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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Misery loves company.

At the risk of erecting/strengthening the walls of an echo chamber:

I know of a few people who are experiencing unusual discomfort with this papacy, but I was brought up short by Dr. Mabuse's comment yesterday, having crossed paths with her on the World Wide Web over at Chris Johnson's place.

I'm not asking--much less expecting--people to agree with me, but a quick poll: if you've been having more problems with Francis than you did with his immediate predecessors, would you kindly indicate this in the comment box below? I'm not asking you to explain the nature of it (though you can if you want), or even to ID yourself (though you can if you wish to as well). You don't even have to be Catholic--one of my wife's cousins isn't, and he's found PF questionable of late.

It's a show of hands thing. And yes, it's partly to reassure me that I haven't been slipped crazy pills.


  1. Dale, I too feel like I've been taking crazy pills since last spring.
    But I'm learning to RELAX and love my piano key tie. :-)

  2. Although I agree that the current papacy has been the most uncomfortable in my lifetime by far, I consider myself fortunate in that it has not negatively impacted my Catholic Faith. I believe a primary reason for this is that I have very practical view of the papacy. By this I mean that if the Pope is not teaching officially, I can disagree with him and still be a good Catholic. Thankfully, so far, the only official teachings of Pope Francis is the encyclical that was written mostly by Pope Benedict which had no problematic content in regards to the Faith. A lot of faithful Catholics have a fear that with the divorce and re-marriage issue that Pope Francis may actually cross the line and officially teach error. I don't have that fear. I really believe the Holy Spirit will protect the Church and guide Pope Francis to do the right thing.

  3. I had only the highest respect for Benedict XVI. I have none for Francis.

  4. It feels like I have been drowning for about a year in giant lake and every time I get near the shore... somebody high up the Vatican hierarchy grabs me and shoves me back right in the middle.

    Now, on the positive side, our Roman Pontiff is a bit of an ecumaniac. So, he might be delighted that I'm now basically Eastern in my ecclesiology - give me Denzinger for understanding and a priest for sacraments, one who celebrates liturgy reverently (preferably the unreformed Latin rite) and I'm all set. Moreover, I'll never ever make the you-don't-have-a-living-magisterium so-your-ecclesiology-is-defective argument against Protestants or Orthodox, because it's frankly absurd. The only people who should be making that argument with a straight face are liberals or modernists. So, while this attitude might a bit tricky to harmonize with the dogmatic constitution of the Church, it's surely ecumenical and thus obviously good and holy.

  5. Having a very difficult time here as well. Thank goodness for the companionship found on the internet because everyone I know in real life thinks he's the bees knees. It's bad enough from otherwise faithful but 'low information' Catholics who see a picture of benedict in fancy Papal garb juxtaposed with Francis in plain vestments and say "See? He's so humble!" but some priest friends who should know better are really defending him as well. I can't help but think "Well you pretty much have to, don't you?" and I try to decide if they're sending me a coded message and they're really rolling in flop sweat. I dunno.

    On the flip side, I have a hard time with some of the more apocalyptic worries. I can't really make myself believe that this is the end of the Church on earth or even the end of my faith. I'm just discouraged and tired. I wonder what the next Pope will have to deal with. What if it's Burke, or someone like him? What if he tries to turn the tide back, even a bit? How would that be received? Not well, I fear. His task will now be that much harder.

    The sense that I don't think this Pope likes me very much is disturbing. I would like that he's reaching out to so many except he seems not to know or not to care that they're hearing what they want to hear and not what they need to hear, and that he can't seem to talk about so many in his own flock without disparaging them.

    And finally let me say that while I hold no animosity towards his defenders on the internet (those faithful, non-heretical bloggers that seem to be twisting themselves in knots to justify his words), and while I know the internet ain't beanbag, some of the behavior has been…clarifying.


  6. Dale,

    Yes, I share your discomfort... and I'm grateful for bloggers like you for being willing to speak out at a time when a sort of Ultramontane hysteria prevails among most people I know in real life - a hysteria most pronounced among individuals who were never very keen on Pope Benedict XVI and either ignored or downplayed his actions and statements, but now act as if it's vitally important for all of us to be on board with what Pope Francis wants, even if we have to be dragged along kicking and screaming.

