Opposition to Extreme Anti-Francis Bias: Elliot Bougis

Opposition to Extreme Anti-Francis Bias: Elliot Bougis April 30, 2020

I posted on my blog my paper about a homily from the pope that turned out to be mistranslated, which led to an entirely different (and possibly heretical) interpretation of what he said. The title of it is: Does Pope Francis Think that Jesus Was a Sinner? (. . . Beyond Bearing Our Sins on the Cross; i.e., Partaking / Entering Into Sin)?

Once I started suspecting it was mistranslation, I stated this in the combox of the post I was originally critiquing. In charity, I promised to not mention the person or the post in my paper, since the person who made the charge against the pope (Elliot Bougis: words in blue below) retracted it. I held to that promise in the paper.

But I didn’t promise to not mention *here* any of the people in the thread who said ridiculous stuff. I’m under no obligation to do that: especially since several chose to insult me up and down and act like morons (and continue to today). But juvenile insults are boring after a laugh or two about them. Presently, I’m interested in how these folks (likely radical Catholic reactionaries) “argued” when the issue of accurate translation was brought up. I think you’ll be as amazed and astonished as I was to see what happened.

Elliot Bougis (original paper: “Pope Icarus alights”: 2-22-14; revised 2-28-14):

Just wait for it–”It’s the translation.” It’s the standard defense. Of everything. Unless Pope Francis is reported saying something unambiguously Catholic. In which case reporters and translators are suddenly returned their faculties.

I replied (2-27-14, 2:18 PM): It looks now like all this is, may very well be an unfortunate translation.

“Branch” (2:29) “Just wait for it–’It’s the translation’.” [citing Elliot’s words above, in mocking agreement]

(2:32) I think the argument has collapsed. Here are the sentences in question, with Babylon translation, and then the rendering of an Italian friend of mine, Greta Villani: [examples provided]

Steve Fowler (2:32) The Protestant says, “You’re not disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with the Bible! With God!” The converts says, “You’re not disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with the Magisterium! With God!”

(2:47) I say, in light of the recent linguistic developments: “You’re not disagreeing with me, or with Pope Francis; you’re agreeing with a [now known to be] stupid translation that makes Francis sound heterodox, when in fact, his true words were absolutely orthodox and explicitly biblical language: the latter of which was written under the inspiration of God!”

(2:35) Ah, the new Gnosticism: nobody can possibly know what was said in another language. Translations being, you know, quite impossible! One of the problems with that approach is the gap: the Pope is not supposed to merely avoid blatant heresy, but clearly and emphatically proclaim the fullness of truth. It is really area [sic] to blame so large a gap to translation.

(2:39) Google translations concur: [examples provided] I asked my [Italian] friend Greta [Villani] about the other translation and she said,”It definitely changes the meaning of the phrase.” Case closed, i.e., unless you can find some linguists, etc, who defend the other rendering.

(2:50) The new Gnosticism…

(2:53) Ah, yes, the new Magisterium of linguists! The Pope has every ability to only speak in documents which are translated by the Vatican itself, and put on the Vatican website. To be sure, that would be difficult, but hardly impossible. In any event, it strikes me as odd that translation was possible with the last two Popes, but suddenly is now just so, you know, impossible!

(3:09) Keep digging in, Steve. There is nothing wrong, let alone conspiratorial about simple linguistic analysis. Since words were made such a big deal of here, leading to a charge of supposed heresy (because the pope was allegedly using Lutheran terminology and concepts), it’s completely relevant to get as accurate a translation as we can. Elliot seems to be softening. . . . We must follow the facts. All of us have been wrong about things. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to retract or apologize online, in my 17 years of having a website. There’s no shame in that.

(3:11) Right [replying to Steve Fowler’s remark at 2:50 above]. Well, obviously there is no rational discussion with you on this. I tried. I’m a Gnostic, as well as now a mocker and ultramontanist.

(3:35) I will retract the claim that the pope said that Christ became “the sinner”. It is a bad translation and I was rash to go with the English. However, I saw “the sinner” in both English and in German, so that has me wondering: why can no one seem to get the pope’s words correctly? Why are we faithful constantly required to thrash out his gnomic utterances? It’s easy to change things online, as we all know, . . .

(3:44) . . . Francis never said what it was claimed that he said.

