Tuesday, 11 March 2014
The Abuse of Pope Francis
In a recent interview with Corriere della Sera as translated by Zenit, Pope Francis was asked, “Half a century after Paul VI’s encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae,’ can the Church take up again the topic of birth control?...” Francis’ reply is given as,
“It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod”.
This response will, I fear, be abused by those who profess they are orthodox but whose deeds do not match their words. In their liberal, culture-of-death ideology, they will interpret Francis as basically saying (as italicised in the parenthesis):
“The object is not to change the doctrine [since doctrine cannot change], but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do [and what they can’t; where they can be let off the hook]. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod [so that we can give people a pass from living according to our moral doctrine].
I suggest we read Francis as saying
“The object is not to change the doctrine [since doctrine cannot change], but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do [to remain faithful to moral doctrine in their deeds, and avoid living in violation of Truth]. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod so that we can hold both together [Truth believed and Truth lived].
I suggest this because to allow persons to live contrary to the Truth would be to allow them to live at odds with Christ Who is Truth itself. Liberals who cite ‘pastoral considerations’ as the door to Holy Communion for those in objectively wrong moral situations only nullify every moral doctrine in practice; all such doctrine being left without any meaning other than “ideals we can minimise for you”. What liberals are in fact advocating is pseudo-pastoral care; care that is divided from the whole Christ: united to His Mercy certainly, but divided from His Truth and His Justice. As a result of such pseudo-pastoral care serial marriage, cohabitation, contraception, IVF, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research, homosexual acts et al, will flourish, and Holy Mother Church will be left in a state of hypocrisy, like a physician who at the behest of her patients allows the taking of illegal drugs which make one feel good but are ultimately harmful.
Let us be honest: pastoral care in Christ does not -because it cannot- equate with putting people in permanent, practical conflict to Christ. Certainly pseudo-pastoral care will help us feel good, but will objectively leave us in lived-opposition to Truth who said, “Go, and sin no more”.
As a means of supporting those in irregular situations we can encourage them to value their personal self-offering at Mass, their life of prayer, their readings of scripture, their works of charity, their consultation of a spiritual director, and their participation in the life of the parish as bookkeepers, secretaries, events committees, singers, gardeners, cleaners etc (ministry at the altar and Catechesis being incongruent with their situation). As Cardinal Nichols said, reception of Holy Communion “is the high point” –or it ought to be.
While I feel for couples whose situations are such that they see their choices as not only good but necessary, what enables support for Humanae Vitae is not simply the constant teaching of the Church but the witness of couples who practice natural family planning; couples who state that their use of NFP has brought them together more profoundly, enhancing both their communication and their mutual respect. Low divorce rates among those who practice NFP might be cited as objective evidence of their subjective experience –and of the Church’s perennial wisdom.
While we will always have sinners in the Church, if we are going to have a Church without actual hypocrites it is not those who follow the rules that we need to watch but those who publicly affirm doctrine yet seek by stealth to erode that doctrine by establishing contrary practice; practice from which they can build a ‘new theology’; a new ‘doctrine’ –a new Gospel. It is worth pointing out that so-called ‘rule-bound folk’ are not lacking in pastoral awareness. They know for example, that while the 3rd Commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath” can be waived in order to be caregiver to sick person, allowing someone to violate the 6th Commandment by giving them life-long permission to abandon the permanency, fidelity or life-giving elements of marriage, is not the same. In the former case we have a passing, unwilled event; in the latter we have a chosen, life-long violation.
We pray for Pope Francis and the Synod, that they are not derailed from orthodoxy for the sake of ‘pastoral considerations’ which play false to the Truth. In the end it is treachery, not mercy, which allows souls to live in ways opposed to Truth (Christ).