Thursday, November 07, 2013

Pope's Iron Fist defining the Peripheries?

I was disconcerted by Pope Francis, now I am beginning to thing that maybe, just maybe, he might be an iron fist in a velvet glove. For many of us Abp Mueller's clarification on the issue of divorced remarried receiving Holy Communion became a turning point, it seemed to be an illustration of how a future Vatican might work: the Pope speaks in rather imprecise terms, tells us to go to the 'peripheries', then one of his staff tells us precisely where those 'peripheries' are.

The role of the Pope is above all one of gathering, unifying, being a (holy) 'father' to all, being 'pastoral', it is his role to present the loving face of the Church, to say 'yes' rather than 'no', to present mercy and forgiveness. I have to admit I still find his raising of questions and not supplying answers still disconcerting, Jesuitical, it is not what any Pope has done in the past but Jesus raised question and rarely supplied clear answers, 'he spoke to them in parables', making people go away and think. It is the Apostles who clarify what Jesus taught, the Gospels alone, without the Epistles and the vast corpus of the writings of the Fathers, do not make sense.

Francis speaks of 'the devil' without going into much detail but the mere mention of the devil raises the whole question of hell and the division of mankind into those who are faithful and destined for salvation and those who are not. He speaks of God's 'mercy', with its implication of the necessity of being in the Church and receiving the sacraments. Others are left to speak of the limits, 'the peripheries', of that mercy. Yet even in Francis' teaching this mercy he is highly critical, it is not accepting of careerist clergy for example, or of even more esoteric and so far unidentified groups such as 'Pelagians' or 'specialist of the Logos', or a dozen or so other categories that have received the sharp edge of Francis tongue.

Mueller's document on the 'peripheries' of marriage, probably would have been written under Ratzinger's Prefecture but probably not under Levada's. After his meeting with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women - Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosos y Religiosas - might have suggested side lining of the CDF but evidently this is not happening, the CDF is becoming a major player, even if it serves to clarify what Francis is saying, it would be absurd not to believe it acts at the Pope's behest.

The iron fist of the CDF has reappeared again with the publication in the US of the letter concerning Medjugorje, that directs that bishops are advised that, “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.” We all knew that but still those so inclined just ignored the ruling. Now, Rome seems to be insistent that they actually obey.

I have been struggling to fill in the questionnaire for the Synod on the family, I almost agree with Joseph Shaw that it is the worst survey in the world but then I suspect that the answers, despite what the media say. are not that important, this seems to be a questionnaire that is really meant to teach, a sort of overview of what should have been happening. The important thing is that the peripheries are again being defined; bishops are being told that they ought to have been teaching on the Catholic understanding of family and marriage, on the natural law, on why cohabitation, extra-marital sex are bad. In England and Wales our battle against the redefinition went off like a damp squib precisely because practical nothing has been done by our bishops to teach about family and marriage over the years. Humanae Vitae and so many other documents on the family and sexuality have been treated as an embarrassment. The questionnaire hammers home how ineffectual most pastors have been on these issues.


Francis said...

Yes, and how about those deeply moving photos of the Holy Father embracing the man with terrible facial deformities as an excellent example of how Francis wishes to concentrate on the pastoral and "good PR" side of his papal ministry, while senior officials deal with the "bad press" side of things?

Unknown said...

I hope and pray that all you write is true ! I am however sceptical, forgive me!!! The elephant in the corner for me remains the Novus Ordo, which I attend daily during the week, I have no option, no questionnaire was ever put out concerning the implementation of this form of worship which is totally at odds with Roman Catholic worship. The only iron fist I can see 'is still hammering at the true sacrifice of the mass' ! Pray for me father and all those millions of Roman Catholics lost in this modernist relativist new world!!!!!!!!

Martina Katholik said...

I really can´t understand why everybody applauds Archbishop Müller´s clarification on the issue of remarried divorcees. Has nobody read the last paragraph where he opens a second path of salvation for the "remarried divorcees"?

BTW, we will soon see what this sentence really means:
“Nevertheless – as we see from the privilegium Paulinum – the Church does have the authority to clarify the conditions that must be fulfilled for an indissoluble marriage, as taught by Jesus, to come about.”

Hughie said...

Who was the first Cardinal Prefect to have his position confirmed by Pope Francis? QED!

Jacobi said...

