Applying What We’ve Learned

Applying What We’ve Learned April 24, 2014

So, as we just saw with the Bundy hysteria, it is an almost guaranteed sure bet that when everybody leaps on a hysteria band wagon, things are not going to end well and a lot of people will look stupid.

Let’s apply that to the latest MSM Lefties/Reactionary Catholic tag team panic about Pope Francis allegedly telling divorced/non-annulled/remarried Catholics “Screw the Tradition! The Eucharist is an all you can eat buffet!”

As Fr. Z has meticulously pointed out, there is no There there. All we have are some second and third hand rumors, foolishly passed along by MSM types who always believe Francis is just about to destroy the Tradition and by Reactionaries who always believe the MSM when it says that.

There’s nothing there. Nothing.

There are two ways to approach this:

You can say, “When you have a single hard fact beyond ‘Yes, Francis did have a conversation with this person’ get back to me.”

Or you can panic and once again run around with your hair on fire, saying things like “Even if the story is not true, there’s little doubt that Pope Francis has set himself up for these situations.” Think about that. Even if the story is a lie, somehow the lie is Francis’ fault, because the voices in your head say so. Similarly, Jesus set himself up for the charge of terrorism because his words were twisted into saying he was going to destroy the Temple.

This is a total and complete non-story.

Avoid hysteria. It’s bad.

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  • Legion

    This is really the best you’ve got?

  • stwannabe

    Problem is, the woman’s husband is saying it’s okay. Looks bad, sounds bad… so we’re not to over react and judge on this one, but okay to do so with the Bundy case. Hmmm….

  • silicasandra

    I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but people really believed our Holy Father would say something like this? *Catholic* people? When did the MSM ever, EVER, get anything right about Catholicism, ever?!

    It is scary how people will instantly believe anything that confirms their worldview, even if the source is crazy suspect. That goes both for the people who would love for Francis to “change Church teachings” (as if it were possible) and for the people who are terrified that he will/think he already is.

    • UAWildcatx2

      Seems like the *Catholic* people in question are those who are looking for reasons to deny that Pope Francis is actually the Pope. Closet sedes, if you will.

    • Brian

      Here the thing: about 2 months ago the Pope invited Cardinal Kasper to speak to the Vatican Consistory on the Family. Kasper did so, and without equivocation stated, not only that the Church should admit divorced and “remarried” Catholics to Holy Communion, but also outlined precisely how to go about it. Read all about it:

      So what, you say, that’s just Kasper. Not so. Here’s the the Pope positively gushing over Kasper’s address:

      “Another thing: yesterday, before sleeping – although not in order to go to sleep! – I read and reread Cardinal Walter Kasper’s document. And I would like to thank him, as I found it to be a work of profound theology, and also a serene theological reflection. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what St. Ignatius described as the sensus Ecclesiae, love for Holy Mother Church… It did me good, and an idea came to mind—please excuse me, Your Eminence, if I embarrass you—but my idea was that this is what we call ‘doing theology on one’s knees.’ Thank you, thank you.”

      So what happens next? Well wonder of wonders, totally out-of-the-blue the Pope is alleged by two people to have taken precisely the course of action he’s just finished praising to the stars; namely, he is said to have overlooked doctrine, for the sake of pastoral sensitivity, so that a divorce and “remarried” Catholic could be admitted to Holy Communion.

      But I’m sure this is all just a coincidence. No doubt the Pope randomly chose to respond to that letter. And my goodness, who could have ever predicted that this would go public. Unexpected personal phone calls from the Pope are certainly not something that anyone would ever talk about. Clearly, the Pope did nothing imprudent.

  • UAWildcatx2

    The unfortunate thing is that there are people who are deliberately *looking* for things to be taken out of context, so they can then scream and point “SEE!1!! I KNEW IT ALL ALONG! AHAAAAA” and then pass out from the lack of blood to their brain. It’s like Steven Greydanus said on twitter: “PEOPLE GET A GRIP. Is this your first rodeo or what?”

  • Humphrey

    Their next conversation will be awkward.

    This woman will be blocked on twitter and unfriend on facebook.