(10:35) . . . I readily admit that I placed too much weight on the particular phrase “Christ became the sinner”, . . .

[revised version of his paper: 2-28-14] Good news! I am happy to report that I rashly followed a faulty English translation of the homily in question, so I shall “retractate” the commentary I made in this post (22 Feb 2014) which depends on the exact phrase, “Christ became the sinner”. Thanks go to Dave Armstrong for correcting me on this point. I apologize for being “sloppy.” I owe the Church and my readers more care. I assure you that I am as relieved as anyone to find that Pope Francis did not say that . . .

Elliot writes in his revised paper: “bizarrely enough, even in its original form, the blasphemous phrase wasn’t enough to rattle many Serious Catholics.”

He’s referring to me (at least in part) here, because I defended the pope when we were all dealing with the mistranslation, saying that Jesus Christ “became a sinner.” He mocks and derides this now, as if I will defend the pope no matter what, since he thinks I am what he inaccurately calls a “soft ultramontanist.”

The truth of the matter is that I approach the pope (the leader of my faith and the Vicar of Christ and successor to St. Peter) in charity, giving him every benefit of the doubt if I think he might be wrong: very unlike Elliot, who judges and condemns and pontificates like a drunk Luther against the Holy Father — for all the world to see — at the drop of a hat.

So he classifies me as a “soft ultramontanist” for doing so. I classify him as a radical Catholic reactionary with verbal diarrhea for doing what he does, dozens of times: trashing the pope if he gets a weather report wrong or forgets to cross a “t” in one of his writings, or says “Mark” when he meant “Matthew” . . .

My defense was perfectly plausible, and no proof at all of alleged slavish blindness or special pleading. I argued that the unclear words ought to be interpreted by the clear, in context. Elliot, being the cynic and accuser regarding All Things Papal, as he is, chose to interpret the clear by the unclear and dubious. I wrote, explaining the principle I operate by (as a reasonable, charitable assumption to begin with):

When the pope uses non-standard terminology . . .he intends it in an orthodox sense, as indicated by simultaneous standard, biblical, traditional usage . . ., by which we can interpret it, according to the time-honored hermeneutical principle of “interpret the less clear by the more clear.”

I said that the pope was possibly guilty of “sloppy language” (freely granting that), but that heresy has to be established by far more than a few words (that later turned out to be nonexistent: the pope — as with Cardinal Newman’s famous reply to his accuser Kingsley — never said them). I granted the benefit of the doubt. I was right, because the original “negative” conclusion based on a few words was dead wrong. I wrote at the time:

The difference between us is that I interpret sloppy language as simply sloppy (a problem of expression) and not necessarily proving heresy (a problem of false theology), but you guys, insistent on seeing heresy under every ‘rock’ (papal utterance), interpret it at the drop of a hat as heretical.

Pope Francis was accused of “Lutheranism” in large part because of the mistranslation (this charge remains, by the way, in the revised paper: post-retraction). So I cited Pope Benedict talking about the same passage:

In a General Audience of 9-24-08, Pope Benedict favorably cited Luther (as ‘worth remembering’) in commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ is not Christ’s but ours’ (Comments on the Psalms of 1513-1515). And thus we are saved.

Elliot shot back later that he would throw Pope Benedict under the bus, too, if he had to, after he studies this more closely [many reactionaries since then have done exactly that, since Benedict doesn’t renounce the dreaded Pope Francis. He wrote:

Errors are errors, no matter who says them, and I have zero qualms about concluding that Benedict went a bridge too far if he endorsed the Lutheran account of atonement as baldly as Pope “If one does not sin, one is not human” Francis has done. Indeed, insofar as Benedict seems to have counseled an aged Lutheran not to convert to the Church, and the quotation you provide was in a Lutheran-friendly setting, I think it’s clear he might have hyperextended his ecumenical bone on a few occasions. In a word: Assisi 2.0.

If he is dissed over ecumenism (just as some are now thumbing their noses at his Summorum Pontificum, because it dares to uphold the New Mass as well as the Old), Pope St. John Paul II certainly will be, too. And Pope St. Paul VI presided over the New Mass coming in, and Vatican II, so he’s dispensable in the reactionary mentality, as is Pope St. John XXIII, who started the Chicken Little travesty of Vatican II. So we’re back to Ven. Pope Pius XII as the last “real” pope who can be believed and not second-guessed at every turn. The canonization process, is, of course, fallible and open to question, too, so who cares if Pope St. John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII are saints? Elliot didn’t oversee the process as devil’s advocate and Arbiter of All Things Orthodox and Catholic, so all that is invalid.

