A couple of years ago, George Weigel had the chutzpah to try to chop up Caritas in Veritate into the bits he liked (and we should all listen to) and the bits he disliked (and were therefore disposable).
In a burst of hyper-efficiency, John Zmirak now does Weigel one better by leading the charge to protect the Church from the Pope (like you do when you are a Faithful Conservative Catholic[TM] these days) by pre-emptively dissenting from whatever encyclical it is Pope Francis may or may not be working on.
The stunning hubris of the Catholic rightwingosphere is beginning to astound me. The other day I was seriously involved in a discussion where somebody was demanding that I show the pope was *not* guilty of the charge of relativism when Ann Coulter had declared him to be so.
Ann Coulter or Pope Francis? Pope Francis or Ann Coulter? Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
It’s the unreasoning fear and complete lack of trust in the Holy Spirit that amazes me. “He’s the Pope” should be sufficient for any Catholic. But since so many bishops have done such a bang up job of instilling trust in their office, I can see cutting some slack to laity for their jitters. However, the repeated fact Francis keeps saying “I am a faithful son of the Church”, and pointing to the Catechism, and well, saying nothing whatsoever that is contrary to the Church’s teaching should be good enough for any Catholic of good will. Why on earth would anybody assume Francis *is* endorsing relativism. Particularly on the word of an unscrupulous bomb thrower like Coulter? Why borrow trouble by assuming Francis has to prove himself innocent instead of sanely assuming that the burden of proof is on Coulter? And a heavy burden it is, so why engage such silliness?
And when you say this obvious truth aloud, what you then hear is that you are being mean and judgmental against the person assuming that Francis must prove his innocence against a stupid charge by a reckless bomb throwing demagogue like Coulter. People are so *judgmental* about Coulter baselessly attacking the Pope! Why can’t people just make cheap shots and low blows assuming his guilt in peace without mean Catholics asserting that somebody is innocent till proven guilty! Stop being so judgmental against bomb throwing demagogues and let them bash an innocent man in peace, you mean, mean ultramontanists! Why do you keep throwing hissy fits on behalf of an innocent man’s innocence?
Um, because he hasn’t done anything wrong and is not a relativist?
At which point the standard reply is, “You are saying it is impossible for him to be wrong about anything!”
No, I’m saying he’s not wrong about the thing you are falsely accusing him of. Nor has he been wrong about swarming cloud of other things the Rightwingosphere keeps panicking about. Just offering a different take from Rightwingosphere talking points and shibboleths.
“But he condemns proselytizing!”
Right. Like Benedict did.
“But that means he opposes evangelization.”
No. It means you don’t know the difference between proselytism and evangelization. Since Benedict has also spoken against proselytism and both he and Francis urge evangelism, my suggestion would be to ask yourself, “Could it be that there is some difference between evangelism and proselytism I am unaware of?” instead of setting yourself up to judge the pope with “Could it be that the Pope is a moral relativist?” It’s failure to attempt these elementary acts of charity and humility that keep making the Francis panickers sound so much like they think God died and left them to protect the Church from the pope. Hubris.
“But he keeps saying things that somebody somewhere misunderstands! Therefore the people who misunderstand him are right about whatever cockamamie thing they read him to mean and we have a duty to panic and correct, not the people who misunderstand him, but the pope, who is a garrulous old fool and a danger to the Church. Nobody in the whole history of the Church ever said tons of stuff that the world misunderstood before. Never before has the Church had to expend so much energy explaining what a Church leader really means!”
Certainly not Jesus, who constantly said crystal clear things like, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God” or “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” or “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees” or the Parable of the Dishonest Steward or “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” or calling the Holy Spirit “it” in Greek or, pretty much everything else Jesus ever said. Heck. Jesus even allowed himself to be quoted from memory by people without tape recorders who took no notes and who report different quotations like “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. And it’s not like he left behind a Church whose entire theological project is to explain and clarify the often extremely difficult meanings of his words, starting with an apostle of whom the first pope said, “So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures ” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Clearly, Peter’s failure here is that he does not rebuke the Apostle to the Gentiles for his failure to speak in super-clear and easy-to-understand language. And indeed, history shows that Paul’s words are so full of opportunity for misunderstanding that entire schisms like the Reformation can be based on them.
Here’s the deal: our task as Catholics is to learn from the Pope as he teaches and articulates the tradition, not defend the Church from him and sure as hell notto declare our pre-emptive dissent from whatever he may say in the future. Insane.
Fellow Conservatives: Relax and try listening to the pope instead of trying to fix, pre-empt, and (yes, it has happened–repeatedly, and not just with super-fringe figures) condemn him. It can be done.