Pope Francis, Writing “Between the Lines”

Senior Editor’s note: Yesterday was a big day for the Roman Catholic Church, and Rome is where Editor-in-Chief Robert Royal (@RobertSRoyal) is, reporting on the 2015 Synod on the Family, and it’s where he’ll be all month – on Thursdays also on EWTN with host Raymond Arroyo (@RaymondArroyo) and Fr. Gerald Murray (@GeraldMurray8). As Hadley Arkes writes below, Pope Francis is the key, if only we know how to “read” him, and in Dr. Royal’s first dispatch from Rome, we get a sense of what the Holy Father and his bishops, archbishops, and cardinals are thinking. Read Bob’s report here . . . And be of good cheer: it was a good day! – Brad Miner (@ABradfordMiner)

My late professor, Leo Strauss, alerted us to an often overlooked dimension of political life when he wrote of “persecution and the art of writing” – the art of “writing between the lines.”   Many of the grand works in political philosophy were not written in liberal political orders. They were written with an awareness of a censor not far away, in an authoritarian or despotic political regime. Strauss’s thesis provoked controversy, but an even livelier argument ensued on the question of whether this need to write between the lines could become necessary even in the most liberal countries. For it could be explosive for the philosopher to lay bare the premises on which even the liberal polity has been provisionally settled.

Strauss had observed that when a skilled writer falls into a mistake or contradiction that would embarrass a schoolboy, that may be a sign that the contradiction is quite deliberate. The writer may be drawing in the close reader, to read even more closely yet. And the reader may find there the deeper teaching that the writer, for one reason or another, has decided not to trumpet in public. His deeper teaching he holds back in prudence from a wider public not prepared to understand and receive it.

All of this came to mind as an alternative explanation, worth at least pondering, for Pope Francis’s “excellent adventure” in America. A friend from a Catholic conference in the Midwest, visiting Washington, was rather depressed by Francis’s speeches at the White House and in Congress. He was jolted when Francis raised the issue of the “sanctity of life” – and moved quickly, for his example to capital punishment. Not a word at that critical moment for the 1.2 million innocent lives destroyed every year by abortions in this country. But as it turned out, that omission was so glaring, so obvious, that it stirred the surprise and wonderment even of people who are pro-choice.   Could it be that Francis, with that move, was signaling us to read more closely? Was he pointing us to the many places, in his talks and writings, where he was affirming the orthodox teaching on marriage, or the primacy, among all moral issues, of destroying the most innocent human lives in abortion?

The meeting with Kim Davis might have borne out that interpretation. It was not part of the public, official schedule; but it took place at the papal nunciature.   Francis affirmed there his understanding of the only rightful form of marriage and the claims of “conscience.” But that interpretation was undermined when the Vatican Press Office denied the import of the meeting – the only import that could plausibly attach to the meeting. In striking contrast, Francis’s meeting with an old friend, a man now “married” to another man, was indeed on the schedule, and was not to be disavowed. His embrace of the men, his kisses for them, could be taken as a sign of compassion. And yet it could be wholly compatible with his intractable refusal to accept in principle their form of “marriage.”

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In any case, I thought I would look again at Francis’s writings, with more attentiveness this time to the difference between the more amplified and the more muted teaching. I turned again to the reading of Laudato Si. And I must say that I found certain charms there that hadn’t impressed me earlier – beginning with his quotation of the Patriarch Bartholomew on “the world as a sacrament of communion.” There was of course the boilerplate, with all of the liberal clichés on “climate change,” along with the curious deploring of the fossil fuels and the economic growth that have dramatically lifted millions out of poverty.

But the striking thing was this: for virtually every tag line, every familiar rubric, marking a concern for the “environment,” Francis sought to show that if we traced the question to its root, the matter of “human life” has an even higher standing within that order of “nature” – indeed as the very peak of Creation. And the concern for lives impaired by scarce food and bad air hardly compares with the immediate destruction of the lives of the unborn on a mass scale.

Francis points out, then, forcefully that the concern for the earth cannot be taken to “imply a divinization of the earth,” as environmentalism backs into paganism. The concern for the animal world would be turned morally upside down if it “put all living beings on the same level” and “deprive[d] human beings of their unique worth.” And so Francis complained about the obsession in “protecting other species” and “denying any preeminence to the human person.” It is “clearly inconsistent,” he said, “to condemn trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.”

But of course these strands in the encyclical were not picked up by the liberal media, even though they supplied the deepest premises – and the deepest teaching – in the encyclical. The same thing would surely be said of Francis’s speeches in America.   And there was the pitfall of the two levels of writing: The orthodox teaching was confirmed quietly for the faithful, listening closely. But the things thought fit for the ears and eyes of everyone else were the things that would flatter the prejudices of a broad public, while insuring that nothing serious would really be taught.