I don’t think it’s inconceivable at all that Elliot could thus (by this asinine “reasoning,” that many have followed) diss all the popes since 1958 and become a sedevacantist in a year or two (or at least SSPX), with the trajectory we see in his anti-Francis rantings. Or he could possibly become an agnostic. [he wrote a bunch of articles at the reactionary site One Vader Five in 2014-2015] Many hyper-rationalists have gone that route, because they find themselves believing less and less, till they just say, “to hell with it.” I’ve seen it, just as I’ve seen others go into the “wacko right” fringes. It’s a problem primarily in thinking. If cynicism and “know-better-than-popes”-ism evolves into a literal idolatry of one’s own opinions and mind (as it has in agnostics who used to be Christians), Elliot could find himself in the same boat one day. Something to ponder . . . It’s tough for Doubting Thomas (like the rich man) to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I gave the pope the benefit of the doubt. It was warranted, because the “difficulty” was resolved by learning that he never even said what he reputedly said. I assumed he was not expressing heresy. I was right. This is why it’s always good to believe the best of people (1 Corinthians 13), rather than the worst. But Elliot goes blithely on, continuing to accuse the pope of heresy on other grounds, based on the same homily: quite like those whom St. Paul described as ones “who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7).

I have observed for over twenty years now that radical Catholic reactionaries act and think very much like the modernists they so loathe. It’s sort of like the identifying with the oppressor mentality: like radical feminists acting so much like the men they detest. It’s clearly beyond reason. No one ever gets anywhere trying to argue with this foolishness. I guess it takes tragedy or some major epiphany to wake people up from this disease of the mind and spirit.

Elliot replied:

Steve, I haven’t read Dave’s sermon (err, um, yet, uhhh), but, wait, did he actually trot out the sede warning? So predictable, and so vain. Yer diffrent from me so yer a yucky heretick.

And then:

Dave, run along now. I’ve complied with your ultimatum (though I was never clear if the threat was that you’d take me over your right or over your left knee to learn me whatfer). Your services are needed elsewhere. Pope Francis has just jumped the shark–again:

I replied to the first:

I said no one was a heretic. What might possibly be in the future is an entirely different proposition (ask Gerry Matatics and Mario Derksen [both sedevacantists] about their views in 1999 when I and others were trying to reason with them). You claim that the pope is a heretic. So why do you lie about me supposedly saying about you (before even reading what I wrote, at that!), what you say about the pope? A bit of projection? You think everyone else slings around the charge of heresy, just because you can’t resist it every day when you get out of bed?

* * * * *

What he calls my “ultimatum” was an offer in charity that if he would retract the false charge against Pope Francis, I wouldn’t mention his name or site in the paper I did about it. I kept to my promise (even though he still charges the pope with heresy in the paper; just without the discredited words that he never said).

Meanwhile in return I get an avalanche of insults from his sycophants on his site, with him now joining in (after refraining thus far). What these clowns call a “threat” or an “ultimatum” was a charitable offer to save Elliot embarrassment at having been so wrong. But even that has to somehow be spurned and rejected as if it were somehow arrogant or insincere.

Earlier in the thread I was asked about what I was doing about all the confused Catholics who are puzzled about the pope. I said that I wrote a book about it, which is constructive, rather than tearing down the pope at every turn [since then I have defended the pope 173 times]. So now several of the fools over there have mocked me, as if I am a know-it-all (one who thinks he is the arbiter of orthodoxy) and money-grubbing pretender (because I mentioned that my book could be bought as low as $2.99), simply because I said that I wrote a book in order to try to help people, in response to a query as to what I was doing about the situation!!!

You can’t win with this sort of idiotic mentality. Pray, folks. Those who think and act like this are beyond any rational discussion (yet ironically pride themselves as exceptionally rational, over against us gullible, naive dummies who actually love and follow the pope!). We see the old biblical adage fulfilled (in full or in part) again:

Proverbs 9:7-8 He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, . . . [8] Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Elliot then wrote:

Yes, I’m sorry, I forgot that your slur of choice is “dissenter”.

