Toward a pious reception of Fratelli Tutti

On a first reading, Pope Francis’ new encyclical is a disgrace, an incoherent mess of cliches, undefined terms, libelous mischaracterization of political opponents, and apparent contradictions.  Naturally, as a loyal son of the Church, I wish for everyone to receive the words of the Holy Father with gratitude and docility, so I would entreat everyone when reading this statement of the Vicar of Christ to be mindful of the pope’s distinctive mode of communication.

A properly charitable reading would keep in mind that Pope Francis, for all his obtuse verbiage, seems to be nearly incapable of abstract thought.  Imagine a child who is forced to share a desired toy with another child.  When this first child doesn’t have the toy, he nags the other child, justifying himself with the general principle that no one should deprive another of a toy when that other wants it.  When this first child gets his turn, he repels the other child, appealing to the immutable principle that no one should be interrupted in his enjoyment of a toy.  The two “princples” only contradict each other if one takes them at face value as universally applicable.  In fact, each is a rhetorical weapon toward a desired end.  So it is that Pope Francis can generously grant that a people should treasure and preserve its unique cultural heritage and integrity, while at the same time insisting that cultures must be open to unlimited change, may not restrict any amount of migration of cultural foreigners, nor attempt to retain control of their communities against these foreigners, nor recognize alien groups as in any way “other”.  What sort of recognition is this that cannot distinguish its object from anything else, and what sort of preservation can this be that must welcome complete replacement?

The objection is misplaced because it forgets an unstated understanding by which it is always clear who each statement is addressed to. Non-westerners have a right to treasure their cultures.  Westerners have a duty to embrace their own annihilation.  Westerners must be open to enrichment by the other. Non-westerners must never forget the crimes of the white race. (His examples of sins which must never be forgotten make it clear exactly whose infamy is to be eternal.) There is thus no tension or contradiction.

Of course, Pope Francis is not unique or even unusual in using language this way.  Consider how so many great scholars in the humanities departments of our universities insist that we must reject the presumed authority of objective truth and embrace the validity of peoples’ lived experiences.  One might ask “whose lived experiences?”  They are certainly not all granted equal validity.  When a person of grievance says he finds some Western practice “racist”, this is an authoritative experience.  How Westerners understand the practice and what their feelings are about the matter have no validity.  White Christian men don’t have “lived experiences”.

Thus, one will find absurd statements in the encyclical such as that no one can be saved unless everyone is saved.  This would be heretical if salvation is understood in its usual Christian meaning, but in context that does not seem to be the meaning intended.  It is prima facie false for any meaning, though, and we are not given a reason to find it even plausible.  This is because the point of the statement is not to express a fact but to endorse an extremely vague moral sentiment.

If the point is to impress upon readers an overall sentiment, what is this sentiment?  In fact, the encyclical is a performative contradiction of the most emphatic and repeated claim, namely that it is inherently morally wrong to regard one group of people as a threat to another group of people with whom one identifies more closely. Of course, the encyclical is itself primarily an attack on putatively evil populist nationalist racists who are threatening the liberal multicultural establishment.  (Francis oddly characterizes the nationalists as “aggressive”, although they appear everywhere to be a defensive reaction to aggressive globalism.  However, aggressor and defender are often relative to ideology.  Pope Francis is an authoritative voice, so he is allowed to beg questions without committing any logical fallacy.  He simply endorses thereby the ideology that makes the statement true.)

There are emotions and forms of commitment that can only have a particular person or group of people as their object:  loyalty, piety, patriotism, love.  In a world where each human being was always treated as an equal of every other, each as an interchangeable instantiation of humanity, these forms of recognition would not be possible. Ancient thinkers like Aristotle and Augustine recognized that making room for particular attachments is a practical necessity.  Mr. Spock was correct that a humanity that valued strangers equally to kin would be less bloody, but only because such a humanity in which mothers cared no more for their own children than any random stranger across the world would be extinct in one generation.  So, practically speaking, we must order our loves in favor of those we are best positioned to care for.  However, I would go much further and say that a world of equality and universal benevolence, a world without particular commitments–without love, without friendship, without filial piety, without patriotism–would be less than human, that it would lack humanity’s very best qualities, the source of most of its nobility and all of its warmth and joy.  Universal benevolence is not morally superior to particular love; it is an altogether inferior, lower virtue.