Hadley Arkes

Hadley Arkes

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Amherst College. He is also Founder and Director of the Washington-based James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding. His most recent book is Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. Volume II of his audio lectures from The Modern Scholar, First Principles and Natural Law is now available for download.

  • Dimek1

    I don’t know… Maybe I’m missing the point of this article, but if one only merely hints at something and/or says only vague comments that are open to interpretation, and then leaves the obvious and clear things unsaid (and leaves the clear speech consigned only to writing), rather than the ‘absence of something inviting us to dig deeper’, it rather seems to be a missed opportunity for clarity. Being vague like that can indicate either passive-aggressive tactics or perhaps even cowardice in the face of the opposition. Oh how I wish our dear Holy Father would be more clear about things. Our Lady of Grace pray for us.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      The fact of the matter is that francis’ tactics, if that is what they are, have failed miserably. Orthodox Catholics are turned off and have stopped listening, the protestant wing of the Catholic Church revels in the confusion, and I have yet to hear of hordes of pagans banging on the doors of Catholic churches begging to be let in because they have come to appreciate the truth of her teachings.

      Time to call for a new Synod on the exercise of the Petrine ministry. On second thought, let’s can that idea.

      • bernie

        Well,, maybe, but the orthodox thoughts we hear expressed by Pope Francis seem like dry bones thrown to a crowd looking for Momma’s meat and mashed potatoes All I need to hear from the crowd of commentators is that I am somehow triumphalist or arrogant for thinking this way..

  • Rich in MN

    There may exist a fascinating analogy with Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus does not want the general populace (“the crowds”) to know where he is coming from — both figuratively and literally — until his horrible execution and death on a cross. One possible reason you raise is that those who are hostile to the message must not be given the message directly and explicitly because it will not benefit them, it will only imperil them further by hindering their search for the truth. (In this regard, we may need to understand Mark 4:11-12 as an example of Jesus’ wry Jewish sense of humor.) On the other hand, those who are open to the truth, albeit seeing it very imperfectly and incompletely, will receive a deeper instruction (cf. Mark 4:33-34). And Mark is not talking about some sort of secret ‘gnosis’ (knowledge) that will lead to salvation. The centrality of the cross dispels that myth. Rather Mark is talking about the fundamental understanding of who Christ is and what his purpose on Earth really is. It seems to me that the Gospel of Mark may well be a Gospel directed toward catechumens. Hmmm… interesting….

    • PCB

      This essay conjured up for me the same analogy to Mark’s Gospel. I think the most disconcerting aspect of this Pope for everyone – conservative, moderate and yes, even for far-left and secularists/atheists, is the uncertainty and ambiguousness of his words and actions. No one can say for sure just what he really is about. I am also reminded, he is a Jesuit after all, schooled in the Jesuit tradition of Sophism. And, few others are able to tell without telling, do without doing, deceive without deceiving – primarily as a vital matter of self-preservation of priest, faithful and Faith, in hostile Elizabethan England, as the Jesuit. Could Francis be conducting his papacy under the same tried and true methods in the present world, where the perhaps greatest change in climate is the changing climate of ever increasing hostilities towards Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular? Gerard or Judas – only time will tell.

      • Howard Kainz

        “He is a Jesuit after all, schooled in the Jesuit tradition of Sophism.” Do you mean, the Jesuit tradition of casuistry?

        • PCB

          I suppose the two terms have come to be nearly interchangeable, or at least in relation, so the reader may chose according to his/her own understanding and point of view, to which I will gladly defer.

  • BFB

    There are many things hidden in plain sight on the Holy See website.
    Perhaps these are clearer to those who have eyes to see.

    I love the Lord’s wry sense of humour – try thinking some of the words coming from a particular modern humorist of your choice there are other teachings there the Galilean talking about crumbs for the dogs could be talking from the position of the dog.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    #1 Laudable Si with all its subtleties was hardly read by Catholics, let alone the pagans. So, in whose interest were such subtleties written.

    #2 Christ spoke to some of the most obtuse among the Jews, Samaritans and others of his time yet didn’t always speak ‘between the line.’ For example, “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall NOT have life within you.”

    Sorry, but I’m not convinced that Pope Bergoglio is that great a tactician.

  • givelifeachance2

    I have in my mind an image of a man held hostage and put in front of the world’s cameras to puppet the message of his slavemasters, all the while blinking out the truth with his eyes. This is consistent with the thorough orthodoxy of his three book recommendations – Lord of the World, The Betrothed, and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Considering his familiarity with the latter, noone can say he doesn’t know the eternal consequences of the pontifex abandoning his sheep.

