The Holy Father’s favorite scold is against Catholics who are “rigid”.
In this he is echoing Jesus and the gospels. Jesus’ big problems were the Scribes and Pharisees. Legalists without mercy, they famously sweated the small stuff–always taking the splinter out of someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own. They burdened people with little laws, great guilt and notorious negativity.
In the end they are the ones who plotted to kill Jesus. Definitely bad news.
The Pope’s criticism of similarly rigid religious folks in the Catholic Church is necessary. Certainly we have our share of unsmiling, legalistic, backward looking, negative, hyper critical Catholics. We have our share of Pharisaical, judgmental, hide bound, angry conservatives. Francis is right. They’re a brood of vipers.
Just try it. Poke at them and they’ll strike, and they’re not harmless. Their fangs have venom.
While I support the Pope’s criticism of Pharisaical Catholics, I don’t actually think they are that big a problem. Here’s why:
They are a minority. Perhaps it would be easy to tar all traditionalist Catholics with this brush, but we know its not so. While there are definitely a few vindictive, paranoid, legalistic nut cases among them, most traditionalist Catholics are good, solid, sensible folks who simply love the old Mass and all that goes with it.
Are there harsh, legalistic and judgmental priests? I’ve been a Catholic for over twenty years and I’ve only heard complaints about a priest being harsh in the confessional twice–and both times it was about the same priest.
Maybe Pope Francis’ experience in Argentina is different than mine in England and the USA, but my experience is that our primary problem is not rigid, legalistic Catholics, but exactly the opposite.
The complaints I hear about priests in the confessional are along these lines,
“I went to Fr Whoever for confession and all he did was tell me that the things I confessed weren’t really sins.” or
“The priest just said, ‘Remember Jesus Loves You. Go in Peace.’ I had to ask him to say the words of absolution three times, and even then I had to remind him what to say!” or
“Our priest doesn’t have set times for confession. He says we should just confess our sins to God and if we need counseling to make an appointment.” or
“I confessed that I had slept with a woman before marriage and the priest told me that ‘I probably had an emotional need’ and it as long as she consented it wasn’t really a sin.” or
“The priest spent fifteen minutes explaining my psychological problems to me, and then never said the words of absolution.”
In America and the UK the problems of the Catholic Church are not down to overly rigid Catholics. The problems are due to overly flaccid Catholics. We’re not too stiff. We’re too limp. Continue Reading
Image Creative Commons via Bing