Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Papal Polarization

Note: this article is long enough for two separate entries, but it really can't be broken up without damaging whatever sense it has. Part One introduces the strange polarization of serious Catholic opinion, and lays out the Bear's position for context of his arguments. Part Two specifically deals with the wisdom of condemning those who question Pope Francis' words and deeds, even in trying to understand him more fully. The Bear is quite close in his opinions to many people in both of the camps he describes, and his disagreement on this one issue should not imply disrespect for them or disregard for their sincerity.


The Pope Nobody Talked About

For all the hub bub, very few people are actually discussing Pope Francis at all.

Most people can't get beyond the papal brand. That's why all the chatter is coming from two opposite poles of the blogosphere, where two unlikely groups have separated and migrated to rhetorical antipodes.

It makes for some pretty strange bedfellows. Imagine Mark Shea holding a copy of The Advocate featuring a picture of Michael Voris to get a visceral sense of Ultramontanism 2014.

Ultramontanist leaders plan strategy before a meeting at their secret South Pole base.

At the South Pole are the conventional conservatives, liberals, and all those invested, for whatever reason, in what the Bear will call "mainstream Catholicism." Their position is that "one simply does not criticize the Pope, old boy." We'll call them the Ultramontanists for historical reasons. (European supporters of the papacy were called that because the Vatican was "beyond the  mountains" -- the Alps.)

On the North Pole, you have Traditionalists, Recognize-and-Resisters and Sedevacantists. Their position is "see, we've been saying all along the Vatican II Church was up to no good."

The first is defending the position of nevernevernever questioning anything this pope says or does.

The other is defending the position that the Church has fallen ill since Vatican II, and has borne bad fruit ever since. This pope is merely "Exhibit F" in the case of Real Catholics vs. The Vatican II Church.

Neither group seems curious about actually listening to Pope Francis, or willing to set aside their positions long enough to discuss what he may be trying to accomplish. (At most, Ultramontanists will sound the trumpet every time Pope Francis says something that sounds Catholic.) Both have their fingers in their ears, one with its mouth shut, the other with its mouth open.

No doubt many of these folks would object to being lumped into two broad groups, and rightly so for most purposes. But for the purpose of actually trying to get to know Pope Francis and making sense out of his coruscating eruptions of words and deeds, it is legitimate to note that these two groups have generated 99% of the chatter without contributing much to understanding. They are defending positions that have little to do with the merits of Pope Francis' case.

This article is addressed to the first group, the Ultramontanists, who insist one must never criticize Pope Francis. It would be impractical to attempt to handle both positions in one article. Furthermore, the attempt to silence the faithful by conservative opinion-makers has a greater impact on the discussion than the squabbling among members of the other group, which in this matter, as in everything, tends to ensure they accomplish nothing anyway.

The Bear Lays His Cards On the Table

Ursus Arctos is a solitary creature who does not congregate in factions. The Bear sincerely admires many in both groups, but, being a Bear, he has a unique perspective.

The Bear is simply a conservative who accepts Vatican II documents for the propositions they stand for, whatever those may be. He has no strong personal attachment to the old Mass, but believes it has the advantage of symbolizing what it is actually doing and is objectively superior. He deplores liturgical abuses great and small, but is practical enough to know you have to pick your battles. He has learned the hard way it is better to stand your ground and fight, but that may just be a bear thing,

The Bear has successfully infiltrated the Church.

Bears are masters of infiltration, blending invisibly into their surroundings.

The Bear believes you should respect the Pope, but in these times, have a duty to point out where he is departing from the well-worn path of holy popes, councils and saints, and leading the sheep into a dangerous new wilderness instead of the old, safe pastures. If that's indeed what he is doing. (It's too soon to know. He may just be someone from an unfamiliar culture who has difficulties expressing himself, but nonetheless likes to talk a lot. Not the best qualities for a pope, perhaps, but hardly the "destroyer" some want to make him out to be. Time will tell, and the Bear suspects there will be no doubt one way or the other by the end of another year.)

Pulling the Wool Over the Eyes of the Sheep

Here the Bear must amble down another path for the moment. (Bears never travel in straight lines.) Why would anyone dare think any pope might lead the sheep astray?

