Losing our religion III: The Francis issue

I was alarmed when Cardinal Tauran, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s, announced the name Georgium Marium … Bergoglio. I’d heard the name before somewhat in connection with liberals, specifically the detestable careerist Cardinal Sodano, who had supposedly advanced Bergoglio as the anti-Ratzingerian candidate in the 2005 conclave and who appeared on the balcony next to Francis with a smile that I thought bordered too much on triumphal smirking for my liking. My stomach sank. I worried and prayed for some time.

But Francis is not actually as bad as I had expected, which might surprise some given what’s being said about him and my own inclination toward bitterness and mistrust, especially of postconciliar Catholic clergy. The issue of suppressing the TLM for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is irrelevant to me (and frankly to anyone who isn’t a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate), a response to very unique circumstances inside the order, really “their” problem and not “mine.” And the big interview everyone is talking about may be difficult and troublesome and suggest a portrait of a man who is maybe a sloppy thinker and careless in choosing words, but it’s not a sign of the impending destruction of the Church.

There is nothing objectively injurious to the faith in the interview; he is largely talking about disciplines and emphases, things that can change, things which people can discuss in good faith, not about doctrines, which cannot change and aren’t open to negotiation. How we deal with divorcees as a prudential matter, for instance, isn’t the same thing as whether or not divorce is a good thing. Of course, I disagree with him about his choice of emphasis, and I wonder what the use of proclaiming “mercy” is to people who don’t believe in sin; but, whatever, I’m not the Pope’s PR guy and if he wants my input on that, he’ll call me, he’s been known to do that. Even supposing that these things point to Francis being a heretic, that fact is irrelevant: what Francis believes doesn’t touch on me, what he commands me to believe does, and if he wants me to believe something, he’ll proclaim it solemnly; I won’t hear about it first from the airhead on the news who normally does stories about the nine most controversial salads or whatever (yes, that’s a thing, look it up). Heck, John XXII was almost certainly a heretic and yet the Holy Spirit won out in the end, declaring through John’s grudging and recalcitrant lips the truth that the souls of the saved proceed immediately after death to the Beatific Vision. Whether John personally believed that or anything else is between him and God. And objectively, the spin put on Francis’ interview is contradicted at least in part by his criticisms of careerist bishops and of course the excommunication he leveled against this fellow, an unusually harsh move so early in a pontificate we might’ve expected to be light on such actions. Whatever else is true, the vision of a modernist saboteur finally ascended to the throne of Peter can’t be. So for faithful Catholics the answer is always simple: pray for the Church, pray for the Pope, and pray for your own soul; and remember that the Church is not called “holy” because of its shepherds but because of the eternal Shepherd who founded it and whose Spirit continues to shelter it from total ruin.

But of course what is objectively true is only part of the question; reality as it is seen and experienced and understood by people is at least one component of reality, a fact, and you can’t cut that away as irrelevant; that’s the kind of intellectual scalpel-wielding that gives us, well, “Why isn’t the Eucharist enough for you?” And the fact is that people of good faith are being scandalized by Francis. Fr. Ray Blake, who identifies as a “soft liberal” but would I suspect fit in well enough with us Orthosphere types, has written a four-part series of posts on this (1, 2, 3, and 4) and I have seen it well enough myself lately. There is a sense, accurate or not, that Francis is heaping scorn on people who have defended Church teachings on things like abortion and gay “marriage,” sometimes at great personal expense of career or social standing or risk of the same, sometimes being unjustly thrown in jail, etc., the kinds of people who are on the ground and doing the hard and grueling and often uncredited work of evangelizing the irreligious, praying at abortion clinics, etc. There is a sense, in other words, that Francis is, from the remoteness and convenience of Rome, throwing a generation of believers under the bus in order to win the accolades of the worldly elites who hate them. One friend asked me if I thought some disliked Francis because they were in the situation of the older brother of the prodigal son, their pride stung by the father’s eagerness to embrace his returning son, but no, because the father rushed to embrace his son as he was returning, and the sense is that Francis is pleasing all the wrong kinds of people, the kinds of people who are not returning and never will, not the prodigal son walking back to the house with hat in hand and tear tracks on his dirt-stained cheeks but the enemies of the Church approaching with torches and swords in hand.

Maybe those feelings are right, maybe they’re wrong, but my point is this: Pope Francis is not the only one in the world entitled to charitable treatment, and maybe the Church (clergy and laity and keyboard warriors alike) could do a little better than to serve derision to those who, driven to confusion, begin despairing at the prospect that their sacrifices were in vain or contemplating sedevacantism (and please pray for Laura Wood). Maybe “Pelagians” is not a good thing to call people who offer you the kindness of a spiritual bouquet of rosaries, maybe “small-minded rules” is not the right phrasing for the teachings of the Church upheld by the heroic labors of the laity and many clergymen for the defense of eternal truth; maybe not every Catholic the world over, even those who have limited time and capacity, can reasonably be expected to spend an hour scouring Google for original transcripts and scrutinizing them for context every time the Pope wanders off-script. Maybe pastorality isn’t just for lesbians and Lutherans and powerful Congressmen.

88 thoughts on “Losing our religion III: The Francis issue

  1. I think one thing the current Pope is doing right is criticizing the entire neo-liberal economic order. I sense this is where much of the angst comes from in American “conservative Catholic” circles.

    Laura Wood might be going Sede? I noticed she frequently reads and links to the website “Tradition and Action.” That site is run by some pretty ignorant people who lend credence to every caricature of traditionalist Catholics every conceived. That website has actually taken some pretty atrocious stances over the years on certain issues like supporting the Iraq War. I am sorry but any supposedly informed “traditional Catholic” who is in communion with Weigel on that issue perhaps should reread Church history and doctrine. Also they condemned Chersteron/Belloc as crypto-communists because of their critiques of capitalism. She shouldn’t look to them as an authority.

    • Question is if he critisizes it from the point of view of catholique teachings or liberation theology. This is the main concern of some traditionalists as I understand it.
      And the problem with distributism is that nobody takes it seriously. The liberal economic thoughts are simply superior, better argumented and refined. I don’t know about reactionary economic thought that could challange it.

      • He doesn’t seem to be overly fond of liberation theology, at least not its more virulent Marxist strain (there is, common to popular belief, a variant that’s more theologically sound because it has excised that cancer). He’s said some very critical things about liberation theology in the past and he was actually hated by the Jesuits, especially in Argentina, which is a good sign — enemies of the Jesuits aren’t always friends of the Church, but friends of the Jesuits are usually her enemies.

      • I don’t understand your reply, Proph. Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit Order in Argentina, so how on earth do you conclude he was “hated” by the Jesuits? He was disliked by the liberals and Peronistas, of which there were presumably some Jesuits. Borges, who was markedly anti-liberal and anti-Peron, was a family friend. So it’s true that Bergoglio was never particularly approving of liberation theology, but I don’t see where you arrive at that conclusion. I also don’t understand how you think that friends of a 400+ years old holy order are “enemies” of the Church.

