Monday, September 23, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis #2

Following on from the previous post, I understand that not a few African bishops have been disconcerted Pope Francis' interview, mainly by his words on homosexuality. As archbishop of Buenos Aires he could tailor his words for his own audience, knowing the reaction of the faithful and to some extent of the local media, as Pope his words are thrown to the four winds and in many places reinterpreted in way to cause the maximum damage the Church.

The proper role of the Pope is to teach and safeguard fundamental Christian principles, it is the role of local bishops to safeguard and to enculturate these principles in the context of the culture in which they are missioning. Fifty years ago it might be possible to make assumptions that western, indeed European culture, with its strong Christian underpinning was superior. In the nineteenth century, and before the Church had flourished in the wake of European colonisation, first of all the Spanish and Portugeuse, then the French and British, and finally the tremendous influence of Americanisation, today there is perhaps much greater cultural diversity and European and Western culture sees itself at enmity with its Christian roots. Just as the age of of monarchy and colonialisation has past, so the age of a strongly centralised Church has past. The centre is not holding.

Pope Francis points us the Orthodox or Byzantine model, presumably because it is also a Catholic model which pre-existed the 19th century Ultramontane doctrine. I have no problem with the doctrines of  Vatican I, I do have problems with how these doctrines became so quickly corrupted by the middle of the 20th century. I remember asking an Orthodox priest historian after an ouzo filled discussion on pre-Great Schism on Church discipline, why he didn't become a Catholic. With a degree of fury he slammed down his glass and said, 'How could I become a subject of the Pope of Rome when he personally can sign a document which abandons two millennia of Tradition'. He was speaking of Paul VI's act of 'abrogation' of the Traditional Liturgy. He saw that act as the fruition of Ultramonatanism: a pen stroke made in Rome that changed the nature of the entire Catholic Church throughout the world.

He suggested that having fruited, the plant had died, because for him as an Orthodox the essential constituents that held the Church, were adherence to the Ecumenical Councils and their Symbols, adherence to to the teachings of the eastern synods, adherence to the writings of the holy Fathers and most importantly adherence to the Sacred Liturgy. In summary it was holding on to that which was passed on, faithfulness to Tradition, that marked the Church and for Orthodoxy guaranteed unity. For him, the West was in a state of disunity; little, except the  historic label seems to mark the Catholic Church's unity and he wondered how long that would last. In many ways he was obviously a little partisan but the observation was interesting.

The problem for Pope Francis' reforms is that the unity that the Liturgy once gave the Church has been severely damaged, it is after all the Liturgy that is the main mark of communion for the billion Catholics throughout the world. The 20th century anti-Traditionalism, which some see as a 'movement', that marked much of the implementation of Vat II could actually be seen as being encapsulated in the Bergoglio Papacy.

What holds Orthodoxy's together is its 'Traditionalism' something which is held in common by bishops, priests and laity. Survey after survey in the Catholic Church seems to suggest there is gulf between the faith of the heirarchy and that of the rest of the billion plus. There is crisis of trust, therefore of unity between people bishops, the upheavals from the Council, the abuse crisis have seriously damaged the trust of both priests and people in their bishops.

Some might well be fearful that the Church can withstand yet another shake up.

I would wonder whether many of our bishops are capable of taking  responsibility for the local Church. The insistence on Catholic doctrine has since the rise of Modernism not been a strong point of Catholic bishops. Local bishops covered up the abuse crisis, it was Rome or rather Pope Benedict who stepped in to cut out the disease. Local bishops dither not knowing how to deal with Catholic politicians who enact laws contrary to the faith, local bishops seem to want to cosy up to the governments or political parties.

The great weakness of taking the Orthodox as a model is that the Church easily becomes a nationalist Church, supporting either the Emperor, or the Sultan or the Czar or even Stalin or as we have seem in Serbia in recent years to its shame was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia.


Anonymous said...

