Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"He's My Pope"

There's a recurring gag on Portlandia about the Portland Milk Advisory Board. No matter what improbable new "milk" Fred introduces, Carrie gives a noncommittal, but chipper "He's my boss."

The Bear thinks that's the way a segment of the Catholic Church feels about Pope Francis. On the one hand, he's our Pope. On the other hand... well, there shouldn't be another hand. Something is wrong, either with the sheep or the shepherd.

It would be easy to say the sheep are wrong. The shepherd, being a human, is obviously much smarter than the sheep. The problem is that the analogy is more about the shepherd wisely and lovingly protecting his flock than the sheep being dim-witted ruminants.

In reality, we're all humans -- even the Pope -- and also Catholics, many of us well-educated and devout. Believe me, the last thing in the world the very people who are scandalized by Pope Francis want is to be at odds with the Holy Father. We are the natural ultramontanists.

The Bear thinks this is insufficiently weighted. It would be like feminists worrying about newly-elected President Hillary Clinton, while conservatives rioted in joy and celebrated her on the cover of National Review. 

There is not enough bandwidth on the planet to handle the confusion that would cause.

Of course, it is also easy to say, like Carrie, "He's my pope." And that's what we do, although some of the things he says are just so disconnected from the fullness of the historical Catholic Church, the temptation is overwhelming to try to make sense of it. To bleat. (Or growl.)

That's what the Bear has been doing. Trying to find a context in which everything makes some kind of sense. If a certain bearishness offends delicate sensibilities, nothing has been gratuitous or mean-spirited. It has been about understanding why. Why do we not recognize the voice of this shepherd? What is different about him? The process has entailed criticism. And there's the rub, isn't it?

Catholics aren't supposed to criticize the Pope. We can't really "have our pope and beat him, too," as the sedevacantists accuse "traditionalists" of doing.

It's probably a good idea to suspend this discussion until after Easter. The very Catholics who are troubled by Pope Francis are the "rosary counters" who actually observe Lent in all seriousness, or try to. Frankly, the Vatican News Service, which carries Pope Francis' homilies and other statements is, for the Bear, a near occasion of sin. Instead of nourishment, he finds confusion and heartache.

So, instead, we shall talk of cognitive dissonance. The term has an interesting history.


  1. This Bubble Catholic, is fighting disquieting feelings, but draws comfort from Matthew 16:18 that the Church (the Faith) is built on a rock. Stay true to the Word and we'll muddle through present circumstances.

  2. I wonder how many souls these days have found themselves searching through Scripture and through the writings of the Saints for just the right balm to reduce the inflammation caused by a very specific affliction. My go-to bit of comfort lately has been John 1:5, "And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." I hadn't noticed it 'til now, but I think that a corner of the Bavarian Woods has, blessedly, become a field hospital :-). Support group meets in the clearing as needed.

  3. In our personal lectio divina we read John 10. It was about the Good Shepherd whose sheep recognize his voice and follow him, but will not follow a stranger because the do not recognize his voice. Then it was the hired man who sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep so that they are scattered. Sometimes Holy Scripture is not so comforting.

    I fear Dr. Bear has come down with what ails many of the other woodland creatures and isn't much use these days. The field hospital is looking more like the leper colony from Ben Hur.


Moderation is On.

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