I have specifically used the term heterodoxoid to distinguish my worries from any accusation of heresy. Heresy is obstinate adherence to dogmatic error.

You have spoken your peace [sic] and I appreciate your prayers and counsel. Do not comment on this thread again, nor on some other thread just to continue the conversation. At some other juncture we may resume this thread, and there are other topics that can be discussed, but for now, you’ve earned yourself a break from me. Thank you, and congratulations.

I don’t make a habit of visiting venues where the ethical standards are so low that wholesale mockery of commenters is permitted without a single word of censure. Not my cup of tea. It would be like having a guest in your house and three of your friends are also there, and they insult the guest repeatedly. You as the host say not a thing about it. No one acts like that in person; yet online it’s as common as dirt: people acting like pompous asses and idiots. I’ll never visit Elliot’s stinkhole again in order to comment (it would be an insult to my intelligence and that of my readers) . . . I may visit it to refute the garbage he dishes out against the pope there. So I’m banished from the thread. I wonder if he’ll also banish those who will likely keep on insulting and acting like obnoxious juvenile asses on the same thread?

It’s a falsehood that he hasn’t applied “heresy” or “heretical” to the pope. In the very post in question, he refers in a broad way to the pope’s “Lutheranism.” He wrote in the combox for it:

In any event, we all have free will. If Pope Francis chooses to speak like a heretic, and chooses not to retract a thing, that’s his free choice. I remain loyal to Our Lord and the papacy, but I sincerely pray Francis will find the grace to cease disseminating so much confusion and error. We’re obliged to stay loyal to our coach, but the fact is, if the coach runs onto the ice and kicks the puck around, it’s no disloyalty on our part to accept the ref’s call: broken rules are broken rules and there are some things not even coaches are permitted. (2-22-14)

You’ll notice that I used the neologism “heterodoxoid”, in order to express the idea that if Francis obstinately defended the heretical assertions as they were first presented to me, then he’d be heretical. If challenged, however, and he gave the right qualifications, good. (2-27-14)

Elsewhere he has written:

This is the baldest modernism, and it comes straight from the mouth of the Vicar of Christ. . . . Akin linked to, but did not address the Pope’s claims in Brazil, and did not even mention the Pope’s heretical comments to Caritas Internationalis. Perhaps he will address these grave defects… but something tells me that he won’t. (“These are the woids you’ve been looking for!” — 1-2-14)

I want to organize and deepen my comments from another blog for a critique of a key defect in the Pope’s teaching on conscience, as it may be the only point on which I can say with certitude that he’s wrong and must retract the statement as a heretical claim. (“A note on method…” – -11-6-13)

I don’t want to call him a heretic. The idea bothers me, and, sincerely, I’m not convinced that he is one. I am only willing to say that I think his entire sense of orthodoxy is so newfangled and “mystical” that he doesn’t really care enough not to make heterodoxoid statements. . . . One does not have to “be a card-carrying Modernist” to be infected by, and thus a transmitter for, modernist ideas. It is of the very nature of Modernism to be insidious, and to advance unevenly, one tendril at a time under the door, unless it is vigorously hedged and uprooted under the strong lights and hard old tools of the Magisterial Biblical Tradition. . . . I think that, despite his commitment to orthodoxy, he is much more infected by modernism than the mainstream Catholic readership is willing to admit. . . . Does he need to sacrifice a pig on the altar before we can agree that he’s simply not living up to snuff as the Vicar of Christ? I know, harsh judgments, Pharisees, Older Brothers, ideology, yada yada yada. The point is that, as Steve Skojec says, the actual issue is how much damage he can do while still remaining “within the bounds of orthodoxy.” I just think he’s an immensely haunted former conservative who is floundering to forge a new liberal self as a kind of atonement for his sins while a priest and bishop. . . . I think his behavior shows great disdain for his office, as if he genuinely feels that he is bigger than the papacy. He’s anti-clerical, anti-institutional, anti-traditional, (allegedly) anti-ideological, . . . (Comment on 11-5-13 under “Lovely…” — 11-4-13)

I used to want to believe he had an elaborate but skewed theology, but now I may just be ready to resign myself to the notion that he has no coherent theology at all, just a bubbling stew of homiletical one-liners and pastoral stunts. God help me, a heretical pope would be a relief compared to a careless one. (Comment on 10-29-13 under “Fixed prayers fix prayer…” — 10-27-13)

Tony Jokin wrote on Elliot’s page:

If it takes Dave Armstrong, a Catholic Apologist, to explain what the Pope actually said in a homily and how to interpret it consistently with tradition, then don’t you think there is something already wrong?

