Saturday, March 08, 2014

What the pope really meant was...

Long post alert! Long post coming... move along...

Yes, it's a rare treat here at the Picnic: I'm going to tell you all, at tedious and tendentious length, exactly. what. I. think. (Oh BOY!!)

Those who've heard it, or don't care, may watch cat videos on YouTube until the bell rings.

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I've written a lot in the past about the difference between "conservative" Catholics and Traditionalists. Perhaps I have failed to mention one of the most recognisable, however; that conservatives tend naturally towards any line that will maintain the status quo. Thus, in the face of deliberate campaigns to create change, conservatives respond with efforts to keep things the same, and so necessarily give ground a little at a time. Combine this with their unfortunate recent tendency towards an uncritical hyper-ultramontanism (sometimes derided as "papolotry" by people like... well... me,) that accepts everything and anything a pope says or doesn't say because he is the pope, and we have the phenomenon of incremental retreat, a long, slow giving-away of Catholic doctrine and practice in order to maintain the peace.

Now, before we go any further, I'd like to say that this is a position, a tendency, for which I have huge sympathy. Having at one time been among their ranks, I can say that the conservative reaction to what is happening in the Church is, for any believer, the natural one, particularly in a time when the Faith in its fullness is taught to almost no one outside the Traditionalist enclaves (all that scary, scary stuff about the Social Kingship of Christ... Yeee!) And in any time but ours, perhaps it would be sufficient. We have had so few times in history when the Faith of the Church has been under such constant attack from its own ministers and obedience to lawful authority is a virtue. I am not the only writer to have pointed out that the greatest trick the Devil ever played was not making everyone think he doesn't exist; it was using the virtue of obedience to destroy the Church.

I'd also like to say that I think conservatives are smart, sensible and cool. They are good Catholics, and many of them are heroic in their work to spread and defend the Faith. In a word, there's really not much important difference between us. In all the important, cosmic ways, they are us and we are them and we are all togethahh... kookoo ka joo. (That's a Gen-X pop culture reference.)

I say this because I was, through most of the John Paul II pontificate, a thoroughgoing neo-conservative who thought that if we only did what the pope says, we'll be fine. I saw the battle lines clearly drawn between The World - secularism, relativism, media-ism, feminism, even Marxism - and the Church, with the pope as the heroic figure leading us in the war. And let me tell you, it was a MIGHTY nice and appealing way to see the world. I knew that there were bad bishops and bad priests, but this was because there had been infiltrations at the national levels. I knew the war had entered the Church, but maintained the belief that the pope (and mostly by extension "the Vatican" he led,) was the place to look to for the answers.

And life was good. The world made sense. Then I started looking a little more deeply, and oh dear... oh deary me!

The thing that pushed me into being a clearly self-identified Traditionalist, and to recognising the difference between a Trad and a neo-con, was the presence of just too many logical contradictions, and too many places where the conservatives either didn't know about or were desperate to explain away the portions of the Faith that have been dropped (mysteriously?) since the council.

Seriously, becoming a Trad is no fun. It's like being forcibly removed from the Matrix, where things are difficult but do-able, and being tossed down the Rabbit Hole of Awful. It's why my friends and acquaintances are often puzzled when I tell them not to read LifeSite or even this blog. At least, don't read it too often. The facts we talk about at LSN can cause some acute discomfort for people who are given to connecting logical dots with too much facility. If you're not ready for it, it can be kind of traumatising.

All that being said, I can't help but think, again, that in his own painful way, Pope Francis is doing something for the Church that another "conservative" pontificate could not have done. He is making it very, very difficult to maintain that comfortable conservative middle ground. There are a lot of "conservatives" who are being forced to go to increasing lengths to try to maintain their position. This is a good thing. I believe that their position is the fence, and the fence is pointy and impossible to sit on forever. It's actually a good thing to get shoved off, for them and for the rest of us.

We have seen a lot of people, including a lot of priests, watching the goings on in Rome and starting to definitively pick sides. We've had a lot of indications that more people every day are realising that their position has been untenable, unsustainable.

The thing that makes me feel there is growing urgency for the conservatives to give up what I consider to be an untenable middle ground, is that as we go along, the "highest authorities in the Church" are putting more and more of the Faith down that post-conciliar memory hole. This is more or less what I mean when I say that Pope Francis, through his words and actions, and more importantly in his silences and inactions, is "closing the conservative middle ground".

