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The Spirit of Bergoglio? Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Saturday, 21 September 2013

Anyone who speaks or writes in public knows that there’s a difference between saying something and communicating it. Every utterance risks misunderstanding and unless you have the courage and sheer impertinence to take a risk, you won’t ever say anything at all.

That’s why, as Richard Weaver brilliantly argued, there’s an ethics of rhetoric. You have to be careful not only about what you say, but how you say it. The how is part of the what. A carefully worded, but insipid, moral plea falls flat. The careless presentation of a complex argument leaves people even more uncertain and anxious.

Which brings us to the recently released  lengthy interview with Pope Francis. The media have fastened on several phrases that the Church does not need to be always speaking about abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, and that it needs “a better balance,” with more focus on God’s saving love and less “insisting” on or “obsessing” about narrow and sometimes trivial rules. Predictably, the media have gone to town claiming that the pope is implying that the controversial moral teachings of the Church are “secondary.”

Eloquent defenses of the pope have appeared, notably this one by my onetime colleague George Weigel. George rightly contextualizes Francis’s remarks – and in a way his whole papacy – within an evangelical thrust. By bringing people back into touch with God’s love, the pope argues, they will be able to hear the harder moral teachings again.

Anyone who wants sentire cum Ecclesia (“to think with the Church”) and who believes that the Holy Spirit is active in papal elections must grapple with Francis’s fresh spirit.

You must already feel the “but” coming. So let me state it straight out. Granting all the above, when this pope gives interviews (something he does not like), it has almost always become disconcerting. And there may be good reasons for that. You can’t stop people from misinterpreting you. But the pope is among other things a teacher. And a good teacher has a moral responsibility to guard against misinterpretation.

I’ll get to specifics shortly. But I want to point out – hoping that I’m wrong – something I fear has already begun.

After Vatican II the Church went through decades of turmoil because of “the Spirit of Vatican II,” a spirit that contradicted the Conciliar documents and much of Christian history. But that didn’t matter. That wayward “spirit” carried all before it.

We are, I believe, close to what may become a Spirit of Bergoglio, another period of confusion based, once again, not on the pope’s actual words, but in the unbalanced emotions to which certain, casual expressions of his have given rise.


           The pope and Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica


The words themselves, though always orthodox, are not without problems. My colleague Brad Miner points out that 1,300,000,000 babies have been aborted worldwide since the 1980s. The Church just spoke out forcefully about avoiding the deaths of innocents in Syria. Is it obsessing to shout from the housetops about the massive modern slaughter of the innocents?

The pope is right that it is pastorally wrong to obsess or insist all the time about certain sins. It’s utterly counterproductive, just humanly speaking, to interact with other people that way.

The question here, however, is not about a more pastoral approach. I confess, I don’t know who is he referring to as “obsessing,” other than a very few zealots. In the United States – the same could be said about Europe and Latin America – we’ve been talking about God’s saving love towards sinners for decades. The papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI were not eras of authoritarian moralism. They were sophisticated efforts to give us the real Second Vatican Council – a proclamation of God’s saving power and clear moral guidance, together. That’s what most of us have experienced as the Church in recent decades.

Pope Francis does add something:

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.
That urgency and radiance and freshness is new – and welcome.

But if he were to call me – he does such things, but I’m not holding my breath – I would point to the misleading phrase that starts this passage. It’s true: not everything in Catholicism is on the same plane. Benedict and the American bishops, for example, tried for years to explain that life takes precedence over secondary policy questions. Francis no doubt agrees, but before making his strong evangelical point, he’s given an unnecessary opening to those who would twist his words.

Those of us who publicly fight these battles already know what we’re going to be hearing from the other guys: “Will you Catholics stop yapping all the time about abortion [or contraception or gay marriage]. Even the pope has told you to give it a rest.” And they won’t be entirely wrong.

The world is only too happy for the Church to leave the battlefield and allow the secular world to kill babies in unimaginable numbers, destroy marriage, and along the way reduce religious freedom – none of which will be good in the long run for the evangelical efforts Francis favors.

Francis is seeking to bring a new Catholic spirit to the world and that’s all to the good. Let’s hope the spirit that arises is the one he seeks, not a wayward one that others foist on him and the Church.

 
Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (74)Add Comment
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written by Howard Kainz, September 21, 2013
I've lived in Milwaukee for about 45 years, and heard quite a few homilies in various parishes about inclusiveness -- against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. I don't recall ever hearing anything from the pulpit against abortion, contraception or gay marriage -- except for one elderly Jesuit, now in a nursing home, who happened to add a prayer for the "end of abortion" before the offertory. So I wonder who are the "right-wingers" he is talking about. Maybe in some other diocese.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, September 21, 2013
For me, the most instructive part of the interview was when the Holy Father said, “God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes. We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting.”

Again, he said, “God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths.”

He also disclosed that he “loves very much” Hölderlin.” Now, Hölderlin shared lodgings with Hegel and Schiller at Tübingen.

This pope seems to grasp that “stasis” is another word for death and that, in the words of Bl John Henry Newman, “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
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written by Manfred, September 21, 2013
Thank you for an excellent and timely piece, Robert. The problem is not limited to Francis's words. On Holy Thursday he washed the feet of two young women and ten men. The actions of Christ on Holy Thursday have always been considered as His founding of his priesthood and His hierarchy. You joke about the possibility of his phoning you. His actions as well as his statements are erratic. I believe he is an old man who has lost his filter. In order to make some sense of him, Father Z feels obliged to parse Francis's comments almost every day! How long can the "family" keep making excuses for "Uncle Bergie" who refuses to live in the papal apartments?
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written by William Ellis, September 21, 2013
Perception is nearly always more prevalent than reality. This is true among all of us. We see through the lens of our biases. Nothing to be ashamed of, just a matter of acknowledgement. Of course societal perceptions are much stronger and harder to address. Whether the Church focuses too much on abortion or gay marriage can be debated. Yet it is clear that is the perception in society. We can spend our time proving why this perception is wrong. I submit that is more of an ego trip about being "right" and proving culture wrong. After much effort and alienation, we may prevail in proving Catholicism is about so much more. At what cost? To what end?

