Elton John greatly admires Pope Francis

Elton John greatly admires Pope Francis October 31, 2014

He joins a growing list of people (who represent millions more), hitherto disaffected from the Church, who find they trust and admire him and are revisiting what the gospel has to say because of him.

Meanwhile, it is the mark of the madness of our age that the Greatest Catholics of All Time see this as an indictment of the Pope and not as an opportunity to evangelize.

When I made the remark on FB that the admiration of an Elton John for the pope represents an evangelistic opportunity, not a problem, for the Church, a depressing percentage of Catholics responded in ways best summed up by one reader: “Evangelism is Protestant, not Catholic.”

Everything that is wrong with the Church today is summed up in those words. Everything.

Catholics who think this way are in open and naked dissent from the fundamental mission of the Church, which exists to evangelize. It used to be Progessive Dissenters who rejected the Church’s missionary mandate because it was supposedly “imperialist” and “imposing our values on others.”

But these days I am astonished to see self-proclaimed “Faithful Conservative Catholics”, in amazing numbers, react to the news that Pope Francis inspires trust in unbelievers, not with the cry, “Great news! Let’s use this opportunity to tell the world about Jesus!” but with “This shows how “humble” Pope Francis is all about trying to be a celebrity and ingratiate himself with the world. The fact that gays and ex-Catholics and the media adore him just goes to show you that he is a heretic compromising the Faith and is a danger to the Church! He must be stopped before he destroys it!”

Folly. Such people don’t want the gospel. They want a little system of order that keeps them safe from the radical demands of love Christ lays upon us. They want to keep people out of the Church and it does not even occur to them to see such a cultural moment as an opportunity. It is entirely a threat to them.

There is no other word to say to such people than “Repent!” It is entirely possible that the millions of hitherto disaffected people warming to the Faith because a little flame of trust is being kindled in their hearts by their affection for Francis will enter the kingdom ahead of you if you don’t. Our task is not to keep out the riff raff and repel boarders. It is to go out into the highways and byways and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame so that the wedding feast will be full.

Will those attracted to Francis’ beautiful witness and obvious holiness need to repent of things? Of course. Don’t we all? But here’s the thing (and the point Francis tried to make last year in his America interview): You don’t start a life of discipleship with a set of moral precepts. You start it by an encounter with a person. The *real* magnetic force in Francis’ life is Jesus Christ. It is for us to introduce a person like Elton John (or whoever) to Jesus so that they can begin to grapple with his astonishing person. The changes in lifestyle *flow* from that encounter. They do not *precede* that encounter. If you march up to somebody and start demanding that they reorder their entire life because Sez You, you will have no success. If they have an encounter with Jesus, realize who he is and what he has done for them and the universe-shattering implications of that: they are the ones who conclude “I have to re-order my entire life.”

This is why the culture war approach to the gospel is such a massive betrayal and such a fruitless failure–and why Francis is so very obviously a model for how we *should* be thinking about evangelism.

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  • Andy

    Seems unlikely someone on the level of Elton John would “reorder” his life, but lots of other people may decide the whole Church thing is at least worth looking into.

    And who knows, the Pope may shock us all by actually landing some ridiculously high-profile convert. At least he’s trying!

    • Catholic Voice

      “At least he’s trying”

      Very trying.

    • LFM

      Convert to what, is the question?

      • Dan F.

        Jesus, duh

        • LFM

          And what if the Pope ends up driving Catholics away as he merrily sows confusion and misapprehension around him? Do their souls count for less? Will you simply say “good riddance”?

          To make myself clear, I am not arguing about the infallibility of the Pope. I think that this Pope knows that he has no latitude to make the kinds of changes some of his admirers would wish, and will not attempt, formally, to do so. What he might do instead is allow sufficient confusion at the pastoral level that a number of priests will start to give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, to same-sex married Catholics, and to others who are under the impression that their sins are not sins after all. I suppose some of these might be converted – or not. But good things do not ordinarily grow out of moral confusion.

          • LFM

            My previous comment was intended for Andy, not Dan F. But my intent is the same. You cannot be drawn to Jesus by confusion, especially confusion that – I begin to suspect – is being deliberately created by Francis and his supporters.

          • Marthe Lépine

            Of course, there is a problem there: Only people guilty of mortal sins should not present themselves to receive Communion. But it seems easy to forget that to be a mortal sin, it takes 3 things: a serious matter (and sexual sins are certainly that), but also: a free and informed choice, e.g. it is necessarily to choose freely (and in my own case I have clearly learned that there are circumstances when the choice is not totally free, and not exclusively in case of rape) and a choice made while knowing clearly that it was a sin (and I am sure there are cases of ignorance, given the many claims I have read about poor Catholic education in some places). It seems to me, although I am not a theologian, that these last 2 conditions are the area where a pastoral approach is necessary and where a step by step conversion can often take place, but not necessarily a totally instantaneous conversion. It seems to me that a spiritual director who would limit himself to castigating a sinner each and every time he or she has fallen back might not necessarily have the best approach. It might be better to also recognize the efforts that have been made to resist temptation, even when they have not always been successful, or, for example, to recognize the fact that a sinner has managed to resist some temptations, for some period of time, even if, at the end of a certain period of successful resistance to temptation, there happens to be another fall. This would seem to me, not to be lenient towards sin, but rather to be supportive of a fight where some battles can be lost, while the final goal of victory is kept in mind and will.

          • Dan F.

            Unless you are living in an alternate universe, the things you worry about happening because of Francis are already happening and have been happening for a lobg time.

            Hence the synod because the Church clearly had a pastoral problem in that there are couples in illicit 2nd marriages or otherwise in illegitimate relationship situations who have been taking communion for years, decades even, who don’t even know they are committing mortal sin . Would you simply let them go on sinning or drive them out od the Church?

            If anyone is being driven out of the Church by Francis “sowing confusion” they’re not listening to Francis, they’re listening to their own fears and the fear created for them by (to borrow Mark’s phrase) reactionaries.

  • James H, London

    Well written, O Mark.

    Wasn’t it the prophet Chesterton who said, ‘Let your faith be less of a set of rules and more of a love affair’?

    I would add (being a sinful, Protestantized, clown-mass-attending, happy-clappy, guitar-wielding “Catholic” who’s an aging [44-yr-old] hippy who should hurry up and die) that we can’t underestimate the power of someone actually being willing to open a bible, on the strength of a personal example. Reg Dwight could actually avoid Hell on the strength of it!

  • UAWildcatx2

    Unfortunately, the reason Elton John likes Pope Francis so much is John’s deliberate ignorance of the “who am I to judge” issue. He said to “make that man a saint already” because of his “openness to gay marriage.” It has nothing to do with a change of heart or being more receptive to the message of Christ; rather, it is a deliberate omission of context. While I pray that there are those disaffected Catholic who might return to the Church, I’m concerned that when they realize that no teaching/doctrine have changed and that Pope Francis is *gasp* othodox (!), they’ll just leave again.

    • chezami

      Good culture war answer. Lousy evangelist thinking. This is an opportunity, not a threat.

      • UAWildcatx2

        I agree it’s an opportunity. My question is, how do we keep them once they’re back home? So for example, If someone leaves bc of the Church’s teaching on contraception and divorce, then, thanks to misrepresentations of Pope Francis’s comments on one thing or the other, come back, that’s one step. But when they realize that the Church hasn’t (and will not) change her/Christ’s teaching on marriage (for example), how can we get them to stay, instead of bolting again?

        I still believe, though, that Elton John’s admiration for Pope Francis shouldn’t be held as an example, since it’s based on only hearing what he wants to hear.

        • chezami

          Read Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. Absolutely vital for this conversation.

          • UAWildcatx2

            Thanks for the reference! I’ll check it out.

          • kmk

            Amen to that.

            • kmk

              (Amen to “Forming Intentional Disciples,”I mean.)

      • LFM

        Pope Francis’s utterings on various issues are indeed a threat. Anything that sows confusion is a threat to reason and understanding.

        If people’s misunderstanding of Francis is not a threat to the Church, then I suppose you could also say that the widespread misunderstanding of what Vatican II really intended to achieve was not a threat, either.

        • Marthe Lépinem

          Well, about Vatican II: I would say that it was not a threat!

          • LFM

            I did not say that Vatican II in itself was a threat. I said that the misunderstanding of what it was intended to achieve was a threat. To suppose that a similar misunderstanding of Francis’s intentions (if it is a misunderstanding, a point upon which I’m not yet clear) will do no harm and, rather, draw people in, is to indulge in wishful thinking at its most foolish.

            Misapprehension of VII’s purpose among both priests and laity did considerable harm to the Church at almost every level, from the aesthetic to the intellectual to the moral. I would guess, though of course I cannot be sure, that it probably cost the Church some souls. I think it nearly cost me mine, thanks to the poor catechesis I received, in part as a result of its influence.

            I fear that the popular understanding of Francis’s intent, whether it is correct or not, may similarly cost the Church some souls. Hardened sinners drawn in by what they think is a carte blanche from Francis regarding their sins of the flesh are not the ones likely to suffer. If it turns out that they are, after all, wrong, most will simply go home again. But what about the bewildered young who hear this and think that it really means that there is nothing wrong, after all, with fornication, or contraception, or same-sex intercourse, and who are drawn by that belief into sin and despair?

        • Andy

          I have not yet been confused by Francis – I find him refreshing and blunt. He doesn’t couch things in “high language” he says them from the heart. The folks who are confused are those who only read what the media reports and do not look at what he actually says.

          • LFM

            Many people, faithful Catholics who are not anti-Vatican II or rad trads or anything of the kind, find Francis profoundly and even heartbreakingly confusing. It is not his bluntness or lack of “high language” that is at stake; it is his moral ambiguity. He leaves it open to people to believe that sodomy and same-sex marriage are morally acceptable – not forgiveable, which was always true, but, I repeat, morally acceptable. No, he has not said so in so many words, but he is allowing people to think it. If you cannot see that as a potentially serious problem, both for faithful Catholics and the untutored or unfaithful, then I would respectfully suggest that you either lack imagination or have buried your head in the sand.

