Episode IV: A New Pope
Some of you may remember this blog from the very day Pope Francis was elected. One of my Army sons called when the white smoke puffed from the chimney, and we shared his first papal election.
Pope Francis' appearance on the balcony seemed a bit odd, with the "Bishop of Rome" business and informality, but he seemed relaxed and friendly. However, it didn't take long for critics to start in on him. He didn't wear red shoes. Can you imagine what we were blogging about in those days? What wouldn't any of us give if that were the only issue now!
Of course, those early misgivings were clues.
This blog was stoutly ultramontanist. He was the Pope. Don't concentrate on the things that bother you. Listen to what he is saying, and learn what he is teaching.
It was a prudent stand at the time, and I am not going to second-guess myself. It is not a trivial thing to set your face against the Pope. It seemed charitable to give him a chance to really put a stamp on his papacy. After awhile, though, I moved to exploring problems the Pope has presented. Again, I think I was cautious and fair.
Rome, We Have a Problem
Today, however, the Bear says to his children and his friends who read this blog, Pope Francis is not teaching and exemplifying the Catholic Faith in its fullness. Specifically, he has an idiosyncratic view of the Church that is more in line with the Protestant "invisible church of believers," than the well-defined Roman Catholic Church of history.
There are likely other problems, but this is the most serious and most blatant, and so the one that forms this blog's indictment of Pope Francis. He keeps demonstrating what he believes: no mission to Jews; cheapening his office by calling heretic poseurs "my brother bishop;" a fascination with American "Prosperity Gospel" televangelists; and, most recently, telling Pentecostals that it is the devil's "temptation" to believe that the Catholic Church is the One True Faith, and their group just a sect.
Never in any of these encounters is there the slightest suggestion that anyone need even consider becoming Catholic. That is not what the New Evangelization means. (That's what's new about it.)
The Mystery of the Church
Yet I cannot resist entering my appearance for the defense, that being my usual role, rather than prosecutor. And here is defense Exhibit A: the Second Vatican Council Document Lumen Gentium, one of the most noxious weeds from the swinging sixties Council.
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd,74 and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”.76 This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Ever since, many have insisted that "subsists in," (subsistit in) just means "is" (est). (Yes, we are down to arguing about what "is" means again.) The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith visited the vexed issue of subsistit in in 2007, and said it just means est. "Is." Others, predictably, have been more creative in their interpretation. Lumen Gentium called the Church "a mystery," and if it wasn't before, it certainly was after!
The Church herself has lost her way. She is like a wealthy heiress who got a bump on the head fifty years ago and has never recovered her identity. It is entirely possible that Pope Francis has been brought up on an overly-inclusive view of the Church that is not entirely outside the language of the Council documents.
This blog is running a poll on whether Vatican II purported to change Church teaching. I happen to believe that Lumen Gentium does, if not change, at least put at doubt previous clear teachings of the Church. If Pope Francis has an odd ecclesiology, suffice it to say that it does not necessarily come out of the blue. Lumen Gentium is elastic enough to cover a multitude of sins, and perhaps all of Pope Francis' eccentricities.
Pope Francis is the smiling face of the new ecumenical ecclesiology. "Desuetude" is a legal term everyone needs to know. It's what happened to the doctrine of no salvation outside the Church, or, in ringing Latin, extra ecclesiam nulla salus. It was just allowed to die a natural death with no official action being taken. It isn't even on the table. If you raise it, people will laugh. Welcome to the new age of "being Church," and everyone can join in.
What Do We Do Now?
Nothing. Go to Mass. Have a strong devotional life. Be upright. Maintain a hard Catholic identity. Read St. Corbinian's Bear!
But what about the Pope? The Pope is not changing doctrine, so there is nothing that touches infallibility. But can you trust what he is out doing and saying? The unfortunate reality is, no. Not always. Because somewhere along the way he has picked up a seriously wrong idea of what the Catholic Church is (which is extremely ironic, given that he is the Pope). He is not likely to change, as Michael Voris pointed out in his "Chill Out" Vortex, which got a bit of pushback from the Catholic blogosphere. (Trust the Bear on this: they noticed.)
Perhaps the Church needed to have its nose rubbed in Vatican II.
If so, Pope Francis is the right man for the job.
And if anyone accuses you of being more Catholic than the Pope, just smile and say, "Why, thank you! Yes, I am!"
The Eponymous Flower -- "Heresies and Schisms are an Expression of the Holy Ghost for Francis"
Steve Skojec -- "Why Would All of These People Lie About Pope Francis"