I believe what Jesus, Paul, and now Francis is trying to tell us is that there is a better way. That way is Love. That way is the Gospel. Jesus never condemned or shamed. He showed love and compassion. Paul was often a bit harsh, but he always ended up with Love being the answer. Francis is saying - stop battling. Teach the world love and compassion. Abortion and other "sins" will be absorbed by Love. Or at the very least much less an issue. Teach the world love and life tends to become more clear. We've become too much like Peter grabbing our swords. We need to be more like Jesus telling him "No more of that".
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written by DeGaulle, September 21, 2013
1,300,000,000 babies. Whatever we have been saying and doing since the 1980s has had little effect. Could a change of approach, an appeal to the heart, prove more effective? Does condemnation only serve to harden hearts? Does one find Christ via the cathechism or the cathechism via Christ? I don't know the answers to these questions, but feel they may be relevant to Pope Francis' wager.
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written by Pay, September 21, 2013
Great article. I am afraid the 1970s have returned. Platitudes are replacing catechesis. We need an army of para experts to explain every word the Pope says. The dissenting Left uses the Pope's words to say see I told you we should stop talking about anortuon and gays. Jesus isl about love and l you people care about are sex lives.

We have gone from deep theological reflections to pop notions of Jesus. Hey bell bottoms and disco here we come. Get out the felt banners baby.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
I have read the article published by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, who interviewed Pope Francis. Overall, I found what Spadaro let us see was a profound and interesting man of the church in Pope Francis.

But I was struck that Francis, via Spadaro, expressed his concern about not being a "right-winger." The context was about the exercise of authority, and he was critiquing himself when, as a young man of 36, he was thrust into the role of provincial in the SJ, and he felt he made some mistakes not consulting others. I'm sure many of us who have had to exercise authority would share and express some regrets like his.

But this seems like an odd topic of concern. I mean, I'm 57, and there isn't any big problem in the Catholic Church right now with authoritarianism. The whole topic of authority seems to be a major issue in the Society of Jesus, and The Church at large. It seems to be a pre-occupation, and for many, including Bishops and Provincials, an obsession.

I am beginning to believe that our Church is manifesting the same emotional struggle with the idea of authority as my teen-age children. In our town in Maryland, we can't go to our local parish because of the kind of dynamics that Howard Kainz described above. It is run by Marianists, and the former Pastor, who became Provincial for the Marianist Province, was fond of rabble-rousing at Mass, and even after he left, he would make it a point to travel back and denounce American Bishops who pronounced excommunication to try to guard The Church against the kind of corrosive politics that he himself believed in.

I strongly believe that one reason why the "professional Church" has suppressed the so-called Eucharistic Prayer #1, the Roman Canon, is that it prays to Our Father that he help govern his Church.

It is painfully ironic that the Spadaro article ended with Pope Francis making an appeal to tradition and memory. I think that our poor Church has lost its mind. The Church threw out the central prayer of its very own cult, the ancient live oak, the sequoia of Catholicism, The Roman Canon, saying to itself and the world: we reject what our ancestors in faith handed down to us - we are creating our own "new tradition."

"New Tradition" is ideological rhetoric from 5th Avenue marketing firms. I think one of the top American designers even had a clothing line by that name.

People who don't want to be governed, or to exercise authority, ought to contemplate the end of St. Matthew's gospel.

The Jesuits, and the current post-Vatican II Church establishment, seem to think that they can assert an appeal to "tradition," while at the same time not having any traditions.

In its thirst for life, I fear that the Church is drinking not from the living waters, but from the river of forgetfulness, the very River Lethe of Greek mythology. At the end of his life, Pope John Paul II wrote his last book, which was entitled: "Memory and Identity."

Our Church needs to wake up and embrace its own identity. We need to break out of the destructive ideology of old versus new, which is constantly thrust upon us by the pagan pop culture. We need to enter the open field of what transcends time, the ancient living wood of tradition. We are suppressing continuity itself! If The Catholic Church wants to be itself, then it must show solidarity with our ancestors who prayed before us. We must embrace the truth of "Continuity," which admits change - and reject the false ideology of "Change," which admits no memory, no identity, and no tradition.
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written by Joseph Wood, September 21, 2013
The pope gave a string pro-life statement yesterday (Sept 20), perhaps partly in response to concerns about the interview. Speaking to an audience of OBGYN doctors, according to VIS, "Francis asked those present to 'bear witness to and disseminate this 'culture of life' … remind all, through actions and words, that in all its phases and at any age, life is always sacred and always of quality. And not as a matter of faith, but of reason and science! There is no human life more sacred than another, just as there exists no human life qualitatively more meaningful than another'."
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written by Sue, September 21, 2013
Eugenics - that's the larger theme the Pope wants us to focus on. He doesn't want us to miss the forest of population control for the disjointed trees of abortion, homosexuality, or contraception? (and I might add the big redwood tree of in vitro fertilization)
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written by Dan, September 21, 2013
Well said Chris and Howard Kainz's point is a very good one.

This is the hardest time I've ever known to be a committed, pro-life Catholic. It used be that in the midst of local wackiness you could comfort yourself with the knowledge that you had support in Rome. Now Rome has fallen. I always feared that this would happen. It is a test of faith.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 21, 2013
Dear Holy Father Francis,
We applaud your reinvigorating the exhortation to the faithful about proclaiming the kerygma. But, meanwhile, Holy Father, babies - innocent human lives - are being destroyed in what ought to be the safest place for an unborn child - his or her mother's womb. No, Holy Father Francis, the clergy are not obsessing about abortion, contraception and homosexual "marriages." In case you hadn't noticed, Holy Father, the human family is not just under attack but close to being virtually destroyed. How, Holy Father, will you propose to repair the damage done when it is too late? No, Holy Father, there is not too much preaching about these moral issues. The problem, you see, is that there is too little of it and the faithful know it. That is why, Holy Father, the only time in my 60 years attending Mass that I ever heard a homily applauded was when I myself gave a homily on abortion that was entitled "Every Day is Newtown in America" referencing the tragic death of 19 innocent children in Newtown CT last year. They applauded, Holy Father, not because I am such an outstanding preacher, because I am not. They applauded because they at last heard the hard-hitting truth from a pulpit about the evil of abortion. Holy Father, if the faithful do not hear what they know to be the truth from our Catholic pulpits, how will they ever feel confident to go out and evangelize as they ought? Just some observations, Holy Father.
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written by Lauri Friesn, September 21, 2013
Thank you, Robert Royal, for this measured critique of what Pope Francis said and how he said it. I have been struggling with my own very negative reaction to his words and find very uncharitable thoughts about the man going through my head. I also confess that I now have to consider that his intellectual leaning is towards a collective humanity, what he calls "a people", rather than a Church of Christ made up of individual members all working for the common good and personal sanctification. However, my hope in Christ, salvation, mercy and eternal life remains undiminished. But I will not let Francis muddy the waters for me anymore.
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written by Grump, September 21, 2013
I like that Francis appreciates Mozart and Dostoevsky. Bob Royal's thoughtful column has given me pause in a rush to judgment about the Pope's recent remarks.