            The idea that only people who fail to read what Francis actually says are confused is both wrong and disrespectful to fellow Catholics who are struggling miserably to make out what is happening. Indeed, one of the issues I take with Mark and others regarding Francis is that they cannot support the Pope without gratuitous insults about the ignorance, bad faith, or rigidity of those who worry about his throwaway remarks and wonder what to make of them.

            • Andy

              “He leaves it open to people to believe that sodomy and same-sex marriage are morally acceptable – not forgiveable, which was always true, but, I repeat, morally acceptable. No, he has not said so in so many words, but he is allowing people to think it.”

              Interesting _ I haven’t seen where he has said sodomy and same-sex marriage are acceptable. As far a s what people think, dam, that comes from our interpretation/misinterpretation of what people say/said. It comes from imagination.

              “If you cannot see that as a potentially serious problem, both for faithful Catholics and the untutored or unfaithful, then I would respectfully suggest that you either lack imagination or have buried your head in the sand.” Well since I have an imagination and haven’t buried my head in the sand the problem may be with your imagination – imagining what Francis says as being morally unacceptable. Or perhaps your head is in the sand because Francis is addressing a pastoral problem, pastoral problems frequently involve areas that are morally suspect if not wrong. How to address them is an issue the church must face.

              You comment of being disrespectful – but lets look at what you said – I lack imagination or have buried my head, very respectful. You have said the pope is morally ambiguous – hardly respectful. My comment reflected what I have seen – people going off on what the media reports the pope has said and not reading what he has said.

              We could debate this all day but it is fruitless. God bless.

              • LFM

                I have no intention of yielding you the last word. I am disrespectful to you because I have been provoked to it by the insulting implication that I have not bothered to read what Francis has said, while in fact trying to find and make sense of his actual words has been a preoccupation of mine for some days now, and for a number of other good and faithful Catholics. Tu quoque is not much of a rejoinder, anyway.

                As for being disrespectful to the Pope, well, if he were less ambiguous I would be less inclined to ask “What are you talking about?” If I – a faithful Catholic who will remain so – am confused about how the Pope intends his words to be interpreted – how much more likely is it that others, not faithful, or not Catholic at all, will be confused in a similar manner, except that in their case they will mistake a welcome for a permission?

                • Andy

                  LFM – I described a general set of behaviors I have noted – and yes included you in the behaviors because of your disrespectful comment about my abilities. I am sorry that you feel insulted, however, you have still not yet shown me where the pope has uttered words that gave sodomy and same-sex marriage a stamp of approval. What i read is he is confusing me and others and others are free to think what they want, people have free will to think what they want. He has abrogated none of the teachings of the church. I fail to see the confusion you feel.

                  • LFM

                    Thank you. My disrespectful comment about your abilities was a response to your and others’ insistence, reiterated often in recent weeks, that people like us are only confused because we have not read the Pope’s actual words or not done so with any real understanding, or because (as Mark has said) we are more loyal to “conservatism” than to faith, or because we hate the post-conciliar Church, or because we lack charity or – well, you get the picture. I do not consider myself the best-informed person on these issues, but I have read many who are, and who are alarmed, as am I. Has Ross Douthat failed to read the Pope’s words with care? Does Dorothy Cummings-McLean lack charity?

                    The pastoral issues are whether divorced and remarried Catholics, or sexually active homosexual persons (among others) can receive communion without rejecting their past behaviors as sins. Cardinal Kasper has repeatedly hinted broadly that this is the Pope’s intention, and the Pope, who has not addressed the issue directly, has nevertheless not distanced himself, however subtly, from Kasper’s remarks. Meanwhile, he has removed Cardinal Burke from an important position where he would have had influence over such matters, to one in which he will be far from Rome. The Pope also did not rebuke Kasper for the cardinal’s insulting remarks about African bishops, which Kasper attempted to deny but which were recorded. (See http://tinyurl.com/qdlid8k. The story is confirmed in other sources, if that one is suspect for any reason.) I don’t believe Kasper is a racist and that is not why I mention this incident; what it shows is his contempt for people with conservative sexual views.

                    Can you really not see any possibility of confusion in this maelstrom of words and events, in which the Pope, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, is silent when he ought to speak [and clarify!]?

                    • Andy

                      I spend much time reading and re-reading the words of Francis, just as I had to the words of Benedict. I do not believe that you are loyal to conservatism, though there may be those who are just as there are those who loyal only to a progressive view. I do not see a person in your comments who hates the post-Vatican church, there are parts of the pre-VII that I miss. Although I have come across these people in my life.

                      I read Douthat’s editorial and was dismayed. It struck me that Douthat was saying that the pope is beholden to a specific set of people – conservative Catholics. THe pope like any of us is beholden to God, and we are called to follow what God has taught. I am not familiar with the work of Cummings-McLean, I shall look for her.

                      My point is that I have faith that God will guide us through the Holy Spirit. Maybe my own life with its riptides and eddies has given me faith in what John Paul the II said – “Be not afraid”.

                    • LFM

                      I think Douthat meant that the Pope should not dismiss “orthodox” or “conservative” Catholics as “hostile rigorists”. They are not the enemy, and yet he has made at least some of them feel that they are not welcome. I can’t be sure of this, though. Writing for the NYT tends to have a corrupting effect on one’s writing, if not one’s thinking, because one has to take such care to be understood by one’s audience.

                      I don’t miss the pre-VII Church because I never knew it. What I do know is that the post-VII Church, while being the only one I knew, and containing, as always, many good people and priests, allowed its representatives to become deeply confused, so that the Church taught that certain doctrines had changed when they had not. My generation of women was often told by priests and religious that sexual relations before marriage were no longer regarded as sinful, or that the use of contraceptives was not, as if this were the actual teaching of the Church.

                      I know of a Catholic church in my city in which homosexual persons living in committed relationships not only receive communion, they give the homily at Mass and (although this part is hearsay and my memory may be at fault) may even have said the Mass itself at the invitation of the priest. All this went on right through the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict, so perhaps Popes don’t make much difference, sigh. Mind you, many of these were otherwise good, charitable people – although some were most certainly not.

                      Still, under John Paul II and Benedict, that moral confusion had been greatly lessened. No doubt some Catholics were alienated by the new/old clarity about sin, especially sexual sin. The glee with which many greeted the sexual abuse of boys in the Church suggested to me that such people were glad of these sins on the Church’s part because those sins absolved their own, as it were.

                    • Andy

                      Francis made some conservatives feel unwelcome, JPII and Benedict XVI caused the same problem for those who identify as liberal. The problem is that no pope can satisfy everyone. I think the unfortunate issue is that pope’s do not make as a huge a difference as we sometimes think. The church I think functions best when it acts locally, though obviously within the parameters of the church rules.

                      I know of no one who felt glee about the sexual abuse – at least in my immediate environment. The church holds itself up as a moral beacon and when it falls some people are in told you so mode. Actually, I don’t believe it was the actual abuse, but rather the cover-up that causes the problems.

                      God Bless

          • Jude

            That is a blatantly incorrect assumption.

            • Andy

              Not an assumption – it is a reality I have encountered –

    • Mariana Baca

      So they are no worse off than they were before — what is the worry? maybe 1 in 1000 will think otherwise, or be touched by the holy spirit.

      • UAWildcatx2

        I agree, they are no worse off. And I really do pray that they are touched by the Holy Spirit. I know that God can do wonders in people, they just have to be open to Him.

      • LFM

        No worse off? When they realise that they were first deceived into thinking that the Church would accept them as they were without requiring penitence of them? And then betrayed, by those who had encouraged the deception in the first place, and then told them that they were mistaken after all? What kind of welcome, not to say mercy, is that?

        Look: if the Pope really intends to change Catholic pastoral practise to the point of allowing remarried divorce/es, etc. to receive communion (and I know that this is unlikely), that would be a grave error, but at least it would be, as it were, an honest and, in intention at least, a charitable error. But if what he intends is to encourage people to come in under a false promise of erasing what had hitherto been regarded as sins, he would be not merely in error, but dishonest and uncharitable. He would be casting himself as a salesman of the used-car type – “get your foot in that door”, and one who alienated both orthodox Catholics and those who had mistakenly believed that their sins were no longer sins.

        • Marthe Lépine

          I may be misunderstanding what you are saying here, but to me it sounds as if you are leaning more towards the negative interpretation of Francis’ intentions. Seems to me there is no need to “fear” that Pope Francis’ intentions are to offer a false promise in order to attract people.

  • Dave G.

    What does it mean evangelism is Protestant not Catholic. Where did that come from? Does that mean it’s therefore a bad thing because Protestants do it? Catholics shouldn’t do it because Protestants do? That reminds me of a staff member at my church some years ago who flipped because I said I would like to look into Advent instead of just waiting around for Christmas. ‘That’s what Catholics do’ I was told. Now evangelism is what Protestants do? Geeesh.

    • I think that it’s excuses to not engage is what poor christians do.

  • David Naas

    The Catholic Church = Here Comes Everybody. Hippies, dippies, businessmen, poor, wealthy, liberal, conservative, male, female, sinners, confused, Everybody.
    There is a scene in some book or play (pesky memory failure!) wherein a Brit aristocrat informs his mother he will be converting to the Catholic Church and she is dismayed, “Oh dear. Now, you will be praying with the Servants.”
    That the Church is so messy is, to me, one of the things that proves its validity. It’s just like a big family. (Complete with Uncle John off in the corner, snoring off his binge.)

  • I put a great deal of Elton John’s positive evolution down to Rush Limbaugh’s influence.

    • Dave G.

      I remember that. Limbaugh caught a lot of flack for that if I recall.

      • Really? Somebody wanted the right to intervene in Limbaugh’s wedding entertainment? That’s bizarre. Who did that?

        • Dave G.

          I remember hearing people discuss it then. Limbaugh, I believe, said he caught grief over being friendly to Elton John from some of his supporters and fans. It was some time ago I think.

  • JM1001

    Evangelism is Protestant, not Catholic.

    This is so stupid I’m having a difficult time believing someone actually said it. Really, I am.

    Evangelism simply means “the preaching (or spreading) of the gospel,” and comes from the Latin word evangelium, meaning “good news, or gospel” (source: Etymology dictionary). Also, from the Greek word euangelion. Hence, the Gospel writers are called Evangelists.