  • cheekypinkgirl

    It’s fatiguing to have to deal with the reality that no matter what
    Pope Francis says, it ends up being that damage control on the side of
    liberals has to occur and/or damage control on the side of
    uber-conservatives has to occur. It just seems that everything he says is couched in controversy and why should it be that way? Was it REALLY this way with the last few popes? Yes, it happened – the whole condom/Africa/AIDS thing with Benedict comes to mind. But this seems to be the day to day course of events with Francis. Again, I ask: Is he just being stupid as concerns the press? Or does he not care what the press says? I LIKE Pope Francis, but after a year of this, I’m getting tired of having to explain/defend every thing he says. And oddly enough, it’s the conservatives who are getting to me on this issue, not the liberals. I don’t want to have to turn off Francis because of this – his Tweets are great, so much of what he says is a needed breath of fresh air – but like I said, the damage control discussions are piling up and it really makes one think.

    • Dan F.

      Think of “Damage Control Discussions” as “Opportunities to Evangelize” (yes with “conservative catholics” who need to be evangelized as much as the classic (liberal) cafeteria catholics)

      • Cypressclimber

        Yes, that’s true; but that also raises a question. Is the pope being really thoughtful about the sorts of “damage control/opportunities to evangelize” topics that he’s spawning?

        Part of the problem with this particular “opportunity” is two-fold. First, it’s a particularly thorny area, because so much hinges on the circumstances; and second, evangelizing in these situations can be hamstrung by not having many facts. When the facts are murky–as in this case–our best response is to say less, rather than more.

        So, yeah, there’s an opportunity; but then, car crashes are likewise opportunities. That doesn’t mean we don’t want fewer car crashes.

        • Dan F.

          Eh, I dont think that the particulars of one situation or another are that important. The opportunity is to express WHY the Church teaches a particular doctrine. The reason why the church holds a doctrine is critical to not just explaining the doctrine but to the work of evangelizing a culture which doesn’t believe in absolutes or in the dignity of the human person.

          That an individual who has remarried while their spouse is still living (assuming the original marriage was valid) is in an objectively adulterous relationship – that doctrine is based on something absolute – that marriage is more than a legal convenience.

          I don’t particularly care what the Holy Father actually said in this particular case of pastoral work (or even if the call happened at all). I am much more interested in the opportunity to explain the doctrine of the church and show how it is based not in hatred but love, based not on feelings but on Truth.

          • Cypressclimber

            Fine, but then you didn’t really need the holy father to have made the phone call to have that conversation.

            And my point was, in the context of this news story, making the point about the indissolubility of marriage is also mixed up with having to say, “no, he probably didn’t say that, but I don’t really know, but I’m pretty sure he said something else, because…”

            These opportunities involve limited amounts of time and attention; so more time spent on denials — he didn’t say that — is less time spent on what really matters.

    • cheekypinkgirl

      And yes, I know, we don’t *really* know what he said in this instance. Forgive me for being a weirdo on this one this time.

  • Why blame Pope Francis? In view of the rather delicate nature of the conversation, he must have thought it would be kept private. Instead, the husband goes and babbles on Facebook, and the press pounces. I think the husband is a big part of the problem. He doesn’t make a lot of sense in any of his statements, such as saying that “a divorced person can receive communion.” Fine, except it’s his wife who is questioning about communion and she’s never been divorced. He’s the divorced one. Does he want to receive communion? We don’t know.

    Here is something at last from the lady herself, Jacqui Lisbona, in
    an interview, which at last reveals what may be the key to the situation
    (from the Vatican Insider).

    Relató además que el año pasado ella buscó acceder de nuevo a la
    comunión y el sacerdote local no sólo le dijo que no podía comulgar,
    también le señaló que no podía acceder al sacramento de la confesión.
    “(Me explicaron que) cuando volvía a mi casa, volvía a estar en pecado”,

    “She also said that last year she sought again to go to communion and the
    local priest not only told her that she could not receive communion, he
    also indicated that she could not have access to the sacrament of
    confession. “(They explained to me) that when I returned home I would be
    returning to a state of sin (literally returning to being in sin),” she

    Confession, as much as Communion, seems to be the issue here. The only
    way Jacqui could receive Communion in her situation would be to confess
    her sinful relationship with a man the Church still regards as married to
    someone else, and then make a firm intention to live as brother and sister with him. The priest evidently didn’t believe her contrition or firm purpose of amendment. In this case, I think we can assume that once the Pope had been assured that she understood the conditions and wanted to fulfill them, telling her “go to a different priest in another parish and confess and receive Communion there” would make sense, as would the statement that “some priests are more papist than the Pope.” This is about the only thing that would make sense of the situation.