  • Michael Dowd

    Such an optimistic interpretation! I am not buying a word of it. Whatever doctrinal truth Pope Francis incorporates in his writing is to give the impression that what he is saying is somehow justified by Scripture or historic Catholic doctrine. It is simply a ruse. The fact that one has to reread his documents to discover Pope Francis “subtle” thinking just shows how unlikely it is that there was any intent to deepen our understanding of Catholicism. Sorry no sale. But I do wish you were correct.

    Let all pray for Pope Francis especially during the Synod.

    • wc4mitt

      Let’s not forget that as Catholics we pray for the Pope (whomever he is) at every single Mass which is celebrated every single day around this globe. He gets plenty of prayers from all Catholics who attend Liturgies – so that is not the issue. At issue is Pope Francis’ determination to ‘do it my way’ i.e, the Issuance of the bull on Catholic annulments, which occasioned an outburst of opposition by many since that particular subject was to be a part of this present Synodal agenda. Cardinals, Bishops, and others were dismayed that Pope Francis proclaimed a ‘bull’ re this issue thus removing from the discussion by all the Church Bishops in the decision making process. Pope Francis took it out of their hands prior to the 2015 Synod of Bishops where it was to be discerned and discussed. He simply ‘did it his way’ introducing what is now called “Catholic Divorce”.

  • StatusQrow

    You’ve almost convinced me to, yet again, try and read the encyclical. Probably not in immediate future unless the Spirit further moves me, so keep writing…

  • Manfred

    Dr. Arkes: You completely overlook Bergoglio’s Synodal appointments such as Forte, Danneels, Wuerl, etc.,progressives all, and his not inviting Cdl Burke who is probably the finest mind in the Church.. This Synod is already being referred to in some circles as the “Sodomy Synod”.
    Please do nit attempt to ascribe to Bergoglio intentions which he does not intend. Capitol punishment has been in a sharp decline in this Country for years. .
    Boehner admits to having tried for twenty years to have a pope address the Congress. The intelligent ones all declined.

  • Cheryl Jefferies

    I wish I could be so optimistic. But, alas, I cannot. This is a time for moral clarity. Not a time for confusion. The world is in desperate need of clarity, of vision of purpose, clearly stated. What we have gotten is confusion. The mission of the Church is the saving of souls, is it not? How can that mission be fulfilled when confusion reigns. Jesus did not mince words when he said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Or, when He threw the money-changers out of the Temple. Or, when He said, “This is my body. This is my blood.” Jesus may have been sometimes obscure, but, from the Last Supper onward, He was very clear. In all ways. Ultimately, the man and the word must fit the moment. We need, at this moment in time, much clarity and firmness of purpose. I do not feel we are getting it.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “To you,” said He, “it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matt. xiii. 11)

      That is why St John quotes Isaiah, “He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” (ohn xii. 37 ff)

  • grump

    Rarely is the phrase “grasping at straws” more evident than in this article. You have to look awfully hard to find any nuggets of true wisdom in the Pope’s public comments while in America. The juxtaposition of a downplayed meeting with Kim Davis and a well-publicized meeting with the homo couple speaks volumes. Never was Jesus’ injunction to enter through the “narrow gate” more relevant than today.

  • SD

    Yet another piece that attempts to explain the confusion from Rome. We hear again and again no he really means this, no he really means that, no if you just read between the lines and close one eye and hop around then you can see he is really orthodox.

    Only academics and professional Catholic spinners are dense enough to think that normal reasonable people are credulous and empty-headed.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Reading between the lines does not identify nuance if the reference is to actual quotes by Pope Francis. Those explicitly doctrinal quotes were likely picked up by most. However if we consider his pontificate in its entirety we can elicit nuance, for example shades of meaning that suggest to many in the Church that we may remit observance of certain moral teachings in our actions when those actions are presumed by us to be acts of love. Personally I hope Pope Francis will be more explicit and pronounced regarding settled Catholic doctrine such as the exclusivity of marriage between a man and woman, the deviation from the order of nature of homosexual behavior, that the inviolability of conscience does not preclude serious responsibility to adhere to universal truths such as false witness, and the increasing widespread killing of innocents especially seen in abortion. There is already open schism on these issues by Cardinal Reinhard Marx chair of the German Bishops Conference. My concern is that the Synod and the Pontiff’s response will not conclude with anything of real import but will simply reinforce misleading nuance.

