A Reader is Miffed at a Reflection I Wrote on the Gospel a While Back

A Reader is Miffed at a Reflection I Wrote on the Gospel a While Back August 22, 2015

He writes:

Forgive me if I am reading into it, but your reflection on the Pharisees, sound and insightful in itself, seems to insinuate a rather harsh criticism of Pope Francis’ Catholic critics, or at any rate of an undefined subset of them. On this interpretation, the Holy Father is charismatically (not just juridically) in the place of Christ, conveying to man the judgments and exhortations of God. Those who oppose him or say he confuses them are blinded by their own preconceptions and pride.

If that is what you mean to suggest, please let me register a respectful protest. I protest two aspects, the first being more important than the second. If it’s not what you meant then nevermind what follows.

First, abstracting from the merits of the various positions on the various Francis controversies, I think this kind of ad hominem is very bad for Catholic debate. I am not evangelizing for the Church of Nice in saying this. The gravamen of the analysis is that Francis’ critics are proud, blind spiritual heirs to the Pharisees. Alright, now supposing for a minute that you are mistaken–I know you believe that is possible–supposing they are not any of these things, how do you suggest that they refute you? What public objective criteria do you suggest for a fair debate on the soul of Christopher Ferrara? Can you or I stand in Christ’s position and read the hearts of men and so have the authority to publicly pronounce on them? Obviously such remarks are inflammatory and nothing else.  You might say ‘It is fair and appropriate to diagnose them spiritually after demonstrating their blindness before obvious facts demonstrating that God is working through Francis.’ Maybe so, in which case, my second point comes in.

This second point is on the substance. Many people, including me, have no love for the GOP, attend Novus Ordo masses without protest, and have a streak of outright leftism in their economic sentiments, but do not approve of Francis’ style, several of his actions, or find him endearing. I do not see that Catholics have a moral obligation to like the pope, and I strongly believe that they have an obligation to form lucid and independent judgments about things within their comprehension on which they are adequately informed. I believe it is an altogether fair, defensible reading of the situation to say that despite the popularity polls (whatever relevance they may have) the pope has often misjudged, or has lacked the discipline to respect, the nature and demands of his office and the nature of the times in which he lives, and so has failed to adopt appropriate methods and policies, to the harm of the Church. This does not mean he is an antipope. It does not mean he is malevolent or insincere. It in fact doesn’t even mean he isn’t very close to God. It just means that he ought to do some things, many things differently to be a good pope an office that Divine Wisdom has made apt for government and instruction, rather than charismatic inspiration. To say this is not to make oneself the measure of God, to limit His power, to have a fortress mentality, to hate mercy, or to adopt God knows what other frenzied diabolical attitudes in perverse resistance to a shower of abounding grace. I know you think he is in fact a good pope, but can’t you see that reasonable non-whited-sepulchres might disagree?

In any case, I respect you and wish you well and hope you realize that many other Anti-Franciscans, despite their irate tone, feel the same, but often find your approach to this particular subject hectoring, mean-spirited and under-reasoned.

You are reading into it.  The question you might want to ask yourself is, “Why did I read this into it?”

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  • antigon

    Because it’s there to be read?

  • Alma Peregrina

    (WARNING: ranting ahead; please proceed with caution and, if you get abhorred, say a prayer for me as a kind of lost brother that lost his marbles; Also, bear in mind that I understand that there are lots of diferent Francis critics, and many are good well-meaning catholics, probably better than me, and this poster seems a very respectful and decent person… but the situations I rant about do exist)

    I don’t like Pope Francis.
    Don’t like his style.
    I liked Papa Ben much more and would trade 10 francises for 1 benny everyday.

    And I don’t think I’m a bad catholic for that.

    Papa Ben will always be the pope that got me to convert from lukewarm catholicism, he will always be my Papa, my spiritual father. There are times that I get saddened that I will never be able to read from him again, or to hear one of his sermons. He made everything so clear. He is one of the most inteligent man alive. He was also humble (without flaunting it, which means *really* humble), kind-hearted, virtuous. How can people disregard such a blessing just because he’s *ugly*, or doesn’t *look kind*?

