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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Bactrian's vertebrae begin to crack.

At a minimum, it's time to face up to the glaring fact that the Roman communion is being led by a heedless, imprudent exhibitionist. The chattiest possible, it seems.

Which is, frankly, hard to square with any previous understanding of humility, but we live in an era where black is white, up is down, Maroon 5 is Metallica, etc.

In short, we have a Pope who insists upon himself. As much as we (read: I) want to be able to ignore him, that has proven to be impossible.

In an ideal world, I could view the papacy as Catholics did for centuries during the age of sail: pray for and with him during the Mass, get the occasional report of a new writing or comment when the mail arrived from the triple-master, and hear about the white smoke a couple/three times during my adult lifetime.

But, no. This is the cursed Age of Twitter and 24/7 "news" networks. He's everywhere. He knows it, and is perfectly fine with that. And make no mistake, he's the headline act. He's Natalie Merchant to the rest of Catholicism's 10,000 Maniacs. The Puppet Show to the Church's Spinal Tap.

Which brings us to this latest stunt: cold-calling a correspondent to tell her she can indeed receive communion despite the fact her husband is a divorcee without an annulment.

Whoa, whoa, whoa--that's just her side of the story!

And? The Vatican's official statement is not a denial. It's a Glomar non-admission/non-denial.

And isn't it just like the Holy Spirit to neither admit nor deny, eh, no?

Add in the fact that it's a time-tested rule of evidence that people under emotional excitement don't tend to make crap up. And it sure sounds like how he speaks, right down to the request for prayer and a shot at priests who are "more papist than the pope."

"We don't have all the facts"? Well, no, we don't. But we almost never do. In this case, we have plenty of credible facts and a non-denial from Rome's end. Really, what we don't have are any exculpatory facts that make this look good for the defense of Christ's teaching.

And why should we have expected any such thing? That's not "serene theology."

Anyway, if you need me.


  1. Maroon 5 is Metallica? Ouch.

    I hear you, Dale. Still praying.

    I think I've hit the "don't care anymore" stage. It's mildly amusing to me the same way politics in the US is now. Not sure why.

    I'm reminded of Job. And very grateful we've got a good parish in which to weather what is shaping up to be a real cracking storm.

  2. Tangentially, Dale, I can't help but think of Styx "Come Sail Away" when I look at that picture.

  3. I'm lucky in that, upon coming out the other end of the black hole after Lent, I find that things are so absurd at this point that I can't even register despair. It's like being in on a rigged fight: interesting to watch the audience's reactions but ultimately boring and not worth my attention. Like Ferdinand, I'd rather just smell the flowers while the ostentatious ecclesial matadors try to outdo one another in the Pastoralist-Clericalist biathlon. I believe that I hear the slowly deepening sound of the Body of Christ inhaling to congeal and then expunge from Its mouth this Thyatiran loogie.

  4. P.S. I think you meant to say, "eh, ah, no--yes?"

    P.P.S. Are those perchance BATS off your prow? ;)

  5. Don't lose the Faith. You may find this blog post helpful.

  6. Claudio, I'm wobbly but not out the door. I think Hilary's piece is an excellent one--as is usually the case.

    What I'm wrestling with is the serious disease of modern Catholic culture which is enabling the pope to do crap like this with too little pushback. The obfuscation, denial, demands for "charity" which are simply bludgeons and not arguments in good faith. Not all of the last are bad faith, but they certainly can be.

    It can all be summed up in the phrase "papal positivism"--if the pope does it, we simply must find some way to make it acceptable, even laudable, no matter what violence is done to established practice, reason, common sense or those left to twist in the wind. For the last, I'm thinking of the priests bound by the rubrics of footwashing on Holy Thursday while the Pope does whatever strikes his fancy--he could change the rubrics, but instead he makes a mess and lets those still bound by them look like the bad guys. In the meantime, we make excuses for him, because he matters while they don't even compute.

    Not very collegial, that. Then again, he's made pretty clear he has a hairy eyeball for the ordained on the ground.

    But that's OK, because he's *the Pope*! We abandon--even immolate--all of the other facets of Catholicism when the Pope does something. That is seriously, disastrously wrong.

  7. Flambeaux: Now you've got me thinking of the Cartman version of that song. Curse you and your earwig planting! :)

  8. Flambeaux and Elliot:

    I just prayed for that kind of detachment. I hope it takes. If I had to categorize myself right now, it would be as a "(Very) bad Catholic."

    Hell, I took down my FB religion identifier because I am so storm-tossed at this point. I am keeping the extent of the struggle away from the rest of my family because I did swear to God that I'd raise my children Catholic, and I'll keep to that no matter what serenely prayerful loophole Kasper manages to cook up.

    Your prayers are, indeed, most welcome.

  9. Let my prayers arise as incense in His Sight. May He hear the cry if this poor sinner on your behalf. Kyrie eleison!

  10. Claudio,

    It would require a frontal lobotomy in my case to abandon "The Faith", as the author at your referred website expresses it, but what do we mean by "faith"? I'm perhaps a step past Dale here in that I can't bring myself to identify with the community that accepts Francis leadership any longer. You can't follow what you can't respect and it isn't particularly loving toward Francis either to allow him to infer that he is being respected. So I've decided not to participate in the life of the Church until it returns to itself. After all, we're not like children that have no choice other than to accept their food and lodging from an abusive father. The command is that we love others as ourselves, not more than ourselves. In the meantime, the body of belief that is Catholicism is hardwired inside me, but I've never considered it a requirement of faith to embrace abuse and that's what we're getting.

