The Importance of Ignoring the Pope…

The Importance of Ignoring the Pope… July 14, 2014

… I was waiting for just the right time, when Pope Francis gave another interview or said something grossly misinterpreted by the media, to post these comments. Guess what? I didn’t have to wait long.

Posted with permission:

There are a few options in dealing with the pope and his strange methodology. I would suggest the logical possibility that has not yet been suggested.

You can ignore him.

As laymen we have very little power to do anything about his behaviour. And I agree that those of us with a public forum have a greater responsibility, but for most people, they really have no need whatever to pay the slightest attention to the pope. It is one of the many strange modern innovations that all the world’s Catholics hang with bated breath on every word, gesture and eyebrow flicker the pope makes, and sit around our computers trying to figure out what it means and/or how it applies to our spiritual or material lives.

Before the advent of Pope Superheroes and the internet, or just fast mass communications in general, regular Catholics paid no heed at all to the pope. They didn’t have to. They knew perfectly well that the pope is not the source of the Faith, that they didn’t need to look to him for personal spiritual direction. Most Catholics were better formed in previous times, and knew their catechism, and had more grown-up attitudes towards politics. They certainly would never have looked to the pope for their political or economic opinions.

They went to Mass, they participated in parish-based devotions, they said their rosaries, they joined the Legion of Mary or sodalities or the ladies’ auxiliary. The pope got a mention at Mass and if one were especially enthusiastic, one might listen to his Christmas address on the radio or TV.

We have a big problem in the Church in that people have lost faith in their bishops and parish clergy, the parish life that used to be normal has been all but wiped out. People started looking to Rome for direct guidance when the bishops started condoning contraception in the 60s, (and on and on since then, as we know) and when we had such a long pontificate with such a popular pope as JPII, one who appeared to be fighting the same war we all were, it is now natural that we should want to continue receiving that direction. But it is not normal at all for Catholics to run their lives this way.

Something your readers might find helpful is the advice to focus not on anything and everything Pope Francis is saying or doing. We have seen, simply, that his inability to be clear on doctrine or anything else, is a huge source of scandal and division. They might benefit from a reminder that they don’t have to hang on his every word. That the task of “figuring out Francis” is probably a futile one, and is, more importantly, totally unnecessary.

Focus instead on the Faith, on the devotional life. Perhaps even focus on attempting to research and revive some set of appropriate daily or regular devotions, bible reading, daily rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, Breviary, or whatever, that can nourish their spiritual life as it has done for millions of Catholics for 2000 years. As Bishop Athanasius Schneider said the other day in London, thank God for the internet. Now nearly all the great classics of the spritual life, the fathers, doctors and saints, as well as poets and just regular smart people, are all available on or through the net.

Frankly, popes come and go, and it is only the weird times we live in that has created this strange illusion that we must all pant after every word that falleth from the pontifical lips. Or twist ourselves into knots trying to make excuses for them. Or whatever our preferred thing is. the fact is, it’s turning a lot of people into papal obsessives.

We really should try to get some reasonable distance. Nothing in the faith requires us to pay any attention to him whatsoever.

The Faith is rich, a great and inexhaustible seam of gold that is now easier to mine than ever.

Whatever Francis may be up to, we really don’t need to guide ourselves by him. We have the saints for that. And the grace of the sacramental life.

This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, is right you know.

Most of us, myself included, lack a deep sense of our Catholic history. But this is an excellent opportunity for us all. Instead of focusing on every interview and off the cuff remarking of the Pope, we can instead focus on the rich gold mine of history, beauty, art, and tradition the Church has to offer us.

And that is just what I plan to do. Focus on the Real and ignore all the rest.

Browse Our Archives