We should be passionate, if not "obsessed," with issues of life and liberty so here I somewhat part company with the Pope who seems to be playing more defense than offense. No doubt he's charismatic, humble and engaging and maybe a bit too "worldly," but that's what it takes these days to attract a wider audience and market your "product."

I think, however, that while Francis may win some people over with his charm offensive, he is perhaps driving away others including me who prefer to be "obsessed" with the life-and-death issues for which the Church has always been in the forefront in taking the highest moral ground.

Bob Royal sees the bright side in taking a macro view while the mass media cherry-pick comments or takes them out of context to advance its secular agenda. Mr. Royal's ending paragraph sums up the feelings of many:

"Francis is seeking to bring a new Catholic spirit to the world and that’s all to the good. Let’s hope the spirit that arises is the one he seeks, not a wayward one that others foist on him and the Church."
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written by Ray, September 21, 2013
Deacon Ed, thanks and well said. I'm a lay person and the Deacon couldn't be more correct. Having reached 68 years as a Catholic, I too have never heard a sermon about abortion and the Church's teaching on it. Throw in contraception and homosexuality and the statement still stands. Sad!
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written by Rob Schultz, September 21, 2013
Robert, Finally s member of the Catholic Press, speaks the truth. You are still more charitable than I am able to be.
I am going to cool it for now with Pope Francis. The damage is done. I say that knowing for sure that another blunder will surely follow.
It is hard enough to evangelize Catholicism or Christianity in general in a liberal morally corrupted America.
I accept that life is hard. What makes it so annoying is when your own leader makes it harder.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
Grump - BINGO! regarding the general application of your comment that we "seem[s] to be playing more defense than offense." My concern is not so much with Pope Francis, but rather, with the defensive psychology of The Church, as represented by his interviewer, Antonio Spadaro. In a very interesting exchange, Spadaro asked Francis whether the Church needs to be more "optimistic" - and Francis - to his great credit - rejected that rhetoric, and said no, the Church needs to be "Hopeful," because "Hope" is divine, but "optimism" is just pop psychology. It was a great moment in the interview!

The Church needs to stop playing defense against the adolescent, pagan pop culture, and stay on offense, which is what JESUS CHRIST commands us to do at the end of Matthew's gospel. As one CT commenter so rightly put it last year - "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" is not encouragement from Jesus that he will protect us from attack, and keep us comfy in our "happy place." It is encouragement from Jesus, who certifies to us that "ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME" that we will be victorious in fighting for good against evil.

Unfortunately for us, we are living in the same reality that Jesus lived in - a dramatic struggle between good and evil. Yes, we have to fight for the good, the true and the beautiful. But we have an unpleasant task, because our fight is not simply a preference for the good, or merely "enchanting" the world. We have to contend with the bad, the false and the ugly. Remember this? "If the world hates me, it will also hate you." Of course we don't like it, but we are in a spiritual war. As any soldier knows, your cause cannot live if you are unwilling to fight.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
Rob S: sorrowfully...I join with your comment...I am wearied of the Church establishment. But - a word of encouragement at this point, echoing through time from Mother Teresa, when a journalist wondered what was the use of helping the poor, dying and destitute. He thrust at her: "you are not succeeding." She parried - "It is not my job to be successful - it is only my job to be faithful."
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, September 21, 2013
It strikes me that Pope Francis is trying to turn us away from the abstract and towards the concrete, hence his emphasis on context. As Bl. John Henry Newman says, “If an image derived from experience or information is stronger than an abstraction, conception, or conclusion—if I am more arrested by our Lord's bearing before Pilate and Herod than by the "Justum et tenacem" &c. of the poet, more arrested by His Voice saying to us, "Give to him that asketh thee," than by the best arguments of the Economist against indiscriminate almsgiving, it does not matter for my present purpose whether the objects give strength to the apprehension or the apprehension gives large admittance into the mind to the object.”
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written by Rich in MN, September 21, 2013
"Pay attention! I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be as cunning (phronimos) as serpents and as uncomplicated (akeraios) as doves." (Matt 10:16)

Pope Francis demonstrates the "akeraios" part in spades; I just hope he still has a good handle on the "phronimos" part.

He certainly has demonstrated plenty of cunning in the past, such as when he set up the clandestine network during Argentina's rule under brutal military dictatorship and saved lives at the risk of his own. But now he is in an arena with the secular dynamics of a political campaign, where everything he says (and does) can and will be "spun against him" in the court of public opinion and used as weapons against the Church. If he needs to see how to balance "akeraios" and "phronimos" in his current setting, he might consider this little encounter:

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?' But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose image is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.' When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away." (Matt 22:15-22 NIV)
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
Rich in MN: very appropriate.

A lot of the problem with communication is the filter through which it is refracted. Of course, the "go-along-or-we'll-get-you" media is going to distort and poison everything, and in their case, it would be wise to often imitate Christ in how he inter-acted with false interlocutors: "therefore neither will I tell you...." in Matt 21: 23-27.

