Saturday, September 21, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis?

I was a little disturbed by a comment on a post yesterday.
James said,
I abandoned the SSPX under Pope Benedict XVI but now I wonder if I made the right decision - could they be right? Pope Francis I believe is causing untold damage with his off-the-cuff remarks and style and worse is sowing confusion. Does he realise or even care that his words have been, are and will be misinterpreted and used to justify every error, abuse or heresy? I feel so disconcerted. The Pope seems to imply Catholic doctrine is unimportant really. Some of us try at great sacrifice to adhere to church teaching on issues such as those highlighted. Now we look rather silly. Perhaps I should give it all up. Maybe that's what this Pope wants. Is it wrong to want a Pontificate to end before it destroys ones faith?

I don't think James is alone, I have had similar emails from a few people who are disconcerted by the events in the Church over the last six months. It is not only those who have left the SSPX or thinking about it following the overtures made by Pope Benedict but former Anglicans too. I have had emails from people who are considering changing rites or even joining the Orthodox. But for the most part I get emails from people who are just confused about the direction the Church Francis is taking the Church in. I must be honest and admit I too have problems with him.
My advice, to myself, as much as everyone else is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time.

As I said in the post James commented on, many younger priest seem equally disconcerted, not on the point of leaving, just at sea. I think some of the statements from one or two of our bishops recently; the push by ACTA and Queering the Church have reflected the confusion Pope Francis has brought to many. Groups like ACTA who don't seem to have a particular agenda just a vague support for that illusive poltergeist, the Spirit of Vatican II, seem to be given strength by things the Pope has said and done. One suspects some bishops are saying things today they would have remained silent about under Benedict, Francis is being used to justify their own disorderly thinking.

The real fear that many have is that if the Church is 'lite' on doctrine and its prayerful expression in the Sacred Liturgy -lex credendi lex orandi- there is a serious danger in Catholicism fragmenting into, not so much a Communion but a loose federation of national Churches, each with their own liturgical styles but more worryingly with their own pick 'n' mix set of beliefs, with little to hold it together and ultimately become something like the Anglicans, with nothing but the label to hold it together. The truth is that this already exists in many dioceses, the orthodox and the extreme liberal  are left to get along as best they can. Outsiders, even many of the faithful, like to see the Catholic Church as being monolithic but the truth is it is already deeply divided, the unity we presume is a long distant memory.

Benedict tried to restore that unity, on one level his resignation was an admission of his failure, Francis is trying another experiment based synodality and collegiality and rather than trying to gloss over the fragmentation, perhaps he is facing it head on. Benedict from the late 1950s onwards predicted a smaller more deeply committed Church, Francis seems to be wanting a larger or at least broader and therefore possibly, less committed Church, but one like Benedict which is seeking Christ.

Could it just be that Francis is being more realistic and more imaginative? Dr Adam DeVille argues as I would argue that the centralised bureaucracy of the late 19th and 20th century which supported a Ultramontane Papacy is an aberration. He quotes Francis:
We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope. Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time…. We must continue on this path.
Francis is realistic enough to recognise that there is actually a problem with unorthodoxy but though Rome can help, its function is not actually to act as policeman but to assist local bishops who should deal with it, he sees orthodoxy as being an issue of concern for local bishops, not something which they ignore:
It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally.
The problem is useless bishops, as a wise Irish priest I know says, 'Ah, in my day they wouldn't have even been allowed to make their first Holy Communion let alone be made a bishop'. Are our bishops capable of working 'collegiately'? It presumes they share a common faith, and having a sense of the Church.

It is worth noting that again and again Francis criticises careerist bishops, bishops that seek promotion to better Sees, bishops that are airport bishops, bishops that fail to be true fathers to their priests, bishops who spend time out of their dioceses, bishops who don't smell of the sheep, bishops who aren't a sign of asceticism. The major task of Nuncios, for him, is to find good bishops.

He certainly has a different vision of the Church to Benedict but it isn't one in which all the poisons in the mud are left to hatch out.
After reading the interview I am much more impressed with Francis than before, it is easy to see him just as a chatterbox, a popularist, even as a rough gaucho, even at times a buffoon, but read this:
Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it. I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime. Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.
Those aren't the words of a gaucho but of a deeply sensitive intelligent reflective thinking man who should not be underestimated.

My advice is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time, and pray for the Pope.


Unknown said...


EKA said...

I know that Pope Francis has talked a lot about "collegiality", but I wonder if he really acts in a collegial way?
Andrea Gagliarducci recently wrote an article where he said: "Early signs of Pope Francis’ style show that his way of governing may be many things, but it is not collegial."

Just another mad Catholic said...

Dear Father

There are times recently when I regret leaving the SSPX four years ago, Pope Francis it seems loves to grab headlines and speaks in such convoluted tones that like Kant one has problems understanding what he is saying sometimes.

You are right about the Church fracturing; that is why we need a strong Traditional Pope who will throw out modernist Bishops, stop persecuting Trads and unconditionally welcome the SSPX back into the fold.

Francis is the horrific JP2 come back with his 'touchy feebly' small c catholicism that in the name of 'collegiality' will see the mass apostasy of the late 20th century continue, errant bishops left undisciplined and foul maggots like terry whatisname free to do the work of the devil.

The next conclave cannot come soon enough

love the girls said...

Some aspects of the Pope I am very happy about such as his examples of simplicity in contradiction to our rampant consumerism and materialism.