        @RT liberal economic thought is infantile, because it is strictly economic. In the Wayback Time, students of such topics used to call it “moral philosophy”. Distributism is not an economic system, it is an essentially Catholic moral philosophy adapted to a secular age. Divorcing the economic action of man from all his other parts is a decidedly liberal turn, so it is simply not possible for any “reactionary” economic thought to exist. A “reactionary” response would be a return to a traditional, holistic view of human action – as the Church as always maintained. Note that the oft-credited founder of modern liberal economics, Smith, was not a liberal economist: Theory of Moral Sentiments is the foundation of Wealth of Nations, and Smith is very clear that only with proper adherence to natural (divine) law can a sound economy exist.

      • @ ChevalierdeJohnstone
        I agree that holistic view is necessary but it doesn’t mean that economics can’t exist as a branch different from ethics (and psychology or political science for that matter). Economists certainly know that there are ethical questions.
        Distributism aims to particular division of wealth in society and economics as science about human action can say where we really get pursuing that end. So I think reactionaries should come up with their own economic backup for their prefered social order otherwise conservatives building upon classical liberalism are simply more real.

  2. As a Protestant, I did seriously consider joining the Roman church a few years back and I even entered the RCIA. One of the key rhetorical points is that unlike dry rationalistic Protestantism with its textual faith in church confessions or the Bible, Catholicism was a “living” community whereby the faith was incarnate in living persons.

    At least that was the rhetoric which was sold to me. Imagine my shock when I encountered lay roman catechists who wanted to go distribute condoms to prostitutes saying that it was for their health benefit and that she doesn’t agree with the Pope on everything, or Roman priests who refused to admit that the resurrection really happened when pressed and that the disciples had a “resurrection experience” (whatever that means). This was positively scandalous to me because in Singapore, this sort of liberalism is simply unheard of. And being an Anglican, we had communion rails, surpliced “eucharistic ministers”, etc, which was utterly missing from almost every Catholic parish. The cognitive dissonance between the rhetoric of liturgical beauty, communal faith and living and the actual reality was quite disconcerting.

    When I am told that not all Catholics are true Catholics (the “no true Scotsman” fallacy!) and that I should draw my faith from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and not from the actual “living” community on the ground, I wondered what was the difference between my “textual” Protestantism and “sola CCC” Catholicism. If the Roman faith is as textual as the Protestant faith (except that now I have a different set of texts to refer to), then the rhetoric of a “living faith” of a “community” was simply a lie and a rhetorical humbug.

    I left the RCIA program and haven’t considered Catholicism as a “living option” since. Although I love traditional liturgies and those sort of stuff, but I have a very high tolerance for evangelical worship, etc, because my faith was purely an “inward” affair based upon truth and “texts” and not drawn from “external” living communities or actual practices which allows me to simply grin and bear it. But Catholicism’s contradiction is that it promises me beauty, community and embodiment for me to rely on, but ultimately falls back upon a sola CCC stance.

    To summarise my comment, I would like to join the Roman Catholic Church, unfortunately it doesn’t actually exist, for not all Catholics are Catholics.

    • Huh. The Catholic Church doesn’t exist because there are dissenters within it. What a strange claim. By that logic, the church of the New Testament didn’t exist because there were dissenters within it.

      I don’t think you get what the Orthosphere is about. It’s not about internecine Cath-Prot polemicizing. There are other sites devoted to that. I advise that you take your criticisms of the Catholic Church here. You’ll find no better apologists for the Catholic faith, and all of the contributors (with the exception of Dr. Michael Liccione) are former confessionally Reformed Protestants. You’ll be able to debate to your heart’s content there.

      • I don’t think you are following my criticism. The Roman Church of the CCC may exist, but the “living” community wholly instantiated somewhere certainly doesn’t. I never said therefore that the Roman Church doesn’t exist because there are dissenters and I would like you to point out to me where I did say this.

        The last few series of posts are about “losing my religion” and the factors which goes into it, and I am here explaining how I lost my interest in the Roman faith, and therefore is highly pertinent to these series of posts.

        Like you, I am not interested in Protestant-Catholic polemics, merely addressing some claims (rhetorical or magisterial) of the Roman Church and how they have failed to live up to it.

      • But the living community does exist. Just because my (hypothetical) uncle is a rotten drunken disaster it doesn’t follow that he doesn’t exist.

    • Dominic:When I am told that not all Catholics are true Catholics (the “no true Scotsman” fallacy!)

      Ah, but the “no true Scotsman fallacy” is itself a fallacy.

      Moreover, while it is true that not everyone who invokes the “no true Scotsman fallacy” *intends* at that moment to deploy a fallacy — though many do, for they see it as advantageous in the moment — it is nonetheless also true that the invention of the “meme” of “no true Scotsman fallacy” was *knowinlgy* and *deliberately* fallacious.

      • The “meme” seems to have originated from an actual philosophical argumentation.

        The use of the term was advanced by British philosopher Antony Flew:

        Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeenman whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing”.[4]

        When the statement “all A are B” is qualified like this to exclude those A which are not B, this is a form of begging the question; the conclusion is assumed by the definition of “true A”.

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

      • The problem is that people are anti-essentialist with respect to transcendent things (e.g. Catholicism, protestantism, liberalism, etc).

        A “liberal” is just a person with some degree of loyalty to liberalism. The person is distinct from the thing, which has its own essence. The “no true Scotsman” retort is often a fallacy, as Ilion suggests, because it presumes nominalism — that “Scotsman” (or “liberalism”, to which it is supposedly analogous) refers to just what Scotsmen say it does, nothing more, nothing less.

        It presumes that followers define what it is that they follow; that vassals define that to which they are loyal; that their loyalty just is the essence of the thing to which they are loyal, so they define its essence in an act of will.

        But they don’t, and it isn’t, and that isn’t how it works.

    • Hi Dominic,

      I’m sorry to hear you had such experiences in attempting to enter the Church. It is truly an embarrassment and a scandal and I despair of the salvation of those whose faithlessness drove you away.

      I guess it wouldn’t be much comfort to say that it’s not really a “no true Scotsman” kind of deal. We Catholics have (have always had) an objective standard for evaluating the Catholicity of a person, and that’s the degree to which they hold to the faith of Peter, i.e., the teachings of the Church as handed down over the centuries. A person who rejects, e.g., the Incarnation, has shipwrecked in the faith (to borrow a formulation by Pius IX) and severed themselves completely from the mystical body of Christ. Unfortunately it is very easy for an outsider to mistake the incoherence and insincerity of many Catholics for the inauthenticity or bankruptcy of Catholicism. This is why I try to avoid writing about Protestantism; lacking the insider’s perspective I am very likely to conflate “bad Protestants” with “the badness of Protestantism.” Ditto, really, with any religious group.

    • “To summarise my comment, I would like to join the Roman Catholic Church, unfortunately it doesn’t actually exist, for not all Catholics are Catholics.”

      Dominic, for what it’s worth you have perfectly encapsulated what I’ve been trying to articulate for years.

      Would you accept the following position statement as analogous to yours? “I (Finn McCool) am an orthodox, high church Protestant. I know for a fact that I am more ‘Catholic’ than Francis is. If he is sufficiently Catholic to have so many conservative defenders, surely I am sufficiently Catholic to be saved. Therefore, I have no reason to convert to a Roman Catholic Church that seems only to exist as an abstraction; I have been looking for years, and I have not yet found a local, tangible, instantiated example of it.”

      Your comment seems to have drawn quite a lot of blood.

