Discover more from Good Distinctions
Backward, Ideological, and Reactionary?
The Pope critiques a segment of the American Church
I found the news over the last couple days exceptionally ironic. A week ago, I released Episode 9 of the show about Pope Francis, socialism, and globalism and in it, among other things, I said: “Americans, especially, are notorious for reading everything in light of American politics and economic ideologies.” And in a reel on Instagram last Friday I said that many Americans seem to think that Pope Francis always talking about them. I thought that this notion was a bit narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. And then…
Pope Francis made news on Monday after speaking to a group of Portuguese Jesuits early in August. He spoke of a “climate of closure” in the United States which he warned can replace faith with ideology. To be fair though, when he was talking about the United States, he seems to directly reference the United States. So, I think my critique from last week stands. Anyway… The full story can be found here.
“Yes, this climate can be experienced in some situations. And there you can lose the true tradition and turn to ideologies for support. In other words, ideology replaces faith, membership in a sector of the Church replaces membership in the Church.”
He went on to mention a “very strong reactionary attitude” which he claimed “is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally.” The Pope even used the term “backwardness.” Instead, the Pope said, there is an “appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals.” However, invoking St. Vincent of Lerins, the Pope said "Doctrine evolves ‘ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate… in other words, doctrine also progresses, expands, and consolidates with time and becomes firmer but it is always progressing.”
He went on to remark:
“When you go backward, you form something closed, disconnected from the roots of the Church and you lose the sap of revelation. If you don’t change upward, you go backward, and then you take on criteria for change other than those our faith gives for growth and change.”
The Pope had much more to say which, again, can be found in full here. What I find remarkably interesting (and annoying) is reading how the secular news sources are covering this. One of the pastimes of the mainstream media is to pit conservative American Catholics against Pope Francis. For example, just do a quick Google search for Cardinal Burke and Pope Francis… some of the narratives crafted are just absurd. Anyway, the AP started their news story this way: “Pope Francis has blasted the ‘backwardness’ of some conservatives in the U.S. Catholic Church, saying…” The use of the term “blasted” is interesting.
A derivation of “blasted” is used by the reliably leftist (and horrendously slanted) National Catholic Reporter (not the NC Register!) which has this headline: “Pope Francis blasts reactionary American Catholics who oppose church reform.” Fascinating to me is the reality that the “reform” is not mentioned a single time in the body of the article, nor, from what I can tell, was it mentioned by the Pope.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did nothing more than just post a copy Cindy Wooden’s article that ran on Monday for Catholic News Service. This story is well reported, balanced, and just provides the facts without commentary. Oh for more of this type of journalism!!
One of the things which the Pope remarked on was how the Church ought to approach those experiencing same-sex attraction who desire to be full and active members of the Church. He said: “Jesus is very clear… The door is open to everyone; everyone has their own space in the church.”
Shocking! Jesus calls all men to Himself! What the Pope is saying here is obvious to anyone who has read the Bible, studied the History of the Church, or desires to be animated within Holy Mother Church by the Holy Spirit. No one is perfect and all are called to holiness. This does not happen all at once. If we do not have space in the Church for sinners of all kinds, then we turn into mausoleum of sorts.
Interestingly enough, the Gospel reading at Mass today contains the following words of our Blessed Lord:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
One of the most appalling realities regarding the Pope’s latest remarks are the comments I’ve seen on social media. The exact attitudes which the Pope is lamenting in the American Church are trotted out on full display. The very people that the Pope calls backward and ideological feel personally attacked and act up. In a sad way, it’s actually mildly humorous. But more than anything, it is, as a colleague of mine put it yesterday, “predictable and tedious.”
So, before we get all bent out of shape because the Pope is saying things that make us uncomfortable, perhaps we should take a good hard look at what it is within us that is getting so uncomfortable. Are we convicted of what he is saying and need to change something? Is he actually out of line and misreading the situation in the United States? Is his view of doctrinal development erroneous in some way? Or is there a segment in the American Church that is missing the boat on understanding how the Church’s teachings of Faith and Morals actually work? These are questions worth pondering.
For now, I would leave us with these thoughts a bit closer to home: in our zeal to serve the Lord and His Church, are we living an outwardly AND inwardly beautiful life? Or are we full of hypocrisy and iniquity? What about the people that we choose to spend time with? Are they bringing us closer to faith in Jesus or further into ideological backwardness? I think these are good questions to consider.