Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vatican Publishes Text of Caserta Speech

The Vatican has published the text of the speech given by Pope Francis to assembled Protestants in the southern Italian city of Caserta. The meeting was billed as "private," but the speech -- in Italian -- has been published on the Vatican website. Perhaps there was alarm over the reaction to unofficial published reports.

The official text does not make things better. Zenit has an English translation.

The Pope has a nice religion.
He should come up with a name
First of all, if you read the speech, you might think it is nice, if rambling. Divisions are condemned, and blamed on the devil. The Holy Spirit creates diversity, and brings unity to that diversity.

No doubt the professional chattering class of Catholics will be shoving the text into the faces of those who found the whole thing objectionable. "See! This lovely little speech with bunnies and ponies and rainbows was what you were having a spittle-flecked nutty about!"

The Bear shall remain unmoved.

One cannot disregard the context. The recently-deceased "Bishop" Tony Palmer -- the one who played the iPhone address to televangelist Kenneth "Name It and Claim It" Copeland -- was instrumental in organizing the fiesta. This was Pope Francis going to meet and speak to Protestants. Everything he said must therefore be considered in that context.

The theme was division and diversity, with the now-obligatory apology thrown in. The Pope of Rome never once suggested that that diversity must be found within the Catholic Church, or that unity must be achieved by those outside of the Church coming into the Church. And the official text still contains this remarkable passage:

He who creates division is in fact the Envious One, the king of envy, the father of envy: the sower of darnel, Satan. He interferes in communities and creates divisions, always! From the first moment, from the first moment of Christianity, this temptation was in the Christian community. “I belong to this one,” I belong to that one.” “No! I am the Church, you are a sect.” And so the one who wins over us is him, the father of division – not the Lord Jesus who prayed for unity 

Mark this carefully and remember it. If you distinguish between the One True Faith and a group of Protestants, you are under a delusion of Satan.

In the Franciscan Church, what is essential is "touching the flesh of Christ on the fringes," not consuming the flesh of Christ as a sacrament. Christ's Church is not a sphere, uniform with all points equidistant. It is a polyhedron, with unique, individual faces. (The odd analogy comes from Pope Francis.) The Catholic Church is one of those faces, perhaps a beautiful and important one, but there are many others. Or perhaps, due to its history of hatred and persecution, the Catholic Church has even less moral authority than some Bible-thumping preacher at a tent revival.

Pope Francis succeeds in being "attractive," in preaching a lovely message to those outside the Church. It has fragments of true Catholicism in its concern for the poor. But it is not Catholicism. He could not expose the hollowness of post-Vatican II ecumenism more thoroughly had he tried.

Perhaps the Pope could give one of his famous interviews to the Bear, and explain just what he thinks the Church is, and whether it is essential for non-Catholics to enter it?

The final word goes to G.K. Chesterton, who might have written it for this calamitous occasion. Substitute "Church" for "world."

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.

The Church has finally gone mad with the same distemper as the rest of the world. Do not be fooled when the professional Catholic chattering class tries to clean up the Caserta calamity. Pope Francis made a lovely speech. But it wasn't Catholic.


  1. I can't comment on the entire speech, but I would belatedly like to offer some thoughts on "attraction" rather than "proselytize." This comes from a 12-step expression of "attraction rather than promotion." I also think his closeness to Jewish friends causes him to think negatively about "proselytizing" as they do. "Promotion" would mean pushing like an obnoxious salesman. Our goal as witnesses is to attract others to the Catholic faith. Show them what it has given us (not in material terms, but the spiritual gifts and Truth, know). Show them why it's right. Be the best example of the Catholic Faith in Action you can be. Let them want to be like you. Let them see what it means to be Catholic. Tell them about it. I liked the confident faith other active Catholics had (in fact, it was some Regnum Christi folks I encountered as I was returning to the faith). I wanted what they had in their Catholic Faith. So, I cultivated it. No, I never joined the RC movement. A bit much for me. We're not going to "sell" the faith by promoting environmentalism, but orthodoxy and a personal morality that many are seeking. Look, why are some young men drifting to Islam? It's the discipline and deep ancient faith. We have that and more--and we don't kill infidels or abuse women as articles of faith.

    I think I read (from you?) a story in which the "attraction" left a women in a protestant faith even though she loved Mary. The priest should have continued to bring her to Rome, showing her she did not have all that Rome has to offer while keeping a foot in protestantism [I think it's okay to "meet people where they're at" but the goal is to get them through the door all the way, sooner rather than later.]