I replied:

Absolutely: with the idiot translator who gave us “became a sinner” that the pope never said. Is that the pope’s fault, too? How does that make him guilty of ambiguity, in that instance? That was the main part of the homily that I had to interpret, since Elliot immediately determined that heresy was in play, deciding that the pope is guilty of “Lutheranism” and all the rest.

Alas, I am now banished by request, but I was brought up again, so the rudimentary rules of fairness suggest that I be able to reply (especially since it is open season on me in this same combox; anything goes; no moderation whatever here, except to ask me to shut up and depart).

Then Dale Price chimed in:

[citing Elliot] “Even in its original form, the blasphemous phrase wasn’t enough to rattle many Serious Catholics.”

Therein lies the bulk of my problem with this pontificate. A deeply unnerving “the Pope said it, I believe it, that settles it!” mindset. In other words, a charitable interpretation should never do violence to reason. Alas for that.

I already answered this bum rap above. I choose to believe that the pope is not a heretic or expressing heretical sentiments, short of massive proof that he is. I never discovered that he did (or was) so in writing my book about a dozen or so alleged “scandals.” I didn’t find it here, either.

That used to be called, once upon a time, er, “Catholicism.” Not anymore: now the presumption is that the pope is out to sea and all of us laymen with a blog (and/or a big mouth) know basic theology better than he does, so we can feel self-important and show how stupid he is and how smart we are. Those who follow and respect him are pegged and put into a box as mindless automatons and Ultramontanes.

I presumed he was orthodox; Elliot presumed he wasn’t. I cited St. John Chrysostom, who said that it would be more shocking to say that “he became sin” than “he became a sinner.” The former is biblical language. The latter is not. Who turned out to be correct? Me. Pope Francis never said the alarming words.

What is “deeply unnerving” is the rush to judgment at the drop of a hat. It’s not only that, but the height of arrogance and most unCatholic behavior. The local baker or the garbage man is given more honor and benefit of the doubt than this pope is, from all the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Nothing I did, when I was speculating upon how he could say “became a sinner” was contrary to reason. I simply presumed that I didn’t know everything, and was interpreting what seemed odd to me, too (I said it was “sloppy language”). But I guess the latter is getting to be a rarer and rarer point of view as well: presuming that one doesn’t have all the answers, leading one to shut one’s [Catholic] mouth where it is prudent to do so.

Elliot then pulled out all the stops, dropping the pseudo-civility:

Oh good grief, Dave, you really are a prima donna. If you didn’t notice, you blew the O-ring on this thread with your usual water cannon of jabs and special pleading, so if anyone needed moderating, it’s you. The reason I asked you to say no more is because you were getting repetitive all over again. I didn’t say “shut up” and I haven’t “banned” you (you have a real knack for loaded rhetorical framing). I have simply asked you to be the bigger man and respect silence as a guest at my blog. The only reason I have not deleted your comment here is because I agree, you have a right to respond to direct comments, though I would ask other readers not to summon you anymore on this thread. You have your own blog. Enjoy it. Don’t worry, I’m bound to have something posted in the near future for which you can lambaste me on your blog.

And please, stick to compiling anthologies or jousting with Protestants. You are at your worst when talking down to dissenters [line struck through this word] fellow Catholics. [bolding his own]

Of course, my use of “dissenters” that he so objected to is not contrary to being a Catholic at all, whereas to be a “Lutheran” or a “heretic” (words he has applied to the pope) is.

So I’m supposed to be a “bigger man and respect silence as a guest” while Steve Skojec comments four minutes later: “You’re a special kind of [bleep].” Elliot thinks that’s great, since after all, it’s directed at someone who dared to critique him rather than lick his feet!

