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Getting Francis

My hat is off to Elizabeth Scalia for some of the excellent points she makes in this post.

It seems to me that more than a few Catholics (media types in particular) have been relishing in their enlightened understanding of Pope Francis' media blitz with few harsh words for those faithful Catholics not quite on the bandwagon.

I will not take much from her piece because it is worth reading in its entirety, but this snippet will give you some insight.

My point is that its no good “getting” Francis if all we derive of it is a satisfaction of the intellect, a sense of papal validation, and that dreadful by-product of hipness that such validation confers. If we have previously decried smug triumphalism, it will sting when we look into the mirror and find ourselves become smug triumphalists. And all that I hate I am become.

Put more bluntly, we who “get” Francis, it is worth asking ourselves the question: are you loving Francis because of what you are learning from him, or simply because you perceive him to be “sticking it to” people you haven’t liked much for the past decade or so? A little of both?
The Pope, to his credit, has repeatedly made the point about turning the Church's gaze from its own navel to a hurting world. Yet, there has been a lot of inside baseball writing and score settling going on.

Perhaps turning our gaze is a process and this bloodletting is a natural first step, but I am already a little frustrated with it.

That's all right. These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood. Been ten years since the last one. You know, you gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they should have stopped Hitler at Munich, they should never let him get away with that, they was just asking for trouble. --The Godfather

It seems that the cottage industry of interpreting and explaining Francis is growing at such a pace that it must soon be exempted from Obamacare, or it would be if it weren't a Catholic thing. And among the interpreters there is a new class of Oracles, given special agency to interpret the daily papal off-the-cuffisms. Any party that wrangles with topics such as prudence or continuity are quickly branded and marginalized.

None of this is helpful and none of it is actually what the Pope is asking for. "Who am I to judge? Unless of course you express reservations, then we can get all kinds of judgey on you cause that is what the Pope really wants."


I am confident that the Pope will become more media circumspect over time and focus his efforts on the curia. But the relationships damaged in this Al Capone style inside baseball batting will leave scars.

The Papacy and the Church will survive no matter where you fall on the Papal approval scale, of this there is no doubt. I am not so sure the same can be said for the communion of struggling saints.

*subhead*These things gotta happen.*subhead*

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Orlando Braga said...

Come on! Dont get "obsessed" with Francis!

mgl said...

Thanks for being a voice of sanity, Pat. I've been getting pretty tired of all those who've suddenly developed the ability to peer into my soul and discern the outlines of the resentful Elder Brother, or who diagnose a sad intellectual defect which prevents me from realizing the radical orthodoxy of Francis's many, many strange formulations.

In fact, you could even say that those of us who remain troubled but open-minded are taking the most prudent course. After all, everyone else seems to have made up their mind:

*Secularists and Catholic liberals read Francis closely and rejoice, for they finally have their man in the Vatican: a Pope who will implement the Spirit of Vatican II and harmonize the Church with the modern world.

*Traditionalists read Francis closely and ... well, they mostly agree with the liberals, except where the liberals see their own man, they see a modernist, perhaps even a heretic, certainly a Pope who will do great harm and perhaps lead many souls to damnation.

*Catholic pundits read Francis closely and declare, Nothing To See Here! Why, it's just OBVIOUS that Francis is as orthodox as could be, and if you disagree, you may well be one of those doctrine-obsessed proselytizers, or--worse--the Elder Brother, standing by angrily as the Francis-led multitudes stream back into the Church.

By contrast, we read Francis closely, not taking any one incident in isolation but adding up many such incidents over six months, and notice that there is a clear pattern of seemingly problematic statements, one piled on another upon yet another--statements, moreover, which Francis almost never bothers to clarify, leaving the burdensome task of exegesis to his audience. And we also notice that each group interprets Francis according to their own prior convictions, concluding that theirs is the One True Close Reading, all other interpretations being obviously prejudicial or taken out of context.

So we ask: How is it that the Holy Father's words can sustain such clearly inconsistent interpretations? And since it is certain that at least one of the Schools Of Interpretation is eventually going to look very foolish indeed, we wait for further data, while reserving the right to remain quite troubled by our chatty and not always pellucid Holy Father.

Connecticut Catholic Corner said...

"I am confident that the Pope will become more media circumspect over time..."

Well he can't get any worse.
I will continue to pray for the entire Catholic Church, including our Pope- I will especially pray he STOPS doing interviews.

Harry Seldon said...

