Saturday 19 October 2013

Interpretations of Pope Francis

Those intrepid bloggers at Rorate Caeli have noted several reports regarding Pope Francis; reports which are worth looking at for their interpretations of him, and which can be found here.

RC first notes that

“Sandro Magister, journalist at L'Espresso, a star among Vaticanists, releases in his blog Chiesa, every week, and at times every day, severe criticisms of Pope Francis”.

Many blogs express concerns over Francis: his ‘humility’ is questioned as he brings photographers into the pope-mobile, thereby ensuring good photographs of his person-centeredness; his comment that “I have the humility to...” might remind English-speaking people of the quip, “There’s no one as humble as I am”. Additionally, his renunciation of liturgical tradition at the Mandatum of Holy Thursday left many with the impression that he has little or no understanding of liturgy and doctrine as having a ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’ union. Further, his “who am I to judge?” response when asked about homosexuals left many completely disorientated: if the Vicar of Christ cannot judge what is and is not sin for the guidance of God’s flock, we are at great risk of being led astray –and makes the doctrine of infallibility a nonsense.

RC also notes Mattia Rossi, II Foglio, October 11, saying that

"Francis is in the process of founding a new religion opposed to Catholic magisterium"

and Rino Cammilleri, saying in Il Giornale, October 10:

"Flock before doctrine? We risk losing both".

One wonders what can be said in regard to Pope Francis -and who am I to judge? I shall let history do the judging. What I can say is that Francis appears to me a man of deep concern for folk who suffer, and that cannot be criticised. It is one mark of a saint. But that does not mean he could not be advised to do some reflecting on his off-the-cuff style if he wants to go down in history as having been orthodox in Doctrine and practice since his non-magisterial remarks are disorientating many and getting too much publicity from liberal catholics and the Main Stream Media. Even the promotion of Francis  by the MSM and the liberal catholic press as a humble pope appears questionable when they also report his public claim to be humble. As one of my parishioners commented,

“by abandoning Papal regalia for coming onto the balcony the night he was elected he suggested that his predecessors lacked humility because they wore them, while his claim to ‘have the humility’ suggests he is proud of his humility -which is a contradiction giving lie to his humility. The man needs to learn how to distinguish between himself and the office he holds, not disempower the office because he is so wrapped up in it he sees himself as a religious CEO who wants to look good to those he obviously views as his inferiors in that he ditched papal regalia ‘to be one of them’”. 

Certainly we must note the human touch of Francis when he meets the crowds, but this is no different to the human touch displayed by the likes of Pius X, Pius XII, John XXIII, John-Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is not new. What is new and disturbing is a Pope’s apparent unwillingness to judge sin. It might be that Francis was simply refusing (as must all of us) to judge persons while leaving intact the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts as  objectively disordered and sinful. If so, he ought to have been clearer.

One cannot help but wonder why the Pope’s advisors are not advising more prudence when it is clear his off-the-cuff remarks are disorientating the faithful and perhaps leading souls astray (such as those who are active homosexuals and divorced/civilly-remarried who think he will validate their lifestyle choices by declaring them compatible with the teaching of Christ). Francis will know he cannot change established teaching of the Church without falling into heresy, but he may not be aware that he is allowing himself to be seen as doing so; that he is being presented as someone oblivious to the fact that orthodoxy in doctrine must be expressed in orthopraxy; and as oblivious to the fact that true and charitable pastoral care of the sinner cannot in any way endorse their sin. Sadly, the impression that Francis is seeking to provide a pastoral care not in keeping with orthodox doctrine does not appear to be lacking, either among solid Catholics who are disorientated by him, or among liberal catholics and the MSM who praise him. I suggest to readers that the latter praise him because they think he will do what in fact he cannot do: change Church teaching on the hot-button issues of homosexuality; divorce, contraception, abortion and women priests. Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff remarks are not going to be -and actually cannot be- elevated to the status of magisterial teaching. What they can do –and are doing- is misleading the weak into false hope; disorientating the faithful, and angering the strong. As a result, a person might be forgiven for thinking that all he or she is getting in this period of Bergoglio’s papacy is the promotion of Bergoglio, and a challenge to the Church. Neither the Pope’s own advisors, the liberal catholic press or the MSM are doing anything good for Jorge Bergoglio -or the people of God.


