Friday, September 20, 2013

Remain Calm

So, the pope has said something. People are freaking out...

Steve Jalsevac gives a quick, sensible overview:
The reality is that there has been widespread, massive negligence throughout much of the Church, at least in the developed West, for the past several decades to teach on the moral issues and to ensure that Church moral teachings are followed. They have been avoided in most parishes as being too controversial and many Catholic schools, colleges and universities have been either totally ignoring or acting against the Catholic Church's authentic teachings on moral issues.

The pro-life and pro-family movements have been formed mostly in response to the giant vacuum of leadership from religious and other leaders. It has been a near impossible job for the relatively very few dedicated to the task.

Just because I have a feeling I will be receiving basically the same email/FBmessage/blog comment all day long, and because I have (believe it or not) other things to write and think about today I will offer the following as a response to everyone who feels the urge to freak out:

"I am trying not to panic..."

Do not.

Don't fret at all, in fact. The Faith is still the Faith. The Church is still the Church (and no, emphasising her moral teachings in public isn't going to bring it down, like a house of cards or any other way).

Now, here's the hard part.

No. He's not being "played" by the media. This was obviously the carefully thought-out and intentional statements that we've all been waiting to hear from him. It could be seen, in a way, as a sort of 'manifesto' for the papacy. It's Jesuits talking to other Jesuits, so he was comfortable, and doubtless had a lot of chances to alter or correct whatever he thought necessary. So I think, at last, we can be sure that this, finally really is something he really means.

That being said, it is clear that the media and the usual suspects (ILGA Europe and other activist NGOs whose job it is) are taking his words and running with them madly off in their favourite directions. A good idea is to do what we always do, and take the rule that nothing whatever we have ever seen in the MSM has any relation to reality. Don't bother your wee heads over the NYT or BBC's interpretation. That way madness (and possibly sedevacantism) lies.

Whatever you might think about Francis or his article, or any of his many "off-the-cuff" remarks, or spontaneous homilies or media-friendly gestures, here's the thing: the Church is not the Pope. The Faith is not the Pope. If you think he's a bad pope, that he's a liberal or is, wittingly or not, enabling the forces of liberalism in the Church - or whatever - it still doesn't make him not the pope. It doesn't make him the anti-Christ.

We've had bad popes before, just as we've had bad Councils before. A bad pope can make trouble. He can cause harm, even irreparable harm to the Church, and still be the pope. He can even, (yes, really!) preach heresy, from the pulpit, or in interviews, off the cuff remarks, or spontaneous airplane interviews. It still doesn't make him not the pope. Or the AntiChrist. We moderns tend to suffer from an extremely short historical memory: Popes have been heretics before, in their personal opinions.

What he can't do is take the Faith or the Church itself in the wrong direction. That's not me telling the pope what to do, it's just a statement about what the powers of the papacy are and are not. The Faith is more than "whatever the pope says".

We've fallen in recent decades into a bad habit of cheerleading, of simply lazily saying that "what the pope says goes," and pointing to giants like John Paul and Benedict as proof. We love to clap and strum our guitars at World Youth Day, and work ourselves into a rock-star frenzy over a personality (real or trumped up) that we've forgotten that there are rather more important things to be doing and thinking about. So, we've had a wake-up call. All to the good. It's not supposed to be easy to be Christian.

We've become so used to holding our popes up as paragons, partly because one or two recently were decent sorts, but mostly because of the cultural and theological shifts in the Church over the last 100 years, that we can't even conceive of simply, a bad pope. One who doesn't have much of a grasp of the intricacies of international affairs, cultural trends or shifts, who maybe hasn't got the depth and strength of personality to grasp what's going on in the Church or why. One who, maybe, is blinded by ideological prejudices, who is perhaps too affected by his own press and has failed to grasp the implications and ramifications of his actions and careless words.

Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to really learn and come to understand Catholic ecclesiology (ignorance of which was identified by Benedict XVI as the core of all our troubles in the Church). Doctrines like papal infallibility and what the Church is and is not, who it is and is not. There's been a lot of misdirection about these teachings over the last 60-odd years, but it's all still out there, conveniently written down and stored away in libraries and probably even on the internet if you look. And if you know them, you will not be disturbed.

It is difficult and annoying to have to become your own theologian, but these are the times we live in. Sorry. I think this sort of resentment is commendable because it is, essentially, a sign of intellectual humility. And if it is channeled into more larnin' and more communication with the people who ought to be doing their jobs better, then all the better.

We have known for a long time that things in the Church really, really aren't going well. This is nothing new, nothing surprising, nothing really even terribly interesting or important. (Though its effects on people are going to be both those last things.) This is really the time when we are called to hold on tight.

But the Faith has never been about the Pope. And this situation might end up being a good thing, to knock the silly, clapping papolaters back to their senses, and to force closed, finally, the comfortable middle ground that a lot of Catholics have become used to living in.

We've had an easy time of things recently, and like the Narnians of the Golden Age, have grown a little portly, sleepy and complacent. But the Christian is called to vigilance.



a Christopher said...

You say Catholic ecclesiology as if you expected there to be another sort... he said, subverting a fictional Schutzstaffel officer's line...

bernadette said...

Hilary. What do you mean ?

The faith has never been about The Pope.

For Real ? That's what the Protesters say. Of course it has been about The Pope. Jesus left it in Peter's hands. He made it unequivocally clear. I will build my church on this rock.

You're scaring me.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

The Faith is about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It isn't about the pope.

Gary said...

A good, sober dose of perspective to calm me down.

Thank you, Miss White.

Anonymous said...

We like JPII? We think he was a good pope? When did THAT happen? - Karen

Dymphna said...

I'm not freaked out. Francis reminds me of my Uncle Donny. Donny is a lot of fun and he infuriates my mother but even was a kid I knew darn well not to pay any attention what Donny was saying. Unless he is speaking infallibly I will ignore him about as much as I ignored JPII's theology of the body thing.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Dymphna, I'm still putting out Francis-fires, and saying more or less what you have just said. Novusordoism isn't Catholicism. All five of the last popes have promoted Novusordoism, and what we are seeing now is simply the chickens coming home to roost. There's nothing new going on.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Karen, I didn't say I liked him. I said he was a giant, which, from the strictly worldly point of view of the "world's stage" he undoubtedly was. I'm saying that a lot of people have been taken in by him and his predecessor, to accept Novusordoism. But what didn't make JPII not-the-pope, also doesn't make Francis not-the-pope, even though Francis is not as good at hiding it.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"have been taken in by him and his successor" I meant to say.

Anonymous said...

I guess I need to check my cradle-privilege because this just seems like a lot of fretting about nothing to me. I see Dymphna feels the same way. CRADLE PRIDE

In other news, I finally solved my terrible problem of not wanting to take the kids to Mass because the priest insists on talking about mass murderers and sodomites! If I take them to misa en espaƱol, it doesn't matter if the homily is about la pornografia, la homosexualidad, los shootings en DC, y tal, because only I can understand him! I am so clever. - Karen

Gary said...

What is "Novusordoism" exactly? I'm still trying to figure that out, because I know some good and holy priests who are stuck saying that Mass for various reasons, Masses that I've even attended on occasion.

Being a traditional Catholic, I tend to have friends who are like-minded. One of them was grilling me recently, and demanding to know if I still associated with what he called the "Novus Ordo regime"? I mumbled something and changed the subject.

The whole thing is distressing at times.

a Christopher said...

One Millegan writing for FirstThings is sympathetic.