    Francis hasn’t got nothing that Benedict didn’t have, except charisma (not the spiritual, the mediatic one). OTOH, there’s lots of things Ben did have and that Francis is miles away of having.

    I know that there must be more to it, but sometimes I get really angry when I think that Papa Ben was removed because the Holy Spirit needed to get a new vessel for the Gospel and the shallowness of the people wouldn’t let them hear it without a pretty, pretty package behind which they could rail, like they do with every nice-looking machiavellic Perfect Prince that comes every election cycle or with every new celebrity that replaces the one from last season.

    THAT SAID…

    I really, really, really don’t have a clue of what the anti-Francis critics are talking about when they say stuff like: “the pope has lacked the discipline to respect, the nature and demands of his office and the nature of the times in which he lives, and so has failed to adopt appropriate methods and policies, to the harm of the Church. (…) It just means that he ought to do some things, many things differently to be a good pope”

    C’mon!

    What’s it all about? Pope Francis’ remarks aren’t clear enough so the media misinterprets everything he says acording to their agenda? Yeah, that never happened with Benedict…

    Oh, but with Francis it happens more often! I’m so tired of having to explain everything everyday on facebook and yada yada.

    As a Benedict-lover, do I need to remind people of the toil that it was to constantly counter the storm of misinterpretations that came from the media? I ran a blog in those times… my keyboard was always on fire to explain where the media had gone wrong. The Regensburg address, the “homosexuals are anti-ecological” trope, the “condoms cause AIDS” misconstruction, the pedophilia defamations, the “Church changed its stance on condoms”, the ox and donkey on the creche scandal…

    Why wasn’t Ben clear on that interview, when he “allowed” condoms? Why did he accept an interview at all? The pope shouldn’t have an interview, he should be closed on the Vatican, keeping his awesomeness immaculate for us to worship! Or he should make a purity test to any journalist that came around before he gave the interview!

    (And BTW Jesus Christ’s words were always crystal clear too)

    Understand this: it’s not the popes’ fault. It’s the media’s. And if you’re too tired to defend your current pope, it’s not the pope’s fault. It’s yours.

    Oh, but Francis accepted that cross with the syckle and the hammer.
    And John Paul II kissed a freakin’ Koran!
    But I guess making a diplomatic incident would be much better, right? It would really help those latin-american catholics over there. Oh, wait a sec, there’s someone talking badly about the Church’s stance on nazism… let me just defend Pope Pius XII while I’m at it before I keep complaining on Francis, OK?

    Oh, but Francis has a marxist streak.
    No… you guys have a capitalist streak. For you guys the State can’t lift its pinky finger, or else it’s marxism!
    Have you ever read Deus caritas est or Caritas in veritate?

    Oh, but Francis has said that homosexuals shoudn’t be judged, he is going to destroy the family in that Synod whose conclusions we don’t know yet, but can imagine that it will be no good, because Francis is no good because of the Synod.

    But I have yet to read anything (anything at all!) that Francis has said that is heretical at all! Or that Benedict couldn’t have said! He is against abortion, he is against homosexuality, he is a “son of the Church” in sexual matters.

    Oh, he’s just pretending, he likes to please everybody so he says something to some and the complete opposite to the others…
    But people fail to investigate what he *really* said in those circumstances. They accept the coverage from the media, not from the pope’s own mouth. Something they would never ever do with Benedict.

    Or they do understand, but don’t like it, because it forces them to change their way of thinking, prejudices and pressupositions. Something they are always demanding from every other single catholic that is not orthodox!

    And you know what makes me more angry?

    That you guys forced me to write such a lengthy text defending a pope I don’t like at all!

    Like it or not (and I don’t like it), Pope Francis is the pope the World needs right now. You people are tarnishing Papa Ben’s sacrífice by sabotaging the plans that the Holy Spirit clearly has with Francis!

    You can disagree with the pope, you can dislike the pope, but please, please, stop criticising Francis in the exact same way the media criticised Benedict. Stop denigrating him.