    Well, that's my 2c+

  2. I think it depends on how you define proselytizing. We had a very dynamic guest priest a couple of Sundays from a small order in Missouri that goes two-by-two, door-to-door. I have no idea where they go from there, but I doubt they're using high-pressure sales tactics. An "attraction" that does not hold up a welcome sign with the idea that non-Catholics should cease being what they are and come into the Church is more about the Catholic feeling good about his manners than evangelizing in any meaningful sense of the word. To me, it is just more shallow feelgood political correctness. "Oh, dear, no, you're perfect just the way you are, perish the thought that I should drag you into the Church."

    Mormons have a great life from the outside looking in. (I have no way of knowing what its like on the inside.) If anyone could convert just by attraction, it would be happy, family-oriented, community-supported Mormons. Yet they are out proselytizing. I'm not saying we should adopt Mormon tactics (and I'm not saying we shouldn't) only that they have a clear goal and are good at it.

    Attraction can work. Heck, the most important thing I do as a defense lawyer is show that I like the defendant (even if I don't, which is usually the case) and make the jury like me. I theory, it's a great idea. I think it has more to do with the modern craze for interfaith / ecumenism and PC than getting results. Has the Holy Father EVER suggested that anyone would be better off in the Church? Or is it always "diversity" etc.? We'll never be more attractive than Protestants, but we can try. And we can offer a solid intellectual and historical background along with our enthusiastic welcome into our faith.

  3. I don't have a lot of time, but if you think "attraction" is just a shiny new penny and only skin deep, then, you're right it's grossly inadequate. We "attract" people to our faith by living and speaking the Truth. We also speak with love and compassion. We may "understand" where people "are at" at the moment, but our goal is to move them completely to the Truth, the One True Faith. We don't "attract" with superficiality or false promises, but with the Truth. I think the word "proselytize" has a negative connotation--from the Jewish perspective in particular. I had a Jewish friend who was grossly offended by proselytizing. Why we just don't "evangelize" or "catechize" I don't know.

    1. The problem is that no-one has a clear idea of what the Holy Father means by "proselytism" and he never clarifies ... except to the extent that subsequent remarks help to illuminate his meaning. His comments on proselytism in his most recent interview, for example:

      "... the worst that can happen is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: "I dialogue with you to convince you." No! Each one dialogues from their own identity. The Church grows through attraction, not proselytism.

      Note that the pope condemns proselytism specifically in the context of dialogue. He's not talking about the use coercive or overbearing methods to gain converts. As always, he's completely opaque about how where "attraction" ends and "proselytism" begins. Is apologetics OK? Can we defend ourselves if attacked? What if someone actually wants a dialogue? You get the impression even this effort would be spiritually suspect.

      And what on earth does Each one dialogues from their own identity mean? It sounds like he's saying that we can coo softly to one another, as long as we remain ensconced in our own castles. But who knows?

    2. The Bear knows exactly what he means. Any speech for the purpose of enticing a person to consider converting to the Catholic Church."


      Because it is harmful to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, and where you happen to go to Church is unimportant to begin with, as long as you are caressing the flesh of Christ on the peripheries, i.e. tending to the poor.

      Next question?

    3. It turns out the pope may actually have answered my question. Dale Price posts a long (very long!) reply from last week's Q&A with the priests of Caserta. An excerpt, though it's helpful to read the whole thing for context:

      ... to dialogue two things are necessary: one's identity as a starting point and empathy toward others. If I am not sure of my identity and I go to dialogue, I end up swapping my faith. You cannot dialogue without starting from your own identity, and empathy, that is not condemning a priori ... Starting from one’s own identity for dialogue, but dialogue is not to do apologetics, although sometimes you have to do it, when we are asked questions that require explanation. Dialogue is a human thing. It is hearts and souls that dialogue, and this is so important! Do not be afraid to dialogue with anyone. It was said of a saint, joking somewhat – I do not remember, I think it was St. Philip Neri, but I'm not sure – that he was also able to dialogue even with the devil. Why? Because he had the freedom to listen all people, but starting from his own identity. He was so sure, but to be sure of one’s identity does not mean proselytizing. Proselytism is a trap, which even Jesus condemns a bit, en passant, when he speaks to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “You who go around the world to find a proselyte and then you remember that ...” But, it's a trap. And Pope Benedict has a beautiful expression. He said it in Aparecida but I believe he repeated elsewhere: “The Church grows not by proselytism, but by attraction.” And what's the attraction? It is this human empathy, which is then guided by the Holy Spirit.

      I sort of understand what the Holy Father is getting at here.