But other aspects have me rather concerned, not that I fear for the Church or for myself or my family because the Church will always be with us and we do know what is morally true because we 2000 years of teaching to fall back on.

Nevertheless I do worry for those who will follow the Pope in his comments that the clear and the safe, the legalist are somehow evil, because those who follow this will not see the Church as the final arbiter but will fall into the error of the protestants of trusting themselves over that of the Church.

In fact I can see the arguments already coming because they will be a variation of the old liberal canard of demand obedience of the traditionalists to abandon tradition for progress.

JARay said...

In recent weeks I have begun to pray for the Holy Spirit to give us good, strong, holy, faithful bishops. Your old Irish priest friend who said that in the past some of today's bishops would not even have got to make their first Holy Communion, is spot on, in my opinion. I rather liked that throwaway comment of Pope Francis about airport bishops. Actually, in my parish, we have a very likeable young priest as PP who is very fond of taking himself off to Vietnam or Sydney or Melbourne and leaving the likes of me to fill in with a Liturgy of the Word because he is not here to say Mass!
Talk about airport bishops!

Richard Collins said...

Thanks Father, I find this post most helpful.

Sadie Vacantist said...

In many ways B16 created similar problems. Publishing books and delivering academic lectures were also mistakes and not appropriate for a pope. JP2's academic obsession with contraception was at the expense of an understanding of other issues. Looking back, P6 should never have gone to New York where he addressed the UN.

Gungarius said...

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth at the Guardian today.

Just when they publish a columnist article saying how wonderful he is (because he seems to fit their agenda)

he goes and condemns abortion. They consider it a "sop", however he was addressing a conference of gynaecologists, denouced abortions as a sypmtom of todays throwaway culture and urged doctors not to perform them.

Give it a year or two and the Guardiablet and their supporters will turn on him when it dawns on them that he really does support these teachings but dosen't see the need to repeat them constantly.

Gerald said...

Oh, it's nice enough that he appreciates Mozart's Mass in C Minor, but, frankly, what's far more important is--does he appreciate it at Holy Mass? I have my doubts.

So he's got a good sense of beauty and majesty and mystery---strictly outside of the liturgy... What's the point of it all, then?

Jacobi said...

“meditate on what the Church teaches about herself”

The teaching of the Magisterium of the Church over the centuries is infallible. Anyone who denies or counters this or aspects of it is in error, regardless of his or her position.

What we need at present above all is clarity. We are not getting it.

St Pius X taught that the prime problem the Church is facing is the heresy of Modernism, with its components of Relativism and Secularism. Both were components of the “Spirit of Vatican II” interpretation which afflicted the Church during and particularly after the Council. This problem was dealt with by Benedict XVI, but now there is a danger might seep back again.

What we need, if we are to avoid the Church once again fracturing as it did after the Protestant Reformation, is another Council to sort out the mess the Mystical Body of Christ has been allowed to get into.

Now to specifics. Much of the problem can be traced to the current habit of universal reception of Holy Communion at every Mass - as opposed to once a year. If we could get back to the practise of only those who are in a State of Grace, free from Mortal Sin and otherwise pleasing to God receiving Holy Communion, i.e., about say 40%, - at a guess, I stress - then there would be no question of sinners, guilty of any of the seven deadly sins, being uncomfortable at, and benefitting from the graces of, Mass.

nickbris said...

It might just be my age but continually picking holes in His Holiness Pope Francis is all new to me.

I think most of these dissidents have converted to Catholicism and would prefer the changes made by Good King Hal

Bernard said...

Father – might it be useful to ‘read’ the Holy Father (interview through the lens of George Weigel’s ‘Evangelical Catholicism’? To me there certainly appear to be strong similarities, and I recall Weigel (in response to a question at a lecture of his a couple of months ago) saying as much. I think he’s right: aren’t there, for example, intriguing parallels between the Holy Father’s interview and the quote from the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean of 2007 that Weigel put in his book (just before the Prologue), and that the Holy Father surely would have been heavily involved in writing at the time?
As to the Holy Father’s ‘style’ more generally: much reminds me of the ‘Catholic Voices’ approach to communication – strikingly in his recent words addressing a gathering of Catholic gynaecologists regarding the ‘abortion mentality’ - note how the Holy Father says ‘Our response to that mentality is a decisive and unhesitating ‘yes’ to life’ (not ‘an emphatic ‘no’ to abortion’); they amount to the same thing, of course, but the way the Holy Father put things could be straight out of the ‘6th Principle of Civil Communication’ in Ivereigh’s ‘How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice’.
I wonder whether such a reading might be of use particularly to the ‘disconcerted’.

Delia said...

Excellent post - I'm so grateful you decided to carry on blogging!

Hughie said...

Catching up on things having been down in darkest West Sussex for five days staying with my son at Bognor Regis and so have just read this post after having first caught up with Fr Tim's recent musings. I was therefore struck by the coincidence that the key to the problem raised here might be something I have only just now read courtesy of Fr Tim's post of Wednesady, September 8, 2013 "Ven Fr Felix Cappello's confessional". There is a link to a post by a Dr Edward Peters on Fr Cappello. In this, we read of an early thought that Dr Peters had gained from a reading, and using I suspect, of Fr Cappello's five-volume "masterpiece Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis". It reveals "the legal erudition, the pastoral insights, and the simplicity of exposition that only true masters of the field show".

