Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Realm of the Bizarre

Once again we have a synod in progress and once again we have all sorts of claims about the evils it is supposed to promote. The problem is, when we look at the critics’ accuracy, they have been consistently wrong.

Do you remember, during the synod on the family, the critics were warning about the Church being prepared to allow divorce/remarriage, contraception#, and “same sex marriage”? None of them happened of course. Unfortunately, the accuracy rate of 0% does not stop the usual critics from continuing to accuse the Pope of promoting ”errors.”

These accusations don’t have any basis of fact behind them. They are based on the assumption that Pope Francis is a “heretic.” The critics use circular reasoning—using what has to be proven in the first place as a given—to interpret what he says and does. When the critics don’t understand or don’t agree with what the Pope says, they assume that he must mean it in a heretical way… because he’s “proven” to be a heretic. The result is a string of “proof” that have no basis—the critics simply cling to to their interpretations that presuppose the belief that he must be a heretic.

I find it ironic that these critics—who frequently claim that the Pope is trying to make the Pope Protestant—actually act like Luther or Calvin. When I say this people seem to miss the point. I’m not saying these critics hold to a Lutheran or Calvinistic theology. I’m saying that the critics are making the same errors that these two men made: Misstating the positions of the Pope, making it sound as if evils committed by some within the Church were officially sanctioned by the Pope, making gross errors about what was being taught and misrepresenting their error as if it was the only possible meaning. Even when they are refuted, the critics claim that the Pope is to blame because he “teaches in a confusing manner.” The problem is, it was the critics who claim to be the arbiters of error who did the misunderstanding. So how can we trust them to assess? I don’t just mean in misunderstanding Pope Francis. We also have to ask whether they have misunderstood the teachings they set in “opposition” to the Pope.

We must realize that we can’t set our favorite priest, bishop, or cardinal in opposition to the Pope when he acts as Pope. Canon 1404 points out that the Pope is judged by no one. If Father X or Cardinal Y should argue that the Pope is teaching error, we have to ask whether the Pope is acting as Pope. If he is teaching or acting as head of the Church, we must give religious submission of intellect and will (canon 752). That includes the members of the clergy who are cited in “justifying” disobedience. Remember, Luther was a priest. Donatus was a bishop. Photius and Michael Cerularius were patriarchs. They all rejected the authority of the Pope and wound up in schism. I’m not saying that the popularly cited current clergy are just waiting for to emulate these infamous characters. But I am saying that those who refuse to give submission to the Pope when he acts as Pope do wrong.

What I call “the realm of the bizarre” is the attitude of some Catholics that would have shocked and appalled those saints who fought against heresy and schism. They saw that—regardless of the personal behavior of a Pope—when a Pope taught, he was to be obeyed. Those “Super Catholics” who claim to be the true Catholics while rejecting the visible head of the Church are behaving like every other schismatic throughout history. They all claimed they were justified to reject the Pope. But they wound up outside of it.

We must be cautious lest we wind up the same.


(#) People have been predicting this since the invention of the Pill. 

(†) Many critics try to treat Laudato Si as an opinion when the Pope expressly said in his encyclical that this was teaching.

(∞) When the Pope is simply giving a Press Conference, interview, or a homily, that’s not teaching. Catholics used to know this. But since Benedict XVI’s Light of the World interview, they seem to have forgotten the distinction.

(¶) I won’t accuse specific individuals here. Just as the critics misreport on the Pope, it’s entirely possible that those popularly quoted clergy are also taken out of context. If any of them should (God Forbid) reject the Pope, I leave it to him to take action. But until that happens, I won’t accuse them.

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