The other lens of the problem is with the Jesuits, at least as an institutional level, which seem to be very concerned with how the world sees the Jesuits...and the Church. I know nothing of Antonio Spadaro save for his article publishing excerpts of his interview. But I would say that from his article, his concerns emphasized the "Jesuit" - proclaim your "uncertainty," and be "optimistic." Francis' responses went beyond those limits - more "Catholic." I think the danger of the contemporary Jesuit lens is that, in extending themselves so far onto their "frontiers" they sometimes aren't looking at the world through the eyes of the Church, but looking instead at the Church through the lens of the world.
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written by William Manley, September 21, 2013
My sense is that most of you are missing a very clear point: Pope Francis means business. His goal is to reform the church. His words are not mere rhetoric twisted and cherry picked by the media. He is saying the church must change to survive. Thus I am looking at two big reforms: a married priesthood and the admittance of women into the priesthood. You can parse the Pope's words all you want but to me the message couldn't be clearer, and I for one welcome the message.
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written by Pay, September 21, 2013
William,

You could not be more wrong. The Church will always survive. Women will never be priests. Never.
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written by CCR, September 21, 2013
=How long can the "family" keep making excuses for "Uncle Bergie" who refuses to live in the papal apartments?=

MANFRED: someone could be easily killed in those papal apartments and I fear apartments and limousines are bugged. Uncle Bergie is no fool and he knows the dangerous territory he is threading. Amat Victoria Curam.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 21, 2013
As for a married priesthood, Mr William Manley, the Catholic Church has one. As for women priests, Pope John Paul II shut the door loudly on that one - he said that even if he wanted to change it, he could not. Not WOULD not; COULD not. Won't happen because it cannot happen. If you are Catholic, believe what the Church teaches. If not, this is not a forum for opinions on matters pertaining to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
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written by William Manley, September 21, 2013
Deacon, so....this is not a forum for debate and discussion? Interesting approach.
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written by Manfred, September 21, 2013
"We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, details." Pope Francis
The problem, in my estimation, is simple. The World has simply outdistanced the Church and the Church cannot deal with matters such as millions of Catholics contracepting, millions of abortions around the world, and the problem of open homosexuality, especially in Its own priesthood and hierarchy. Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco is one notorious example. That is why It focuses on immigration reform in the U.S. It feels It should be doing Something.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
William M:

I haven't heard it explained how married clergy and female clergy are going to make the Church more holy. Those things ring utterly empty.

If there were going to female clergy, we would have to almost run an Inquisition, and publicly excommunicate all members of the LCWR, whose keynote speaker, Laurie Brink, welcomed her colleagues to a recent LCWR convention with the theme "Moving Beyond Christ."

That's what those changes really mean William - Jesus as antique church furniture...in a spiritually dead NGO.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
The apartments issue is silly...Pope Francis has stated clearly why he is not there...and on the other hand, given the treachery B16 went through at V-City...I wouldn't blame any pontiff for moving to a different spot every night. I bet the Swiss Guards may have even recommended he stay out of there for a while, till they "sanitize it."
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written by Louise, September 21, 2013
My sense of the pope is that he means what he says and says what he means. He has the bird’s eye view of things Catholic and knows what is needed. I do wish he was a native English speaker though. Having done a bit of translation work myself I know the challenges in preserving the original thought and mode of expression.

We have been talking about the “new evangelization” ad nauseum but no one really seems to know how to proceed in the most effective way though to their credit many are trying. Pope Francis is breaking that logjam. He is speaking to every person in the Church in such a way that we should all examine our hearts. He wants to lead us in the new evangelization and he is helping us shape up as we venture out with him.

The pope is only reminding us that Christ longs for a personal relationship with each person so that He can transform that person’s heart. We can’t transform that person’s heart, only Christ can. Our job is to bring that person to Christ so that the work can begin. Everything we do must be informed by that understanding.

No one escapes the pope’s attention. Those who are engaged in the midst of battle are to step back and make sure they are battling ideas not persons and that in every skirmish they are armed with the full saving truth of the Faith and the correct outlook which is to bring everyone to Christ and that this is explicit and informs their every approach. They need to check in with their hearts and make sure that the fire with which they are inflamed is that same fire which inflamed the hearts of the apostles at Emmaus. Those who think dogma is not important are to examine their relationship with Christ because when one has a true relationship with Christ acceptance of the dogma follows as a natural progression. Something is amiss if they are holding back their assent. Those who have been standing around waiting are to jump in and bring someone to Christ. The pope is not showing favorites; he is a true father!
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
Brava Louise!!
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written by senex, September 21, 2013
Well said! Pope Francis needs to measure his words more carefully, because he is not only giving ammunition to the church's opponents, but also weakening the faith, resolve and efforts of the faithful, who may as a result become in Philip Lawler's phrase 'The Faithful Departed'.
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written by Lauri Friesen, September 21, 2013
I wholeheartedly agree with what you said, Louise, but I do not agree that Pope Francis said that, too. Certainly, the pope emeritus taught and lived that everyday.

I've read the Spadero interview twice, although I cannot read it all the way through because I find stumbling blocks along the way. One of the obstacles comprises his insinuations about "small rules" and "narrow minds", with no clear examples of what these could be. The other is when he insists that God's salvation plan is for "a people". That gives me pause, especially when I set it in the context of his country of citizenship and his refusal to denounce "liberation theology." I am just reluctant to continue to give him the benefit of the doubt because the doubt since the first days of his papacy lingers and, sadly, seems to be growing.
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written by gsk, September 21, 2013
@DeGaulle: "1,300,000,000 babies. Whatever we have been saying and doing since the 1980s has had little effect. Could a change of approach, an appeal to the heart, prove more effective? Does condemnation only serve to harden hearts? Does one find Christ via the cathechism or the cathechism via Christ?"

Your comment really caught my attention, because it seems to turn RR's thesis on its head, but in fact it doesn't. There has been little to no condemnation on the local level, and appeals to the heart as offered by happy-go-lucky parishes have sorely undermined the Magisterial arm of the Church. Truth be told, I don't recognise the Church Francis decries. I have seen little comfort with authority, little passion for Tradition, shabby catechesis on Church Fathers, and little instruction about the "why's" of Holy Mother Church's "tough love" history.

He seems to set up a straw man, and then blames it for the lack of love for Christ in the world. @Chris reminds us of the key text above: "If the world hates me, it will also hate you." Just as adolescents don't really respect parents who try too hard to be friends with their kids, the wayward world knows when the Magisterium is compromising its authority. Francis may not have crossed that line, but the media's image of a hip and with-it Pope is a dangerous idol.