But then Dr Peters goes on to say that "Cappello’s students remembered him fondly for instructing them to be humane in their application of law: Principles" he would evidently say "are principles, and they remain firm and are always to be defended. But all consciences are not the same. In applying principles to consciences, we must do it with great prudence, much common sense, and much goodness. In your opinions and decisions never be severe. The Lord does not want that. Be always just, but never severe. Give the solution that offers the soul some room in which to breathe."

Later this very morning a former colleague and friend will be receive episcopal ordination at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh and be installed as Archbishop and Metropolitan of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. In his closing remarks, Mgr Leo Cushley, fresh from Rome and direct service under Pope Francis (and before that Pope Benedict) as both head of the English language section of the First Section of the Secretariat of State and as a Maestro di Camera, will say: "As you may know, a couple of weeks ago the Holy Father called me in to see him. He wanted to know about all of you and to hear what I could tell him about my plans and priorities, and he listened and commented at length, with the sympathy and understanding of a man who had been an archbishop in a big capital city for many years, Buenos Aires.

"One of the things he communicated then and in the coming days was the idea that I should be merciful in my ministry here. Merciful. This has already become a key word in his pontificate, and it’s an idea that comes to him from the Gospels but filtered through his thinking about a quotation that he likes from the Venerable Bede, the famous English historian. The Pope told me to look up the Office of Readings for the day and to find his motto, the words “miserando atque eligendo”, where Christ mercifully looks upon Matthew and chooses him. But he explained that being merciful doesn’t mean being soft. It means being gentle but also firm at the same time. This is what the Pope asked me to be for all of you. It is also Pope Francis’s proposal for the way we priests ought to be with each other: firmly resolved to be merciful, to forgive, to be humble, to re-build, to dialogue. The Holy Father proposed this in his own gentle and fraternal way, but also with the strength of loving conviction and experience."

Shakespeare said it: "The quality of mercy is not strained/It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven/Upon the place beneath/It is twice blessed:/It blesseth him that gives and him that receives."

Perhaps that is the key we need to read Pope Francis.

PS: I must have had a good education at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell. I didn't even have to look that quote up once I had thought of it. We FPs are always proud to boast that, prior to Comprehensivisation, OLHS produced more Catholic priests that any other school in Great Britain and quite possibly Ireland, too. These included Cardinal Winning and Fr Clarence Gallagher SJ.

epsilon said...

Just another mad Catholic:
“we need a strong Traditional Pope who will throw out…”

Blah dee blah dee blah! What is the role of the Pope? Who did Jesus draw around him?

James C:
“Oh, it's nice enough that he appreciates Mozart's Mass in C Minor, but, frankly, what's far more important is--does he appreciate it at Holy Mass? I have my doubts.”

Snipe, snipe, snipe!

It seems unbelieveable how shallow the faith of many traditionalists really is! Pope Francis, like every human being, is a blessing for anyone, especially those who think they have it all sewn up, know it all and know who should be thrown out!!

Is the call to evangelise, which Jesus gave us two thousand years ago, a call to throw out, a call to get rid of? Is it not a call to convert? Why aren’t we patiently dialoguing with the ones we want to throw out? Why aren’t we inviting them back to the core of our Faith? Aren’t they the (spiritually) poor?

For example, when a priest rattles off the ills of society at the altar on Sunday, do we make an effort to go up to him afterwards and gratefully thank him for where he’s faithful to the teachings of the Church, and then gently suggest that next time he might include all the unborn babies on his list, and the fact that many of those millions of unborn babies were of Catholic mothers? Or do we just leave in a huff, having been in the Real Presence minutes before, and with bitterness on our hearts?

Thank you Father Blake for going beyond the culture shock of having a Pope who does not fit the expectation of many Anglo mindsets.

Thank you people like Gungarius:
“Give it a year or two and the Guardiablet and their supporters will turn on him when it dawns on them that he really does support these teachings but dosen't see the need to repeat them constantly.”

Newry Liam said...

I think you should all look at what the Pope is and stop this attempt of a whispering rebellion,you are playing into the hands of the enemies of the Church, VIVA IL PAPA

Just another mad Catholic said...


Do you honestly think that Bishops such as + Declan Lang (my own bishop), + Nichols, Cdl Dolon who do not preach the gospel, neglect the souls in their care and who at the very least skirt heresy are a blessing for the Church?

Hows 50+ years of that attitude working out? Mass apostasy, widespread support for moral evils amongst the laymen in the pews and lack of belief in anything even resembling Catholic Doctrine in the pulpit?

Anonymous said...

I'm seeing the local Antiochian Orthodox priest this week as I've had enough. I was prepared to put up with years more of the reform of the reform and glimmer of hope that new bishops would be appointed who would restore the faith and bring dignity to our worship. We have a Pope who does not style himself thus, so the Petrine promises which kept me in the Catholic Church no longer apply in this pontificate.

I always thought that liberals in the JPII and Benedict XVI eras would have been much happier and less bitter in communions where all the things they desire (women priests etc) are in full flower, rather than remaining and campaigning in the Catholic Church and being miserable all the time, a state well-known to harmful to charity and peace of mind.

Following my own logic it's time for me to tip-toe away.

epsilon said...

JAMC - yes they are neglecting the souls in their care and it's up to those of us who see it to do everything we can to re-evangelise them - not throw them out!