Perhaps one might pursue a novel idea of Christianity, or wish to integrate the Church more closely with secular aims and organizations. Or be driven by a peculiar ideology that no pope before has held. There are lots of reasons a pope of good will might err, at least with a strict view of infallibility. (Ultramontanists sometime speak as though it is an infallible pronouncement when the pope says "pass the salt.")

The informal statements of the Pope do not implicate infallibility, yet today are flashed around a world that does not know how to distinguish Catholic dogma from the Pope thinking out loud. (A good argument against the Pope thinking out loud.) It seems sensible to address the novelties, infelicitous phrasing and misuse of these statements by others before they can do too much damage. As we have seen, a pope does not have to change doctrine to damage the Church's mission.

But there are two particular reasons to consider treating what now issues from the Vatican with caution: (1) the Church has not spoken forthrightly of late, and (2) the Church demolished itself in a span of fifty years.

By "the Church has not spoken forthrightly of late," the Bear means this: no pope or council has yet stepped up and frankly explained why yesterday's beliefs must change simply because it is now today.

That looks kind of shady to the Bear. Certain documents appear to have been written by weasels. Old encyclicals were models of brevity and clarity. Now documents generated by the Church are bloated and equivocal. It does not engender trust.

To take one example, no one has bothered to set forth in clear language why worshipping with non-Catholics was condemned as a great evil 100 years ago, yet is ceaselessly promoted as a great virtue today.

Why not just say that the Church tried to make a Catholic world, but that obviously was not God's plan. Now we appreciate that God is only fully expressed by combining the genius and beauty of all faiths?

Another is Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (EENS) -- no salvation outside the Church. The Bear is reading a 1916 book by a Catholic author, The Facts About Luther. EENS is casually mentioned like any other infallible dogma of the Church. Today it is "the doctrine that dare not speak its name." The Church has silently dropped it. Not officially, of course, but where it has not been suppressed it has been qualified into meaninglessness.

Would it not be more honest to say, yes, that is what they believed then, but they had no idea about the New World with millions of unevangelized souls? We understand differently now and hereby declare that previous popes and councils were wrong. Maybe EENS is a monstrous, uncharitable dogma that is an infamous stain on the Catholic Church. Bears are not learned in such things. But if it is, the Church should say so, not keep attenuating the meaning of "the Church" until everyone is encompassed in its meaningless embrace.

It is almost as if they want the power, prestige and property of the Church -- no doubt to do good --  and demand Medieval obedience. Yet they ignore whatever teachings are inconvenient to their agenda without (and this is quite troubling to Catholics who like doctrinal certainty) bothering to refute and abrogate them.

A strange new meta-dogma of disuetude trumps all. (In law, a statute loses force over time if it is not enforced. It is not "taken off the books," but merely ignored to death.)

The Bear says, let them make their case, in the open. Turning wheels and moving levers behind the emerald curtain makes us really nervous. Please do not keep changing things while pretending we're too stupid to notice. We are not really sheep, you know. We're onto the tactic of hand-waving while changing our Church out from under us. Honestly, it looks like Modernism at work, which, of course is not possible, since Modernism is a heresy. But what is it?

The plucky little Yorkie exposes another plot.

It would go a long way to settle everyone down to just come clean and let us all in on the plan:

Here are the encyclicals that are wrong for our time. Maybe right for theirs, but outmoded today. And here are the dogmas the Church was understandably, forgivably mistaken about. Infallibility means nothing if not admitting mistakes and correcting them. We're going to explain it all to you now, and tell you what kind of Church we would like to see a hundred years from now.

"The Church, thank God, knows how to repent," said Pope Francis on how someone can be a heretic under Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps Pope Francis will continue that theme for us one day. For now, if you act suspiciously, you can't blame people for being suspicious.

Finally, the Bear concedes his position lacks the logical rigor of the Sedevacantists on one hand, and the rich mine of Ultramontanist quotes, on the other. It does not fully explore infallibility (although it certainly respects it for all centuries). The Bear does, however, suspect even Pope Leo XIII might be taken aback at some of his successors' acts and statements. The Bear's opinion is, like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said of the law, formed not by logic, but by experience, with a little old-fashioned bear-sense thrown in.


South Pole: Must Never Criticize the Pope

In this camp, you have liberals, "professional Catholics" and extreme Ultramontanists. Their motives vary. Respect for the papacy, investment in a kind of placid mainstream Catholicism, or, in the case of liberals (not usually recognized as staunch Papists) the perceived opportunity to push their manifold agenda. They share, however, the same fierce determination that no one speak against the deeds and words of Pope Francis.

