Thursday, May 1, 2014

10 Reasons to Feel How You are Feeling About the Church

One year into the pontificate of Francis, it is time for fearless, well-informed and clear-sighted honesty.

Unfortunately, this blog is written by a Bear. Nonetheless, he shall do his best.

As timman writes at St. Louis Catholic, the painstaking reform of the reform that brought cautious hope has been undone by Pope Francis. Steve Skojec says, in another article worth reading, we have found out that our father is Darth Vader. The Bear is slightly less pessimistic.

There is no question Pope Francis is odd. Whether he is
  • lovable-old-uncle odd,
  • Latin-American-Liberation-Theology-Vatican II-enthusiast-make-a-mess odd,
  • or Captain-Queeg*-obsessed-with-strawberries-and-rolling-steel-balls-we're-all-going-to-die-in-the-typhoon odd,
we just don't know.

Captain Queeg
The Bear proposes we drop the names that divide those who recognize the problem. Let's all band together under the name Supernaturalist Catholics.

That captures it doesn't it?

After all, the division seems to be between Catholics who are oriented toward supernatural realities, and Catholics who are oriented toward nature and its needs. Of course, one may (and should) operate in both spheres, but, let's face it, there are only two fundamental orientations. Every Catholic has a compass that points to either Heaven or Earth. Supernaturalist Catholics can fight over who is pure enough to be in the Barque of Peter after we survive the typhoon. For now, let's just stop with Neo-Catholics, Tongue-Catholics, Conservative Catholics, Traditionalists, Rad-Trads, and all the rest.

The Current State of Affairs

The paths of argumentation have been beaten down by all concerned. We are passing the same landmarks again and again. Let's summarize what we know so far. The Bear believes that, on the whole, things might not be as bad as we whip ourselves up into believing.

First of all, let's look Five Reasons to Be Happy.

1.  Pope Francis is always about to do something horrible, but so far, he has done little more than fiddle with the window dressing. Perceptions matter, and we are generating unfortunate perceptions on a daily basis. Nonetheless, if Pope Francis should retire today, the Church would be in the same condition it was before he came.

2.  Pope Francis does have good things to teach, things Supernaturalists may need to be reminded of. Remember, even Caiaphas prophesied truly about one man dying for the people, because he held the office of high priest. We cannot automatically discount everything a pope says and does. We should be like bears who take the stings to get to the honey. Sometimes, the very things that rankle are the things we need to hear.

3.  Good publicity is not necessarily a bad thing. (Obviously not at the expense of more important things.) There are people who may need to see the Catholic Church as a vibrant and popular option to consider taking a second look. Also, the Church may be able to accomplish things beneath the warm glow of the Franciscan sun that it could not under a pall of unfair criticism.

4. The very things that bother the Supernaturalists so much, such as the weird phone calls on sensitive matters of moral theology, strike every serious Catholic as "off," although they might not admit it. You could write everything the Bear knows about the Curia on the head of a pin with a crayon, with room left for the Gettysburg address, but he suspects the Pope has made few friends. Perhaps even some cardinals are getting more than they bargained for when they cast their vote for Jorge Bergoglio. His excesses may prove yet to be a sort of "inoculation" against his own program.

5.  Far from dividing Catholics, Pope Francis is uniting them, and here the Bear must respectfully disagree with those who see the conservative wing splintering. Never before has everyone from Rad Trads to Conservatives been so united in fear of a pope. Again, we are all Supernaturalists, now.

6.  Five reasons, plus the main one: we're all Catholics! We have the Mass! We have saints! We have the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary! We have "the love of truth," that St. Paul writes about in 2 Thessalonians 2:10. We know the difference between right and wrong, something that we should not take for granted these days! We know what sound doctrine is, because God has given us a Church with a long history of being right to guide us in our day.

Never before has so much good information been available to individual Catholics. While the overall level of catechesis may be poor, there have never been more average Catholics who are better educated in the Faith. Do you think that is an accident? The Bear doesn't.

Now let's look at Five Reasons to be Unhappy.

1.  Supernaturalists are taking a lot of flack. Pope Francis constantly talks about hypocrites, Bat Christians, frightened children, and a hundred other insulting categories. Supernaturalists immediately assume he is talking about them, and he probably is. We could pretend otherwise, though. (The Bear makes a game out of who he pretends the Pope is criticizing: Freemasons, Protestants, whatever.) Ignore them. If that's what he thinks about us, fine, so what? We can't let that consume us. Which brings up another point. Why are we suddenly interested in what the born again ultramontanists think? Many of them don't take anything before Vatican II seriously except infallibility.

2.  The Synod on the Family is coming in October. The Bear is stockpiling a delicious collection of popcorn. It ought to be a great show, especially since even Pius Babies were too young to follow Vatican II. The Synod on the Family poses two problems, only one of which seems to be on the radar. The first, the identified target carries a payload of family issues that only begin with communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The stealth target is the very idea of a synod.

