I do not care much for the moral reasoning of Amoris, nor am I a fanboy of Pope Francis or of his caporegime enforcers who are all rewarded for their sycophancy with red hats. And I would include McElroy in that crowd. But I also think that it is precisely the profoundly inconsistent and unprophetic nature of so much of what passes itself off as “orthodox Catholicism”. Cardinal McElroy and the Moral Theological Project of Pope Francis | Gaudium et Spes 22
This recent article of Dr. Larry Chapp where he is criticizing the pope got this reaction to it with an accusation.
Larry Chapp’s attack on Pope Francis is an attempt to indirectly state Pope Francis is a heretic.
There are a few problems with this statement.
- It’s not true. More on that in a moment.
- Just because you have a legitimate disagreement with someone does not mean you have to think the worst of that person.
- The Pope is not above criticism. But the criticism (as all criticism) must be done with respect and never should deny the dignity of the person being critiqued. Especially the pope.
- “Beware of condemning any man’s action. Consider your neighbor’s intention, which is often honest and innocent, even though his act seems bad in outward appearance. —St. Ignatius Loyola”
One of the reasons I am writing this essay after pondering about it for some time, is that I am tired of seeing too many Catholics judging other Catholics as bad and not worthy to listen to based on a few things they write or post they disagree with while ignoring most of the other things they write or post they might actually agree with. This happens not only to Dr. Chapp but to Pope Francis as well. The disgruntled accusers of orthodoxy tend to attack the person in question and not the particular issue they are writing about even if they mention it. I also wanted to write something about Dr. Chapp and share some pithy quotes from him. It’s a win win situation for the thoughts swimming in my head that want to get out.
Disagreement and Admiration
I honestly really love this pope and usually ignore critiques of him. I don’t agree with Dr. Chapp’s opinion about him. I’m not going to pick a fight with him about it though. I have actually chatted with Dr. Chapp personally in cyber space and he is very cordial, friendly, and civil to talk to. Instead of going on a long rant about why Dr. Chapp is wrong about such and such, I would rather talk about what I agree with Dr. Chapp about. I love his writings about so many other areas, topics and ideas. They are sometimes challenging, thought provoking and often witty and funny.
I live a materially comfortable life and I always have. I have never been a wealthy man by American standards and have always lived paycheck to paycheck with very little money, if any, in savings. Still, I have never gone “without” and my pot-belly attests to my ready access to Cheetos and Chips Ahoy cookies, not to mention my nightly bourbon, while I survey YouTube on my IPad for all the latest on intelligent parrots and the most recent Bigfoot sightings. Indeed, for me, unlike millions of truly poor people around the world, a “food crisis” consists of the realization at 5:00 AM that we are out of half and half for my morning coffee – – a crisis that leads immediately to me climbing into our old Mini Cooper to drive furiously, and contrary to all of the laws of God and man, to the nearest Quickie Mart to purchase the magic elixir. And if the Quickie Mart is out of half and half then for me that constitutes proof positive that God does not exist. The Universal Call to Holiness: Five Kids and a Goldendoodle | Gaudium et Spes 22
If you’re evaluating someone and their thoughts, it’s best to have a broad idea of what they write about. That way when you find something you disagree with within their opinions, you don’t paint them with a broad brush in your critique of what you found objectionable. Believe it or not it is possible to disagree with someone about some things they write and not about other things they write. It is possible to like someone overall despite some things that you think they are dead wrong about either in thought or approach.
I don’t always agree with Dr. Chapp. But, in our fallen world,
it’s a good thing to think and pray together with those we
discern to be doing much more good than harm.- Iván Noel
It also helps if you know something about why and how a person writes. With Dr. Chapp in mind ,the question has to be asked…
What is the overall purpose of his blog?
I choose to call this blog Gaudium et Spes 22because the entirety of my theology and thinking is Christocentric. Gaudium et Spes is a document of the Second Vatican Council that sought to find new ways for the Church to relate to the modern world. It is both central to the conciliar project and increasingly controversial among conservative Catholic commentators.
One of his reasons for starting the blog was…
to recover the hyper-traditionalist Catholic vision of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin and to show why it is more relevant today than ever.
And here he is in his own words describing himself.
I am a bizarre combination of factors: I am a Catholic traditionalist, a theologian and retired theology professor, the owner and manager of a Catholic Worker Farm, a writer, a Romanticist (Romanticism is our only hope by the way), and a selfish blackhole of simmering resentments and not-so-veiled hostilities toward almost everyone.
Introduction to, and rationale for, yet another blog: Introducing Gaudium et Spes 22 | Gaudium et Spes 22
Dr. Chapp describes himself to be the Archie Bunker of the Catholic Blogosphere. Here Larry tells us about his writing style.
I do indeed write with a certain pugnacious bravado since I think a blog should be, among other things, a bit humorous even while making substantive theological points. And, as I have stated before, what is to one person “inflammatory rhetoric” is to another person “spot-on satire.” The response almost always depends upon one’s antecedent views of the target of the satire. Therefore, I make no apologies for writing as I do and will continue to do so. My Response to Dr. Ralph Martin’s Response – Gaudium et Spes 22
And now going back to the point I made earlier about the accusation leveled about Dr. Chapp that was made after one of his articles, is that despite being quite critical of Pope Francis at times…
HE DIDN’T CALL HIM A HERETIC
Here’s some evidence for that, taken from his other writings about PF.