All of this is by way of introduction, and disclaimer, when I go through an article that appeared on Wednesday on, by Phil Lawler, that doughty Catholic culture warrior. Usually, I go to Phil when I need the Sensible Perspective. I don't always agree with his assessments, but I know that when I read him, I'm at least never going to be presented with the truncated and carefully edited version of the truth that one has come to expect from most Catholic media.

But today, Phil has taught me something in a different way. A more backhanded way. I'm not looking to pick a fight here, but Phil has given an opportunity to make a critique of the conservative position by laying it out in particularly stark terms. The subject is Pope Francis' latest interview, and the reaction to it by the mainstream media.

In my LSN thing on Thursday (published on Friday) I more or less said that the pope's own comments, (whether deliberately or not was beyond my ability to judge) had allowed and even invited the MSM and the Catholic world to take away that there could be some acceptance by the Catholic Church of homosexual civil unions. The ambiguities of the pope's own comments was what led the media to jump up and down with glee.

Phil, on the other hand, calls their reaction "astonishing".

Really? Seriously? I read the Corriere della Sera interview in English and Italian, and quite honestly, it looked to me like there was room enough to drive an aircraft carrier through the ambiguity-gap Francis left.

I honestly think Phil has missed the point. I'm sure he'll disagree. But I think the discussion could be useful. I thought a little fisking could be helpful to allow readers to do a compare and contrast and maybe come to some kind of conclusion.

Phil: Seven months before the Synod of Bishops meets to discuss pastoral care for the family, one can easily foresee how the mass media will cover the prelates’ discussion. It is not easy to predict which themes will emerge as most prominent in the Synod fathers’ debates. But it is very easy to predict which themes will dominate the media coverage.

HJW: Yep, it totally is easy. We know exactly what the media's Catholic memes are, what they are and are not interested in. We also know that they have framed the discussion in a particular way, with particular parameters. Which is why when a pope or a cardinal or bishop says anything about anything, we sometimes cringe because we can see, as media-savvy people, exactly and in detail how the media is going to ram it into their meme-boxes. We know exactly what kinds of things bishops sometimes say - those little ambiguities and vaguenesses - that make the media slaver, and Francis has said exactly those things, [in a way that Benedict NEVER would have, I might add].

Phil: From the perspective of the secular media, the key question pending at the bishops’ meeting—really the only question that the media consider worthy of coverage—is whether the Catholic Church will back away from her traditional teachings on contraception, homosexuality, and divorce. The answer to that question is No. But reporters, prodded by "progressive" Catholics, keep implying that the question is unresolved. Regrettably, some conservative Catholics are encouraging them.

HJW: Yes. We know from long, long experience that the mainstream secular media believe the Catholic Church's teachings consist entirely of prohibitions against sex. We also know that the Catholic media spends a lot of its time following this lead. We can't help it. The MSM is in charge of the debate-framing, so we really have no choice but to talk about those things. But we cannot blame them alone for "implying that the question is unresolved". We can certainly track very clearly indeed the many places where high-ranking prelates have helped to create that impression. The names Nichols, Danneels, Mahoney, Martini, etc, spring to mind. Why would we think that a pope could not be among this group?

About the second thing: about how the Church is absolutely and inevitably going to say "No" to changes in doctrine. Here is where I begin to differ with Phil. Of course, the Church is not going to change the doctrine any more than a committee of physicists could rescind the law of gravity. But there is a lot that a pope, a pontificate, can do, as we have seen in the last fifty years to make the actual, written-down doctrine of the Church functionally irrelevant. And I'll prove it: Phil, go to Mass on Sunday at any suburban American parish. Find a parishioner who knows what Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae were about, and ask him, "What doctrine of the Faith was the papal encyclical Quas Primas about?"

The fact that the Church officially "teaches" this or that unpopular thing can be rendered utterly moot by a global decision of all prelates never, ever to mention it to anyone ever again.

But it's in the next bit of Phil's article that things really get interesting...

Phil: Influential voices within the Church are already calling for wholesale doctrinal changes.

HJW: Yes, they definitely have. Very, very loudly. And what has the pope, perhaps the chattiest pope we've ever had, said in response to this? Anything? Anything at all?

We've had Muller saying quite a few things. And then we have had two of the members of pope's own hand-picked group of eight cardinals saying that he needs to "loosen up". And what has the pope said about that? Anything? < crickets chirping> ... Bueller?

