Who we are in numbers.
The most interesting thing about Pope Francis’ interview with America magazine is not the interview itself (although that is fascinating reading); it’s the fact that everyone in the press is talking/writing about it.
If you ever believed any of those claims that the Church is irrelevant, I offer you the CBS/NBC/ABC/NEWYORKTIMES/HUFFINGTONPOST/ETC/ETC/ETC reaction to every little word that comes out of Pope Francis’ mouth.
Make no mistake about it folks, the Catholic Church matters. Why?
Because, whether they will admit it or not, even those
who deny its power,
who try to re-write history to obliterate its influence,
who talk about how it is “dying” (in the face of all objective evidence to the contrary)
who flat-out hate the Church
– even those people –
know that the Catholic Church is the one great unified moral voice in the world today.
The Catholic Church is not dying. It is growing. The Catholic Church is not irrelevant.
In fact, it is so relevant that even its most dedicated opponents talk about it all the time.
Who else on this planet can give an interview and have it quoted and misquoted to “prove” this or that point in every major news venue? Who else’s interview would rise to the level that major news outlets will pull quotes out of context to “prove” that their position is supported, as if that proof constituted an essential moral underpinning for their viewpoint?
Who else, but the Pope?
The answer is no one.
There’s a reason newscasters wrote as if the Holy Father gave an interview about abortion and homosexuality, when he only mentioned these things in a few sentences. They — not the Pope — are obsessed with these things. They want his blessing for what they do. They want — they crave — the absolution of the Holy Father for their sins.
More to the point, they want a moral fiat telling them that their sins are not sins.
The problem with that is that no matter how much they take things out of context to try to make it seem so, that won’t happen. Pope Francis, when he was speaking in this interview about confessors, said that there are two ways a confessor can be wrong.
One is to be so harsh that the only thing the penitent gets from the confessor is a cold encounter with the commandments. I suppose that this would be similar to what St Paul was talking about when he referenced, “the law.” The other is to be so namby-pamby that the confessor tells the penitent that their sins are not sins. I think this latter way is what the many people who are making rash mis-interpretations of what the Pope said are after.
But the important thing for us to understand is that the Holy Father said quite clearly that both these approaches are wrong. The confessor, and through him the Church, is to show the mercy of Christ without lying to people and telling them that their sins are not sins.
We have a Pope who wants to remind people that the love of Christ is greater than their sins. He is a pastoral pope who has walked with the people enough to know how miserable and lost they are.
I don’t recall if I’ve written about it here, but I’ve often seen that much of the anger that people direct at the Church is not so much anger at God as it is their rage at feeling rejected by God. There are a lot of people who feel unloved by God, who think that God hates them.
How did they get this idea? They got it from Christians who told them that God hates them.
We tend to focus today on homosexuals in this regard. But I think that is a huge mistake. I represent thousands of people who love God but feel separated from the institutional Church because they don’t see a place for themselves inside it. I deal every day with people who are hungry for God, but feel alienated from Him because they are ignored by Christians.
I am not talking here about the politically active drivers of public opinion in various movements. I don’t mean the gay rights activists or the pro abortion people. I mean ordinary people who are impoverished and living on the margins of society and barely hanging on with their fingernails to life itself. These, and not homosexual activists and abortionists, are the forgotten ones.
I believe these are the people Pope Francis is wanting to reach.
In this interview, Pope Francis compared the Church to a hospital. In some ways, what he was describing sounded like an emergency room. When someone is drowning in their sins, when they are in despair and misery, it is a cruelty to hit them with a laundry list of their various wrong-doings and then top that off with condemnation.
I know. I was once Ms Pro Abortion for Oklahoma. I was denounced and attacked and reviled by Christians.
None of this — none of it — moved me to change. Not one name I was called, not one lie that was told about me, not one ugly thing that was done to me in the name of Christ by misguided Christians made me want to change my ways. In fact, it hardened me in them.
It took a direct, personal, encounter with God Himself to get through to me. And then I was so overwhelmed by the love He poured down on me that even today I have no words for it. The interesting thing is that God did not address abortion with me until almost a year and a half after I had turned to Him. He showed me my sins, but at first, it was the little stuff. Even when the Holy Spirit finally began to teach me about my sins with abortion, it was gentle.
This was not because God favored abortion. It was because He loved me.
Protestants sing an old hymn called “Just as I am.” The title says the message of that hymn.
I think that this is the message that Pope Francis is trying to give to lost and hurting people all over the world: God loves you, just as you are. You don’t have to get righteous to come to God. All you have to do is trust Him and let Him love you from death into life.
If that message is not true, then I am not a Christian. Because it is how God dealt with me. The person I am today is the grace and the miracle of that divine love.
Read the interview for yourself here.
The National Catholic Register has an excellent article by Edward Pentin. The article analyzes the press reaction to Pope Francis’ comments concerning homosexuality.
The point the NCR article makes is that the Pope did not overturn 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on this issue. He simply gave an example by his actions as to how it is lived out in real people’s lives.
The media not only misinterpreted Pope Francis’ comments, but it has consistently, and with what seems to me to often be deliberate malice, misinterpreted Catholic teaching on this subject in its entirety. This is so widespread that I can’t just offhand think of a major media outlet that represents Church teaching accurately.
I know this is due to some extent to the limitations of space and time in which they work. There is also the problem of shoddy workmanship in which they settle for quoting one another rather than checking things out. Whatever the causes, the media has consistently portrayed Church teaching concerning homosexuality inaccurately and negatively.