Archimandrite Gregory said...

i would like to address the theology and communication style of Pope Francis. I am probbly going out on a rather shaky limb, but let's not fret. I must say that it has taken a while for me to warm up to this Pope, mainly because of my profound respect for Papa Joseph. This sudden shift in manner and decorum was a bit of a cultural shock. My first impressions were that he was a throwback to the nuttiness and lack of real faith that came on in the aftermath of Vatican II. I must happily say that I was wrong in that initial impression. Frankly what I read in his recent interview gives me reason to hope that my beloved Orthodox Church and the more powerful Roman Catholic Church can now appoach each other as equals, humbly in the Face of Christ whose Church we are. The Pope understands and respects the notion of the Church being in Christ as a Sacramental Communion that subsist primarily on the local level. This view is historic and more importantly apostolic. The creation of Patriarchates and Metropolitan Sees were given for the bene esse of the Church Catholic, and not of its core essence. Primacies are intended to maitain the Churches in a union of belief and practice, but expressing its life often in the unique sense of the local community. I find that in the present day Orthodox Churches, we are beginning to re-emerge as a more unified system of Communion among churches holding to the same Faith. Primcacy is something that seems to be more complete than it has been in centuries due to histoical circumstances.
On the other hand the Roman System has been top heavy on centralization and beaurocracy that has left much of its people to see it as removed from their ordinary lives.
Most importantly I think that His Holiness is on target when he commends us to a deep, prayerful, liturgical relationship with Christ , who remains the Head of the Church. He then calls us all to be witnesses and missionaries, clergy and laity alike who are the People of God.
I do believe that we are entering a new time and emphasis, in which the Primacy of Christ is being ushered in dynamically and yet the He being the same Lord of the Scriptures and holy Tradition. God bless His Holiness in his minsitry humbly being served at the feet of Christ our Savior.

Gungarius said...

Look, Pius X tried to suppress modernism by discipline and it was a total disaster. They just went underground and subverted from within.

You cannot run a Church by excommunicating and admoishing, even Benedict points this out, the message of Christ has to first and foremost be a positive one.

There is also something of a repelling, self righteous obsession with the Sixth commandment among a lot of traditionalists, and a lack of tolerance and mercy of those (virtually everyone else) who is unable to keep it from time to time.

Anyway it has now become perfectly obvious that Francis I is actually Damian Thompson, look at the evidence:

* Deep interest in classical music.
* Provacative statements in the media, outraging sections of the church.
* Regular denunciation of the evils of addiction to drugs
* No one has ever seen them together.

ServusMariaeN said...

For the most part the popes of the post conciliar era have not spoken in clarity. Papa Francesco is only continuing on in this tradition of ambiguity. He makes off the cuff remarks or even in this recently published interview using veiled language shrouded in mystery. I mean who are these "Pelagians, Triumphalists etc"? I find in the Catholic blogosphere an attempt by many to justify whatever it is that the holy father says. We have grown so accustomed in the past decades with not really knowing what a particular Pope is saying (much less what he means) that it has become the norm. Ambiguity is the norm in the post Vatican II era. all of that said, I think we are given the clergy and Popes we deserve for the most part. The biggest issue in my mind with the Popes of the post-conciliar era is that they view the entirety of Church history and doctrine through the lens of Vatican II. They are unable to see beyond that. Rather than put Vatican II up for scrutiny in light of all the other Councils of the CHurch it is the opposite. I pray every day for a holy, Marian, traditional Pope. A new St Pius X.

Just another mad Catholic said...


Perhaps you misunderstand me, I believe that they should be removed from their posts.

Francis said...

I think a lot of the difficulty for orthodox Catholics -- and for the wider Church -- is that the papal transition was so unusual. The Church never had the chance to mourn and bury Benedict.

The abdication created an unprecedented sense of "lio" in the higher echelons of the Church. There was a hint of chaos. There was zero solemnity, because there was no funeral.

I keep coming back to a thought that I had shortly after Francis became pope: if Francis had been elected in 2005, would we have noticed much of a difference between him and John Paul II? Same old polyester liturgies, same critique of capitalism and the rich, same magic circles triumphant everywhere.

The right way to read Pope Francis is probably through a lens that people have yet to acquire. He is Latin American. He is from the global South. He is from a "lazy Catholic" country, where the Church is declining, although still the state religion. His country broke free from European control. It has never been significantly influenced (or threatened) by the other world religions.

This is a very different mix of components than we have ever had before. We will have to get used to it in order to understand the man and what he is trying to do.

Francis said...

The other important difference about Francis is that he is a scientist. He has a degree in chemistry and was studying in the laboratory long before he got his teeth into theology.

When I was at university, there was the phenomenon of the "Northern Chemist" -- hard-minded, practical science students with little interest in the rarefied rituals of academe. Is Francis a "southern hemisphere chemist" with a similar difference of outlook when set against Woytyla or Ratzinger (notwithstanding his musical sensitivities)?

Pelerin said...

It is consoling to know that others are having difficulty in understanding Pope Francis. Thank you Father for sharing your thoughts.

The commenter Francis seems to give a clue in that Pope Francis comes from a completely different world to us in Europe even though his parents were Italian.

Gungarius said...

Interesting Francis,

Margaret Thatcher was a Chemist, so was Lord Beeching

Unknown said...