So the man appointed to the office whose purpose is to defend the doctrine of the Church is being left in the cold, while two of the members of this "in-group" that has, as far as anyone knows, no juridical or canonical status whatsoever, are allowed to attack him publicly for doing his job, with total impunity.

I wonder if Francis has ever heard the legal expression, "He who remains silent is understood to agree." I know I am not the only one who has observed that Francis is approaching "curial reform" by totally sidelining the Curia, undercutting its work and ignoring the outcome, all while favouring this "group".

Phil: The bishops of Germany, having found that most lay Catholics in their country reject or ignore Church teachings, have thrown up their hands and hinted—or in a few cases said quite clearly—that Church stands on sexual issues must change.

HJW: Oh, I don't think we need to be doing any polite little tiptoes around the situation in Germany. They certainly aren't being coy about it. The German bishops have gone beyond saying that the Church's teaching and practice must change on sexuality; they are now quite openly calling for separation of the German Catholic Church from Rome: (what we used to call "schism,") and the creation of national Churches.

And again, has the pope had very much or anything at all to say about this? In other times, we might have thought that an entire national episcopate calling openly for schism might be a little more ... newsworthy... But the only thing we have is, again, one statement from poor, ignored and beleaguered Muller, echoing in the context of a ringing silence from his superior.

Phil: An American bishop has made the illogical claim: “Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium suggests the rejection of Church teaching on this subject.” An English Catholic newspaper has published an editorial referring to the Church’s stand on sexual issues as a “state of denial,” and lauding the Catholics who find Church teachings “incomprehensible or just plain wrong.”

To be sure, then, there are plenty of calls for change—as there have been demands for change in Catholic doctrine since time immemorial. But to complicate matters, the proponents of change today claim that Pope Francis endorses their ideas.

HJW: Now hold on there for just a second. Has the Holy Father said or done anything, anything at all in the last year, that might have justified that impression? Nothing? Can't think of a thing? Really?

Phil: That English newspaper, the Tablet, quoted the Holy Father’s reference to “pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness,” and leapt to the conclusion that the Pope was advocating some major changes in Church teaching.

HJW: I have been noticing a little dodge that some conservatives are using. They point to something like the Tablet and say, with widened and innocent eyes, "What was there in this article that could possibly have given this impression? You're leaping to some pretty wild conclusions there, buddy."

But the Tablet, and others, are not looking solely at this or that one article, are they? They are looking at all the signals big and small that Francis has given over the last year taken together, and reading the current piece in that context. And isn't this what they're supposed to be doing? Haven't we heard for decades that the "liberal press" is always taking this or that papal statement out of the greater context of the other things he's said and done?

In case after case, when Francis has talked he has been vague, ambiguous and even obstreperous, ("We don't need to go on and on about it...") and when there have been opportunities to make strong, clear statements, he has remained silent. Tell me, Phil, what other conclusion do you expect them to take away?

Phil: Virtually every day’s news headlines include at least one story suggesting that the Pope is questioning some long-standing Church policy. Today, for instance, a USA Today headline announces: “Pope Francis leaves door open for same-sex unions.”

In fact, in the interview on which the story was based, the Pope only said that secular governments might have various reasons of their own for providing legal protection for non-marital unions.

“One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” the Holy Father said.

The interviewer did not press him on the subject, so we do not know under what circumstances—if any—the Pope might think the Church could accept some legal recognition of same-sex unions.

HJW: Hooo-Kay, we're really going to just accept this? We're OK with the unmistakable fact that he did, in fact "leave the door open" to acceptance, in some realm or other and on a case-by-case basis, to legal recognition of same-sex civil unions, then.

So, let's just let that sink in: a pope has said, with not a whiff or hint of disapproval that "secular governments" could have "reasons of their own" for giving recognition to "non-marital unions," aaaand we're OK with this...

He has said it blandly and with total neutrality, as if it is absolutely none of his business whatsoever what "secular governments" do. His business is only with the Church. And this is no big deal.

Are we saying that what a pope says or does about the moral realm stops at some invisible line between the Church and the State? Is that what you're going with?

Phil: In the full interview the Pope did, however, firmly reassert the Church’s teaching on a closely related issue: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”

HJW: Oh well then, we can all go home. I feel so much better.

Let's take another look at the full quote:

Corriera della Sera: Many countries have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Holy Father: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity.

It must? That's funny, because I think I remember another recent pope who said ... not to put too fine a point on it.. exactly the opposite.