Even among those who admit what I have just said, there is the peculiar idea that there is something morally suspect about being protective of those we love by identifying other specific humans as threats, of responding out of fear.  I admit that I don’t understand the common rhetorical trick of imagining that some concern is illegitimate if it can be said to be motivated by “fear”.  Fear is just the emotional accompaniment of concern, and it is the concern, not the sensation of fear, that is the motivation of action.  If we are allowed to love, how can we not be allowed to protect?  Again, many will recognize the practical necessity.  Sometimes one’s children or one’s communities really are under threat by some other person or group of people, and we are forced practically speaking to recognize this.  But this is said to be a tragic necessity, because such recognition is inherently morally degrading. You do right to beat up a guy who was trying to kidnap your kids, but you walk away a worse person for it.  Here again, I strongly disagree.  The most intense, exquisite, and tender feelings of love are evoked by the recognition that the beloved is vulnerable.  It seems to be true that we can only love most deeply that which we sense to be vulnerable, even to be weak and threatened.  Perhaps this is why God made us vulnerable creatures.  How many acts of heroism and self-sacrifice have been inspired by this particular degree of love which we are told to regard as morally suspect?  More to the point, it must be rare indeed to find acts of heroic self-sacrifice that are not so motivated.  Why give one’s life for something that is in any case indestructible?

Perhaps I have spoken too quickly.  There are many who claim to have allied themselves with the inevitable march of Progress.  The moral arc of the universe is a great invincible machine slowly grinding away at all particular attachments and inherited traditions, leading humanity ineluctably to the end state of perfectly just communism. Certainly this is a faith that has inspired a great deal of bravery (and an enormous amount of cruelty).  I myself think more highly of those who have remained loyal to their dying traditions and groups, embracing the Lost Cause, the Great Defeat, and accepting the hatred of future generations.  The machine is always more powerful than the reactionary societies it destroys, but is it ever as deeply loved?

The message of Fratelli Tutti is that the Catholic Church is on the side of the machine. We should not hope that we can capture the Church and make it an institutional weapon for defending traditional Christian societies against social justice aggression.  Pope Francis embraces the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and sexual indistinguishability that condemn traditional Christendom.  Perhaps it could have been no other way.  To borrow a thought from my friend Bruce Charlton, perhaps the Catholic Church has too much of the machine in her own nature, just by being an organization, to resist the great machine of social justice. But we should still be grateful to the Holy Father for the amount of space he has left us as individuals simply by producing an incoherent and absurd document with no binding doctrinal statements. Pope Pius XII or John Paul II would have made their opposition to borders and particular loves clear, dogmatic, and impossible for obedient Catholics to evade. We can thank the anti-intellectualism that some of us have found annoying about Pope Francis in the past. Telling us what to think may be the pope’s job, but it’s not the one he’s most interested in performing. He’s much more concerned with our attitudes. I suppose a lack of charity between the doomed and the ascendent races could be a real temptation as we each play our roles in the coming drama.

34 thoughts on “Toward a pious reception of Fratelli Tutti

  1. A good essay – I’m not a Roman Catholic, partly because I find such documents as this latest screed by Pope Francis morally repugnant. It’s the kind of wishy-washy approach that’s served the Church of England so well in becoming the meaningless organization it is today: it is precisely because it tries to be so “relevant” that it has become so irrelevant to people’s spiritual needs, and this has infected the RC church as well.

    As Bonald points out, it is impossible to care about one’s own people and culture while simultaneously promoting their utter destruction. For what? Who gains? What will be left? It’s like inheriting a beautiful old house and instead of living in it and caring for it, just giving it to drug addicts and alcoholics to use as a doss-house so we can “feel good” about it.

    What Francis, and the European Union, and the Open Society of George Soros and every other NGO don’t know is that our civilization isn’t ours to give away: we are its custodians, not its owners. There is a connection between the dead, the living and the unborn (which goes back at least to Burke) and we have not the right to destroy it.

    In the Gospels, Christ is shown to be in conflict with the powers and forces around him. In this papal announcement, Francis shows that he is in league with the powers and forces who want to destroy us.

