Pope Francis, the Synod & the Circular Firing Squad

Pope Francis, the Synod & the Circular Firing Squad October 27, 2015

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The other day, I was listening to a radio talk-show host discussing Rep. Paul Ryan’s bid to be Speaker of the House. A caller complained that Ryan wasn’t a “true conservative,” and that he hadn’t upheld conservative principles in all his votes. The host asked whom the caller would like to have as Speaker instead. The caller named two or three other GOP House members, only to be told by the host that these people either hadn’t thrown their hats in the ring at all, or had actively turned down the idea of running.

When the caller persisted in saying he didn’t want Ryan — even though there wasn’t a viable alternative that better suited him — the host asked him exactly what he thought he’d accomplish by continuing to attack Ryan. The caller had no answer, only sputtered more about how he didn’t like Ryan.

It’s a valid sentiment, but considering the situation, not at all helpful — especially to the likely Speaker of the House and the GOP representatives he’s supposed to be leading. At some point, you need to stop fighting those on your side and start fighting those on the other side.

The end game of people like the radio-show caller is what’s called a circular firing squad, in which everybody in a group shoots at all the other members of their group, achieving nothing but hurting their own.

Meanwhile, their opponents stand to one side, watching the melee, as the work of destroying their enemy is done for them — by the enemy itself.

Unfortunately, too much of what’s going on in the Catholic blogosphere and social media, especially regarding Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family, is a circular firing squad.

Ever since Pope Francis was elected, there have been Catholics who complain endlessly about him — his style, his willingness to talk to the media, how he states the Church’s positions, his priorities, his personal habits, you name it. During the Synod, the panic reached a fever pitch, as people fretted and fussed about what he would say or do, without really having any idea what he would say or do.

All of this was expounded upon in articles, blog posts, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Sometimes, this was done in a careful, measured way, marked by patience and forbearance, aiming to be both fair and enlightening. Other times, the language was pointed, heated and relentlessly negative, along with sarcastic and lacking in charity.

Now, let’s be clear, expressing one’s opinion is a protected right under the First Amendment, not to mention a fundamental freedom of mankind. All of these angry, frustrated, confused, complaining folks are entitled to both their opinions and the liberty to express them.

And I’m not saying that there aren’t worthy criticisms of the pontiff, but there’s a big difference between voicing concerns and running around as if your hair was on fire.

I have a question for the angry end of the anti-Francis spectrum: Exactly what do you think will happen?

The pope is not a politician, who can be voted out of office or impeached. He’s not a even a regular bishop, who can be moved to a new location or relieved of his faculties. Unless Francis chooses to do as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did and retire, he’s there for the rest of his natural life. And to a large part of the non-Catholic world, he is the living symbol of the Church, and therefore, us.

I can’t imagine what these non-Catholics think of the way some of us talk about our pope, who supposedly is protected from teaching error by the Holy Spirit. After all, not even Pope Alexander VI — the infamous Rodrigo Borgia — taught heresy from the Chair of Peter, and he was a corrupt fornicator. If nothing else, that’s evidence of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.

Add to that the fact that the Church has even endured this long. I guarantee you, that’s not the result of our efforts.

Instead, I’d like to suggest channeling those emotions into fighting our real enemies — the radical Islamists murdering our fellow Christians, the abortion industry, the panoply of activist groups attacking our basic rights and freedoms, and a culture that misrepresents and exploits the Faith and the faithful.

Let’s try turning our linguistic weapons away from each other and back in a direction where they can actually accomplish some good.

After all, our job is not to create a perfect Church on Earth, but to be worthy of its perfect founder, and then to meet Him in eternity.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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