Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome is a psychosis that can manifest itself in three distinct and peculiar ways: as it were a trinity of nonsense not seen since Satan thrice tempted God. It is important to know whether we show the classic signs of PFDS, so that we may seek help in logic and in facts.
A YARDSTICK FOR LUNATICS
I. First, anti-Catholic Protestants may latch on to rumors that the pope is about to undo two millennia of Catholic teaching. They will then use those rumors as one more excuse to guffaw: Oh, my Bible and tree! See, the Church is not really unchanging! See, the pope is not really infallible! He is in error! What have we told you all this time? These poor souls may become self-vindicated and insufferable. They may show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder about the pope.
II. Second, more-Catholic-than-thou traditionalists may latch on to rumors that the pope is about to undo two millennia of Catholic teaching. They will then use those rumors as one more excuse to panic: Oh, my incense and Latin Mass! See, the pope is about to destroy the Church! He is in error! What have we told you about Vatican II all this time? These poor souls may become paranoid and morose. They may show signs of clinical depression.
III. Third, progressives may latch on to rumors that the pope is about to undo two millennia of Catholic teaching. In some cases, they even go so far as to invent the rumors themselves. Either way, they will then use those rumors as one more excuse to run wild and roughshod. Oh, my incense and peppermints! What do I see but that the pope is about to fulfill all my fantasies! He is finally casting aside millennia of error! What have I been telling the Church it needed to do this whole time? These poor souls may become euphoric and muddled. They may show signs of delirium, and they may even suffer from hallucinations.
In this ongoing series, I have set out to document some case studies of Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome. As it sadly happens, there is too much PFDS in the world at large for me to be exhaustive, as though this blog were an encyclopedia. But by recording some of the wilder manifestations, and very soberly setting the record straight on the pope’s orthodoxy, PFDS may become easier to diagnose and cure.
BEATNIKS AND POLITICS
Earlier this month, Illinois became the sixteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage—whether by popular vote, court fiat, or state legislature. (In truth, it is not marriage at all but rather the antithesis of it. Same-sex couples do not so much want to “marry” as they want to play a child’s game of make-believe and demand that the rest of the world confirm them in their fiction. It is not enough for them to destroy truth; they must destroy marriage too. The names of the fifteen other offending states can be found here.)
When an insane and wicked law such as this one is passed, one expects insane and wicked things to be said in its defense. Thus, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, state representative Greg Harris rhapsodized like Liszt.
At the end of the day, what this bill is about is love, it’s about family, it’s about commitment. At the end of the day, this bill is about the vision that the founders of our country had and wrote into the Constitution, where they said that America is a journey.
That is madness talking. Does anyone know what Mr. Harris is talking about? If so, will you kindly explain? Do his words even have meaning, or has meaning been abandoned? Please, sir, inform us: Where in the Constitution do you read that same-sex marriage was James Madison’s “vision”? Or where do you find hippie-inspired talk about “journeys”? And why must it always be “the end of the day” when we’re talking about such matters? Is night upon us? Will the sun never come back up? How could “this bill” possibly be “about family” when same-sex couples can’t create families? Does Mr. Harris know of a same-sex couple who conceived a child? Would he please inform us who that couple is? I am not trying to be cute; I know all about adoption, but would someone please tell me why same-sex marriage is now a prerequisite for adoption?
So that was strange enough; but it soon became singularly wild. Monique Garcia and Ray Long—the authors of the Tribune article—made the staggering claim that same-sex marriage advocates in the Illinois legislature “received additional help from Pope Francis.” The pope’s comments on not judging homosexuals “sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers.” I confess: I sit down astonied when I hear nonsense so non. In what sense did they “receive help”? Am I to imagine that the pope called Illinois Democrats on the night before the vote and said, “You have my papal blessing”?
It might have done these so-called “Catholic” lawmakers more good if they had forgone the “soul-searching” in favor of some Catechism searching, specifically paragraphs 2358 to 2359. Perhaps they might have read more than the media’s wild and dishonest paraphrase of Francis’s words.
But no. Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, claiming sans embarrassment to be “a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope,” said that Catholicism is about “love, compassion, and justice for all people.” Which obviously it is, but when Ms. LaVia uses those words in defense of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, they are bled of any honestly Catholic meaning. In her usage, they are little more than vague bromides that can justify whatever sin may please you today. Am I really to believe that love, compassion, and justice have gone unfulfilled in all of human history before now? In the Catechism, we read that homosexuality is “objectively disordered.” Is that unloving? Is that uncompassionate? Is that unjust? If so, Ms. LaVia, then how is Catholicism about love, compassion, and justice—as you understand those words? Or do you understand those words?
