They’re all out of hope. On April 30, Cardinal Gerhard Müller—and not for the first time—rebuked the Wyrd Sisters of the LCWR. In the weeks since, the liberal media has, as oft before, lashed itself into a pitch of outrage at their imaginary folk hero, Pope Fuzzy Francis. The man of their dreams, before whom their words swooned, has taken off the happy clown nose and become Pennywise. From the bite of their comical rhetoric, one might be tempted to think that the scales are falling from their eyes and the truth will fully dawn on them that the pope is Catholic.
But do not dream like they. Here is a revealing exercise: Google the words “meet the new pope same as the old pope.” You will get a lot of hits; but more interesting than the number of hits is the dates on the posts. They represent the full span of Francis’s papacy thus far:
March 18, 2013
July 1, 2013
August 2, 2013
August 15, 2013
November 29, 2013
January 31, 2014
February 1, 2014
February 22, 2014
Now, the reason I bring this is up is because, in spite of all the wild fantasies out there about how Pope Francis is going to strew garlands at the feet of female priests, sprinkle rainbows on same-sex couples, permit six marriages per Catholic, and declare abortion the eighth sacrament, somehow the liberal media needs to keep telling itself, over and over, to stop dreaming. If you need to keep telling yourself, that often, that long, to stop dreaming, it’s an open question whether you’ve really woken up, or will soon.
IT’S EASY TO SELF-DECEIVE
Consider this, that it was more than a full year ago that Pope Francis first affirmed the judgment of the CDF against the LCWR and its heretical ways. At that time, Müller warned the LCWR about its duty to uphold “the teachings of the Church as faithfully taught through the ages under the guidance of the Magisterium.” That is to say, Catholic nuns should be—well, Catholic. They should not teach ideas at odds with the Church to which they had made their vows. Hysteria ensued. You would have thought the pope twisted the head off a bunny rabbit in St. Peter’s Square. At the Daily Screech, Barbie Latza Nadeau ’plained that Pope Francis was “no nicer to nuns” than the “misogynistic” Benedict. He was mean; he was foul; he was dirt.
But no sooner had words like that been writ than the liberals went right back to deluding themselves. Indeed, Ms. Nadir held out the possibility for such hope, even within her original article. Perhaps, she speculated, Francis just needed more time on the job. Of course he would not have killed the evil decree of the wicked Benedict quite so soon into his papacy. But give him enough time to get his feet fully fixed into his plain, not-red shoes, and his fuzzy good nature would finally assert itself and do the right thing by the Wyrd Sisters.
And not just that; but, as Jamie Manson tells it:
Some even posited that Francis was barely aware of what Müller was doing.
While the pope was out saying such nice things to win the heart of the world, the evil curia was plotting doom behind his back, possibly on secret orders from the wicked Benedict.
Once the new pope got up to speed, many commentators said, he would put a stop to the scrutiny of the nuns. He’d probably get rid of Müller altogether once he started his curial cleanup.
So this wasn’t the self-delusion of Ms. Nadeau alone, but that of “many commentators.” And so, for the year since, we have had to endure a long and tiresome train of wild stories about how Pope Francis will soon say that every dream a liberal dreams is the infallible teaching of God.
Now it is 2014. And not only has Pope Francis not removed Müller from the CDF, but he made him a cardinal. Oh no! And on April 30, Müller once more issued a statement directed at the Wyrd Sisters. In it, he charged them with promoting a form of Gnosticism in their advocacy of “Conscious Evolution.”
The fundamental theses of Conscious Evolution are opposed to Christian Revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.
Liberal outrage was not far behind. The Associated Press found this ongoing “crackdown” of nuns to be at odds with a pope who has “emphasized mercy over morals.” (Which he hasn’t; and Müller is talking about doctrine here; but never mind.) The far-left CathNews USA decried the “officious” Cardinal Müller’s “autocratic triumph” and “self-righteousness.” The vile rag went so far as to play a rhetorical string quartet.