    • Lilly Rose

      Fr. Morello, I agree with you. It may not change doctrine overtly but it may undermine it in praxis. Also, yes, there is open schism of the German and the Swiss Bishops Conference. To the point that Msgr. Fellay of the St. PiusX asked in a letter that the pope be more clear about key issues such as marriage and abortion.

    • Rene

      It would not surprise me if what comes from the Pope after the Synod is the need for further study on the “merciful pastoral applications” of the hot bottom issues relating to the family and sexual morality. Further study, and the consequent delay in coming with orthodox pastoral practices that clearly adhere to Catholic doctrine, will, of course, only serve to propagate the existing confusion among the faithful regarding these matters.

  • Martha Rice Martini

    This is a beautifully crafted essay, Professor Arkes, generous in its sympathies and worthy of your teacher. But I think you may be reading too much into this pope and his left-leaning politicization of the Gospel. For Francis, the fundamental truth and foundational “sin” is material inequality among men and nations. Grasp this and you grasp the whole.

    Still, the serious question suggested by your essay and worthy of deep thought is, How do you evangelize Sodom and Gomorrah?

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “Who would dare to affirm,” asks St Augustine, “that God has no method of calling whereby even Esau might have applied his mind and yoked his will to the faith in which Jacob was justified?”

      Also, “For the effectiveness of God’s mercy cannot be in the power of man to frustrate, if he will have none of it. If God wills to have mercy on a man, he can call him in a way that is suited to him, so that he will be moved to understand and to follow.”

  • Tamsin

    In what circle of Hell do the flatterers end up?

    • Murray

      Rest assured that I am upvoting your comment x1000 in spirit.

  • Andrew Greenwell

    Supposing it to be true, is one who teaches “between the lines” one who teaches with authority?

  • Paul Janke

    It is interesting to read all these comments. They prove that one man’s words and actions can send so many different messages. I’ve read Laudato Si and have followed Pope Francis, in many of the on-line venues, and get yet another interpretation of it all.
    It seems to me that there are three camps: 1.) people who think Pope Francis will change Church teachings on marriage, among other teachings, 2.) people who think Pope Francis is orthodox in Church teaching, but not clear in his communication of that fact, and 3.) those who believe that he is a man who is exactly what he says he is, and his actions clarify his speech. I am in camp #3.
    Pope Francis has asked for discussion on the matters of family. He’s getting it, and sides are being taken. It is becoming more and more clear who stands where and how is it that they take certain positions on Church teachings. At the same time, he is showing the world how to behave. Do not shun anyone. Sinners are in most need of attention and healing. Pope Francis is demonstrating compassion and love. That does not make him a leftist, it makes him a Christian.
    At the same time, the Head of the Church is learning how to change the organization in order to straighten out some serious entanglements. He is becoming quite knowledgeable in who stands where and what the present politics are.
    I believe the results of this Synod will be more than just clarification of Church teaching, it will also be a signal of future Church structure.

    • SD

      How you can conclude such things is beyond most folks. The dissenters that want to usurp the Church have been kept in check for decades since JPII was in charge. He and Benedict at least tried to right the ship that PaulVI turned hard left. Now, we are back to 1972 once again. We are not seeing Christianity but an ideology at play now. To give mixed signals to the world and to allow the masses to think Christianity is nothing but social work and left wing politics plays right into the hands of the world.

      You must spin and spin and deny the obvious in front of you to conclude all is going as planned.

    • Murray

      The population of Camp 1 is negligible among well-catechized Catholics.

      I am also in Camp 3, though my conclusions are almost the opposite of yours.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      I have a bridge to sell you.

      The primary role of the Pope is to safeguard
      A. the unity of the Church and
      B. the patrimony of the Church which is doctrine.

      Francis has sown confusion from the get go.

      • Marguerite

        The primary role of the Pope is to safeguard the Church from error. If it were to only safeguard the unity, then the Protestant splitting of the Church would not have occurred. The primary role of a bishop, Pope Francis being one, is to teach, govern and sanctify.

        • SD

          From the CCC:
          882 The Pope,
          Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible
          source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole
          company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by
          reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire
          Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a
          power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403

        • DeaconEdPeitler

          That is what I was referring to when I mentioned safeguarding doctrine.

      • papagan

        I have a question for you “DeaconEdPeitler.” Are you a Roman Catholic deacon?

    • catherine

      I hope you are right

  • Bro_Ed

    That’s an interesting theory. I would wonder if such a message were so delivered would it be “missed” by the majority of the people who need to hear it. Some of these issues are so emotional it might be like using subtlety to control a soccer riot.

    Maybe…the pope was signaling, once again, that we would should not limit ourselves to just 2-3 critical issues, and that we need to leave space and resources to deal with other important matters as well.