But it was not just the pretend Catholics, like Ms. LaVia, who spoke on this theme. Rep. Ken Dunkin observed, goofily, that “Jesus loved everyone”—a mere cliché, which no one disputes and is apropos of nothing germane to this discussion. Jesus loved the Pharisees, but He still called them hypocrites and sinners and asked them how they could possibly escape the damnation of Hell. Jesus loved the moneychangers, but He still beat them with cords. And when attempting to return marriage to first principles, He said, “From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). Jesus loved everyone, but nowhere did He suggest that loving everyone implied sanctioning everything they want to do. Is that what “love” means to you, Mr. Dunkin? If so, you haven’t a clue.
Rep. Lou Lang succumbed to an ethereal haze in his efforts to channel sixties’ crooner Jackie DeShannon.
It is inconceivable to me in a society that is so desperate for love and so desperate for closeness and so desperate for people to live peaceably with one another that anyone can turn their back on this legislation. All this legislation proposes to do is to let people be together in peace and in love and make the world a better place.
Again, “love” and “peace” are good things. But Mr. Lang fails to explain why same-sex marriage is required to achieve them. Am I supposed to believe that, without same-sex marriage, Americans will constantly be at each other’s throats with viciousness? Are we dealing with the statements of a rational mind here? Time and again, these legislators of evil in Illinois use words like “love” and “peace,” “compassion” and “justice” as meaning-free daggers. With them, they stab the opponents of same-sex marriage: as though they were in favor of hatred, war, viciousness, and tyranny. But if the word “love” is nothing more than a political weapon to achieve whatever outrage you dream, it is no wonder that so many people are laden with emotion about it but lazy and deficient in their understanding of it.
That is a problem of itself, but what is genuinely offensive is the dishonest and wicked abuse of the pope and the Catholic Church by those who seek to achieve their evil in his name, and hers. These legislators of evil ought to be ashamed. They won’t, but they ought.
TURN ON, TUNE IN, TURN YOUR EYES AROUND
But before we take up what Pope Francis said to occasion this new burst of derangement, let us look at what he had already said, on prior occasions, concerning the definition of marriage and the campaign for same-sex marriage in Argentina. In June 2010, in a letter to Dr. Justo Carbajales, here is what then-Cardinal Bergoglio said:
The essence of being human tends to the union of man and woman as reciprocal realization, attention and care, and as the natural way of procreation. … Marriage predates the state … and predates any legislation and even the Church itself. Hence the adoption of the bill in question would signify a real and grave anthropological setback.
Marriage (composed of male and female) is not the same as the union of two persons of the same sex. To distinguish is not to discriminate but to respect; to differentiate, to discern, is to value with propriety, not to discriminate. …
Let us be careful that, in trying to assert and look out for a presumed right of adults, we do not leave aside the proprietary right of children (who should be the only privileged ones) to count on models of father and mother, to have a Dad and a Mom.
These are strong and definite statements. Marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman and is “the essence of being human”; same-sex marriage, by contrast, would represent “a grave anthropological setback.” If marriage “predates the state[,] … any legislation[,] and even the Church itself,” it follows that its definition is fixed. Marriage has an existential reality; it cannot be changed by the vagaries and whims of popular sentiment.
Cardinal Bergoglio is at more than pains to emphasize: Marriage has an exclusivity; it bears a distinction and a difference, and to uphold that difference “is to value [it] with propriety.” But to change the definition of marriage (as though one could) is to be destructive of both marriage and children, who deserve a father and a mother.
But Cardinal Bergoglio wrote another, and more frequently-quoted, letter, this one to the Carmelite Nuns of Buenos Aires. Here is some of what he said:
The Argentine people will face, in the coming weeks, a situation whose outcome may gravely injure the family. … What is at stake here is the identify and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother. At stake is the outright rejection of the law of God, engraved also in our hearts.
… Do not be naive: [this] is not a simple political struggle; it is [a] destructive attempt toward God’s plan. It is not a mere legislative project … but a machination of the father of lies [who] seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. …
Today the country, in this situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Spirit that he may put the light of Truth in the midst of the darkness of error; it needs this Advocate to defend us from the spell of so many sophistries with which this legal project seeks to be justified, and which confuses and deceives even people of good will.