      • Therefore, I have no reason to convert to a Roman Cathokic Church that seems only to exist as an abstraction; I have been looking for years, and I have not yet found a local, tangible, instantiated example of it.

        Spot on.

        Exactly my sentiments. If the Roman faith is found in a system of abstract theology and cannot be empirically identified, then that’s no different from a Protestant “Word-based” faith.

      • Finn McCool:… I know for a fact that I am more ‘Catholic’ than Francis is. If he is sufficiently Catholic to have so many conservative defenders, surely I am sufficiently Catholic to be saved. Therefore, I have no reason to convert to a Roman Catholic Church that seems only to exist as an abstraction; I have been looking for years, and I have not yet found a local, tangible, instantiated example of it.

        The Roman denomination is instantiated as bureaucracy. Moreover, it is a bureaucracy that asserts ownership over not just the livelihoods of men — and nations — but of their very souls. The Roman denomination, being a bureaucracy, and having lost most of the secular power it exercized for centuries, is currently more concerned with “getting the numbers up” than with much else — so long as a person genuflects to the bureaucracy’s pretentions (especially if he holds secular power), he/she can be a “faithful Catholic”, such as Nancy Pelosi, or Joe Biden, or any of the Kennedys. This is surely also the case outside the US.

      • Finn McCool:
        If he is sufficiently Catholic to have so many conservative defenders, surely I am sufficiently Catholic to be saved.

        What you don’t have – at all – is a valid Eucharist: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Real Presence.

      • Zippy:What you don’t have – at all – is a valid Eucharist: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Real Presence.

        I deny (and will always deny) those strange “high church” beliefs about the bread and wine. Am I therefore unsaved?

        If I am *not* unsaved specifically because I reject (and will always reject) the foolish doctrine of “the Real Presence”, than it would appear that the doctrine is irrelevant, even were it not foolish, but actually true.

        If I *am* unsaved specifically because I reject (and will always reject) the foolish doctrine of “the Real Presence”, than it would appear that Catholicism has a serious problem with incoherency — recall, this is the bureaucracy whose top bureaucrats assert that there exists Christian fellowship with Moslems-as-adherents-of-Islam.

        But then, I never took that insistence (about Chriatian fellowship with Islam) for anyting other than political correctness and cynical socio-politics.

      • Ilion:
        I deny (and will always deny) those strange “high church” beliefs about the bread and wine. Am I therefore unsaved?

        Saying whether you are saved or unsaved is far above my pay grade. But there are a couple of things that I can say.

        One is that if you are missing out on the Eucharist, you are missing out on the most important thing in all of the faith – on Jesus Christ truly and fully present, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

        If I am *not* unsaved specifically because I reject (and will always reject) the foolish doctrine of “the Real Presence”, than it would appear that the doctrine is irrelevant, even were it not foolish, but actually true.

        That kind of reductionism strikes me as akin to suggesting that if it is possible to survive without love, then love is irrelevant. And although extraordinary grace is possible there is no question that you are in far more danger of Hell without the Eucharist than with.

  3. Proph:I was alarmed when Cardinal Tauran, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s, announced the name Georgium Marium … Bergoglio. …

    But Francis is not actually as bad as I had expected, which might surprise some given what’s being said about him and my own inclination toward bitterness and mistrust, especially of postconciliar Catholic clergy. …

    I wonder, Proph, can you even see the incongruency of a faithful Catholic criticizing/judging *anything* done by (or anyone in) the bureaucracy of The One True Bureaurcacy?

    Had Francis “actually [been] as bad as [you] had expected”, on what ground would you be able to stand to criticize or judge him? For that matter, on what ground are you even standing in the first place to have feared that he might have been “bad”?

    What? *Implicit* Sola Scriptura … while *explicitly* rejecting it?

    • Hi Ilion,

      I think you are unintentionally equivocating between the obedience which is owed Peter in matters of faith and the deference which is owed him in everything else. I am obliged to believe what Peter believes, but not everything he says is a matter of faith (in fact most of what he says isn’t), and it doesn’t rupture ecclesiastical communion to believe that he’s erred in prudential judgments, tactical decisions, public relations strategies, etc., provided that I show him always the respect which he is due as Supreme Pontiff. Put another way, Popes can be and often have been “bad” in any number of ways that do not undermine the authority of the Petrine office.

      • I think you are unintentionally equivocating between the obedience which is owed Peter in matters of faith and the deference which is owed him in everything else. …

        Should I ever equivocate, I can assure you it would not be intentional. But I don’t think I am equivocating.

        When Benedict stepped down, I saw numerous Catholics whom I read — including some who mock the Protestant Solas — expressing trepidation about his succession. When Francis was announced, I saw numerous Catholics whom I read expressing hope-and-trepidation that the man elected wasn’t “as bad” as they had feared might be elected. Now, I keep seeing Catholics explaining, at least to themselves, that Francis isn’t *really* saying the things that the “liberal” Leftstream Media are reporting — and, of course, knowing that he is being filtered by leftists, I’m willing to grant that he may be being misrepresented.

        Nevertheless, in all these situations — or in a hypothetical in which “Peter” does, for example, denounce anti-abortionism — my question remains: On what ground, if not the Word of God (*), do/will you (plural) judge to be against Christ? On what ground, in the first place, was the initial trepidation even justified?

        (*) The Bible — the Word of God — is, in fact, another Incarnation of Christ.

      • Do I understand you correctly as asking what I would take to be a clear refutation of what Catholics regard as Christ’s promises to the Church? I suppose if a Pope solemnly defined a doctrine that indisputably contradicts a previous one, that would do it for me.

      • Aside from the fact that many of the criticisms about Francis are regarding his prudential judgment, it is not inconsistent with Catholicism that the Pope can make statements that are incompatible with Church teaching, just as the President violate the constitution. Catholicism itself doesn’t live in the brain of Pope.

      • Ilion:
        The Bible — the Word of God — is, in fact, another Incarnation of Christ.

        That is an idea that the Lollards swiped from the Mohammedans. Islam, as a kind of logocentric synthetic heresy of Christianity and Judaism, replaced the Real Presence of the Eucharist in the Mass with the Real Presence of Allah in the recitation of the Alcoran in Salat. This was many centuries before John Wyclif, John of Gaunt, and Geoffrey Chaucer took the theology they learned from the Moors and attempted, for various motives, to apply them to Christianity.

    • You are also missing the distinction between juridical right and moral right. Just because the Supreme Court is the highest court in the US, it does not follow that no lawyer may disagree with anything that court does.

    • What? *Implicit* Sola Scriptura … while *explicitly* rejecting it?

      Really? How do you manage to extrapolate that from Proph’s post? I think someone is very confused.

    • Proph:Do I understand you correctly as asking what I would take to be a clear refutation of what Catholics regard as Christ’s promises to the Church? I suppose if a Pope solemnly defined a doctrine that indisputably contradicts a previous one, that would do it for me.

      I wasn’t asking the question in an ultimate sense (*); I was pointing out the incongruence — given the doctrines you assert — of Catholics even having the jitters that the Pope might turn out to be “bad”. If you *really* believed your doctrines, you’d understand-and-accept that you — the mere man in the pew, he-who-pays-the-bills — have no say, whatsoever, in the matter. Hell! even your parish priest has no say in the matter. You’re not a member of The One True Bureaucracy, and he’s too far down the hierarchy.

