Friday, September 27, 2013

In which I exile myself from polite company and retreat to the margins of Catholic society.

This is basically how I feel. Like the person Sutherland is pointing at the end of Invasion. Essentially, the Catholic world I know has been seized by body snatchers and is about to notice that I am not lining up to board the F1 to the Promised Land.

Yes, this is about the interview. Quick summary of my reaction: some very good parts, some easily-soundbitten ammo I can expect to see all over the place, but is still explicable in terms of preaching the Gospel, and a disastrous, giant ticking nuke about to blow us back to the Church of the 1970s.


The Interview Was Candy Mountain Awesome, Charlie! Everyone agrees--it was full of candy, and joy, and joyness! You don't believe that?

Yeah, well, I can live with that. Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders.

[Just to make the inevitable scream of "That's unclean Protestant talk!" a little easier.]

As I see it, there are three serious problems, two of which are related to how it's being received and processed, and the third is the nuke.

Problem 1: We Are All Ultramontaines Now.

Don't drag me into this, Americain. My Papa Pius would have cracked your skulls
as the opener for the ritual of excommunication. Then he'd have gotten mean.

Including--nay, especially!--people who have spent a generation ignoring, deriding or spinning away every encyclical, apostolic letter and motu proprio that flowed forth from the pens of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

But an interview--in America Magazine--well, my God! It's new tablets from Sinai! And we can play historical critical whiteout with the parts we don't like! Is it Elohist or Deuternomic? Forget it--we'll figure it out later! Anyway--miraculously--we agree with the whole thing! (More of which later.)

A 44th Edition including The Interview! is no doubt being prepared as we speak.

As an aside, it's good to see the Jesuits at America released from the dungeons after the long night of Benedict the Destroyer. The shackle chafe marks being no doubt hidden under the long sleeves. Some advice: sunlight and a vitamin regimen will banish the sallow complexions.

But, really, uniform praise--especially this wall-to-wall and adulatory--makes me uneasy. There's something fundamentally off about it. In fact, the adulation being heaped on Pope Francis is general is...odd. I mean, it's almost like he's being given a prize for not being Benedict. That's certainly the case on the Catholic left, which is transferring its creepy cultish adoration of Obama, the Not-Bush, to Francis, the Not-Benedict. Benedict the Rottweiler, Who Can be Safely Archived and Forgotten Like a Bad Dream In This New Age.

What the right's deal is, I don't know. The Pope Says We Must Re-Balance, So We Must Re-Balance. It smacks too much of a new CEO coming in, and everyone having to get with the program. At a minimum, it's a feverish celebration that has no parallels with how it received Benedict, which was more defensive and apologetic, and less effusive in its praise.

You saw nothing in the interview heralding trouble, eh? Nothing at all?

The fact both are united in swoonery suggests that one or the other is missing something. And someone is, as we shall see in Problem 3.

Problem 2: The Left Triumphant.

It's Vatican III in one day!

Never prouder of the Church, nor more surprised by the Spirit!

Andrew Sullivan's "It's the Rebirth of Catholicism!" is beautiful! (n.b. the re-tweets, including Fr. Martin) [For the record: Sullivan remains a vicious manichean.]

Oh, and the gloating, howls of triumph over backwardness, "hatred," etc.

The response to this from the so-called orthodox? The Left must not have read it. They're reading it through a MSM lens. If they read it, they misread it.You're being morose, Eeyorish and depressive.

Translation: Looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays! Turn that frown upside down! Let a smile be your umbrella!

Allow me to retort:

To suggest that they have all misread it and/or are delusional is itself delusional. When was the last time they were this energized? Never. Not in my Catholic lifetime.

Anybody on the left feeling betrayed, cast aside, discounted, demoralized, even a sense of disquiet? Nope. That's a telling datum, don't you think? To which I hear NO, FROWNY FACE, IT IS NOT. GET WITH THE PROGRAM.

Rex Mottram Lives!

Alas, I am not honestly able to say that the Left is wrong in how they received this.

And why is that? Because there's a flat-out admission from the Bishop of Rome's that his preferred governing style is much different, and much more to their liking. It will, in fact, let their good times roll. Disco pants and haircuts and Jadot, all the way down.

Problem 3: The Nuke.

There are all sorts of small rhetorical problems with the interview, easily sound-bitten parts that are being used by the Left--and occasionally the knife-happy non-left that hates pro-lifers--with glee: "obsessed," "small-minded rules," etc. Can you find any soundbites to fling back at the retrograde, unChristian behavior of progressives? Let me know.

