You remember the “BENEDICT’S RESIGNATION INVALID!!!” panic a couple of days ago and the “NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER A LIZARD CREATURE!!!!” flap? Sensible people exercise common sense about such matters and don’t ask, “Could this be true?” Instead, they say, “Documentation please?” and put the burden of proof on the hysteric making the claim.
But with Francis, for some reason, I hear from lots of Catholics who are ready, willing, and able to dissolve in panic everytime somebody makes a loopy charge against him–and the loopier the charge, the more credulous some people are about it.
Today, there is an absolutely wack charge being leveled against him:
Now, the stupid way of approaching this headline is to shriek (either in glee or in terrified panic, depending on whether you are a reactionary who hates the pope and is delighted to see him destroyed, a progressive who hates the Church and is delighted to see it destroyed, or a rank and file Catholic who feels beaten up by the Scandal and the Culture Wars and lives in fear of yet another shoe dropping), “We’ve been lied to again! He’s a fraud!”
Here’s the thing: usually with frauds there are lots of warning signs, particularly when they’ve been doing it for 76 years. Guys like Maciel and Corapi were dropping red flags for years and those red flags were dutifully picked up and round filed by willing dupes who kept saying, “Nothing to see here.” even as their accusers were screaming bloody murder and bringing lots of coordinated evidence that piled up concerning their lies. Bergoglio, in contrast, has lived very consistently and his life has been an open book. He is, in a word, not a child trafficker, for heaven’s sake.
So what else might account for the headline?
Well, it could have something to do with the grandstanding hot dog grabbing the headline. According to RationalWiki–Rationalwiki, mind you, not site that is super-keen on protectin the pope’s rep: “The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (or ITCCS) is a one-man blog that pretends to be a tribunal established to enforce common law. Despite claims of being based in Brussels, the whole thing is written in Canada by Kevin D. Annett, a defrocked United Church of Canada priest.” Read on and you find that even conspiracy theory kooks steer clear of him.
Moral: When something wildly contradictory to common sense is asserted of somebody whose character is evident and well-documented, the magic words are not, “How could I have been so blind?” but “Documentation please?”
Obviously this does not mean the pope (or any other human) is incapable of sin and even grave sin. We’ve learned that if we’ve learned nothing else over the past decade. Nor does it mean we go on believing in somebody’s innocence when there is real evidence of evil done. But we Catholics have *got* to stop whipsawing between circling the wagons around Folk Heroes who are obvious frauds and believing the absolute worst on the flimsiest basis every time some quack with a website declares Francis the antichrist. Yesterday, I ran across some kook who was trying to bring him up on charges of being a Lutheran who says that Jesus was guilty of sin. People make themselves crazy about this man, which is, as far as I am concerned, one of the evidences of his holiness. Prudence, common sense and elementary discernment are in startling low supply when it comes to our culture’s understanding of Francis. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.