Ten years ago I became a Catholic. For me becoming a Catholic meant ending a relationship (a gay one), giving up my job (in a gay company) and alienating myself from alot of my friends (who believed that I'd betrayed them). It was a hard and testing move, but one that was made easy by the clear teaching of John-Paul II and then beautifully augmented by Benedict XVI. Being a Catholic is sometimes a struggle as it means great sacrifices to me, but sacrifices that pale in significance when I look at the cross. (I know there are a different set of sacrifices for other Catholics by the way).

Then came Francis, and in the six months of his papacy I feel that the Pope - THE POPE - is pulling the rug from under my feet. I feel that he is attacking me personally. Am I being petty minded by worrying about the quality of the liturgy? IS my celibacy just me obsessing over sex? Am I wrong to suspect the pope is out of touch with the troops on the ground when he says everybody knows the teachings of the Church?

There is alot of moaning about the pope's words being twisted my the MSM, but I see more twisting in the traditional blogs. After drinks with friends a couple of nights ago, chatting with non-Catholic friends, I know for certain that Francis isn't providing clarity on Catholic teaching, he is confusing non-Catholics (my friends), affirming "c"atholics in their kooky catholicism (see their blogs), and alienating orthodox Catholics (me). I feel pretty depressed to be honest and am seriously looking at the Orthodox Church as a new home. A pope who is suspicious of liturgical orthodoxy or doctrinal fidelity cannot be good for the Church or me.

If you think I'm being gloomy, it's the traditional blogs spinning Francis to fit their agenda. The liberal bogs just repeat what he said word for word.

I am VERY confused about where I belong right now.

Fr Ray Blake said...


Thank you for for posting tour comment here.

You have been led find the pearl of great price, you have sold everything to buy it, you were not mistaken!

God has brought you into his Church, he has given you Grace and heroic courage, he will not let you down - trust him. Hold onto the Cross.

Popes are elected, Popes die or now, resign but good Pope, bad Pope it is God that is important.

Personally I wonder what it must have been like living under one of the renaissance Popes, Alexander V or Julius II, with news of the rise Protestant, when the scandals of the Church were cried out in the streets and it looked as though the Church would be obliterated through much of Europe, the threat of Islam coming from the East and everywhere doctrine and worship was under attack, today is certainly not worst. We must do what the faithful did then, hold on to what we have been given, the confusion and the storm will pass.

epsilon said...

Fr Ray Blake:
"what it must have been like living under one of the renaissance Popes, Alexander V or Julius II, with news of the rise Protestant, when the scandals of the Church were cried out in the streets... We must do what the faithful did then, hold on to what we have been given, the confusion and the storm will pass."

Absolute words of wisdom!

@ Archer
The more you give, the more God gives you the strength to take! I am praying for you! Sometimes being on the right path can seem very lonely, but there will be a clearing!

@JAMC I know, but there are too many of them. We have ask God to lead our shepherds back, first of all by fervent prayer. We have to stop thinking we can do anything!

Jonathan said...

Francis makes serious errors in his pronouncements about sin. He identifies sin with acting against your conscience. The catechism is clear that when it comes to the moral law ignorance is no defence.
Francis doesn't make me doubt my faith,I doubt Fracis's faith. I really believe we have an apostate pope and we need to call him out.

Unknown said...

Dear Fr Blake, thanks for your response. To my mind there is a great difference between then and now.

Then there was a unity of belief that permeated the Catholic world (in the Protestant movements, the Catholicity of the people had to be subverted by leaders). Popes also have of course lead lives that conflicted sharply with the beauty of the Faith or the dignity of their office.

Francis, as I see it, seems almost at loggerheads with those Catholics who were most geared up to be the "creative minority" within society that Pope Benedict in particular encouraged us to be. Francis' words seem to subvert Catholic unity and identity rather than affirm them.

Yes I know the media manipulate the words of the popes, but with Francis, one cannot overlook the frequency of these instances. The substance of his message isn't difficult to see and doesn't appear radically different from what the MSM say he said. Even more worrying are some points of issue though that the MSM haven't picked up on (because they lack the Catholic nous to detect them.

Catholicism is interesting to my circle of friends because they know I'm Catholic and gay, but it now appears that Francis is placing me on the periphery of the Church because I care about liturgy, about doctrine and about life issues. My circle of friends are young professional 30 somethings and make of a point of reading up on what interests them. They believe now that the Church is catching up with them - why should they change? That's the gist of our evening's conversation the other night.

I will see how this plays out, but I have to be honest, when confusion and conflict flow from the point of unity, one has to wonder about the operation of the Holy Spirit within that structure. Popes may have misbehaved in the past, but I'm certain their thoughts on liturgy and doctrine differed little from the average man in the pews. I do not understand how the Holy Spirit could allow so many people come to believe that the Church was finally shaking off the fog of confusion that followed the Council, only for the conclave to bestow upon us a man who emanates confusion. Thank you for your time by the way.

Deacon Augustine said...


I would heartily endorse Fr. Ray's words to you, but I would also like to tell you an anecdote that might help put things in perspective.

Two weeks before I was due to be ordained, getting ready for the pre-ordination retreat, there had been another scandal erupting in the media. I came out of Mass that glorious Sunday morning and an old parishioner and friend was leaning back on the bonnet of his car enjoying the sunshine. He beckoned me across and said in a low voice: "Good luck with everything, old boy, but I want you to know this: if I ever do make it heaven its going to be despite of the bloody clergy - not because of them."