    Not to mention the evangelists mentioned at Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11-12, and 2 Timothy 4:5.

    I will say, though, that if the opinion expressed above is shared by a significant number of Catholics, then that just goes to show how successful Protestantism has been in owning that word, even though the Latin and Greek words from which we get “evangelism” predate Protestantism by many centuries. Which is pretty impressive, when you think about it.

  • Athelstane

    Why does Elton John admire Pope Francis?

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Isn’t that a question best posed to Elton John? Mark shouldn’t answer it, I shouldn’t answer it, you shouldn’t answer it.

      • Athelstane

        If it’s being observed as relevant that Elton John admires the Pope, It also should be observed exactly why it matters.

        • Dan F.

          It matters because that admiration breeds trust, and once you trust someone you are more likely to listen to the difficult things that person says not just the things you like.

          It’s why the corporal acts of mercy are in most cases a prerequisite to preaching the gospel – they create the trust and willingness to listen

          • Athelstane

            I agree in principle with what you say. (Really, I do.) But: What is the corporal act of mercy here that Pope Francis has done?

            • Dan F.

              Here? Not sure what you mean. I think that Elton John’s admiration stems from all of the works of mercy Francis has been doing.

              • Jude

                Here is a list of the corporal works of mercy from which to choose:
                To feed the hungry;
                To give drink to the thirsty;
                To clothe the naked;
                To harbour the harbourless;
                To visit the sick;
                To ransom the captive;
                To bury the dead.

                • Dan F.

                  Thanks Google!

                • Dan F.

                  Thanks Google!

        • Andy

          Why? I can admire someone because of who they are – admiration means respect, it means appreciation. The fact that Elton John has found a way to admire the pope matters not – admiration opens doors – the beginning of evangelization.

          • Athelstane

            It DOES matter why they admire you. Let us take another example: A libertarian voter who admired and voted for Ronald Reagan only because he had signed no-fault divorce in California, and not because (indeed, in spite) of his opposition to abortion.

            Now, is it possible that this voter might come to change his mind because his admiration of Reagan in one respect might persuade him on something else Reagan advocates? Sure, it’s possible. Is it possible that Elton John’s admiration of what he THINKS Pope Francis stands for – condoning same-sex unions and sexual acts – could lead him to a rejection of the same? Well, with grace all things are possible. But attempting to appeal to such a person by appearing to concede the argument to him – which is what is happening here, at least by perception – is a very counterintuitive way to go about it. And it’s not charity to affirm a man in his sin – or let him perceive that you are.

            In the end it hardly even matters WHAT Pope Francis thinks about these moral acts; what matters now is that Elton John thinks that the Catholic Church now approves of what he does. Thus, I will repeat: It’s necessary for us to reach out to the peripheries, as Pope Francis puts it, but you ought to have something to offer when you get there. That something is “the Truth.”

            • Andy

              WE will have to disagree – a door opens to allow for conversion/conversation. Interesting I have not read where Francis conceded the argument. Please give me the link where he did so.

        • Athelstane

          Sayeth Mr. John: ““It is formidable what he is trying to do against many, many people in the church that opposes.” Who he’s talking about in that latter group is who he perceives to be homophobic bigots, which is to say: Catholic prelates and laity trying to uphold the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. Which, by the way, includes Mark Shea.

          It’s astonishing to see what lengths some Catholics will go to in order to find occasion to praise the current occupant of the See of Peter, no matter how imprudent or doctrinally problematic a particular utterance or action might be (hint: we have 2,000 years of history of Popes doing such things, albeit rarely with such intensity). Yes, the Church should always have the door open to same-sex oriented people, just like all sinners – all of us in need of the grace of God that can be uniquely found in the Church Christ founded. All of us. Including me, a poor sinner.

          But the point of the Church is NOT welcome; it is conversion. Is Elton John in fact being invited to conversion? Is he praising the Pope for the welcome, or for making himself a mirror for John’s beliefs and lifestyle?

          We need to start taking a hard look at how evangelization was done by the Church and its missionaries down through the ages – and how it was able to reach out to the lost sheep while avoiding the temptation to conform itself to the world. Because so many of the people applauding the Holy Father today are, in fact, doing so on the happy assumption that he’s engaged in the latter, not the former.

    • chezami

      “He is a compassionate, loving man who wants everybody to be included in the love of God,” Not a bad first take on the guy from somebody who has hitherto hated things Catholic. Not salvific, of course. Nor complete. And no doubt all the misperception you are worried about obtain. But it’s the first tiny kindling of a bit of trust. If we are interested in evangelism, we seek to fan it into flame. If we are interested in repelling boarders, we snuff it out and drive him away for not perfecting himself before daring to follow the clues to Jesus. In the gospel Jesus does not take this all or nothing approach with his disciples. He starts with them where they are, endures their wrong-headedness and misperceptions, and brings them along. Elton John has not so much had a shot at encountering Jesus yet. Much less considering how that encounter could impact his life. Our job as evangelists is to arrange a meeting with a person, not lay down an abstract moral code unconnected to his and expect people to somehow believe that this code has something to do with them because we say so.

      • Athelstane

        But it’s the first tiny kindling of a bit of trust.

        Well, Mark, with respect: I question whether that’s what has actually happened here. “Trust” us to do…what?

        Go read the rest of his quote, which I excerpted down below. What is he responding to? It is not like Jorge Bergoglio helped save Elton John from a burning building, or paid for a dear friend’s HIV treatments – these would, indeed, be corporal acts of mercy that would be powerful witnesses for the faith. No, Elton John is responding to the perception that the Pope approves of the evil acts he commits. Why do you not see the risk here?

        If we are interested in repelling boarders, we snuff it out and drive him away for not perfecting himself.

        This is all too easily a charge flung about Mark, especially by you (alas). Lack of charity? Physician, heal thyself. But my answer is this: I am far more interested in bringing passengers on the barque, rather than repelling boarders. But I want to be sure they’re actually getting on the barque, rather than the barque gig that’s been commandeered by mutineers. And no, I’m not suggesting that the Holy Father is a mutineer.

        Mark, you know as well – or better than I – that there are frigate-loads of people in and outside (you know, the “brown shorts,” as you put it) the Catholic Church who are determined to see it overthrow and overturn most of its sexual teachings, not least its insistence that sexual acts take place only in the confines of traditional marriage, open to new life – especially if it can affirm homosexual acts. I am not saying that Pope Francis is one of these people. But if he is saying things that give real encouragement to such people, and underlining that perception by appointing such people disproportionately to key positions, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all for Catholics to be concerned that something very dangerous is afoot – something that could lead to the loss of many souls.

  • LFM

    Elton John is a man who, with his “married” “partner” is raising a child whose fatherhood is (intentionally) unknown to them because they chose to have it that way, and whose motherhood has been, as it were, deracinated by spreading it out among an egg donor and “surrogate” mother. The unfortunate infant (or are there two of them now?) does not have a “social” or “legal” mother at all. When discussing this issue, “Mr John” occasionally expresses some sorrow about this for his child’s sake, but usually with the suggestion that this lack of a mother is a mere social issue and that the boy would not be likely to feel it at all if not for “bullies” at school. (BTW, it is customary to implant several fertilized eggs and then “cull” some of them from the surrogate mother, making abortion part of the process of assisted reproductive technology.)

    He is, in short, a man living in a state of delusion.

    It is not impossible that he might, some day, emerge from this state of delusion and see clearly the depth of the sins he has committed. These things do happen. But how likely is it that he will do so under the influence of Pope Francis, of all people, whom I suspect EJ admires simply because he believes – I don’t know how accurately – that the Pope is about to declare that gay marriage is just fine and that ART and its attendant horrors are, well, you know, understandable little human quirks and that what really matters is to get people back to the Church?

    Would you take the same attitude if Pope Francis were showing this kind of tolerance over abortion? I don’t mean saying “all those women who have had abortions are welcome in the Lord’s Church because they have suffered much” or something of that kind. I mean if he had said, vis-a-vis those who had had abortions, “Who am I to judge?” Of course, in one sense this is always the attitude we, as humans, should bring to bear upon sinners: judgment is not ours, in the end, nor is vengeance. But this Pope is blurring the lines for both long-time “orthodox” style Catholics, and the liberal or lapsed or non-Catholics who – it is clear – really do think that his papacy marks the start, not of a new spirit of pastoral welcome or forgiveness, but of a spirit of abolishing a number of sins as sins in the name of “affirming people in their okayness” (as a certain blogger – whatever happened to him? – used to say).

    This Pope may not be a bad man or a bad priest, but I think he is a bad Pope, in that he sows the seeds of confusion every time he opens his mouth. Those of us who criticize or fear him and his influence are not necessarily guilty of “hostile rigidity” – an absurd and insulting phrase in that it presumes to know the state of mind of Francis’s critics, while using rather less pointed terms to criticize those who err in the other direction.

    • chezami

      Yes. He is a sinner. Time was when Catholics were *glad* that sinners were feeling a flickering sense of trust in the pope and sought to listen to his teaching. If we think in terms of *evangelism*, his admiration for the pope will be welcomed as an *opportunity*, not as a problem.

      • LFM

        I see no sign that EJ feels a flickering sense of trust in the Pope and seeks to listen to what he is saying, except where it agrees with EJ’s existing beliefs. I am one sinner at least who is bewildered and alarmed by Francis, and I know there are others. Why do our fears and distress not count? Is he telling us that we were wrong in rejecting our sins, because they weren’t really sins after all? That is what it feels like, and that is what many of his lapsed Catholic and non-Catholic admirers believe. Since when did confusion and indeed outright misapprehension of what the Pope (or anyone else) is saying become a fertile ground for true evangelism and conversion?

        I want my rock to be a Rock, not a down comforter, which is of little use when drowning.

        • Paxton Reis

          “Why do our fears and distress not count?”

          Why are you afraid and distressed. Go out and evangelize.

          “Since when did confusion and indeed outright misapprehension of what the Pope (or anyone else) is saying become a fertile ground for true evangelism and conversion?

          The apostles and early Christians encountered this (and much worse). It is all right there in the New Testament.

          Do not be afraid!

          • LFM

            I am evangelizing. I am here to ask faithful Catholics not to make other faithful Catholics feel unwelcome by telling us that we are “hostile” and “rigid” for being bewildered by what Francis and certain elements of the Synod have said.

