Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What If the Pope Attacked the Pieta With a Sledgehammer?

In the previous article, the Bear observed that the Bible -- and one might add most Catholic saints -- are severely opposed to the sorts of things the Bear does nearly every day: murmuring, gossip, backbiting, and ridicule. No one, not even the Pope, escapes his snark.

Let's see what we can all agree on.

  1. the Church has been facing a crisis since the 1960s, one that is statistically and anecdotally beyond dispute
  2. during the course of this crisis, the Church has prided itself on being "more open to the world" and novelty
  3. Pope Francis -- surely with the best of intentions -- embodies this spirit of novelty and "openness to the world"
  4. the approaches reflected in Nos. 2 and 3 have contributed to the crisis of No.1 and can only deepen that crisis
  5. 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
  6. 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?

  1. It is a sin to speak ill of any person
  2. It is particularly serious when that person is a cleric, especially the Pope
  3. It may cause scandal to people, who may even leave the Church
  4. 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.


  1. Ouch:

    "As the Bear has said before, until the Pope and his prelates demonstrate a healthy Catholicism, it is best that they have no credibility. "

    I shall not challenge on whether this statement is judicious, sinful, or out of line. I find it sad that one must think that way about the Holy Father and several prelates. It's pretty stark. It's a reflection on the Holy Father and his team that genuinely faithful Catholics may have this point of view and can defend it.

    1. Probably all three, and possibly uniquely lawyerly. Credibility is the currency of the courtroom. A witness who has no credibility cannot hurt you. You can attack their credibility in the particulars (they were not in a position to witness the murderous attack), or in general (they have a criminal conviction, or a reputation as a liar). IF we believe Pope Francis is a threat to the Church in what he often says and does, and there is no chance of stopping him, THEN it is better if people put no stock in what he says. Let's say he declares on his next plane ride that Martin Luther was right about sola fide. It would best if people just politely gave up paying much attention to him, right?

  2. I still, and will never, understand all the hand-wringing over this. He is doing exactly as you point out. He has made himself an enemy of Christ, and has done it with full volition of the will....watch the Tango Mass (if you can stomach it); attacked the credibility of (and substantial dogma about) the Blessed Mother; made a personal crusade out of every left-wing political issue that comes down the pike (good Lord, we're going to have an encyclical on one soon!); attacked Catholic teaching on marriage; given numerous souls the green light to enjoy their grave sin; and on and on and freakin' on.

    It's not that your readers 'enjoy' the ridicule of the pope...(that's actually a really really insulting thing to say)...it's that this man has patently shown himself to be, quite frankly, an enemy of Christ and His Church...it's not stupidity; it's not naivety; it's not innocent faux pas....he means every last scandal of it. And the duplicity and sneakiness with which he carries it out is further sign.

    When the lines are drawn this clearly and horribly, to not make the choice for Christ in bold word, letter, and deed would be a choice with consequences much harsher, I believe, than calling a shameless wolf a wolf (with humor and snark to, as you say, take away all credibility).

    Your last line was the sharpest, most insightful thing you've written for days.

    1. Thanks, Badger. I just like to have my ducks in a row when every other page of the Bible says not to speak ill of others. I think we agree completely on Pope Francis, and as far as I know, no other blogger of repute (snork) has twice called for the destruction of the Pope's credibility!

      As for enjoying my blog, perhaps not for you, but for most people being entertained is part of the attraction. Or, perhaps, the Bear has spent too many years in circuses.

    2. First of all, I enjoy your blog immensely...just not all the hand-wringing.

      And a question....who said the following in speaking of others?....

      "Hypocrites!" (numerous times)
      "whitewashed tombs!"
      "brood of vipers!"
      "blind fools!"
      "child of hell!"
      "You serpents!"
      and as I recall, this Person said these, and more, to the highest priests, scribes and teachers of the law because they were mangling the word of God, plotting to kill the Son of God, and people were going to hell because of them.....(gee, why does all that sound familiar to me?)

      "Judge with right judgment" Bear, and quite the hand-wringing already.

  3. St. Thomas said you could not perform an evil act hoping good would come out of it. But he also wrote about the law of double effect. If you perform a good, even with certain knowledge that it will also cause an evil, you're okay. So if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and her life can be saved only by surgery that will result in the baby's death, according to the law of double effect, it would be permissible. Now PLEASE someone who actually knows what they're talking about correct me on this!


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...