Hint: there aren't any.

Still, to a large degree, they can be dealt with, and credibly, as an evangelization imperative: the good news is not that abortion is a moral abomination (though it is), but rather that Jesus Christ is God the Son, who became incarnate, died for our sins and rose for our salvation. When people get a grasp on that mystery, you can build upon it:

When He did so, He established a Church of believers, guided by God the Holy Spirit, who witness to the unalterable truth that murdering infants in the womb is a horror to be rejected. Because, after all, Jesus the Risen Savior of us all, lived in the womb, too.

OK. That's doable. The soundbites will still be misused, to great mischief, but that's manageable.

But there's one that can't be spun.

I am baffled that no one else has commented on it. It was impossible to miss it. America, recognizing the significance as orthodox commentators have not, conveniently blew it up in bigger "Peace In Our Time!" type for easy reading.

Because it's important. In fact, administratively-speaking, it was the most important damn piece of the interview. Here it is, as it appeared in America:

I ask the pope what he thinks of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the various departments that assist the pope in his mission.
It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally.“The dicasteries of the Roman Curia are at the service of the pope and the bishops,” he says. “They must help both the particular churches and the bishops’ conferences. They are instruments of help. In some cases, however, when they are not functioning well, they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship. It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally. The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.”

Yes, yes, yes. He excommunicated a po-faced Aussie priest-heretic whose case was in the pipeline before he became Bishop of Rome. Whoop-de-doo. But faced with his astonishment at the complaints about orthodoxy, the message is clear: Stop sending me this stuff. We're not going to be "censorial." We're mediators now. That title is "Bishop of Rome." Collegiality. Mediatorial.
Bishops, being men with careers, will take the explicit hint. And so will wayward clerics, theologians, religious, etc. Rome has left the barn door open. And the toothless, juridically-impotent bishops' conference will "handle" it instead. Boo-yah. But gingerly, because HQ doesn't want to see this stuff.

How, of course, one is supposed to "mediate" between the faith of the Church and the evergreen popularity of "the apostles hid Jesus' corpse but good!" is unclear. And let's remember Benedict's Reign of Terror meant that--gasp!--the censured theologians got tenure at other schools. 

The horror....the horror...

Then again, it might work. Hey--maybe this guy's Catholic. He was a mediator between geniuses, so this is right up his alley:

Yeah, I know. I've been snarky, sardonic and flip. But that's the only way I can keep from smashing my head into the desk. We're in for an extraordinarily-bumpy ride. I'm feeling demoralized, frankly. The alleged obsession with abortion, contraception and gay marriage is the most well-hidden one I've ever encountered, as the first only rarely, and the second and third never, have rung from any pulpit I've attended. I've heard God called "She" more times than I've heard homilies about contraception. Given the personal difficulties and conflicts my wife and I have had to "enjoy" for our decisions to be open to life, it was of some reassurance that at least the Pope had our back. The Bishop of Rome seems to have a different outlook about that, and we're all the more alone as a result.

I don't mind carrying my cross. I just don't appreciate Catholics adding sandbags to the burden.


  1. If nothing else, at least the interview brought you back to blogging, however briefly.

    One of the things I am getting from this interview is a kind of unbalanced rhetoric. For the most part, Francis is telling us to steer the middle path between extremes, but he consistently only names one of the extremes.

  2. A-yep. I've noticed that. And the evils of that named extreme are described in detail, and reiterated in other fora.

  3. "Unknown" was me. Google being evil, and all.

  4. My thoughts remain muddled. One word in your post struck me, and it was the reference to ultramontanism. Yes, it's strangely cropping up among the America set, yet I can't help but feel that it's part of the reaction on the other side as well. It's almost as though some people can't handle the idea that the Pope is somehow imperfect, and maybe he is misguided in his approach. I'm not suggesting he is - but at least I entertain the notion.

    Darwin's posts soothed my soul for a while, but I'm not so sure anymore.

    One other rambling thought - I was talking to a Jewish co-worker the other day, and he said all of his (non-Catholic) Facebook buddies were talking about the Pope's comments. Clearly they haven't gotten the memo from the Catholic blogopshere about the true meaning of the Pope's remarks. He pondered if this is all a plan by Pope Francis to get people back to the Church. If it is, it's not going to work because they'll become disillusioned once they realize the Church is still Catholic.

  5. Paul: Good catch.

    I was going to develop the orthodox facet of ultramontanism, but ran out of energy. I finished what you see around 1:00am.