I read with interest of your Orthodox interlocutor's reaction to Paul VI's discarding of the old Mass as the natural fruit of ultramontanism. It chimes with the thesis of the fascinating book, The Banished Heart by Geoffrey Hull. A the risk of oversimplification, he holds that the centralization of all liturgical authority in Rome in the wake of Trent was the root cause of the post-Vatican II liturgy-by-decree-and-committee.

Dr Hull's book has been re-published by T & T Clark/Continuum and is well worth the read.


Jacobi said...

“ I do have problems with how these doctrines became so quickly corrupted by the middle of the 20th century.”


Personally, I think you have hit the nail on the head. This is the essence of the problem, that is, the corruption both of the liturgy and Catholic doctrine by the Modernist heresy, from within the Church, in the post Vatican- II period.

Paul VI was a well intentioned Pope. But he was weak, vacillating and easily out-manoeuvred. He is reported to have wept when the final draft of his Mass was published by Bugnini and co before a further review he requested. But he did nothing about it.

Pope Benedict retrieved the situation by reminding everyone that Christianity did not start in 1969 AD, but in 33 AD and that Catholicism has continued “in Continuity” for two millennia.

Pope Francis has inherited a still shattered Church. Forget what he says about the Church never having been in better shape. He is Argentinean after all - a country and people I know quite well. We’ll all have to get used to this!

The answer is a new Council of the Church to sort out the mess, and in the meantime, a “Reform of the Reform” of the Pauline New Mass alongside the ancient Catholic Mass

Cosmos said...

Question: What percentage of the population would respond favorably to the Gospel if it were presented in a perfect manner by someone like, say, Jesus? 100%? 50%? 20%? 1%?

It seems to be a built-in assumption of modern, apologetic theology that but for the Catholics, the Catholic Church would be much more successful. Does that conform to your understanding of the historical or biblical acocunts?

Also, it seems to me that the Church ussually spread by: (1) miracles, (2) missionary zeal, or (3) the conversion of a powerful person. I wonder if we should really expect big results from a "soft sell" in an age of so many viable protestant alternatives.

Cosmos said...


The idea is interesting, but there is a big difference between a central power that portects a Tradition exterior to it--a model compatible with the Orthodox model--and a central power that claims it has the right to create and destroy the tradition--a portestant model. It is like the difference between a court that is granted ultimate jurisidction over all cases under a constitution that still recognizes the natural law, and one that understands its mandate as being unlimited by anything beyond the constitution.

No doubt the seeds of the latter are in the former, but I don't think the former has to end with the latter.

The Bones said...


They say the 60s was the worst time to hold a Council.

What do you think they'd say of the 2010s?

Archimandrite Gregory said...


Your comments are most thought provoking. However, I don't in any wise believe that the Bishop of Rome has gone soft on sin, whatever its manifestation, but rather seeks to heal the broken sinner. For that he must be commended. As far as the ecclesiolgoy of the Orthodox Church is concerned, it was the same as what existed in the Roman Communion is the earlier patristic period. While the system has certain weaknesses, some of which you have addressed, the other side is that they also have saved the Orthodox Church from the current theological-liturgical mess of the post Vatican II Church. I have never heard any of our bishops step beyond the doctrinal depost of Faith, even though they may at times stretch economia of Canon law. Frankly as chief pastors of the dioceses they have that latitude. But if one of our Bishops were to utter things that I have heard reported about some of the mre liberal Roman bishops, the would be suspended and would not be able to exercise their episcopal authority since they would have broken communion with thir brother bishops. Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis understand the significance of what I am stating here. The problem with highly centralized adaminstrations is that they cannot govern effectively the rest of the Church. Perhaps this is what the Ravenna Conferences are seeking to iron out. Let us pray that we all draw from the strengths of one another. Frankly, I am more sanguine now about the restoration of communion now than I have ever been in the past. May Christ who is the Good Shepherd of us all bring our efforts to fruition.

Jonathan said...

