I’m back to unpacking Pope Francis’s interview, though the world seems to have moved on. Last time we left off with thoughts on aligning our minds with the mind of the Church, and I’ll will pick up from there.
Someone better informed than I am made the observation that Pope Francis’s comments in the interview made sense really only for those who are immersed in a culture permeated with the Christian ideals that undergird Catholicism. I think that may be true for the most part, although everyone and their brother understands mercy when they read about it. And though the infallibility of the laity on matters of faith was another important point Pope Francis made, it is still one that makes no sense if the laity are ignorant of many basic truths of the faith.
And so I pick up where I left off, with the section from the Catechism subtitled THE CHURCH, MOTHER AND TEACHER, and the homiletic advice of Pope Francis,
“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.
Pope Francis’s emphasis on the gospel proclamation is the key to making Christ’s message new, for a people who believe they know all about it, but have grown sleepy in their recollection of its clarion call of salvation for many.
And so when Pope Francis cautions to remember, “of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people,” we can see that this meshes well with the following,
2035 The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.77
In other words, you can’t have this “infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing,” if we’ve forgotten what we believe. Because blind faith isn’t what Catholics have been called to have. We don’t check our brains at the door. But we don’t leave our hearts at the door either. That said, Our Mother the Church doesn’t want us to stay dependent, or be like suckling babes either. If we believe the saving message of the gospel, we are to embrace it, conform ourselves to it, and proclaim it with all of our heart, mind, and strength to others.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.
Why protect mediocrity when there is divine excellence to be observed and proclaimed? After all, these concepts, from the life of the mind of the Church, are necessary for salvation when spending a lifetime walking the Way.
2036 The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God.(DH 14)
And so without batting an eye, the very next day after the interview, in which the World Press was waxing euphoric that the Church would lay off of her teaching office, especially around the pelvic matters of contraception, abortion, gay marriage, etc., Pope Francis delivered an anti-abortion message to obstetricians visiting Rome. And here is the obvious reason why.
2037 The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth. The faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason.(CIC 213) They have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity.
Because we have the right to know the truth, and the duty to obey it. “We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope.” Thomas Merton said something along these lines in No Man Is An Island,
As soon as truth is in the intellect, the mind is “sanctified” by it. But if the soul is to be sanctified, the will must be purified by this same truth which is in the intelligence. Even though our minds may see the truth, our wills remain free to “change the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:25).
There is a way of knowing the truth that makes us true to ourselves and God, and, therefore, makes us more real and holier. But there is another way of receiving the truth that make us untrue, unholy. The difference between these two lies in the action of our will.
And this united body of believers are all responsible for bringing the salvific work of Christ to the world.
2038 In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the practice of the Gospel provide each person with an experience of life “in Christ,” who enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and human realities according to the Spirit of God.80 Thus the Holy Spirit can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions.
A part of the human reality that Pope Francis called for more theological thinking on is that of women withing the Body of Christ. The flag for this comment was picked up by the media and run around as some new thing being championed by Pope Francis. But his predecessors have also called for greater understanding of the complimentarity of the sexes, especially Blessed Pope John Paul II through his teachings around the theology of the body, as well as letters like this one given prior to the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women back in 1995.
As most women themselves point out, equality of dignity does not mean “sameness with men”. This would only impoverish women and all of society, by deforming or losing the unique richness and the inherent value of femininity. In the Church’s outlook, women and men have been called by the Creator to live in profound communion with one another, with reciprocal knowledge and giving of self, acting together for the common good with the complementary characteristics of that which is feminine and masculine.
At the same time we must not forget that at the personal level one’s dignity is experienced not as a result of the affirmation of rights on the juridical and international planes, but as the natural consequence of the concrete material, emotional and spiritual care received in the heart of one’s family. No response to women’s issues can ignore women’s role in the family or take lightly the fact that every new life is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying it in her womb (Cf. John Paul II Evangelium Vitae, 58).
Hence Pope Francis’s remark about being “wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man.” And when the Church does roll out a proper theology of women, we can rest assured that it will be discussed, argued over, dissected, and finally ignored by the World, for reasons Thomas Merton explained as follows,
Although we still may speak the truth, we are more and more losing our desire to live according to the truth. Our wills are not true, because they refuse to accept the laws of our own being: they fail to work along the lines demanded by our own reality. Our wills are plunged in false values, and they have dragged our minds along with them, and our restless tongues bear constant witness to the disorganization inside our souls—”the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father, and we curse men who are made in the likeness of God…Doth a fountain send forth out of the same hole sweet and bitter water?” (James 3:8-11).
Terry Mattingly: Pope Francis speaks — this time the media ignore him.