            The apostles and early Christians encountered much worse – but they were under direct inspiration from God. In any case, although Paul repeatedly emphasized that he did not want to shame the various communities of Christians in his care, he did not hesitate to reproach them when necessary, and his reproaches did not take the form of insisting that the real problem was only that the flocks in his care were not loving enough.

            Meanwhile, I have attempted for years to stand against the hostile power of state-ordered “tolerance”, and have paid a severe price for it.

            • orual’s kindred

              I have attempted for years to stand against the hostile power of state-ordered “tolerance”, and have paid a severe price for it.

              I find this immensely admirable, and I will pray for you!

              • LFM

                I was a bit over-pompous there, in the heat of the moment. Put it this way: I have reason to believe that I lost a job I’d had for 10 years, and am now finding it difficult to obtain more than short contracts, because of various things I would not do, or say, during the time I was employed. These were things related to Church teaching and to general moral issues. Meanwhile, I’m no kind of saint.
                [edit] But thank you for offering to pray for me, even if the offer was (as I suspect) partly ironic.

                • orual’s kindred

                  I’m sorry, I didn’t see this!

                  And while I appreciate and admire your honesty, I don’t think I need to revise my statements 🙂

        • chezami

          Your fears and distress are about imaginary things, since the pope did not and has not and will not change Catholic teaching about the nature of the sacrament of marriage or of human sexuality (though there may well be some loosening of what is malleable canon law and so forth). Sorry, but the Church is not about making us comfortable. It’s about the salvation of souls. Those of us chosen in baptism have been chosen for the sake of the unchosen, like Elton John. He is, in fact, more important than we are for the same reason that Jesus treated the sinner as more important than himself.

          • LFM

            My fears and distress are not about imaginary things because I do not fear that the Pope will change Catholic teaching about the Sacrament of marriage or the nature of human sexuality. I fear that he is tacitly encouraging his more malleable pastors to allow divorcees, the same-sex married, and sexually active homosexual persons to receive communion under the (false) impression that Catholic teaching has changed. The Holy Spirit does not work through deception and misprision (i.e. wrong performance of official duty). And although I trust God to guard the Church’s essential truth, and the Pope’s infallibility in matters of doctrine and faith in the fullness of time, a great many people may be led astray in the meantime.

            An example, although it’s a bit of a Hitler-type one: various popes ruled over the centuries that it was acceptable for Christians to enslave non-Christians. The issue does not fall into the realm of ex cathedra rulings, and any such ruling was always corrected by subsequent popes, but it could and did do enormous harm to the souls of both slavers and those they enslaved.

            • orual’s kindred

              Malleable pastors may in fact “allow divorcees, the same-sex married, and sexually active homosexual persons to receive communion under the (false) impression that Catholic teaching has changed.” I suppose far too many do already; I would think that malleable pastors allow lustful and/or adulterous heterosexuals to receive communion, without any help from Pope Francis. I’m afraid I don’t see, however, that any of this should be a reason to fear that Pope Francis is tacitly encouraging pastors (malleable or otherwise) to allow divorcees, the same-sex married, and sexually active homosexual persons receiving communion, whether or not they think that Catholic teaching has changed. Of course, I’m not sure I can say that Pope Francis lack clarity or intelligence, either.

              (I think far too many people misunderstood Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke clearly and intelligently. People have and continue to misunderstand him and what he has taught; and they also continue to express attitudes of open hostility to the Church because of it. Nevertheless, I think we might agree that Pope Benedict did not intentionally mislead people who are not well-versed in Church teaching, and that the media didn’t exactly rush to correct their misunderstandings.)

              As for the example above, I think that it implies that they actually did make those rulings. I don’t know how it applies to fears of Pope Francis maybe implicitly permitting deviations from Church teaching.

              • LFM

                I brought up the subject of the Church’s past errors because a subtext of this conversation appears to be that to have any misgivings about what a particular Pope teaches is to question the Church’s Magisterium and papal infallibility. I wanted to point out that the Church under particular popes has made grave errors in moral teaching before, but that it has corrected itself.

                • orual’s kindred

                  Alright, though I’m not sure if that subtext is within context in this conversation 🙂 (Is my phrasing even correct? I need to sleep.)

        • Marthe Lépine

          So… Do you mean you are sorry that you cannot read Elton John’s mind? And that allows you to judge what actually in his mind?

          • LFM

            If Elton John wants to come to the Church, I would think that the Church would want it to be on honest terms. It was someone else – some other commenter – who presumed that he knew that Elton John felt a “flickering sense of trust in the Pope.” I am saying that if he does feel this, then that trust may be built upon false assumptions about what the Pope promises.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        I’m reminded how the Brompton Oratory turned away Oscar Wilde. Some are happy, some are scared, some seem somehow scandalized. It was ever thus, and the combox inquisition isn’t new, they just upgraded their megaphone.

        Don’t you start imagining a golden age on us, Mark.

        • LFM

          It is my understanding that Wilde, having gone to the Oratory to meet with a priest, discussed the possibility of being received into the Church, only to reject it shortly afterwards with a bouquet of lilies to the priest.

          Nor is this a combox inquisition. It is a series of arguments (without any penalty) between believing Catholics.

          • Athelstane

            That was my understanding of what happened with Wilde as well. Certainly I *hope* that the Oratory didn’t turn him away.

  • Daniel G. Fink

    One hopes that Elton will “grapple with the astonishing person of Christ”, rather than…” But most importantly, I hope we see him (Francis) endorsing the use of condoms to stop the spread of disease”…

    http://www.aidsmeds.com/articles/Elton_EJAF_2042_24858.shtml

    And if he grapples, perhaps he can forgive and begin to understand the position of St. John Paul II, and Benedict…and Mark…

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2009/04/pope-makes-common-sense-observation.html

    • chezami

      The pope is not the Surgeon General. His job is to proclaim Christ, not set health policies.

      • Daniel G. Fink

        Agreed. And since EJ may “revisit the gospel because of (Francis)”, one hopes he is not discouraged when what he considers “most important” about Francis is not realized.

  • Alex

    When I made the remark on FB that the admiration of an Elton John for the pope represents an evangelistic opportunity, not a problem, for the Church, a depressing percentage of Catholics responded in ways best summed up by one reader: “Evangelism is Protestant, not Catholic.”

    Could Mark clarify whether that quoted reader’s comment is meant to be understood as one of a number of attacks on “evangelism” or as an ironic summation of a number of (unquoted) attacks?

    Thanks.

    • chezami

      It’s meant to be a repudiation of the Church’s evangelistic mission.

      • Linebyline

        Not to put words in Alex’s mouth, but I think the question was meant more as, “Are you quoting or paraphrasing?”

        • Alex

          Apologies for sowing confusion — I assumed Mark himself was quoting directly, but wasn’t sure if the quote was by someone actually repudiating evangelism or by someone having a sarcastic dig at others for allegedly repudiating evangelism …

          • Linebyline

            Oh, I get it now. Thanks for the clarification.

        • chezami

          Quoting.

          • Linebyline

            Yikes.

      • Alex

        Maybe the reader was confusing evangelism with evangelicalism!

  • Joseph

    Hmmm… I don’t think Elton John loves Pope Francis; I think he loves who he thinks Pope Francis is (based on the main stream media model, which recently and gloriously stabbed him in the back).

    • Paxton Reis

      Joseph- I agree, but it is an open door.

      • Joseph

        True. Or it could also lead to a door being slammed shut, welded, boarded, and barricaded when he comes to realise that the media-version Pope Francis is not the real Pope Francis and the disappointment sets in.
        .
        But, I happen to like Elton John and I really hope that this is an open door. The cynic in me has some serious doubts, however. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for people to *come around* in their old age. Here’s to hope.

        • Linebyline

          Amen to that. Hope is good stuff.

          And even if John does slam the door, hey at least he had the chance to step through it instead. If he slams it shut, that’s on him. If he never even tried to open it because he knew it was locked from the inside, that’s on us.

  • LgVt

    If it is indeed Francis’ Catholicism that is drawing him–if it is indeed drawing him, and he is not simply applauding what he believes to be a mirror of himself–then this is indeed good news.

    Given the context, the tone, and the things in particular for which John was praising Francis, I’m more inclined to think Luke 6:26 is applicable.

  • capaxdei

    This business of Pope Francis “sowing confusion” reminds me of the American who gets angry at his wife for taking him to France because he can’t understand the language and says, “I didn’t used to not speak French.”

    If Pope Francis is confusing you, you’ve always been confused, you just didn’t notice it before.

    • Paxton Reis

      capaxdei-
      And some seem to be taking Pope Francis’ words that “sow confusion” as a personal affront too. They seemingly reduce it to about them. I don’t get the self-centered mentality about it all.

      We all need to step up and evangelize…spread the Good News.

      • LFM

        It seems that this is directed at me, since I am the one who has said [edit: on this thread] that his words “sow confusion”. I used myself as an example because I wanted to point out that I and people like me have not exactly been made to feel welcome by this Pope’s maunderings. That does not mean that I consider these issues to be all about me and indeed if you look at my various comments here you will see that I am concerned about the faithful, and the Church, and not simply about myself.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Oh dear… You may not realize it, but you just confirmed what Paxton Reis said: So, people like you have “not exactly been made to feel welcome by this Pope’s maunderings” but you claim that you consider these issues to be all about you… Another way to see your comment is to go back to the reaction of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. You have stayed in the Church and done your best to be a good “son”. I don’t think it is the right attitude to now begin to resent sinners, even notorious sinners that everybody knows about because of the media, being, first attracted to Pope Francis – no matter the reason – and maybe next becoming open enough to begin to hear the message. Some, even many, may probably be disappointed that the Church will not change her teaching, but some others might have become able to trust Francis enough to accept what he is really saying (once the confusion is cleared in their minds). And remember that Jesus said that there would be more rejoicing in Heaven for one sinner repenting than for the 99 other who had remained faithful. I know, it sounds unfair…

          • Paxton Reis

            “not exactly been made to feel welcome by this Pope’s maunderings”

            Well this is another example, over many months, of what I see as those taking comments from the Pope as a personal affront or slight–really, why is that one’s reaction? Heard this one not too long ago: “I’m tired of having to explain the Pope’s comments to people I know.”