Let's imagine for a moment that Corriere della Sera was interviewing Benedict XVI. What might he say about it? Hmmm... let's look through the blue magic mirror of our imaginations and see if we can guess...

There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”

Woah! That was easy, huh? Let's see if the magic mirror has anything else for us...

Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem:

Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve:

- unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology;

- stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions;

- reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality

- and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon.

- Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

1) Until now, the papal statements, even since the Council, on moral issues have started with the assumption that the pope gets to talk about what the State should and should not do. We have never before made the distinction that a pope, when speaking on a matter of public morals, was "only" addressing what the State should do or what the Church should do, and that the two things have nothing to do with each other.

We know, or at least we did know, that when a pope talks about moral things, he means for it to apply to everyone, in every sphere, everywhere. No one ever suggested that John Paul II, in talking about the moral evils of abortion and euthanasia in Evangelium Vitae, was only talking about what the government should do, or what the Church could accept or not accept. He said, simply, abortion is wrong, a grave moral evil and outrage against justice. That means, it can't be accepted by anyone, anywhere, ever. We used to know that when a pope said something, anything, about something to do with the moral life, he meant it to be applicable across the board, in public and private life.

2) We used to understand, as Catholics, that this whole notion of "separation of Church and state" was a barely tolerable legal fiction, at best. It was, in fact, condemned by the popes in the past because of precisely this, that it might lead people to make a radical separation in their lives between their "Church selves" and their "civil selves" between Christian life and their day-to-day life in the world. That we could be "good Catholics" on Sundays and "good secularists" at work through the week. That we could be, for instance, a politician who is "personally opposed to abortion" but would not dream of trying to impose "his views" on others through the law.

Phil: Yes, it is true that in that interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis might have “left the door open” to acceptance of some legal same-sex unions—by the state, not the Church.

HJW: And this distinction is important... wwhhhyyyy, exactly? I'm pretty sure the pope, the interviewer and all the readers knew the question was about the pope's opinion about what the state does. No one thought he was asking about the Vatican City State. Is it OK that he allows it for the State, as long as we don't have to have civil unions ceremonies in St. Peter's?

Phil: At least he did not slam the door shut.

HJW: But that's the whole point. He was supposed to do exactly that. He's the pope. He's supposed to say things like, "It's wrong. It's wrong for anyone, either the Church or the state." Let's look at it another way: if the interviewer had asked the pope his opinions about whether the Church could possibly see its way to approving legalised brothels, and he had said, "Well, not for the Church, of course. For us, the sexual act is restricted to a married man and woman. But what the state does has to be examined on a case-by-case basis, in all their diversity."

I'm slightly confused by Phil's use of the expression "at least" and "slam the door shut," as though this is undesirable behaviour in a pope. Isn't that what we want and expect from popes on grave matters of morals, both public and private? If he had been talking about any other subject, abortion, slavery, genocide, or even divorce, would we really be asking whether he meant only to allow consideration of the possibility...but only by the state...? What does that even mean?

Phil: But in an interview in which he offered that clear defense of marriage—an interview in which he also praised Pope Paul VI for his controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae, and offered a defense of the Church’s response to the sex-abuse scandal—how could a journalist conclude that the Pope’s vague, off-hand remarks on same-sex unions were the most newsworthy part of the interview?

HJW: OK, here's where I go out on a limb. The issue of natural marriage is a closed one for the Church (for now) and the interviewer, the pope and the readers, including the homosexualist activists, knew he would say exactly that. This is not where the wedge is being placed. There isn't, for the moment, a weak spot there yet. Which is why they have all given him an easy pass on it. Every one of the "gay rights" campaigners interviewed said as much. What they were all looking for was exactly what the pope gave them: ambiguity, a maybe and a "let's talk about it." So, no. His "defence of marriage" isn't newsworthy at all. (And contraception? Srsly? Does anyone still even know the Church is against that? Does anyone care?)

So, yes, Phil, obviously the pope's ambiguities, his "vague offhand remarks" about the Church accepting same-sex civil unions in any way, even for governments, even on a case-by-case basis, is every bit as huge, as earth-shattering a story as the media is (still today) making it out to be.
How could it be otherwise? They know better than anyone where the weakest point of the weakest point is found in the modern Church. They know that we've had decades of moral discontinuity on homosexuality, civil unions and "gay marriage" among the clergy. They know that there are thousands of active and inactive homosexual priests, bishops and prelates in the Church currently agitating, in quiet ways and loud ways, for the Church to accept homosexuality.
And they know that within the broader issue of homosexuality, this spot right. here. is where to aim the blows: right at the oh-so-reasonable argument that it's really just about dealing justly with people already in such situations, to give them legal and economic and financial protection. It's such a little spot, isn't it? But the whole weight of the Faith is resting behind it... and they know it.