      (*) Yet, the ultimate sense exists — at what hypothetical point will you admit that the Protestant “rebels” were right, or at least right enough about enough things to justify their “rebellion” against The One True Bureaucracy?

      • I wasn’t asking the question in an ultimate sense (*); I was pointing out the incongruence — given the doctrines you assert — of Catholics even having the jitters that the Pope might turn out to be “bad”. If you *really* believed your doctrines, you’d understand-and-accept that you — the mere man in the pew, he-who-pays-the-bills — have no say, whatsoever, in the matter.

        But I don’t believe I have a say in the matter. I’m not saying I have a say in the matter. The swallowing of a bitter pill may be obligatory, but that doesn’t make it not-bitter.

  4. Traditionalist Catholics commonly criticized Conservative Catholics for their “Papolatry” and for the seeming cult of personality they ran around the persons of B XVI and especially JP II. Pope Francis will test Traditionalist theories on these scores.

    If Conservatives really are guilty of Papolatry, then I guess they will just fall in line no matter what goofy stuff His Holiness says, proclaiming the New New Springtime and chastising themselves for daring to mention the moral law. EWTN and Catholic Answers will scrub their websites of condemnations of abortion, fornication, and whatnot.

    If Conservatives were really guilty of a mere cult of personality, then I guess Conservative Catholicism will just fall apart. Surely, nobody is going to form a cult of personality around the current Pontiff.

    For the moment, they seem to be reeling. Probably, they are going to settle on emphasizing out of context quotes and toeing a line like “he’s not as liberal as the liberals think!”

    • It will be interesting to see how people like Weigel spin this papacy. On the one hand Pope Fancis has very clearly and constantly condemned capitalism and I suspect these condemnations will become more concrete over time probably in the form of an encyclical. This will be sure to raise the ire of “First Things” type Catholics. Yet Pope Francis will be seen as an “evangelical” Catholic a concept Weigel has flogged in his recent book so they will have plenty to like.

    • is it possible Laura Wood is right?

      No.

      Here’s the heart of the issue: Mrs. Wood calls Vatican II “heretical.” No Catholic can believe such a thing, and thus she (ironically) outs herself as “not a believing Catholic.” Fundamental to being Catholic is submission to the Magisterium as the authoritative interpreter of the tradition.

      Also, as Ita Scripta Est pointed out above, she frequently links to “Tradition in Action,” which is run by rabid and thoughtless and cringeworthy traditionalists who sully genuine traditionalism. Seriously, those guys are nuts.

      • We now have three posts here called “Losing our Religion” which is the complaints of some Catholics about how hard it is to stay Catholic in the face of…certain things. Is this acceptable behavior from faithful sons of the church?

      • The last two posts actually simply piggy-backing on the first one (which was “Losing *her* religion,” in reference to the female author whose blog I had linked to and which used the R.E.M. song as a title of the relevant post). It’s a useful title because it’s not my faith I’m worried about; it’s as strong as ever, maybe even stronger, since if the Church were in better shape I might be inclined to trust more in it and less in Christ. What it refers to instead is the (seeming) deterioration of the religion, in the institutional sense — it is referring in other words to the sense that Catholicism as we have always understood it and loved it and practiced it is slipping away from us, or even being taken from us. Of course in that sense the Catholic “religion” (i.e., the complex of disciplines and practices) is a separate thing from the Catholic “faith” and is in some sense accidental to it, but that is a small comfort, as I’m sure the knowledge that Israel was forever God’s chosen people was a small comfort to those being led into Babylonian captivity while the Temple of Jerusalem burned behind them.

      • Also, when you ask “Is this acceptable behavior from faithful sons of the Church,” are you referring to the writing of these posts, or the kinds of things which have promoted the sense of deterioration which these posts are narrating?

      • I wanted to know if these posts were or were not crossing the line. I don’t know enough myself to judge. Is everyone just supposed to go along with all these changes?

      • I guess it depends on what you mean by “go along.” The Church in a strictly organizational sense is an absolute monarchy. It really is the Pope’s to do with as he pleases, though he cannot touch the deposit of faith in the sense of contradicting or destroying it. He could order all those gorgeous marble cathedrals burned to the ground, suppress every traditionalist group and order them to monasteries to do back-breaking labor as penance for their “triumphalism,” etc., and I’d be obligated to continue to persevere in the Church and if I left, even out of quite-understandable bitterness, I would forfeit any prospect of salvation by doing so. But it doesn’t mean I’d have to like those things. Swallowing a bitter pill may be obligatory but that doesn’t make it any less bitter.

      • Well, isn’t fundamental to being Catholique to believe what everybody believed everywhere and everytime? And for example FSSPX is not Catholique according to you?

    • It depends on what you mean by “is right.” Mrs. Wood’s argument is as follows:

      1. The Pope has said some heretical-sounding things. (I don’t deny this, in the sense that I don’t deny that there is at least one possible reading in which what “the Pope has said” at least rhymes with the denial of certain doctrines).

      2. Therefore, the Pope is a heretic. (I do dispute this, but that’s irrelevant atm).

      3. Therefore, the see of Peter is vacant.

      The connection between 1 and 2 is tenuous and between 2 and 3 is simply a non sequitur. We have almost certainly had heretic Popes in the past but that is irrelevant, both to the status of Christ’s promises to the Church and to the majesty of the Petrine office. We were not promised the Church would be free of scum or scoundrels or even heretics; we were promised (in essence) that the faith would not be adulterated by their scumminess or their heresy. And so it hasn’t. Again, John XXII contemplated proclaiming a heresy as dogma and was promptly beaten back by the rest of the institutional Church despite his immense power.

      So I think Mrs. Wood is right in that Francis has a problematic and, to my ears at least, unpleasant way of talking and that he is having a damaging effect on the morale of many Catholics; I think she is incorrect that this implies heresy, or at least (to be as charitable as possible toward her view), I think she is incorrect that we can definitively ascertain heresy from the words he has thus far spoken; and I think she is incorrect that, even if we call Francis a heretic, that means he is no longer Pope. Here again, the Catholic understanding has never forbidden a heretic Pope, it has simply forbidden such a Pope from declaring heresy as doctrine. Hence if, and only if, Francis declared some heresy as being divinely-revealed truth and commanded all faithful to assent to it could we conclude therefore that he is not the successor of St. Peter. But he would not be the successor of St. Peter not because he had forfeit his office but because it would prove that such an office does not exist: that the Church’s entire historical self-understanding has been a lie and that it has no claim to the authority it wields.

      In other words the sedevacantist position seems to me to be totally bankrupt. To even get to a point where it is possible you must disbelieve Catholicism itself!

    • It seems to me that on the one hand, there is the doctrine of papal infallibility, and the other, Pope Paul IV’s words in “Cum ex Apostolatus Officio” which Mrs. Wood quoted. I don’t know how you reconcile these things, but I am very sorry for you that you (i.e., Catholics) have to deal with it.

      • Thankfully, it’s dealt with easily enough because they’re not really related. Papal infallibility touches on the level of assent owed to solemn Papal definitions of doctrine. A “solemn definition” is just that: it means a teaching that is defined by the Pope explicitly invoking apostolic authority, i.e., Pope Francis speaking not as a man or a Catholic or a bishop but as the successor of St. Peter. So, note, an interview with a journalist is not only not infallible by any standard, it’s not even magisterial: it’s not a “teaching” at all. There is nothing there for infallibility to adhere to.