I was impressed and proud of the way Public Catholic readers responded to this dust up over Pope Francis’ statements. The comments to these two posts concerning the Pope’s remarks were thoughtful, well-informed and intelligent.
You were not stampeded by the press. Bravo!
One thing that I think you already know, but that I want to make clear, is that the Catholic Church does not “hate gays” and it certainly is not homophobic. The only way it could be judged “homophobic” is by self-serving definitions of the word used by people who claim that any limit on homosexual behavior is, de facto, “homophobic.”
The Church offers the same gifts of the sacraments to homosexuals as she does to everyone else. There is no bright line in Church teaching that says that homosexual acts are worse than adultery or other, similar, sexual sins. The Church — and the Pope in his press conference — simply refuse to deny that these acts are, in fact, sinful.
If the Church bowed to the dictates of trendy morality and started going along with people’s demands that it tell them that their sins are not, in fact, sins, it would certainly not be doing them any favors. In fact, it would be endangering their immortal souls, and denying its own mission.
The Church cannot do this.
The Church is here to be a pathway to heaven. It shines a light on the narrow path that will take all of us who chose to follow it Home.
Do you want to go to heaven? Then do what the Catholic Church teaches.
It’s as simple and easy as that.
For those Protestants who don’t fully understand what I am saying, doing what the Church teaches will lead a person into a close, intimate and fruitful relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will be born again into the new life of truth and spirit. Doing what the Church teaches means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I know this is hard to see from the outside, but I’ve lived it, and I know it’s true.
The Church cannot tell people that their sins are not sins. That would be the worst possible lie. It would wreak damage on them of eternal dimensions.
Churches who are falling into the trendy mindset of re-writing the Gospels to suit the fancies and fashions of the day are misleading their followers. They are ignoring their responsibilities to the people who trust them, and to the God they claim to follow.
The Catholic Church, for all the failings of its people, will not do this. It is the Rock and it will not lie to you in ways that can get you sent to hell.
This is not homophobia. It is love.
From the National Catholic Register:
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/misinterpreting-francis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-07-30%2012:53:01#ixzz2aXmze850
“May you live in interesting times.”
That saying is reputed by some sources to be an ancient Chinese curse. Other sources claim it is an ancient Hebrew curse. It appears no one knows for sure exactly where it came from. On the other hand, no one seems to deny the underlying truth of it; that historic, or “interesting” times are often tumultuous and unpleasant for the people who must live through them.
Just as no one wants to have a really good medical malpractice suit, no one wants to live their precious life in the dislocation, misery and often dangerous times historians tend to find “interesting.”
We are fortunate because we are living through a truly historic event and no one will suffer or die because of it. Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect today, and we are temporarily without a spiritual father to guide and govern our great Church. But, interesting as it is, this transit through a historic time is a moment of rejoicing and hope, rather than grief and tumult as we anticipate an orderly transition from one pope to his successor.
We trust that the Church will continue its consistent fealty to the Gospels in the face of whatever attacks opposing forces throw against it. We know that the sacrament of confession is there for us if we sin, the sacrament of the Eucharist will be available to give us strength for our daily journey on all the altars of all the Catholic churches of the world, and that we will have someone to marry us, bury us and, if need be, listen to and console us as we make our pilgrimage through this life to the next.
Pope Benedict XVI made the decision to resign his office and “climb the mountain” of living out the rest of his days as the Pope Emeritus. He has told us he will not go back to a private life of clubbiness and being one of the guys. He will, instead, continue his papal ministry without the administrative burdens of being a head of state and the administrator of this worldwide Church.
I take comfort in the knowledge that he will be upholding us all in his prayers. What a prayer warrior he will be for us and for the Church. I am glad to think that he will be able to rest without the strain and worry of managing this Church, which is a worldwide institution of over a billion people. Pole to pole, dateline to dateline; wherever you go on this Earth, I am convinced that you will find three things: MacDonald’s hamburgers, diet Coke, and the Catholic Church.
If that sounds like less than exalted company, consider that both diet Coke and MacDonald’s deal with the universal human need of food, and the Church provides for that other universal human need of eternal salvation. MacDonald’s feeds the body (albeit not too well) and the Church feeds the soul, and it does that very well, indeed.
President Obama, who is often referred to as the most powerful man on earth, governs a nation of roughly 300 million people. The pope, on the other hand, governs a Church of 1.2 billion.
The pope speaks with the only unified Christian voice in the world today. The Catholic Church is increasingly being forced to stand alone in its support for holy matrimony between one man and one woman, sexual chastity, the sanctity of human life, and the hope of eternal life for all people, everywhere.
The moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church is the single best hope this world has of surviving its own dissolution.
Pope Benedict XVI decided that his age had brought him to the pass where he needed to hand the responsibility for this great Church forward to his successor. Christians everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for the suffering servitude he gave to us and to Our Lord these past 8 years. He is handing forward a Church that has not flinched from the responsibility to be the light, shining in the darkness.
Now that he goes to his new charge of praying and working for the Church and all of us until the end of his earthly days, the best thing we can do is join our prayers to his. We may not be the seasoned prayer warrior that he is, but we are God’s own children.
Let us join Pope Benedict in his prayers for the Church and the world.
At the very least, we can pray as he taught us in his last audience;
“I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”
Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.