Insults of that sort are fine and dandy, but if I dare try to reason through the thing as a “guest” and step on some toes, I must leave at once, lest the site be in danger of witnessing more than two points of view at once, and the dangerous foreign notion of actual exchange of ideas be introduced!

So Elliot retracted because he had no choice: the facts of language were undeniable. Yet he continues to make basically the same claim in the post: that Pope Francis is guilty of soteriological heresy or something quite close, and is “Lutheran.”

He and his friends have now crapped all over my charitable act of not mentioning Elliot in the blog paper that I wrote, and continue to mock and insult on the thread after asking me to leave and not come back to it.

That doesn’t strike me as a humble acknowledgment of error and resolve to do better. Without missing a beat, now they are babbling about some other “scandalous” papal incident. He got rid of what he absolutely had to (lest he look like even more of a fool), then retrenched with what he had left, and resumed the insults directed to those of us who actually think the pope is great.

He denied that he called the pope a heretic at all, but I documented above that he indeed has, including in the latest post. So now he is misrepresenting himself as well as the pope.

Then he pats himself on the back for using the term “heterodoxoid” of the pope: as if that is tons better than “heterodox.” What charity! What love! What incredible brain power ol’ Elliot shows by holding back from saying the worst! An example for all of us to emulate, while the pope is pilloried and slandered day in and day out . . .

I think people like this should be severely censured by their bishops if they don’t have the decency and wits to shut up voluntarily. This garbage and filth being spewed out daily by Elliot Bougis and scores of others is far more scandalous than anything the pope has done.

Like all good radical Catholic reactionaries (this is classic reactionary mentality), Elliot skirts right up to the edge of calling the pope a modernist and goes back and forth, playing with the line:

In any event, I do not think that everything the Pope says is heterodox, modernist, etc. He’s a much better pope than a worse one. I’m just grappling with some key assertions, presented over time and in various contexts, that truly baffle me. Where do such ideas even come from? How do we reconcile them with his orthopraxis? . . .

It just happens that right now my current focus is on making sense of the contradictory voice that Pope Francis has. If it were just me noticing that, I’d swallow it and shaddup, but I’m just one “bedwetter” among many, and the number of bedwetters seems to be going up rather than down. He’s been called a modernist, and I fully understand the motive behind that claim; I’m not, yet, willing to echo it, though. . . .

I grant that Pope Francis teaches in a way that strives to be non-modernist, but I believe his idea of pastoral guidance is infected by that old-time modernist imprecision and ambiguity. So I do not really believe he is of ill will. I’m trying to understand the complexities of the Pope, and parsing them is necessarily a critical task. I realize that gives my writing a one-sided appearance, but it’s the best I can do for now. At least I don’t feel literally insane anymore and the despair has backed off several steps from its earlier embrace. . . .

I’m just having to learn by grace that Francis is just “not the pope for me.” But, of course, the Church doesn’t revolve around me. The problem is simply that I have enough trouble staying in the saddle of my own rambunctious mind: trying to use my mind’s convoluted star map to navigate the asteroid belt of one of the most byzantine (or erratic?) minds I’ve ever met this side of Catholicism, is like trying to adjust Ptolemaic orbits with new epicycles every day or so. I mean, even as I posted those quotations (above) I was like, “Well, if you take that in this sense and this in that sense, etc. etc. it all kind of gels in a kaleidoscopic pastiche,” but I’m just not finding it worth the effort to keep twisting my decoder ring for Pope Francis. As I’ve said, even the straight, orthodox stuff is pretty avuncular and boilerplate.


I’m left with two fairly depressing options.

First, maybe I’ve merely convinced myself that Pope Francis has this whole elaborate set of assumptions which account for the inconsistencies, so that I have a hermeticist key that cures my vertigo, or… second, maybe he doesn’t care about overall consistency, preferring to tailor his words with reckless abandon to each unique interaction and there’s literally no internal scaffolding to his theology. Honestly, I think I’d rather believe in the elaborate theory than admit that this pope doesn’t care about intellectual coherence as long as he produces the desired “effect” in his immediate audience.