  • DCS

    There must be a compelling reason to practice esotericism and Francis not only does not have that (or at least you have not convinced me he does) but esotericism is itself not a Christian practice. The truth is knowable by all and salvific for all. Esoteric writing necessarily parts ways with that belief.

  • Howard Kainz

    The German philosopher Hegel is often accused of “writing between the lines” to avoid censorship or worse. In his political philosophy he clearly favors a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s, in which the monarch is relegated simply to “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” — in stark contrast to the authoritarian Prussian system under which he was living. But with regard to Pope Francis, from whom would the Pope fear censorship or retaliation? The media? Conservatives? Not clear.

    • Dimek1

      Well said, whose censorship is trying to be avoided? (How’s that for saying something covertly?)

    • Maria Tierney Koehn

      “One cannot give what one does not have.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

      Re: “…whom would the Pope fear censorship…?”

      Is it not the human heart?

      I think perhaps the human heart wants to censor the message by their wounded heart mind or spirit. Many things can cause these wounds including misinformation and not enough information.

      I believe Pope Francis knows this. He who hopes to be a servant of the servants of God, wants the good of the soul. That is Jesus, Redemption and Salvation, to have God living in the heart of man and the source of his Joy and to share God’s Joy with others.

      Perhaps he thinks that in order to work with the Holy Spirit to be in the heart of man first the heart needs to be penetrated and this has to be done humbly (Sermon on the Mount).
      Hence, that’s why he kept mentioning he wanted to have a dialogue at the Capital speaking to our Congress. He knows as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “One cannot give what one does not have.”

      Many don’t know our full history.
      Many don’t know our foundation and how this government was made for a religious people as John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

      Many don’t know that Life is sacred at all times. Many have been pushed by a false culture and have had to live in homes (or make homes) that have not made a commitment to the family “until death do we part.” On and on.

      So, I think a man that came to The United States of America as the successor of Peter did well to point to the path away from the edge of hopelessness and destruction to a view of true hope and building on our foundation of God blessing our nation as we trust in Him.

      P.S. Thank you for recommending the app Laudate. It’s Wonderful!

  • A commenter

    Esoteric writing may be practiced to avoid persecution, censorship and the like, or to convey different salutary teachings to the few and to the many where the teaching for the few is too hard, or too dangerous, for the many. Beyond Christ’s own use of parables noted in the comments here, many Christian writers have employed or acknowledged esotericism, from Origen and Clement of Alexandria to Newman and his discussion of “economy” in doctrinal development. (Though not written from a specifically Christian perspective, Arthur Melzer’s recent book Philosophy Between the Lines on esotericism is very good, and inter alia discusses the use of parables by Christ.) One might propose an application of esoteric reading that is the opposite of what Prof. Arkes ostensibly intended — that the apparent orthodox invocations of the protection of life, etc., in official statements by at least some religious leaders today are what is actually protective in nature, inserted to insulate them from conclusive charges of outright heterodoxy, just as many past writers included in their work “token” references of their religious orthodoxy.

  • Romulus

    In my culture, we call what Francis does “equivocation” — and we frown on it.

  • Rene

    I do not get the point of talking in riddles. Confusion does not get cleared away by talking in riddles. This Pope does not have to fear censors, at least not yet.

  • Joe_NS

    And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • JaneSeymour

    Those who have common sense and a faithful heart, by now have seen through this Pope and are not fooled anymore by apologists like you.

  • Margaret

    I couldn’t watch any of his visit. I cannot even look at the man because I see a sneer instead of a radiant visage. I have read his writings; he is a poorly-educated, poorly-traveled man from a socialist country in which corporatism is substituted for capitalism. He is probably genuinely concerned for the poor, but is gullible as to how to raise them up. His failure to listen to the scientists who traveled to Rome to try to talk sense into him about “Climate Change” told me all I need to know about him.

    I get the sense that he wants to be loved. Jesus warned His followers that if the world hated Him, it would hate them also.

    His book with Rabbi Skorka of Argentina, “Of Heaven and Earth” was very telling. The good rabbi spoke clearly about Jewish beliefs without apology, dissenting from Catholic views. Borgolio responded cringingly, apologetically, hedging Catholic Truth. I am not surprised that he cannot speak the Truth with authority.

  • Hadley Arkes

    First, I want to thank the people who joined the discussion today, though it moved in directions that I found puzzling. I’m astonished, to say the least, that people who read these columns in the Catholic Thing should actually think that I’m credulous about this Pope. What I’ve said sharply, in conveying my reservations on where he puts the accent in his teaching, and the way he teaches, I have no reason to unsay. But accomplished friends of mine have been emphatic on the point that Francis holds to orthodox teaching—that he has not abandoned anything in that teaching on marriage and abortion. And so I took the strange mix of Francis’s speeches—and his “performative acts”—in America to view his utterances from a different angle. What might we see if we were attentive to the way in which he wove orthodox teaching with his populism?

