Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Dangers For the Conservative Catholic Grows

There is a danger that seems to be growing more apparent, and it seems to be targeting the conservative Catholics. That danger seems to be the pushing the view that Pope Francis is teaching error and not to be trusted. Since his election in 2013, every major act he has done has been given a negative spin by conservative Catholics. Whether it’s accusing him of holding error or supporting Marxist views, the conservative Catholic press has always chosen to emphasize a negative interpretation for his actions and imply bad will for his teachings.

That’s shameful.

But the problem it isn’t with Pope Francis. He hasn’t taught anything that hasn’t been taught by his predecessors.

The only difference from his predecessors is that his style is different.. There was nothing wrong with St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI of course. They taught things that needed to be taught. The objections basically amount to Pope Francis teaching things with a different style—and that teaching is coming uncomfortably close to home for some Catholics who always prided themselves as being faithful. Why? Because he is reminding us that it’s not only the pro-abortion politicians and the same sex “marriage” advocates that need to repent—it’s us too.

Now this is not some “vast right wing conspiracy.” I believe most of the people who object to Pope Francis are sincere in their belief when they hear the accusations against him. But it strikes me that they are believing it because they are giving too much credit to the people who are making these accusations, not asking if they are true, but just accepting the unproven word of the accusers, and becoming enraged on cue—never asking whether they are being manipulated.

That’s a trap for Catholics. The devil doesn’t have to make a person leave the Church to entrap him or her. All he has to do is to convince the person that the teaching authority is not to be trusted and therefore the person cannot take a chance of obedience out of fear that the teaching authority is in error. The person is deceived into thinking he or she is a good Catholic, but in fact the devil is encouraging them to put their own will in front of the Church and if the Church does what the person does like, it “proves" the Church has gone astray.

That’s a real danger. It prevents conversion because if a person is blind to this, they cannot repent of their sin. They’re deceived so as to exalt themselves instead of humbling themselves.

What needs to happen was described by Fulton J. Sheen when he met the Pope:

Your Holiness, I have just discovered how easy Judgment is going to be."

"Oh," he said, "tell me, I would like to know."

"While I was waiting to come into your presence I had come to the conclusion that I had not loved the Church as much as I should. Now that I come before Your Holiness, I see the Church personalized. When I make my obedience to you, I make it to the Body and to the invisible Head, Christ. Now I see how much I love the Church in Your Holiness, its visible expression."

He said: "Yes, Judgment is going to be that easy for those who try to serve the Lord."

If we can remember that loving Christ means loving His body, in the presence of the Pope, it means we must love the Church under Pope Francis.

In addition to what Bishop Sheen has said, I think we need to realize that Christ loves His bride, the Church and will not permit her to fall away into error. So fearing that the Church under Pope Francis will fall into error shows a profound lack of trust in God.

So, we need to remember this: When the Pope acts in a way that is different than we think it should, we should be asking ourselves questions. How sure am I that the error is not with me? Do I even have all the facts to judge the right and wrong of the situation? Am I assuming the Pope is wrong just because he is challenging me? There are others to ask. 

For example, the latest blowup is over Pope Francis transferring Cardinal Burke from the head of the Roman Rota to the head of the Knights of Malta—which is considered a ceremonial post. Some have called it a demotion which is a term that claims to have facts about the situation when it does not. From that word “demoted” (which needs to be proven, by the way) people begin to fill in blanks that they have no right to fill in: “unjustly demoted” or “demoted because of his views.” These are statements made without proof, all holding the view that the Pope has wronged the Cardinal.

But maybe the Pope hasn’t. Maybe he wants to prevent keeping one person in one place for too long. Or maybe he plans to have Cardinal Burke fill a different role when the space becomes available. Or maybe there’s a problem with the cardinal. Or maybe not. The point is, we don’t know the facts, and as long as we don’t know the facts, we have no right to start decreeing people as heroes and villains in the story. We have no right to assume the Pope is doing this for the purpose of change in Church teaching. Even if the Pope made an error in judgment in replacing Burke (which again, would be rash to judge), that does not mean he is promoting error, and it does not mean that the Church is irreparably damaged. 

So, that is the danger I am seeing. That people mistrust the teaching authority of the Church and second guess everything that is done out of fear that he will ruin the Church out of malice or incompetence . . . things I must say I disagree with.

I strongly doubt that we will see any cardinals fall into schism. Cardinal Burke himself seems to have a sense of loyalty and obedience on the whole affair. I certainly don’t mistrust him. But if people are led to think they know the facts of the case when they do not, then there is a real danger of them being deceived into trusting in themselves when they should be trusting in God to guide the Pope.

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