The upshot is, first, as I’ve said before, that if this pope is not really trying to reach me then I’ll just ignore him until he does, and, second, that if he doesn’t care what words he uses from day to day, then neither do I. As I mentioned earlier in this post, and as I indicated in my last post, I’m done discerning the Pope’s words for some time; it’s enough to watch and pray as he goes about his business. (“A fascinating glimpse…” — 10-26-13)

Pope Elliot I continues, calling Pope Francis a modernist:

The preference Pope Francis has for modernist progressivism, biblicist iconoclasm, Catholic defeatism, and populist banality are all marks of him as the first Anti-Counter-Reformation pope.

If you, dear reader, don’t or won’t recognize these kinds of words and actions as the worst kind of “spirit of Vatican II” shibboleths, then your head is in the sand and your ass is ripe for a kicking–and not a kick from me, but from the very progressives whom you say are hijacking Pope Francis’s papacy.

They get it. As long as the pontifical “son of the Church” does not officially and emphatically denounce certain progressive causes for as wide an audience as his interviews have had, then progressives know they can keep running with the ball. They don’t care what he really believes, nor how orthodox he actually is among the orthodox. They care about the message he is sending, not the words he is or is not saying––and being vindicated by the Vatican on precisely that dichotomy doesn’t help. The press is picking up on what are being called a “diplomatic” message, realizing, without much effort, how Pope Francis elides certain crucial words about, say, marriage which his predecessors made sure to enunciate. Indeed, he seems to be the first Pope ever blithely to use the word “gay”, thus ontologically legitimizing it as far as “the Catholic voice” is concerned. Despite the endless refuge soft ultramontanists, on their water-carrying errands, take in the idea of the malapapalisms being merely “off the cuff”, there is nothing accidental about this Pope’s choice of words. As far as they’re concerned, Pope Francis is giving progressives all the latitude they’ve been waiting for. Let him shout the old pieties to the faithful at this or that gathering in Italy, but meanwhile, in the media, the laxist logic is metastasizing. (“The battle within… (part 1)” — 10-17-13)

And yet more:

Though it completely baffles me, a lot of people are just gaga for Pope Francis, but as for me and my house, I never again want to hear from “Our Pope of the Interviews.” I never again want to have to defend, and certainly not laud, what I call the “Pope Guido” dimension of Pope Francis: the treacly, vaguely spiritualist, improv-open-mic, “The Future Is Now,” semi-modernist, Teilhardian, Whiteheadian, over-familiar-shoulder-slapping-two-handed-handshaking-used-car-salesmanesque Francis of “the Spirit of Vatican II.”

For, when he “gets like that”–when it’s time for Our Pope of the Interviews to take the stage–that’s when, frankly speaking, Papa Frankie scares the shit out of me.

It is not mockery to point out how Pope Francis looks and sounds to his intended audience, i.e. to worldlings and to the enemies of the Church. It’s not mockery to insist that we lowly Catholic layfolk are under no obligation to disentangle, prop up and valorize the Pope’s off-target statements and actions. For instance, when Vanity Fair, in a recent piece titled ‘Blissed Out Hipster Pope Has Favorite Fellini Movie’, summarizes the Pope’s message as “let’s stop worrying what other people do with their genitals and uteri, and start spreading God’s love”, I’m well within my rights to say, “Well played, Pope Guido, well played.”

And so I write.

And write.

And keep writing. [he sure does!]

But do I defect? Do I renounce the Pope as a heretic?

I do not. I remain Catholic. For that is what being Catholic means: to abide with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, the Tradition, the Liturgy, the Magisterium, and the brethren even in spite of many headdesks that “the world’s parish priest”, or any other of the brethren, may induce in me. Despair is not an option, but groaning out loud certainly is. (Scroll back up to see the first papal intention for this month.) . . .

Oops, there I go again, letting the world see my unhinged, dissident, arrogant scorn for the Pope.

My bad.

But I’m Just following my conscience, so it’s all good. (“Catholic is as Catholic does…” — 10-4-13)

And more (the big mouth that never shuts):

That the world has long opposed the Church was, I agree, a given–until it started slapping the “Pop(e) Star” on its cultural vanguard covers. “The world” is not the problem; the problem is that the faithful are gaining momentum in their dyscatechesis and dissent by virtue of an unprecedented “Can’t we all just get along?” papacy. Yes, he’s said the right things to the right particular audiences, but what abides is what he’s either left unsaid or garbled to the vast majority of the public. He’s saying what dissident Catholic want to hear. He’s let the leash run out longer than perhaps ever before, with the exception of Paul VI, and, like Paul VI, I suspect he will have his moment of iron resolve on the key issues (à la Humanae Vitae), but by then he will be up to his ears in the knots of his P.R. papacy’s own making. Francis wanted a mess in the dioceses, and he’s getting it. (2-9-14, comment underneath “Accept that the world is accepted…” [same date] )