And as Catholics, Phil, you and I are better positioned even than they to understand exactly why. What the secularists in the media sense dimly, we know concretely: that everything, every. single. thing. the Church teaches dogmatically is inextricably connected to every other thing. We know, as they sense, that if the Church caves on this, the whole thing is going to go. Not because, as Francis once put it, it is a "house of cards" waiting to fall at the slightest pressure. But because of the nature of Truth itself, that True things cannot contradict one another. And so for the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Ascension to be true, all the rest of it must also be true, absolutely without exception.
They know that if they can bring the Church to admit just this one little thing, just pinch this one, tiny little fragment of a grain, the whole thing will follow. If truth is not consistent with itself, if it contradicts itself on any single point, it fails utterly.

Phil: That could happen only because the reporter (or the headline writer) was looking at the transcript with the issue of same-sex marriage uppermost in his mind, and exaggerated the importance of an exchange that formed only a small part of a long interview. (It is astonishing that the Catholic News Service, the agency supported and subsidized by the US bishops’ conference, ran the story under a headline quite similar to that in USA Today.)

HJW: No. That happened because the reporter understood better than most conservative pundits, that the Truth is a zero-sum game; there can't be any grey areas, any compromise. Truth is not a political or diplomatic project. So, really it's not astonishing at all, it simply means that they know their job. They understand: that you hit the Church very precisely there. And hit it as hard as you can, with an interview with the Pope himself.

The other reason CNS, and the rest of the world, ran the headlines is, simply, because it's true. And you have said it yourself. The pope, even by suggesting that the Church could consider accepting any legal equivalency to marriage by anything other than actual marriage, a man and a woman bonded for life, by the state or anyone else, has said something utterly novel, utterly shocking. It is, in the purest sense, news.

Phil: Actually it should be no surprise that, in a quick response to a quick question, the Pope did not slam the door shut. Pope Francis has made a determined effort to avoid blanket prohibitions. He does not want to be perceived as another “Pio Nono,” because he does not want to reinforce the popular caricature of the Church as stern and inflexible. Rather, he wants to make winsome arguments, to appeal to a world that has lost its moral compass, above all to drive home the message that everyone can enjoy the benefits of God’s unlimited mercy.

HJW: Wait...what?! Are you serious?! He doesn't want to be perceived as another Pius IX? Making "blanket prohibitions"?
Perceived? ...
Blanket prohibitions?! ...
Phil, can you explain to me how you think the world "lost its moral compass" in the first place? Could it be that this has been lost in, oh let's say, the last 50 years or so, because we have had two or three generations of church leaders who refuse to make "blanket prohibitions" against immorality? We've had decades of with-it grooviness from the Church and the world, all congratulating each other on how they have moved beyond making "blanket prohibitions" against sexual or other kinds of sins.
Could this total failure to give the world any sound direction in morals have had anything at all to do with priests, bishops and prelates being overly concerned with how the world "perceives" them? More concerned with not being "perceived" as overly ... oh, what's the term again... judgmental? than they are with either defending the Faith, or with saving souls from everlasting death?

And here's another little question for you. Are you absolutely sure you meant to say that he doesn't want to be "perceived" as another Pio Nono? There mightn't have been anyone else in mind, mightn't there? Someone more recent?

Phil: Thus the Pope has challenged the Synod of Bishops to find new ways to address the problems of families, especially those families that are struggling.

Err... struggling with what, exactly, Phil? What is the Synod going to address? Have there been any signs, any signs at all, about which particular struggles of the family the Synod might be addressing? No? Not a single hint? Have there been any highly-placed and highly-favoured theologian-cardinals saying anything about it? Any who might have been described glowingly by Francis as giving a "serene" theological discussion? Nothing coming to mind?