    I think what galls me the most about this pontificate is the distance between the rhetoric that the media and a lot of the pope's fans use and the reality that I see when I watch and listen to him: he isn't remotely "humble," but rather stubbornly and even arrogantly insists on doing things exactly as he wants, precedent and others' sensibilities be damned, and he seems to have little interest in dialoguing with people who disagree with him - in spite of the rhetoric of "listening," he really seems to think that he has all the answers already and merely expects others to affirm his sense of things. In short, this pontificate has been a real spiritual trial for me, and I am grateful to you for your openness in going against the current.

  7. I don't detect any change in your dosage of crazy pills over the last year, at least. :)

    I knew up front, given how much of a Benedict fanboy I am, that I was bound to be disappointed with whoever his successor would be.

  8. Afffirmative. That said, I know the Pope can't change the teachings of church. "Bad men can't unmake the unreal."

  9. With the present Pope I'm having the opportunity to exercise the virtues of patience and blind faith to a degree never tried before: unfortunately I'm failing quite often to see a positive meaning in what's happening. More than once I've been offended by his remarks and I'm trying to accept that as a correction to my pride - not easy to put up a happy face when you are hurt not by an enemy, but by your Holy Father. I'm not even an old-Mass guy.
    Of course, the most discouraging thing is when you see that fundamentals truths are put at risk with what appears to be extreme lightness, and when critical counter-arguments are raised (even by Cardinals), they are dismissed as "little rules" (an someone else is left with the mess to be fixed): then, you ask what's wrong with you, because such "little rules" were pointed at by the former Popes as the precious "content"...

    No, I don't think you're alone in your pains, not at all. It's hard to find the right disposition.

    Paolo, Italy

  10. Like Dr. Mabuse, I am also a convert from Anglicanism, and like her, I have a queasy feeling that I've been here before. In fact, I've been uneasy since he first appeared on the balcony after he was elected.

    Over the many years I've been a Catholic, I've put up with tawdry music, hale-fellow-well-met "presiders," sermons about self-esteem or the dysfunctions of the Holy Family. (Slight digression: What the h--l is wrong with the traditional English ecclesiastical vocabulary? Why do we have homilies instead of sermons, assemblies rather than congregations, acclaim rather than praise, presider rather than celebrant?)

    In the early days of this pontificate, Dr. M referred to this pope as "idiotic." At the time I thought this was wildly hyperbolic, and I still think it's off the mark. Francis knows very well what he's doing. He has used the media spotlight to hyperpapalize the church; he's the most uncollegial pope since Bl. Pius IX (santo subito!). It's all about him.

    I have never felt more adrift as a Catholic, and I can't see I have any alternatives. Orthodoxy has its attractions, but I'm not interested in chucking out a thousand years of Catholic piety and theology. In some ways, I'm more attracted to Luther than I am to the Orthodox, but the same caveats (and many others) apply.

    I'm old enough to have been an adult in the seventies, and I have the sickening feeling that it's all coming back--and more.

    Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on your church.

  11. Yes. Sinking feeling from the beginning has not abated.

  12. I don't trust him, and I'm deeply, deeply uneasy about where we're headed under his pontificate.

    This may, of course, be indicative of nothing other than my personal preferences and emotional reactions, but you asked, so...

  13. Thanks for the tip of the biretta, Dale! As you say, I've been gutshot by this papacy. I really never recovered from the shock of Benedict XVI's resignation, but the pain was numbed by all the assurances that the College of Cardinals were all sound men, hand-picked by JPII and BXVI, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, now I know. I think I'm beyond reassurance now. Chesterton says somewhere that when a cosmology breaks, it doesn't just lose a piece here or there and keep going; it explodes into a million pieces. That's how I feel now; like I stepped on an IED and what I thought was so solid is dust in the air, floating away.

  14. From the @Pontifex Twitter account this morning:

    Inequality is the root of all social evil.

    Let that sink in for a moment. What on earth does he mean? What kind of inequality? What is meant by the qualifier "social" before "evil"? Social evil ... as opposed to what?