    The Pope does talk about mercy and pastoral care in regard to the divorced and remarried; here more than likely it simply refers to giving a penitent the benefit of the doubt.

    There have some bad translations of this and other information in the stories about this situation. Language study for journalists would be a help! (I know Spanish quite well, and didn’t trust myself to Google, so be assured this translation is correct).

    • AquinasMan


      • I never claimed to actually know what went on. I just wanted to point out that there are possibilities that make sense. I did not try to make a judgment on who is right, or whether the priest discerned the penitent’s state of soul properly. Perhaps the woman just needed someone to calm her down and give her a good explanation of the matter. Since we don’t know, I won’t speculate.

        Yes, the situation is confusing. I guess we could go back to the days when the Pope lived in splendid isolation, never saying anything that wasn’t “official.” But some people prefer the Pope interacting with others, even at the cost of a little confusion.

        • Athelstane

          But some people prefer the Pope interacting with others, even at the cost of a little confusion.

          “Interaction” can be shaking hands, giving hugs, exchanging pleasantries, offering prayers. Benedict did this. John Paul II did this. Paul VI did this. John XXIII did this. Even Pius XII did this. Word has it that one can even find evidence of pre-20th century Popes doing these things.

          They also tried to avoid making “interaction” escalate into impromptu press conferences, offhand musings about doctrine and discipline in the Church, sudden phone calls, and unstructured press interviews. Even so, they were at times misunderstood, which is why they tried to avoid such occasions.

          At this point, I’m ready for some splendid isolation, honestly.

    • Rule number one in the life of a private figure: for better or worse, there is no such thing as a private conversation.

      • Athelstane

        True enough, sadly.

  • Evan

    But Mark, you know who else said hysteria was bad?

    HITLER!!!! That’s who!

    If I’m correctly applying what we’ve learned, I believe I now won the argument. Right?

  • The rumor itself indicates that the war has been lost.

    It does not matter what the Pope actually said, and it certainly isn’t his fault. We are at a point where all we can expect is more pressure to convert to atheism.

  • Cypressclimber

    Is it “hair on fire” to think — and say — that it would be wise if the Holy Father were careful about phone calls?

    • Irksome1

      If the goal is that the Pope never be misunderstood or misrepresented, shouldn’t he also be “careful” about any personal contacts he has, sermons he gives, or questions he dares to answer? Isn’t what some are really advocating for a papacy that is aloof and distant?

      • Cypressclimber

        Well, I didn’t say the goal ought to be “never (to) be misunderstood.” It’s always a matter of degrees. That’s why I spoke of being “careful.”

        There’s a huge difference, for example, between the pope making a phone call, and writing a letter; and the pope can give a response that is consoling and caring, but avoids getting into the details.

        So it’s a matter of prudence; everything involves some risk, but some things involve more than others, and prudence involves weighing that and choosing where to draw the line.

        For example, when our holy father visited Brazil, there was a point when his motorcade was engulfed with people, his car couldn’t move. I was very alarmed, and I bet others were too. In the end, nothing bad happened. But it might have. (And I don’t just mean someone attacking the pope; someone might have been injured, and someone in the car, or in the security detail, might have been hurt inadvertently.) For me and others to say that that represents not enough prudence, is not to say the pope should stay inside all day.

        And when it comes to the words of the pope, one of the crosses the pope (and in a sense, us too) has to carry is that he isn’t as free to say whatever he likes, as others are.

      • chezami

        That’s not the goal for Francis. It’s just the goal for Francis haters. They hold him to a standard even Jesus Christ could not meet, because they are seeking for a way to accuse him.

        • Athelstane

          Or we could hold him to the standard of his predecessors – predecessors who, in recent years, western media took every opportunity to misquote or spin or quote out context when it was useful to them, and therefore were careful not to engage unduly (or, until recent pontiffs, at all) in casual phone calls, interviews, and press conferences where every problematically worded off the cuff remark became like chum in the water for secular critics and Catholic dissenters to feed on and disseminate for weeks on end. Yet the current Holy Father seems to have difficulty understanding the effect these incidents have. We will be decades in living down “Who am I to judge?,” regardless of its original context.