Elizabeth Scalia writes:

"If all we who “get” Francis can do is jeeringly judge those who are still processing, then what possible help can we be to the man, or to the Holy Spirit who guides him? Or to the church?"


I am not 'still processing'. I wonder if, during the famous disagreement between Peter and Paul, if Ms. Scalia would have diagnosed Paul as 'still processing'?

What is happening is not some great mystery. We have a Jesuit Pope, who is a loyal and enthusiastic Jesuit. If any knowledgeable and orthodox Catholic heard he or she was getting a new Jesuit pastor at their parish, they'd cringe, and rightly so. Unless the lottery delivered them one of the very, very few orthodox Jesuits in the world, they're in for a rough ride as all the doctrines of the faith come under fire week after week. Hello world, you have a Jesuit pastor.

This particular Jesuit learned to lead in the 70's and 80's, at a time when the authority structures in the Church were under severe attack. He converted from an authority-based leadership model to a collaborative leadership model, one I think I recognize as hostile to Catholicism and deeply based in relativism. None of this is shocking for a Jesuit, not at all. This is par for the course.

Jesuits are well known as dismissive of liturgy. This is because their in-house theology is dismissive of liturgy and sacraments in general. Liturgy and sacraments exist in the Jesuit context as psychological expressions, not as sources of supernatural grace. Supernatural grace is seen as flowing from other things, like social interactions, people-centered events. The Mass conforms to this only inasmuch as it is a people-centered social interaction. This is standard Jesuit fare. Standard.

Orthodox Catholics have long, long known that there is at best a tenuous relationship with eternity and the prospect of eternal salvation within the modern Jesuits. Jesuits are forever diagnosing economics and economic inequality as the world's worst problem. This happens everywhere, always, with Jesuits. Jesuits are not much interested in personal sins (try confessing to a typical Jesuit, if you can get him to hear you, and see what his advice is). They are far, far more concerned with social sins, which is why they are sometimes pro-life, because they see the social inequity of killing a member of society.

I could drone on and on, multiplying this, but anyone really interested should read Jesuits, and about Jesuits. You'll find a very few orthodox ones, too, valiantly struggling to restore the Society. Ask yourself - which ones does Francis sound like? Does he sound like a crusader for orthodoxy? Or a typical liberal Jesuit? I think the answer is really obvious.

So, I'm not 'still processing'. As time goes on, fewer and fewer of us will be 'still processing'. We have to get on with living under this. We need to start talking about that phase.

JB said...

Oh she gets Francis while the rest of the vulgar masses are still "processing" him. The laughable hubris she and her buddies over at Patheos demonstrate is truly hilarious. A few trips to Rome and now she's an expert on all things Catholic.

We get him, Elizabeth, we get him, don't worry.

I am not Spartacus said...

For two score years, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI acted effectively as the rennet binding the Girondists in The Catholic Conservative Collective to the revolutionary Second Vatican Council but with the election of a full-blooded Conciliar Jacobin now sowing confusion, and even beginning to scatter the pacific militant, there are two clear choices left to those who wish to preserve their Faith; one is effective and one is doomed to failure.

The choice doomed to failure is to choose to keep one's eyes and ears tightly closed to the obvious reality of what is happening and to remain bound to the novelties of Vatican Two and to the acceptance and defense of the noxiously novel Praxis of the modern Popes which is a praxis completely severed from the praxis of the Pre-Vatican Two Popes; that is the way to slowly but surely dissolve the surety of Faith you once had prior to the revolution.

The only sane and safe option is to become a Traditionalist and to become an autodidact (there are now innumerable resources out there free online and the Holy Ghost will guide you to them if that is your soul's true desire) and to sever, to the extent to which that is possible, all connection with the local N.O. Parish and the Lil' Licit Liturgy which will do to your Faith what is done to to a nail if it is dropped into a bottle of Coke.

And it is not a bad idea to add the plea from Psalm 108 to your daily Rosary intention:

May his days be few: and his bishopric let another take.

I am not Spartacus said...

I ought to have written the third paragraph thusly:

The only sane and safe option is to become a Traditionalist and to become an autodidact (there are now innumerable resources out there free online and the Holy Ghost will guide you to them if that is your soul's true desire) and to sever, to the extent to which that is possible, all connection with the local N.O. Parish and the Lil' Licit Liturgy which will do to your Faith what, given enough time, stomach acid will do to a nail if you swallow it.

That is, your soul will slowly be dissolved if you drop it into the Lil' Licit Liturgy in the same way that a nail will be dissolved if it you drop it into your stomach; don't swallow either the revolutionary rite or a nail.

