So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Next Pope. Idle chatter?

Sometimes when the going gets rough, the roughened up must get going. Not going, as in leaving the Church, but rather in finding a necessary diversion to balance the mental equation unsettled by bishops talking nonsense and a pope apparently doing little to reset the conversation.

Perhaps it is time to reflect on a few relatively benign diverting thoughts:
  1. Who will be the next pope? Whence cometh he? Out of Africa, perhaps?
  2. The Church is bigger than anyone one person, bigger than any one pope. The Holy Spirit is the Keeper of the Holy Catholic Church, and His protection means we can trust that the Holy Father will not teach any error in faith and/or morals, at least when he speaks ex cathedra.
  3. I will become the saint God wants me to be. The Christian's daily journey with Jesus requires we each take responsibility for living a life configured to Jesus. Holiness is a daily duty, a daily joy and privilege that each redeemed son and daughter of God enjoys. We only have to ask God for the grace to grow in holiness and God will give us what we need. Notice that what we each need is not necessarily what we each want.
Whoever is elected the next pope, he will have to go slow in effecting any reorientation to get the Church back on track with the Benedictine reforms (of the Liturgy, the Curia and Catholic academia). The 'Francis Effect' is not easily overturned, nor should it be entirely. The Holy Father has deftly brought the public square into the conversation about mercy. Ok, perhaps dissenters are rabidly attempting to co-opt the message, but the fact is many Catholics have understood the Holy Father's bridge to contemporary societies as an opportunity to be more open about being Catholic.

Tackling Vatican and diocesan structures in piecemeal fashion would mean reform would be next to impossible, like shooting black rats in a dark room. An unfortunate metaphor, to be sure.

Pope Francis correctly sees that the need for renewal must be radical. I.e., it must go beyond the structures which are in need of reform. One way to effect change, of course, is to bring the entire house down and rebuild. That is not going to happen. Though, it seems at times that that is precisely what Pope Francis is doing, whether he intends it or not. Perhaps he is trusting in the possibility that the Church is too big to fail? She is, in one sense, too big to fail. She is, as mentioned, protected by the Holy Spirit. 

If you'll pardon an awkward description of dioceses, large chunks of the Church have failed in the past and the Church, bruised and battered like her crucified Lord, has risen from the dead. The last major "resurrection" was the Counter Reformation during which time many lands rent from the Body of Christ by heretics were restored to communion with the Church that Christ founded.

No, renewal must be radical—it must go to the human heart. Then, born of a change of heart, all the administrative structures will obtain new vitality because the heart better configured to Christ will insist on ways and means that are true(r) to the Holy Gospel.

The next pope will have to embrace the momentum that Pope Francis has created while using avenues such as the Congregation for Bishops to realign, once again, the makeup of various bishops' conferences. He will have to purge, slowly that is, the German conference of bishops of its chaff and to a lesser degree purge other conferences of the rabble who have attempted to change the doctrine of marriage. Purge, though, is the wrong word. Let's stick with the concept of realignment. If a younger pope is elected, he will be able to out wait those aged heterodox cardinals and bishops who will fade soon enough. The next pope must seize Francis' language and approach while restoring the content that Pope Benedict sought to elevate to prominence in the minds of Catholics.

Pope Francis, in describing his mission to carry on the liturgical renewal of Pope Benedict, has already provided a sense of continuity for the next Supreme Pontiff, whoever that will be.

The next pontiff is already among us. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This presentation has already strayed dangerously close to a lack of charity toward our Holy Father Francis. As long as we stay focussed on acts and behaviours, and not attack his person, we can be confident that any criticism will be valid.

With regards to point #3 above, we all must assume a more profound responsibility for our spiritual lives. Scripture identifies that responsibility in the following manner:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.—St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians 2:12.
We might also keep in mind another passage:
(I)f I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth(.)—St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 3:15.
Catholics are not at liberty to reinvent authority. We are not Episcopalians nor Anglicans. God has set in place His authority in the Office of Peter. So, as we invest in our future, we had best keep in mind that we must strive for an intimate loving communion with both Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church.