These, likewise, are strong and definite statements. Cardinal Bergoglio does not incline toward bland words. To accept same-sex marriage, he says, would be “naive.” Same-sex marriage would “gravely injure the family.” It is “an outright rejection of the law of God.” It is “a machination of the father of lies” that can be justified only through “the spell of so many sophistries.”
As we have seen above, the “spell of sophistries” includes untethered appeal to “love,” to “family,” to “peace,” to “commitment.” When used by the legislators of evil, these words are indeed meant to cast a spell. They are meant to elicit mere emotion and to discourage any rational thought.
But you will ask: How is it that the same person who has said all these things could possibly be cited as an “additional help” to legislators seeking to pass laws permitting same-sex marriage?
OCCASIONS, PERSUASIONS CLUTTER YOUR MIND
A reason exists, and it has to do—not with any inconsistency with the pope—but instead with a fundamental and important misunderstanding of the teaching of Christ and His Church. There is a strong tendency in our culture to confuse words like “what you do is sin” with “I hate you.” As a result, when the pope says that gay people are not to be judged but loved and respected, sufferers of PFDS interpret him to mean that the Church now approves of gay sex and gay marriage. We treat a person’s actions and the person himself as though they were the same. But it is not thus in Catholic teaching.
So with that in mind, let us look at what Pope Francis, in his more recent words, actually said. On August 19, in an interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, he said this:
The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all. … The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
Now, we should make note here of one simple thing: The Church can hardly be a “minister of mercy” to people who have not sinned. To be a “minister of mercy” rather implies that sin has taken place. But what the Holy Father says is that priests must be neither “rigorists” who small-mindedly say “the law, the law” with no heart for mercy, nor “loose ministers” who deny that sin is sin. Rather, the law of mercy means to heal the wounds that have been caused by sin. A pope who thought that homosexuality and same-sex marriage were just fine would not talk in such a way—as did Christ—about sin, mercy, and the healing of wounds.
During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. … It is necessary to accompany [gay people] with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
Again, at this point we should make note If Francis is telling us to “accompany [gay people] with mercy,” he seems to understand that they need it. If homosexual acts were not sins, how is it that homosexuals are in need of mercy? Mercy is to say, “Your sins are forgiven”; it is not to say, “Go, and sin some more.”
And to see that Francis’s words are no more than the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church, we can turn to no less an authority than the Catechism itself, in paragraphs 2358-2359:
2358. The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Some will want to claim that Francis has been inconsistent and whimsical—now saying this, now that. But they who do so are dealing in false dichotomies; their argument is difficult to sustain against the Catechism, which says those very same “inconsistent” things, and in the very same passage: that homosexuality is “objectively disordered”; that homosexual persons are called to “chastity” and “disinterested friendship,” not marriage; but that they are nevertheless to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Francis never said that we may not judge the sinful actions of homosexuals. What he did say was that we are forbidden to judge the heart of a person whom Christ died to redeem and whose burdens are known to God alone. To be able to distinguish between the one and the other is a sign, not of inconsistency, but of Catholic maturity.
And the pope, after all, was speaking of homosexuals “of good will,” who seek the Lord. Francis does not sound to me like he was talking about obstinate sinners who march in the gay pride parade. Should one not assume that he has in mind those who fully understand the disorder of their own affections, who carry that cross every day, but who seek to live chaste lives and do the will of God? There is a vast difference between saying, “I am called to love my gay neighbor” and saying “I am called to approve of what he does.” But who among us will claim to be completely free of disordered affections of one kind or another? I know I’m not. But I do seek the face of God. Should I not encounter mercy? Did Christ not die for me? Then how is it different with the homosexual?
TO DIVIDE THE COCKEYED WORLD IN TWO
Nevertheless, some smug souls who left the Catholic Church years ago—yes, I refer to the man in Pittsburgh, our old friend, the polemical rogue John Bugay—seem to imagine that they are just the ones to advise the pope, and straight from their blogging basements no less. Thus on November 15, Mr. Bugay wrote this article, entitled “On the Need to Articulate Things Clearly.”
He begins his post with the following back-handed compliment: “In truth, Francis’s statements have been consistent with Church teachings, even when butchered and misunderstood and misrepresented.” When an anti-Catholic begins that way, you know you better keep a sharp eye on the rug. And in this case, Mr. Bugay does not make us wait long. Before the proverbial ink is dry, he tells us that the butchering of the pope’s words is the fault of—wait for it—the pope himself! Francis “needs to be more attentive,” Mr. Bugay urges. Francis needs “to clarify things better” and “more strongly affirm and articulate Church teachings.” Otherwise “this situation will get worse, spreading major errors throughout the Church, the country, the culture, and the world.”