  2. Thanks for reading this so I don’t have to. I fear you are wrong that imprecise and emotive language leaves space for evasion. It’s a grey fog that covers everything and nothing at the same time. It is a grey fog in which indigenous peoples and nativists are somehow radically different types of human, the one saintly and the other demonic. A sinner knew where he stood with a sin like masturbation. In the new CC, a sinner will have to go to confession to discover whether or not he has sinned. Of course this will require that all confessions be face-to-face, so the priest can see the color of the sinner’s skin.

  3. Thanks for your comment about me, I appreciate it.
    I should clarify that there is great good still in the RCC, and still to be had from being a Roman Catholic – and people need all the help they can get. Those who are *overall* helped in their Christian life by their actual real-life church, should therefore stay with it.
    That is why I regard it as a world-historical scandal that the RCC (along with All the other major churches – so far as I know) have closed their doors, excluded the laity, ceased the sacraments, refused to minister personally etc etc. – and done so willingly, enthusiastically, with purely-materialistic (healthist) justifications, without any sense of the gravity of what has happened.
    I shall say again: in 2020, Christianity has suffered the greatest setback in c.2000 years – the worst aspect being that this is either unnoticed or denied. (Indeed, it could not have happened if most Christians were genuine believers, so this ignorance/ indifference is not a surprise.)
    My opinion is, however, that to be a Good Christian (here, now) absolutely requires frequent and specific *personal discernments* to distinguish Good Christian from ‘good’ (i.e. obedient) Catholic.
    In some times and places in the past; one could make the single discernment that the RCC was true, and then simply be obedient, and be assured of salvation – be confident of being on the side of God and against Satan.
    I don’t believe that this is possible now; and simple obedience to The Church (any church) will almost-certainly lead to hell.

  4. I appreciate what you’re doing here, but honestly it seems like a lot of mental gymnastics to avoid the obvious conclusion that Francis is simply a heretic. Whether he’s a heretic because he’s mentally retarded (formal) or because he’s a Freemason (material) doesn’t change the essential fact that every single time he issues a statement or simply speaks off the cuff, he contradicts thousands of years of Church teaching and confuses and dismays devout Roman Catholics the world over, causing many to fall into heresy, schism, or outright apostasy. As Catholics we really can’t afford to downplay that or defend him; it may wear the garb of piety and charity, but are we being pious before God and charitable to our brothers in the Faith? Are we being pious to the Magisterium of the Church and charitable to the memory of good, moral, and orthodox Popes? To what and to whom do we owe greater loyalty and devotion, the Church or the man? When ordinary Christians rebuked Nestorius, were they being impious or uncharitable? Pope John XII was deposed and killed for his blasphemies and evil living (albeit even he never fell into heresy or taught heresy). Was that also impious?
    I do not ask for rhetorical flourish, but because these are questions we need to ask ourselves when judging the false teaching and blasphemies of Francis.

    • “I appreciate what you’re doing here, but honestly it seems like a lot of mental gymnastics to avoid the obvious conclusion that Francis is simply a heretic”

      Every time I hear someone accusing the Holy Father of being a hereIic I always ask the same question: “could you please tell me by heart and without looking it in the book or in the web the title of the first part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”?

      Because if you do not know even the most basic thing, how can you pretend to dictaminate if a man with more than 10 years of catholic formation and several decades hearing confessions is a heretic or not?

      Do you realize that in your final judgment you will have to give account of the accusation you just made?

      • “Have I your permission, sir, to say he is not Catholic?”

        Pope Francis is a catholic, whether you like it or not. He is catholic by baptism, objectively speaking. He received the sacraments of communion and confirmation which confirm his belonging to the mystical body of Christ. He was anointed as priest, which gives him a special role in the Catholic Church. All this makes him, objectively speaking a catholic. He may be a good or bad catholic, but he is ON AN OBJECTIVE LEVEL a catholic. So, you cannot say he is not a catholic. Not because my permission ir needed, but because that is contrary to the truth.

        And it is not me whom you should ask permission to give your opinion. You are to seek God’s wisdom and ask Him to show you his will. If you read in detail points 2475-2478 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church you will find instructions on how to address controversial statements from another person without commiting sin.