    Please, please, stop!

    And if you think this rant doesn’t apply to you in any way, please disregard it, because it probably was not meant for you.

    • Andy

      I do not think you have lost your marbles, unless your first knuckle down went awry. You comments caused me to reflect again about Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Pope Benedict caused me to look at my faith again – to think it through in an a more intellectual/interior manner. His urging/writing moved from being a casual conferee with God to an active conferee. It was a difficult task, one that caused and still causes much soul searching. Pope Francis is now challenging me to live publicly what I hear and learn from my prayer. This in many ways is far more difficult – being a Catholic is being counter-cultural. And damn who wants to go against culture – it is much easier to go with the flow – and I am not saying that I am doing a good job with fighting the flow.
      So in short thank you for your rant.

      • Alma Peregrina

        Pope Francis challenges us to live our faith and be countercultural. That’s one way of looking at things.

        On the other hand, I think that many people are against Francis, because he is not countercultural enough. Many of the anti-Francis critics ingrained in themselves an indentity of being countercultural. Some of them idolise Benedict’s comment about “a smaller church” as inerrant prophecy.

        Now here comes a guy that is absolutely loved by popular culture. I think many people couldn’t adapt to that.

        They think that Pope Francis is trying to integrate secular values into catholic doctrine, when he is not, he is just proclaiming catholic values that are incidentally also valued, albeit diferently, by secular mentality. Ambientalism, for once.

        From what I can gather, there are two ways to be a catholic relatively to the culture that surrounds you:

        1) “What has Athens go to do with Jerusalém?” The man who uttered such question became a heretic, albeit a heretic in the oposite side of the spectrum of popular heresies of his day.

        2) “It is true that Aristotle was pagan, but what can I, as a Christian, use of his philosophy while discarding what is incompatible with sound doctrine?” – I’m paraphrasing, of course…

        • Andy

          Thank you for your response – Inthink there is a third way to be Catholic – to live the Eucharist – to be more charitable in my interactions with others, to try and see where others are coming from and then be present to them as a follower of Christ and a Catholic. We as a people tend to place others in boxes – like me or not like me.
          To be counter-cultural means to not embrace the way culture is, but model a different view. Much as St. Francis did. I am not saying I accomplish it well, but I am trying. It begins in your local cultural milieu and slowly moves out.
          By the way my favorite order of popes is St. John XXIII, Benedict, Francis, Paul VI and St. John Paul II.

        • Joseph

          I think you’re onto something about the anti-Francis camp not liking him because he’s not counter-cultural *enough* for them. However, their style of counter-culturalism is aggressive, confrontational, and combative… which isn’t compassionate and tends to alienate and scare away those who are still struggling to control their lower appetites in a modern world whose only commandment is “Do as thou wilt”. Look at how they are eager to *clean house* like some sort of Communist regime… if the rabble won’t willingly leave the Communion line on Sundays, we should force them out! So, Francis is as counter-cultural as they are in theory, but in practice he is more like Christ (who sat, ate, and drank with the tax collectors, pardoned the prostitutes, moved amongst the sinners and diseased in society that were outcast by the Pharisee elite.
          .
          Personally, I preferred Benedict because he spoke to me on a more intellectual level. I loved his writings and homilies. I like Francis because he’s in the same place as Benedict, but he’s more of an extrovert and sits and dines with the sinners, rabble like me. He’s not as strong in the intellectual teaching department but he’s stronger in the practical teaching department… mercy… and it appears that *mercy* is the virtue that the anti-Francisites seem to struggle the most with.

          • Andy

            Your comment about sitting with the rabble rings so true – I appreciate his willingness to see that each person is worth the dignity of companionship and conversation – a two way street, not the one way street that so many people who dislike Pope Francis seem to believe in.

          • Alma Peregrina

            I agree with everything from your comment, except when you say Francis “is stronger in the practical teaching department”.

            It depends which practical teaching you’re talking about. Mercy. Yes, Francis is the embodiment of mercy. But if you talk about other virtues, that are also practical teachings, then Benedict may score higher.