Phil: Following his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, he has made a special call for pastoral attention to Catholics who, because they are divorced and remarried, are barred from the sacraments. Nowhere has he suggested that the Church should change her teaching or her perennial practice. He has merely called for a discussion. But again commentators have gleefully leapt to the conclusion that the Pope favors such changes

HJW: OK, maybe there's some "discussion" to be had on how to better teach divorced and civilly remarried why they cannot receive Communion, or something else that does not involve changing the doctrine. But that doesn't seem to be what his closest advisors think, and it certainly isn't what the German bishops (who put huge pressure on Benedict for exactly this Synod and failed to get it) want. What the men he trusts as his "inner circle" are thinking and wanting is coming clearer by the day. And who is fighting the battle against this pressure? Is it Francis? No, no it isn't. It's Muller. And he's been doing it alone.

Phil: A substantive change in Church teaching is highly unlikely. The Synod may recommend some pastoral provisions, such as steps to allow easier access to annulments. (Such provisions would probably not have much practical impact in the US, where annulments are already granted to nearly everyone who applies.) In his address to a special consistory in February, Cardinal Walter Kasper proposed a special penitential process that might allow for reconciliation of remarried couples under rare circumstances.

HJW: Uhhh... Phil? That's not what Kasper was suggesting. Kasper was suggesting that while the Church can't change it's doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, she should just ignore it. To make people feel better about themselves.

Oh, and that priests should be made to desecrate the Eucharist by giving it to people whom he knows to be in a state of objective mortal sin.

We're sailing merrily past this pretty easily here and I'm just wondering why.

Phil: The coverage from the October Synod meeting will suggest that the “moderate” forces for change were stymied by the entrenched “ultraconservatives.” Insofar as Pope Francis will ultimately support existing doctrine, journalists who have been enthralled by the new Pontiff will be devastated, just as liberal journalists of an earlier generation were disappointed when Pope Paul VI confirmed Church teaching in Humanae Vitae.

HJW: Yeah, it's funny you should mention H.V. because I've been talking about the similarities too. And I think these similarities are more important than anyone has yet realised. These liberal journalists (anyone else? *cough*Canadianbishops*cough*) weren't disappointed for long. They immediately went out and simply changed the public perception of Humanae Vitae so that the world figured they had permission to just shrug and keep on fornicatin'.

As I commented the other day on FB:
As always, it's important to take our lessons from history, and we have a good 'un from Humanae Vitae: now that the Kasper Solution has been "leaked" we have simply to wait and allow the media dispersal do its work.

The process will be even more efficient this time, since we have the internet to help aerosolize the ...errr... shall we say, "new teaching" into the general culture, released, so to speak, into the atmosphere.

By the time the Synod rolls around in October, it won't matter a tinker's damn what Pope Francis says or writes. He could issue Humanae Vitae II after the Synod, but by that time, the new practice will be universal, and the national conferences will have their Winnipeg Statements all ready to launch, and bob's yer uncle...

A job well-done, your eminences and excellencies of [Kasper's] "New Paradigm".

Phil:At the Synod meeting and in the weeks that follow, some German bishops will keep pushing the car, assisted by dissident theologians. Journalists, watching from a nearby hill, will wonder why Pope Francis and other bishops are resisting them. In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, debates along these lines wreaked havoc within the Church.

HJW: Well, I have a rule about never talking about the future in concrete terms. It doesn't pay. But if you're right about Francis choosing the right side, I'll buy you a beer the next time you're in town.

I must say, though, that one of the things I miss about being a neo-con was the unquestioning confidence I had that the pope would never, ever do anything to deliberately hurt the Church.

Then, altar girls.

I'll leave Phil alone from there, but I'd like to leave y'all with one more little bit of the imaginary interview with Benedict:

Interviewer: Holy Father, what are Catholics obligated to do in situations where same-sex civil unions have already been established? Can we accommodate them as a fait accompli? Can we simply tolerate them, and move on?

Benedict XVI: In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.

One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application.

In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for your clarity. I'm more neo-con than traditional so really don't want to read this, but truth is truth and avoiding it all these years hasn't helped the world one bit.


Chloe said...

Thank you. As you say, traumatising but needed. I think I had more neo con in me than I realised


Felix said...

How dare you say such things! The Pope is the holiest, most intelligent, and most leaned person in the Church. He is always right and, if he were to change his mind, he would still be right.

This was all defined by Vatican II. Or maybe Vatican I. Anyway, such details are only relevant to pickie trads like you.

Felix said...

Oops. I meant "learned". (I am not the Pope and I make mistakes.)

Felix said...

Oops. I meant "learned". (I am not the Pope and I make mistakes.)

James C said...