Nathan said...

The Francis phenomenon is all too eerily like the "Spirit of Vat 2" in the late 60's and 70's. Most, on the left and the right, so used to viewing the world through the lenses of our political system with it's constant upheavals, can only see Francis, and Vat 2, through a hermeneutic of rupture. Those on the left, Hans Kung et al, dance in the streets, while those on the right, like I am not Spartacus (above) tell us "to become a Traditionalist and an autodidact (apparently forgetting the Church is both mater et magistra). In both cases such "c"atholics have taken the well-worn, and oh so modern, path of Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII and their bedfellows. They sit in judgement of the Church. They decide what is true or false and if (and only if) the Church's teachings and example align with what they already *know* to be true and good, they go along. If the Church contradicts them, as the Church always will, they declare the Church (never themselves) to be wrong. Meanwhile, the few faithful ask themselves, what is Francis calling me to do? They love Francis, Benedict, JP2, Pius V, and St. Peter - and try to understand, via a hermeneutic of continuity, each man's teachings in light of the others. That is "C"atholicism. Anything less challenging is Protestantism. Don't settle for less than the real thing. God bless Pope Francis and our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Wine in the Water said...

I am not Spartacus,

"May his days be few: and his bishopric let another take."

Pray tell, how is hoping for the death of the Holy Father any kind of expression of authentic Catholic faith? I understand concern, I understand objection to the Holy Father's approach. But a faithful Catholic prays for wisdom and prudence for his pastors, not death.

"sever, to the extent to which that is possible, all connection with the local N.O. Parish and the Lil' Licit Liturgy"

Jesus gives us another sane approach, be the salt, the light (Mt 5:13-16) in those parishes.

JB said...

No Nathan, it doesn't work that way and your "left-right" analysis if purely political and has no place in the Church. We do not take oaths of obedience to the pope. We have no obligation to agree with him when he makes bizarre off the cuff pronouncements every other week which alternately insult his predecessors, mislead the faithful on basic Catholic doctrine, or cause generalized confusion. The Church is not the North Korean army.

Basically Francis is saying "hey the Church is all about mercy!" This is a revelation of some sort? John Paul II was so keen on Christ's mercy that he instituted an entirely new feast day to celebrate it with a plenary indulgence. Given Francis's ridicule of those who count rosaries, however, I'm not sure if he believes in all the indulgence stuff.

mgl said...


With respect, yours is precisely the attitude being called out in the main post. How does it help to respond with name-calling to those who disagree with you? I've read a large number of orthodox "C"atholics who strive to read Francis's comments through a hermeneutic of continuity, and still conclude that there is a great deal of troubling material left over. Are they therefore Protestants?

Turning the tables for a moment, how would you feel about being accused of papolatry? It's one thing to owe due obedience and reverence to the Holy Father in matters magisterial; quite another to insist that every offhand remark or carelessly worded phrase must--despite all appearances to the contrary--be entirely praiseworthy and consistent with the historic teaching of the Church.

St. Benedict's Thistle said...

It seems Ms. Scalia is seeing the underbelly of modernist Catholic attitudes. And seeing that others are noticing, she is attempting to dial back the sin of triumphalism that they so often accuse traditional Catholics of having.

She is, of course, speaking to a select group, whilst knowing that many will read her words. A fine wordsmith, she is nevertheless, transparent.

Bravo to Harry Seldon and I am not Spartacus. It certainly is high time to flee modernist parishes, and to embark on an autodidactic journey of learning the Faith. It goes without saying we do not leave the Church, of course.

I sense the modernist Catholics see what is coming, and they are afraid. Traditional Catholicism, when all is said and done, is the local parish's only foundation. When traditional Catholics flee, the modernists will be left with what they have sown...and reaped. And truly, it is the Culture of Death.

Harry Seldon said...

I would also like to point out that, while it is not right to be judgmental and dismissive of other Catholics, the people who are being so are following Francis. From the beginning of this pontificate, we have been treated to an endless series of pronouncements about who is ideologizing religion, who lacks faith, and who lacks Christ.

I submit that the looming persecution of orthodoxy in my part of the world will be the worst so far, since even in the bad old days I remember, the opposition did not have a Pope who said their foes "lacked Christ".

While I cannot follow Spartacus to a TLM parish (been there, have the T-shirt, and I'll stand my ground this time with the bishop in the regular diocesan parish) I totally and completely understand his point and I support him *particularly if he has children he is raising*.

