A Quick Catholic Quiz

Ok boys and girls, pick up your #2 pencils. Today's quiz has only one question and it is a multiple choice.

Which statement best represents "thinking fully with the Church?"

  • "But when we speak about these issues (the systematic murder of millions of innocent Jews) we have to talk about them in a context. But it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
  • "But when we speak about these issues (the systematic murder of thousands of innocent Syrians) we have to talk about them in a context. But it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
  • "But when we speak about these issues (the systematic murder of millions of innocent babies) we have to talk about them in a context. But it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

Take your time.

I hope if I am ever murdered, that when you speak of it, you speak of it in context.


Pope Francis today on Abortion:
Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and - I spoke of the child, let us also speak of the elderly, another point! And each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the "culture of waste" proposes! They cannot be discarded!

I do not think it is coincidental that the Holy Father made these comments today, but I appreciate him doing so. It should never be either/or. The Catholic faith is not defined by its opposition to abortion, but we can never back down over this issue. We must keep it front and center as long as babies are dying by the millions.

[Source] [Translation via Rorate]

Yes, Pope Benedict made similar comments, but he spoke about abortion all the time. Pope Francis, by his own admission, assiduously avoided the topic, until today. Again, not either/or but both.



  1. Oh man - this is hard. Is there a time limit?? I may have to ponder this overnight. Is that okay?

  2. (D) "But when we write a blog post about the Pope, we should not act like the mainstream media and take his words entirely out of their proper context."

  3. I recently found this site and found your take compelling because they're not the usual stuff I read linked from Drudge. So, I'll throw this one out there...

    Which statement is more inline with the future of a healthy, growing Catholic church (Ie. spreading the Gospel of love, life and compassion)?

    1. Solely focusing on a few uniquely divisive issues where our rhetoric simply doesn't resonate.

    2. Balancing these truths with compassion and logic so that we may spread this Gospel more effectively and in the process accomplish our goals with respect to the divisive issues we're trying to change?

    Not a surprise, but this Pope is the Pope I've been waiting to see for the last 35 years or so I've been old enough to know what a Pope is. The fact that this is even being discussed in our church and how it relates to actually accomplishing our goals of saving lives and souls is exciting to say the least.

  4. Patrick, here's something that Pope Emeritus Benedict said in an address to Swiss bishops in 2006 (my source: the comment box at Fr. Z's blog):

    ”We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

    "I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

    If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.”

    Questions for the room:

    1. Does this differ substantively from what Pope Francis said in his interview (if you look at the complete paragraph where the quote occurs)?

    2. If it does, how does it? If not, did you condemn Pope Emeritus Benedict for saying it at the time?

  5. Its hard not to interpret this as the Pope throwing 100's, even 1000's of Catholics and Christians who work tirelessly at fighting moral evils under the bus.
    You will protest 'the Holy Father's intention was...' but honestly, how many more of these interviews is he going to give?
    They are deeply disheartening.

  6. When I was younger and working as a catechist in the Southwestern US, I had to come to terms with the tactics of the religious who worked with me. The nuns in particular, but also the order priests, utilized a Rogerian argument technique.
    The Rogerian technique consists of demonstrating that there are multiple valid worldviews, and then trying to build consensus among all parties based on common ground. In a group, the nun or priest did not 'direct' but rather 'facilitated' everyone expressing their opinion and encouraged everyone to affirm each speaker as having a valid opinion that was true in their personal context. Chairs were arranged in an equality-affirming circle.
    I have seen this done for everything - liturgical arguments, scriptural interpretation, moral issues, everything. The first few times, being innocent of these things, it succeeded in unbalancing me and neutralizing me. I could not figure out how I was being told I was right in a certain way, but that my opponent was also right, and in the final analysis it was right for us both to respect the other's opinion in their personal context and seek common ground. This was so 'nice', it of course appealed to the heterodox. By placing my knowledge of Church teaching and arguments as my "personal context" it effectively neutralized that knowledge and training.
    After a few months on the job, I read Rogers' book and recognized how I was being manipulated. I began to protest the technique. I started refusing to have meetings while seated in a circle. I insisted on a hierarchical seating structure that reflected our actual organization structure. I started insisting on having a copy of the GIRM or Catechism at every meeting and I consulted them frequently. I started insisting on having the pastor or Bishop present at meetings. All of these appeals to objective truth and authority were intolerable to the Rogerian system, since they challenged the equal validity of all opinions.
    Once they figured out I was on to them, they went into neutralization mode. In meetings, I was accused of a narrow minded authoritarianism. I was told that I lacked respect. I was told that my rejection of other people's context and experiences indicated I lacked the love of Christ. I was called a triumphalist. They attempted to create in me guilt feelings that would neutralize my voice. I am made of sterner stuff. I continued to insist on the truth and quote the documents.
    Eventually, I was shown the door. I went on to a better diocese and happier times. I hear they are still cheerfully heterodox in that chancery.
    I think it's pretty simple to see. The Pope started by arranging the chairs in a circle (collegiality, no signs of office, no apartment, shoes, Renault). Then he moved to neutralize the recalcitrant non-participants (Triumphalism, restorationism, trads don't trust Christ, etc.). Then he moved to create a safe participation space in which people can speak from their personal context ('who am I to judge?', etc.). Now he is opening the Rogerian dialogue in a classic, prototypical Rogerian way.
    The Pope speaks of his early "authoritarian" days as a Jesuit superior, and his change of heart. I know what that change of heart was. It was training in Rogerian consensus-building techniques.
    Pat, you are part of the problem. You need to be neutralized while the Pope opens a Rogerian discussion with the world. Having laid out his understanding of the valid feelings of the opposition, he will present the Catholic position as a valid option among many valid options. He will attempt to demonstrate the advantages of the Catholic position and win converts to it. He will do so from a position of equality and neutrality. He will attempt to build consensus with the world. Along the way, necessarily, the traditions of the faith will be dismantled.

