Typically, for the Bear, this is not short. You may find it entertaining, however. It wraps up several issues that have been occupying the Bear's mind lately as he grapples with the why and the how of what he is doing.
Pope Francis: Finally, a Smiling Face to the Horror
For decades we have had to sit and watch helplessly as the Church was consumed by preventable scandal and ceaseless innovation. The enemy was hard to get a fix on. He seemed to be everywhere and nowhere, and his name was Legion. But it was clear that somehow the schwerpunkt of the Church Militant had without question drifted far from the original plan.
In Pope Francis, we have seen, for the first time, the incarnation of the Church's errors and abuses. God has driven into plain view the secret corruption, the pride posing as humility, the indifferentism posing as tolerance, the disregard for the Deposit of the Faith, and the "rebranding" of Catholicism and the papacy that Fr. Rosica is so proud of. In Pope Francis we finally have someone to speak out against, and thereby indict the whole sorry lot of meddlers, swindlers, and sappers: in short, all those who loathe the Church they are supposed to lead.
In other words, we are reacting not only to what Pope Francis personally says and does, but to Pope Francis the Avatar of a different spirit -- the "spirit" of Vatican II, the spirit of the "media council," and, fundamentally, the spirit of the Prince of this world.
One might say we are seeing the beginning of the end of a plot. To simplify, it began with throwing open to the world the windows of the Church. It is ending by tearing down the walls of the Church.
But the Church needs walls. It needs to be separate from the world. Distinct from other religions. The Church should be a fortress from which Catholics sally forth into the world, but not as part of the world, not as worldlings fighting trendy secular battles. Everybody should be able to say with confidence, "here is the Church," and "there begins the world." There are Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but here is Catholicism. Here is the truth, and there is something else, and we do no favors by pretending otherwise.
That sounds so harsh! Intolerant! Real! We would rather live in our fantasy world where if we're just nice enough, everyone will love us. (To be fair, this does seem to be working out for Pope Francis.) It would be easy to twist the the Bear's meaning. He is not advocating hiding behind the walls of the Church while the world goes to Hell. We should engage the world, but with evangelism, not indifferentism; charity, not socialism; truth, not accommodation of error.
We should all be Catholic as if it mattered. Especially the Pope.
Of course, the Franciscan Church has a horror of walls or division of any kind. The supernatural must be tolerated for the sake of the masses, but for the initiates, purple, red and white, "There'll Be Pie In the Sky When You Die" remains the favorite hymn. A sarcastic number right out of the Little Red Songbook. The religion of the Franciscan Church, much like Freemasonry, is The Brotherhood of Man. It is remarkable, but true: you could strip it of every specifically Christian element, and the world would not be able to tell any difference.
This is no accident. Religious differences must be downplayed in pursuit of the 8th Sacrament of the Franciscan Church: the Holy Photo-Op. And, of course, the aforementioned Brotherhood of Man.
The funny thing is, no one in the Franciscan Church would deny that they are tearing down walls and erasing boundaries. They might deny celebrating error, but only because they don't recognize error. The Pope can travel to Sweden this Halloween to commemorate "the blessings" of Martin Luther's reformation because we're all Lutherans now. In other words, what the Bear laments, the Franciscan Church is most proud of. "Rebranding" indeed. A crass and ignorant word to cover a multitude of sins.
The Mad Virtues of Pope Francis
We would do well to remember what Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy. It is almost as if he foresaw Pope Francis. In his day, it was Christianity in general that had been shattered. In ours it is particularly the Catholic Church, but the same warnings apply. No mad virtue is as mad as a Catholic virtue, as we have seen in history.
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 shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it 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.
Pope Francis is, as far as the Bear can see, more virtuous than the Bear. He is also more mad, if the Bear knows anything about madmen. No virtue may remain merely good with Francis. It must become a mania, a delusion, another shiny object to be incorporated into the narcissistic personality of Francis the Humble, Francis the Tolerant, Francis the Compassionate. Of course, what the Bear calls "madness" becomes "rebranding," or "transcending his own religion."
A Spontaneous Resistance
We who have retained a Catholic identity have universally resisted Jorge Bergoglio. We didn't ask for this. We didn't organize it. It just happened. We found ourselves being appalled by the same things, connecting the same dots, reaching the same conclusions. We speak with one voice from the same vision, without collaboration. The very people who would normally be the Pope's most fervent supporters have become his harshest critics.
Bergoglioism and Catholicism cannot both be right. (The Bear thinks the collection of pathologies motivating Pope Francis deserves the honor of its own name.) The Bear is not going to repeat the indictment here. It is contained in the archives of this ephemeris, and of many others. It is literally becoming difficult to keep up with Francis the Talking Pope. Perhaps the plan is to beat us through attrition, the way he buried the message of Amoris Laetitia in 247 pages that defy all but the most clever and mind-numbing analysis.