Back to the trenches to embrace those who follow his heart-felt invitation to return to Church (intrigued by the "media facelift"), being ready to show them the fullness of faith and mercy.
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written by Jack,CT, September 21, 2013
@ALL;thanks so much,I have read all 33 snipits as well
as a well measured article by RR and learnd a ton!
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written by ken tremendous, September 21, 2013
Those of you who say that abortion and birth control and homosexuality are not often condemned from the pulpit are right but are frankly missing the point. Birth control, abortion and homosexuality are just about 80% of what sites like this one talks about. And they are a big chunk of what the more prominent bishops talk about, when they are not talking about religious freedom and the HHS mandate. The public face of the Catholic Church--particularly conservative Catholics is in other words too focused on "issues" and the political struggles surrounding them and not nearly enough on basic truths of the gospel. We hear alot more about the HHS mandate than anything to do with Jesus himself. The pope's point is that conservative Catholics have fallen out of balance. His words are being resisted here because they hit very close to home.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
No matter how many times I read IT, the Spadaro interview keeps stepping on The Church's message - the Gospel. It seems like the mindset disclosed by Spadaro is obsessed with how the world views the Jesuits, and how the world views The Church. Laurie Friesen and GSK are correct - this setting up of the Church as authoritarian boogey-man is the same "hermeneutic-of-suspicion" and the ideology of power haunting the psyche of the LCWR.

Some Catholic spokesmen, like Cdl. Dolan and Pope Francis go out of their way to signal to everyone that they are "not right-wingers," and then in the same breath they'll be saying "we have Catholic DNA in our bones" and "we shouldn't forget our traditions and identity."

Well, how in the world does one "get the Church in his bones" or "forge her identity" when our beloved Church is running a project to erase its own memory and culture? And this is not a call for the TLM at every parish. But please, our Church is rejecting Roman Catholic culture and identity. Our church thinks its normal to carve out "contemporary Masses" at every parish every Sunday, while it suppresses the Eucharistic Prayer of The Church of Peter and Paul? Well, as much as I like, and want to like, Cdl. Dolan and Pope Francis, they don't seem to recognize or admit where Roman Catholic culture and identity come from. It doesn't come from having a wonderful Irish mom or Italian grandmother. It comes from the living identity stamped in their hearts and minds of those people by the prayer of the Church. And what is the most important prayer of the Church? Her Eucharistic prayer offered by Jesus to The Father - the Roman Canon. Is it any wonder the Church is flailing around? What on earth are we doing calling ourselves Catholics, and erasing our own cult?

There is very little the Jesuits or any other Catholics can do on the "frontiers" of the world if at the same time we're content to let the home fires burn out.
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written by Louise, September 21, 2013
Lauri,

let me offer you two things from the interview that strike me.

Pope: "St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time."

Pope: "There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong."

This makes it very obvious that when the pope speaks of small rules and narrow minds he is not speaking of divine law or the deposit of the faith, but some instances of human law within the Church. He has made reference to this before in regards to rules put in place regarding the sacraments which can unnecessarily act as barriers. I have seen this happen. For example, many times in local sacramental preparation policies there are all these many requirements and an exception is rarely granted when one is needed. The needs of the individual person are not considered but they are treated like an assembly line. This ends up being a barrier to the reception of the sacraments.
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written by Brian English, September 21, 2013
"Rob S: sorrowfully...I join with your comment...I am wearied of the Church establishment."

It is very discouraging.

"Thus I am looking at two big reforms: a married priesthood and the admittance of women into the priesthood."

You forgot about gay-married priests. I am sure Francis is thinking big.

"One of the obstacles comprises his insinuations about "small rules" and "narrow minds", with no clear examples of what these could be."

None of Francis' defenders in the Catholic Blogosphere ever get around to explaining who they think he was talking about with those statements. They point out things they liked in the interview, and then act like those things make the problematic statements disappear.

"He has the bird’s eye view of things Catholic and knows what is needed."

Actually, what struck me about the interview was how out of touch he appears to be, specifically with regard to the issues facing th Church in the US. Basically, he cut the legs out from under all those fighting for life, marriage and religious freedom in this country. I am sure Pelosi, Biden and Sebellius were popping the champagne corks when they saw these quotes.

" Those of you who say that abortion and birth control and homosexuality are not often condemned from the pulpit are right but are frankly missing the point. Birth control, abortion and homosexuality are just about 80% of what sites like this one talks about."

That doesn't even make any sense. You think that Catholics who show up at Mass once or twice a year are avid readers of websites like TCT?

"The public face of the Catholic Church--particularly conservative Catholics is in other words too focused on "issues" and the political struggles surrounding them and not nearly enough on basic truths of the gospel."

These "issues" are issues precisely because of the basic truths of the gospel.
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written by DS, September 21, 2013
This reminds me of the harsh critique that George Weigel gave of Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate. He implied that Benedict's hand was forced to include redistributive economic theory to keep peace in the Curia. It was a weak, emotional and odd argument to make against a pope whose intellect was unrivaled and who was never afraid to speak clearly.

Francis too knows exactly what he is doing. His manner might be informal, but his comments are wholly orthodox and certainly are not casual. His offense is taking us out of our comfort zone. The use of battlefield imagery to describe the Church, employed here by Mr. Royal, is reimagined by Francis in the interview as "the field hospital after the battle."
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written by ken tremendous, September 21, 2013
Yes, Brian...my point exactly...for many readers of this site, ones like it, and many of the more prominent bishops who are increasingly the public face of the US Church, the gospel message is ABOUT opposing birth control, abortion and gay marriage. It isn't you know and Francis wants people to remember that!!!!

You prefer the last two pontificates who seemed to criticize more loudly the factions in the Church you disagreed with. The way US conservatives heard these popes was highly selective but no matter. As for Bergoglio I dare suggest you are the sort of person this criticism is aimed at!
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 21, 2013
Definition: "taking people out of their comfort zone" = the leftist political rhetoric to marginalize targets as "right-wingers."

Definition: "left" = undefined...

Definition: "right" = bad guys...
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Sorry Ken, I'm not buying your line.

