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).

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pope Rage?

Quare fremuerunt gentes et populi meditati sunt inania?
Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
Some will recognize the above phrase as the verse for the Introit for Midnight Mass, Christmas (In Nativitate Domini, ad Primam Missam in Nocte).

The phrase is borrowed here to incense the Holy Father's recent brush with rage at the publication of the dubia by the Four Horseman of the Amelioration. Incense purifies. In this instant, where there is smoke there is fire.

If reports are accurate, then Catholics have witnessed a pope's allergic reaction to the smell of the sheep who have pointed out that his personal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has its serious flaws. As Pope Francis is fond of reminding pastors of souls, it is important for pastors to smell like their sheep. Why is it that our Holy Father has reacted so negatively to a legitimate request for clarification of his teaching, if indeed Amoris Laetitia is his teaching? The four cardinals—Burke, Caffarra, Brandmüller and Meisner—have asked, with the utmost respect and deference, for a clarification of teaching. Where's the harm in that? If Pope Francis has given himself to a liberal mindset, a mindset which, when confronted with a request to defend a thesis, typically causes people to erupt in protest with finger pointing, callous accusations, blustery talk born of defensiveness, sloganeering and anything but a rational response to an inquiry, then the Holy Father had best take some of his own advice and seek a humbler approach to (receiving) fraternal correction. Saint Peter, the first pope of the Catholic Church, had the good sense to admit an error in practice (not an error in doctrine!) while under pressure from Saint Paul (Galatians 2).

Pope Francis, who by publishing his ghostwriter's awkward teaching under his name, has fallen into a ditch, and he's stuck. Pope Francis should have better proofed the document before authorizing it to be published. Has anyone bothered to ask where was the CDF in all this? Was the CDF consulted about Amoris Laetitia in advance of its publication, or did Francis bypass the office which previous popes have used to great effect to ensure important documents are free of error? Or, did Pope Francis have other things in mind? Perhaps he didn't want the awkwardly worded bits in Amoris Laetitia to be subject to appropriate scrutiny and thus exposed to criticism and subject to amendment? All conspiracies aside, the question has been largely left unanswered: why hasn't the CDF issued a response? One could describe Cardinal Müller's silence as 'telling'. Has he been muzzled? At this point, if Francis makes any personnel changes to the CDF, such an act would almost certainly be perceived as an attempt to squelch legitimate dissent from the awkward and potentially dangerous teaching in Amoris Laetitia. O, to be a fly on a wall of the CDF offices!

Things are heating up!

It may be that Francis' papacy is precedent setting in that he is the first pope from the new world. Attached to that precedent is the possible formal correction of a pontiff by faithful cardinals.
In an interview with the Vatican journalist Edward Pentin, Cardinal Burke said that if the Pope remained silent, it might be necessary to issue a “formal act of correction of a serious error”.
Pentin told EWTN yesterday: “I do understand, from sources within [the Pope’s residence] Santa Marta, that the Pope is not happy at all, that he’s quite at his…boiling with rage.” Fr Antonio Spadaro, an associate of the Pope, has dismissed these reports.
Speaking of precedents, or nearly unprecedented acts, have we forgotten there is a retired pope living within the Vatican walls who is almost certain to be privy to the kerfuffle, and from a unique vantage point. Pope-ermitus Benedict XVI may very well be linked into the conversation through a mutual servant-secretary—one Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

So—what has been the response of Pope Francis to the Four Cardinals who, it must be said, are not merely speaking for themselves? They are speaking for the millions of Catholics who accept the teaching of Christ on marriage.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, partially translated by La Stampa, the Pope criticised “a certain legalism.” He said that responses to Amoris Laetitia exemplified this, and that some people thought issues were “black and white, even though it is in the course of life that we are called to discern”.
Is Jesus Christ, by teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, guilty of legalism (cf. Matthew 19:1-12)? By Francis' standard, it would seem so. Francis, it seems, has some splainin' to do! The problem is, he has indicated that he will not be engaging the questions raised by Burke, et al, anytime soon. A higher court is likely to intervene.

So why is it that the liberal response to any questioning of their words and/or actions amounts to a postponement of actually addressing the issues, which is to say, an avoidance of a willingness to "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18)? It would appear that Pope Francis has chosen to embrace the liberal way of shooting the messenger(s). Why is it that liberals always want dialogue (ostensibly to find the truth) but never want to hear any conclusions that challenge their assumptions?

The liberal "argument" is typically not an argument. It is most often a hodgepodge of dissociated ideas blended into a cacophony of feelings, a mere syncretism that tolerates no objection to its faux-magisterium. By rejecting dialogue, Pope Francis undermines the perception that he really believes in open dialogue. Failing to engage, he will have exposed himself as a fraud and pretender to the throne of unity in the Church born of dialogue which is supposed to foster understanding of the received Tradition. Authentic or genuine dialogue serves unity in the truth.

It would seem that Pope Francis has two choices:
  1. back down and heed the cardinals' request for clarification; or
  2. remain intransigent and face the very likely outcome of a revolt, a schism of his making.
If God has anything to say about this whole situation, it may come in the form of a subtle reminder that even popes are mortal and therefore subject to death. As mentioned in a previous post, it may seem harsh to point out that the timely natural death of a pope may be the means through which God realigns His Church. We should recall that God's ways are not the ways of man. Man may be shocked by God's interventions—the plagues of Egypt and the Red Sea incident, for example, which led to the emancipation of the Jewish people, come to mind. Perhaps we might translate such "harsher" language into terms palatable to liberals. How about—God may call Pope Francis home before the situation becomes completely untenable—?

Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis—that he may authorize the removal of the problematic sections of Amoris Laetitia.

Lord Jesus, protect your Church; have mercy upon us!

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"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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