Showing posts with label “Pope Francis Catholic”. Show all posts
Showing posts with label “Pope Francis Catholic”. Show all posts

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Let Us Abolish the Term

There is a term that some Catholics use, but I utterly loathe. That term is “Pope Francis Catholic.” Before you react in horror—or smugness—I am not repudiating Pope Francis or his teachings in any way. I still do stand with him as the successor of Peter and accept what he teaches as authentic and binding.


The problem is, I find many Catholics using the term use it in the sense of the terrible phrase “Spirit of Vatican II.” That sense ignores what was taught and instead claims to understand what is “really” meant… even though the actual words contradict the so-called “spirit” in meaning and intention. 


The Catholics who think that Vatican II or Pope Francis allows us to reject or explain away the teachings they do not like are not being faithful to the Council or the Pope. They are merely heterodox at best. Catholics who think that the Church was in the wrong before Vatican II or Pope Francis are not being faithful Catholics. They are undermining the timeless teachings of the Church that were reaffirmed by both.


Vatican II was not about reversing Church teaching. It was about making it understandable for the current times. Pope Francis did not introduce innovations contradicting his predecessors. He emphasized the the importance of removing the obstacles that intimidated those not in right relationship with God.


The Catholic who thinks that Vatican II or Pope Francis have taught that certain sins are no longer grave or can be approved of have missed the point. Abortion, contraception, homosexual acts… these remain grave sins and intrinsic evils. We may not do them. We may not condone them in others.


Nor can we blame past Popes for any legalism that has sprung up among certain Catholic factions. It was necessary for St. John Paul II to emphasize the fact that intrinsic evils can never be justified because he was challenging widespread errors of moral relativism. Pope Francis is challenging some Catholics who misunderstood St. John Paul II and overlooked his calls for mercy.


The truth of the Church remains true from age to age. But people do confuse that truth with the legal systems of past eras. That can mean they reject the truth because they think the language of the phrasing is too harsh. Or it can mean they think that those who sin should be treated in the same way that these past documents called for and a change in discipline is falsely equated with a rejection of truth.


So, when I see Catholics invoke Pope Francis or Vatican II to justify dissent from the teachings they dislike, I know these Catholics are just as badly informed about Pope and Council as those Catholics who believe they taught error. Whether they are knowingly dishonest or simply misled, I leave that judgment to God. But I cannot accept their beliefs as authentically Catholic.


As Catholics, we believe that the Church—under the headship of the Pope and bishops in communion with him—teaches with the authority given by Christ in a binding manner that we must obey. We trust that the authority comes with the protection from God so we will not be bound to error. We need to recognize that the ordinary magisterium is binding and is not prone to error. The difference between the ex cathedra teaching and the ordinary magisterium is the ordinary magisterium can be further developed. 


For example, the Church teaching on contraception is binding. But it is possible that science will develop a new method of controlling the number of births a woman has and the Church may need to further develop the teaching on contraception to explain why that method is wrong or permissible. While the teachings remain in the ordinary magisterium, it is not because the teaching can be ignored. As Pope Pius XII taught:


20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.


The Catholic who accepts Laudato Si and rejects Humanae Vitae is no more a faithful Catholic than one who rejects Laudato Siand accepts Humanae Vitae. Both documents are taught with the binding authority of the Church. Regardless of whether one thinks sins against the environment are worse than sins of contraception or vice versa, the Catholic who refuses to obey and makes excuses for their disobedience is not behaving like a faithful Catholic.


So, let us stop using terms that justify disobedience. Yes, fidelity to God and His Church must be more than a legalistic lip service. But we cannot call it fidelity if we refuse to obey the Church on what we must or must not do. (cf. Matthew 7:21-23, 18:17, Luke 10:16, John 14:15).


Remember: The person who calls themselves a “Spirit of Vatican II Catholic” or a “Pope Francis Catholic” and uses that label to disobey the teaching of the Church only demonstrates that they do not understand Vatican II or Pope Francis.




[†] For example: Prior to 1960, most contraception involved some variant of the barrier method. Church teaching in condemning it did focus on why barrier methods were morally unacceptable. (The IUD was an abortion inducing object that was condemned on those grounds). Since the Pill was not a barrier method, people hoped that the Church might declare it licit. Instead, St. Paul VI declared it was also wrong. The Church teaching expanded to address that new method and why it was wrong. In doing so, the Church was prepared to deal with chemical implants when they were developed.