Theologically I think Pope Francis is orthodox, but in very undistinguished and conventional ways. I just don’t think theology concerns him that much.
Pope Francis vs. the Traditionalists: It was Never About the Liturgy | Gaudium et Spes 22
I do not think, as some radical traditionalists claim, that Pope Francis is a heretic. Nor do I think he is a false pope. I think Archbishop Vigano and his minions are full of it and I want nothing to do with him or his many promoters in the clickbait domain of self-aggrandizing, internet crackpots. I do not think Pope Francis is a heretic. But I do think that he is deeply and disastrously wrong about some important things. The Destruction of the John Paul II Institute in Rome and Why it Matters | Gaudium et Spes 22
My claim is that Pope Francis is actually not all that liberal in matters of doctrine and ecclesial discipline, but is rather revolutionary in his approach to moral theology. If you look at all of the pet issues of the Catholic Left over the past fifty years it is clear that Pope Francis has thrown very few favors in their direction. He has not granted the Catholic Left its desire for women priests and deacons, married priests, contraception, abortion in certain limited circumstances, the moral goodness of homosexual relations, unfettered divorce and remarriage, open table fellowship with Protestants, and so on. Furthermore, he seems rather traditional in his Marian piety, his devotion to the saints, Eucharistic adoration, emphasis upon Satan/spiritual warfare, and the power of the Sacraments in general, especially confession.Cardinal McElroy and the Moral Theological Project of Pope Francis | Gaudium et Spes 22
You can disagree with Dr. Chapp. But seriously concentrate on what he said and not about what he didn’t say. Look to his other writings for clues.
What else does he write about?
Some of the Good Chapp Thoughts and Topics are
If the pre Vatican II Church was so strong, vibrant, and faith-filled, that it collapsed almost overnight as soon as the Church lifted the lid off of the ecclesiastical libido after Vatican II? Could it possibly be because everything had already degenerated into a hollow, forensic legalism which is precisely why the Council fathers knew we needed reform?
In Defense of Vatican II. Part One: The Cross of Christ and the Politics of Power | Gaudium et Spes 22
Discovering Hans Urs von Balthasar
One day I took these frustrations to my spiritual director, Fr. Anton Morgenroth. Fr. Morgenroth was the only true intellectual on campus, and so I was drawn to him as the only beacon of sanity. He was a grizzled old German from Berlin, a convert from Judaism, and an accomplished concert pianist. He did not directly address my concerns about the curriculum, but instead went over to his piano and began to play some Mozart. After fifteen minutes he finished and told me that our time was up.
“But Father,” I exclaimed, “what about spiritual direction?” He frowned at me and said, “You imbecile, zat vas spiritual direction!” I was not at all sure what he meant (I do now) but I laughed, got up, and started to leave. As I reached the door he went to his bookshelf, took out a copy of Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s little book Love Alone is Credible (Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe) and threw it at me from across the room. As I caught it he simply said “Here, read zat. It vill make you less stupid.” In defense of Hans Urs von Balthasar – Catholic World Report
The Sound Theology of ‘Dare We Hope’
The fact is this: even in documents that articulated a very narrow understanding of Extra ecclesiam the Church almost always also held that those who were inculpably ignorant of the Gospel could be saved. But they had a very shallow view of human subjectivity and thus greatly restricted what counted as inculpable ignorance. And their anathemas directed at Protestants, Jews, and apostate/heretical Catholics were all predicated on the view that these folks were culpably ignorant of the Gospel and thus damned. That was the main target. But the modern Church, armed with a much more sophisticated understanding of human psychology and the sociology of culture/religion, has greatly expanded its understanding of inculpable ignorance and has broadened its interpretation accordingly. And so I do think this is a legitimate development of doctrine and where the Church erred in the past was not in its fundamental theological ecclesiology but in its application of that theology to the categories of conscience in a shallow and almost naive way.
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus: A Reader’s Excellent Email Prompts a Question: Has the Church Erred in the Past or in the Present? | Gaudium et Spes 22
Like an ecclesial Dr. Evil in his underground lair in California, Robert Barron’s tentacles are now reaching out, gasp, into the Liturgy of the Hours in order to bilk people out of money and to expand his empire of doom. And then, right on cue and as if taken from some secret Trad set of standard talking points, came the (by now) almost creedal litany of complaints against Bishop Barron: Nobody goes to Hell, Ben Shapiro doesn’t need to convert, and James Martin wrote a good book on prayer. And now this latest outrage! Who will stop this man? Inexpensive and easy to use printed Breviaries for lay people? Where is Vigano when you need him? Because surely this is all part of the “Great Reset” engineered by Soros: disposable breviaries designed solely to extend the WOF “empire” must certainly be a part of the same plot to destroy the Church that Pope Francis is overseeing as we speak.