  1. Haven't you heard who the Pope's "advisors" are?!!

    1. Lynda, thank you for your comment.
      Sadly, the answer is to your question is 'Yes'. The names do not dispel the worries and fears of so many...

  2. I've been reading on another blog that Francis now has an entire floor of the Domus Sanctæ Marthæ which he chose over the Vatican papal apartment and that his hotel floor space is actually bigger. Scratches head.

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      You are not alone in scratching your head, I suspect...

  3. Do you really hold that the church's teaching on homosexuality really can never be reformed? I mean it's not dogma or part of the extraordinary magisterium (ie infallible doctrinal teaching). The Vatican has previously clarified that it is part of the ordinary magisterium, therefore is fallible and can evolve so as to be further developed or reformed in the future.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Andrew.

      By Ordinary Magisterium we mean the teaching of the Pope and of those Bishops in communion with him, which is the Church’s normal way of teaching; by Extraordinary Magisterium we mean the ex-cathedra declarations of the Pope and/or definitive declarations made by Pope and Bishops in a General Council. The use of the extraordinary Magisterium is rare, and we ought not to suppose that only the Extraordinary Magisterium is infallible –it is usually engaged only to defend teaching consistently given by the Ordinary Magisterium when such a teaching has been denied or seriously questioned. Examples of this are Nicaea defending the Divinity of Christ, and Trent defending almost everything else at the time of the Reformation.

      The Church's teaching on homosexuality by the ordinary Magisterium has, as with the teaching on abortion and contraception, been consistent throughout the Church’s history. It would seem Holy Mother Church cannot overturn these teachings without being in the position of having misled the faithful on these issues from the time of her establishment by Christ. As such, the teaching on homosexuality does not need to be the subject of an infallible definition by the Extraordinary Magisterium in order to be irreformable. Of course the Church may develop her teaching on the subject, but that development must be consistent with what has gone before otherwise it is not development but distortion. So I would say yes, the Church's teaching on the irregularity of homosexual activity is irreformable.

      Note that it is homosexual activity which the Church cannot sanction; she does not condemn persons who struggle with same-sex attraction, and it is always important to make the distinction. Many homosexual persons subdue their passion for the same sex in heroic manner in order to remain faithful to Christ, and this is to be applauded in the same way we applaud the divorced Catholic who lives a celibate life rather than enter into a physical relationship with someone who is not their spouse.

      And now I realise I should have made this question the subject of a post...

  4. Regarding your second paragraph above... this is your opinion and is not the settled position of the church at all. For example, it is highly debateable whether the church has always taught the same about homosexuality since the social construct did not exist under modern times. Similarly, how can the church always have had a position on artificial contraception when it has only become a reality over the last few years. A church council, synod or even future pope (with wider consultation among the church) may discern otherwise. The ordinary magisterium IS REFORMABLE so we may see the church's teaching on these issues to develop in other directions such as was the case with official church and papal teaching on slavery which took a complete 180 degree turn.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Gloria Deo.
      The teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium is not always reformable. When John Paul II issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1994 officially declaring that the Church has no power to ordain women he specifically stated that “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate... wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.” The CDF underscored this authority of the Ordinary Magisterium by declaring that “The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

      As for contraception and homosexuality, scripture always condemns homosexual activity (which is not a social construct), so the teaching against homosexual activity is found in the word of God. As for contraception, artificial contraception as we know it today may have arrived in the 1950’s/1960’s but the ancient Greeks and Romans valued Silphium to contracept (cf. Birth Control in Antiquity - University of Illinois at Chicago) -and ‘withdrawal’ has likely never been absent from human history.


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