Friday, April 25, 2014

Bad men can't unmake The Real



I hate to disagree with a venerable and worthy priest, but I believe Fr. Ray Blake has with a single comment neatly pinpointed a big problem in the Church.

He writes on his blog in response to a commenter:
"The real question is, 'Is the Pope a Catholic?' The only possible answer is in the affirmative, therefore any 'strangeness' is impossible, otherwise..., otherwise.... well, that is impossible to imagine, and millions of Catholics have been living a lie and our faith is built on sand."

Ah, actually, no it isn't impossible to imagine, and it really, really doesn't mean anything like that.

Here is where we have one of the biggest problems in the post-Conciliar Church and a source of huge misinformation perpetuated by those who think they are doing all they can to rescue Catholics from despair and apostasy (or sedevacantism... which is pretty much the same thing).

I get it. I get that faithful Catholics are freaked out at what's been happening. But if the very worst is true, it SO doesn't mean what Fr. Blake says it means.

If the pope isn't Catholic, it doesn't mean that we are all not Catholic, or that we have to abandon the Faith, or that it is "built on sand." Only if you have got into your head the error that "the pope is the Faith" or that the Faith requires a good pope to be true can it possibly follow that a bad pope = bad or untrue religion.

This is the error of papal positivism - papolotry - at it's core, but it is opposed to the Faith.

Recite the bolded sentences below three times a day until the Parousia.

The pope does not give us the Faith.

The pope is not the Faith.

The Faith comes from God not Rome.

If the pope loses the Faith, I don't lose mine.


If the pope is a heretic, an apostate, a schismatic or any of those horrible things that we pray every day he is not, I don't have to be those things too. The papacy is a key unit of the Church, so having such a bad one would be a terrible thing, but absolutely no reason whatever for anyone to lose their Faith.

The notion that the pope is and must always be a personal paragon of faithfulness - and that if he is not we're really in the Spock-with-a-beard Mirror Universe and everything we thought was true isn't true - is product of a number of different historical paths and events since Vatican I (yes, I meant Vatican I, that wasn't a typo). It was greatly exacerbated by the cult of adulation that surrounded John Paul II and that long pontificate has set the scene for the current dire situation.

Since JPII we have had such a terrible situation in the Church and the world that we naturally took great comfort in looking towards the person of the pope for comfort and support. Faced with bad bishops and bad priests, bad schools and bad government, we thought we could look to Rome and say, "Well, obviously the papacy is sacrosanct and can't be corrupted." But this really just shows a dismal knowledge and understanding of both the real source of the Faith and Church history.

This doesn't mean that I am saying what people like Shea and Akin and Phil Lawler are saying ("Lalalalalalaaa skippidy doo! Everything's GREAT and Francis is the best pope EVAH!!" Yeesh!) I personally think we are in a unique situation. And by that, I mean uniquely awful.

I have asked many smarty-smart people, who know lots of history and theology, when there has been a comparably disastrous period in the Church, and each one of them has said something like, "Well, the Arian crisis comes close, but this is probably worse."

It is clear that the current worries about Francis and the general state of things are not isolated, unique or distinct from the general catastrophe that has befallen us. We're hurting more than we would have, I think, because the transition from John Paul II to Benedict XVI seemed to us like a natural progression in the Great Effort to Fix Things. That was something else that we incorrectly put our faith in, that the situation was terrible in the 70s and 80s, and since then there has been a steady restoration to sanity. All the evidence that this was not the case we tended to just sweep under our mental rug and ignore.

Well, we can't ignore it any more, can we. Francis, if I may say something so dreadful, is a symptom - or perhaps the culmination - of the overall disaster that has become the ruling principle of the world since 1965. Francis, in other words, is nothing new, and if we had not put so much energy into clamping our eyes shut against the real problems with both the last pontificates, we would not be in such a state now. We would have been able to, with the Trads, shrug and say, "Well, what can you expect. It's NuChurch."

But again, if Francis is a bad pope this has no effect on the Faith. None. The Faith is simply the Truth. The Real. The realness of the Real does not change or fade because lots and lots of people want to deny it or because powerful men try to fight it. Two and two still equal four. Marriage is still what it is. The Holy Eucharist is still the Holy Eucharist.

If the Papacy has been seized by bad men it does not mean that the things we believe are "built on sand". It means only that the papacy has been seized by bad men. Bad men will do what bad men do, and we can do nothing but maintain and continue to proclaim what we know is true throughout their reign.

Facing up to the possibility that something very bad is going on does not necessitate a loss of the Faith. Fearing that the sky will fall if there is a bad pope, fearing it so much that one tries to retreat into denial of what we see plainly before us, will do nothing to help anyone.

Facing up to what is really happening is the only way to maintain the Faith. Retreating and saying, "Oh, that couldn't possibly happen and if it did then the Real is no longer the Real," is going to allow the disaster to spread still further. Only the Real counts. And if the pope and all the cardinals and bishops of the world try to say that something other than the Word of Christ is true, then we reject that as a wicked lie. We know what is true because we have the Faith.

As laypeople (and humble parish priests) our duty is clearly before us. We don't have the power to stop bad men from doing bad things. But we have the power to continue to maintain the Faith, what we know. And to pray for a just solution to the terrible troubles of our times.

1 comment:

Pistrina Liturgica said...

A very fine post, at times verging on brilliance. May I suggest one correction? "papolotry" should be changed to "papolatry" since the Greek base is "latreia" (Latin, "latria")from the verb "latreuein." This isn't a comment per se, just a helpful suggestion from an admirer of the post.

Clark Masztics