Praising the Liturgy of the Hours
The Church, especially since Vatican II, has encouraged the laity to take up the discipline of the Hours and many of us have answered that call. But that is not to say that it is always easy which is where the “discipline” aspect of the Hours is most helpful, especially for those of us who are putatively “too busy” to pray in such a regulated way. For example, I must admit that I still find Evening Prayer a bit annoying since it comes at a time of day when I am tired and more interested in dinner and my post-dinner evening bourbon than I am in raising my mind to God. But that annoyance is exactly what the discipline of the Hours is meant to tame: First to browbeat me into prayer (it is NOW the time to pray you procrastinating fool), and then to soothe my soul with the psalms – – especially the ones about sybaritic louts like me getting their heads smashed in by the Amalekites as a punishment – – as my initial grumblings and rumblings about the delayed gratification of my belly is transformed into a serene gratitude, a quiet joy, and a calming of my carnally restless soul. In other words, the genius of the Hours is that it turns the very act of not wanting to pray, into a prayer, via the path of the ascetical renunciation of “my” time into God’s time, grumbling all the way, with those grumblings eventually turned into groanings, then turned into the chastened praise of God from a soul whose very recalcitrance has been transformed into an agonistic plea for grace. Mine is a conflicted soul which is why the psalms that speak to the unbelief of the believers hit me the hardest.
Giving Uplifting Christocentric Mediations
Christmas is therefore a radically subversive festival. Born into a realm of violence, the Christ child is uniquely vulnerable from the get-go. His parents were already turned away from an Inn, which, when you meditate upon that, means that the Inn keeper turned away a pregnant woman who was clearly near-ready to give birth. And perhaps that is precisely why he turned them away in the first place signaling just how indifferent and cold the ancient world could be to women, children, and even men of low estate. And immediately following the birth of Jesus, Joseph must take his family and flee to Egypt as the murderous political regime flexes its imperial muscles and begins the indiscriminate slaughter of children in order to calm the neurotic tremors of Herod who imagined that his precious power might be in jeopardy. A Christmas Meditation: The Vulnerability of God | Gaudium et Spes 22
The Importance of Living like Dorothy Day.
I want to emphasize that I in no way expect people, least of all myself, to simply imitate in every detail the specific contours of Dorothy’s vocation. That is not only impossible for most of us, for a host of various legitimate reasons, but also undesirable insofar as we all have our own unique vocations to live out in the kaleidoscopic variety that God has provided. Nor do I think that it is necessary for all of us to live like monks or to take on a life of financial destitution. The Universal Call to Holiness: Five Kids and a Goldendoodle | Gaudium et Spes 22
On Judging Folks
I have long since gotten beyond judging folks based on who likes or dislikes them. Because… you know… blind squirrels and acorns and all that…
Cardinal McElroy and the Moral Theological Project of Pope Francis | Gaudium et Spes 22
Spending Time on Facebook
My seemingly bottomless capacity for distraction and sheer lassitude (“oh look, something new on Facebook!”) knows no limits. I am addicted to “push notifications” (like the latest missive from “uber eats” dinging on my iPhone and beckoning to me with Pavlovian power) and feel almost depressed when my phone falls silent for longer than half an hour. Doesn’t anybody love me anymore? I am a person too you know! Where is my digital dopamine? “Only one ‘Like’ for my last Facebook post of my dog? Seriously? Who are you fools anyway? Don’t you see my genius? Time to get serious and ‘unfriend’ some of these slackers. You don’t appreciate my dog photos? I better write something about why cats are Satan’s Marionettes.” Then there is the ever present temptation of the “academic” on Facebook: “I better respond to this comment since if I don’t defend Balthasar and de Lubac who will? … Crap… that took two hours.”
The New Word on Fire Liturgy of the Hours and Bishop Barron Derangement Syndrome | Gaudium et Spes 22
He also posted this guest post about spiritual abuse.
I suppose my main point is that childish lay (and clerical) perceptions of women’s religious life as a sort of sentimental fairyland of twinkles and wimples, and priests being pelted with spiritual cotton wool balls in Confession, create the conditions in which spiritual abuse can flourish in those communities. Many ex-religious will tell you that when they’ve described abuses in their community, their listeners are very quick to defend the organisation and blame the individual (especially if the religious community has an orthodox reputation). In much the same way as clergy sexual abuse victims were blamed for their assault, people who leave religious life are usually blamed for their departure.
Dr. Philippa Martyr Guest Blog: Thoughts on Spiritual Abuse, Rewilding, and the Discalced Laity | Gaudium et Spes 22
Many who would disagree with his thoughts about Pope Francis would probably like this particular article. If his blog was only one big criticism of Pope Francis and nothing else, well I probably wouldn’t pay much attention to it at all. But it’s not his main focus.
If your going to critique someone and label them as a Pope Francis heretic accuser, consider looking at more than the one post where they disagreed with his pontificate and try to judge the post in light of other things they said about a similar topic or other topics you might agree with the person on. Look for common ground to build a conversation on.
And as Dr. Chapp always ends his posts.
Dorothy Day, pray for us.
He also makes videos and is on quite a lot of videos throughout Youtube.