            I’m talking namely about humility. Benedict is certainly more humble than Francis. The proof is that only people who truly know Benedict know how much humble he is.

          • Linebyline

            As an aside, I think the command is not so much “Do as thou wilt” as “Do as I say,” dressed up with clever marketing to make people think they’re doing as they will.

            Much like the temptation in Eden, now that I think of it.

    • Sue Korlan

      I loved JP the Great for many of the reasons you love Benedict, and I could never get attached to Benedict as much because he wasn’t his predecessor whom I missed so greatly. I suspect this is part of why some people are unhappy with Francis.

      • Alma Peregrina

        There are many reasons for people to be unhappy with Francis (or, for that matter, to be happy with him). There are as much reasons as there are people.

        From my part, JP2 was the pope of my childhood. When he died I cried bitter tears (and I wasn’t even a practicing catholic).

        But here’s the thing. I was not attached to Benedict because he aided in my conversion. It was the other way around. I was aided in my conversion because I was attached to him.

        I can’t have sympathy for either JP2 or Francis. They are the jocks, the popular kids, the guys who don’t have to do anything to be cool or likeable.

        Benedict was the nerdy, shy, bookwormish kind of guy, that doesn’t stand out except for the absolute richness of his thought, the wondrous complexity of his interior world.

        He was an underdog in a world that values just appearances and charismas. And he got to the higher spot of spiritual hierarchy there is on this Earth. He could finally do what he was born to do: to teach! To teach what this world needs to know! And to put some order on the mess the Church and the world is in!

        How much hope can a guy like me have to find a place in this world, when God removes Benedict from his clear true vocation so that the shallow, mediocre, wilfully ignorant masses would get what they want: a Justin Bieber papacy?

        And guess what? Just as expected, it didn’t change a thing. The shallow, mediocre, wilfully ignorant masses still… don’t… get… it… because they… don’t… care!

        I know that these reasons are petty, unchristian, personal, and irrational, and I will follow Pope Francis, because it’s God’s and Benedict’s wish I should do so. But I can never enjoy the man, I will never like him.

    • Re_Actor

      And John Paul II kissed a freakin’ Koran!

      Yes, and was harshly criticised for it.

      • Alma Peregrina

        Yes, and the general sentiment is that, in spite of that, John Paul II was a good pope.

    • Artevelde

      Thank you for that post, Alma. I’ll add a few ”off the cuff” remarks myself.

      – JPII, Benedict, Francis. In that order. I too have my personal preferences.

      – If Moses has shortcomings, let’s focus on being Aaron ourselves. Don’t try to break his staff.

      – I mostly miss Hildebrand. Would love to see a few people on their knees at Canossa.

      • Alma Peregrina

        My order of preference (by far):
        Benedict, JPII, Francis

        To see why, I refer you to my reply to Sue Korlan.

        And yes, my point is exactly that: don’t break the staff, even if you don’t like Moses.

    • Linebyline

      I think you’re pretty much right here, but I would like to ask (and not in the smart-alecky faux-Socratic way so common on the Internet but because I really don’t know) did Benedict ever have a situation comparable to Francs granting an interview to an anti-Catholic atheist who is known for never taking notes, after another such interview with the same guy had already blown up in his face?

      The impression (and I emphasize, impression) I get is that Francis’ critics think there’s more than just the media distorting every word out of the pope’s mouth. You’re right, that’s going to happen anyway, as it does to every pope and frankly just about any public figure. But to the critics, it’s as if it still hasn’t dawned on Francis that this is a problem he should at least try to mitigate.

      But again, I don’t know that Francis is really any less savvy than Benedict. I wonder if Benedict made just as many (seemingly) stupid mistakes, but we’re only hearing about those made by Francis, because of some narrative someone’s constructing to try to get Catholics to disagree loudly with each other.

      • Alma Peregrina

        You’re right. There are mistakes that Francis makes that Benedict never would make. Francis is naive, clumsy, reckless, carefree, loquacious… Benedict was very careful and thougtful in his words.

