Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope Francis on Wednesday

Pope Francis isn't offering any surprises during his visit to the United States so far. In speeches at the White House, Junipero Serra's canonization Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and an address to U.S. bishops, Pope Francis dwelt on familiar themes.

At the White House, the Holy Father called to "support the institutions of marriage and family, at this, a critical moment in our civilization."

He also reiterated the current Catholic line on religious liberty as an ideal. "That freedom remains one of America's most precious possessions," the Holy Father said. The Bear says that religious liberty is probably the best we can expect in 21st century societies, But the ideal is a Bearocracy where the Catholic faith is official and error has no right, except, perhaps to quietly and privately practice whatever mumbo-jumbo one pleases as long as one doesn't draw the attention of His Dread Majesty the Bear.

Religious liberty is like one of those soccer games for precious darlings where they don't keep score. Except the kids don't go to Hell at the end of the game.

The Pope and President Obama agreed on climate change, to the surprise of no one. Poor Pope Francis is a leftist at heart, and carries the gullibility gene when it comes to climate change. He can't help it. The fact that the Pope repeats scientific bunk doesn't mean it isn't bunk, anymore than if he declared the Earth to be flat.

The Pope did not apologize for missionary activity during the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, as some had worried he might. In fact, he said, "Jesus intended his Good News for all."

When speaking to the U.S. bishops, the Pope gave a simple message about that kind of pastors he wanted them to be. The Bear was struck by this phrase:

"It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake.  The 'style' of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us.'"

Pope Francis is a "feeler," not a "thinker," a man of the heart, not of the head. "Complicated doctrines" are not part of the message he wants the bishops to preach. They should "joyfully proclaim Christ died and rose for our sake."

That's not bad advice; the Bear might observe our bishops do neither. They neither teach nor inspire. They dabble in politics, PR and trendy causes. At any rate, it is hardly surprising to hear the Holy Father speak this way. Note the response he desires from this joyful message they are to proclaim: the "hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us.'"

The Bear does not know to what extent "complicated doctrines" are important to this pope. The Bear is fairly sure they are not as important as how people feel, whether they have joy, whether they are a witness to the living Christ. At least that seems to be his emphasis. It is unfortunate that doctrines should be contrasted with faith. Doctrines secure faith. It's not an either-or. The reality is that people shall feel how and what they feel, and feelings usually don't last. But doctrines will survive long after Pope Francis yields to the next pope, and that pope to his successor, and so on.

The rest of the Pope's address to the bishops was what we might expect, except there was nothing particularly scandalous. The Pope included abortion, drowned migrants, bombed children, the elderly who are considered a burden and the environment in a kind of stew of evils that comprised "the essential aspects of the Church's mission belong[ing] to the core of what we have received from the Lord."

We've heard this sort of sloppy thinking before. It is classic Pope Francis. (Unless Francis is less sloppy than the Bear thinks, and these items are not a random list, but examples of different kinds of evils that demand a Christian response. What do you think?)

One thing we might do, however, as Catholics, is at least think about whether we are, in St. James' words, doers or hearers only of our faith, without getting hung up on specific causes. For example, the Holy Father is absolutely right about lonely elderly. Is it as horrific as abortion? The Bear is unqualified to make a list of evils in descending order, nor is it necessary in order to help. It makes no more sense to weigh evils in a fine and abstract scale as to pit complicated doctrines against faith. Do I please God more by visiting one lonely old person, or posting something about abortion? The point is, wherever you find evil, are you doing something about it, however small?

That's what the Bear feels the message meant for him.


  1. I do not disagree with you at all. Nice summary. Glad you had the wherewithal to do the groundwork and produce it. Thanks.

    I saw a newsclip of Francis' speech at the WH next to Barry O. I daresay I saw Francis turn his body and look at Obama pointedly when Francis spoke of religious liberty...Francis was a bit hard to understand. Perhaps I am full of wishful thinking.

    1. Before I would have gone in ready to snark, angry, looking for the worst possible motives. I might have primed myself be reading other blogs. It was refreshing to just write about it, with commentary, without preconceptions. And it took more work than just... well, never mind. I don't want anyone thinking I'm talking about them. I've tried to keep comparisons out of this change. But thanks!

  2. Hmm---he left out youth unemployment this time. Guess it's no longer a list topper.

    Seattle kim

  3. I like the idea that Pope Francis wishes his Bishops to joyfully preach about Christ. Perhaps he could give us an example which would be a helpful change from most of the things he chooses to emphasize. I know, if he did that, he would make many of us more joyful about him.


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