        Cum ex Apostalatus Officio is a disciplinary document: it bars manifest heretics (essentially, excommunicates) from the holding of ecclesial office. Who is a “manifest heretic”? Whomever the Pope declares to be a manifest heretic, of course. Since Francis as Bergoglio was never so declared it clearly doesn’t apply.

        Francis may have said “I want to talk less about abortion/gay marriage” (I don’t think he said that, I think what he said is closer to “We need to situate those teachings more immediately within the context of the Gospel”), but, note, a decision about how often or forcefully to talk about a teaching isn’t a teaching itself, it has nothing to do with the Petrine ministry as such, it is the tactical decision of a ruler, not the subject matter of a teacher. That decision may be right and it may be wrong, but it should not induce a crisis of faith for Catholics.

        What I am saying here is that while it should not induce a crisis of faith it may well induce a different kind of crisis, say a crisis of confidence, that can easily be conflated with the faith because the visible structures and institutions and disciples of the Church that are apparently being neglected are so immediately bound up with those teachings.

      • I wonder if Francis’ perspective on things like abortion activism suffer from Brazilian provincialism. Abortion is illegal in Brazil IIRC, with a “life of the mother” exception.

    • @Zippy

      Pope Francis is ARGENTINE! Neither Brazilians nor Argentines will forgive your mistake! (:

      But your actual point is correct: in Brazil (and Argentina) abortion is illegal with a rape and health of the mother exception.

  5. Hmm, that’s a sad affair with Laura Woods.

    But that is not what I wanted to comment on, something else that came up in the comments here is:
    What’s with all the “Tradition In Action” bashing?
    I rather enjoy some of the stuff there (in particular their articles on the Ages of Faith). While I don’t agree with everything said there (which is true of virtually any site/blog/mag), some of their stuff is pretty good. They don’t pull any punches, can be very critical (anything post-conciliar Church can earn their ire), and sometimes overshoot their mark, but I don’t think they are as bad as Ita Scripta Est and Andrew make them out to be.

    FWIW, there seems to be some common misconceptions about them:
    They are not, nor have ever been sedevacantists, they refute this position, both for themselves and for others.
    Their stuff about Chesterton/Belloc is more a criticism of them as trad/conservative Catholic heroes rather than as liberals (which TIA thinks they were). I don’t agree with that position (though I do think they certainly had some liberal leanings, Chesterton/Belloc’s love of the French Revolution has always bothered me, and others as well).
    I think their defense of the Iraq War was just plain wrong, but I think it was another example of them overshooting the mark; they mistook the opposition against the war as a rejection of just war theory, so their main defense was not so much the war as the ability to wage war. Again, I disagree with their position in Iraq, but they are no neocons. Them being pro war on terror and pro capitalism does make one scratch one’s head, but oddball positions aside, they are still very much trads.

    And lastly it should be pointed out that two of the main people behind that site co-authored a book with The Remnant’s Michael J. Matt a few years back. He’s no nut, nor is he a cringeworthy ignoramus, would he really have worked with them (TIA) if they were so bad? Doesn’t John Vennari and Catholic Family News also work with TIA everynow and then? Are they bad too?
    Again, I’m not devoted adherent to TIA here, and I have only read them off and on for a few years now, so maybe I’m missing something here? But from what I know of them, I don’t think they are all that bad.

    • Their habitual criticism of the Holy Father (whoever he happens to be at any given time so long as it is post hoc of Vatican II) is against the virtue of piety, and most likely scandalous also. They cannot be compared with those few among the faithful throughout Church history who “withstood to the face” the Pope. There is no precedent, to say nothing of a tradition, of making it one’s lifelong endeavor to practice papal criticism, including frequent disrespectful caricatures.

      It is true they have some helpful articles.

  6. While Proph’s overall point is valid, it needs to be said that some of Proph’s claims regarding the Church are wildly off base and categorically wrong. First of all, the Pope is chosen by God, so unless Proph is prepared to say that the Pope is not the real Pope, then the Pope is surely not a “disaster” for the Church. It seems to me that Proph has some preconceived biases regarding Catholicism and the Church, and is applying the “No true Scotsman” fallacy to the Church, the Pope, and, well, Christ. “No true Christian could possibly think that loving your neighbor means loving even the last person you could possibly think worth loving, such as a Samaritan.” Or, say, someone who feels sexual and romantic attraction to members of similar gender.

    Second, it is simply categorically not true that the Church is a monarchy under the Pope. The Church is a monarchy under the King of Kings. (CC 669) I mean, duh? Hello? The Pope is not a dictator but a steward (actually, a vicar) whose role is the unity of the bishops and of the faithful (CC 882). He shares the office of binding and losing with the college of bishops (CC 881). It is the college of bishops which has full and supreme authority over the Church, tempered by the necessity of attaining agreement from the Pope (CC 883). The office of the Pope enjoys in specific cases infallibility CC 891), endowed not by his earthly wisdom or power but by Christ (CC 890), but this infallibility is shared also by the college of bishops in an Ecumenical Council (CC 891).

    It is all fine and good to say that the Pope can make “mistakes” in public relations but the problem is in assuming that you know what the goal is. We must remember that our Lord is the greatest general that ever was. He musters armies of peace and his most dire tragedy was the greatest victory that ever could be. When you say that you believe what the Pope believes but that you recognize that he can err, this misses the point: he can, but Christ doesn’t. Again, the Pope is a steward for the King of Kings. Do you think the King of Kings has been forced by some exogenous entity to absent himself from the direct, day-to-day control of His Church? Do you think, if He wanted to, he couldn’t intervene to prevent the Pope from erring? You have free will, but never forget that you have it because you were Created thusly, on purpose.

    Likewise any discussion of “degrees of Catholicity” is a dead end. There’s Christ, there’s Mary, there’s the Saints, and then there’s the rest of us. Unless you think you are a saint (in which case, you ain’t) you’re a damned sinner. Doesn’t matter if you bugger young boys under the bleachers or think bad thoughts about the neighbor kid and his music at 2AM. That’s the degrees of Catholicity; there aren’t any more. God demands of you perfection. If you aren’t perfect, there is no such thing as “62% perfect”. You either are or you aren’t. Through Christ’s promise and grace you can become perfect, but this is a journey. (Yes, if you believe in election, you’re a heretic. Fortunately, even heresy doesn’t preclude you from being saved. I trust fellow Christians will understand that to call something “heresy” is simply factual; I make no judgment about your personal character.) If you look backwards from the foothills at the poor wretch crawling forward on his hands and knees through the muck of his sins, keep in mind that while you’re standing there looking back and feeling good about yourself, he’s moved forward on his quest, and you haven’t.

    So to those who profess to have “considered” joining the Church but turned away because they encountered people they disagree with: you were never considering joining the Church. The Church is the one true Church, the Bride of Christ. That’s the reason to join. If you actually believed this, nothing could prevent you from seeking to press yourself into Her bosom, your one, true spiritual home in this terrestrial earth. Really you were considering joining a social organization of like-minded people who you thought might share your particular terrestrial goals. That’s not a church, that’s an interest group.