        But then again, those “defects” of Francis are also virtues. This impulsiveness that makes him take the risk to talk to an anticatholic atheist journalist because he wants to reach up to him, like the Good Sheperd that tries to get back the One sheep while leaving the other 99…

        … is the same mindset that makes him phone his faithful to try to ease their problems.

        And this makes us think: maybe the papacy shouldn’t have gotten so far from the rest of the Church, right? Maybe the sheperds should never have forfeited the smell of their sheep! What would Jesus or St. Peter say of the inaccessability of modern popes to the common catholic?

        Maybe Francis will open a breach into a new way of looking into the papacy. In the meantime, since there is no perfection in this earth, we will have to endure the consequences of this. And those are: a pope that is more accessible to the world is also more accessible to worldly distortions.

        That said: I categorically reject the idea that mediatic distortions of Francis’ words are happening at a higher pace (or at least, a significantly higher pace) than mediatic distortions of Benedict.

        • Linebyline

          I’m all for reaching out to sinners. If that was Francis’ intention, which I figure it probably was, then I applaud him for it.

          Common sense suggests that next time he should bring a tape recorder. Then again, it’s not like Francis is the only one (or even the only pope) who ever neglected to do something that common sense (especially coupled with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) suggests he should have done.

          But really, this is the important part:

          I categorically reject the idea that mediatic distortions of Francis’ words are happening at a higher pace (or at least, a significantly higher pace) than mediatic distortions of Benedict.

          I don’t have numbers one way or the other, so I don’t know, but my suspicion is that people are making a bigger deal out of distortions of Francis’ teachings than those of Benedict’s.

          I suspect the reason is that, while it’s easy to paint Benedict as controversial by distorting what he said (the Regensburg address being a good example), the distortions didn’t consistently try to paint him as breaking with church teachings. Sometimes they did (e.g. the condom thing) but it wasn’t the theme of media coverage of the papacy, like it seems to be with Francis.

          Of course, that’s a feature of the distortions of the media, not of Francis himself or his papacy. It’s fair to be irked by that. It’s not fair to take it out on Francis.

          • Alma Peregrina

            Agreed.

    • Ken

      Thank you for saying what I’ve been trying to say for a long time only much better. The same people that accused Benedict for being an enabler of child molesters are the same people who are purposely misrepresenting Pope Francis.
      To me, I try not to like one over the other, although I’m not always successful. I loved JP2’s charisma and his leadership through the Cold War and codifying the teachings of the Church. I do wish he wasn’t so trusting of certain people. I LOVE Benedict’s writings. I wish he wasn’t so painfully publically shy. That is not a character flaw by him it actually makes me love him even more because he seemed to be very uncomfortable in public to the point he was suffering through it by his love of the Church. I find Francis to be very charismatic. I like the way he reaches out to poor and goes out of his way to reach out to people who feel marginalized. I do wish he was more careful and precise in his language. Basically, they’re humans who have strengths and weaknesses.

  • Andy

    A couple of questions to the person who wrote you – in the reflection provided I didn’t make the leap to folks attacking Pope Francis. Did I miss something? THe major question though – what has Francis done or said that contradicts the church? What doctrine has he changed? I am at a loss – folks don’t like his style – deal with it. Not all of us are the same – God made each of us to be a unique human being; simply because one is elected Pope doesn’t mean that the God-given uniqueness disappears. Have popes said things the I find cringe-worthy – I have lived through 6 popes that I was more than aware of and each and every one of them has said things or done things that made/make me go – huh? I never once thought they were bad, I assumed that either I misunderstood, or that they have information I don’t have or more likely they responded as a human being.
    I think the one difference I see between Francis and his predecessors is that he is more blunt, more plain spoken and it makes it harder to ignore his comments as they are not presented in an academic style. Aside from that I see few differences.

  • Dave G.