But soon there won't be any confessing Catholics who can own a business or hold an office or communicate in public in this country.

And then THE CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT can finally get back in its comfort zone, having a merry time at the Al Smith Dinner, and picking up its cut of the NGO action.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Ken and DS:

The way the "US liberals" treated Pope Benedict was like a piece of dirt, like they were in a contest with radical SSPX to see who could trash him the most. He was repeatedly and openly mocked and undermined in my local parish in MD and in the parish where I was married in NJ, by priests and laity who had nothing of the open heart, open hand or far-reaching Christian intellect of Benedict. His offenses: he intellectually dismantled "relativism," cultivated reform on the vine of tradition, and held the Church accountable for the crimes it committed in its world-wide homosexual predator scandal.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
For those who have read the Spadaro article on the Pope Francis interview, I strongly recommend you go read Fr. Dwight Longnecker's commentary, which I think shows a very mature grasp of how the different, more Catholic culture Pope Francis came out of in S. America naturally causes him to be on guard against a kind of deadening, inward-focused cocoon in the Church...and how that concern then can get misconstrued and/or isn't relevant in, for example, N. American culture, which is decidedly un-Catholic / anti-Catholic. It is superbly done.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
I also commend to all CT readers Al Kresta's 20 Sep blogpost, entitled "It's a Great Time to be Catholic in America." He has 8 points, #1 being that it is "the NYT, WAPO, etc" that are obsessed with contraception, abortion and gay marriage (Ken); another that Pope F is still on the learning curve about how to effectively communicate from his new stage; and finally (a hope that I cling to) that there is no daylight between Benedict and Francis.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Finally...for a dose of sanity...read David Warren's 22 Sep essay here on TCT.
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written by DS, September 22, 2013
"Taking people out of their comfort zone.". Definition: following the example of Christ.
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written by Pay, September 22, 2013
Taking people out of their comfort zones= platitude, undefined, and means whatever one wants it to mean .
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written by ken tremendous, September 22, 2013
CHris,

I think you misunderstand my point. I'm not saying liberals are not also obsessed with abortion, birth control and homosexuality. But their fixation on them causes an equal and opposite fixation on them on the conservative side. Because these issues are contested, conservatives in effect allow their enemies to shape how they present Catholic Christianity.

It's hard to conclude that this hasn't happened. As I said TCT caters to an audience who is preoccupied with these things and publishes articles that overwhelmingly not only discusses these issues, but promotes a largely conservative political worldview as its basic culture war ammo.

As I say, read back issues of this magazine and you'll learn why Obama is a horrible president for Catholics, how the HHS mandate threatens to destroy the CHurch, how gay marriage is being foisted on the country by a cabal of liberal judges. Obviously there are good reasons to think all these things, CHris.

Only that harping on this constantly is not exactly the best way of attracting people to Christ and his Church. It's not the public face of the Church that you want. It by definition appeals to no one who is not already Catholic and conservative Republican.

We should be much more Christ-centered and focused on evangelization and much less focused on politics. THat was my takeaway from the Holy Father's interview.
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written by Louise, September 22, 2013
Each time I read the interview I am more impressed with it and grow in appreciation and love for this Holy Father. Yes, admittedly some, perhaps many, are putting their own ideological spin on it but I will be patient about that.

The world is very different from the post Vatican II period. There are millions of walking wounded who don't know their left hand from their right, whereas in the immediate post Vatican II period this was not the case.

The Holy Father makes an important statement that I would like to highlight: "I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity."
If you consider this quote in the context of the whole interview in which the pope has been speaking of the importance of prayer and spiritual discernment, you can't help but be struck by his use of that phrase "I see clearly". We should listen closely to that and understand that he is saying he has been giving this a ton of prayer and has discerned spiritually as the pope what is needed. We should not try to argue it away as part of his cultural milieu or learning curve. This Holy Father is absolutely 100 per cent faithful and we should interpret everything from that perspective.

Ken T, you have made a good point about allowing disbelievers (I prefer that to enemies; perhaps there is an even better term someone could come up with) to shape the message; that flows from what the pope is saying.


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written by Brian English, September 22, 2013
"Yes, Brian...my point exactly"

Well your "point" is nonsense. Casual Catholics and the general public do not get their view of the Church from TCT and Archbishop Chaput because they don't read TCT and the vast majority of them don't know who Chaput is. They get their view of the Church from the MSM, and Francis' interview allows the MSM to paint a negative picture of the Church as presided over by his predecessors.

"As for Bergoglio I dare suggest you are the sort of person this criticism is aimed at!"

And I dare to suggest that Bergoglio's criticism was aimed at some Neo-Jansenist church that certainly doesn't exist in the United States. However, his comments will be used by Progressive Catholics in the US like you to undermine efforts to protect the unborn; undermine efforts to protect True Marriage; and undermine efforts to protect religious liberty against a government that is increasingly hostile to the Church. I don't think Francis intended to harm the Church here, but that will be the result of his careless interview comments. Comments like yours, and some of the others above, are proof positive of that.
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written by Brian English, September 22, 2013
"This Holy Father is absolutely 100 per cent faithful and we should interpret everything from that perspective."

I don't question his faithfulness. However, in the interview he admits he can be naive and undisciplined. Both of those traits were on display in the interview. He is pope now, and has to display more prudence.
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written by Pay, September 22, 2013
Ken T,

I cannot disagree more. The answer to unjust laws, persecution, overwhelming relativism, and more is not only evangelization. Members of the body of Christ have many things to address. Defense of children being one central issue.
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written by Ben h, September 22, 2013
I don't think the Pope should worry too much about what the media says he says. The media outlets like the Times and the Guardian that misreport what he says are run by demonstrable liars and propagandists since the Pope's actual statements are readily available and contradict the message they are trying to spread. He shouldn't be throttled by phonies who are just going to make the facts fit the narrative they have already determined in advance.

Actually when the pope makes complex statements which can not be broken down into 8 word soundbites and the statement is twisted by the corrupt media, it has the effect of exposing the behavior of those media people.