    I find it sad that so many Christians feel it necessary to discuss who is more Christian than whom. Again, God demands perfection. Christ is perfect. To be Christian is to follow Christ. Perfection is binary: either you are perfect, like Christ, or you are not. If you are not perfect, then you’re just like the rest of us. 99% perfect is still damned. Pace Dante, the Inferno is an allegory; it is not theology. There are no “better” circles of Hell.

    I am heartened that Pope Francis is prepared to call a spade a spade. If you belive that sinners ought to just stop sinning and don’t require prayer for the blessing of the grace of Christ, then you are a Pelagian. If you think that you are engaged in “heroic” labors then may I invite you to join me in the following prayer:

    O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
    From the desire of being esteemed,
    DELIVER ME, JESUS.

    From the desire of being loved…
    From the desire of being extolled …
    From the desire of being honored …
    From the desire of being praised …
    From the desire of being preferred to others…
    From the desire of being consulted …
    From the desire of being approved …
    From the fear of being humiliated …
    From the fear of being despised…
    From the fear of suffering rebukes …
    From the fear of being calumniated …
    From the fear of being forgotten …
    From the fear of being ridiculed …
    From the fear of being wronged …
    From the fear of being suspected …

    That others may be loved more than I,
    JESUS, GRANT ME THE GRACE TO DESIRE IT.

    That others may be esteemed more than I …
    That, in the opinion of the world,
    others may increase and I may decrease …
    That others may be chosen and I set aside …
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
    That others may be preferred to me in everything…
    That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

    Laus Deo, homies.

    • One thing I disagree with is this:

      First of all, the Pope is chosen by God

      In a sense the Pope is chosen by God, just as the CEO of Microsoft is chosen by God. But the pope is a fallen sinner like the rest of us and it is certainly possible to have terrible and scandalous popes. Alexander VI was “chosen by God” in the same sense as Francis.

      • Right; Francis was chosen by God only in the ultimate sense that God willed a world where it was possible for the Cardinals to choose Francis. That’s small comfort since the Cardinals have elected some real scoundrels in the past (though Alexander VI gets a disproportionately bad rep — let’s point instead to Benedict IX).

      • Yeah I tend to use Alexander as my throwaway example because when people Google him they immediately see all of his mistresses and children. That may not be completely fair to him; but on the other hand when we use his scandalous behavior to counter the ignorant notion that a pope who says and does scandalous things undermines Catholic ecclesiology we are making lemons from lemonade, and possibly even lessening Alexander’s personal purgatorial burdens.

        But he is definitely not the only example. Folks who are scandalized by the idea of a Pope saying and doing things wildly contrary to doctrine – outside of infallible proclamations of doctrine – suffer from a provincialism-of-the-present.

        I mean, what makes Laura Wood think that the current age deserves – or even that we personally deserve – a better pope than Alexander VI or Benedict IX? It would be wildly out of character, but I can’t help but picture John Paul II kind of winking at traditionalists and saying “miss me yet?”

    • Yes, if you believe in election, you’re a heretic.

      — ChevalierdeJohnstone

      You never miss an opportunity for a gratuitous dig, do you? You could have made your points without this aside, yet you did not. Why is that?

      I sometimes wonder if the reason I see so many Catholic commenters attack Calvinism is insecurity. Do such people have to keep convincing themselves that Catholicism is correct by attacking the most robust alternative?

      The main reasons (in no particular order) I don’t go off on the heresies and errors of Catholicism are as follows:
      1. Preaching to the choir.
      2. Not the right forum.
      3. Gratuitously offensive to otherwise like-minded people.
      4. Respect for the Catholic contributors here.
      5. Ineffective—I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on the issue through comments on a blog.

      I’m certain that the Catholic Church has some way to explain Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:3-6, and the like as meaning something other than election. When challenged with Scriptural support for Calvinism, though, none of the Catholic commenters respond. Why is that?

      It is not my intention to hijack this thread. I look at the problems my Catholic brethren are going through with their new pope, and it troubles me. I wish them strength in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I have refrained from saying much about the Francis issue because it doesn’t really concern me. However, as I have said before, I will not stand by idly while my faith is attacked. If you want to go on about the alleged heresies of Calvinism, please do so on an explicitly Catholic site, not here.

      • When challenged with Scriptural support for Calvinism, though, none of the Catholic commenters respond. Why is that?

        Huh. I couldn’t be more ignorant of the apologetical side of these things, but you sparked my curiosity. Here is Romans 8:28-30:

        [28] And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints. [29] For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. [30] And whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.

        Surely God “foreknew” literally everyone. So is the question whether it is possible for someone who God “foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified” through Christ – is it possible for someone who has been given all of those gifts on top of the Imago Dei – to still choose Hell? To choose to not love God?

        My guess would be “yes”, because the will is not coerced. Though I admit that I find (e.g.) Lucifer’s choice of Hell baffling, much moreso than the choice of a foreknown, etc. fallen human being.

        Anyway this is probably wildly OT. I think Mark Shea told me once that Catholics actually do believe in a kind of predestination. My own sense is that as we get closer to the Mysteries words start to fail, which is why the Sacraments, and most especially the Blessed Sacrament, are central. So I tend to be preternaturally sanguine about logocentric apologetical conflicts like this, and my sensibility is likely shared by at least some other Catholics.

        Thanks for sparking my reflection.

      • Anyway this is probably wildly OT. I think Mark Shea told me once that Catholics actually do believe in a kind of predestination …

        More than that, even — the reasoning presented as proving the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is straight-up hard-core Calvinism. So, along with its other oddities, Catholicism rejects (or even condemns) Calvinism … except when it finds it handy.

      • Well, that’s one place where the apologetics side just loses me and I glaze over. The Immaculate Conception is a revealed fact, not a conclusion from assembled syllogisms situated in a hermeneutic. So if a given hermeneutic has a problem with the Immaculate Conception that just shows that at some point that hermeneutic went off the rails.

      • The Immaculate Conception is a revealed fact, not a conclusion from assembled syllogisms situated in a hermeneutic.

        Really? Revealed?!?!?!

      • More than once, when a commenter has explained some Calvinist doctrine here, the difference has struck me as being largely semantic, or one of emphasis. So I don’t think it’s a matter of Catholicism cynically employing Calvinist when convenient; I think the split was probably always largely motivated by misunderstanding.

      • Surely God “foreknew” literally everyone.

        It’s even worse than that — God “foreknew” literally everyone who might have been, and might yet be, and all their (potential) choices.

      • Sure, so if we follow the connections and ignore the initial qualifier about those who love God being saints, everyone must be saved. Because predestinated, etc is predicated of everyone that God foreknew.

        Not that I’m buying into the notion of Scriptural interpretation divorced from the doctrines and traditions of the Church, mind you. But a straightforward reading is that of everyone God foreknew, which means everyone, all of them were predestinated etc. But only those who love God actually realize their predestination, justification, glorification, etc as saints. (8:28)

        This also emphasizes how terrible it is when a single soul chooses Hell: because everyone God foreknew, which means everyone, was called, predestined, justified, and glorified by Christ.

        What the passages don’t say is that everyone loves God.

      • It is not my intention to hijack this thread.

        Then it must be God’s, according to his sovereign will, eh?