Didn't the Orthodox, bishops priests and laity, go soft on divorce and remarriage a long time ago?

Fr Ray Blake said...

It is worth reading up on, it is a little more complex than most Westerners want to understand

The Rad Trad said...

A review of Dr Hull's "Banished Heart":

Anonymous said...

Father Ray,
Thank you for a thought-provoking post.
I am mildly surprised that no one seems to have pointed out the centralising of Authority which is included in the opening chapter of the Decree on Ecumenism. That chapter as well as the Decree, imho,
seems to have undermined local initiatives as well almost calling a halt to Evangelisation and the Missionary activity of the Church.
I know some will argue that Ecumenism is merely another form of Evangelisation. I think that view should be questioned

GOR said...

In a piece on Catholic Culture, Phil Lawler had an interesting take on Pope Francis. Referring to a talk the Pope gave in Rome back in June he noted that Pope Francis spoke about the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 and going after the one. Francis said “we have the one. We need to go after the 99 that are lost…” Or, words to that effect.

From which I conclude that the Pope is saying we should stop “preaching to the converted”, but look to those who are not yet converted – the non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics and those without religion or in a false religion.

Again, I see this as Christ-like, echoing the words of Our Lord: “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…”

And the task of finding and returning the lost sheep is one for all of us - not just the Pope, bishops or priests. And that takes us out of our comfort zone. Evangelization is the work of all who have the true Faith.

Forget the internecine bickering – what have I done to bring others to Christ and the fullness of the Faith?

Anil Wang said...

“ I do have problems with how these doctrines became so quickly corrupted by the middle of the 20th century.”

I don't pin these problems on Vatican I. I don't currently have a reference, but I do remember seeing liturgical books on "Green Liturgies" in the 1950s, and Mike Voris has documents abuses have started creeping in locally for decades before the council. And before the new liturgy, it was already clear that "modernizing the liturgy" was in the works. For instance, Change of Habit which was released before 1969 and created a few years earlier contained various abuses that flowed after the council (see ).

Even if Vatican I never happened, Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council and could do all that Vatican II did without the Pope's final say in Eastern Orthodoxy. It hasn't happened, mostly because Orthodoxy is so divided that they cannot hold an Ecumenical Council even though all know it is necessary (e.g. the scandal of the lack of an American Orthodox Church). It's not likely to happen now, due to the fall-out of Vatican II. But if it did happen in the 1960s, and hippie culture was popular in the East, and Vatican II didn't happen (thus the Spirit of Vatican II never happened, and modernist corruption had to be slower), the situation might have be reversed. We already see signs of this slow worldliness happening in Orthodoxy as the Orthodox Church is less under seige by the state. Take Contraception as an example. While a few small jurisdictions still hold to Catholic traditions, the majority have caved into the Lambeth model of "allowing it pastorally as long as you don't use abortifacients".

I pray that Pope Francis finally realizes the damages he has caused and learns from it. He has brought a welcome return to some aspects of the faith (e.g. talk about the Devil, taking up your cross in daily life, etc) that have been sorely lacking in even Pope Benedict XVI's papacy. But all that can be undone if the Church becomes fragmented and loses its center more than it has.

Jorge Carrillo said...

If you are going to leave, leave now, don't try to justify your departure, you feel unconfortable with the Catholic Chruch and you are spreading your wishy washy stand for the catholic church in the "sake" of rites. You seem not to care about the fact that We catholics are obedient. If God sees his church in trouble he is who has to take it out of it, but not us.

Your duobitative posts make you to look like little child who is not confident in the strenght of the church which is not dependent on the humans but in God. The changes of Vatican II had helped the gospel to be spread among asians and africans who don't have the same vocabulary, roots, and grammar that Wetern, As an Hispanic Latin mass and Spanish mass is quite similar because Spanish is one of the closest laguages to latin. I Love latin Mass but I rather to people in the mission churches to understand the gospel they hear than to respect a traditional language which they don't understand.