By and large, there is little blameworthy in people defending their beliefs and interests. They are a valuable reminder to keep the discussion in the proper tone.

But when they argue that anyone who expresses legitimate concern about some of Pope Francis' antics is the same as Luther, and will soon join him in Hell, they lose all credibility. (Actually, only a few in this group believe Luther deserves to go to Hell, or that there is a Hell for him to go to.)

Why "You're Nothing But a Protestant" Fails

The "You're nothing but a Protestant (not that there's anything wrong with that)" accusation might have worked better before we watched pitiless and determined churchmen of all rank spend the last 50 years protestantizing the Church themselves. History shows flocks in England docilely followed their shepherds into Anglicanism. Flocks in Germany marched behind their shepherds into Lutheranism. If memory serves, we in our time have docilely followed our shepherds into what by any measure can only be called the shell of the Catholic Church of the 1950s.

Apparently, some think we are actually lemmings, not sheep, and expected to jump off the cliff when ordered. But if you know about sheep and have properly read the gospel, sheep are not held up as a model of blind obedience. The point is always about the shepherd taking care of the sheep.

Not a sheep, or a bear.

Sheep follow the true shepherd because they joyfully recognize his voice. He puts the interests of the sheep above all, even his own life (and ideologies). He seeks the one lost sheep. He tends and feeds the sheep. You will search in vain for the parable of the wicked herd that ran away from the good shepherd. Jesus was worried about the shepherds. Why, if they could, by virtue of their position, do no wrong?

To agitate for change because one thinks he knows better than his fathers is rebellion. Those are the real Protestants. To try to preserve things the way they have been because one respects the wisdom of his fathers is faithfulness. There's already a religion based on blind submission. It's called Islam. The Bear doesn't know what to call standing with your hands in your pockets and shrugging at everything.

Follow That Pope! (Which Pope?)

The Catholic Church is not a human institution that must "evolve," and compulsively "dialogue" with anyone who will stand still long enough for a photo-op. It does not need constant pruning of old truths to make way for the luxuriant growth of novelties.

Like it or not, the Church is uniquely secured to the past by the dogma that it has been divinely protected from teaching error. 

It is no longer a matter of following the Pope. It is a matter of deciding which pope to follow when they are urging the sheep in different directions. The Church is no longer a "Where," but a "When." The popes and councils of the past have carefully marked out good grazing land where the sheep are safe. They fenced off the dangerous wilderness so the sheep could not stray into harm by accident. Sadly, those ancient fences have been torn down by those who hate fences for no other reason than they are fences.

Not even Pope Francis thinks it's wrong to criticize a pope. Look at the number he did on Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII over their condemnation of certain propositions of now-Blessed Antonio Rosmini. "Those who had the power silenced him because they did not like what he was saying," Pope Francis said, although not mentioning them by name. (Maybe we could satifisy the Ultramontanists by just saying "Pope X?")

Pope Different
Like it or not, it was Pope Francis who made the choice to jump into the deep end of the discussion pool. He did that, just like he ensconced himself in Papal HQ Santa Marta. He's our Apple Pope: he thinks different. Maybe he can swim in the deep end, maybe not, but it is just silly is to pretend he is too holy to get wet. Pope Francis is engaging us in dialogue. The Bear suspects he would be the first to say he welcomes the sound of his sheep, however unmusical their bleats. We know he likes their smell.


  1. Comments containing the words "More Catholic than the Pope" will be taken as a concession the author really has nothing of substance to contribute.

  2. "The Bear suspects he would be the first to say he welcomes the sound of his sheep, however unmusical their bleats. We know he likes their smell."

    ....ahhhh dear Bear, he likes only certain of his sheep's smell and sound; the more traditionally minded are the subjects of constant verbal slaps (and worse) by this shepherd. I keep having St. Paul's words from Galatians run through my mind...."But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be anathema." And he repeats it for good measure and emphasis.

    We seem to be getting a whoooooole lot of a different gospel of late than that which was preached, taught, and handed down for 2,000 years. I re-read Paschendi last month, highlighting anything that reminded me of the current shepherd and his chosen band....dang if most of the pages weren't mostly fluorescent yellow when I was done!