  1. You should be ashamed already sitting as righteous individuals talking about the next Pope when our Pope Francis is so new among us. You could be classified as heretics in your judgements. Our Holy Father is Christ's representative on earth and receives his guidance directly from Christ. Pope Francis has not only attracted fallen away Catholics back to the Church but also non-Catholics who revere him. Your writing here will do more to alienate practising Catholics rather than receiving Catholics back into the Church. You are all so wrong in your thinking. Look at what is happening in the world today and open your eyes as to who is gaining and who is losing. I am a practising Catholic but reading this has disturbed me immensely. I feel very sorry for our Church today if you are an example of our members and I fear for our children and grandchildren if your example of a lack of understanding, and charity is what they have to look forward to. May God Bless Pope Francis as he leads our Church. He is what our Catholic Church sorely needs. Over the past many years our Churches have been closed for lack of parishioners and faithful. He will restore the health of our Church and our families.

    1. Thank you for your rather pointed comments. Your choice of accusatory language, however, defeats any real need to respond to your comments.

      That said, here are a few thoughts to consider.

      You may have missed the Holy Father's own call for a radical change of heart rather than a mere change of structures. I respectfully suggest that, given your use of hyperbole, you are reading something into the post beyond what was intended. Also, you may have missed that the title of the post is a question intended to invite consideration of a proposition intended to facilitate a perspective on various conversations taking place elsewhere in the blogosphere.

      You may have also missed several references to Pope Francis' actions that, for example, are in continuity with Pope Benedict's papacy, a papacy that promoted a much needed restoration of doctrinal precision and a focus on Christ, not the person of the pope.

      Unfortunately, many of your comments lack foundation, since you claim knowledge of how other Catholics might react without providing real evidence, which is a little pretentious, truth be told. If you read any of the blogs listed at this site, you will hear the voices of informed Catholics—theologians, pastors, lay men and women—who are quite concerned by Pope Francis' apparent support for heretical positions proposed by Cardinals Kasper, Danneels and other clergy.

      In response to your statements regarding those folk who are attracted to Pope Francis and his teaching, the question to be asked is, 'If the "Catholics" who are returning are not prepared to live the faith with integrity, what would that say about Pope Francis' example and teaching?'

      Anyone attracted to Christianity and the Church should be attracted to Christ, not a pope. To state the obvious, Catholics worship Jesus Christ, not Pope Francis. If you are, indeed, a practicing Catholic—a term all too frequently abused by cafeteria Catholics who self canonize—perhaps you might take a long hard look at who and how you worship before you attack others who disagree with certain trends that threaten the integrity of the Faith, i.e., the teaching of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if you are an example of the model disciple of Pope Francis, as you seem to suggest by your references to your own status, perhaps faithful Catholics should be concerned about your dismissal of any criticism of Pope Francis' actions and all too common theological blunders. Are we to ignore his awkward casual in-flight comments made to the press which have caused considerable confusion? Pope Francis has, himself, acknowledged his own failings and has asked for our prayers. God bless Pope Francis, indeed.

      Your criticism really requires a more substantial use of facts rather than mere contradiction and a use of unsubstantiated claims. Furthermore, please observe the courtesy of using your name or, at the very least, a pen name. If you expect to have your comments published in the future, you may want to read the blog charter before commenting:

      As for the speculation about the next pope, you should observe that that speculation was limited to a very brief knock on that door. You may recall, too, that Pope Francis himself sees his papacy as being a brief one. Also, do not overlook that fact that Cardinal Danneels has publicly admitting in participating in a cabal that sought to (and did, if you believe Danneels) elect Papa Francis. Danneels actions, if factual, are not those of a faithful son of the Church.

      Pax vobis, Isten Joe.


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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