    If we bring that perspective to Laudato Si, then it reveals a teaching running deep, and there is nothing trifling about it. Nor is there any sign that he is less than clear about the ground of his own commitment. Howard Kainz is of course right that there is no reason for an esoteric teaching with Francis, for he has nothing to fear from censors. But that is not the only reason that writers may shade their views even in free countries. They may mute some of their most earnest convictions, and put the accent on others, for the sake of avoiding offense to their hosts. Or they made do that for sake of currying favor with a vast public who have not been tutored to understand a teaching far more demanding.

    I cited many compelling passages in Laudato Si. But as Francis moved to the end of that long document, he was taken up in making the case for new modes of administration to deal with the spoliation of the earth, and the wrongs of global inequality. It became clear that he was immersed, fascinated, and deeply absorbed. Yes, he was unquestioned in his orthodoxy about human life and marriage. But it was these new issues, and these new adventures in administration, that he evidently cared about far more deeply.

    One of the most telling signs was picked up by Robert Royal: Francis thought that we had spent too much time trying to teach about those questions of life and marriage, with their attendant, vexing feature of casting moral judgments on people. But when was it ever out of season to explain again the reasons that underlie the teaching of the Church, this year and next year, especially as the evidence abounds that the teaching has not been heard?

    I think my column should have made clear that Francis is firm in his understanding of that teaching, but that his passion to teach has receded. In the difference between what he has muted in that teaching, and what he has trumpeted to a wider audience, we find the measure of what he has now come to teach.

    • Romulus

      “Francis is firm in his understanding of that teaching, but that his passion to teach has receded.”

      In Cassius Dio’s Roman History (LXIX.6) one reads an account of a woman with a petition, standing in the road seeking to intercept Hadrian. The Emperor, as he rode past, said “my good woman, I don’t have time to hear you” — or words to that effect. Whereupon the woman yelled after him, “Then stop being Emperor!” Recalled to his duty, he stopped and heard her out.

      I happen to believe that Francis is not at all weary of being pope, but if he should be, the remedy is at hand. That he does not take it but fecklessly clings to office says much.

  • StatusQrow

    When Pope John Paul visited India, I believe in the late nineties, apparently some Western journalist, stunned by the massive turnout at one of John Paul’s stops, asked of a local “How is it that so many Hindus and Muslims have come to see a Pope?” he was told “We Indians believe everything!”

    Is there an object lesson here?

  • Margaret please tell me why every Catholic wouldn’t love the Pope? God’s chosen one led by the Spirit to awaken our hearts. Is it possible to be a poorly educated Jesuit? He’s not looking at the world as an American or Canadian Catholic. He’s from Argentina and his background is so different from the majority of North American Catholics. Do you not think that perhaps this is what the Church needs now at this time in its history?
    What does the rest of the Catholic world see going on in North America? Declining church attendance, schools closing, seminaries empty, divorce rates equal to or worse than the secular world, obscene materialism and consumerism, deviant sexual behaviour etc.
    Now we have a Pope who is concerned about the poor, our environment, the family, the sanctity of life, an out of control Vatican hierarchy, refugees and we want to condemn him for not speaking clearly in a way that satisfies our way of thinking and believing.
    There is no indication from Pope Francis that he plans to change church teachings but he is intent on talking about issues that every Catholic should be concerned with and are even uncomfortable talking about. We may never see changes to Catholic teachings on marriage or divorce or homosexuality but perhaps our attitudes towards people affected by these issues will involve a lot more mercy and love than what we are currently seeing from Catholics.
    Search your heart and pray for God’s guidance to love Pope Francis so that he may lead us to help change our world and bring it to know Christ.

    • StatusQrow

      There is one thing that could win my own heart’s unswerving loyalty and, despite any (man-made) global warming cynicism, calm its tendency to cavil: if Francis were to turn out to be the pontiff chosen by God to have Russia consecrated—by name—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      Once everyone gets a fix on what he is saying, all the sentiments of “Catholic nice” will fall into place. Let’s hope his successor is able to explicate the truth passed down through the Apostles to their successors

    • Vicsbean

      This is exactly why you should convert, BACK, to Orthodoxy.

    • FreemenRtrue

      go read “Jesuits” by Malachi Martin S.J. and get your eyes opened.

      • StatusQrow

        Have read it, and I agree, “Jesuits” along with “Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control” by E. Michael Jones are two of the most important analyses of leftist blight on Catholic life in decades.