    No, you're talking to a former ultramontanist of the first order here, and there is simply no squaring the circle before us. We're looking at modernism writ large. It is a heartache beyond words, and I have no ready answer for it. If things continue down the crazy-path, Mr. badger and I will most probably be worshiping with the SSPX...who are NOT sedevacantists btw. They fully accept that Francis is Peter; they are just saying that Peter is deadly drunk, running down the street naked, waving his arms and screaming, all the while spewing idiocy in word and action. They want him to come home, put on his clothes (!), sit in his chair (preferably quietly), and sober up (!!!) I re-watched "Becket" on Easter night and was so moved by the example of a man rising to the dignity and frightening responsibility of his divine office. He chose God's eternal laws over a political agenda, and in doing so saved his soul.

    Remember, our Lord promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church, not Peter. I believe we're being punished very severely with the pope that we deserve, not being given the one we need. God will work all out in the long run; our lives here are very short in the scheme of ecclesial time, and we will sadly most probably never see the 'straightening' while we draw mortal breath. The likes of Maradiega, Kasper, et.al. would have been flogged, excommunicated, and summarily shunned in a saner time (for the sake of THEIR souls as well as those of the flock, potentially led far astray by such flagrant dissidence and heresy). Saddest of all to say is that they and others of their ilk are the hand-picked advisers and theologians of this pope...lauded by his very words.

    We are in immensely dangerous times...the wolves are indeed within the fold; have been for sometime, but are now emboldened to the point of not trying to cover their canine nature. One of the greatest things to pray for will be discernment. Our Lord doesn't say for nothing, "When the Son of Man returns, will He find Faith on the earth?"

    1. Well, there may be a little (!) gentle irony in some of the article's statements. The same verse keeps echoing in the Bear's (mostly hollow) head, and Pascendi, and the Syllabi, and Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae are read on a regular basis, and much else besides in the Bear's efforts to separate the wheat from the chaff. Modernism seems to have swept the old Church away in a tsunami.

      Much of what is going on today seeks to make fools out of men like Becket, and Fisher and More. Why get so worked up about the Catholic Faith, or the sanctity of marriage? We can be flexible! Pastoral, even! What's a dogma or two between friends? It's really about the people, anyway.

      The silver lining is the Bear would rather have ten wolves he can see than one wolf he can't.

      What brought me the peace of Easter was the realization that Christ is the focus of our lives, not the Church. Not to say the Church is unimportant, because the Bear loves the Church, and he knows everyone who comments here loves the Church. The Church is the earthly means of our salvation, our city and our home. We can never do without it. But it is easy to get wrapped up in scandals today. The Church exists throughout time, and we can dip into 2000 years of wisdom, even if it is not in the best shape today.

      Too bad we don't get to see the Church at her most attractive. If you're a Pius Baby or later you've experienced only a Church in decline. But Jesus never changes, and we know what is true and what is not, even if some in the Church do not!

      SSPX is attractive, but are you 100% sure they have faculties to hear confessions, etc? Also, there is a bearish stubbornness that resists being driven out of MY Church! He has bolted before to Orthodoxy, and has repented (a revert). Right now Orthodoxy's lack of a pope looks like a feature not a bug :-) But you have to pick your hill to die on, and the one with Peter on it seems the safest, even if he's, like you say, drunk and running through the streets naked and raving! Also, if all the faithful and well-informed Catholics leave the "Novus Ordo" churches (as they are called by some, the Bear will assume everyone knows what the shorthand means, even though he doesn't necessarily think in those terms) then who will be the salt and the light for the ordinary pewsitters? Who will teach RCIA correctly? Keep Jesus company on the rare Eucharistic Adorations? That is why the Bear says "nail your paw to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there." But that is for those who are strong. And it is also important that the traditional Mass be preserved for the future.

      This brings to mind the story of Noah's drunkenness. The Bear thought it best to play the part of the good sons who decently covered their father's nakedness instead of spreading sniggering tales. But the analogy is flawed. Noah's behavior was an aberration, a personal lapse. It is a little different when Noah seems to have decided to start tearing apart the ark just as it was finished. "Uh, dad, we've just spent years building this ship to save everybody worth saving... we don't understand what you're doing here. No, dad, seriously... put that saw down and let's talk."

    2. g'morning Bear. If I might add a respectfully intended response to your respectful (and always intelligent) response...