We should also remember Benedict's statements a few years ago, when in an interview he stated that an HIV-positive homosexual prostitute who insisted on using condoms to prevent spreading the disease was demonstrating a concern for the other and that this is a move toward morality. The misleading media headline was 'condoms are ok says the pope' - before returning to the normal 'pope is a nazi' narrative of course. There were similar complaints at the time but the whole incident has been largely forgotten.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Ben h - I heartily agree.
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
And yet Brian E is correct - Pope Francis needs to up his messaging game. We're all depending on him...including the "right-wingers."
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written by Walter, September 22, 2013
Louise's comments capture my reaction exactly. The only thing I would add is how eloquently Pope Francis sets the tone for the interview (and for us) with the words "I am a sinner."
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written by Louise, September 22, 2013
I really liked the advice the pope gave to homilists; picture the homilies we would get if this three part system were followed:
"A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation...Then you have to do catechesis...Then you can draw even a moral consequence."
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Louise:

Yes - I strongly agree - and btw - the homilies of Pope Francis are themselves wonderful.

In Christus Veritas
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written by Chris in Maryland, September 22, 2013
Here's the problem:

Pope Francis, who I admire and respect, made a serious mistake - by using un-Catholic political rhetoric when discussing the Church. No one quite knows what he meant when he said "right-wingers" so he now gets to be defined by NARAL and others who use that rhetoric...and faithful Catholics are, such as Bill Donohue, are now getting hit over the head by "anti-right-wingers" (are these left-wingers?) with the club that Francis gave them.

As he himself said: naïve (and imprudent and unintentionally hurtful). I don't recall Pope B16 using such rhetoric, thought he was excoriated by extremists across the Church spectrum.
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written by Ty, September 22, 2013
Great article, with interesting responses. I'm just an ordinary member in the Sunday pews, and my own experience is that acquaintances tend to quote the sound bites and misinterpret the messages. These acquaintances are regular church-goers who do not read TCT. I agree with Rob Schultz that Pope Francis has made it more irksome for the Catholics in the trenches.

The priests and deacons at my church are quite pastorly in their approach, and we have lovely homilies that focus on the readings. If they are "obsessed" with anything else it's probably with raising funds to support church projects. I'm glad TCT is around to throw light on subjects of vital interest to Catholic culture (and to the world) that are not discussed in the homilies or on other Catholic web sites.

I try to imagine what kind of preacher John the Baptist was. How did that voice crying in the wilderness carry on a conversation with Herod? I don't know about Jesus not shaming anyone, as William Ellis claims: I believe once he called some people "hypocrites." Jesus lived in seriously tough times, and we're living in a world where the people are parading in the streets to celebrate the redefinition of marriage. I don't think the status of marriage could be a "small" concern.
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written by Andy, September 22, 2013
"My colleague Brad Miner points out that 1,300,000,000 babies have been aborted worldwide since the 1980s."

I suspect that the 1.3 billion abortions referred to here are only the surgical abortions. Many so-called contraceptives actually cause abortions at least some of the time. These abortions are sometimes called micro-abortions because they occur soon after conception. It has been estimated that the number of micro-abortions is five times the number of surgical abortions.
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written by Ted, September 23, 2013
Finally, some honesty and frank commentary. I got tired of reading all the 'this is what the Pope meant' pieces that ignored the difficulties Francis' comments created. His comments are problematic and have to be measured not just by their intent but by their effects.
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written by Hay-looo!, September 23, 2013
I have to go with Manfred's comment. The Holy Father is wearing me out as I try to figure out what he really means and then re-jigger it for others to understand.
The point is quickly approaching wear I might just tune him out because I feel like his choice of words just does not work in the world at large. Sorry to say.
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written by Deacon James Murphy, September 24, 2013
I think we all should rest assured that the Eternal Truths and Deposit of Faith and going to remain intact. His Holiness is all about evangilization, Marketing, if you will.
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written by Patricia, September 27, 2013
Asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was Ratzinger's response:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.
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written by J. Heile, September 27, 2013
These are the comments from the Pope which cause me the most grief , and they are not about abortion, gays, or contraception:

1. "The young Catholic Churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture, and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient Churches." This is heresy. The Catholic Church is ONE.

"The first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you."..."The first proclamation, the proclamation of salvation." Jesus death redeemed all of humanity. Jesus' sacrifice does not "save" everyone. The heresy of universal salvation has been repeated by Francis too often to doubt his erroneous meaning.

Religion has an "opinion" but "can not judge." This is a heresy. The Catholic Church instituted by Jesus contains the fullness of Truth. It does not hold an "opinion."

Regarding the Orthodox Churches which separated from the Roman Catholic Church:
"In ecumenical relations it is important not only to know each other better, but also to recognize what the Spirit has sewn in the other as a gift for us."
This is a flagrant heresy, see the above. Separated Churches do not contain the fullness of Truth. Only the one true church, The Holy Roman Catholic Church, contains the fullness of Truth. They can not gift us, we can only gift them.

"But the Church has lived in times of decline in its ability to think...The Church should strive for genius and not for decadence....The thinking of the Church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves, in order to develop and deepen the Church's theology. Denigrating Church history and thinking. When did the Church ever strive for decadence? Theology is the study of humans understanding themselves???

The entire section on developing doctrines is typically vague and misleading to the point of heresy. It carefully skirts the edges of evolution of doctrine (which is a heresy), and erroneously implies that the Church's view on capital punishment and slavery are doctrines (which changed), therefore other doctrines can change also. The Pope fails to specify what constitutes a doctrine and the limits to the changes that a doctrine can undergo ie. deepening of thought, but not "development" of an entirely new or even opposing doctrine from the primary doctrine. The Church's responsibility is the preservation of the Deposit of the Faith. It can not create new doctrines which "develop" existing doctrines in a way that changes the original meaning, or nullify doctrines. The word "development" is ambiguous and intentionally so.
This section is an effort to get people used to the idea that all change is acceptable and in keeping with Catholic orthodoxy. It most certainly is NOT.
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written by Sherry, October 01, 2013
At Mass this morning, our pastor, just back from vacation, was jubilant that Pope Francis has given a new spirit to our faith. It is a spirit of non-judgmentalism. And, as he said, it is about time.

And now I see that Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter, has just weighed in on Pope Francis' latest interview with La Repubblica regarding clericalism.