      - Know yourself before engaging in dialogue [good advice].
      - Don't condemn a priori [but who does this?]
      - Apologetics are sometimes a regrettable necessity.
      - Proselytism [undefined] is a trap which Jesus condemns. [This is new to me. I had never understood Mt 23:15 as a condemnation of proselytism per se.]

      As usual with Pope Francis, the meaning of it all depends crucially on how you choose to define a few key words.

    4. We do not expect the Pope to engage in apologetics. It is nice to hear him praise it, even if it is damning by faint praise. I don't read any condemnation of proselytizing from Jesus, which would be odd given the trajectory of his Apostles.

      I do not read dialogue to mean any sort of engagement that has a goal or even a desire for the other person to become Catholic. I just don't see it as important to the Pope.

      The Bear has said "whenever I hear the word dialogue, I reach for my revolver," which isn't a bad sentiment (speaking strictly metaphorically here, need it be said?). Dialogue is a feel-good PC buzzword that the Pope has picked up somewhere. It does not inspire confidence.

      If you think about it, one can hardly have as a goal the conversion of someone in dialogue. You really can't have any ulterior motive (I'm going to channel the Pope very briefly here) or you are making a thing out of the person with whom you are in dialogue, no? True dialogue is a meeting of souls, each perfectly open, although each coming from his own identity. In the ideal dialogue, neither takes anything from the other, but it is a mutual giving that brings both people closer to God.

      How about that? Can I be Pope now?

  4. Bear,

    You have a stronger stomach than I do! I examine news for 5 minutes about the Holy Father and I break into a cold sweat. I'm fixing to break my silence!

    How can the Holy Father be of any encouragement to persecuted Catholics if he believes the persecutor's faith is as valid as the persecutee's. Why not just convert and preserve the peace, not to mention your life!!

    1. First off, nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there. I feel sure such faithfulness will be rewarded. As for conversion, Lumen Gentium pretty much says the only persons at risk of hellfire are Catholics who leave the Church. (What the Bear calls the "All Dogs Go to Heaven Unless They're Catholic" clause of Lumen Gentium. Even that may have changed in the Franciscan Church.

    2. "All Dogs Go to Heaven Unless They're Catholic" ROFL!

      I have a feeling that part of LG is on the way out....since a good part of the adoring pentecostals whom Francis addresses are native Catholics who have left the Church....

      But if both LG and Francis' ecumenism are both true, then it must be a mortal sin to leave your native faith even if your conscience and reason tell you it isn't a true faith.... for if all the world's contradicting faiths are equal, then they all must contain elements of falsehood, hence none can be really true.

      If I ask 2 people for the sum of 1+1+1 and they yield 2 distinct different values, and I then pronounce each value to be as close to the true answer as the other, then neither of them has produced the true answer.

    3. LG explicitly only condemns Catholics, on the theory that we are the only ones who know better. The Pope could probably roll with that, and, in fact, I think he has said as much in one of his homilies. If, say, a Moslem or a Baptist were to convert to the Church, then that's okay, although not to be sought (other than by "mystical attraction").

      As for "truth," the Franciscan Church would point to Christ in the form of the poor, and say, "There is your truth." (Man, this is good stuff. The Bear might be Pope material.)

      A polyhedron is made up of a finite number of faces, and (unless I'm messing up my geometry) has points at different distances from the center, i.e. the vertices and the faces. Compared to the perfect sphere, it is inherently imperfect. I think his idea behind this analogy is that the Church of Christ (which he may or may not believe to be the same as the Catholic Church, depending on how he understands LG and current ecclesiology) shows a limited, imperfect face made up of the Church of Rome, Methodists, Mormons, Islam, Judaism, and, indeed atheism. We are all part of the Holy Spirit's "diversity," which (quoting LG here) the gifts found in the Church of Christ "impel toward unity."

      So the Pope sees no problem with downplaying proselytism (a scare word that means any speech for the purpose of enticing a person into the Catholic Church) -- conversion is simply irrelevant since the essence of Christianity is not to be found in sacraments, but in service to the poor.

      It is fascinating to watch the Franciscan theology be revealed over time, although a bit scary to see it being done by a sitting pope!

  5. I think "proselytize" is a scare-word that actually means "any activity with the goal of bringing someone into the Catholic Church." I think the truth is that in Franciscan theology, there is no pressing need for non-Catholics to become Catholics. Instead, we must all caress the flesh of Christ on the peripheries, no matter what we are. Also, the goal of conversion is diametrically opposed to ecumenism, the highest goal of the Franciscan Church.

    We're not even Novus Ordo anymore. "We've gone plaid." --Spaceballs


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