    But there's more. Inequality is THE root of ALL social evil? What about sin? Since when has "inequality" (however defined) been, in and of itself, sinful? The Church, as instituted by its founder, is an intentionally hierarchical (i.e. unequal) organization. She has existed comfortably in all sorts of hierarchically ordered societies, including those that built the great cathedrals of Europe.

    There you are: several problems with this papacy summed up in just 42 characters. Fuzzy crowd-pleasing sentiments expressed in ill-defined terms, that crumble into incoherence the minute you subject them to critical examination. And that's before you try to harmonize them with Church teaching.

    On another note, I've got to say that the Holy Father's defenders have only increased my concerns. The defenses tend to be so brittle, so eager to grasp at the thinnest of reeds, so quick to accuse critics of bad faith or evil intent, and so radically decontextualized from the well-established tendencies of this very strange papacy that it's hard not to conclude that there's active denial going on.

  15. I have had those uncomfortable thoughts. I don't like it at all. My comfort has so far been thinking about what my patron saint, Catherine of Siena, had to confront. I don't think I would handle her challenges we'll at all. I try to remember how spoiled I have been, since I was born during JPII's time.

  16. I am not at all comfortable with his leadership, his apparent spiritual preferences, the way he articulates the faith, or the way he does business.

    He's the Pope, so I'll stick with him and pray for him continuously, but I don't trust his judgment.

    I had my problems with the two previous Popes, but I never doubted their motivations because they were so obviously men of the Church. Pope Francis SEEMS to have an almost Protestant view of things where the Church and the Gospel stand in constant and real tension.

  17. mgl:

    Yeah, it's hard to even know where to begin on that. But it is emblematic of his reign.

  18. Yes, and it began the moment he was announced, as I had some gut pangs of doubt about him that I ignored for as long as possible.

  19. Dale,

    The results of your polls here instruct. It might be helpful additionally to see whether the respondent's complaints are developments of their underlying attitudes toward Vatican II, that is to say whether or not they received the Council in same way as did Cardinal Ratzinger at the time or as did SSPX. In my case, the concerns about Francis are coming from a Ratzinger Catholic, a Communio theologian as it were, not someone who identifies himself as a Traditionalist.

  20. Fear not, Dale! Phil Lawler has investigated and you'll be relieved to know that it's ... a translation issue!

    Apparently, the Latin @Pontifex_ln tweet was

    Iniquitas radix malorum.


    Injustice/Inequality/Iniquity [choose one] is the root of evil.

    But Iniquity is the root of evil is almost the very definition of a truism, so why bother tweeting it at all? You might just as well tweet Hunger is the cause of eating, or something equally banal.

    Of course, we have no way of knowing that the Latin Twitter account is the primary source for all the various @Pontifex linguistic variations (which seems unlikely in today's Vatican under this Pope), and it may be that the Latin tweet-translator is some rogue Promethean neo-Pelagian who undertakes to massage the tweets into something resembling orthodoxy, knowing that few will notice the difference.

    In any case, those of you with neo-Catholic bingo cards can stamp off the box marked "Translation Issue"!

  21. problem.

    Inequality is the root of all social evil...

    howsabout Envy is the root of all totalitarian movements that try to eliminate inequality and end up killing people, so stop it with the envy already.

    hey mgl, I live in Far West Portlandia. Where do you go to Mass? --tamsin325

  22. I don't know, Dale. Coming from outside the fold, it so far seems like you've got a undisciplined guy who goes off half-cocked now and again and lets the Vatican put out his brush fires. When Francis declares that Vitally Important Roman Catholic Doctrine A is not that vitally important and then acts on it, then you'll have problems.

  23. @tamsin325

    St. Andrew's Cathedral, Victoria. You?

    @Anon 3:08
    I'm a recent convert (baptized 2010), and I've been to (I think) four TLMs since I started attending in 2008. I've only ever known the late post-conciliar Church, and until this papacy I would have aligned myself firmly with the Ratzingerian or neo-Catholic view. But our current Holy Father seems determined to draw our attention to the untenable nature of that position so, although I continue to attend the NO, help out at the parish, etc., I am gradually moving closer to the "recognize and resist" camp.