        It is a GRAVE sin to attack the reputation of another person, like you are doing (especially if the person is a priest). You are calling the Holy Father a Freemason (that is to say a satanist) or a retard. Like I said to another person below. Go and ask your pastor, priest or confessor to read your message above. Then ask him if you can receive communion without going to confession for the sins of detraction, rash judgement and/or calumny. All this is aggravated by the fact that you attack a priest, which is a violation of the Fourth Commandment (honoring your father and mother does not apply exclusively to your parents but also priests).

        I urge you to STOP making such remarks, for the wellbeing of your soul.

        https://ronconte.com/2019/09/30/they-sin-gravely-who-insult-the-pope/

      • What an absurd argument. Martin Luther could likely recite his New Testament better than almost any Christian today, including not a few men in cardinal’s hats. Does this make them unqualified to point out that Luther was a heresiarch? Have I your permission, sir, to say he is not Catholic?
        Falsehood remains falsehood, with or without credentials – credentialing as the measure of authority to point out truth is the fundemantal doctrine of the Liberal bureaucratic state, for whom Truth fluctuates based on fad and whim. If a priest denies, for instance, the divinity of Christ, must I recite the first five articles of Humani Vitae before I can say he’s not a Christian? What if a bishop denies the perpetual virginity of Our Lady? I suppose I should ensure I have a S.T.D. from the Steubenville before I say I don’t trust such a man to shepherd well.
        Francis teaches heresy that is so plain to see it requires an advanced degree to deny it. This should upset you as someone who apparently an ultramontane, because it damages the reputation of the Papacy as much as it sows confusion among the faithful.
        In reality, you cannot deny that he teaches heresy, and so instead you prefer like a coward to impugn my learning, and with arrogated authority you, hypocrite, stand in the square and shout “How dare you!” and play the paladin in this mystery play of your own composition. Judas decried the waste of 300 silver pieces on the bottle of oinment, he claimed the moral high ground by citing love of the poor, but the Evangelist made it clear he was stealing from the Apostolic purse.

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  6. Once upon a time in an alternate universe, the Jesuits were the smart ones.
    This kind of pomo waffle is unbecoming in a Pope. Even a Dope of a Pope. Still, it pales into insignificance next to his selling out of the Underground Church in the PRC.

  7. I think the word for it is sedevacantism. There is a real Bishop of Rome somewhere, but he’s not sitting in the Vatican.

  8. After being an ‘agnostic’ (really a truth avoider) since I became a teenager more than fifty years ago–prior to that I was a ‘token’ Southern Baptist–I’ve decided that I need the church. As long as this fool is Pope, I can not, in good conscience, join the RCC; so what’s left for me? Is it possible for an American Southerner from a low church Protestant heritage to join the Orthodox Church? Comments welcomed.

    • You should join the Church. The Catholic Church, specifically. I say this as someone who agrees entirely with you regarding the pontificate of our present Holy Father. What I am suggesting is that, despite your wholly reasonable misgivings, you can indeed join the Church in good conscience. The Church is a great deal larger and deeper, and the ultimate living head of the Church a great deal Holier, than our dear vicar Francis.

      There are a great many other comments I could make on the topic, but to start, I would suggest reading up on St. Augustine’s fight against the Donatist heretics, and the doctrine of “ex opere operato.” We may join the Church for the liturgy, or the history, or the wisdom, but we remain in the Church for the sacraments.

    • The Orthodox are a mixed bag. Look into the particular branch first.

      I don’t mind having a foolish pope. The monarchical constitution of the Catholic Church suits me fine temperamentally and ideologically, and monarchs aren’t supposed to have to be particularly. Carrying on the traditions they inherited is their job. Arguably the essence of monarchy shines forth most distinctly when the king is exceptional in no way but his crown. There have been rightly few genius popes, because it would not be a proper use of such talent. JPII and BVI weren’t geniuses, but they were accomplished scholars and probably smarter than is ideal for their job, as they tended to get bored and non-magnisterially indulge their urge to speculate (interestingly and orthodoxly, for the most part, but still–that’s hobby, not job for a pope). We need to get back to a state where men of average intelligence can navigate without being tripped up by reality-inverting ideology, but that’s true outside the Church as well.