  6. Well, I don't know about all that.

    What I do know is that I'm agnostic and my wife is a very lapsed Catholic, and our reaction to Pope Francis's interview was positive enough to get us looking at dropping by the local Catholic Church.

    I wonder if we'll find folks there glad to see us or folks up in arms about insufficiently orthodox Leftists.orthodox

  7. Go ahead and go, JE!

    My concerns are in-house.

  8. I would like nothing more than to see everyone know the Risen Lord Jesus, and for Him to transform their lives.

    Transforming them so they can be of service to others, binding wounds, helping the poor, bringing peace and witnessing to the world of the love of Jesus.

    As I told a friend today, I want nothing more than for the Pope to succeed. But, from personal experience and those of my friends, those who preach tolerance are often not very tolerant themselves. It's that mindset that, frankly, I worry about.

  9. Anyway, people like me are thin on the ground, so there's a plus.

  10. Actuallly, I did talk about this nuke, buddy. And you're right. Most people have missed it. Crazy!

    I'm blogging for the demoralized now.


  11. I pondered the orthodoxy complaint also. The reason that so many complaints are sent to Rome is that the sender has not resolved the issue with their own bishop.

    American bishops are not responsible to the USCCB and that organization has no authority over them (just ask, the retired Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE).

    If each national bishops' group was the court of last resort for their church, how long would it take for the Roman Church to devolve into an association of several hundred "sub-rites?" Not very long.

    I don't believe His Holiness has a clue as to how much dissent bishops tolerate in their dioceses.

    Removing Rome from the "chain of command" would ultimately prove to be the end of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The Pope sorely needs an editor for his speeches and interviews.

  12. Glad I'm heading East. If Rome is going through another spasm of iconoclasm and conciliarism with the foxes running the henhouse, I might as well get good Byzantine Rite liturgy in the bargain.

  13. I very much appreciated your article, and your reference to Pope Francis's new way of handling problems of orthodoxy within parishes--'don't send us this stuff'. This confirms my own suspicions about this pope's awareness of reality. How about his comment (not in the interview)to a group of clerics, 'The Church has never been in better shape.' This man is a disaster, and we will feel it soon. Thanks for being honest.

  14. I think it doesn't really matter. People in certain quarters get all upset about what the pope says or doesn't say, but it doesn't make any practical difference. Benedict didn't turn the church into Fortress Catholicism and Francis isn't going to turn it into Rainbow Catholicism.

  15. Dale,

    Greetings. Someone had recommended your blog post to me. I've been doing some posts on Pope Francis, and I think some of the orthodox/conservative reaction is incorrect.

    Here is the most recent entry I've written, and this one is partly in response to your OP for this thread. Just passing it along in case it's of some interest.

  16. I wonder if JE's comment is legitimate; that is, that he's an agnostic with a fallen-away catholic wife? If so, then how in the blazes did he find this tiny little blog (no offense DP) amidst the vast internet? I was an orthodox, traditional Catholic active on the web for several years before I even discovered, etc... I'm calling bs. He's just spouting the new party line: Francis is causing the lost sheep to take a second look.

  17. I can't attest to knowing anyone who's being converted by Francis approach. I will say that among my agnostic to atheist friends, in advance of this interview, some of them were regarding Francis positively. Not the Cult of Gnu hardcore atheists - if anything, the sudden popularity of Francis has them grinding their teeth a bit and staying quiet about him - but I was personally seeing remarks about how they like this Pope.

    On the other hand, none of them were saying as much in response to any perceived change of heart on abortion or marriage. They just plain liked his perceived humility, his being down to earth, his refusing to engage in much pomp and so on. I don't think that's too hard to believe - little stories like 'He called up to cancel his newspapers personally, he always lived in a simple apartment' are things a lot of people just plain like to see.

  18. "how did he find this tiny little blog (no offense DP) amidst the vast internet?"

    LOL. No offense taken. Best laugh I've had in a while, in fact.

    But please don't question JE's bonafides: this piece got linked by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. Hence, you'll see more people streaming by.

  19. "it's almost like he's being given a prize for not being Benedict."

    Well, they gave a noble peace prize to Obama for not being why not?

  20. "it's almost like he's being given a prize for not being Benedict."

    Well, they gave a noble peace prize to Obama for not being why not?

  21. Turns out your gag about Denzinger might not be too far from the plate:


Be reasonably civil. Ire alloyed with reason is fine. But slagging the host gets you the banhammer.

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