And again:

You can’t use Pope Francis’s hardline, cultural-warrior background as a lens for interpreting his liberal oracles of late, and then use his liberal oracles of late to put hardline culture warriors in their place. (“Looks like somebody forgot to take his meds…” — 11-18-14)

The gift that keeps on giving:

Meanwhile, if his regret over the Scalfari interview is sincere, might we not be witnessing in Pope Francis a Pius-IXesque conversion from a rose-colored liberalism to a repentant conservatism? (“Chalk one up for the panicky bedwetters…” — 11-3-13)

Pope Elliot the One-Note Tune!:

Here the Pope not only says that everyone’s conscience is autonomous, even if it is ill formed, but also emphasizes beyond all doubt that the relativistic ambiguity of his prior statement (the one resurrected by Sr. Anne) is in fact to be understood in its liberal, relativist sense.



We already know Francis is the honey badger pope. I myself had fun with that ‘meme’ when it first started circulating, but, since then, and, ironically, especially in light of Dr. Popcak’s reflection, one of the most widely praised “big interview” responses among the clean-up orthodox, I’ve come to a time-saving decision on how to deal with what are probably inevitably more such “interviews” from this “humble” pope––a pope so humble, mind you, that he’s either agreed to or set in motion over 16,000 words of commentary and media fixation on himself in the past two weeks alone.

What’s my time saver?

It turns out that I needn’t be alarmed or scandalized, since Pope Francis is not even really talking to the likes me––the enclosed, orthodox, the morally zealous Catholics, the saved ninety-nine. He’s talking to the one lost sheep, to the outsider, to the rebel. So, in so far as he’s not talking to me, I’m no longer listening to him, well, until he chooses to speak authoritatively and unambiguously as the Pastor the Church from the Seat of Peter.

In closing, since my new mantra is “laugh so you don’t cry,” I’ve come up with a new strain of jokes: “Pope Francis and a journalist walk into a bar and the journalist asks the Pope what he’s drinking. The Pope answers, ‘________,’ but then the bartender blurts out, ‘Well, actually, in context, what he meant to say is….’

You’ve gotta laugh so you don’t cry. (” ‘“Traduttore, traditore…'” — 10-2-13)

Folks, you can believe rotgut like this, or you can read a book like my own, which explains (successfully or not: you judge) that the pope is perfectly orthodox (or read some of my 173 defenses of his orthodoxy).

Elliot has now made his attack-piece on the pope, “Pope Icarus alights” password-protected. Can’t be too careful! I was insulted up and down by several people in that thread, and Elliot saw nothing whatever wrong with that. Now they can do so even more, without my being able to see it. Mock and lie away folks! See how much it makes me stop what I’m doing, if I think it’s important [not at all; in fact, it has the very opposite effect]. But if I dare set foot in there and provide another view! Well, we can’t have that! So let’s hide our slander and calumny under a rock; that way we can indulge in the sin even more!

In a cached version, I can still see Elliot’s new disclaimer at the beginning of his paper, “Pope Icarus alights”:

[28 Feb 2014 — Good news! I am happy to report that I rashly followed a faulty English translation of the homily in question, so–as soon as my greater priorities in life allow me–I shall retract and revise the commentary I made in this post (22 Feb 2014) which depends on the exact phrase, “Christ became the sinner”. Thanks go to Dave Armstrong for correcting me on this point. I assure you that I am as relieved as anyone to find that Pope Francis did not say that (although, bizarrely enough, even in its original form, the blasphemous phrase wasn’t enough to rattle many Serious Catholics). Unfortunately, as I shall explain in a separate post, the homily’s theological problems remain, albeit less flagrantly than in the form conveyed by that exact expression. It takes a certain kind of mind not to admit that such problems remain, even without the phrase in question, but I trust that most of my readers will be able to follow the argument.]


(originally posted on 2-28-14 on Facebook)

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures (4-5-14) [PixabayPixabay License]


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