    • Bonald is right; the contamination has spread east, as well. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has been in decline for centuries, but the last century has really been troublesome. The current office holder has been on the throne for three decades, and he has been our side’s Francis for a long time. There are decent Greek parishes and monasteries in America, but they might be a minority, and they have become somewhat of a nuisance to their worldly overseers.

      Of course, almost all Christian institutions fall lamentably short of shining on a hill toward the nations, but there are Orthodox communities that try to live out the gospel in our heathen times. The Arabs and the Slavs have their good and bad points, but they earnestly strive to swim upstream. The OCA’s Diocese of the South has a good legacy thanks to the efforts of its longtime shepherd, the late Bishop Dmitri (Royster). Myself, I’m in ROCOR, which was the free Russian communion during the Soviet years. The Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR re-established ties about 13 years ago; now, ROCOR is a small ministry within the MP, but it has a lot of ecclesial “street cred” owing to its refusal to cooperate with Bolshevism and to its adherence to pious traditions and disciplines from pre-revolutionary society. To its detractors, ROCOR is “stuck in the 19th century.” As if that’s a bad thing! In many ways, I rather find the 19th century to be the apex of civilization — possessing many aspects of ancient Christendom with many advantages of the modern, industrial world. If only Europe and America still had 19th century morés . . .

      Anyway, an online app. allows you to search for Orthodox parishes in the USA. You may also be interested in this general site with spiritual reflections, news (good and bad), and interesting cultural/historical stories — sort of like an Orthodox online version of Christianity Today.

      • I would add this site to your list of basic Orthodox websites:https://www.pravmir.com/

        My own observation, and as a Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic, is that Orthochristian.com and Pravmir are the best sites for consistently edifying material. I think that many of us who think of ourselves as Orthodox in communion with Rome (theoretically the Rome of the First Millennium, although of course they have more power over us than that at the moment) look to those sites and some others, like Sister Vassa Larin and the Ancient Faith complex, for truly inspiring and enlightening material.

  9. People who bash the Pope saying that “Pope Francis, for all his obtuse verbiage, seems to be nearly incapable of abstract thought.” or that “he is a heretic” are oblivious to the facts that:
    1. They will be judged with the same measure they use to judge others.
    2. Bashing a Priest is a mortal sin, since it is calumny.
    3. They do a great disgrace to the Church thay say to defend, since people from outside who see this aggresiveness among its members do not want to be part of it.
    4. Pope Francis is acted guided NOT ONLY BY HIS INTELLECT BUT ALSO BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND DIVINE GRACES which give him a clarity that other people do not have.
    5. Only we, human beings, are foolish enough to insult and disobey an anointed man. Demons tremble in fear and obey during exorcisms.

    I will follow Francis until the end. The reason is simple: aside from the chain of command we are to respect, all progressive media are picking on him and looking for ways to discredit them.

  10. @APC

    This is supposed to be a satire, isn’t it. I haven’t seen such a st*pid argument for many years. Answering that makes me feel silly but I didn’t this to go unchallenged.

    You don’t need to study theology for 10 years or to know the CCC by heart to know when somebody is saying heretic opinions. The same way you don’t need to be an expert in Das Kapital to know that Saint Augustine was not a marxist.

    “Do you realize that in your final judgment you will have to give account of the accusation you just made?”

    I fear the part in my final judgement that deals with my treatment of Francis. I fear the Lord telling me “Why in the world you didn’t speak out loud against this Argentine devil who was trashing my Church?”

    (By the way EM Lowden and Bruce Charlton hit the nail on the head)

  11. “You don’t need to study theology for 10 years or to know the CCC by heart to know when somebody is saying heretic opinions”

    You need it if you are going to accuse the Vicar of Christ of heresy. In the words of Fr, Chad Ripperger: “some questions are above your paygrade. The whole discussion of whether a Pope is a heretic or not is something above most people, excepting a bunch of high-level theologians. If the Bishops and Cardinals are doing their job, that is something you should not be worrying about”.