  11. Dale,

    We've been over this ground before, you and I. The solution I've chosen I've set out above in a comment to Claudio whose earlier website reference, while helpful, needs a shade more development in my view. What, precisely, do we mean when we refer to the maintenance of faith? In the end is it the community that is its object or is it the one that - allegedly, anyway - moves it? I suspect you'd agree that its the latter. There's a point where sanity causes one not to collapse God into history so as to make an idol of the Church. After all, the realism descriptive of our faith is a moderate realism, not an idolatry, and that simple fact needs to be held in account. One is always in Christ for that is the nature of reality.

  12. I'm right along with you, Dale; probably more at about the point Anonymous describes. "Bad Catholic", but probably more honestly "Lapsed Catholic". There's the additional burden a convert from Anglicanism carries, of having seen this exact same movie before and knowing how it ends. I find myself not only despising Francis, but also the "all is well" crowd that ought to know better. All the stuff I left Anglicanism for is now triumphantly setting up shop in Catholicism, with the same dishonest word-chopping excuses - "We don't really know..." "The words don't mean what you think they mean..." "He's talking to a particular audience..." "Oh, but the Church hasn't changed it's teaching!" About the only one I don't expect to hear is "He's written such brilliant books," as was so frequently said in defense of Rowan Williams.

    Now that the same thing is happening to Catholicism, I think back to all the confident assertions about the impregnable Magisterium, and the security of the papacy, and feel it was all a mirage. There really isn't any mystical protection for Catholicism. Just as Americans used to think that their Constitution was an infallible defense against tyranny, only to find that it really was just a piece of paper after all. Push hard enough and it will fall after all.

  13. What precisely is wrong with Francis attempting to bring even more people to Christ? Are we to allow 'rubrics' or protocol to stand in the way of knowing Christ?

  14. LWC:

    Yawn. More of the same Montanist false dichotomizing from you.

    I think you like to call yourself a Catholic, yet, like a typical Protestant, you spurn the visible, judicial aspects of Christ's loving reign in favor of the invisible, gnostic latitudinarianism.

    Even Pope Francis has gone on record defending the Council of Trent, so here's a little something from that most juridical of councils for you to chew on:

    "Session 22, CANON VII. If any one saith, that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs [i.e. canonical 'rubrics'], which the Catholic Church makes use of in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather than offices of piety; let him be anathema."

    [Cue a reflexive accusation of Pharisaism in 3...2...]

  15. Rubrics and dogma and tenets, oh my! People talk of "rubrics" as if they were some toxic naturally-occurring substance, like mold in caves or soot on walls. "Bringing people to Christ" has been the business of the Church from the start, and over the centuries rules were devised and written down because they helped people to avoid going down blind alleys and finding out the hard way what didn't work. Jettisoning the rules as a faster, easier method of achieving salvation reminds me of this quote by G.K. Chesterton:

    'In other words, it is exactly as if somebody were to say about the science of medicine: "All I ask is Health; what could be simpler than the beautiful gift of Health? Why not be content to enjoy forever the glow of youth and the fresh enjoyment of being fit? Why study dry and dismal sciences of anatomy and physiology; why inquire about the whereabouts of obscure organs of the human body? Why pedantically distinguish between what is labelled a poison and what is labelled an antidote, when it is so simple to enjoy Health? Why worry with a minute exactitude about the number of drops of laudanum or the strength of a dose of chloral, when it is so nice to be healthy? Away with your priestly apparatus of stethoscopes and clinical thermometers; with your ritualistic mummery of feeling pulses, putting out tongues, examining teeth, and the rest!..."'

  16. I am always mystified how is it possible that there are so many essentially no-creed-but-Christ all-them-rules-are-useless-baggage types within Catholicism. Can somebody please explain to me why would somebody like that pick one of the most doctrine-heavy religions to pursue that vision? Joy of subversion or something?

  17. Codgitator -YAWN- Perhaps you have more condescension than hematocrit in your blood. For those us, and there must be millions by your count, who are less educated, less sophisticated, less holy, less righteous, less pious we will do our best to avoid this dreaded 'false dichotomy' that you speak of yet providing no substance. I'm altogether certain some school master back in the day made you a bit too self-conscious of your intellect compared to that of your class and you've been repaying that debt to everyone but yourself. -YAWN- But understand this, when the final count is in, a good chance might be asked how many you brought to the faith versus how many of those you the slammed the door of the faith. Protestantism has as much to do with you as it did Luther. Indeed. It's simply because you've undoubtedly driven exponentially more people away from Catholicism than you've drawn toward. And yes, Z's 'biological solution' is afoot. There are fewer of you; more of us. You're older; we're younger. You do the math. -YAWN-

  18. The words of Christ are just a "rubric."


  19. What other teachings of Jesus can we dispense with to draw more people to him?

  20. Dale:

    What is LWC's hourly fee? I've got a graduation party that might need some comic relief. ;-)

    Your brother in Christ's small-minded rubrics,

  21. But Codgitator, Fear not. I'm given to understand Benedict might be available to lead your new church. Avignon won't have anything on you.