The problem the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is addressing is, of course, how to feel with the suffering world, the beat of whose breaking heart cannot be heard in the vaulted tunnels of heresy hunters.
We are meant to weep hot tears at this. You do weep, do you not, dear reader?
Sadhbh Walshe of the UK Guardian was shocked—shocked, I say!—that the “liberal” Francis could remain silent in the face of “this latest knuckle-rapping.” Damon Linker of The Week, who claims to have been a “skeptic” about Francis all along, said that this “recent reprimand” has only proven to him once more that the pope’s “liberalism” is “mostly rhetorical” and that he is “more like a Pharisee” than Christ. No slouch at pathos herself, Maureen Dowd at the New York Times accused the pope of “bullying nuns” and Müller of “mauling” them. “We are still going to be discriminated against!” she wailed at the death of all that is good and just and true.
With all this mourning going on in their midst, Amanda Marcotte at Slate and Jamie Manson at the National So-Called Catholic Reporter (here and here) warned their fellow liberals that it is “time to face facts” about Pope Francis. He is as bad as the last one, yea worse, and the Church still black as pitch.
MAD AT TRUTH FOR LOVING WHAT WAS YOU
Now, there are a few things that interest me about all this new liberal panic.
I. The first is, one would think that the liberals had no clue all this was coming. It was spring in Oz and then a house fell out of the sky and killed the dear sister.
But here is Ms. Nadeau in the Daily Screech from last year—April 16, 2013:
Since his election on March 13, Pope Francis has done wonders to renew the faith of many lost Catholics around the world and cast a positive light on the troubled church. His vow that the world needs a “poor church for the poor” has been welcomed by many disenfranchised Catholics who felt their church was out of touch with reality. … But on Monday, it felt like it was back to business as usual when word got out that Francis is standing by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI’s clampdown on American nuns for their “radical feminism.”
And here is that selfsame soul this year—May 11, 2014:
When Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, American nuns who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) were optimistic that they would enjoy a fresh start. … But the sisters, it seems, were dead wrong to think they might get a fair shake under Francis. In what is being viewed as an even stronger clampdown, the Vatican has essentially warned the nuns that they must reform their organization and mend their errant ways or risk further scrutiny by the Holy See.
At least we know they recycle at the Screech. It is as though Ms. Nadeau had slipped into an amnesia and returned to a fantasy world for thirteen months. The Church says the same thing it said a year ago and it is cause for her to gasp.
But she is not at all alone in her cold shock. Ms. Walshe likewise writes:
In the earliest days of his tenure, Pope Francis became one of the world’s most admired religious figures—due in large part to his vocal support and actions on behalf of social justice. So, to many Catholics, there is more than a little disappointment that he is turning a blind eye to the Vatican’s ongoing crackdown on America’s nuns.
The education of a liberal is a slow and painful thing to watch. You don’t know whether to hug the poor dear or slap him.
II. In spite of all this, some are still in denial. As recently as December 28, Soumya Karlamangla wrote an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Vatican Observers Look for Thaw Between Pope Francis, U.S. Nuns.” Writes Karlamangla: “Some observers of the Roman Catholic Church are wondering whether the arrival of a new pope will thaw the frosty relationship between the nuns and the Holy See.”
Really? Even after the pope had already supported the CDF seven months earlier? How sad, these self-told lies. Karlamangler admits as much, but quotes a “religious studies professor” at the University of Dayton, a poor fool named Sandra Yocum, to the effect that the pope’s support of the CDF is a “puzzle.” Thus they all scratch their heads. They are only just so bright, and no more.
Then, on May 5—near a week after Müller spoke—Yasmin Hafiz at the Huffington Post tried to posit a divide between the cardinal and the pope, as though Francis is one liberal daydream away from driving the poor man out of the Church for orthodoxy.
Müller was chosen by Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the influence of the Congregation under Pope Francis may be changing, as the new pope reportedly told South American priests and nuns not to worry if they received letters from the CDF criticizing their behavior.