3.  The Synod on the Family is coming in October. Can you imagine if the idea of bishops exercising any kind of doctrinal authority at a level below a full council were to catch on? The Bear is reading Malachi Martin's Windswept House. Heck, the whole plot is a big ho-hum now. It's about a conspiracy to get a pope pliant enough to view himself as one bishop out of many. Was anyone else confused when Francis first took to the balcony and talked about "the Bishop of Rome?" The Bear was like, "Yeah, great, but where's the Pope?" This should be like the end of Clue, where Tim Curry runs around unmasking everybody and explaining everything. Things will be so much clearer.

"Cardinal Kasper in the Study with a Knife."

4.  The Pope is acting weird. Yep.

5.  No, really. Okay. Part of it is his personality. Part of it is what the Bear shall call a Latin exuberance. Part of it is drinking (non-Marxist!) liberation theology from an Evita Peron Rainbow Tour souvenir mug. Whatever is left that that doesn't explain, the Bear is not competent to judge. Francis doesn't seem to quite grasp how being pope is different from being everyone's parish padre, but who is a silly Bear to give lessons in Popery to the Holy Father? The point is, there's a lot in the mix, and the Bear is not sure we should view Pope Francis with quite the same alarm as we would view an Italian pope doing the same things. Capisce?

Snoozing Through Summertime

You may call it "the Argentine Handicap," or "Dumbing Down the Papacy." or "New World Disorder." But you could also call it "History in the Making," or "A Personal Challenge."

Is Rome burning? No. Does the Bear smell smoke? Yes. The Bear won't be getting too excited until after the Synod. That doesn't mean he is straddling the fence, either. At this point he is an interested observer that utters the occasional growl, but has yet to be roused to do anything more. After October, we'll see.

So far, the Bear is still seeing the people who could be expected to like Pope Francis like him, and those who could be expected not to like him don't. The Bear's own satisfaction has described a steady downward slide, much like the playground toy, so imagine a bear sitting at the bottom of a sliding board. It can be a summer of discontent, or it can be a nice, long snooze until October, when the Church as we know it may or may not come to an end.

Probably not.

*Captain Queeg is a character in Herman Wouk's WWII naval drama, The Cain Mutiny, which was made into an excellent movie starring Humphrey Bogart as the off-kilter captain, Van Johnson as his conflicted executive officer, and Fred MacMurray as a scheming blogger.


  1. Although I know less than you do about the Curia, I expect you are correct. Corroborating opinion:

  2. Very good find, Elizabeth. Yes, "tipping point" were my very words a couple of weeks ago after the phone call. Wackiness may be a blessing in disguise. Bureaucracies are the same everywhere. We've been hearing for decades how St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI couldn't do everything they wanted to on account of "the Vatican bureaucracy." Let's see if that turns out to be our last-ditch defense against our Tropic of Capricorn Pope.

  3. This is a tour de force, Bear ("drinking (non-Marxist!) liberation theology from an Evita Peron Rainbow Tour souvenir mug" -- ROFL!!!). And I think it neatly distills the essence of the conflict that's been fermenting for decades.

    (I can't seem to get away from beverage analogies.)

    Maybe the Holy Father likes the idea of 'making a mess' by causing the whole nasty brew to combust via Synod. (Here comes the lighted match -- look at those Bat Christians scatter!) Or, maybe not. What fun to wait and wonder, wonder and wait.

    1. Thanks, Jane! Performing bears live for the applause. That and Coca-Cola. They just love Coca-Cola.

  4. Yeah, where can I get one of those mugs? LOL

  5. you wanna have your eyes opened up a little further yet?....follow up your reading of Windswept House with "The Jesuits"....a lot of the here-to-fore inexplicable behavior will come into crystal-clear focus. It will be spiritally unsettling, but you will be informed. I will very much look forward to reading your first post after you've read that book.

    And as to the difference between Marxist Lib. Theology and Peronista Lib. really couldn't fit a toothpick between the crack.

  6. How could the Cardinals, men of the world, have been blindsided by the Latin American baggage Cardinal Bergoglio (no doubt personally) carried with him from the airport to his humble accommodations for the conclave? If a dumb Bear in the middle of nowhere can figure this stuff out armed only with an internet connection, a Nexus 7 tablet and a stack of Coca-Cola cases, how is it THEY couldn't does this unique opportunity to learn about other cultures at the Church's expense? BTW Thank You Susan for Sharing the Bear. Every time someone links back to SCB in a combox, the Bear gains new readers.

  7. "does" = "foresee" stupid autocorrect

  8. Maaaaaan...your autocorrect is even worse than mine (and that's sayin' something! :)

    And I LOVE sharing the Bear....he's a very smart bear! :)

  9. Nah, just smarter than the average bear!


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