  24. mgl:

    Loved your take-down of the latest Christianese tweet from Rome.

    I have a very similar trajectory as yourself, though I converted about five years earlier. Let's just say that Fr. Bergoglio made a traddie out of me. My greatest struggle is that, as you note, Francis is deepening, rather than distorting, the entire conciliar project. What if he really is the logical perfection of how "the Council" was instituted? Shivers.

  25. I think God in His Wisdom chose this particular Pope at this particular time to show His Faithful why a Pope should never call collect or tweet messages.

    Really, the farther the papacy goes from being established Catholic the more it is just... well. The picture of John Paul the II clutching a koala still gets me.

    Difference between opening a window in the Cathedral and tearing down a wall, as it were.


  26. Sorry, St. John Paul the II. I wasn't trying to make a statement there.

  27. @mgl 6:16

    You genuinely entertain. You actually identify Francis with "Ratzingerian Catholicism" and that, in turn, you see as having "an untenable nature"? So for you its either the flat earth theology of the manuals with their abstracted states of pure nature or its on-going Polka Masses? I have good news: While Francis' Papacy may already justify your leaving the Church, for the health of your faith and the development of your intellectual life, there's still the journal, Communio. Its day may yet come.

  28. I feel alot of concerns about Pope Francis, but ultimately I have to remember what St. Peter said when Jesus asked the disciples if they were going to leave: Lord, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.

  29. Anon 10:48 (same Anon as before?)

    Thanks! But that's not what I meant.

    Basically, what I called the Ratzingerian (or neo-Catholic) view is that Vatican II is basically unproblematic when viewed using a hermeneutic of continuity, and that any ill effects we observe are due to hijackings or misreadings by rupturists. In this view, all you have to do is correct the misunderstandings and roll back the abuses in order to get the "true Council". As I said, this was my view under Benedict.

    I do not think Pope Francis holds this view--so no, I do not identify him with Ratzingerian Catholicism, as you claim. In fact, Francis seems to be more or less a rupturist himself, having on several occasions contrasted (usually implicitly but sometimes explicitly) the old ritualistic, rules-bound pre-conciliar Church with the new, open, merciful post-Conciliar Church (etc.).

    My point was that under Francis, the Ratzingerian view looks increasingly implausible. I am inclining to the argument that (for instance) while the Novus Ordo can be done well, it is inherently prone to weird, narcissistic abuse and tackiness--due largely to its being a "banal, on the spot fabrication" rather than an organic development of the traditional liturgy. And further, that this very vulnerability is typical of Vatican II documents like (say) Gaudium et Spes or Dignitatis Humanae: as with the liturgy, they can be read in continuity if you squint just so and exert yourself a bit, but you need to exercise constant, exhausting, beady-eyed vigilance to fend off the modernists who want to use the very same documents to usher in that long-overdue Age of Aquarius.

    Pope Francis, unlike his predecessor, doesn't appear to be in the least interested in exercising that vigilance and as a result, the moderate middle ground is getting smaller. The choice that many Ratzingerians and neo-Catholics face is a stark one: either embrace happy-face ultramontanism (as Catholic Answers and Patheos have done), or conclude that maybe the whole Vatican II project was on the whole a bit of a disaster.

    In any case, there's no chance I'll leave the Church, as you conjecture. This whole papacy has actually strengthened my faith on the whole, as I have been forced to outgrow my previous dependence on the specific person occupying the Chair of Peter.

    Sketchily argued, but it's late, and I need to sleep. All the best, Anon!

  30. Francis is an idiot or much, much worse. My best guess is the latter.

    I hope to meet him to tell him off to his face. He needs and deserves far worse.


  31. @mgl 1:56

    Happy to hear that you do not identify Francis with "Ratzingerian Catholicism". We had a padded cell waiting for you if you were to tell us otherwise. :-)

    That said, however, it seems particularly disingenuous of you to read subsequently:

    "I am inclining to the argument that (for instance) while the Novus Ordo can be done well, it is inherently prone to weird, narcissistic abuse and tackiness--due largely to its being a 'banal, on the spot fabrication' rather than an organic development of the traditional liturgy. And further, that this very vulnerability is typical of Vatican II documents like (say) Gaudium et Spes or Dignitatis Humanae: as with the liturgy, they can be read in continuity if you squint just so and exert yourself a bit, but you need to exercise constant, exhausting, beady-eyed vigilance to fend off the modernists who want to use the very same documents to usher in that long-overdue Age of Aquarius."