      At first I bristled a bit (that's what badgers do) at your 4th paragraph, but after reading it again, I do see where you're going. However, Christ so associates Himself with His Church that they really cannot be separated into He and She ("Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME?") The Church is His Bride; eternally and irrevocably joined...no divorce and 'remarriage' there. Yes it is undeniably true that Jesus never changes, but I would put forth that neither does His Church. Men within Her may try to change Her, beating Her, clubbing Her, bloodying Her; but She does not...cannot change, else She would not (cannot) be His Church. (The King weds no harlot). Though wheat and tare both be within Her, She Herself, is spotless.

      Which brings me to my comment on the SSPX…I had a long, cleansing talk with a very good priest about my extreme anguish of the past year (N.O. priest at that, at the N.O. parish I attend…no ‘rad-trad’ here; I love the N.O. Mass properly and reverently said). We spoke of the year’s antics (Blessed Mother shouting “you lie!” to God the Father, atheists being saved by their consciences and humanitarian works, Jesus lying to the Apostles in His demeanor to teach some sort of a lesson, telling muslims to hold fast to their korans to find hope within (seriously???), the more than dubious choice of notorious dissenters as his chief advisors and theologians, telling dissenting orders to ignore the CDF, the upcoming co-celebration with the Lutherans of the rebellion, and on and more and on and blah and on….). I asked him what it would mean if, at this fall’s synod, they (the pope and the bishops in union with him) were to change the dogmatic practice (and let’s not kid ourselves, that’s exactly what it is, for it strikes at the heart of What (Who) the Holy Eucharist is; what marriage is; and what mortal sin is) of not allowing divorced-and-remarrieds to receive Holy Communion. We had an amazing talk, and let’s just say the pain was more than shared, and so were the conclusions.

      Where will the Church be preserved at that point?...where a new religion is being made and promulgated, with a false unity and a cheap grace? Or where Her beliefs and teachings are unchanged? I will stay in my pew unless and until the moment they ‘change’ doctrine. At that point, I will be witnessing Peter again leaving the boat, taking his eyes of Christ, and sinking like a stone. Christ will raise another Peter and lead him back to the boat, and at that point, please God, the storm within will be blessedly passed.

      In the meantime, my paw is indeed nailed, until Peter says to Christ, ‘you weren’t really so kind in what you said there, let me fix it for you, cause we’re talking about modern man now, and really, you just couldn’t have been aware of the ways things are in life now’. If, and I say a BIG if, that happens, I will practice my Faith in the one place that will never have left the boat (and they haven’t…Benedict made that quite clear, the excommunications never should have happened and were revoked; in other words, they are Catholic, in an irregular status to be sure, but nonetheless, Catholic), nor have they taken their eyes off Christ. In praxis, teaching, and worship, they are INDISTINGUISHABLE from Catholics of the last 2 millenia (minus the last 60 years). Christ is present there; honored, adored, and loved. I would never consider Orthodoxy…it is a heresy. I have considered the Eastern Catholic rites, but alas, I am Roman to the core.

    3. cont....

      You ask, “who will teach RCIA correctly?”…I respond that few are doing so now, and that NO ONE will be permitted to teach it correctly in the ‘new church’ being formed. In point of fact it’s difficult to promulgate the Church’s teaching now in any venue (I’m a CCD teacher, and the antics of the past year have made my already-difficult job immeasurably harder). How very much our Holy Father has spoken of ‘opening up your hearts to embrace change, and the new ways the Spirit is leading us’…to ‘not hold on to the past’, et-freakin’-cetera. Ya know…the Spirit’s led us awfully well thru 2,000 years of martyrs, persecutions, and evangelization (which is now pretty much considered passé and ‘solemn nonsense’). The Way remains The Way, and the pope’s job is to safeguard that treasury…NOT to change it. And badger’s aren’t stupid, please don’t tell me that he hasn’t been changing it, because we both know that’s exactly what all these awful trial-balloons are leading to, and in many respects have in essence done.