The Holy Father has an unenviable task, which is somehow to try to pull together the mess, the shambles which is the current post-Vatican II Catholic Church, before it reaches the stage of formal schism. (See Peter Kwasniewski’s recent courageous article on the “Two Churches”).

Inevitably he will use tactics which will raise eyebrows.

This current mess is one of liturgical chaos, doctrinal heterodoxy, but above all, evaporation of Faith. If the Pope chooses to tackle this by being the “nice guy” while leaving the re-statement of the limits to the “hard guys”, fair enough so long as he checks. He would certainly have my support in this strategy.

But he has to ensure the limits don’t actually move - on all seven deadly sins, not just Lust. If they do, then it is difficult to see how a formal split can be avoided.

JARay said...

I watched a programme on EWTN last night which I found most interesting. It was a discussion between Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina on "new" evangelisation. They were of the opinion that the best way was through friendship not confrontation. They discussed the attitude of the early Church Fathers which had to adapt to different cultures in the different parts of the world in which they found themselves. Once friendship is gained then those new cultures could be won over by them wanting to listen to you giving them the good news.
I am coming round to the view that Pope Francis is actually taking this approach in what might be seen by some as a velvet glove approach to the world today.

Lynda said...

Reason appears to have been jettisoned. True friendship is based truth. There is no mercy without truth.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

"the Pope speaks in rather imprecise terms, tells us to go to the 'peripheries'":

Perhaps a little more precision in future wouldn't go amiss as his past 'imprecision' tipped 'Catholic consciences' to the peripheries on the same-sex marriage vote in Illinois:

"As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion and justice for all people," said Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora who voted for the bill after spending much of the summer undecided.

House Speaker Michael Madigan also cited the pope's comments in explaining his support for the measure.

"For those that just happen to be gay — living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal — who am I to judge that they should be illegal?" the speaker said.,0,5593474.story?page=1

Nicolas Bellord said...

viterbo is absolutely right to call our attention to what has happened in Illinois. This is the direct result of loose talk by Pope Francis. It is all very well to talk about befriending those outside the church but we must first get our own act together and deal with those within the Church who appear to be heading into schism. They need to be confronted!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Is it really a result of loose Papal talk or simply an excuse for not taking the 'narrow path'?

Anonymous said...

Dear Father.

According to Catholic doctrine the role of the Pope is to defend the faith and confirm his brethren. Can one honestly say that any of the Popes since Vatican II have done this?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

A brief note on bedfellows and the strangeness thereof:

"Authority which demands obeisance and refuses dialogue, and takes its stand on a fixed and dogmatic position, does not witness very convincingly to the presence of God who came amongst us as one whose power appeared as powerlessness and whose wisdom as foolishness. It is not easy to see the present institutional Church as driven by ‘the irresistible pathos [of God] working for the oppressed and humiliated, moving them towards liberation; of Abba who in his unconditional goodness has a house with room for everyone’. Mercy, compassion, openness and love are the notes of this God who has a room for everyone. At best, canon law, dogma and machinery of ecclesiastical organisation are means to this end, though at the moment they seem to many of us to block it." -- Professor Veronica Brady

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Let us hope this strange questionnaire (I have not read it all), does not give the false impression that moral issues are to be decided by majority vote but I would not be surprised if the MSM play it like that as they eagerly add confusion about what is right and what is wrong. They do not write/publish/broadcast to inform, but to stir and to cause trouble. IMNSHO.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

My basic feeling about the survey is, "The medium is the message." The thing that probably most persistently grates on me about this Peronist, Evangelical-megachurch papacy (aside from, well, anything C-8 coordinator Cardinal "no more excommunicating the world" Maradiaga says) is how it constantly entrenches the misconception that "the Church is young again," or that Pope Francis has utterly changed the game and that "all you need is V2". This is a horrible implication, but it's being lapped up and passed around by too many Catholics (e.g. Cardinal "breath of fresh air" Dolan). The point is not the content of the survey; the point is implicitly to say "to the world" that AT LAST, the Church FINALLY REALLY CARES what "the people" think and feel, that for the first time ever, the Church is REALLY trying to reach out, etc. It's as treacly and as nauseating as the Pope's new Rock Candy Jesus ferula. It seems like either a massive ploy for bureaucratic busybodyism or a clever "populist" canvassing trick.