It's time to get on with lives under this new reality. I call for people of sound mind and honest character to get past the "Francis is only misquoted" or "Francis is naive about the media" nonsense. Francis is intelligent, he has a plan, it's the typical plan of the Jesuits, and I'm not going to go outside bounds by saying it's heretical. What it is, is conducive to disobedience and exciting to crazy liberals.

If the Archbolds want to be on the cutting edge and supportive of basic, orthodox, traditional-leaning Catholics during this pontificate, I say it's time for this blog and everyone else to *Face the New Reality*. Let other people dissemble and obfuscate and read Francis through whomever they like. In a year, those people are going to have absolutely no credibility (and I submit that their program is going to have bad effects on themselves and their readers).

Let's get real. Jesuit Pope. Crazy, bizarre Jesuit ideas. Liberalism, Rogerianism, Relativism, Liturgical chaos. Perhaps tragedy for FFSP and ICK. Certainly turmoil in SSPX, most moving farther away from the Church. Perhaps excommunications of SSPX. Solid cardinals and bishops marginalized. Vocations crisis worsens. Orthodox seminarians prepare for harassment and persecution.

These things will happen, I think. They're not the 'will of the Holy Spirit'. Now THAT is heretical nonsense. We need to think and pray for courage. Let's get on with it and quit acting dim witted and confused.

Harry Seldon said...

Just found a fantastic phrase on the Sensible Bond blog that sums it up:

"I'm not so much worried about what he believes as about what he actually legitimizes."

Yes. That is the thing.

mgl said...

Harry Seldon,

Ches at the Sensible Bond has been exemplary in his criticism of Francis, hasn't he? Charitable and measured without pulling his punches. He's also homed in on Francis's Obama-esque tendency to posit fictional bogeymen who are depicted as holding back the Church (Pelagians, self-referentialists, triumphalists, proselytizers, the small-minded and obsessive, etc.) and who then become ready-made labels to be used by those who "get Francis" against anyone who is less than rhapsodic about the "new tone".

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Nathan. You view reality through the prism of political categories and then you rebuke both "sides" of the political spectrum you see; and, I guess you judge your own self to me right in the middle where you think truth is whereas in the middle is the confusion you display.

I know the wish is father to the thought but try increasing your intellectual continence and there will be fewer of your wishful progeny to clutter-up the view so you can see what is before you with an increased acuity.

One is to follow Tradition, not the novelties of Popes and especially when the novelties of the Popes are directly opposed to the doctrines of the past - for doctrine does not change and become other than what it has alway been understood to mean.

Dear Wine in the water. I pray daily for the Pope and my local Bishop because Satan desires to sift them both. I pray that God the Father pours out upon them His superabundant Grace, that God the Holy Ghost will lead them to all truth and that the Mantle of Mary's love will keep them from all harm.

And, I also pray the words of the plea in Psalm 108 which does not mean that I am asking God to bump-off Pope Francis but, rather, that his days be few and that another take his place; it is obvious that what constitutes few days is left solely up to God whereas the Gelaro-wearers can, and do, reject the Grace proffered by God the Holy Ghost when it comes to Conclaves so that plea-prayer is one which petitions and it is a petition that anchors complete trust in Our Triune God.

I could write that I apologise for such shocking confessions but I don't apologise. It is quite clear to me who he is and truth is more important than the sensibilities of those too easily shocked.

BTW, I have yet to read any of your words registering shock at some of the things the Pope has said and done and not said and not done. I will then presume you are fully sympatico with the revolutionary program

Harry Seldon said...

mgl -

Yes, he has. A good blog from, apparently, a good guy.

About those bogeymen. The cast of characters demonized by Francis is neither new nor original. These are the same names I was called by Jesuit priests and liberal nuns years ago. These are the same names applied to notable conservative Catholics of the JPII era. The people who are seeing something brave and new in the Francis comments are mostly old enough to know this, so I can't grant them the charity of calling them 'ignorant'.

Everyone who experienced the 80's and 90's in the Church knows this music. We're picking up where we left off at the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, or maybe the printing of the New Catechism. All the good news we've enjoyed over the last 20 years is being undone, really and practically. It wasn't changes in doctrine that caused the problems last time, it won't take any changes in doctrine to bring the bad times back.

Tom said...

Which significant element of doctrine or dogma has Pope Francis dismissed or proposed changing? I am asking for an example of the "content" of the faith, not of "style."

JB said...