      This is all new and horrifying territory. There is a relentless and stabbing pain in my heart and soul every day with every new breath. It is eased by daily Mass (N.O.), regular Adoration, counting my beads (I know, I know…promethean neo-pelagian…I’ve been whipped with that one by my Holy Father already), and by spreading the good news of the Catholic Faith with others (I am the godmother and sponsor of numerous, currently anticipating a new ‘child’s’ entry into the Church after a year of RCIA while awaiting news on her annulment declaration, and privately tutoring a Buddhist…this last would now be frowned upon in higher circles). So much will change for me if this horror occurs…my life will be torn asunder…I will lose friends and much of what is familiar and dear to me. But as you say, you’ve gotta pick a hill to die on, and I die on the words of Christ, His eternal unchanging teaching, and His Church…which never, ever changes. Where is She preserved? That will be the call to discernment. If the SSPX ever claims Francis is not pope, then we’ve got a different ballgame, but until that unlikely event, they remain for me a possible port in a very ugly, intensifying storm. Please pray for me (and others like me). I am considering things that 2 years ago would have been anathema to me; but I am seeing things that 2 years ago would have been impossible for me to imagine.

      Sorry to have gone on so long…it’s like an anguish dump once I get started, and sometimes it helps to bear one’s innards to a sympathetic (if not totally simpatico) forest dweller. Thanks for the forum, and for this site…I very much enjoy ‘Bear wisdom’…who knew? 

      (and p.s….please thank your sons for their service…outstanding men you’ve raised! Blessed Easter to you’n’yours.)

    4. And now we have "Pope Francis says divorced and remarried Catholics can take communion!" Whatever nuances there may or may not have been to this particular "pastoral" encounter will be lost, just as they have been with other reckless acts of the Pope. How thoughtless to muddy such a sensitive issue for people.

      Pope Benedict said taking communion has become just another thing people do, without discernment. He specifically said if people properly understood the Mass "pastoral problems" of divorce and remarriage would not be so difficult, i.e. raking communion was not the reason or reward for assisting at Mass.

      You're right that you cannot separate Jesus and the Church, and I could have been more precise, but do rely on charity for my real meaning to be understood, so thank you. What I was trying to say is that if we look only at the problems in the Church -- there are so many -- it is impossible to retain our peace. Or let me just speak for myself alone. I often walk around simmering, when I should be trusting Jesus.

      I teach RCIA correctly, so not no one. But the fish in the Church's net are a motley catch, and whatever I do gets undone by everyone from Father on down. I have spent an evening teaching straight out of the CCC only to have Father breeze in at the end and undo everything. But one or two get it. I know that.

      This is going to go one of two ways.

      1. Pope Francis continues to the the pope that is always "about to wreck the Church" but never quite follows through on his threats.

      2. Pope Francis will reveal himself as a manifest heretic (he already likes to skate close to the thin ice) and then things will be not only sad and interesting, but urgent, too.

      The Bear does not have the answers. Sometimes he blusters. This is very much a ground level blog. So many other people have the answers from their Olympian heights. "Don't worry! Pope Francis is great! He just said "devil" in a homily!" Or, "See, we told you so! Now are you ready to join us with the Dimond Bros. at Holy Family Monastery?" Bear doesn't know anything, except it is all painful and confusing, but only to those who take the Faith seriously. Can this be right?

      In the meantime, He's My Pope™ . He is the one with the contract, the property, the seal, the popemobile, and all the other stuff. (Although, oddly, not the papal residence.) The Bear is migrating notrhward every day. He will likely become a North Polar Bear. Francis is out of his depth and fighting anyone who tries to save him. People say, "Oh, times have been worse!" There have always been heresies. But we are faced with the unthinkable now.

  3. CNN is running a hoax where Pope Francis cold-called a woman in Argentina and said it was okay for her to take communion though divorced and remarried.

  4. not necessarily a hoax.... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/10782508/Pope-Francis-tells-sinner-she-should-be-allowed-Communion.html

    Granted it's all third hand hearsay to this point, but isn't it amazing that this is the ONLY pope you actually have to wonder about whether this is accurate or not? And apparently the Vatican press office wouldn't deny it.

  5. Good comments, Bear. My take is that the Pope would love it if everyone was a Catholic following all the teachings of the Church. Having said that, what do you do when you're Pope in 2014? You could, of course, sit on your throne issuing anathemas at everyone but I'm guessing that would be counter-productive. The Pope still matters in this world in a way that no other religious leader does. He has a moral authority that no other religious leaser does. For that reason, I think he has to tread carefully in matters of praxis so the he doesn't end up marginalized. Will it work? I guess time will tell.