It wasn't necessarily what I thought I wanted to hear at that point in my life, but I have never forgotten it and over the intervening 10 years I have found that there is a certain cynical wisdom to it. I have missed the old codger very much since his death 2 months ago.

We are put on earth for one thing only - to get ourselves and as many others as possible to heaven. Whatever any deacon, priest, bishop or Pope tells you, there is absolutely no chance in heaven or earth that God will be displeased with you for caring about the liturgy, living chastely, and holding the line of doctrinal orthodoxy.

Your sacrifices will be blessed mightily by Our Lord - you belong right where you are and all you need to do is keep doing what you are doing and cling to Him. Let the Holy Spirit worry about the incoherent ramblings of clerics - its His problem to keep them in line. Damage limitation is what He is there for.

John Nolan said...

Of Mozart's C minor Mass, K427, only the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Benedictus were completed. The Gloria, consisting of seven independent pieces is not suitable for liturgical use and only fragmentary sketches for the Credo survive. The 'Et incarnatus' exists only as a draft. Karl Geiringer wrote of this: "The composer ... was not satisfied with his draft for this movement, and actually the bravura aria of this section is a strangely incongruous piece which Mozart may have sketched to please Constanze; later he abandoned it, probably because he felt that it did not fit into the total conception of his exquisite work".

The Holy Father must have had in mind the earlier 'Coronation' Mass, K317, which is in C Major. The 'Et incarnatus' of this work is deeply moving and the Mass is frequently used liturgically, notably in St Peter's on 29 June 1985 (With the Wiener Philharmoniker and Singverein under Herbert von Karajan, at the invitation of Bl. John Paul II).

JARay said...

I had a Jehovah's Witness at my door yesterday. I let her know that I had been to Mass only a couple of hours before and that I was involved in religious matters when she knocked on my door. She then tried to tell me that the Pope was changing things in the Church as regards homosexuality and abortion. I had to stop her right there and tell her that she had taken the wrong idea from what he had said. I said that we are not to be obsessed with these matters but that nothing has been changed in the teachings about them. I told her that it is quite possible to be a homosexual and also a good Catholic just as it is possible to be a heterosexual and a good Catholic. Both can commit sin, but being either one kind or the other is not in itself sinful. Adultery, fornication and sodomy are sins but not all people commit them.
She left wishing me a Good Day.

JARay said...

Changing the theme a little, have you seen that the SSPX are declaring the canonisation of JP II next April as being a scandal?

Anonymous said...

I really am battling with this. Yes, it seems as though the Pope - whoops, sorry, "the Bishop of Rome" - is pulling the rug from under me. I am off to the SSPX again today. Maybe they are indeed right.I do not know. For me contraception has always been the issue (as same sex attraction is for others). My wife and I, who are in our mid 30's, have out of loyalty to the church eschewed artificial contraceptives. NFP hasn't worked for us. We have 5 beautiful children. We are used to lack of support in the world and even among other Catholics (who all have 2 or max 3 kids!). But now it seems this isn't a big issue. We've made all these sacrifices for nothing. Certainly this is how the world and most Catholics are understanding "Bishop Francis's' words and attitude. Oh Lord, how much longer!?

Sadie Vacantist said...

I'm hearing a mixture of things. Telling people over dinner that F1 prefers living in an hotel to the papal apartments made sense to me and them. I followed it up with the papal apartment are modest anyway but he sensed his predecessor was isolated.

Come on guys, grow up. He's not that hard a sell. There is film of him letting a handicapped Argentinian boy wearing a no. 10 football shirt - "Messi" - climb into the pope mobile and sit down. The kid was wearing a baseball cap throughout all of this.

F1 is looks and acts like a man.

Delia said...

Archer - Write to him! He might even read it, you never know. But that is exactly the kind of story he needs to hear. And please keep trudging on. God bless.

Genty said...

I'm more than disconcerted when every utterance by Francis has to be deconstructed in order to explain what he really meant. Even so, different inferences are being drawn as posts here demonstrate, let alone the new confidence displayed by dissenting clerics and organisations.
This interview - and remember it will have been tidied up into a coherent narrative by the interviewers - still reads like a stream of consciousness to me; and that's after three readings.
Yet again, passages here and there are being lifted from the whole to support one argument or the other. That this is possible I find deeply troubling.
What I fear is that under a cloak of orthodoxy, the real message is actually contra. I note that Francis says that when he was younger and in a position of authority he did not consult but now does so. But with whom and on what? I pray daily a decade of the Rosary that the Holy Spirit will guide him and all priests.

Martina Katholik said...

Dear Archer,
we are a family of three converts and changed our sinful livestyles completely to please God after we insulted Him for decades. As you we alienated ourselves from our godless friends and also from most of our relatives.
We feel exactly the same way about the Pope and think the liberals understand his words as he wants to be understood.
Our 28 year old son who gave up all his godless friends doesn´t know what to think anymore. We left the SSPX two years ago after we recognized that they have no jurisdiction and since then he is all alone because he lost all his “pious” friends. Only his 30 volumes of more than 100 years old missionary journals filled with the glorious soul saving history of our Holy Mother Church edited by Jesuits keep his head over the water.

The Holy Spirit does not force anybody and graces can be rejected that is the answer to your question. God created man with a free will. God cannot always intervene if man rejects His graces and does not act according to His divine will otherwise it wouldn´t be a free will anymore.

