Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Pope vs. Pharisaism?


Why did Christ come to this world? Was it to praise the people who followed the rules and condemn those who didn’t? Or was it to save the lost? It’s pretty clear to anyone who reads the Bible that it was the second choice. But when Jesus did so, the Pharisees objected to his close association with sinners—they assumed that associating with sinners meant he was either ignorant of their sins or didn’t care what they did.

Sometimes it seems we’ve learned nothing from this. Pope Francis sets out following the lead of his Master, to bring the lost sheep back to Christ. But some Catholics are offended that he reaches out to sinners instead of condemning them.

I don’t believe it is a case of Pope Francis teaching differently than St. John Paul and Benedict XVI. I think it is a case of some Catholics having lost sight of Christ’s mission and thinking it is enough to speak out against sin. What’s they’re not considering is what the Pope is considering . . . asking, “How do we reach out to these sinners and lead them to salvation?"

I also don’t believe that the actions and teachings of Popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI are different than those of Pope Francis. I think that rather Pope Francis scandalizes because he does the modern equivalent of eating with the sinners, and we have forgotten that Jesus scandalized in the same way. We need to remember that all three popes called on us to act on the teachings of the Church.

One of the problems I saw with the synod was the reaction to Cardinal Kasper. A lot of ink/pixels were spilled over his ideas—ideas I believe are incompatible with the teaching of the Church. The problem some people made was this: Just because Cardinal Kasper had a wrong idea on what to do with those people in same sex relationships or invalid marriages does not mean there is no right solution. But we have to be clear on what the right solution to the problem is.

Cardinal Kasper’s problem was that he saw the solution as admitting a certain number of divorced and invalidly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist even though they did not end that relationship. One can’t have absolution without a firm purpose of amendment. But some others at the synod, in my opinion, lost sight of the issue as well because they they didn’t provide a suggestion at all. They assumed the solution was to restate the fact that certain things are sinful and can never be accepted by the Church.

That’s very true. But while Cardinal Kasper’s ideas fall into error by wanting to do something the Church cannot do, others seem to fall into the problem of forgetting that it’s not enough to say “X” is a sin. We also need to decide what to do about the people who fell into sin.

That was the whole point of why Pope Francis called the synod in the first place. He wanted to explore how the Church could help bring these people to salvation while being true to Christ. But Christ never compromised on the truth, and neither did the Pope.

So we should not attack the Pope for following the example of Christ. We should be supportive in finding ways to do this in keeping with our Catholic faith. Otherwise, we’re not working with Christ, we’re acting like Pharisees.

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