            And considering that most of the “controversies” and “confusions” are really ginned up by the media (and we in the US are receiving it through a filter that translated comments in from Spanish or Italian), I say use that opportunity to have a a conversation.

            I know a fallen-away Catholic who thought this week’s statement on evolution was Pope Francis changing the direction of teaching and discussion. It gave me the opportunity to show it was nothing new when compared to comments by St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, and going back to Pope Pius XII. And also to point out to this educated person about Fr. Lemaitre’s work on the Big Bang Theory. This person had previously fallen hook, line, and sinker that religion and the Church was against science. Really, do you think the thousands of Catholic schools don’t teach science? That the hundreds of Catholic colleges and universities are educating future scientists and doctors?

            Do not be afraid!

            • LFM

              I am not an American and do not receive the Pope’s comments through the American media. I am not bothered by having to explain anything to non-Catholics. I am bothered by having to explain to supposedly faithful Catholics that there may be something not right about Francis’s approach, and being told that no, this is the result of a whole variety of my personal failings. Nor is it a matter of MY being bothered; I have seen the same thing happen to many excellent Catholics as they struggle to make sense of Francis.

              FINALLY, I was not in the least bothered by Francis’s comments on evolution because I know that it was nothing new. I am not under any impression that the Church is now or ever was hostile to science.

          • LFM

            Oh for heaven’s sake, this is ridiculous. I don’t resent sinners. I resent being told – or hearing it implied – that my sins are not sins. I resent other people hearing the implication that their sins are not sins. The prodigal son was welcomed back by his father once he had repented; he wasn’t told that his sins were not sins. I also think that it is bad pastoral leadership that will lose more people than it attracts, out of their confusion about what Francis means.

            I have not confirmed what Capax said; I said that there are many people who are at present having this reaction, that it is not merely my personal reaction, and that we are genuinely concerned for the sake of the Church.

            If you have nothing with which to respond to my concerns but personal criticisms of my self-absorption – and nothing charitable either – why do you bother to respond at all?

  • capaxdei

    Of course Elton John is not now suddenly open to accepting Church teaching. Who has suggested he is?

    And of course he’s putting his own interpretation on what he’s hearing. That’s what everyone does with everything we hear. Remember George “Gold Pen” Weigel?

    Is anyone suggesting that a favorable disposition toward the Pope is salvific? (The current Pope, at least; a couple of years ago there may have been a… more complicated answer.)

    The fundamental point is that a favorable disposition toward the Pope is a favorable circumstance for evangelization.

    And Mark’s follow-on point is that a good number of Catholics regard this favorable circumstance for evangelization as a bad thing.

    • Alex

      The fundamental point is that a favorable disposition toward the Pope is a favorable circumstance for evangelization.

      Even if that favourable disposition is based on a perception that the Pope is rejecting traditional Catholic moral teaching?

      • LFM

        Thanks. I repeat, as I have several times in several threads here: confusion and misapprehension are NOT fertile grounds for evangelization.

        Capaxdei, Catholicism is not Pope-worship. The Church is bigger than its Popes. It is on this fact that I must hang my faith now. Even the wickedest Popes have not destroyed the Church, and I am going to suppose that Francis, not a wicked man but, as I now suspect, a naive and not outstandingly intelligent one, will not do so either. That does not mean that he will not do Her harm.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Well… It seems to me that, without realizing it, you might be contradicting yourself. You seem to think that it is a bad thing if Francis is “naive and not outstandingly intelligent”… I actually do not agree with that opinion, but I would like to point out that among a gang of fishermen that gathered around Jesus, there certainly were other “naive and not outstandingly intelligent” people. What about Peter claiming that he did not even know Jesus at a time when it would have been much preferable to express support? And several of the original apostles who were still believing that Jesus was going to restore an earthly kingdom? Until Pentecost, it seems to me that some of them were rather clueless… It says somewhere else (forgive me, I just woke up a few minutes ago and my mind is not yet ready to do research) that God deliberately chose the poor and the weak – and maybe the not particularly brilliant minds – to reach people and spread the Gospel. Therefore, even from what you just said, Francis would seem to have been a perfect choice. And what is wrong with sinners being attracted to Francis? It may be for the wrong reason, but by being attracted to the Pope who actually said that the Church should spread by “attraction”, there is a very good chance that their ears and eyes could eventually get opened and they will finally hear Francis’ message. Please stop underestimating the power of the Holy Spirit! Once people’s ears are opened simply because they find this particular Catholic Pope attractive, and this because of his personality, those ears can eventually manage to ear the message that they might have been totally closed to previously.

          • LFM

            I am sorry, M. Lepine, but we are clearly talking past each other. I will try once more, but without great hope of explaining myself.

            I do not disagree with anything you have said here except where it concerns Francis himself. There is a difference between being a fisherman who has been called upon to be a fisher of men by Jesus, who misunderstands (because what has been revealed to him is so extraordinary) and hesitates (while under threat of his life) and a man who, however humble his origins, is now at the head of a vast Church with, even today, considerable temporal as well as spiritual power. This is one reason why Francis, if indeed he is naive and not outstandingly intelligent, is not a perfect choice for Pope today. A really intelligent (but simple) man could make himself understood in plain language and without leading apostates and non-Catholics to suppose that their sins are not sins after all.

            But in supposing that he may be naive or unintelligent, I was actually putting the best construction on his words and actions that I could. The other possibility is that he knows very well what he is doing and is intentionally causing scandal to those whom he chooses to see as “hostile rigorists.” I am concerned that as a Jesuit from Argentina, he has come to believe that anyone who is “conservative,” sexually or otherwise, is somehow an ally of the forces of evil, or at any rate is worried about matters of little importance.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Ii do not really think that we are talking past each other. What I think is that we now accept the fact that we agree to disagree and there is no need to continue the discussion. We are both free to go our own ways and are entitled to our own opinions, and the future will show, or more exactly the Holy Spirit will show which is the right way, or maybe which part of each of our ways can be combined and lead to more understanding in the long run.

        • capaxdei

          “The Church is bigger than its Popes. It is on this fact that I must hang my faith now.”

          What an odd thing to say! If this is actually true, then you certainly are confused, but it’s not Pope Francis’s fault.

      • capaxdei

        “Even if that favourable disposition is based on a perception that the Pope is rejecting traditional Catholic moral teaching?”

        As opposed to an unfavourable disposition, yes.

        Admittedly, it’s not much to build on, but it’s not nothing. Maybe that favorable disposition leads him to listen to a report about Pope Francis’s teaching about, oh, fighting the devil, and not altogether laughing the idea off. And from there — well, write your own adventure. Not plausible, maybe, but not impossible (particularly if the Holy Spirit is at work).

        If the point is that news Elton John admires Pope Francis for being as wise as Elton John isn’t cause for celebration, then I agree. But it *is* cause for those of us who know Elton John to figure out — with the wisdom and counsel we were given at baptism — how we can use this to reach him with the fullness of the Gospel. For those of us who don’t know him, it’s cause for us to figure out how we can use the highly imperfect admiration for Pope Francis among the people we do know to reach them with the fullness of the Gospel.

  • Joejoe

    Well said, but I disagree that the culture war approach is doomed to fail. Contrarily, I find components of it *necessary*.

    Let’s be clear: if there is a culture war, it is a *defensive* battle waged out of necessity by those who follow Christ. People are dying (literally, in the womb and in the Middle East) and their souls are in danger. We need to do what we can to stop that from happening!

    On the other hand we also need to gain allies, which, as you have said, is a process Pope Francis is starting. But realize that there are those who will never, ever ally with us, and for the sake of the innocent, we must combat what Satan has put in our way.

    • Perlata

      “You” are not defending the Church. You are not a warrior, machismo commando or anything of that sort “protecting” the Church. The Church does not need your defense. It’s guarantee is Christ. And Christ alone.

      Your pray for the salvation of your soul. Your pray for the salvation of other souls. You pray for the Church.

      As for defending the Church against other people and the culture – don’t fool yourself. You defend your way of life. Your culture. Your comfort. All well and good. Quite natural. But it is just that.

      Don’t try to pass that off as “defending” the Church. It is comfortable and convenient to conflate both these together. You get that warm fuzzy feel that defending your comfortable place in the world is actually a divine cause. The worst sort of deception is when one starts to deceive the self.

      • Joejoe

        I feel comfortable saying that you don’t know what I do or don’t do, and why.

        I understand that the Church’s only hope and defense are in Christ. We are only good in the measure that we invite and permit the Holy Spirit to work through us.

        However, the entire breadth of what Christ said is to be proclaimed. The world loves us when we say “blessed are you poor” and hates us when we say “let no man separate what God has joined.” Yet all people must hear both. They love us when we say “neither do I condemn you” and tune us out when we continue, “go forth and sin no more.”

        As Mark says, we are a both/and people, not either/or. As long as the world insists on aborting its children, making a mockery of marriage, and contracepting our species out of existence, we must respond.

        • Paxton Reis

          Amen Joejoe.

      • Jonk

        In other words, “Don’t evangelize, just pray. ‘The Church’ will evangelize for you.”

  • Zippy

    A perception based upon falsity (a false perception that the Church is changing her teaching on the mortal sinfulness of sodomy, and her teaching that unrepentant mortal sins are literally damnable, for example) is a “disorder in relation to the truth about the good”, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II – which he also referred to as “an evil”, even when culpability is mitigated by ignorance.

    To the extent people are becoming “open to being evangelized” (whatever that is supposed to mean) because they have false perceptions, that is not a good thing. And to the extent folks advocate and celebrate false perceptions – lies – as a means to the end of evangelizing, they are advocating doing evil that good may come of it. This is no less true of any use of lies to promote evangelization than it is of (e.g.) Live Action’s use of lies to entrap pro-aborts.