Winters says, "... too many of our 'John Paul II' priests would be quite hostile to these words of Pope Francis. The are clericalists". Later he says, "They believe they were set apart to be better than the People of God. The do engage in the kind of proselytism the pope here labels as "solemn nonsense."

These words are heavy in my heart.

The "Spirit of Bergoglio" seems to be highly judgmental and we are in for a challenging time ahead.
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written by Margaret, October 07, 2013
I too have been troubled by Francis' off-hand remarks -- a pope who must be explained and defended as orthodox is one who needs to spend more time organizing his communications; maybe he needs a good editor.

To be fair to him, I got the book he wrote with Rabbi Skorka of Argentina based on their friendship and dialogues entitled "On Heaven and Earth."

I think that the pope has a highly-developed respect for each person and his right to develop in response to God's interaction with him. He is willing to give his advice, but does not believe in harassment. All good as far as it goes. But, he's not a simple parish priest, but the leader and defender of our ancient faith handed down by the Apostles.

On page 110 of "On Heaven and Earth" I read this startling statement on divorce: "Nevertheless, today Catholic Doctrine reminds its divorced members who have remarried that they are not excommunicated -- even though they live in a situation on the margin of what indissolubility of marriage and the sacrament of marriage require of them -- they are asked to integrate into the parish life."

Do they not have to have acquired an annulment of their previous marriage? If they did, they would not be on the margins and there would be no question of them being excommunicated. So has the doctrine changed and no one told us?

This is the “on the one hand, but on the other hand” kind of confusion he is promoting. Given the lack of catechesis we have had since the late 1960’s, Catholics in the pews are going to be lost.
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written by Brad Miner, October 07, 2013
Margaret: I'm not a canon lawyer, but I think I can answer your question about re-marriage and excommunication. Indeed, in the U.S. (I believe by the specific request of American bishops) divorce-excommunication was for many years the rule. But in a revision of canon law that happened (again: I believe) in the 1970s, the excommunication was lifted. However, divorced-remarried Catholics (by definition married outside the Church) are still required to attend Mass every Sunday and on Days of Obligation, although they may not receive Communion, because (again, by definition) they are living in a state of sin, which sin may only be changed by an annulment or by the death of the first spouse. You might look at a book by Edward Peters, EXCOMMUNICATION AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
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written by Donatus, October 09, 2013
First, I will say that the Pope seems to want us to put our faith into action by being more charitable and being good examples to draw people to the Church. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we would all do that? The problem is that most solid Catholics are busy trying to repair the holes in the ship of the Church as it slowly sinks. How can we draw people to the Church when we can't even keep most Catholics from leaving.

Another good point he is putting forth is that we need to be less judgmental and negative, and try to draw people to Christ through love. I am happy to say, that I belong to a VERY conservative parish. Two points, I did meet one irregular parishioner that was very judgmental and negative, but the other 300 seem to be very kind, loving, optimistic, and show great Christian love. I and many more protestants have been drawn to the Catholic Church through this parish. When it comes to Charity, no they don't donate as much as some parishes to CRS and other Catholic Charities, but they show charity every day. Poor and sick parishioners are flooded with help. When the home of one was burned in the Black Forest fire in Colorado, dozens came out to help every weekend.

The thing that concerns me, is that the Pope is attacking the 'devout' and 'faithful' part of the Church, and aligning himself with the 'left wingers' in the Church. Some might say that he is acting like Jesus who disciplined the Pharisees who were very judgmental toward sinners. The difference is that the Pharisees were not forgiving and willing to help sinners. The so called 'right wingers' in the Church are the only ones willing to help the sinners correct their lives. The 'left-wingers' encourage sinful behavior by promoting same sex marriage, divorce, women priests, etc. They just encourage sinners.

Yes, there are those who are very judgmental in the Church, both left and right, but these are not visible to the world, they usually keep their comments in blogs like this. When dealing with society, they try to be kind and evangelize. I do hear the left wingers complain about the Churches old rules, talk about bad Popes, etc.

If Pope Francis is hoping to draw the world to the Church by making it seem less judgmental, open to change, and generally less reverent. Let us look at how successful he was in Argentina. Let us compare that record to that in a very conservative country such as Mexico. In Argentina, 92% of the population are Catholic, only 20% practice their faith regularly. In Mexico, 83% are Catholic and 51% practice their faith regularly.

It does seem that most Catholic writers are now publishing articles on what Pope Francis really said. Why? He said what he said. Why did they never need to explain what Pope Benedict said? After hearing Pope Francis for more than six months, I am starting to believe that his vision of the Church and its beliefs are very questionable and overall are having a very negative effect on truly faithful Catholics. Thank God we know that these are his personal opinions and that he can't change the truth of the Church.

But we have seen in the last 50 years the terrible effects that the 'left wingers' have had on the Church, going for 70% mass attendance to 20% mass attendance, vocations nose dive, churches, schools, seminaries, monastaries, and convents closing.

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written by Robert, August 16, 2014
This column was rather naive not only in retrospect but when it was published. Father Bergolio's good friend and co-author (co-religionist?) Rabbi Skorka is pro abortion.

Of course, in "THE" Interview, Francis I complained about putting too much emphasis on abortion, homosexuality, and birth control. What planet has he been on for the last half century? If I have heard 10 sermons at Mass about abortion in that time frame, its a lot.
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written by Florin, September 29, 2014
Sept. 29th...I think if we would drop the word: "abortion" which can be used to say one aborted a flight, or aborted a vacation...and use the term 'termination of a human life' or simply 'termination of life'...it would change things dramatically. To say that a human life is being terminated would awaken consciences that have been dulled by the term 'abortion' which has lost its impact.
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written by espe, September 30, 2014
I left the Catholic church & was a practicing Protestant for 28yrs simply because the "Catholic church was becoming very liberal" and no longer was preaching about sin & hell. I came back to my Catholic faith by the power of the Holy Spirit after my son's death in 2001 and not by my own accord. I was shocked/saddened to see that it was no longer the holy, reverent church I belonged to! I am more disappointed that pope Francis doesn't believe one should change one's faith to become a Catholic but stay in the faith (or lack thereof)we currently are in since we are all on our path way to God? Sounds more like Buddhism to me!

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