The TRAITION is SACRAMENTS, Communion with the Bishop of Rome as SUCCESSOR of PETER, The understanding of FAITH. The Understanding of Works of CHARITY. the fidelity to the Law of the Church.

Languaga is tradition with little "t", we honor our heritage and our traditions. All Those who defend "tradition" over "TRADITION", end in schism and heresy.

If you are going to leave leave now and stop to cause shame.

Regards from a mexican Catholic who wanted to follow the blog of a catholic priest. But who has testified that you are moving away from us and I will no longer follow your blog.

Jacobi said...


Correct. The 60s was the worst possible time to hold a Council. Hence the disaster.

I’m not sure about the 2010s. The question is, has the full impact of the disaster sunk in yet? Probably not!

Also, a new Council must be under the right sort of Pope and I do not think the present Holy Father fits the bill. But the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth desperately needs one.

Fr Ray Blake said...

An interesting comment, I am not sure quite what you are saying, nor that you quite understand what I am saying, nor that you quite understand what the Church is saying.

EKA said...

Honestly, the thought of another council is horrifying to me.
But maybe we could get Joseph Ratzinger to be a peritus?

Delia said...

Personally, I blame Bismarck. If it hadn't been for the Franco-Prussian war, Vatican I could have finished the job, which might have tempered the more extreme tendencies. But then I guess there wouldn't have been a Vatican II.

David said...

I feel utterly abandoned by Pope Francis.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father, for not trying to shove the problems with this pontificate under the carpet.

The sooner we realise that God has sent us an evil pope [by this I mean; a pope who - wittingly or unwittingly - is afflicting the Church], and that the reason for this is sin and our lack of repentance and mortification for the same, the better.

vetusta ecclesia said...

The saddest thing about Vatican 2 is that the Bishops surrendered their teaching authority to the tyranny of "experts".

Fr Ray Blake said...

Quia Vid.
That is outrageous and un-Catholic.

Let us have the grace to admit, we don't understand this Papacy so far, that many have difficulties but let's be slow to judge, 'lest we are judged ourselves'.
Have the humility to trust God's promise to his Church. Wait and see.

Don't trust the media!!!

Archimandrite Gregory said...


Too bad you are not more informed on what is going on in world wide Orthodoxy and the greater solidarity that has been emerging for some time now. Please avoid old worn out platitudes that are not eflective of the contemporary world. Also a good course in Eastern Orthodox Church history might illumine your understanding a bit more.

Roses and Jessamine said...

I don't have any problems with our Holy Father, but I do have problems with Eastern Orthodoxy.

My general problem with it, as Fr. Ray says, is that over the centuries Eastern Orthodoxy has become a nationally and racially exclusive creed, which is not in line with the central Christian concept of 'καθολικός' (all ways). Who can follow a Mass in Ancient Greek or Russian?

Liturgically, the Eastern Orthodox laity are visibly, tangibly and audibly removed from the Eucharist. I have been to many Orthodox weddings, baptisms and funerals. During these, most of the laity are chatting away amongst themselves, ignoring what is happening in front of the iconostasis, talking about their everyday lives, coming and going out during the service any time they please, while the priests and cantors do their own thing and ignore the laity. I doubt the priests know the names of their parishioners, or commune with them. How many Orthodox priests blog?

Where I live, the Orthodox church has private business interests, including owning 5* star hotels and holiday flats, beer and wine companies. They make substantial profits from these businesses and hold enormous savings in one particular bank, which could probably save one euronation's economy. This is widely reported and known in the local press.

A while ago, I was buying some incense from an Orthodox church shop as a gift (I must say, they make lovely rose incense), the shop manager was an Orthodox priest. He spotted the Cross of Jerusalem around my neck and said: "My daughter, are you a Frank?" I laughed and said, "That is what you used to call us. There is only one Church founded by St. Peter." He sighed and said: "We are closer to each other than the Protestants, but you still don't accept the Julian calendar." (!)