“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” that is why we are in this horrible confusion, our Lord has warned us that these times will come.

BTW, reading the prophecies of our Lady from Quito, La Salette and Fatima helped us a lot and still helps us. Heaven tried several times to warn us about the false philosophies and doctrines that will contaminate the minds of many in and outside of the Church.

It is a terrible trial we all are going through. Only prayer without ceasing will get us the grace we need to preserve to the end.
“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”

According to St. Alphonus de Liguori perserverance to the end is a special grace that can only be obtained by daily prayer for this grace.

If you want to hear my advice: I would stop discussing the things going on in the Church with my godless friends. Read the sermons of the Doctor of the Church St. Alphonus de Liguori: “On avoiding bad company” and "On the advantages of tribulations".

God bless!

Unknown said...

I realise you‘re depressed by this mess, we all are, but there are at least two points in this article of yours that I must humbly challenge. I’m a plain man, so I may have misunderstood you, even though I have read the piece several times. If this is the case, I apologise. Perhaps you could clarify my perceived problems, for my sake and other theological neophytes that might also be confused

‘The truth is that this already exists in many dioceses, the orthodox and the extreme liberal are left to get along as best they can. Outsiders, even many of the faithful, like to see the Catholic Church as being monolithic but the truth is it is already deeply divided, the unity we presume is a long distant memory.’

“The truth is…” No. This is not true. In fact it is patently false. Logically, you’re saying that the Faith now differs, depending on where one lives. When in reality the orthodox dioceses teach the truth and ‘extreme liberal’ dioceses tell lies and distort the truth. One is false and the other true. “…each with their own liturgical styles but more worryingly with their own pick 'n' mix set of beliefs… The truth is that this already exists in many dioceses, the orthodox and the extreme liberal are left to get along as best they can. “ To secede to this point is to accept heresy! Because one group are scurrilous and use the Church for their own perverted ends should not cloud, nor does it, the truth.

I was equally disconcerted with this: “Could it just be that Francis is being more realistic and more imaginative? Dr Adam DeVille argues as I would argue that the centralised bureaucracy of the late 19th and 20th century which supported a ultramontane Papacy is an aberration

First, I’m sure you realise that the Church IS ultramontanistic. This being the case, a dogmatic reality, I’m having difficulty understanding you? I also read this as Deformation revisionism, of the worst kind. Perhaps you could enlighten us with details of a time when the Church was not centralised, with Rome as the epicentre? I realise that, for example, there was a time when bishops were elected locally, although they needed to be confirmed by Rome. But such instances are not due to a lack of centralisation, rather a lack of heresy – unlike latter times. In other words, the Church always wielded authority and a bureaucratic structure to use it, even though there were periods when it did not need to act. Have you read St Irenaeus? Clement? Bede? From the earliest times, certainly post-Constantine, the Church was centralised. Bede gives us an example from the sixth century of just how centralised the Church was, he quotes an abbot writing to the King of the Picts, instructing him on the ‘basics’ of the Christian faith (this is from memory), ‘For we know that when the Holy See speaks [Rome]it is as if one of God’s angels came down from heaven to teach us’. Remember too that this was no polemic, the Deformation would not occur for another thousand years. Then there’s St Wilfrid, he made seven trips to Rome in the seventh century. Such journeys were distinctly life threatening, yet Wilfred felt the need to consult Rome. On one occasion he risked his life just to collect his Pallium! I could go on, but I think this is suffice to show that your assertion that centralisation is a ‘19th – 20th century Ultramontane creation’ is incorrect. Quite frankly, it reeks of ‘backing off’. In the same way Augustine of Hippo lost faith in Papacy when he realised that Rome was about to be overrun by the Goths and then wrote his retractions … A momentary lack of faith from another saint.

Fr Ray Blake said...

1) Look around you; bishops as successors of the Apostle are there to judge the teaching of faith and who is communion with them, it is not your role to decide who is Catholic, who is orthodox it is theirs. There is a marked tolerance.

2) You misread what I said. It is the Pope's role to judge who is in communion with him, therefore who is Catholic bishop. Again there has been a great deal of tolerance, remember Toowawomba, who Benedict dismissed.

From the paragraph I quote Francis would see the bishops as the first judges of orthodoxy. Much of the Curia is there because the Bishops have failed in a primary task.
The role of the Pope is to be the ultimate judge not as he appears to be now the only judge.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not depressed, only like many perplexed and trying to understand.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

So far, I have resolutely resisted commenting about our Holy Father, I think, but I would like to thank you Father B tonight for your wise words.

My own take on it, highly personal and therefore not quite the most reliable, is that he certainly did not expect to “change into white” after the Conclave and is now learning “OTJ” - on the job training, the best there is. Plus, maybe more importantly, he’s from a far-off Catholic region about which I and, maybe, many others are lacking in reliable knowledge. That’s a huge handicap for a pope.

Also, I venture, he is learning all about the other meaning of Romanità, quite different to Monsignor Lefebvre’s, so he will have run up against one or two serious obstacles from those who are well ensconced there. Remember Calvi and Marcinkus, just for starters.

t is my own view, bolstered by facts (2nd hand) that not everyone in the Curia and associated Roman dicasteries and other outfits in Caput Mundi shows us the way to holiness and salvation. Papa Bergoglio must deal with this, even if he would like to fire a good number of them he can’t do it. Yet.

