A Revolutionary Idea for Catholics: Try Listening to the Pope

A Revolutionary Idea for Catholics: Try Listening to the Pope February 25, 2020

Over at Where Peter Is, the always-reliably-sound D.W. Lafferty proposes an idea so shocking and revolutionary that, if implemented, it could revolutionize the Church in a way that is both revolutionary and also capable of bringing about a revolution in the Church.

Try listening to the Pope.  Actually listening.  As in “with charity and a modicum of common sense.”  Not searching for ammo to use against him.  Not trying as hard as possible to make yourself stupider than you really are so you can be “confused”.  Listening in order to understand.  Listening in order to learn something about the Faith.  Lafferty writes:

Much later, in early 2015, I felt the same inner conflict when anticipating the release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. I was not a climate change denier, but I thought that some of the climate-change rhetoric was overblown and that environmentalism was becoming almost a secular religion. Talk of global warming was incessant and inescapable. David Suzuki was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ubiquitous apostle of environmentalism, and it was hard not to see him as a symbol of entrenched liberal privilege. And now the pope was going to tell me I had to stand with Suzuki? I had to admit that the ‘climate hysteria’ was justified?

By this time, however, I was practicing the faith of my baptism. I decided to listen. It took some time, but the fragments of anti-environmentalist ideology that I had absorbed from politically conservative media, and from conservative Catholic media, began to melt away. And what replaced it was not the secular environmentalism I had doubts about, but one informed by a tradition of Catholic thought extending back to St. Francis and St. Bonaventure. Simply put, the pope was right, and I was only hesitant because I was clinging to my pride and a tendency toward contrarianism.

In a homily on January 20, Pope Francis compared ideology to idolatry. For many in our world, politics functions as a religion, and because we live in a heavily politicized environment this means that even as faithful Catholics we often carry within us many little fragments of ideology—little idols or fetishes—that we hide and protect and return to in secret. We shield them from what the pope and the Church are trying to tell us.

I imagine that George Bush, though he is not Catholic, would have been moved to hear the urgent appeal of Pope John Paul II in the words of Cardinal Laghi. But there also would have been far too many idols demanding his allegiance, commanding him to continue down the path to war. Many Americans were in a similar position. I had no connection to what was happening, and yet even I felt some resistance in myself toward the pope’s message.

As Catholics, we have a responsibility to examine our consciences in light of what the Church and the pope teach us. The Church will often come into conflict with the political realm, and if we are to remain faithful there are times we must dissolve our political allegiances and smash our idols. This is a great gift: the Church is the antidote to political polarization and the culture war, and not a mere combatant that pledges permanent allegiance to one side or the other. Imagine what idols would fall, what new political formations would take shape, and what horrors might be avoided, if only we would listen.

This seems pretty simple to me.  How about, for Lent, we try it?

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