          I fully appreciate that the Church has not changed its teaching on this, and continue to affirm that to everyone who asks. I also don’t believe that Pope Francis *has* decided to change the teaching, or is seeking to undermine it through a new praxis until I get direct proof of same. But if all this is true (and I continue to believe that it is) I also think that it’s fair to wonder how often he’s really engaging the virtue of prudence. He’s not a South American archbishop any more.

          • The MSM has caught on to a new idea – it actually got started in the last part of Pope Benedict’s reign with the Light of the World interview and the press seizing on a certain line from the interview as an excuse for the blaring headlines “Pope says Condoms OK!” After decades of denouncing every papal statement of doctrine as a reactionary Pope being reactionary, they have found something much for fun and profitable. By declaring the Pope is changing doctrine, they can win thousands of confused Catholics over to the wrong side by saying the Pope supports them. It doesn’t matter how cautious the Pope is (Benedict was much more cautious than Francis and it happened to him), the press will now continue to do this — because they can.

            Yes, it’s much more painful and frustrating for us, but at the same time, it gives a chance for explanations, for evangelization. What good does it do to say that we’re tired of having to explain what the Pope did and didn’t say (as many have)? At this stage of things in history, this is how things are; this is the road we are going to have to take, the job we have to do. It’s really just the mirror image of everyone denouncing the Pope every time he opens his mouth. We might as well get used to it.

          • Chesire11

            “Or we could hold him to the standard of his predecessors…”

            …all of whom have been misunderstood, either intentionally or unintentionally.

            • Athelstane

              …all of whom have been misunderstood, either intentionally or unintentionally.

              Which, I believe, I said in my comment (reads again – yes, there it is, right in the first sentence).

              The standard in question is not in being misunderstood, but rather, in avoiding occasions for making statements which might relate to matters of faith and morals in anything but formal, carefully thought out addresses and documents. No previous pontiff has anything like Francis’s record of instances of casual remarks, public and private. At some point, it becomes reckless.

              Who knows what he said in this conversation? Fr. Lombardi is not saying. Perhaps phone calls to people with an obvious agenda against Church teaching are not such a good idea, and meanwhile the poor pastor who told her she could not receive is left holding the bag. But whether they are or not, the clear public statements (“Who am I to judge”) are very much in the public record – and yes, that one was even indefensible in the narrow context in which it was given (shrugging off compelling evidence that a senior prelate he had appointed had a pattern of raunchy sexual misconduct with young men in Vatican nuncios).

            • Terry Mahoney

              Chesire, I quit Facebook but didn’t want to lose touch. Email is Termah71 at Gmail

              Sorry for the stupid way of reaching out, but it was all I had.

  • Athelstane

    “There’s little doubt that Pope Francis has set himself up for these situations.” I think there’s little doubt that, in fact, the Holy Father *has* created unnecessary difficulties for himself and the Church with these patterns of … communication. It’s not fair – but there it is. This is the age we live in.

    But that said, I also share her pastor’s belief that the Pope did not, in fact, say what is being claimed here, and I would second Mark’s and Fr. Z’s admonition to interested inquirers to hold on to their hats until hard facts actually come to light about what was said.

  • Diogenes

    The only thing this woman didn’t do right was get a tribunal of chancery barnacles to rubber stamp an annulment and saved some money instead.

  • Fr. Lombardi has released the following statement about things:

    But yeah, even though it appears something got lost along the way, the Pope needs to be keenly away this kind of stuff is going to happen. If he doesn’t want to cause issues, he either needs to word things more carefully, deal with the priests involved instead, or we all have to realize that he finds the tradeoffsa worth it, and love it or hate it, it is what it is.

  • Humphrey

    Always look on the bright side and the bright side is this woman`s local priest.

  • wlinden

    … which actually should be “CNN says divorced man says….”

    As one commenter noted, a reason to be suspicious is that the meeja says he says she says the Pope said she was “absolved from all sins”. You can’t absolve someone over the phone.

  • Steve P

    Can’t we just get the NSA transcript of the call? Jeez… you’d think we’re living in the 1990’s!