Let's see what we can all agree on.
- the Church has been facing a crisis since the 1960s, one that is statistically and anecdotally beyond dispute
- during the course of this crisis, the Church has prided itself on being "more open to the world" and novelty
- Pope Francis -- surely with the best of intentions -- embodies this spirit of novelty and "openness to the world"
- the approaches reflected in Nos. 2 and 3 have contributed to the crisis of No.1 and can only deepen that crisis
- The imprudent series of statements and actions of Pope Francis and his allied prelates are a clear and present danger to the well-being of the Church
- One should not criticize or ridicule the Pope, prelates or priests
If we can agree on 1 through 5, let's take a closer look at 6 -- one should not criticize or ridicule the Pope, prelates, or priests. Why not?
- It is a sin to speak ill of any person
- It is particularly serious when that person is a cleric, especially the Pope
- It may cause scandal to people, who may even leave the Church
- It may degrade the Church's mission
In a nutshell, the attitudes and beliefs of Pope Francis and like-minded prelates seem to be made of similar stuff as the poisonous "spirit of Vatican II," with a few new, and even more noxious ingredients. The Pope and his men have turned their back on Catholicism and embraced a sort of "mere Christianity," to use C.S. Lewis' term. Beyond that, it seems not a week goes by without a scandalous comment by the Pope, which confuses and upsets the faithful.
But we risk sin if we comment in the same way we do in the rough-and-tumble political discourse to which we are accustomed.
Is there an exception to No. 6? Are there circumstances under which we may criticize the Pope, prelates and priests without the risk of sin?
You will recall that a man tried to demolish the Pieta with a sledgehammer. Now, ordinarily, one cannot assault a person by laying hands on him. But would we be stopped by such a rule from attempting to save the Pieta by physical force? The Bear would not hesitate, and he suspects neither would his readers.
What if it were a bishop, or the Pope wielding the sledgehammer? Does that make a difference? The Bear does not believe it does.
Now, what if, instead of a sledgehammer, a man somehow had the power to destroy the treasures of the Church, even its most sacred ones, by his words alone? He could speak,and metal would dissolve to rust, marble to dust. What if, furthermore, he could erase the very words of Our Lord, destroy the teachings of the Church and subvert its sacraments, all by just speaking? Are we not back to our maniac with a sledgehammer attacking the Pieta, only not just a statue, but the very substance of the Catholic Church?
So, yes, the Bear believes the deference we owe clerics has its limits when we are defending the faith from those very clerics. (Surely no one will require a demonstration that clerics can teach to the harm of the Church. From Arius to Luther to the current news cycle, it is clerics who are doing the most damage to the Church.)
One might object that it does more harm to the faithful than good to criticize the Pope. However, the Bear never gets emails or combox feedback that he is destroying people's faith or driving them out of the Church. Instead, they are glad to find someone saying out loud what they feel, and encouraging them to "nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there."
So that is why the Bear criticizes the Pope, prelates and priests. Not because he is deluded into thinking they will ever read what he writes, or change, but to frankly acknowledge the mess they are creating and encouraging his fellow pewsitters.
Sometimes, the Bear may enjoy himself a little too much, it's true. He has two defenses to that charge. (1) A blogger has to hook his reader and entertain them, at least to some degree. Humor, a memorable turn of phrase, and visuals all help to gain and keep an audience. (2) Credibility is credibility. You can painstakingly rebut every remark and position, with footnotes. Or you can photoshop a clown nose on someone. If the Bear is going to be in this fight, he reserves the right to use whatever rhetorical tools suit the occasion. As the Bear has said before, until the Pope and his prelates demonstrate a healthy Catholicism, it is best that they have no credibility.