      • It’s even worse than that — God “foreknew” literally everyone who might have been, and might yet be, and all their (potential) choices.

        [continuing]

        Consider — had Cain not murdered Abel, the entire history of the world would have been different; different people would have been born, different people would have been presented different choices, different contingent histories wouls have followed from those choices — the history of the world might even have been so different that salvation were not based on human sacrifice. The point is, God “foreknew” *all* potential histories of the world.

      • Zippy:Yes, revealed. Part of the Deposit of the Faith.

        Ah, so the Immaculate Conception is “revealed” not because (we have any record that) Christ explicitly taught it, not because (we have any record that) the Apostiles explicitly taught it, not because it is implicit in those things that we do have record that Christ and the Aposltes taught, but because … hmm, well, because? And the hyper-Calvinistic reasoning explaining the rationality and logocal necessity of the Immaculate Conception is, what … just window dressing?

      • Ilion:
        Ah, so the Immaculate Conception is “revealed” not because (we have any record that) Christ explicitly taught it, not because (we have any record that) the Apostiles explicitly taught it, not because it is implicit in those things that we do have record that Christ and the Aposltes taught, but because …

        The Church founded by Christ testifies to it. Much like many other doctrines, e.g. the doctrine establishing which texts are canonical Holy Scripture and which are not. No written record of Christ or the Apostles teaching that either.

      • Proph:More than once, when a commenter has explained some Calvinist doctrine here, the difference has struck me as being largely semantic, or one of emphasis. So I don’t think it’s a matter of Catholicism cynically employing Calvinist when convenient; I think the split was probably always largely motivated by misunderstanding.

        Semantics — having to do with the meaning of words/terms. It has always seems to me that when someone starts putting some (apparent) disagreement down to “semantics”, it’s almost always because he has some motivation for lack of clarity on the matter.

        The critical disagreement between Calvinism and the rest of Christianity has to do with whether human beings have *any* agency or freedom-of-the-will. Calvinism holds that we are so enslaved to sin that we don’t have even the ability to assent to God’s will (as known to us) — it’s not that the Calvinist holds, as the the rest of us do, that due to our sinfulness we can’t consistently-and-without-fail act in accord with God’s will, it’s that we can’t even choose to reject sin and embrace God’s will.

        This difference is not merely a matter of emphasis.

        Now, as relates to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Roman denomination — while explicitly rejecting that key Calvinist doctrine or presupposition as relates to you and me — accepts it with respect to Mary assenting to bear the Christ.

        So, yeah, I think “cynical” is a good descriptor of this approach. Unless you think that’s too “semantic”.

      • The critical disagreement between Calvinism and the rest of Christianity has to do with whether human beings have *any* agency or freedom-of-the-will. Calvinism holds that we are so enslaved to sin that we don’t have even the ability to assent to God’s will (as known to us) — it’s not that the Calvinist holds, as the the rest of us do, that due to our sinfulness we can’t consistently-and-without-fail act in accord with God’s will, it’s that we can’t even choose to reject sin and embrace God’s will.

        Yes, but you’re missing the most important part: we can’t choose to reject sin unless God blesses us with His grace. And yet, we still have to choose!

        Even Calvinists believe in free will. We do choose our actions. God’s foreknowledge is not the same as God predetermining everything that everyone will ever do (Kristor’s explanations for how God, who exists outside of time, might experience this, clarify the mystery). It’s just that without God’s grace, the burden of original sin (a.k.a. Total Depravity) makes it impossible for us to choose God.

        The doctrines of Calvinism, which are straight out of the Bible, must be taken together as a whole. To try to refute one point without seeing how it interacts with other elements misses the interconnectedness of the whole.

      • Wm. Jas.’ response here indicates what I mean when I said the difference between the Calvinist and Catholic positions seems merely semantical, if his description of Calvinist and my understanding of Catholicism are completely accurate (and of course they may not be). We of course believe too that the even the ability to accept grace in the Sacraments is a grace. When I go to confession it is the grace of the Holy Spirit that scrubs me free of sin, but it is likewise grace that inspires me with contrition and that compels me even to go to confession in the first place.

        It seems that me that human agency or freedom does matter, but in a negative sense — it’s not something I do that “gets” me grace, it is simply my act of surrender to the promptings of the spirit. So in a proximate, immediate sort of sense (the one Catholics prefer to talk in) human agency matters, while in a distal, anagogic sense (the one Calvinists prefer to talk in) it’s all grace. Where there is a separation it may be that some (not all) Calvinists buy too much into the kind of reductionist attitude Illion has expressed here, so that whatever is not strictly necessary to the explanation of a phenomenon can be disregarded as irrelevant.

      • Zippy wrote,

        Surely God “foreknew” literally everyone. So is the question whether it is possible for someone who God “foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified” through Christ – is it possible for someone who has been given all of those gifts on top of the Imago Dei – to still choose Hell? To choose to not love God?

        My guess would be “yes”, because the will is not coerced.

        First, this foreknowledge refers to the elect, not to all of humanity. We are agreed, I hope, that not everyone is saved, that some (many? most?) will go to Hell (Matthew 7:13-14). If this is so, then here, the verse refers only to those who are saved.

        In answer to your question, no. If God chooses a person to be saved, then he is saved. To say that the person can choose Hell instead of salvation makes his will greater than God’s. Does that make any sense at all? How can a human thwart God? The Bible tells us the answer in John 10:27-28, Romans 8:1, Philippians 1:6, and elsewhere. This is the “P” in TULIP, Perseverance of the saints, a.k.a. once saved, always saved.

        —–

        I wrote,
        “It is not my intention to hijack this thread.”

        To which The Continental Op relied,
        “Then it must be God’s, according to his sovereign will, eh?”

        Har, har.

      • Wm. Lewis:
        First, this foreknowledge refers to the elect, not to all of humanity

        That isn’t clear to me, and is not how the text struck me when I first read it. Are you sure that you aren’t importing an assumption that isn’t necessarily there?

        Again, I read it as saying that all of humanity was given these great gifts (predestinated etc); but that only those who choose to love God are saints.

      • Zippy wrote,

        Wm. Lewis:
        First, this foreknowledge refers to the elect, not to all of humanity

        That isn’t clear to me, and is not how the text struck me when I first read it. Are you sure that you aren’t importing an assumption that isn’t necessarily there?
        ————-
        While it might not be clear from this one passage alone, we are fortunate enough to have the entire Bible to work with.

        Going back to Isaiah 53:12, it was prophesied that Jesus would bear the sin of many, not of all; this is also in Matthew 26:28, where His blood is for the many. If Jesus’ sacrifice were for all, the Bible would tells us that. In John 10:14-15, Jesus says He knows His own and they know Him; this implies that there are those whom He does not know, who are not His own. John 10:14 dovetails with Matthew 25:32-33, where He separates one people from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

        John 17 is also apropos here, especially verses 6 (“the people whom you gave me out of the world”) and 9 (“I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me”). Jesus draws a distinction between the world on the one hand, and those whom the Father gave Him on the other. (The world must be understood in context; its referent varies by verse.)

        The message is clear: only some will be saved. It is only those who are saved who are foreknown and receive the other blessings.

        As an aside, thank you very much, Zippy, for your measured, non-confrontational approach. I hope that I am matching it. Thank you also for the opportunity to reflect upon these topics.