No need to fantasise about what Benedict would have said---he said it back in 2003 as CDF prefect, with the approval of soon-to-be-Saint JPII. Perhaps somebody should tell Franis about this document. He can see it ably summarised on Phil Lawler's website:

Louise said...

Pope Francis is the first pope of the generation that says "I feel", rather than "I think". Pope Benedict will be the last pope who knows the difference. That is why it is so difficult for anyone to interpret Francs's words with any degree of clarity or accuracy, and they must always be "explained", which always leads to more confusion. Feelings are never clearly felt and must always come with a full baggage of contradictory thoughts lest anyone's feelings be hurt.

BillyHW said...

Francis is a fine pope. For stupid people.

rubyroad said...

Long, yes. Excellent, definitely.

Gary said...

As long as we're all giving up something for Lent, I think it would be an excellent idea for this pope to give up talking to secular reporters, many of whom hate the Church and her moral teachings. It's just an occasion of mischief and confusion.

Chloe said...

Gary, how about the Pope just gives up talking? Someone take his mic off him, please!

Anonymous said...

Things have heated up to an uncomfortable degree.

Louise L

thetimman said...

Hilary, sorry to quote Cardinal Dolan, but, "Bravo!"

Very well done. Devastating.

The conservative/traditional distinction-- agree word for word.

Unknown said...

It is amazing that Francis still finds Conservatives willing to defend him after a year of non-stop questionable utterances undermining the Truth. Perhaps it would take a big, glaring heretical statement from the man in Rome to help them want to see what's he's doing to the Church. Unfortunately, Francis is much to shrewd for something like this, and he will go on in his insidious way, while his Conservative apologists escalate their frantic attempts at convincing themselves that the pope is still Catholic (whilst denying the evidence of their senses).
They're on the way of losing their minds, these poor people!

PS. Thank you for reading this appalling interview (in two languages, to boot) so we wouldn't have to.

Ken said...

I have many conservative (Catholic) friends who defend our new Pope. They say that he is being misinterpreted. My question is why all of the sudden every interview needs clarification(s). Pope Francis is confusing the faithful. I am blessed to have had Bl. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as a foundation to the Faith. Bl. JP II found practiced humility in secret. He lived in the Papal Apts and would turn down his sheets on the bed then retire to the hard floor. He is deeply missed.

Ferrara said...

Very disappointed in Phil. He knows better. The Francis effect is disarming what's left of the Church Militant in "conservative" circles. The tempests approach.

Dave Heath said...


Clear, concise, direct, unambiguous, Black and White, definitive raw Catholic should clone yourself, or at least your mind, find the nearest USB port and transfer all of your thoughts into the minds of more Catholic Faithful, priests, bishops and, yes, the Pope.

More long posts, please...

Raghn said...

The idea here is that the Church bosses will re-affirm traditional Church teaching, but then simply ignore it, right? A la birth control, etc. In that I'm sure he's right. Depressingly so, but right nonetheless.

A point I want to stress here is that the rot started long before Vatican II. The Church in the 1950s apparently just couldn't wait to go iconoclast and smash all the altars in the 1960s. Had the Church been healthy, that wouldn't have ever happened. The Church hierarchy wouldn't have even begun it, or the people wouldn't have tolerated it.

Yet if you think about it a bit, it was in the 19th century that the Church lost Europe--lost the working classes, the "mass" of people. And in the 19th century we had the Church governed in certainly pre-Vat2 glory--I'm thinking of Leo XIII myself, but everyone has a favorite from that time.

Then again, the rot really goes back to the Reformation, and even before, during the Great Schism when Philip IV of France harassed Pope Boniface VIII to death--and then the death of B8's his successor, Benedict XI, after eight months in office, and the deadlocked conclave that finally elected the French Clement V in 1305. The resulting Avignon interlude was a disaster, and the "Great Schism" that formally resulted from it in 1378.

You notice the Reformation occurred in England and Germany (and Scandinavia) and not in France or Spain? Because in the latter, the state apparatus had already taken over the Church and turned it into a state bureaucracy. By the time England and Germany got on the bandwagon, Luther (and Erasmus, and others, Catholic and Prot) had given the state actors all sorts of reasons to completely break with Rome.

So we have, what, a 1,000 years of a farrago of disaster heaped on us? But the truth is, the first 1,000 years of Church history had some pretty grim business, too.