Tom, he does not have the power to change any element of "doctrine or dogma." That isn't the point. The point is that he has issued a fusilade of confusing and misleading statement on core issues of the Faith including, among many others, "Jesus has saved you" (confusing the doctrine of redemption with individual salvation); "prosletysm is solemn nonsense" (tell that to the apostles without whom St. Peter's Basilica where he lays his head every night would not exist); the bizarre comment that we can't be "obsessed" with abortion and contraception and gay marriage (mistakenly ascribing to the Church the obsession of a corrupt secular culture and implicitly indicting John Paul II for his forthright defense of the unborn throughout his papacy); "everyone has their own notion of good and evil and we must encourage people to seek what they consider to be good etc" (bizarrely implying that truth and morality are subjective issues and not objective matters capable of being grasped by all human beings either through natural law or revelation); the strange remarks about "pelagianism" in the Church which didn't even make any sense. I could go on and on but as Mr. Seldon said, we have all heard this before who lived through the Church of the 70s and 80s. None of it is new to me. I did not need Francis to tell me that Christ is merciful. I do need the Church, however, to tell me what sin is; why I need grace to overcome it; why the Church is the sole means by which that grace is dispensed in the ordinary course of affairs. As C.S. Lewis once said, mercy detached from justice eventually isn't very merciful.

mgl said...

Tom, a cynical man might wonder why Francis's defenders are so prone to misdirection and red herrings. Why not just deal with the arguments as they are? Why attempt to change the subject? The fact is, no-one here is making the claim that Francis is proposing to change doctrine or dogma. Neither are they quibbling over mere differences in "style".

JB has quite ably laid out some of the grounds of concern, but I'd also point you to The Sensible Bond's post of this afternoon: Apres Moi, Le Deluge. It's a beautifully written summary of what many of us find so vexing about the Holy Father's approach to the Faith.

JB said...

Kindly excuse my typos...

A final point I'd make is this dramatic shift of alleged focus to the mercy of God is a crock. You'd think John Paul II and Benedict (one of the mildest mannered men ever to hold the office) were some kind of latter day Savanorolas, weekly condemning us all and threatening us with hellfire.

It never happened. Quite the opposite. The "shift" was necessary nor in my view is it prudent given the train wreck our culture has become. All Francis is doing is helping along the status quote, which really isn't very good. 55 million abortions in the USA, God knows how many other elsewhere. Oh but the youth are unemployed and that's worse I guess.

At least they made it out of the womb.

David L Alexander said...

In any two-way conversation, the responsibility of communication is first with the communicator. In a one-way conversation, all the more so. If somebody has a problem with that, well, they have a problem.I just wanna know what the hell the Pope is trying to say. That doesn't make me a "triumphalist," or the "loyal opposition," or much of anything else. It makes me a Catholic who is paying attention.

Tom said...

@JB: "Tom, he does not have the power to change any element of 'doctrine or dogma.'"

Thanks for your response. I do not wish to get too far off topic, but . . .. The Pope certainly doesn't have the authority to contradict Dogma, for which a deeper understanding can develop over time, but the dogmatic teaching can never be contradicted. I suppose that one could argue that he has the "power" to make certain declarations about what the Church teaches, but not the authority to contradict dogmatic teaching.

As far as doctrine goes, I was thinking of the distinction between doctrine and Doctrine. While I must admit that I do not fully understand that Church Doctrine can never be contradicted, certainly doctrine develops and can even be modified to the point that a earlier teaching may be modified to the point that it is significantly different than originally taught. I will admit, off the top of my head, I cannot think of an example of this, however. Perhaps purgatory?

If Church doctrine cannot be changed as you say, why did Pope Paul VI (actually called by John XXIII) consult the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control in the 1960s? My understanding is that the invention of the birth control pill presented a challenge to the teaching of the Church. Was the pill an illicit form of birth control? The majority on the Commission said no, and the Pope said yes. If he had chosen to accept the Commission's findings, would this have not constituted a change in doctrine? Wasn't Pope Paul VI authorized to do this? Or would it be claimed that it didn't constitute a change, as the reasoning was that the pill was not illicit, so he wasn't changing the Church's teaching that illicit forms of birth control are morally wrong, since, if he had accepted the Commission's finding, the pill was not regarded as an illicit form of birth control. Many Catholics would have objected that making the pill licit changed the Church's teaching. But the way it was reasoned, those who agreed with the change would argue, the decision did not constitute a change in Church teaching. Illicit forms of birth control are still forbidden; the pill simply isn't one of them.

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