    The Church is not a democracy, it is a monarchy. The supreme King is Jesus himself, and from there is a hierarchical structure that is to be respected and followed. If you are going to claim that the Pope is a heretic, there is a procedure. Before doing anything, the Catechism of the Holy Catholic Church clearly expresses what to do to avoid rash judgment:

    “2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

    Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”

    If you still have doubts, you should go and speak to your Pastor and ask for clarification BEFORE MAKING ANY PUBLIC STATEMENT, in order to avoid the sind of detraction and calumny (I invite you to read points 2475-2478 on the CCC).

    That is the first thing to do. Have you done it (or for this case, have the people who speak diatribes of the Holy Father done it before coming here to disrespect him?) before coming here to insult the Holy Father?.

    “I fear the part in my final judgement that deals with my treatment of Francis. I fear the Lord telling me “Why in the world you didn’t speak out loud against this Argentine devil who was trashing my Church?”

    You should fear more how Jesus will treat you for calling his Vicar a devil. You don’t believe me? I invite you to go and show your message to your confessor/priest and ask him if you should go to confession or not before receiving communion?

    • APC, thank you for stating this position. I contemplating wading in with a similar statement but chose not to, expecting the reply you got. But since you have waded into the breach, I will wade into it after you.

      I have been musing in my space over this idea of the “Peasant Life”. The peasant life contrasts the idea of a peasant and the idea of a theologian. What plagues the church these days is an excess of theologians: who are intelligent and intellectual and well read and who compare the actions of the church against their own understanding of how the Church ought to act.

      If I suppose that I am a peasant, poor in scope and in knowledge, I understand only that I owe a duty of obedience to Holy Mother Church. Zippy Catholic knew how problematic Francis was but took the position that it is not our place, as what I call peasants, to question the King or event he steward for the King that is the Vicar of Christ.

      I get it, I really do. Pope Francis is hard to defend. The only defense you need are the words which I spoke when I converted: I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God. The Pope is not here speaking infallibly so we can read his latest encyclical the same way we read a newspaper: yes, this is happening very far away but for my part I will continue to go to mass, to pray, and to worship my Catholic faith the way that Catholic’s have worshiped for thousands of years.

      APC, I join you in saying that Pope Francis is the one and only Catholic Pope because the Catholic Church proclaims it to be true. I need no other justification. Honestly, second guessing the Church is what got Martin Luther into trouble.

      A second argument I’ll make. There are people who claim that “As long as Francis is pope I can’t in good conscience join the Catholic Church”. Is the Catholic Church not true because Francis is pope? is it more true when someone else is Pope? Does the validity of God’s church change based on who is at the top? If you are deciding on a Church based on what men are in it, and not based on what is true, I will go so far as to say you have missed the point.

      AMDG

      • “Is the Catholic Church not true because Francis is pope?”

        APC’s arguments should be reliable. If the Roman Church were healthy, his advice would be wise, indeed. However, the Roman Church isn’t healthy, and the fact that someone like Francis steers the ship means that the vessel is in dire trouble. We’ve all seen this obvious fact for decades now. How much post-conciliar apostasy will it take to wake you people? Back in my undergrad. days (in a Jesuit university), I’d have no end of arguments with earnest, pious Roman Catholics (not the Jesuits on faculty, of course! Well, with a few well beloved exceptions) about the problems with Vatican II and its aftermath. They’d always respond, “Well, at least the successor to St. Peter (JP II) maintains the faith.” When I’d point out all the Mahonys in the episcopate, the endless rebellion in “Catholic” theology departments (including our own, but you already knew that — AMDG!!!), the weird, pagan filth so common in the orders, they’d say that none of that mattered. They had the Vicar of Christ to maintain the Church. Now, a little later, we have a Vicar of Christ that gives such folks pause. Lots of fragile eggs in one basket . . .

        As a form of government, I admire the Roman hierarchy. The College of Cardinals should serve as a true aristocratic gerontocracy — and as a system for electing the Roman pontiff, it’s brilliant. It has also worked pretty well for ages. However, a critical mass of wolves entered the hierarchy in the last century, and the Roman Church has yet to purge itself of them. Even der Rottweiler Gottes was unable to do so; the rascals probably forced the poor man out. So, you have the situation that you do. Even after 35 years (!) of (JPII and BXVI) stocking the cardinal pond, they selected Francis.