        Beware, though, if you’re unfamiliar with him, Jones is controversial. Many think him an anti-Semite. I take him at his word that he is not, since most anti-anythings are more than a little proud of their bigotry. But he often does seem to have a tin ear when it comes to understanding how the way he expresses himself comes across to others.

        That said, the above-mentioned book, along with “Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing,” also by Jones, are prescient.

    • GaryLockhart

      “God’s chosen one led by the Spirit to awaken our hearts.”

      Assumes facts not in evidence.

      ‘Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if
      the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his
      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.”

      Further:

      “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 1997

      All the more relevant in light of the actions of the St. Gallen mafia – Danneels and his comrades – and their admitted roles in the election of Jorge Bergoglio.

  • Willard

    We’re almost upon the 70th Anniversary of the remarkable address of Venerable Pope Pius XII entitled “Questa Grande Vostra Adunata”

    “And what of a regime in which capitalism is dominant? Does it offer a prospect of real welfare for women? We have no need here to describe the economic and social consequences of this system. You know its characteristic signs and you yourselves labor under the burden it imposes: the excessive crowding of the population into the cities; the ever-growing and all-invading power of big business; the difficult and precarious condition of other industries, especially the crafts and even more especially agriculture; the disquieting spread of unemployment.”

    It’s not hard to figure out Pope Francis if you don’t look at him with the eyes of an American political conservative.

    • SD

      Liberal dissenters really like this Pope. Wonder why?

      • Willard

        Actually many liberal dissenters dislike this Pope for a number of reasons including his opposition to women priests.

        I have found that it is more the conservative dissenters who really DISlike this Pope.

        • SD

          I have not many conservative dissenters. I have met people who accept all of Catholic teaching and are dismayed at the confusion from Rome. I have net several liberals that think the Church has finally opened up to the modern world and that She allows sodomy and fornication as acceptable.

        • GaryLockhart

          Are those faithful to Christ, His bride and her teachings who take issue with many of the foolish, poorly composed and poorly expressed prudential remarks, writings and contradictions of the current Pontiff simply “conservative dissenters” or are they instead striving to follow the exhortation of Christ Himself in rejecting the sin of relativism?

          “And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just?” Luke 12:57

    • Murray

      Since I am neither an American nor a political conservative, I wouldn’t know. I note that there are cries of alarm about the fruits of this papacy coming from Italy, Poland, Africa, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Spain, and many other places. Those Republicans just get into everything, don’t they?

    • Murray

      And we should be clear, Questa Grande Vostra Adunata is hardly a political tract, against conservatism or otherwise. What you call “conservatism” is more properly right-liberalism, a destructive ideology that exalts the primacy of the individual will to the same extent as its left-liberal brother, but with a greater emphasis on markets and property rights rather than government action.

      The section you quoted is immediately followed by:

      Restore woman as soon as possible to her place of honor in the home as housewife and mother! This is the universal cry today. It is as though the world had suddenly awakened in alarm and horror to see the results of a material and technical progress of which it had hitherto been so proud.

      In fact, the bulk of QGVA chronicles the unhappy effects of women leaving the home to enter the workforce, which of course has long been one of the primary political goals of left-liberalism. And who can say, reading this relatively short and beautifully pastoral address, that every single one of his predictions has not come true? For example,

      The daughter, who also goes out to work in factory, shop, or office, finds herself deafened by the turmoil in the midst of which she lives; dazzled by the glamor of a tawdry luxury; hungry for equivocal pleasures which distract without giving satisfaction or repose; frequenting the music halls and dancing palaces which, often for purposes of party propaganda, are springing up everywhere to corrupt the morals of the young. She is a ‘lady of fashion’ now, and has no use for the moral standards of two centuries ago. How can she fail to find her modest home uninviting and even more grim than it is in reality! To take any pleasure in her home, and to want to make one for herself in the future, she would have to be able to counterbalance a natural impression by a serious intellectual and moral outlook, by the strength of mind that springs from a religious education and a supernatural ideal. But what sort of religious education, in conditions such as these, can she have received?

      Later on,

      But it is clear that while man is by temperament more suited to deal with external affairs and public business, generally speaking the woman has a deeper insight for understanding the delicate problems of domestic and family life, and a surer touch in solving them—–which, of course, is not to deny that some women can show great ability in every sphere of public life.

      It seems to me, with respect, that you may have inadvertently mistaken the primary thrust of QGVA, thinking it was some kind of anti-conservative tract. Ven. Pius XII is of course correct about the evils of capitalism, but that was not exactly his main focus.