    So I don’t think having qualms about people like Elton John becoming “open to evangelization” (that is, concretely, admiring Pope Francis) based on false perceptions is something that can be dismissed. If the “openness” is based in a lie, then advocating the lie as a means to the end of openness is consequentialism.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Sorry, but I totally disagree. You are confusing “false perceptions” and “lies”, and in this case you are totally wrong, since that “false perception” is the result of misunderstanding something, and because something has been misunderstood does not mean that that “something” is a lie. I am pretty sure that many, even most, of the people who ran through the middle eastern countryside to go and hear Jesus had a lot of “false perceptions” too, and went to hear Jesus for the wrong reasons. But they were there, and many did listen and eventually understood, which would not have happened if they had simply stayed home out of indifference…

      • Zippy

        False perceptions (a ‘pre-moral’ disorder in relation to the truth about the good) become lies (as moral action) when they are explicitly promoted and celebrated as means to a (presumably good) end.

        • Marthe Lépine

          And who are you accusing of “explicitly promoting and celebrating” false perceptions, again? Pope Francis, or the media?

          • BePolite

            Ahhhh, the always effective “are you calling the Pope a liar?” technique. Classy

          • Zippy

            I haven’t accused anyone specifically of anything. Right now I am just attempting to bring some perspective to a discussion where the use of falsehood as a means to the end of evangelization is being treated like an unmitigated good.

            If you don’t understand one of the things I actually have said, feel free to ask respectfully for clarification. If I have the time and inclination, and you don’t attempt to impute things to me that I haven’t said, I might even answer.

    • orual’s kindred

      I may be misunderstanding, but I think that what’s being celebrated is a general openness to hearing the gospel, and the opportunity it presents for evangelization. I’m not sure where it says that people should “advocate and celebrate false perceptions.” I think the post takes into account that Catholics ought to proclaim the truth of the gospel, and that they ought to welcome the opportunities for them to do so. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that opportunity is being equated to or celebrated as a means of evangelization. I certainly would think that evangelization necessarily involves correcting false perceptions. As for Live Action, I can’t say that its use of lies was meant to teach the gospel to pro-aborts.

      • Zippy

        As for Live Action, I can’t say that its use of lies was meant to teach the gospel to pro-aborts.

        That wasn’t their specific end, as far as I know. They had a different good end in mind.

        But the point is that promoting falsehoods and misperceptions as a means to a good end is just a kind of lying. The used car salesman who puts sawdust in the transmission to dampen the noise and deceive the buyer about the nature of the car he is selling does wrong, even if his (good) end is to put food on the table for his family.

        We aren’t called to be successful. We are called to be holy.

        I’m not sure where it says that people should “advocate and celebrate false perceptions.”

        I’m not here to hurl accusations at anyone in particular. But some folks seem to think it is a good thing for Elton John to be objectively deceived about the Church’s doctrine on sodomy and mortal sin, because this objective deception (this disconnect between what he thinks he knows and the actual truth) makes him more open to evangelization. Basically a little sawdust in the Church’s transmission will make it more appealing to a wider variety of people.

        This can’t be dismissed as simple ignorance or unawareness either. This is a matter of ideas contrary to truth celebrated as means to a good end.

        Suppose (as I am sure is frequently the case) that specifically the “market appeal” of the (false) perception that sodomy might not be mortally sinful and literally damnable in the Church’s eyes is precisely what is “opening him up to evangelization”. The cause of the “openness” is that the person is objectively deceived. Promoting this means of evangelizing is promoting falsehood, not truth.

        It can be quite difficult to engage in sales and marketing – including promotion of the Gospel – without ever saying or doing anything dishonest. But we aren’t called to be successful. We are called to be holy.

        • Andy

          Who has been dishonest?

          • Zippy

            Andy:

            Sorry to disappoint folks by refraining from making personal accusations; but that’s just how I roll.

            The point – again – is that celebrating and promoting non-Christians being deceived about the content of the Faith – that is, not merely ignorant but having actively wrong ideas about the Faith – as a means to the end of evangelizing them, is promotion of falsehood.

            That’s a principle (kind of like the principles “sodomy is mortally sinful” and “mortal sin is literally damnable”); not a personal accusation.

            • orual’s kindred

              Andy:

              Sorry to disappoint folks by refraining from making personal accusations; but that’s just how I roll.

              I’m not sure what this is in response to. People often think of ‘lying’ and ‘being dishonest’ as interchangeable; and, having read your comments about lies, phrased his question by asking who has been dishonest.

              • orual’s kindred

                I mean, of course, *he probably* phrased his question. Ugh, I really do need sleep.

            • Marthe Lépine

              I think this perception needs to be corrected: Sodomy is sinning in a grave manner. But it is not necessarily always mortally sinful if one or the other of the two additional parts of the definition of a mortal sin is not there, and that is something that we are not even allowed to judge in someone else’s sinful behaviour. We just cannot know, only God knows for sure, whether a person is freely choosing to sin, or is sufficiently knowledgeable of the sinfulness of the action considered. A spiritual director who is working with a sinful person trying to straighten up his or her life may probably know a little more about that person’s level of guilt. In addition, I would point out that there is a difference between “celebrating non-christians being deceived” – when we don’t even know for sure whether a person is self-deceiving, or is deceived by erroneous reporting of some statements – as an opportunity to evangelize, vs knowingly cultivating that deception in order to try to force open the door to evangelizing someone.

              • Zippy

                But it is not necessarily always mortally sinful if one or the other of the two additional parts of the definition of a mortal sin is not there …

                Sure, a serial killer’s or rapist’s or sodomite’s personal culpability cannot be judged by any of us. Implicit in any discussion of mortal sin is grave matter, knowledge, and free consent.

                But that is beside the point. If rapists become ‘more open to evangelization’ because they get the impression that the Church is giving ground on the mortal sinfulness of rape, that is not good.

        • orual’s kindred

          I’m not here to hurl accusations at anyone in particular. But some folks seem to think it is a good thing for Elton John to be objectively deceived about the Church’s doctrine on sodomy and mortal sin

          Neither do I accuse you of hurling accusations at anyone! 🙂 However, I don’t know that anyone is saying that “it is a good thing for Elton John to be objectively deceived about the Church’s doctrine on sodomy and mortal sin” or anything else. I don’t see how saying ‘it’s good when non-believers are inspired (by Pope Francis or other Catholics) to be more open to hearing gospel, and Catholics should take it as an opportunity to evangelize,’ is the same as “promoting falsehoods and misperceptions as a means to a good end.”

          I think a comparable example may be that of a salesman who meets an interested passerby, who may be entertaining unrealistic expectations (“These pants will make me cool!”) This is an opportunity for the salesman to invite the buyer to look closer, and talk about the make and fabric of the pants; as well as to counsel that buyer about unrealistic expectations. (I’m not sure the example of the used car salesman is applicable. The salesman is not even taking advantage of a false perception that the car is in perfect condition, or withholding information regarding the machinery; but is actively obscuring the noise the car makes and actually planting false perceptions.)

          • Zippy

            I don’t see how saying ‘it’s good when non-believers are inspired (by Pope Francis or other Catholics) to be more open to hearing gospel, and Catholics should take it as an opportunity to evangelize,’ is the same as “promoting falsehoods and misperceptions as a means to a good end.”

            They are not the same thing, of course. But they need to be distinguished clearly from each other, and it is very easy to take a “but if it brings him to Christ it is OK” – that is, a consequentialist – approach to evangelization.

            Again, not to pick on anyone in particular.

            That’s why the folks who ask “does EJ like Pope Francis because he (EJ) has gotten objectively wrong ideas” are not off their rockers. They are correct to ask this. It is a bad thing, objectively, if that is the case – a disorder in relation to the truth about the good, which Pope St John Paul II taught “remains an evil” (see Veritatis Splendour) independent of anyone’s culpability. And we must never call evil good, or good evil.

            It is not good if Elton John likes Francis because he (EJ) has erroneous ideas about possible shifts in doctrine or whatever. The reasons why always matter and cannot be summarily dismissed as irrelevant. “Attracting” people to the Gospel with falsehood is not evangelism, it is Hell’s parody of evangelism.

            Consequentialism is no more acceptable when the goal is evangelization than it is for any other goal. The truth comes first, always.

            Now folks might come back and say “but gosh Zippy, that’s a big straw man”.

            And yet there are folks who have dumped not a small amount of derision on others who raised the issue of why EJ likes Francis, insisting that liking Francis is an intrinsically good opportunity no matter what the reasons why.

            But that is a mistake. The reasons why always matter. If someone erroneously thought that the Church was moving in a direction to affirm cannibalism and was ‘open to evangelization’ for that specific reason, that is not good. Same with sodomy.

            More generally, the truth is never subordinate to evangelical appeal, ‘marketing the gospel’, etc.

            • orual’s kindred

              They are not the same thing, of course. But they need to be distinguished clearly from each other, and it is very easy to take a “but if it brings him to Christ it is OK” – that is, a consequentialist – approach to evangelization.

              Alright, but again, I don’t know how the post suggested a consequentialist approach. And I may have missed some comment or other, but I don’t think anyone else suggested it either. So I don’t know why “not to pick on anyone” should be brought up (for the third time now, I think).

              And I think that the need to distinguish can be easily and rightly said without suggesting that the post is implying that false perceptions are an objectively good thing, or that they are a good means of conversion. I don’t see how The changes in lifestyle *flow* from that encounter. They do not *precede* that encounter is the same as “one size fits all” when it comes to conversion to Christ. A challenge to moral decadence requires an encounter. It may be a tough encounter, and may not immediately entail a direct personal encounter with Catholics, (focusing more on writings, doctrines, and intellectual arguments), but it is an encounter. Perhaps some people simple decided to read the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas on a whim, or because they wanted to question his statements, and instead find themselves challenged. That whim, small and quite possibly attended by pride and other sins, is not an objective good, but it was an opportunity–if not grace–in which the truth of Our Lord was made known to such people. And I don’t see how intellectual arguments can be addressed without a willingness to engage with those arguments. Neither do I see how a change in morals can be said to occur before any of this.

              I think the post is saying that opportunities to evangelize should be welcomed. I don’t see where it says that false perceptions are objectively good, or that “liking Francis is an intrinsically good opportunity no matter what the reasons why”. I certainly don’t think that liking any Catholic individual is an intrinsically good opportunity, and I don’t see that anyone else is saying it. I think it is a good opportunity to introduce that person to the truth; which is why I don’t know why lying and/or deception is involved. Lying to someone to tell them the truth of the gospel seems like a long-winded way of lying to someone and putting their souls in grave danger.