        God’s will? I don’t know. From an Orthodox perspective, I cannot think of a better way to end papist delusions, which I believe is a necessary condition for the healing of schism. If I were a Roman Catholic, however, I would be very troubled, though I’d probably admit that the (current) people certainly deserved no better. De Maistre was right: Ditto église. Perhaps, the Argentine will inspire mass repentance.

        Also, he’s not all bad. Any bishop who supercharges the exorcists’ mission at this time (of great need) is paying attention and acting responsibly — at least in one very important area.

      • Once more: I believe and profess all that the Catholic Church teaches, believes, and proclaims to be revealed by God. The state of things is poor, I’d be a fool not to see it. The Church is indefectible, founded by Christ, I need nothing more than that. Perhaps you will think I sound like a stubborn ostrich burying my head in the sand but to me it really is as simple as the fact that the Church says Francis is Pope and until the Church says he isn’t I am obligated (obligated) to acknowledge his authority. However, I will add that the Pope is not the Church and the Church is not the Pope. Far better to trust in Christ, asleep on the ship tossed in stormy waters, than to trust in the captain of the ship, very much alive to the danger and very much incapable of doing anything about it.

      • Thank you, Scoot, for your message. May Our Blessed Lord, St. Joseph and the Holy Mother of God keep you and your beloved ones joyful and protected. Count on my prayers for all of them.

      • Few here question that Francis is pope. Even if he were a simple parish priest, we would have a duty to interpret him as charitably as possible, so that when he says something that could be interpreted as disparaging traditional Christian practice, supporting anti-Christian agents, or asserting absurdities, we should prefer another interpretation if one is available. We are all the more motivated to avoid attributing such things to a successor of Peter. While reflecting an admirable sentiment, such constructions would be unsatisfactory if one did not also find them at least plausible. By pointing out Pope Francis’ distinct way of using language, which he partly shares with many contemporary intellectuals, and which also reflects his often-stated dislike of abstraction combined with his desire to speak in extreme generalities (thus working in the realm of abstraction, but without the appropriate clarity and logic), I am also explaining what I think is the true understanding. If taken literally, his principles of unconditional openness would mean the destruction of every distinct culture and people, but I don’t think he does mean for it to be taken literally, i.e. universally. And indeed his statements elsewhere on indigenous rights (so long as we’re not talking about the indigenous of Europe) demonstrate that this is the case. Indeed, one can find enough statements in Fratelli Tutti to show that Francis would not welcome the cultural destruction that his principles would produce if applied consistently. They must be read in context, i.e. as the political weapons they are intended to be.

    • @Bonald – I have to pick you up on something here: “we would have a duty to interpret him as charitably as possible, so that when he says something that could be interpreted as disparaging traditional Christian practice, supporting anti-Christian agents, or asserting absurdities, we should prefer another interpretation if one is available. ”
      This isn’t coherent as a general principle, because there is Always “another interpretation” – in the sense that anything and everything evil Can be explained-away as accidental or well-motived. (We see this all the time with SJWs – nothing that ever happens can ever shake the prior view.)
      Or, you may have intended it to apply only to clergy of the RCC; which means that one must make a single act of discernment relating to obedience to that institution.
      But even here I would find it very difficult/ impossible to implement the principle of obedience, since (here and now) the RCC is chock-full of mutually contradictory ideals, beliefs, instructions – and priests in conflict. If simple obedience sufficies, who does one Simply Obey?
      This problem – that simple obedience is, in real life, Just Impossible – is general to all the large, powerful, influential churches – e.g. Orthodoxy and the Anglican communion. To my mind this situation needs to be acknowledged, and learned-from – rather than adopting an attitude of false simplicity about the desirability of obedience.
      The only honest (ths non-sinful) attitude would seem to be one that recognises the fact that (as of 2020) Simple Obedience does not happen, ever, by anyone; and every person Must (and therefore Will) make many discernments concerning his faith.
      Since everybody Actually Is making multiple discernments – and is Not ‘simply obeying’ the RCC (or any other large denomination) – this fact ought to be made explicit and conscious; and each personal discernment should be acknowledged as such – which, in turn, makes repentance of errors and sins of personal discernment a possibility (which is hardly the case if a person is making multiple personal discernments while denying the fact!)