      • Willard

        Absolutely agree with you. In fact, his predecessor Pope Pius XI famously wrote in the encyclical QUADRAGESIMO ANNO:

        “It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children. Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman.”

        I think, as you are not an American political conservative, you don’t realize how much of the American criticism of Pope Francis stems from his restating the perennial Catholic teaching on the evils of capitalism.

        • Murray

          Thanks for your comments. No, I’m well aware of the political opposition to Pope Francis on account of his economic opinions–which, by the way, are almost wholly jejune. The man simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. But I am likewise skeptical of his free-marketeer critics, who distort Catholic social teaching in order to fit their preconceived notions.

          Contra the Holy Father, the free market has raised billions of people out of abject poverty to the point where perennial human problems like (e.g.) hunger are at an all-time low in both absolute and relative terms. But free markets also lay waste to culture and traditional ways of life, rendering human beings into deracinated atoms of consumption. Markets will sell you both food and hard-core pornography at all-time low prices, and they recognize no moral distinctions between one product and another.

          So it’s true that some are opposed to him on account of their politics. But the great bulk of those faithful Catholics most vehemently opposed to the Holy Father’s agenda are not particularly bothered by the pope’s economics, though like me, they may get irritated by his blithe ignorance. They are more troubled by his ambiguity, his love of false oppositions (justice vs mercy, pastoral vs dogmatic, proselytism vs attraction, and so on), his infatuation with ludicrous strawmen, his habit of saying extremely dodgy things (Our Lady cursing God, “a little bread and wine does no harm”, the Feeding of the Four Thousand as “a miracle of sharing”, etc), his troubling gestures (accepting a communist crucifix, promoting heretics and child-abuse connivers, reopening settled church teachings for discussion, …), his obvious religious indifferentism, and the creepy personality cult focused on a man whose best predecessors through the centuries attempted to submerge their personalities into the office.

          Note that none of these things have anything to do with party politics, and they are a multinational phenomenon. You seem like a thoughtful guy, so I’m taking time to respond to you, but normally when I see someone trying to fit everything into the narrow, boring lens of partisan politics, I shake the dust from my feet and move on.

  • suzyq

    What most concerns me most is the – call it whatever you like – nuance, reluctance, esoteric, idk, about certain issues that are grave matters to salvation/shepherding of souls (which I think is a big part of his job description) and the precise clarity he uses to endorse Agenda 2030 (which sounds all good on the surface, but read between those lines – much different story, see the UN speech), man-made climate change, anti-fossil fuels, etc.; making strenuous calls to governments worldwide and youth to ENFORCE these protocols. He made no nuanced statements about these issues. He was extremely clear. I have not seen anyone write about this aspect since his visit and how these issues have major conflicts with anyone of faith. I heard 1 Catholic congressman on World Over Live discuss the conflicts and dangers within Agenda 2030 within the past few months, but that’s it. Alarming. Sad to say.

    • janis mcdonald

      Notice He didn’t think it necessary to mention to the Cubans the terrible sins of human rights violations!

      • DeaconEdPeitler

        He went lightly with the Cuban government because the country has very few air conditioners and no gas guzzling suv’s

  • FreemenRtrue

    If the pope were any kind of man he would have simply said in Congress that no Catholic legislator could in good faith and in communion with the teachings of the church vote for any funding for abortion. Instead he turned a blind eye to massacre with a weak statement that let legislators the “out” that life begins at birth. I hope I’m wrong about him but nothing tells me so.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      Politicians like jerry brown of CA who once studied for the Jesuits and who recently signed a euthanasia bill?

    • StatusQrow

      Sometimes I wonder whether maybe we expect Francis to be more knowledgeable about the realities of American events than is reasonable; but his visit having come right on the heels of the whole Planned Parenthood outrage, one thought surely he’ll use it as the perfect occasion it should have been, to call out pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

      Major disappointment that this pope—whose “whose understanding of Catholic dogma” is so much better than his critics—should have squandered the opportunity.

  • Captain_America

    For those ignorant/innocent souls who have gnashed their teeth on the last 40 years of American politics, Dudes, the Pope ain’t Rambo!

    Jorge Bergoglio was a provincial, and a seminary leader in Argentina when some rather nasty people were running things. He has had experience of real cut-throat politics. Through it, he managed to keep all but a few of those in his charge out of trouble with the regime. I think his political antennae are probably more sensitive than his critics. And, having read his encyclicals, his understanding of Catholic dogma is better also.

    • StatusQrow

      De gustibus…

  • Noah_Vaile

    When you have to reach so far and come up with a theory to explain away why someone did or didn’t say something, rather than listen to their plain words and draw meaning from what they say….
    You got a problem.



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