The thing to do is what our ancestors did: keep the faith even when the Churchmen obviously didn't. God will sort 'em out in His own time. The thing to do is to focus on Christ and Him Crucified, and get the sacraments when we can.

Of course, I write this as someone not willing to "lie down and take it" but the real fight will be as I suppose it ever was, for our own souls and those closest to us. If the whole 2,000 years of Church history teaches us anything, it is the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. And St. Aengus, whose feast day this is. (March 11)


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

no argument from here, and of course it's something we all know well.

But there are differences of opinion about when the seeds of this poisonous weed were planted. I have lately been reading about the Nominalism of Wiliam of Ockham.

Aged parent said...

A lucid and extremely well-written post. Thank you.

The similarities between the current delusional attitudes of some Catholics toward this Pope and the delusional attitudes to previous Catholics who felt absolutely certain that Pope John Paul would never, ever allow altar girls or Comminion-in-the-hand are striking.

Liam Ronan said...

Well written and put. I should only like to point out, however, that on 14 September 1994 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF issued a letter to all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the Faithful within which letter Cardinal Ratzinger stated:

"The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only "to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they 'take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'"(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal."

Liam Ronan said...

I only offer the following references (as with the one earlier) as you'd quipped:

"Oh, and that priests should be made to desecrate the Eucharist by giving it to people whom he knows to be in a state of objective mortal sin."

On June 24, 2000 a Declaration was issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts “Concerning The Admission To Holy Communion Of Faithful Who Are Divorced And Remarried”

The Pontifical Council stated:
“c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.
Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – “to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses” (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo.”

The aforementioned references JPII's 'Familiaris Consortio'. The same exception may be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

It seems to me there is a tendency among some Catholics to indulge in a certain Pharisaic schadenfreude regarding the (incorrectly) presumed total denial of reception of the Holy Eucharist to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Kasper made no mention whatsoever of any expectation that those in irregular marriages would be expected to change their behaviour and live, as the expression has it 'as brother and sister'. In fact, he was criticised for suggesting that a "period of penance' was all that would be required to be readmitted to the sacrament.

There is no conflict here at all, and everyone conversantwith this issue knows about the "brother and sister" caveat. It's just that Kasper didn't offer this as a solution, but merely that divorced and remarried couples should be allowed to receive Communion. This would mean that priests would be forced to cooperate in this evil.

Liam Ronan said...

@Hillary Jane Margaret White,
I'm prepared to accept your assertion that "everyone conversant with this issue knows about the "brother and sister" caveat" if you will grant the average parishoner 'who has no need of repentance' is almost entirely ignorant of the caveat and that they generally howl with indignation when they hear of it.
There are many ordinary Catholics who are more akin to the Prodigal Son's Older Brother in respect of the possibility of forgiveness (much less reception of the Holy Eucharist) for their divorced and civilly remarried brethren.
I think those in the Church hierarchy who are fully aware of this Mercy long extended by the Church (and Mercy it is) ought to be trumpeting it now to the public and media so that the issue of divorced Catholics receiving the Holy Eucharist might have some of the initiative wrested from those mad men who want to regularize divorce in contradiction of Christ's clear command.
There is a chance now for the Cardinals Burke, Muller, and the like to say to the Cardinals Kaspar, etc. "But my dear brothers you are mistaken! Mercy is available to the divorced already..."
To my mind there are too many pastoral-types with the attitude of Cardinal Lamberto in Godfather III who said to the unrepentant Godfather:

"Your sins are terrible. It is just that you suffer. Your life could be redeemed, but I know you don't believe that. You will not change. " He then grants Michael Corleone absolution.

I still think your post is marvellous and on the mark.

ssoldie said...

How many remember from the chair, "Casti Connubei" 12/31/1930 Pope Pius XI.

Jeff said...

Yes, we take pride in our humility. How dare anyone challenge our worldview.

poeta said...

A fine piece indeed. I can offer only one minor bit of fraternal correction: it isn't actually "kookoo ka joo," but "goo goo goo joob."

Anonymous said...

poeta, it's very important to get these things right.

Louise L

Jeff said...

Seems to me that even Benedict left the door open on the issue of divorce and communion, simply by pondering various possible exceptions and new ways of looking at things that might help solve the so-called pastoral problem that exists for divorced and remarried Catholics.

Yes: he excludes many things and calls for caution. But he also sees a problem to be solved through work and future study.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Yes, it has been pointed out that his younger self wrote some things that are now being seen as helpful.