    I’m less fascinated by why people don’t like Pope Francis. I’m more fascinated by why people who have been critics of previous popes suddenly love Pope Francis. After all, some who criticize Pope Francis criticized previous popes as well. But there are boatloads of people who, only a few years ago, had little to nothing good to say about any pope I’ve ever known, who all of a sudden are in love with Pope Francis. That’s what I’m interested in.

    • Re_Actor

      The obvious answer would be that the ‘Franboys’ are progressives and appreciate a pope who appears to share many of their progressive sentiments.

      • Newp Ort

        Yes, appears being the key word.

        • Re_Actor

          A commentator over at The Orthosphere quotes a modern European leftist philosopher as saying: ““Centrist liberalism is a sham, you are either on the left or right. There is one very simple question: what is the cause of human suffering? If you think it is caused by human society being poorly structured, you are on the left. If you think it is caused by anything else, you are on the right.”

          Not a bad starting point, I think. Andt’s always worth bearing in mind that progressive ≠ liberal.

          • Artevelde

            If that’s the question, then I’m on the right. If that’s the question, it’s also very clear to me what the left stands for, but really, no idea what the right would stand for in that scenario.
            By the way, who is this philosopher being quoted?

            • Re_Actor

              no idea what the right would stand for in that scenario.

              It’s a very wide-angle view to be sure, enabling one to class both traditional Catholicism and satanism as ‘right-wing’. Of course, our traditional Catholic and satanist would probably each regard the other as leftist, so there is clearly much more to be said. (Perhaps Moldbug’s entertaining musings are your cup of tea?)

              By the way, who is this philosopher being quoted?

              GM Tamás.

          • Alma Peregrina

            Can’t I think that *some* of the human suffering is caused by human society being poorly structured and *some* of the human sufering is caused by anything else?

            Why do people always think that reality is so simple that it has a straightforward answer that applies to all situations?

            • Re_Actor

              Well the quotation was basically an aphorism and as such invites unpacking. A merely ‘structural’ fault could in theory be corrected by a simple restructuring. Hence leftists have tended to talk about “eliminating poverty”, “abolishing war”, eradicating racism” &c. My sense is that the question is really about whether one believes in the perfectibility of man.

              • Alma Peregrina

                It still doesn’t cut it.

                I believe that man is perfectible up to some point by restructuring extrinsic structural faults. That man is perfectible up to some other point by restructuring instrinsic spiritual faults. And that beyond that point he is not more perfectible at all.

                Of course, this only works if you don’t think of “perfectible” as a continuous process or a spectrum, but as the ability to achieve perfection instantaneously.

                But then again, I don’t think that there is anyone so gullible as to think that man will ever achieve complete perfection. Not even on the left. But I can’t speak for them…

                • Re_Actor

                  I’m sure all but the kookiest leftists would accept that the human condition is not literally perfectible or infinitely improvable. Conversely, even the most curmudgeonly of rightists would accept that material and spiritual improvement is possible and desirable. The rift comes when we come to consider what counts as improvement and how it is to be attained.

                  Lewis’ well-known dictum about the “materialist magician” comes to mind: “There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.”

                  In this light, one might perhaps reformulate it thus: The leftist is concerned with power and autonomy (the former supposedly bestowing the latter); the rightist is concerned with authority and freedom (the former safeguarding the latter).

                  [ADDED:]

                  The leftist’s tendency to subordinate the individual to variously conceived flows and processes (biological, historical, economic, &c.) should not be seen as being in opposition to his craving for autonomy, as the consequent dissolution of the self involves an abdication of responsibility that grants unlimited licence; while the conception of the self as a personification of those processes gratifies the ego even as it demeans the human person.

                  P.S. If you have an hour or two to spare, you might enjoy this first-rate series:

                  http://orthosphere.org/2015/05/16/plotinus-and-augustine-on-gnosticism/

                  http://orthosphere.org/2015/06/05/gnosticism-its-self-representation/

                  http://orthosphere.org/2015/07/20/gnosticism-in-modern-scholarship/

                  • Alma Peregrina

                    I agree. Then I’m a rightist.

    • Alma Peregrina

      Simple. They don’t love Pope Francis. They love an idealization of Pope Francis that doesn’t correspond to reality.

