Monday, February 3, 2014

The Bear Who Woke Up

I truly miss the people this blog brought into my life. It has been a little poorer for that since the Bear waved goodbye last November due to educational commitments. To whoever finds their way back here, the Bear extends warm Catholic greetings.

World Communications Day Message

Francis has been on the cover of every
magazine except The Watchtower.
What has roused me out of hibernation are the continuing antics of everyone's favorite Catholic cover-boy. Now, you may recall, this was an ultramontanist blog when other conservatives and traddies were criticizing everything the new pope did or said. I thought it was fair and prudent to give him a chance, especially given his office. However, now I have seen enough evidence to be disappointed and worried.

The Pope's message for the 48th World Communication Day called the internet "a gift from God." Since it was World Communication Day, he couldn't condemn the internet as Satan's seal show without being judgmental toward pornographers and atheist trolls. That's not the big news, though. His other theme was beyond inane:

"Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute." Now, as with all of Francis' pronouncements, this could be spun into something acceptable. But, individually, they are ambiguous, and collectively, leave an overall impression that is simply not Catholic. Are we supposed to renounce the Church's claim to be the exclusive guardian of absolute truth? A superficial reading might say so. For that matter, a careful reading against the background of Vatican II teachings might lead to the same conclusion. The landmarks have been moved over the last forty years. Unless we take pains to make our meaning clear, we can easily lose control of the message. (Francis might humbly consider why his predecessors did not talk so much.)

The New Vocabulary of Church-Speak

Whenever I hear the word "dialogue," I want to reach for my revolver. "Dialogue," today, is not so much an activity as a display of plumage. It is intended to convey among the intellectually impoverished and insecure that a person is "the right sort." Underlying it is the secular shibboleth of tolerance and the religious heresy of indifferentism.

The pope has abandoned a muscular Catholic vocabulary for the hands-fluttering-in-the-air secular mewlings of the West's abrupt surrender. The more the world loves this pope, the less relevance he has to genuine Catholicism. Some of us have a historical turn of mind and ears that are not tickled by the latest Franciscan feather. Francis is speaking from the world to the world when he uses words like "dialogue." That has never been part of the Catholic vocabulary.

The New Evangelization can go nowhere unless Catholics believe we and we alone have what each person in the world desperately needs. In the pope's address, he said that while Catholics must "renounce" our insistence that only the Church possesses valid or absolute ideas and traditions. That's part of dialogue, you see. Obviously, we can't dialogue in good faith if we have a superior attitude that our religion is somehow better. Can the pope not conceive of sharing truth out of love, rather than a sense of superiority? It would be as if a brilliant medical researcher discovered the cure for cancer, then did not insist that it replace ineffective medicines out of sensitivity for the feelings of other doctors. If we really believed Christianity's truth, as preserved and unfolded through the Catholic Church, we'd be forced to preach, not dialogue; convert, not confirm. But in our day, Jews are -- incoherently -- urged to continue waiting for their messiah; Moslems are fine for believing in one god; Hindus are admired for having many; and atheists are good to go for having no god at all.

What is behind all this? Not Catholicism as understood since the time of martyrs who would rather die than so much as offer a pinch of incense to the Roman Emperor. Not Catholicism that converted the Roman Empire, the barbarians beyond, and the New World. Not Catholicism that sent missionaries like St. Francis Xavier to Japan, not to admire their native religion, but to offer people the precious gift of the Gospel according to Jesus' commission. Does not the current exaltation of dialogue and accommodation make fools of all martyrs and missionaries?

The Model of Martyrs

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, perhaps the most touching of the early martyrs. A young mother and her slave (who had just given birth herself) faced scourging and beasts in the amphitheater. They believed the New Faith was the True Faith and gave their lives in glorious martyrdom. They did not confirm their jailer in his pagan error, but converted him. Nor did they escape their horrifying deaths by simply accommodating the reasonable "interreligious invitation" to burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor's cult.

Dialogue and Accommodation

"Dialogue and accommodation" could be the motto of the modern Church. It is almost as if the Church has surveyed the world and concluded that her time is over. Everybody has been given their chance to accept the Church's teachings and most have rejected them. The Church's new mission is to make her peace with the world: to salvage -- as far as possible -- the brand and property, while re-positioning herself as the first among equals in whatever place the modern world shall be willing to grant religion. It is clear that religious certainty is not going to please the world. "Who am I to judge?" Now that's how you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone. And The Advocate. And become Time's Person of the Year.

A cunning, dare I say, Jesuitical plot? Or perhaps the answer is simpler. Pope Francis appears to despise the past, doctrine and tradition. (Which is perhaps why the only people he feels competent to judge are traditionalists.) On the other hand, he seems to respect the Bible. Perhaps, instead of trying to find out what kind of Catholic the pope is, we should discover what kind of Protestant he most resembles. That would explain much, especially the lack of Catholic vocabulary as revealed on World Communications Day. The pope is coming through loud and clear -- if only we would listen.


  1. Soooo glad the Bear is back! This is spot on!

  2. Thanks, honey. (And if you're not my wife, that will be our little secret, okay?)

  3. I still can't get my mind around the fact that Cardinals Ratzinger and Bergoglio were the two top vote-getters in the 2005 conclave. It doesn't seem to make any kind of sense.

  4. Obviously two very different factions! Hopefully, Francis is dribbling away his credibility so fast he'll lack the authority to cause any permanent damage, and the Church will emerge with a slight popularity bump. Actually, the Church is in such bad shape, there is not much more he can do to hurt it. (Defense lawyers understand this position.)


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