      • Ilíon wrote:

        “the reasoning presented as proving the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is straight-up hard-core Calvinism”

        and

        “the hyper-Calvinistic reasoning explaining the rationality and logocal necessity of the Immaculate Conception is, what … just window dressing?”

        There is nothing Calvinistic about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, or the reasoning that led to it. Nothing at all.

        Calvinism takes the Bible as its source of authority—sola scriptura and all that, right? All “Calvinistic” reasoning is based on what is in the Bible. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that Mary was free of original sin; therefore, this doctrine is an extra-Biblical accretion peculiar to Catholicism. Even stranger—to my way of thinking, anyway—is the notion that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Mary had a husband who “knew her not until she had given birth to a son” (Matthew 1:25), and Jesus had siblings, so I just don’t get where that comes from.

      • I’m given to understand both “until” and “brothers” have unique connotations in Hebrew not shared in English.

        But the New Testament was written in Greek. Did you mean Greek?

        In context, it would be a far stretch to take the explicitly named brothers and anonymous sisters of Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 as anything other than siblings. Additionally, Paul refers to Jesus’ brother James in Galatians 1:19. However, it is certainly true that ἀδελφοὶ has different referents depending on the verse, so I do appreciate the potential for ambiguity.

  7. Hi ChevalierdeJohnstone,

    I think you are maybe reading too much into my writings. In the post itself I am simply narrating a sense of dissatisfaction that exists among more traditional Catholics. (In this way there’s a good deal more distance between myself and the subject matter then there was in the second post of this series where I expressed a good deal of personal bitterness). In the comments I am showing how it is possible to be disappointed or even angry with Francis and still be a good Catholic.

    In fact I think the dissatisfaction with Francis is overly stated — as I said I myself think he turned out better than I would’ve expected, that his supposed “heresy” is a bad overreading of off-the-cuff comments about tactics to a journalist, etc. I think the worst that can be said about him so far is that he has not yet learned to monitor himself, a lesson Benedict also had to learn and in very nearly the same hard way.

    Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit Order in Argentina, so how on earth do you conclude he was “hated” by the Jesuits?

    Yes, if I recall for a period of about 6 years, in the 70s. So, that should answer your question. 🙂

    I also don’t understand how you think that friends of a 400+ years old holy order are “enemies” of the Church.

    Sadly there is very little the postconciliar Jesuits have in common with the Jesuits of, say, the 17th century.

    Second, it is simply categorically not true that the Church is a monarchy under the Pope. The Church is a monarchy under the King of Kings.

    In the distal sense, yes, this is true. But I was not talking about the governance of the Church in a distal sense but a proximal (worldly) sense. In this sense the Pope rules the Church — hence he has immediate, universal jurisdiction over every single Catholic the world over, whether lay, cleric, religious, or consecrated. This includes the bishops whom he appoints and who govern only to the extent that they are in communion with him.

    There is nothing (proximal) stopping the Pope from ruling like the king he is excep his own obedience to the law of charity.

    Likewise any discussion of “degrees of Catholicity” is a dead end. There’s Christ, there’s Mary, there’s the Saints, and then there’s the rest of us. Unless you think you are a saint (in which case, you ain’t) you’re a damned sinner.

    You are equivocating here. Catholicity relates to the degree to which I accept the teachings of the Church. Sainthood relates to the degree to which I successfully practice those teachings and immerse myself in the faith through the Sacramnents, prayer, etc. Surely you can see there’s a difference between, say, fornicating once in a moment of weakness, and rejecting in principle the teaching that fornication is a grave moral evil?

    Likewise, having intellectual difficulty accepting the Incarnation or the Resurrection is one thing, denying these teachings outright is quite another. The former makes you, well, just a fallen man, whose intellect is clouded by darkness and sin like the rest of us. The latter separates you altogether from the faith and from communion with Peter and, if the separation is sufficiently informed and consensual to be a truly personal act, from the prospect of salvation.

    I am heartened that Pope Francis is prepared to call a spade a spade. If you belive that sinners ought to just stop sinning and don’t require prayer for the blessing of the grace of Christ, then you are a Pelagian.

    I’m not sure why you think I believe this. Curiously, “Pelagian” is the term he used to describe people who were praying for the success of his pontificate.

    I think you are simply talking past me and I wonder if in some sense you are not really talking to me at all. You are in fact exhibiting the very same reaction of my friend whom I describd in this post who asked if I thought the only reason to dislike Francis is the pride of the older brother of the prodigal son. I am saying no, pride is not the reason the people I am describing are alienated by Francis, they feel they are being thrown under the bus and insulted in order to appeal to people who will never convert and who only want to use him as a blunt object with which to bludgeon them into giving up on their evangelism and their prayer and their activism. The father never insulted the older brother of the prodigal son, on the contrary he said that he as always with him and that whatever the father had was also the son’s; and again this is not what they are experiencing Francis as doing. Maybe their impression is wrong but, again, my point is that Francis doesn’t have an exclusive claim to our charity; they deserve it too, and maybe their grievances deserve a little better than to be dismissed out of hand as the pride of a Pharisee or a Pelagian.

    If you think that you are engaged in “heroic” labors then may I invite you to join me in the following prayer

    Heavens, I’m far from heroic in any way! Here again I’m not sure why you think I am writing about myself or my own disappointment. I don’t even blog under my own name. I can hardly even get out of bed on time. The likes of Fr. Blake, however, are far more heroic than me and it is their disappointment and alienation I am describing here. So I wonder if you are actually responding to me or simply using me as a soapbox from which to shout your disdain to the Heavens in a way that sounds an awful lot like the rebuttal I described in post II of this series.

    Some folks are disappointed with Francis, and they are not disappointed because they are proud or judgmental but because they see him as scornfully disassociating himself from and even repudiating the work to which they’ve committed themselves, the very distinctly Catholic work of prayer and evangelization and so on, as if out of embarrassment. It is sheer caricature to treat people as if they were nothing more than projections of the Platonic Form of the Pharisee rather than, yanno, actual people, with their own lives and viewpoints and sensibilities and foibles, etc., but this is the only treatment they are getting, so no wonder they take the high-minded talk of pastoralism and reaching-out as so much hot air.

  8. Pingback: Provincialism of the present in papal polemics | Zippy Catholic

  9. To anyone saying that Francis must be good because he is a Jesuit, and Jesuits are great because they were great in the 17th century:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_Jesus#In_recent_years
    “In Latin America,the Jesuits have had significant influence in the development of liberation theology….”
    “Theological rebellion
    Within the Roman Catholic Church, there has existed a sometimes tense relationship between Jesuits and the Vatican due to questioning of official Church teaching and papal directives, such as those on abortion,[60][61] birth control,[62][63][64][65] women deacons,[66] homosexuality, and liberation theology.”
    Also about how crazy the Catholic left-wing can be:
    http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiss%C3%A3o_Pastoral_da_Terra
    Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) is an organ of the Catholic Church in Brazil. According to wikipedia:
    “CPT works to help indians, migrants, man and woman to live in a land free from the domination of the capitalist private property.”
    Lenin and Stalin would be proud.
    For me it is amazing how someone can believe that and still think he is a Christian …

  10. Pingback: Losing our religion IV: Mercy without sin | The Orthosphere

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