If Pope Francis is indeed all we fear he is, there's not much we can do. By and large, people travel with the herd, and try to think the thoughts the world tells them are right. That worked great when a confident Church put the stamp of the Christ on the culture. It was not so long ago that the joke ran: "Hollywood -- a place where Jews make movies selling Catholic theology to Protestants." Not anymore.
The Most Popular Man in the World
Why not just back a winner? The latest poll shows Pope Francis with a popularity rating of 54%, 85% among Catholics, and -- tellingly -- over 50% among agnostics and atheists. "Francis is a leader who transcends his own religion," said Jean Marc Leger, president of WIN/Gallup International. He's the most popular public figure in the world, and has replaced the Dalai Lama as Generic Spiritual Leader. Only Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria don't like him.
Perhaps, any day now, Pope Francis is going to cash in all that full-spectrum popularity to tell the world about Jesus. More likely not. After all, what does "transcend his own religion" mean? What does "rebranding Catholicism and the papacy" mean? Are these words not chilling to any normal Catholic? Do not the pages of old prophecies begin to rustle out of the dust? Whether you want to go there or not, it makes no difference. Prophecies warn about dangers to come. We didn't listen, and now Nebuchadnezzar is in the sanctuary.
From comments out of Catholic officialdom, we know we are heard at the highest levels. Our message is getting through. We speak out, and others take comfort. We try to preserve the truth and condemn error not because we are holy, but because nobody else will do it. Looking over the last three years, we have done a surprisingly good job, in the Bear's opinion. That's how we operate. Independent francs-tieurs. Partisans. The resistance.
This is not to glamorize anyone. Partisans don't always have pure motives, and sometimes go beyond what is reasonably necessary. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're amateurs. Perhaps our sins will be applied to those who have made the resistance necessary in the first place. We take real risks. One blogger got himself sued by a priest -- papal PR flack Fr. Rosica. But more seriously, we also take spiritual risks.
Ephemerists need your prayers. For prudence, temperance, fortitude, and charity.
Francs-TieursPope Francis uses the entire spectrum of media to spread his errors. If there's a single problem with the man, it's that he lacks a supernatural dimension. Perhaps he suffers from a cultural resentment and envy coming from his background. He cannot think in proper categories. For example, he recently made the bizarre comment that he sees the evangelization of Europe as "colonialism," Worse, from the same interview, he cannot differentiate between Jesus sending forth his disciples to the nations and the blood conquests of ISIS. Mad virtues indeed.
Can madness from a pope really go unanswered? There is hardly a peep from the bishops. Surely all of them are not deaf or in agreement. It would take a lot of courage for a bishop to criticize a sitting pope. The Bear may not be qualified, but at least he's willing to put on his hat, take up his shovel, and start trying to put out some of the brush fires Pope Francis sets.
There is a place for dry and sober analysis. But the internet has its own idiom. The legitimate weapons we place at the service of the Church include agitprop, and sometimes a dash of snark and a dollop of satire, so people will enjoy reading what the Bear writes. (Besides, Bears have a hard time being serious for longer than ten minutes.)
Is it sinful to criticize the Pope? That is not a question the Bear is going to answer for anyone else. It is an important one to him, because, after all, he still has to go to confession like everyone else. We should not perform an evil act so that we may obtain a good result. But the laity has a legitimate say in the Church. The Bear is performing a lawful act by informing, educating, and commenting about this man who has effortlessly twisted the Church according to his own personal hobbyhorses.
In a nutshell, together, we are staying with the "old brand" of Catholicism, before Pope Francis "rebranded" Catholicism and the papacy, and "transcended his own religion." So what if most people say they like Pope Francis? Since when was the truth found in poll numbers? The Bear has noticed that most of the people who like Pope Francis seem to be unfamiliar with his actions, unable to articulate what he has done to earn their approval, or progressive Church dissidents.
If the Pope and his public business are portrayed in an unflattering light, that is an unavoidable consequence, even as it is not the real objective. Few are criticizing the Pope for the sake of criticizing the Pope. Even the Bear, who may take an unholy glee in what he does isn't playing.
The Sin of Silence
But there is also the sin of "adulation." Nobody ever talks about it, so here it is, right from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another's vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
Funny, the Bear has never heard Fr. Rosica say, "Patheos bloggers are a bunch of sycophantic losers with a pathological need for approval and an aversion to sound doctrine. We must pray for these disturbed, broken and angry people."
Of course, Fr. Rosica's job might be to commit the sin of adulation continuously, but the Bear does not know the man's heart, or how much culpability might be reduced by mental issues, or secret struggles. One must wonder about someone who brags about "rebranding" Catholicism, though.
Rugiemus Quasi Ursi Omnes
One thing is for certain. We will never be silent again. We are guardians of something. The Bear does not want to label it, because it does not belong to this faction or that. But he thinks his readers know what he's talking about. We encourage one another -- and it is just as much readers encouraging ephemerists as the other way around. Pope Francis and his minions are learning that whatever they do in public will be challenged by some very smart and talented people. (And also, the Bear.) It obviously bothers them.
And the Bear says ultramontanism is solemn nonsense.