Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Renaissance Prince and His Courtiers

Pope high-fives televangelist James Robison.
A certain blogger has dismissed a segment of Catholic opinion as "Pharisees" for wondering about Mr. Tony Palmer's Catholic (even episcopal, if the Bear has understood properly) funeral. You see, if you were scandalized, you are just like the Pharisees who objected to Jesus casting the demon from the Canaanite woman's daughter. Or something.

I see a bright future for him, as a sort of anti-Bear, boosting the Pope and calling other Catholics nasty names.

Jesus never did anything without a good reason, so the Bear happens to agree that Jesus was probably making a point with the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel. One, however, that has nothing to do with Mr. Palmer. It is surprising that this blogger, who is a priest, should miss that. Or perhaps he didn't, and is just taking a lazy swipe at Catholics Who Are Not As Good As I Am.

Which is kind of ironic, when you have decided upon a new career of calling other Catholics Pharisees.

The Catholics who were scandalized at Tony Palmer's Catholic funeral are the same Catholics who are troubled with Pope Francis' repeated doings and sayings concerning Protestants in general. They are not Pharisees, at least the Bear is not getting that from them. They are faithful Catholics who are scandalized. That is an entirely different thing from feeling superior.

In other words, Pope Francis is causing them to stumble. This is because they know the Church has in the past -- and not just in the 16th century, but in the 20th century, too -- issued warnings about Protestantism. There was the Church, then there was everyone else, including Protestants, who were outside of the salvific embrace of the Church. Catholics were told to respect the difference and avoid doing the special things they did with other Catholics with Protestants.

Like worshiping with them.

Was Tony Palmer's funeral improper? The Bear has not studied the topic. He would suspect yes, but is not going to tear up anybody's campsite over it.

None of this is about Catholics looking down on Protestants. It isn't personal. It is dishonest to try to make it so. It is all about how Pope Francis is looking at his Church. The Bear is willing to stipulate that many Protestants are better than he is. To pretend this is about feeling superior is just a straw man argument. (One thing about an open combox by the way: it helps keep you honest.)

No, this is about one thing: this Pope likes changing the rules. He likes to change small rules. He likes to change big rules. And he doesn't bother to explain to the peasants as he goes.

It is the height of arrogance for any cleric to dismiss the legitimate concerns of faithful Catholics regarding the Pope's apparent belief that the Church is merely one of 30,000 Christian "faces" on the holy polyhedron. Tony Palmer is the very same friend of the Pope whom Francis discouraged from converting, because "bridge builders" were needed among Protestants. It isn't hard to figure out what the Pope thinks of extra ecclesiam nulla salus (no salvation outside the Church) is it?

If the Pope was dealing fairly with everyone, he would lay out his beliefs. Heaven knows he can find himself a "journalist" whenever he wants to, if he can't be bothered to write an encyclical. (A Bear is about the only creature he hasn't personally spoken to.) Is it time for for extra ecclesiam nulla salus to go? Fine! Lay it out for us. Have we entered a New Age with regard to Protestants, and, for all the Bear knows, Jews, Muslims, and everybody else? Great! Tell us how and why this happened and let the good ecumenical and interfaith times roll!

But don't skulk around behind the backs of your sheep while your hirelings snipe at any that bleat. Show a little respect and, well, humility, by not acting like a Renaissance Prince whose word is law.

How ironic that the humble, gentle Franciscan Church, the very embodiment of Vatican II -- which includes the dignity of the priesthood the faithful by the way -- is reduced to what we have seen the past several weeks.


  1. Thank you Bear! That blog made me boil!

    1. Lazy swipes is all one will get at 'Standing on My Head', especially as swiper has now removed the opportunity for intelligent discussion regarding his own, albeit unwitting, Pharisaical commentary.

      Sad, but typical.

  2. Thank you for writing this! That priest's blog post came off as very smug, and the only way he could twist the clear words of the Gospel--of Christ Himself--was to opine that everything said to the Canaanitish woman was said ironically, thus robbing of its beauty the final sentence of Christ after His harsh (but true) words to her: "O woman, great is thy faith!"

    But I suspect that Fr.'s commentary wasn't meant to bring out the true and the beautiful in the Holy Gospels but merely to provoke others, increase his traffic, and generate revenue. It's a shame to have to say that about a brother priest.

  3. Thank you for this post. I don't understand Fr. Longenecker. His writings make me wonder where the heck his bishop is.

  4. Fr. Longenecker is not the only one who is 'chastising' faithful Catholics for questioning the motives of our Holy Father Francis. Sadly, the Holy Father has confused and confounded a large segment of the Church of Christ, and in the view of many the ecumenism he is promoting is without the borders of true Catholicity. It is truly a concern and a vexation for many of us. As I have said previously, it is not only the right but it is in fact the duty of the faithful laity to discern questionable irregularities that the hierarchy promotes publicly. And although we must question and discuss, we also have the obligation to do so in charity. In my objections to Fr.'s post along with so many other similar posts, I have also seen pretty much vicious attacks on Pope Francis, which are just as out of line with Catholic teaching. We have the obligation to inform ourselves, be discerning, question and sometimes criticize without being 'on the attack'.

  5. It can be a fine line. Once you have decided that a pope is departing from the truths of the Church as found in sacred tradition, "strong blows, but fair" are called for. In other words, you don't want to approach such a serious matter ineffectively. The writing has to be clear and forceful. At the same time, I don't think it is necessary to be gratuitously insulting. When I sparingly use terms like "Renaissance Prince," or "Father Mario," they are directly related to the topic. I personally don't think we accomplish much by appealing to prophecy and calling him "The Beast" or whatever. Frankly, it cuts our credibility, and there is plenty of evidence right before our noses to suggest he has been the pope to depart from the Church's own understanding of herself. Still worse are those I have seen wishing him ill. There is room for criticism of his theology without getting just mean.

  6. I have had the experience of being brushed off and called a Pharisee because I expressed concern about issues of principle, so I feel a lot of sympathy. All the same, I'm a bit confused. I gather we're talking about a blog by Fr Longenecker, and I don't think I've seen the original post. There's one by him on this topic on the Patheos site which seems quite eirenic and helpful.

  7. I am happy you enjoyed "Some Catholics and the Canaanite Woman" and found it to be helpful. It could be fairly read (in fact, would be hard not to read) as equating the Canaanites with Protestants and Catholics who raised objections to Pope Francis' actions re: Protestants as Pharisees. There are many reasons to question Pope Francis persistent but unclear campaign to bring Protestants and Catholics together under some sort of banner known only to himself. These reasons do not have anything to do with prejudice against Protestants. But, like I said, nice that you found it peaceful and helpful. I'm sure Fr. L retains legions of fans.


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