    1. I think anyone who represents Christ faces marginalization. The danger is that the Pope becomes just one more peace and justice cheerleader in a world full of them. Catholicism has a unique message that transcends any social concerns. There is Heaven. There is Hell. There is truth, and there is error. We all want you to experience the former and avoid the latter. We want you to learn to love God and serve your brothers. As far as anathemas, I think all the evils have pretty much been covered by now. Other than to keep the beavers in the Curia busy, does the Church need to generate more papers, or faithfully teach the Gospel of the Ages?

  6. I think there is another category of Catholics who are reluctant to publicly criticize a pope, and that is a segment that fears the possibility of creating an impression of disrespect for the Petrine office. Having encountered non-Catholics who revile the papacy (these tend to be the sort that call our Church “The Whore of Babylon”) and many more who simply have a very poor understanding of the papacy and a huge MISunderstanding of papal infallibility, I tremble to create any perception that could be mistaken for outright rejection of Petrine authority by those who either would delight in such a rejection, or by some who just don’t know any better.

    “…the Church has fallen ill since Vatican II, and has borne bad fruit ever since” neatly encapsulates my view, which began forming long before I even thought of myself as a generic Christian, let alone as an aspiring convert to the One, True Church. All it took was observation of my Catholic friends, who seemed to silently shed the special identity that once had infused their lives – and observation of the transition of The Catholic Church from strong, distinct and respected voice in the mainstream of culture, to toothless and dispirited Christian denomination that – strangely -- nevertheless was under virulent attack from within as well as being relentlessly smeared and caricatured in popular culture. This was the fruit of Vatican II that I observed as an outsider with no dog in the fight.

    It’s funny to watch the “progressives”, who suddenly are pretending to have respect for the papacy, gleefully lobbing taunts of “cafeteria Catholic” and “more Catholic than the Pope” at anyone who expresses dismay with some of Pope Francis’s utterances (like, say the one that got him a public thankyou from NARAL, and the famous “WAITJ” that has delighted defenders of sodomy). “Progressives”, obsessed with the earthbound, generally despise hierarchy and were pretty outspoken about that until Francis came along. As you have suggested, Bear, the Jesus they prefer is not Christ Pantocrator nor Jesus the Good Shepherd, but Jesus the Social Worker – so it stands to reason that a Vicar of Christ who seems to view himself as a social worker sends their earthbound hearts clear over the moon.

    1. Good comments, Jane. I don't disagree with any of your statements. I was trying to tie a lot of separate threads together in one article and I'm not sure I was successful. I believe the "North Pole" group is correct, BUT should respectfully listen to everything the Pope has to say before condemning him. As I pointed out, even Caiaphas' statement about one man dying for the people was prophetic, even though he personally had no idea what he was really saying. So the Pope may be smarter than he (and we) think!

      I guess I'm not too happy with the strange correlation of forces suggested in the first picture. To compare Catholics laboring under today's difficulties attempting to restore the Church "brick by brick" (we put one brick back, they take two bricks down) in the face of a constant stream of papal chatter to Martin Luther's revolt is ridiculous and insulting. In the 16th century, you didn't hear some odd thing from the pope at least once a week. Being pope was serious business and when he spoke it was with authority. Taking a stand against Church doctrine and papal authority was also a serious step, because you weren't commenting on the pope's offhand remark a journalist "Who am I to judge?" but nailing your 95 theses to the board outside the local church in open revolt against the Petrine office itself.

      As far as causing scandal, it is good to think about that, but I doubt many Protestants are reading SCB. This is adult conversation for Catholics, as all the comments show. Some poor old Bear banging on a keyboard in the middle of the forest can hardly cause more scandal than the pope's careless chatter and the Church's failure to get its house back in order. If anything, perhaps they would be cheered by Catholics who seem to retain that "special identity" you spoke of. That's what it's about, isn't it? The Church, and being a member of that Church? If the Bear did not think these were extraordinary times -- who knows, perhaps a turning point? -- he would be much less Bearish. Like Susan, (and like you may recall from the first iteration of SCB) the Bear was a firm Ultramontanist after Francis' election, constantly saying, "he's teaching us, learn from him, give him a chance." I'm still saying that, but I'm also calling the strikes, since there are so few, if I may say so without seeming too prideful, people who are willing to even try to be honest umpires.

      Yes, it is a riot to see all the born-again Ultramontanists!

  7. Wow, such thoughtful comments! This isn't the Bear's blog, it's a Catholic Cooperative!


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