    "Inherently prone to weird, narcissistic abuse and tackiness..."? Inherently? People do weird and tacky, not forms of the Mass, mgl. One might say the same of the Extaordinary Form of the Mass if it were commonly celebrated by more than a handful of priests. It avoids that fate today because those that celebrate it regard its as particularly worthy and work hard at keeping it that way. The Novus Ordo suffers precisely because it is the ordinary form of the Mass. No one sees it as unique, so its treated that way. I'm old enough to recall the boredom that typically accompanied the Mass of Pius V in its day, with people praying the Rosary while the priest and alter boy droned on. But in a larger sense the form of the Mass is hardly the question here. If one were to address truly "inherent" deficiencies in the two Masses, one might consider the objectifying and insufficiently Christological thrust of the Extraordinary Form as objectionable. We do, after all, worship a triune God, not a clump of divine substance at some remove from us.

    You'll recall my use of the term disingenuous above. Most specifically I see it as apt in the case of your description of Gaudium et Spes or Dignitatis Humanae. I say disingenuous because you presuppose "vulnerability", its part of the view you bring to the occasion, and that, in my view, aligns you with SSPX from the outset, not after the fact. No "Ratzingerian Catholic" would come at the documents of the Council from that perspective. Your slip is showing, mgl.

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. When I want an inquisition in my comment boxes, I will be sure to give the signal.

    No such signal has been given.

    In other words: let's not impugn each others' bona fides. Especially since according to one of the Pope's appointees, your host probably has "crypto-lefebvrian tendencies."

    Tearing people up is the Pope's job.

  34. "Are you now or have you ever been ...", eh, Anon?

    Some time ago, a commenter on a prominent priest-blog accused me of being an NCR plant because I objected to the relish some trads take in our saints' dreadful visions of hell. Now I am apparently a sneaky and dishonest SSPXish wrecker for questioning the New Mass and the often-puzzling phraseology of Council documents.

    We are way off Dale's original topic, so I'll conclude this strangely escalatory exchange by quoting myself from my initial comment:

    ... I've got to say that the Holy Father's defenders have only increased my concerns. The defenses tend to be so brittle, so eager to grasp at the thinnest of reeds, so quick to accuse critics of bad faith or evil intent, and so radically decontextualized from the well-established tendencies of this very strange papacy that it's hard not to conclude that there's active denial going on.

    Please accept my apologies for my part in this weirdness, Dale.

  35. @mgl 11:26

    No one has accused you of bad faith or evil intent, mgl, simply of being disingenuous. Maybe your transition into traditionalism has been faster than you care to acknowledge publicly. That's your right.

  36. Call me Faustina. I got here via Conservative Blog For Peace. I am another convert, NO but with sympathies for Traditionalists.

    In some ways, Pope Francis has been an answer to a prayer; that the Pope will protect the poor and marginalized against the forces that want to population control them out of existence.

    At the same time, i have had increased queasiness since his Holiness' election. I was queazy even before this; but it is daily palpable now. The feeling is that he wont protect me from the wolves.

    One blessing is that current events have motivated me to make my act of Total Consecration of Jesus through Mary. She wont let me down.

  37. All I have had has been the Novus Disordo since I became Catholic. That was hard enough, near unbearable. I stuck with it for ten years. I tried to ignore everything and get some peace. Now we have Pope Francis. I can't ignore anymore. I can't act like I have any respect for him much less that I follow him. I've been going to my local Orthodox Church and I love every second of it. I don't want to reject Catholicism. I love Catholicism. But it is GONE and the only place one can find it is in the history books or in little chapels that are playing pretend.






  39. @Karl J. 5:53

    Reads as though you'd be a good pick for a subway crazy holding a sign announcing the end of the world and telling folks that God will kill them if they don't catch on. Give the intensity a rest, Karl, either that or the booze.