              Evangelization necessitates that the person will be disabused of any false perceptions. How? As you say, there are many ways to introduce a person to Christ. I happen to like intellectual arguments, and I do not support deception as a means to win an argument. Perhaps other people need to hear a repudiation of consequentialsim stated plainly in other posts. I do think, however, that this post can remain as it is and not be taken as an encouragement for Catholics to deceive people into Christ, or engage in Hell’s parody of evangelization, as you say.

              As for the issue of why Elton John likes Pope Francis, I would think his reasons for liking the pope will come into light sooner rather than later. A person doesn’t even have to be intent on evangelization to ask, “What is it about Pope Francis that makes you like him?” And if Elton John says, “He’s going to change the teachings of the Catholic church!” a Catholic can say, “That’s not how the Catholic church works.” And if he says, “If he can’t do it, then maybe I don’t like him after all!” the Catholic can reply, “You should reconsider your reasons for liking people. Oh, and your view of the Catholic church is wrong.” Asking about his intentions without that kind of exchange is, I think, theorizing (at best). Of course his intentions ought to be good. And it is more than likely that his reasons are in fact not good reasons at all. However, those reasons are less likely to change if they are not addressed, and they most likely won’t be addressed unless he is willing to hear the truth about Christ and His Church.

  • Zippy

    One thing I’ve noticed in the latest Catholic headlines is that “pastoral” and “evangelism” tend to serve the same purpose for some folks that “conscience” and “prudential judgment” serve for others. All of those things are of course legitimate, understood correctly on their own terms — as long as they never, ever stand in the way of or obscure the truth. “Pastoral”, “evangelism”, “prudential judgment”, and “conscience are always properly servants of the truth, not things which obscure the truth.

    But they are employed by many folks rhetorically to suck up all the oxygen in the room – as a means to the end of papering over the truth. And others may not do that themselves, but they fail to see the problem with it and encourage it when it happens.

    Always with good ends in mind, of course.

    Veritas, baby!

    • capaxdei

      I owe you a drink.

    • Will

      Wow, great job. Thank you.

  • Zippy

    If we are not promoting, first and foremost, the truth, we are not promoting the Gospel.

    • Athelstane

      Indeed.

      I believe the point has been made elsewhere quite recently that the mission of the Catholic Church is not welcome. It’s conversion. And by conversion, we mean the interior conversion of every one to Christ.

      The Episcopal Church is quite welcoming in many ways, after all. But they’re not offering much of the Truth of the Gospel, with the result that whatever conversion happens is going on (generally by pushing members toward Catholicism) despite them.

      • Marthe Lépine

        On the other hand, maybe the fact that people were able to take a first tiny step by checking out the Episcopal Church is not such a bad thing. People got a taste of the Gospel in that church that they might not have been able to find elsewhere, and later converted to Catholicism. I see nothing wrong with this… God actually uses each and every tiny step, no matter how tiny, towards the truth.

        • Zippy

          God actually uses each and every tiny step, no matter how tiny, towards the truth.

          What God does is His business, but it isn’t our business to promote falsehoods – ideas which are objectively untrue – as a means to any end. In my friend Mark Shea’s words, we are not called to be liars for Jesus.

          • Marthe Lépine

            Maybe, but as Gina just reminded us, the truth is not in following the law, but the Truth is Jesus Himself. Everything else follows from that. Therefore, just promoting ideas, even if they are true, is not enough. Nor is “greeting” sinners who have strayed far away by simply reminding them of, and condemning them for, their sinful lives, necessarily the best way to help them meet Jesus. It is the encounter with Jesus, and Grace, that will help them straighten their ways. None of us is able to do this by themselves without Grace.

            • Zippy

              …the truth is not in following the law, but the Truth is Jesus Himself.

              Here you are making a basic mistake. The truth cannot be partitioned into “following the law” and “following Christ” — they are one and the same.

              Pope St John Paul II crushed this false dichotomy – in an authoritative, doctrinal exercise of his Magisterium – in Veritatis Splendour. Anyone who thinks that “the truth is not in following the [moral] law” is making a fundamental mistake. A sampling:

              The Church knows that the issue of morality is one which deeply touches every person; it involves all people, even those who do not know Christ and his Gospel or God himself. She knows that it is precisely on the path of the moral life that the way of salvation is open to all.

              As Saint John writes, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth… And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says ‘ I know him’ but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn 1:5-6; 2:3-6).

              Furthermore, the notion that following the law and following Christ are separable is refuted by the words of Jesus Himself:

              “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17)

              “If you love me, keep my commandments. (Jn 14:15)”

              • Athelstane

                “If you love me, keep my commandments.” – John 14:15

                Exactly.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  Sure, but to love Jesus, one has to meet Him first, in some way. Some people will do it by turning around at some point in their lives and realizing they have taken the wrong way, and by looking for the right way will encounter Him who said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. Others will do it because they will begin to wonder what it is that Christians around them have that is different. And others by just hearing something, even second-hand through the media and looking up whoever said it. Ii don’t think we need to condemn those who have heard and/or made a wrong interpretation, and even less the person, in this case Pope Francis, who happened to have said something that has been misinterpreted… It seems to me that, instead, we can celebrate any and all circumstances that lead to some awakening, however small and mistaken, of sinners, and trust the Holy Spirit to continue the work. Later on, if some, or many of those sinners realize that they had misunderstood, it will be up to them to decide what to do next, and if they are disappointed and choose to remain in the state they are in, it is their choice and Pope Francis should not be blamed for it, as if he had misled them.

                  • Zippy

                    It seems to me that, instead, we can celebrate any and all circumstances that lead to some awakening, however small and mistaken, of sinners, …

                    In the first place, that begs the question. There is no evidence of any “awakening” here. When Elton John publicly renounces gay sex, converts to Catholicism, and starts working for Courage, the argument will be on much stronger ground. I’m not holding my breath.

                    In the second place, the underlying attitude is (once again) consequentialist: it treats the propagation of blatant objective falsehoods about the content of the Faith as a good thing as long as it gets good results. But the propagation of blatant objective falsehoods about the Faith isn’t a good thing: it is, quoting JPII, “an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.”

                    • Athelstane

                      …it treats the propagation of blatant objective falsehoods about the content of the Faith as a good thing as long as it gets good results.

                      Bingo, Zippy.

                    • chezami

                      Please document for me where I have said any such thing.

                    • Will

                      Right, and aside from the disingenuous notion of hiding the truth it seems terribly utilitarian to hide the truth in hope one will convert at some other point. It is as if the faith is a burden rather than a help.

            • Will

              You cannot separate the law from Christ.

      • Catholic pilgrim

        But St. John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by shouting out in the desert: “All are welcome! Everybody is welcomed as I make the way for the Lord! No judging here, because ‘conversion’ & ‘judging’ are ugly things that must never be mentioned!”

        Oh, I read my Bible wrong. It actually says St. John shouted: “Repent! Be baptized! Make straight the ways for the Lord!” He also said some pretty judgmental things about sinning. I guess St. John the Baptist was not an Episcopalian. We Catholics are called to both radically welcome others & also radically call others (including ourselves) to radical (& continual) repentance/conversion. When we stop doing either thing (welcoming SINNERS & calling for repentance from SIN), we cease to be Catholic Christians & simply become “nice” Episcopalians/Anglican Protestants (disconnected from the uncomfortable but true Gospel of our Christ).

    • Gina

      Yes…and the truth is a Person.
      “I am the way, the Truth, the life…”

      • Zippy

        “He who says ‘ I know him’ but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

        1 John 2:4

        • Gina

          Yes–that’s certainly true.

          • Marthe Lépine

            but a first encounter does not necessarily lead to knowing a person – it is just opening the door, which is a start.

          • Zippy

            Gina:

            Apparently you edited your original comment to remove the part I criticized – that is, where you said “the truth is not following the law”, which Marthe Lepine cites downthread.

            (I didn’t know that that was even possible – I generally avoid the Discus system, and if people can edit their comments after the fact to change what it looks like they said that is another reason to avoid it).

            My response was directed at what you actually said before, not at what your edited comment says now.

            • Gina

              Zippy, I just noticed this. I don’t know what you mean, since I haven’t edited anything, and I don’t know how. I would not write “the truth is not following the law,” whatever that means. I stand by my one (unedited)comment, although you are right to note in a different comment that knowing Jesus is inseparable from following his commandments.

  • PalaceGuard
    • Marthe Lépine

      So what?

      • PalaceGuard

        Which is why he took the “who am I to judge” comment, as reported, and ran with it. OTOH, this may eventually do him some actual good.

  • Zippy

    Mark, my friend,

    In the OP you write:

    You don’t start a life of discipleship with a set of moral precepts. You start it by an encounter with a person. … The changes in lifestyle *flow* from that encounter. They do not *precede* that encounter.

    This is not the universal experience of all Christians. I think there actually is not a “one size fits all” approach to evangelization. Some people respond very well to challenges to their moral decadence — in fact the “hit bottom (or sometimes the ‘top’ in terms of decadence) and then found a moral compass in the Church” story is quite common, at least in my own experience. Folks like Ed Feser who come into Catholicism intellect-first are pretty rare, but not unheard of. I suspect that there are many more different ways of coming to Christ than would fit in a simple taxonomy — heck, that’s why CS Lewis The Pilgrim’s Regress was such an alien landscape to me the first time I read it.

    And there is probably some danger of “personal encounter with Jesus first” types falling into the mistake of thinking that everyone else is just like them — or even worse, that everyone else normatively should be just like them.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      I can’t believe I’m going to try to argue with my own intellectual idol, but here goes. Please be gentle…

      It’s normative. None of the disciples were snagged up by Midrash tracts. Zacheus, the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, none were convinced of force of argument. They met a man who knew them better than they knew themselves, and who truly loved them.

      We aren’t called the synthesis of Christ, or the epistemology of Christ. We are the body of Christ. His hands and his eyes and his touch. We are how he manifests his love and understanding, not how he voices his arguments.

      Lord knows I live in my head a lot, but I never really was alive until I met a man who truly loved and knew me.

      • Zippy

        Hezekiah Garrett:

        The Body though has many parts. You can probably guess what part of the Body any number of folks have concluded that I represent.