You would almost think that Mr. Bugay was lobbying for a job in the reformed curia. But I’m afraid I do not get it. Does not Mr. Bugay think that the Church is already full of “major errors”? Is he not skilled enough at misrepresenting Church teaching, and the pope’s words, without any help? And why does he imagine the pope has the power to stop those who are determined to misrepresent him, however clear or unambiguous he is? If Francis said, “Church law clearly forbids the marriage of same-sex couples,” the media would report: “Today, Pope Francis lamented the antiquated character of canon law. Should the church update its old rules? Let us turn now to our experts.”
For here is the dirty little secret. (Or so I suspect.) Not one of the legislators in Illinois, and not one person in the media, is confused a whit about what Francis has said. No one is in doubt about the clear teaching of the Church. They may not understand the logic and beauty behind it; they may not agree with it; but they know what it is. They do not misrepresent Francis because Francis has chosen his words poorly. They misrepresent him because they are demagogues. They know that people are less certain about the orthodoxy of Francis than they were about the orthodoxy of Benedict XVI, and they are taking advantage of that. If Francis is not going to be the pope of progressive fantasy, the game is to pretend that he is. The game is to drive the Church into an hysteria, for amusement, while liberals get to the business of ticking items off their evil agenda.
THROW YOUR PRIDE TO ONE SIDE
There is a corrective to all of this. But it is not for Francis to “explain himself better.” Rather, it is for Catholics to calm down and say to the news media, “Your words are false. Here is why.” In my view, deep belly laughs at fools are also good for the soul. But the progressives know this one thing: So long as there are Catholics who actually will believe their false reports and sloppy paraphrase, so long as traditionalists panic and loopy sisters burn their wimples, they will continue to lie about the pope. They will shut it only when we laugh at them and tell them to shut it. And that includes pretend Catholics like Linda Chapa LaVia and Nancy Pelosi. A Church divided against itself is what the progressives want.
For do not mistake: It is not just John Bugay and his like. I have heard the Catholic who has said, “You know, if Francis is going to be misinterpreted, he better be careful what he says in these interviews. He needs to show some common sense!” As if Francis (1) has any control over being misrepresented by people who are determined to misrepresent him; (2) should just shut up about Church teaching because progressives might misunderstand or misrepresent it. And poor helpless fools that we are, we just don’t have the time to go figuring it all out when the media lies to us.
I say this with love: There is a reason why there is a thing called the New Evangelization. What is wrong with you clarifying things to the confused or the obstinate? What is wrong with you teaching Catholicism to Catholics? Why not make the ill-informed your target, not the pope? If the Church matters, if its teachings matter—and not just to this life but to our eternal soul—then make the time.
For we have a lot to tell this world. We need to define for them the genuine and Catholic understanding of love, of marriage, of the dignity of the human person. They need to know that love is reciprocity; that it is being bound up in someone who is other. Reciprocity implies difference; and same-sex marriage, whatever else it might be, is not love because it is not other.
We need to define the natural law for this world and explain why it is immoral and destructive to use our bodies in ways they were not designed to be used. We need to define freedom for this world and explain why it can only be found in the law of God and not in slavery to sin: The only freedom that makes any sense is freedom from sin.
And while we’re at it we need to explain why the command to love and not to judge does not mean approving or legalizing whatever people can dream up. And we might as well define happiness too and explain where true happiness is found. Ultimately, we need to explain why same-sex marriage is destructive of the very things the legislators of evil say they are promoting by it. It is destructive of our bodies and of our lives; of family, of freedom, of love; it is destructive, in the end, of our soul.
I know that many of us are doing these very things and have been for a long time. But stay patient and cheerful in correction whenever people continue to err, as they will. Do not get jaded, and for the love of God do not make the pope a scapegoat for everything that is wrong in the culture and the Church. Those who want to blame the pope’s “unclear” words, or the “ambiguous” Vatican II, are wrong and will always be wrong. The fact is, we live in a time that is confused. Clearing up the confusion, and reacquainting people with the beauty of truth, is not easy and does not happen overnight. Keep at it. Make the time.
Let us be patient, and let us understand our own faith well enough to know that everything that Francis has said is at the very heart of Catholicism. Let us get past this false dichotomy of “liberal” and “conservative,” and let us get past the foolish need to place one label or the other on the pope. To be Catholic is to be beyond such mean political distinctions, which are at the very root of Pope Francis Derangment Syndrome.
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