Actually not true, because the Catholic Church in this part of the world does go along with the Julian calendar, so that everyone can celebrate Easter at the same time.

Anonymous said...


What was unCatholic about it? Do you not believe that there can ever be an evil Pope? What about the Borgias? What about pope Honorius? Weren't they evil?

What about St Francis of Assisi's death-bed prophecy, that in the last days the Lord would send us, "not a true pastor, but a destroyer"?

I don't trust the media at all. That's why I am so profoundly disturbed that they like Pope Francis so much - I think not without reason or scriptural mandate, "Woe to you when men shall bless you: for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)

Anonymous said...

Sorry - I mean to add this to my comment:

How long is long enough to wait before we can 'judge'? Have we not seen enough? Can you honestly say that Pope Francis has not already - in a mere six months - surpassed even Paul VI in his disgraceful antics?

GOR said...

If you think about it, what are we doing in the Church today? At Mass the homilies address the people who are there – the practicing Catholics. On Catholic blogs most of the people who bother to read them are also practicing Catholics – though blogs do reach a wider audience than churchgoers and have the potential to reach more.

I think this where Pope Francis is coming from when he talks about “the peripheries”. Given recent statistics, in most countries a majority of baptized Catholics are rarely in church – only for Baptisms, weddings and funerals, if even then. With many Catholics foregoing even these Sacraments the number of people the Church is reaching from within is progressively diminishing – not to mention people of other, or no faith.

Accordingly, what most people hear about the Catholic Church is filtered through the prism of the secular media which are no friends of the Church, are ill-informed or prejudiced about Catholicism. The dissenting voices within the Church play into the media prejudices and are a scandal in themselves.

But has anything changed, really? Beginning with the false accusations against Our Lord, the malicious gossip of the pagan Greeks and Romans and on down through the centuries, the Church has often been misrepresented, misunderstood and persecuted – both from within and from without.

Yet She survives - as Our Lord promised She would. But we still have a long way to go for the Gospel to reach ‘all nations’ as He commanded – a commandment directed at all of us, not just the Pope or the clergy. As my old CEO used to say after complimenting us on another successful business year: “Now, what have you done for me lately?”

Archimandrite Gregory said...

Roses and jassamine,

Funny that you would say what you did. I observed the same behvior on the part of people in Sardinia last Sunday during the Pope's Mass. Even during communion. They never shut up! Also a woman was given communion in the hand while she was holding her prayer book, hereby putting the Host in peril of being dropped. We could accuse one another with such anecdotes, but to what avail?

Roses and Jessamine said...

@ Archimandrite Gregory

No accusation. Simply commentary. Anectodal evidence is important. Faith stories.

My experience of Mass might be very different, but it is that difference which makes the difference.

Newry Liam said...

Unfortunately Catholicism is not or should not be a la carte if you don't like it, jump over to the liberal anything goes C of E. DO NOT SIT BACK SNIPING FROM THE SIDELINES!!!!

Fr Ray Blake said...

"A la carte" is exactly how the media and Liberal Catholics is presenting Pope Francis' pontificate, that, and asking if that has any foundation is precisely what is being discussed here.

Fr Paul said...

Jacaobi, I am very interested in you comment on how Francis' being Argentinian impacts on his vision. Can you expand?

Unknown said...

A friend of mine, a man I trust, told me that his spiritual director was exhausted when he went to their prearranged meeting a few days ago. He was exhausted as he had been working for several hours helping a close friend. His friend, a theologian called W******h, was desperately cleaning up a mess, made by his boss. His boss 'circumvented the "protocol", again!’ He's not to keen on protocol, especially if it involves others, peers, proof reading what he intends to make public - so simply ignores it. He’s the boss, he can do that.

Is this an indication of his confidence in his 'personal' ability to understand the will of the Holy Spirit, or it is it the first sign of a budding dictator?

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