        But elimination of what is toxic to the body is a necessary function, and I am happy to contribute to that job when it seems to need doing.

        The idea that authentic evangelization always begins with a kind of personal, emotional encounter with (what a particular person projects to be) the person of Christ is simply counterfactual, as a matter of the experience of countless Christians — unless we are saying that someone whose first encounter was (say) the moral challenge is not really Christian.

        Furthermore, St, John tells us in rather stark terms that someone who claims to have such an encounter without following the moral law is a (and I quote the Apostle) “liar”.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Sure, but many people are starting with the encounter. I agree that they should not remain at that stage, but a first encounter can help open their minds by a little crack…

          • Zippy

            What I objected to wasn’t that some people start with a ‘personal encounter with Jesus’ type experience, and go on from there to develop in the Christian life. What I objected to was the notion that this is universally how evangelism always works for everyone, in either a factual or normative sense, as “where a life of discipleship starts”.

            Authentic Christianity of course does involve at its very center a personal encounter with Christ — most perfectly in the Real Presence, the Blessed Sacrament received in a state of grace. The Eucharist is literally and tangibly Christ Himself, the source and summit of the Christian faith.

            But that isn’t what is at issue. What is at issue is where a life of Christian discipleship starts. And, both factually and normatively, the answer is as varied as the countless individual Christians who embody that answer.

            • Will

              Exactly correct

  • Dave G.

    I think what I’ve seen in the comments is a typical danger in such discussions. Sure, news that Elton John was loving on Pope Francis should have just been ‘OK’ to most of us. He makes clear why he loves on Pope Francis, and most of us are aware of why a modern culture that only recently trashed the last two popes and the Church in general are suddenly in love with Francis. Still, it could be a positive. We don’t know. But as the discussion has unfolded, it seems some are going the opposite direction, and suggesting something that we typically reject in other situations. The idea that anything done in the name of evangelism and any response that looks vaguely positive is therefore awesome and to be celebrated no questions asked. I know from previous posts and comments that we don’t think that. We don’t think that anything done in the name of evangelism suddenly becomes OK. So we don’t want to come close to suggesting it (and that includes arguing against people making the point). Best to say ‘Elton loves on Pope Francis. OK. Let’s see what happens. Perhaps something good.’ And leave it at that.

  • Athelstane

    I am struck also by what Cardinal Burke said in an interview yesterday:

    “The Pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries,” the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura said. “The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed. We go with the Word of God, with the Sacraments, with the virtuous life of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the Pope does this, but there is a risk of the encounter with culture being misinterpreted. Faith cannot adapt to culture but , must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.”

  • Marthe Lépine

    Something struck me in my parish priest’s homily this morning during mass that may have some relevance to the present discussion. He was talking about the time when some good practicing Jews brought to Jesus a woman who had just been caught in adultery. By the way, I am not the only one to have wondered once in a while what had been done to that woman’s “partner in sin” – usually adultery is committed by 2 persons, but this is not the subject of my comment here. From the Gospel story, it does not seem that Jesus specifically condemned, in so many words, either the woman who had been caught in the act, nor the people who brought her to Him What was the judgement He did express? None that I could clearly see (would some contemporary Catholics then have claimed that Jesus’ reaction had been unclear and confusing?) All He did was tell the accusers that the one of them who was without sin was welcome to throw the first stone… I am probably missing a lot here, but to me Jesus’ answer seems to have a certain similarity with Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” And when all the accusers had left, Jesus still did not express a “clear” condemnation, but He said “Go and sin no more”, which to me sounds like what is likely to happen when any sinner, no matter the size and gravity of the sins, would get to understand after having an encounter with Jesus. And for whoever finds Pope Francis attractive, including people who clearly seem to be notorious sinners, it is a step towards an encounter with Jesus. Even if that attraction is based on wrong reasons, it is at least a first baby step. Did not Jesus say that some tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before a lot of self-righteous people?

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Taking things out of proper context can result in Anti-Gospel views/actions. In these statements, context is key. How many Modernists who glorify Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge” statement know that in the very same statement Pope Francis also condemned the Gay/Masonic lobbies (in the Vatican) & quoted the Catholic Catechism? Close to zero. Why? Because most (especially the secular media) did not even bother to read the source of his quote (the actual interview).

      Under its original context, Pope Francis’s statement is completely orthodox & pro-Gospel. Unfortunately, secular media & many lukewarm Catholics are taking the pope’s statement completely out of context, ignored the actual content of what the Pope was speaking about (repentance, airplane interview), & used it to justify anti-Gospel actions (like homosexuality or cohabitation). As you pointed out, the same is completely true of our Lord’s “Go, & sin no more” Gospel statement. It’s obviously completely orthodox. The problem arises when many people (especially Modernists) have taken His statement out of context, completely ignored the whole “& sin no more” inconvenient part, & used it to justify anti-Gospel things (like remaining in sinful lifestyles).

    • Zippy

      Marthe Lepine:

      Even if that attraction is based on wrong reasons, it is at least a first baby step.

      Lets suppose a rapist and murderer who has repeatedly raped and murdered women is attracted to Pope Francis precisely because he thinks the Pope’s “who am I to judge” comment signals that the Church is moving in a direction of no longer considering rape and murder to be gravely wrong. He is attracted to Francis precisely and only because he misperceives Francis as affirming him in his gravely sinful activity: he interprets the “who am I to judge” comment as condoning rape and murder.

      Would you consider that attraction-based-in-falsehood a good thing, “at least a first baby step”?

      • Marthe Lépine

        The thing is, I do not really believe that anyone can find another person’s personality attractive for just only one reason. There can be many other things going on in a person’s mind all at the same time, which can even include the work of the Holy Spirit… So I would reply to you that maybe that first baby step might be extremely minuscule, but it could lead to something… Plus, rape and murder are not in the same category of sins as the sin of people falling for same-sex lust and they are obviously not the object of confusion for our fallen culture as SSA can be.

        • Be polite

          “they are obviously not the object of confusion for our fallen culture as SSA can be.”

          Oh really? Ever heard of abortion?

          • Marthe Lépine

            OK, so let’s try: torture…

        • Zippy

          Plus, rape and murder are not in the same category of sins as the sin of people falling for same-sex lust …

          Everyone seems to have their favorite grave intrinsic evils that they are willing to minimize and defend. For some it is torturing terrorists – something our host and I spent more than six years arguing against. For others it is bombing civilians. Some show special preference for abortion or euthanasia. Others excuse lying and deliberately enticing people to commit to evil acts, as long as it is the good guys doing it to bad guys. Still others minimize the gravity of deliberate exploitation of workers and families by paying less than a living wage to heads of household. Yet others excuse mutilating sexual acts through contraception; or adultery; or fornication. The list goes on: it is as long as the list of grave intrinsic evils, wicked and vile offenses against God and the natural law which cry out to Heaven for vengeance.

          I’ve never found those arguments particularly persuasive or even Christian; and I don’t see any particular reason to minimize the gravity of anal sex in particular.

          • Steve P

            Thanks for your engagement of this issue, Zippy – but I would rather hear you respond to the main thrust of Marthe’s comment, which is that a person can admire someone for lots of complicated reasons. I may not even be able to say what it is that attracts me to a person.

            It seems that you are so bent on arguing it down to one little point, namely that ‘precisely because he thinks the Pope’s “who am I to judge” comment signals that the Church is moving in a direction…” I believe the reality is almost certainly far more complicated than that. I think you are right that there is no “normative” way for our call to conversion. But it is certainly true that baby steps are a far more common experience than the Damascus Road. EJ’s remarks are not some great triumph of evangelization, and should not be blown out of proportion. But the entire body and public perception of Pope Francis has done more in 18 months to turn the attention of the world toward the Catholic Church than many other events in recent history. The fact that this attention has been sustained for so long is itself an accomplishment.
            The thorniest matter is how we as Church then engage those who may be newly curious about the Faith. Do we introduce them to Jesus at all? I need to worry most about my own actions and reactions in this drama of discipleship. If a door is opened because of something the Pope says or does, is my first reaction, “Whoa… Not so fast…”? Likewise, if my first reaction is, “Keep on in your sins…” that is also a problem.

  • w.

    Mark, you are right on, thank you!

  • Sophia

    So, now celebrities are the highest authorities in the Church as they and THEIR way of thinking dominate the popular culture? Elton John, hah?! These are the Times of Great Confusion and we need clarity and not more confusion and deception. I am cancelling subscription to this site. It is just a waist of my time!

    • chezami

      Um, there is no subscription to this site. And no, celebrities are not the highest authorities and EJ is not in the Church. Aside from that, you are batting a thousand.

  • JefZeph

    “…Pope Francis inspires trust in unbelievers…”

    The only trust these unbelievers have in Pope Francis is that he will alter the Church to become something more to their liking. Something less like the Church established by Jesus.

    You are free to wallow in the current cult of personality, but “Faithful Conservative Catholics” will continue to consider this supposed “trust” to be suspect.

    By the way, this long, stupid “quote” you have that begins “This shows how “humble” Pope Francis is all about trying to be a celebrity…” Care to tell us which “Faithful Conservative Catholic” said it?

  • dom

    Or, they’re right to be annoyed.

  • Na

    First, I probably have the most expansive view on God’s mercy and who will make it to heaven.

    Second, this tendency of the Pope and his supporters to constantly belittle one side of the culture “war” and to classify their motives and world view does not lead anyone to grapple to Christ. Just about all human beings tend to rationalize their behavior. And this insistence that pro-lifers and pro-marriage people don’t really understand the gospel and are obsessed with small minded rules doesn’t help anyone.

    Third, we keep pretending that the western world is just being introduced to Christ. Fact is that the “west” has systematically been peeling off Christianity for the last 50 years…all while the Church has water down its beliefs as quickly as possible. Mercy without beauty, goodness and truth is just indifference. And everyone knows it. Why do you think that the evangelicals are growing like crazy and the Episcopalians are on the brink of collapse.

  • JavierHvonSydow

    “Such people don’t want the gospel. They want a little system of order that keeps them safe from the radical demands of love Christ lays upon us. ” Very well put, Mark. I was one of them. Thanks for your article, which helps me understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to all of us through the Vicar of Christ. The peace of Christ be with you.