Thursday, April 3, 2014

Useless Zealot Seeks Clarification

"The Oracle of Santa Marta" comes in part -- the easy part -- from Pope Francis' chosen residence. The "Oracle" part requires a little more explanation.

The Oracle at Delphi

The Oracle at Delphi could be consulted by ancient Greeks who wanted divine guidance on important matters. The mechanics are unimportant for our purposes. The style is what brings to mind Pope Francis.

The Oracle at Delphi was great at foretelling the future. Unfortunately, most of the time you could only understand what the Oracle predicted after the event took place. This was because the Oracle thought spelling things out clearly spoiled all the fun of being an oracle. Or maybe it was because the Oracle sat on a three-legged chair over a crack that emitted mind-altering fumes.

This led to oracular pronouncements such as:

"A wall of wood alone shall be uncaptured, a boon to you and your children." Athens constructed a navy (wall of wood) and defeated the invading Persians in the Battle of Salamis.

"Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back, matricide! The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!" The wicked Nero returned to Rome satisfied that he would live a long life. He was soon thereafter killed by Galba, who was 73.

You get the idea. Dealing with oracles is tricky, because it is all in the interpretation. We can try to read Francis through Benedict, as Fr. Z manfully tries to do. What we can't do is just hear and understand.

Tired of Being "Useless?" Then Just... Uh...

The Pope recently complained (again) that his Church was full of hypocrites who were too slothful to do anything except faithfully go to Mass, pray to God and otherwise strive to lead quiet lives. Those Catholics are "useless" to the Church because they do not engage the world with "apostolic zeal."

There was a time when that might have meant the quaint notion of "winning souls for Christ." But it has been a long time since the Church wanted anything to do with that. "Proselytizing is solemn nonsense," the Pope is quoted as saying, which is not exactly a new position.

Just browse the USCCB's website for "New Evangelization." It's "new" because it's all about celebrating others' religious beliefs rather than changing them. The good news is everybody's right! Show some real apostolic zeal and see how long it takes for someone from the chancery to show up with a fire extinguisher.

So what does it mean when the Pope uses some pretty harsh language against Catholics who do not "give the news of Jesus to others?" Once upon a time, the answer would be obvious, but in the era of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, it is impossible to know what the Pope is talking about when he tells Catholics to "give the news of Jesus to others."

Anyone else find that a little odd?

The Most Important Thing is... Um...

Pope Francis warned against those who misuse the Gospel to support their interests, their ideologies and their theologies. What does that even mean? "Ideologies" is a word he has used in connection with traditionalists in the past. But who is misusing the Gospel these days (unless it is our separated brethren, which is obviously the wrong answer)?

If you put a gun to the Bear's head (which more than one person has done) he might blurt out "tradiconservatists!" First, a bear blurting out anything distracts a hunter long enough to detach him from his lower jaw, which spoils his aim. Second, because when the Pope has complained, it has been about Catholics who don't think the Church was started in 1965, you know "rosary-counters" and the like. But truth to tell, the Bear has no idea who Pope Francis is upset with for misusing the Gospel.

And that's why the Bear calls Pope Francis The Oracle of Santa Marta.

The space between Pope Francis and the faithful has widened, not narrowed in his first year. We are learning that we cannot count on a shared vocabulary, common understanding of the Church, clearly stated goals or fatherly advice to the faithful. The only constants are surprise, change and confusion. From speaking with other Catholics, the Bear has learned he is not alone. The only question is whether those are features or bugs of the Franciscan Church.

Gut instinct says features. So it would be an easy matter to decide he was going to be forthcoming and say what he means.

If only the Bear were an atheist, or homosexual, or Pentecostal, perhaps the Pope would stop calling him names. Faithfully assisting at Mass, praying, and living a quiet life... these "magical" things don't really work in the real world. They're "useless." Get out and "give the news of Jesus to others!"

Whatever that is code for.

On second thought, sit still and await clarification from Church officials. We don't want anyone going crazy with unauthorized zeal here.

P.S. The Bear anticipates someone may object, saying: "Don't try to interpret him; just take what the Pope says at face value!" That would be a good idea if taking him at face value didn't run into a buzz saw of well-established prohibitions and qualifications. The Pope would not casually sweep those aside in a weekday homily. This is why it is certain he means something else. We just don't know what.


  1. To heck with substance. I love Mandy Patinken in that role. That is the very best scene in "Princess Bride." He's so likable a bad guy.

  2. I worked like five hours on that and... and you only looked at the picture? That my wife made me put in? LOL Just for that I'm billing for your defense against the charge of being a "cafeteria Catholic." You and "bare." (I agree, but I don't know if I would call In I go a bad guy.)

  3. After being reminded how useless I am, I have thrown out my old wardrobe for a cilice (hair shirt) and am practicing self flagellation for the foreseeable future.

  4. In the spirit of poverty I threw away all my tools of mortification. Now I sit naked on sharp rocks punching myself in the face.


Moderation is On.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...