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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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