) except where its born again in our hearts as an older Catholic tradition with Renaissance roots which predate Dante teaches. The spirituality of communion in the Sacred Heart* of Jesus as Eternal Word where the LOGIC (way, the station we are on), RHETORIC (truth, a proposition not imposition) and GRAMMAR (life, a verb**) Modern philosophical phenomenology of personalism expresses this theologically as pneumatology, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Even our illustrious emeritus Pope was humble enough to know that his experience is subjective, only ‘on the way,’ his every word is NOT infallible (the misunderstanding of doctrine Rod Dreher seems to get tripped up on)

    In his own words

    “There is a certain difficulty in speaking about the Holy Spirit, even a certain danger. He withdraws from us into mystery even more than
    Christ. It is quite possible that this topic has sparked only idle speculation and that human life is being based upon self-made fantasies rather than reality. This is why I hesitated to offer just my own reflections. It seems to me that three conditions must be fulfilled to speak meaningfully, reliably, and defensibly about the Holy Spirit. First it cannot be talk based upon pure theory but must touch an experienced reality that has been interpreted and communicated in thought. But experience alone does not suffice. It must be tested and tried experience so that “one’s own spirit” does not take the place of the Holy Spirit. Third: in consequence, suspicion will always arise when someone speaks on his own account, “from within.” Such speech contradicts the Holy Spirit’s mode of being, for he is characterized precisely
    “by not speaking on his own” (Jn 16:13).”

    Joseph Ratzinger in “The Holy Spirit as Communio | Concerning the Relationship of Pneumatology and Spirituality in Augustine |- Becoming a Christian means becoming communio and thereby entering into the mode of being of the Holy Spirit” http://www.communio-icr.com/files/ratzinger25-2.pdf

    Note Pope Francis named after celebrating his onomastico in Assisi a second Church Father as favorite saint: Augustine. The new theological school of ‘communio’ is SHARED by Benedict and Francis… there’s no rupture for those with eyes to see (and thus back to Shelley’s point, because the school is so ‘new’ traditionalists are VERY unfamiliar with it and equate it with the movement C+L, which it is derived from but is distinct from as an hermeneutic, an epistemological tradition that has ancient provenance, as links to Augustine attest). This is were Rod Dreher could benefit SO much from becoming familiar with tradition, if he were to see attachment to ‘hesychasm’ as more than spiritual ascesis and detach from anathematizing Augustine and his rudiments of a teaching on original sin that has been refined and developed in the intervening years, not ‘rejected’ as he would have us believe in the East.
    * aka hence tendency to malign Catholics as ‘bleeding heart libruls’
    ** plurality-voiced ‘common good’ in a civilization of love aka Aquinas’ “Love is willing the good of the other” we are social beings, in religion this truism is no different we are ‘religious’ as members of the mystical body. Our souls are sanctified by grace indwelling in us but never at the expense of another’s salvation, for then grace would have been annihilated in us by the unforgivable sin, pride. Unforgivable since we can deny a place in our hearts for grace to abide, not ‘unforgivable’ because God throws a tantrum and suddenly stops being unconditionally merciful…!

  • Clare Krishan

    More related thoughts on JH Newman and conscience in a bit – must run to teach CCD class! ’til anon … – reserving my Sunday as a day of rest – … a little riff on Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg uncertainty principle H/T http://robertaconnor.blogspot.com/2006/10/ratzinger-constant-absolute.html
    Newman’s Toast first to Conscience, and then later, to the Pope.“We can now appreciate Newman’s toast first to conscience and then to the pope. The pope cannot impose commandments on faithful Catholics because he wants to or finds it expedient…. The anamnesis instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this `from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but ordered to it. It has maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely, its interior openness to the truth.”
    No Conscience, no Pope: “…the toast to conscience indeed must precede the toast to the Pope because without conscience there would not be a papacy. All power that the papacy has is power or conscience. It is service to the double memory upon which the faith is based and which again and again must be purified, expanded, and defended against the destruction of memory which is threatened by a subjectivity forgetful of its own foundation as well as by the pressure of social and cultural conformity.” J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center, (1991) 19-21 [full text http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/ratzcons.htm%5D

  • Clare Krishan

    And final ‘affirming’ contribution – this from our Archbishop from a talk he have just last week quoting the non-infallible* encyclical Lumen Fidei

    “Here’s another. “Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers . . . Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion” http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/10/fire-upon-the-earth [fire, as in Pentecost flames descending]
    * infallibility has only ever been evoked once to affirm a Marian doctrine that the Eastern Churches commemorate under the title “Dormition” – IOW we quibble over legitimacy of meaning rather like in a game of scrabble, as if we decided what’s permissible or not. Under monotheism the words’ “logic” “rhetoric” and “grammar” are ‘unum’ even if we of speakers of various tongues are a still a little tongue-tied and do not yet fully agree with the unity of the Divinity Persons in the Trinity!!! (who does not do battle with their prideful human nature daily? Indeed I humbly submit I am the greatest of offenders oftentimes, who takes offense very easily but hardly ever takes it on the chin..!)