      • If I may venture an answer to one claim here:

        But even here I would find it very difficult/ impossible to implement the principle of obedience, since (here and now) the RCC is chock-full of mutually contradictory ideals, beliefs, instructions – and priests in conflict. If simple obedience sufficies, who does one Simply Obey?

        The Magisterium is unchanging even if the clergy and their opinions are changing. Doctrine/Dogma is consistent and has always been. Obedience to the Church requires only obedience to the Doctrine. Priests owe this obedience to doctrine too, and if they speak contrariwise that is between them and God. How much harsher will they be judged for the flocks that they lead! The Truth of the Church doesn’t change because one mans opinion deviates from orthodoxy.

        My point generally is that you will nowhere find anything contradictory in or about the Magisterium and the flaws you do observe exist entirely with it’s flawed representatives, whose hearts are in the right place though their words and deeds are marred by some (grave) misunderstanding.

      • I thought one unchangeable teaching is that no man’s heart is altogether “in the right place.” I know my heart is only occasionally in the right place, and even then not entirely. In any case, Christ said, “by their fruits you shall know them,” and I take this to mean that words and deeds matter very much indeed. There is a point where charity gives way to wishful thinking.

      • I’m not saying I’m obligated to LIKE anyone, especially if by their fruits I know them to be poor representatives of the Catholic Faith. But I am obligated to obey. If I don’t like Pope Francis, it does not abrogate my duty to abide by the Catholic Faith. Their words and deeds DO matter, but they don’t affect whether or not the Church is true.

      • This goes back to our discussion of authority on your website. You do not have an unconditional duty to obey the officers of the Church. I don’t believe an officer of the Church can order you to sin, or to damn yourself for all eternity, even if doing so would be good for the Church. A policeman can order me to stop, but he cannot order me to clean his shoes or make him a sandwich. Your parish priest cannot order you to mow the lawn around the church or wear only blue socks to mass. An order outside an officer’s scope of authority is not an order, but an abuse of authority. In a legal context, this is called “acting under color of law.”

      • True, this is a good point. What I’m trying to hammer at is the fixation on the individuals rather than the doctrine. The doctrine is indefectible. Pope Francis has spoken sloppily but as Bonald points out has not made any direct command nor has he invoked Papal Infallibility. Therefore I am not obligated to like him but I am obligated to acknowledge him as pope, not because he says, but because the indefectible doctrine of the church says.

        The bottom line I have been ineffectually trying to convey is that the Pope doesn’t change the fact that the Church is true, and most of the faults people have with the Church are with it’s sorry representatives and not so much with it’s doctrine.

        When I talk about Obedience it is not obsequious obedience to a master but lawful obedience to an authority. When you “Obey the law” you are not cleaning the shoes of policemen, you are going about your daily business–you can hardly be said to be “doing” anything at all. Likewise “Obey the Church” should be indistinguishable from just going about your daily business, but it is extremely apparent when someone is not obeying. The Pope is like a chief of police. The chief of police might be dirty and corrupt but he still represents the law and can still pull you over. If you were speeding in a school zone and the chief of police pulled you over, you couldn’t say “Well you took bribes!” His authority is still valid even if he also does things we don’t like while in that position of authority.

      • Some people may have noticed that the imperative to interpret charitably and the imperative to obey can conflict. If we really wanted to obey Pope Francis, we would not interpret him charitably, we would interpret him according to our best guess as to his intended meaning. I’m pretty sure I know what message Pope Francis intends for me to get (“vote Left!”), but he has not actually come out clearly and commanded me to do anything, so obedience isn’t directly in play.

      • Bonald @ This is what used to be called latitudinarianism in the Church of England. Latitudinarians argued that a man could be ordained if only he accepted the 39 articles under some construction. I think all catholic churches are at least implicitly latitudinarian, since they would otherwise break down in sectarian schisms. But the question every latitudinarian must ask himself is how long he can play this redefinition game. There will come a point when the Church is just a shell of formulas that mimic but do not express a common faith.

      • Another way of saying it is that I have to obey Pope Francis, but I don’t have to please him. He can tell me all he wants that he would like me to vote Left (which, of course, is more than he has actually done, which is just to hint it), but that doesn’t amount to actually ordering me to do it.

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