      Many of them haven’t heard a single word Francis said or read a single word Francis wrote, except what got filtered down by the media, which tells them exactly what they want to hear.

      Those Francis admirers have been saying for years: “I don’t need to conform to doctrine, it’s the Church that’s gotta conform to what I think is right” (an idea commonly expressed in the cliché “The Church has to get with the times”)

      Now, they finally are “getting” what they wished for. A Pope that is “getting with the times”. Now they can lay back, relax, wait for the Church to validate what they already do, don’t change, don’t do a thing and boom! Awesome catholic! Heaven’s a singe!

      If they knew the real Francis, they would crucify him on the spot…

      • Dave G.

        I don’t know that they are as ready to give up and reach for the crossbeams as all that. He still stands on Church teaching, but his passions tend to flow from the Left. Or so I’m hearing from a growing number of his supporters. The gist seems to be, like a piece I read from an LGBT advocate anticipating the Pope’ US visit stated, that he won’t change Church teaching at all. The growing hope there seems to be that he will make it so he doesn’t have to. That is, he’ll make it so that one can still be all those things that the Left loves and still be in good standing, even if in some dusty old rule book somewhere it still says certain things are wrong. Chris Matthews on MSNBC had a round table a couple weeks back that said about the same thing. It appears that’s how some of his supporters are getting around the realization that Pope Francis isn’t going to be coming down from the mount and jettisoning doctrine anytime soon.

        • Alma Peregrina

          I was thinking more of the average Joe, than of pundits and activists (those have to be up-to-date and read the arguments from side to side, so they can ignore Pope Francis’ true teachings only so much).

          • Dave G.

            That might make a difference. But if surveys are to be believed, most Catholics aren’t shy about admitting where they disagree with the Church anyway. So it might be a case of a finally getting a pope who simply won’t care that they do – at least on certain issues. Which is sort of what those on MSNBC were saying.

            • Alma Peregrina

              Well, I guess those people will do what they want regardless of a pope turning a blind eye or not. The only thing that truly matters is that sound doctrine may be preserved.

    • capaxdei

      Isn’t a lot of his appeal personal rather than doctrinal, more a matter of liking the guy who shows up in the news from time to time than what direction the Catholic Church might take under his guidance? Here’s a man elected to what is probably the position with the most perks in the history of ever, who refuses to live in a palace, drives an old beater, and is literally approachable (as all those selfies with him attest). For a democratic country that considers “Who would you rather have a beer with?” when electing a president, Pope Francis has a just-folks quality that appeals when he does some pope thing that turns up on the news.

      Also, he’s being considered in comparison to Pope Benedict XVI, who never stood a chance of being liked by informal and ironic Americans, and St. John Paul II, whose rock star charisma was overwritten in the public mind by the physical rigidity of his final years, and a culture who loves license and fears physical decline is not going to like being reminded of illness and aging.

      Sure, the media told the story of each of these men the way it wanted to tell it, but they were planting on good soil for what they were growing.

      • Dave G.

        I don’t know. Many loved JPII – with heavy doses of qualifiers. Often ‘personally loved the guy, but…’ Not with Pope Francis. It’s just ‘Love the guy!’. And it can’t be missed that many who are singing the praises of Pope Francis were extremely vocal in their dislike for the previous popes, or at least what the previous popes stood for. Much of the admiration for Pope Francis appears to go beyond ‘just love the guy’ to ‘love what he is going to do.’ And for them, the priorities, the passions, the perspectives of Pope Francis seem to be what they love as much as they love the man.