Parce nobis Domine.

Lazarus said...

When I was thinking about becoming a Catholic, I devised the 'Alexander VI' test. Let's assume Alexander VI was not a nice man or a good Pope. Either the Church is what it claims to be -ie the Body of Christ with the Pope as his Vicar- or it is not. If it is, then every now and then, you've got to expect Popes (and other clergy) to act badly, even as badly as Alexander VI (because, as a matter of fact, they have). If it is not, then you shouldn't be a Catholic because the Church is lying about its nature.

I like Pope Francis. But even if I didn't, and even if he were as bad as Alexander VI, that shouldn't affect someone's staying in the Church. If you think that a bad Pope somehow means the claims of the Church are falsified, you should leave now because we've already had bad Popes. (The better view is of course that whatever Christ promised, he did not promise that every individual Pope would act (or speak) well.)

As always, Father, your advice to pray and be patient is exactly right. (And I too was impressed with Pope Francis' sensitivity to music!)

A Country Priest said...

Great post Father Ray. Your concluding post puts the lie to the claim that Pope Francis is an intellectual lightweight! But apart from that, posts like this one help inoculate us from the media's graven and distorted image of our Holy Father.

Christopher said...

Thank you, Father, for this wonderful post, which (along with the discussion in the comments) has been very helpful to me. I find myself in a similar (though not the same) position as Archer and James; but as someone already said, it is important to cultivate holiness personally, regardless of other things.

@Lazarus - is the 'Alexander VI test' an extension of the principle that divine grace is always mediated through sinful ministers, and that the One who acts in the sacraments is the Lord, the great high priest? If so, how does it help if the problem isn't in the personal life or holiness of the person, but in his doctrine or teaching (lots of heretics were very "holy" - but as far as I know the decidedly naughty Borgia Pope was orthodox)? I don't believe there's anything remotely unorthodox or exceptionally sinful about our Holy Father, but I have read a lot of comments that mention Alexander VI and I don't quite see the applicability to the current situation.

Supertradmum said...

I had this on my blog a few days ago. Maybe others can identify with it.

GOR said...

I agree with Lazarus’ conclusion, though I come at it a little differently. I think we have gotten into a ‘cult of the Pope’ in recent pontificates - starting with JPII. We have become like the Corinthians in St. Paul’s day – “I’m for JPII” – “I’m for Benedict XVI” – “I’m for Francis” – when it should be “I’m for Jesus Christ” – regardless of who is the temporary resident in the Chair of Peter.

Popes frequently describe their role as “confirming the brethren in the Faith” – which is true - and was the charge given to Peter by Our Lord. Each does it differently, as they are inspired to do. Some do it better than others and some in the past didn’t do it very well - if they did it at all!

But regardless of how they do it, each of us is still responsible for our own salvation and for helping others to salvation. We have been given the gift of the Faith – a gift to each of us individually. How we respond to that gift and how we use it is not dependent on the occupant of the Chair of Peter. Hopefully he helps us, but in the end the responsibility lies with us – and it involves prayer and sacrifice.

Cosmos said...

Just another mad Catholic,

It doesn't seem like the comparisons of Francis to JPII are warranted. It seemed like JPII was a man with a plan and a track record in Poland that suggested the plan worked. He seemed very concerned with the percieved orthodoxy of his actions, even when he was pushing the limits. He appointed Ratzinger at the CDF to keep things in line.

Francis is a very differnt kind of Pope, IMHO.

Epsilon, why is it that every type of persoanlity is supposed to be treated sensitively, accept for Traditionalists? Perhaps they too have deep reasons for their frustrations. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

Lazarus said...

@ Christopher

I agree that the case of Alexander VI and Pope Francis aren't identical, and I wouldn't want to put too much weight on the comparison, which really works on the pretty simple level: 'Christ never promised us that Popes would be brilliant at the job!' But I think most of what Francis is being accused of is a wrong balance: not paying enough attention to clarity; not paying enough attention to liturgy. Quite apart from some egregious personal sinfulness, much of the Renaissance papacy could be accused of a similar lack of balance: too much concentration on worldly power; too much emphasis on the Institution of the Church. (And then some!)

I know there are some people who think Pope Francis is actually teaching heresy: frankly, I can't see it. I don't personally think he is doing anything other than putting his emphases on different areas from Pope Benedict -and that inevitable with a different Pope with a different personality and formation.I think this change in balance is a good thing: Benedict's influence will never disappear, but other things needed to be said which Benedict's personality just doesn't fit. But even if you think he's getting that balance terribly wrong, well, that's happened before and the Church goes on.

As GOR says, the Church is not just the Pope. It's up to us to get into the places and aspects of the faith that he can't.

Rabies Theologorum said...

Having read the comments I think the point to remember here..... remember the penny catechism question " Who is the head of the church?" and it is a good trick question for any catholic.

The head of the church is Christ.

I do sympathise some of the comments here such as Archer but you need to understand the above point.

As to Kant he is very clear and consistent but just difficult to understand especially if you do not read German.

As to SSPX.... the matter needs to be sorted now and once and for all.... otherwise it will become like the Dollinger heresy but much more persistent and dangerous.... the SSPX are either part of the Catholic Church or not.

Regards Father,

Hope you are well.

Oremus in invinciem,


The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...