“Confusing” Pope Francis & Ignorant, Lazy Lay Catholics

“Confusing” Pope Francis & Ignorant, Lazy Lay Catholics November 27, 2019

The original Facebook title of the first part of this was: “Has Pope Francis Sometimes Acted Imprudently, Causing Confusion That Could Have Been Prevented or Minimized? I Respectfully Think So“. As the discussion went on, I delved into the related question of an educated, responsible lay Catholic populace, and so the title changed. Reactionary Thomas A. Hunt‘s words (originally posted on my Facebook page) will be in blue.


I know a lot of people from all walks of Catholicism, from the blissfully oblivious to the well-informed. Some people just turn off the information and focus on their local parish. That’s not a bad way to live. Among those I know who seek to be informed, your EWTN viewers, your [National Catholic] Register, CWR [Catholic World Report], Ignatius Press, Adoremus readers, well I have yet to find one who is not baffled by what the Holy Father says and does, except for some of the Patheos defenders. So I have questions.
Are you willing to admit that the Holy Father falls short in his duty to foster unity, to confirm the brethren? For example, would any recent Pope allow a Scalfari to ascribe scandalous and heretical positions to the Holy Father, and not offer a correction, and not suspend subsequent interviews? Is Pope Francis’ behavior here unnecessarily and possibly inappropriately provocative? Is it not behavior that provokes disunity?
And instead of a measured defense of the bowing to Pachamama, an explanation of how this is inculturation, i.e. instead of actually teaching, those who don’t understand get the canard of racism thrown their way. How does that promote unity?
Is it really Pope bashing to ask such questions? Not in my book.
1. I have stated many times (including a blog post devoted to this matter) that Pope Francis has acted imprudently and unwisely with regard to Scalfari, and has been lax in repudiating what that idiot continues to say about him (Jimmy Akin, another pope defender, says the same).
2. I’ve also publicly stated several times, that the response to the “Pachamama” fiasco by the Vatican was absurd and woefully inadequate (agreeing with the myriad of critics at least to that extent). It’s left to apologists like myself and non-reactionary Catholic journalists to explain what happened, to the best of our ability, which is infinitely less persuasive and effective than the Vatican and/or Pope Francis doing it. It’s a complete mystery to me why they haven’t done so: regarding this and Scalfari (well, they have with regard to Scalfari, but it keeps happening, anyway).
3. I’m also on record (at NCR, over two years ago) calling for the pope to answer the dubia, and to clarify, as the Shepherd of the Church. I think it is all bum raps; nevertheless, I think it would have been very good for him to blow it out of the water and show how the insinuations are completely unfair, unwarranted, and unjust. My friend, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, wrote an article in which he shows that the dubia have indeed been answered already, in Amoris Laetitia itself. And that might be what the pope would say, for all we know. But I still think it would be better for him to answer and refute the nonsense: just as we apologists almost always do if we are falsely accused or misunderstood, and we’re not even shepherds; merely lowly lay teachers.
That said: none of these things, of course, have to do with theology or suggested heresy. They are matters of prudence, presentation, communication, and “PR” (none of which are protected by the charism of infallibility).
There is no solid evidence that the “Pachamama” incident was idolatry in the first place. All the critics simply assume it without documentation or argument, because to them it “looks like” an idol and they think it’s ugly, to boot. For example, Fr. Pacwa said: “We’re not stupid . . . ” [i.e., in effect, “we know what an idol looks like”]; well, neither are we — with all due respect to a great man — who still believe that documented evidence is necessary before lobbing an extremely serious accusation against fellow Catholics.
Thanks for the response. So you agree that in his capacity to promote unity and strengthen or confirm the brethren the Holy Father has fallen short. In other words, he is part of the problem of the decaying unity of our beloved Church.

Well, I’m merely saying (agreeing this far) that he has been arguably imprudent in a few cases, and arguably should have clarified.

On the other hand, each individual Catholic has more than enough resources to think for themselves and determine the truth of things (including, for example, what Pope Francis thinks about heaven, hell, purgatory, the divinity of Christ, and Jesus’ resurrection: all things that Scalfari claims he disbelieves in). We have the Internet and all kinds of written sources, Catholic radio and TV, parish classes, etc. I’ve written about (in This Rock, in 2004) how Catholics don’t read the Bible nearly as much as they should.

So while I agree that it would have been good for the pope to clarify even such ridiculous false charges, at the same time I think it is at least equally ridiculous for Catholics to be dumb and clueless enough to fall for such inane charges in the first place. In other words, an ignorant, uncatechized Catholic population is a longstanding problem that was obviously there before Pope Francis became pope.

This was true even of Phil Lawler’s hit-piece book on the pope, where he insinuated that the pope may not believe in hell, based on Scalfari’s report. This was atrocious journalism, seeing that Lawler could have taken five minutes (ten, max) to get off his butt and search for these matters on Google (which I did, refuting his malicious gossip in the book). He’s an educated man. He knew much better than to do this sort of shoddy, crappy “investigative journalism.” But his hostility to the pope was too great, and there was too much money to be made in a book trashing him.

I don’t buy this notion that every Catholic either is or should be an infantile ignoramus, sitting there waiting to get their milk from a priest or the pope, and utterly unable to use their minds to figure out things on their own. I think this is a caricature of real, authentic Catholicism and Catholic discipleship, that is rightly laughed at by Protestants, and used as a reason to reject Catholicism. And I dare say, their observing that kind of profound, stupefied (almost invincible) ignorance, dissuades them from becoming Catholics far more than anything Pope Francis says or does.