Apropos Müller and Maradiaga, by the way, if we are to believe that it was 'really' Pope Francis speaking 'through' Müller (umm, Pope Leo the Great's Tome, anyone?), then why aren't we entitled to see that he was/is also speaking through Maradiaga?

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

""If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?" Francis said in July. (from the Tribune article cite above). What does Pope Francis mean by 'good will'. In the Gloria the good will bit, according Benedict XVI, means 'in whom God is well pleased'. Since Pope Francis has told us that everyone may follow their own sense of good (“Each one of us has his own vision of the Good and also of Evil. We have to urge it to move towards what one perceives as the Good...And now I repeat it. Everyone has his own idea of Good and Evil and he has to choose to follow the Good and to fight Evil as he understands it. This would be enough to improve the world.”) and if they follow the 'good', it's all good? Is it just me or does the bracketed statement redefine goodness in a way that is at odds with Church teaching? I don't see how imprecision is helpful. Our Lord spoke in parables full of wisdom. Could we really say He was ever imprecise?

It seems that if we say anything that softens the stigma attached to serious sin it's no good service to those of us brought up to depend upon a conscience already trying to excuse serious sin and not conforming with the longstanding teachings of Christ and His Church - which is what too many people are coming away with from a lot of the reports because of the new approach of off the cuffness - or at least giving the impression of such. People have suggested that the Pope has decided to drift-net for souls in the hope that people might eventually, once they are through the door, come around to an authentic belief. How can imprecision, and looseness of approach not divert one from the narrow path? This method would IMO - which the Church is now trawling for - be always in danger of confirming us in our own 'authored' paths rather than confirm us on the path of the Real Author.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


Quite right. While I may be wrong on this, I think Pope Francis is the first pope to endorse the term "gay" by using it in his normal speech. In fact, there's evidence from the Spadaro interview that by "gay persons" he means *practicing homosexuals*. So his blithe latitudinarianism on this point is extremely unnerving. Further, if this is in fact what the pope means by "a gay person," then he has no basis for calling him a person "of good will." The pursuit of certain evil ends in and of itself renders one subject to an ILL WILL, and therefore the pope's infamous quip may be literally incoherent. Cf. CCC 1753-1756.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Father: You asked: "Is it really a result of loose Papal talk or simply an excuse for not taking the 'narrow path'?"

Many moons ago I was taught by Bishop Butler that if there were two authoritative views on whether something was the teaching of the Church or not, one was entitled to take the easier one. People sometimes find themselves in desperate situations and they look for what seems to them to be the easier way out. They consult two priests: one says no and the other says maybe. Are they not entitled to follow the maybe? I do not see that person as deliberately trying to find an excuse and knowingly choosing the evil path. In the Illinois case they may be knowingly choosing evil but on the other hand they may be sincere in following what they think Pope Francis has said. They have certainly not been fired up by his Holiness to do the right thing.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Codgitator: I was not quite sure whether you were agreeing or not with Professor Brady until I read you other comments!

It seems to me that people frequently miss the difference between trying to spread the Good News to those outside the Church on the one hand and on the other questioning those within the Church particularly those in a position of authority. Whilst I should probably adopt Pope Francis's pastoral approach to the former talking of God's love, welcoming etc if I am talking to a Bishop who has made no objection when a Hospital under his patronage is about to carry out abortions do I really need to talk to him about God's love etc and perhaps after a few sessions start him on the penny catechism in the hope that somewhere down the line after a year or two he might agree that allowing abortions in his hospital is not altogether a good thing and he should do something?

Anonymous said...


Yes, I was quoting her tongue in cheek. Is it any surprise that folks like Küng and Boff were thrilled by Bergoglio's election? Even if (to cite the unflagging red herring) Pope Francis "doesn't change official dogma," he still gives much too much breathing room to "the usual suspects." That would be excusable if it weren't truly hapless, but I think by now it's clear that the Pope values the tumult of dialogue ("the flair for the new") over the strengthening of the unity of the faithful. In other words, "Hagan lío!" may be the perfect summary of his papacy in hindsight. Meanwhile, may the tears of my heart water my soul in the light of my prayers.

-- Codgitator

Lepanto said...

'Soft cop, hard cop'? Please no, it can't possibly work. Let them all 'sing from the same hymn sheet' (and can someone please remind Pope Francis of the words?)

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