    • Joseph

      Those are usually libtards who are totally unfamiliar with Catholic teaching or know it and outright reject many aspects of it. They get all of their news from mainstream press which, as you know, completely misrepresents just about every word Pope Francis has said and twists them into left-leaning manifestos (The media, by the way, hates the Catholic Church, so they love nothing more than to confuse Catholics and non-Catholics alike on all things Church… then they sit back with their Mai Tais and enjoy the show).
      .
      This has been my experience. I recently had dinner with one of those in question. She started going on and on about how great Pope Francis is because he agrees with all of her pet political causes (apparently, an *activist* now is someone who shares articles on FB). So, I began to challenge her on her ideas that she had on Pope Francis’ stance on certain issues and when she realised that, no, Pope Francis is *not* an advocate for gay marriage/adoption; divorce and remarriage; abortion and population control; etc. she thought I was lying. I’m friends with this woman so we didn’t get into an argument, but we left it with me saying that Pope Francis is no different ideologically from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, he just comes across differently. I could sense the disappointment from her, but I couldn’t have her thinking that the media portrayal of him was an accurate one.

      • Ken

        I had a similar experience but it was with my parents. I’m a convert and my mother is Agnostic and my father is an atheist who really doesn’t like the Church at all. Both of them expressed how much they love, not like, Pope Francis and were listing all the reasons why. As carefully as I could I tried to explain that his teachings aren’t different than Benedict. I didn’t make a huge deal of it and dropped the subject. Those can be tough situations. You want to proclaim the truth of the Church I also think maybe the Holy Spirit is doing something. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  • SecretAgentMan

    I’m no fan of some of Mark’s opinions. But I read the Pharisee piece and found it interesting, whole-hearted and useful reading. I get the sensitivity of the person who wrote the note, but I think he or she’s a bit tetchy here.

    It’s interesting to watch so many conversations here and elsewhere about how to live Catholicism which assume their sole point is how to rectify the world. Something in the world is either Good because it conforms to Catholicism, or Bad because it doesn’t. The first part of the conversation is to identify what is Good or Bad and the second part is to identify who is on the side of Good and who is on the side of Bad. When necessary, psycho-spiritual analyses are liberally used explain why Catholics are on the side of Bad in any particular case, or are falsely accusing the Catholics who are on the side of Good with being on the side of Bad.

    What seems lost or overlooked is the idea that conversations about how to live Catholicism are also and always conversations about what Catholicism truly is. People who disagree whether something is Good or Bad have been brought into that disagreement for a reason. I don’t think that reason is psycho-spiritual hygiene. I think that reason is Providence. Anyone in such a conversation has been led to it by experiences, talents, and ideas whose expression is needed to first understand what Catholicism truly is, and then to understand what is Good and Bad in the world.

    I remember, although perhaps not perfectly, that some years back, Pope John Paul II (I believe) convened a study commission with a view to surveying developments in reproductive medicine and determining if Humanae Vitae could be revisited. Predictable angst followed. “This Pope is going to let us use the pill!” “This Pope is betraying the Church!” The World also likes to chime in, of course, because it makes Catholics so beautifully agitated, defensive, and creates a good rising tide of anger and contempt, which is where the so much of the secular media makes its money. And so there were stories about how the Church is finally evolving to recognize her own stupidity, which just started the angst all over again. I thought and still think it was all very silly.

    I think the Pope was just acting from the idea that since we’re following a superior intellect, we can’t always be sure that we know what we think we know. One thing I love about the Church is this spirit, “No harm in reconsidering what we think we know.” There’s a deep humility there that can be sustained only by someone who’s confident that he or she is on the right path. To me, it’s a motive of credibility.

    Reading through all this I want to say I hope I didn’t sound as though I’m focusing on CAEI or Mark as an epitome, or even frequent example, of the unfortunate part of human discussions I was talking about. I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, Mark has his faults here. So does everyone else, including me. But one of the nice things about looking at all these discussions as individual attempts to understand Christ and think with Him can take a lot of the sting out of hearing one’s own understanding and thinking described in a negative way.

  • Linebyline

    So someone writes in and accuses you of ad hominem and of appointing yourself the judge of the hearts and minds of others.

    You rebut this by insinuating that your correspondent writes out of some unspecified moral or other defect.

    What am I missing here?

    • The “Pharisee” article did not mention Pope Francis, and no one knows Mark’s intentions better than him, so the reader was making a leap. But what was the purpose in publicly sharing *this* post?

      • Linebyline

        You mean the blog post or my comment?