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).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pope Francis and the missed opportunity? A reflection.

Sadly, it must be noted that broad statements which fail to distinguish adequately between authentic piety and phariseeism have again been issued from Rome. Is Pope Francis critiquing the plastic people of the world, the pretty and the powerful whose piety is, stereotypically, only skin deep? It would seem so. Even if Pope Francis is attacking false piety, he appears to be attacking stereotypes, which makes his criticism too loose to be useful. The target demographic of his criticism is not likely to take notice if they are, indeed, rigid and self indulged.

Pope Francis' use of the word 'rigid' or rigidity in the past, certainly, and again recently, perhaps, tends toward a disdain for traditional piety and the manner in which his criticism is delivered reeks of a slightly more than snarky attitude toward people who value the quest for personal holiness in Christ. Surely Pope Francis cannot be criticizing young people who love Tradition and who actually strive to live a life not compromised by moral laxity. He cannot possibly be referring to those beautiful college-aged souls who, not burdened by yesterday's rebellious spirit (of Vatican II), are joining traditional religious orders and societies or institutes with authentic zeal. Or is he?

The Holy Father's comments, if he has intended to criticize young disciples who strive for moral uprightness confidently sought and expressed in Tradition, could be construed to be utter nonsense given the renaissance among younger Catholics of the desire for depth that is leading them to the living history of Tradition and the locus of that Tradition, i.e., the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Sadly, if Pope Francis is criticizing Tradition-minded disciples, where is he getting his information, and from whom? From tired old relics, perhaps, who, locked in their ivory towers of irrelevant progressivist ideology and detached from the very sheep a certain pope has demanded they should smell like, waste time and effort inventing defects in others when they should take a little time to look in their own bathroom mirrors to locate the real problem?

Would it be unfair to suggest that the Holy Father has repeatedly fallen prey to the liberal revisionist code of conduct? I.e., invent a narrative and use that narrative to demonize and marginalize opposition. Yes, discernment involves authentic discrimination that distinguishes between good and evil behaviour. Unfortunately, liberals tend to use such categorization to marginalize the person rather than engage. Anyone who does not fit the liberal agenda is attacked personally, even if in a general way. Is that what Pope Francis is intending to do by using the "R" word again?
Pope Francis said Saul’s early life reminds him of “many young people in the church today who have fallen into the temptation of rigidity. Some are honest, they are good and we must pray that the Lord help them grow along the path of meekness.” (Well then, it's 'ok' to be an honest rigid person... . Wuh?)
Others, the Pope said, use rigidity to cover up their weaknesses, sins and personality disorders and to assert themselves over others.
“They are the rigid with the double life. They show themselves as beautiful, honest, but when no one is looking, they do bad things,” he said.
Dear Pope Francis, young people are tired of the tired old 1970s rebel-theology and watered-down Gospel typical of that generation. Instead of attacking a stereotype and essentially making himself appear self righteous, perhaps a better strategy would be to say something to the effect of inviting all Catholics to examine their hearts. The risk for anyone discovering the need for greater moral discipline in one's life is to project a harsher tone at others while perhaps failing to actually live up to Christian virtue. The Catholic zealot—if only there were many more to adopt a more fervent witness to the Lord!—can fall prey to impatience at the lacklustre witness of Catholics who should know and act better. They can be forgiven for appearing "rigid". And, those who are not as zealous for holiness should perhaps not criticize what they are not prepared to embrace.

The Holy Father's misdiagnosis, if indeed he is again attacking Tradition-minded youth, serves nothing but to confuse the faithful and make him appear out of touch to a younger generation that thirsts for depth, celebrates Tradition and wastes little time over the sophistry of elders who, having abandoned the clarity of the Gospel, do not deserve the title 'elder'.

Instead of engaging young people with the Truth, the Truth preserved in the Sacred Tradition of the Church, as his saintly predecessor did by calling people to faithfulness, Pope Francis appears to be fumbling the New Evangelization envisioned by Pope St John Paul II (the Great). World Youth Day began a process of re-formation in authentic catechesis. The gradual shift toward prophetic piety, i.e., a piety formed in and through the Magisterium and obedient to the same, and away from useless hyper-individualism and progressivism, has led a younger generation to a deeper communion with Jesus and His Church. By contrast, Pope Francis has introduced a fatal error into pastoral practice, a liability typical of his generation. He emphasizes a puritanical horizontalism to the near exclusion of the transcendent. He has missed the cue of the Holy Spirit which is illuminating the faithful and drawing them toward Tradition and a deep Eucharistic spirituality.

A love of Tradition necessary presents a threat to anyone who is not well formed in the virtue of obedience nor formed with an appreciation for history. Obedience, to the relativist, is too often interpreted to be rigidity. Francis' "mess" theology is not merely a poorly chosen description for a mission. It has become, intentionally or accidentally, a proscription for rebellion. Is it too much to say that Francis has been tainted by that aspect of Liberation Theology which, at best, mimics the part chosen by Martha (and mimicking badly that part) while denying Mary's choice? The faithful disciple wants the better part that Mary chose, the part which necessarily includes both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the Cross.

At best, Francis' actions are puzzling. At worst, his behaviour (choice of words) is damaging. A necessary counterpoint to the Bergoglian noise is the serene witness to the Faith exemplified by Cardinal Sarah and others who understand that a 1970s Jesuit praxis, similar to a contemporary progressivist agenda, is wholly inadequate for the present times. A bold disciple might suggest that in a few years the Church will look back and see the present papacy, and its accompanying rejection or avoidance of doctrinal clarity and loose play with language, to be the last gasp attempt of a mixed-up generation that seeks to fasten their inane agenda in the minds of Catholics.

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