I was 30 years old before I met a Catholic who could actually defend his or her faith and bring apologetics to bear, in a way that impressed me (an avid evangelical and apologist for seven years by that time). Result: I became a Catholic within two years. If this had happened ten years earlier, it is likely that I would have converted ten years earlier (which would have been even earlier than Scott Hahn did).

Moreover, it is the sin and responsibility of Catholic lay media outlets and of priests who have been gossiping amongst themselves in their little enclaves, to not spread false rumors, innuendo, outright calumnies about the pope. This was never more evident than during the “Pachamama” fiasco. The ones who spread these lies will be accountable before God, and they bear a heavy responsibility for the devastation (however great) that has resulted. It can’t just be blamed on the pope and the Vatican. They bear some blame (I agree, and they could have nipped this in the bud), but so also do the rumormongers and dishonest (largely reactionary) journalist efforts. Anyone who wants to read a different take on that fiasco may be interested in my articles on it:

“Pachamama” [?] Statues: Marian Veneration or Blasphemous Idolatry? [11-5-19]

“Pachamama” Fiasco: Hysterical Reactionaryism, as Usual [11-8-19]

“Pachamama” Confusion: Fault of Vatican or Catholic Media? [11-12-19]



I just put up a post yesterday, of Chesterton quotes regarding journalism (he being among their number himself). Sadly, what he observed over a hundred years ago applies even to many current Catholic journalistic efforts today, when it comes to Pope Francis:

A Labour Member made recently the following observations, if he is correctly reported — which, since I am a journalist myself I know to be extremely unlikely. (The Illustrated London News, 9 February 1907)

Journalists are generally the stupidest of men . . . (Ibid., 1 June 1907)

[N]early everything, as reported in the ordinary newspapers, seems to be pure nonsense. . . . [F]ortunately, I have penetrated far enough into the facts of the modern world never to believe the newspapers. . . . All that anybody ever really meant as the evil of gossip is much more characteristic of established journalism . . .  (1 February 1908)

C. S. Lewis believed exactly the same thing:

Yes, the Time article [cover story on him] was ghastly: but I suppose no one of sense believes such things. I wouldn’t hang a dog on a journalist’s evidence myself. (The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War, 1931-1949, edited by Walter Hooper, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004; 8 April 1948, p. 849)

As to MacArthur, I don’t feel in a position to have clear opinions about anyone I know only from newspapers. You see, whenever they deal with anyone (or anything) I know myself, I find they’re always a mass of lies & misunderstandings: so I conclude they’re no better in the places where I don’t know. (The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, edited by Walter Hooper, HarperSanFrancisco, 2007; 30 April 1951, p. 114)

But don’t send me any newspaper cuttings. I never believe a word said in the papers. The real history of a period (as we always discover a few years later) has very little to do with all that, and private people like you and me are never allowed to know it while it is going on. (Ibid., 17 November 1952, p. 252)

I never read the papers. Why does anyone? They’re nearly all lies, and one has to wade thru’ such reams of verbiage and ‘write up’ to find out even what they’re saying. (Ibid., 26 October 1955, p. 667)

You go on to say that I lack “intellectual integrity.” I say that these efforts of muckraking, cynical, anti-Francis, quasi-schismatic journalism are typified by precisely that characteristic. And that is a far worse trait to have — I submit — than being imprudent, as I have agreed that the Pope and the Vatican have been in some widely criticized instances.

If the synod organizers, appointed by the Pope had not been people like Bishop Krauetler, who is proud to have spent 30 years in the region and to have never baptized a single indigenous person, who is on record for supporting the ordination of women, people might buy some innocent inculturation twist to the Pachamama fiasco. Or if resuscitation were not being given to Liberation theologians. Or . . . if the UN and its sustainable development goals (featuring front and center “women’s health” meaning all sorts of intrinsically evil things like contraception and abortion) were not given such uncritical welcome behind the scenes. Clearly, trust has been broken. So people don’t buy the “splainin'” of you defenders. It rings ever more hollow. This is tragic. The center cannot hold when high ranking officials, people openly supported by the Pope, take questionable positions and say provocative things.

You don’t lay enough blame at the feet of them who provoke, and you dwell on those who most vociferously react to the provocation. It lacks intellectual integrity. Sorry Dave, that’s how I see it.

I agree that most of that (accepting your report at face value) is atrocious and scandalous. Liberals have been wreaking havoc in the Church since the early 1950s. But of course, the blame for their nefarious doings — if we are to blame popes — goes back all the way to Ven. Pius XII. That’s a much more complex issue.

We know now that the vast majority of priests known to have sexually abused, were ordained prior to Vatican II.

My sole concern (as an apologist, not a muckraking journalist like Lawler or Marshall or someone with your quasi-schismatic / doom and gloom mentality) with the “Pachamama” fiasco, was to determine if knowing, conscious, deliberate idolatry occurred. To date, I have seen no indisputable documented proof that it did. And as a good Catholic, I don’t accuse fellow Catholics (including the pope, as it were) of rank and blasphemous idolatry without solid, ironclad proof.

So you’d like pachamama to have come with a little tag around its neck establishing its identity as authentic idol.
Simple documentation of the practitioners of that ritual saying that they intended to worship an idol as God, would be sufficient. Good luck.
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