Contortionists are fun to watch. Does Hafiz really mean to suggest that Pope Francis’s attitude is, Let the CDF rage on; we don’t really need to be concerned with them, all while promoting Müller to the College of Cardinals?
LES YEUX SANS VISAGE
III. The liberals are as muddled about what the Church is as they are about who the pope is. If they do not know what the Church is, it should not surprise us to find that they will keep getting the pope wrong too. When the pope says, “Let us be merciful,” liberals hear, “Let us deny sin and say truth is what you may please.” When the pope then says, “Let us be faithful to Church teaching,” they do not know what to think and twist their minds into a bent branch.
Here are some few cases of this:
1. In the National So-Called Catholic Reporter, Ms. Manson laments that Francis has “reasserted John Paul II’s ban on the ordination of women.”
But it is not “John Paul II’s ban.” He did not make this up in order to dash your hopes and dreams. The Church does not wave its wand and change women into priests. It never has; that is not the plan of God for the Church. It is so from the beginning. It is not as though there used to be such a fantastical monster as a female priest, until John Paul II came along and turned Narnia back to winter. The Church no more has women priests than it has male nuns or round squares. Francis has no more power to come along and change that than even the most crazed liberal can change east into west or taxes into wealth.
2. In the New York Times, Ms. Dowd praises the Wyrd Sisters as a holy brood “inspired by Vatican II.” But Ms. Dowd has given not one wisp of proof that she has read Vatican II in the first place. She uses the Council’s name as though it were a talisman to give whim flesh. But here is what Lumen Gentium says about consecrated religious:
The members of these institutes, in fulfilling their obligation to the Church due to their particular form of life, ought to show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons. The bishops are owed this respect because of their pastoral authority in their own churches and because of the need of unity and harmony in the apostolate.
It is for that very reason—disobedience to the Magisterium of the Church and its teaching—that the CDF has had to rebuke the Wyrd Sisters. It is Müller—not Ms. Dowd, and certainly not the Wyrd Sisters—who is trying to be faithful to the Council.
3. Ms. Dowd, and not her alone, claims that the LCWR is being disciplined for caring for the sick and the poor. The only problem with that is, it is a lie. In none of the statements issued by the CDF— not one—has any such thing ever been said. In fact, the CDF has gone to great lengths to praise the LCWR for its work with the poor. But what it has said is that the Church must care for the poor within the context of faithfulness to its teaching. The two are not at odds with each other; and even a passing glance at the life’s work of Mother Teresa would indicate that. If Ms. Dowd wants to praise nuns, let her praise Mother Teresa. I await that column.
4. Time and again, the liberal media refer to a “crackdown” on “American nuns,” as though the LCWR and “American nuns” were the same. But the LCWR no more speaks for the majority of “American nuns” than any other so-called advocacy group speaks for the poor souls they pretend to advocate for. To speak of the LCWR as though it were “American nuns” being “bullied” is what is truly disrespectful to women who devote their lives to the Church and remain faithful to what it teaches.
They keep getting the Church wrong, and some of us imagine that one day, sooner or later, they will get the pope right? But no.
The difficulty with liberalism is that it imagines it can invent its own truth. To be in such a state of mind is, by definition, to remain unpersuaded by facts. At times facts will knock you into a wall or tumble you upon a stone. You will shake your fist at it, and then when the shock abates, return to your dream. After two thousand years, liberals do not get the Church; after fifty years, they do not get Vatican II; and after one year, they certainly are not going to get the pope. Nor will they. Ever.
Well, individuals can be converted; but liberalism will not. As long as there are liberals, whether or no their numbers and members change, there will be people who tell themselves lies. There will always be “the Spirit of Vatican II”; and there will always be “the Spirit of Francis I.” The gates of Hell do not prevail, but neither do they go away.
Liberals may remain in their fantasy world about us, but that does not mean we can entertain fantasies about them.
They’re not out of hope.
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