  7. I apologize for the formatting of the above comment, but since we can't edit them, I can't fix it. I do hope you will slog through it and consider the point.

  8. @Red Cardigan
    BXVI actually tackled those issues in the same discourse. He just doesn't want God and faith to be left-out without a hint.

    "Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice.
    I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need to be able to "lose our own life". On the other hand, in this context of freely given love, we
    need to move forward towards ways of putting it into practice, whose foundation is always offered to us by the Decalogue, which we must interpret today with Christ and with the Church in a progressive and new way.

  9. Stephen White puts it well:

    The challenge for the Church, as the Pope seems to see it, is not that people are unaware that the Church considers, for example, abortion, contraception, and homosexual acts to be sinful (everyone knows this); the problem is that they don’t understand why the Church teaches what it does. The Church’s moral teachings are known, but because they are taken out of context, (or presented without context) they are seen as arbitrary, ad hoc, and unreasonable—as Pope Francis put it, as “a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    Can anyone deny that this is a fair description of how the world (and many Catholics, for that matter) perceives the Church’s moral doctrines?

  10. I was a convert at 17; before long, I left the Church for about 25 years. I came back to the Church eight years ago, and have done my best with God's grace and the help of good priests to fully embrace the faith and the teachings of Holy Mother Church. I never intended, never seriously considered coming back to the Church, and I want to tell you that, when I did, it was not because of the Church's teachings on abortion, artificial contraception or homosexual acts. I didn't understand the Church's position, nor was it a concern, because what brought me back was a desire for mercy and a desire to live as God's child again. On the advice of a good priest, I didn't jump ship because I didn't understand immediately why the Church holds the positions she does; I tried to practice obedience, and understanding followed.
    Patrick, it seems to me that you are on the lookout for Pope Francis to say something that offends you, and that you distrust most mass media coverage (rightfully so, I'd say) except where it comes to the Pope. I'm trying to offer you the point of view of a man who had left the Church with no intention of coming back, but who did come back because of the essentials. I am in no way dismissing the importance of being rigorously pro-life, opposed to artificial contraception and supportive of traditional marriage, but those may not be the things to draw a lot of people into the Church, from which point they can learn why the Church places such an emphasis on the sanctity of all human life.
    Thank you.

  11. My answer, Patrick: none of the above.

    First, because we do not need context.

    Second, because we need always to speak in defense of the weakest.


    Pedro Erik

  12. I cringe every time he speaks now... The latest update was nice. I'm sure it'll get as much coverage as yesterday's interview. Harry Seldon, I did slog through it and will tuck it away. Thank you.

  13. Patrick,
    If you were responding to me, I'm not saying "either/or." I'm saying that mercy brought me back to the Church (Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal played a big part, but that's another story). Once I came back, and I knew that the Church was where I was supposed to be, I was open to instruction. Church teaching was, if you will, the mortar.
    It seems to me that Pope Francis is extending a hand of mercy and goodwill to the world; CNN et. al. seize any opportunity to misinterpret his remarks to make it sound like he is changing the teachings of the Church, when, if you read what he actually says, is not the case.
    And context is important, Patrick. It seems to me that you have been a life-long Catholic, and God bless you for it, but I went through a fundamentalist, sola scriptura period, and many of the errors in that way of thinking are derived from taking words of Scripture out of context.

  14. "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." (Acts 2: 42-47)
    People are drawn to the Church by those who have learned Her teachings, pray together, serve one another joyfully, and give all glory to God in their work. Those who serve joyfully can teach those whom the Lord has added to their number. Some parts of the world still have a sense of sin. In our part of the world, we have lost it. But screamed words cannot penetrate hard hearts.
    I have found that when I scream at my children they tune me out. When I take them aside and talk quietly, they do what I want them to do. I think this is the approach Francis wants us to take. We are all free to disagree with him about the efficacy of such a tactic, but I do think that God's Word delivered with gentleness converts people for once and all; delivery with the sword doesn't. This doesn't mean watering down the Truth, but as St. Francis DeSales said, you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  15. Equal parts vinegar and sugar is a gastrique, which is the base for many wonderful sauces.

    "This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it?"

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  17. Anyway, shocking to see the so called conservative Catholics have a conniption and reveal that their devotion and fidelity to the Pope is somewhat shallow. And funny seeing them on the same side as MSNBC and the New York Times.

    Where to begin? Benedict didn't speak about abortion, contraception and homosexuality all the time. In fact, hardly ever, and when he did the press went screwy. Jesus never mentioned abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Are we to take it he supported them, condoned them? Clearly not, so why attack the Pope for being like Christ? Of course the liberal media will have a good time. Let them. Because underneath, Pope Francis is drawing a whole cohort of lukewarm Catholics back to interest in the Church. And when they come it's up to us to do our best to welcome them. Now if your first word to a returnee is "Clear off, you're divorced" or "you are excommunicated cos you had an abortion" well, will that work? Consider the prodigal son - the Father running out to meet him, ring off, cloak, fatted calf. You can guarantee the next day there was a serious talk - but after the welcome. Meanwhile the self righteous prig was moaning in the corner. God preserve us from this. I'm a very conservative Catholic and top of my list of beliefs is that this Pope is the vicar of Christ and he has something important to say to us.

  18. Harry Seldon,

    Excellent description. This happened in my parish, too, and is ongoing in a systematic and extremely destructive way. Our parish is only nominally Catholic at this point and the change has been incremental and predicated upon just what you describe. I also apologize for length.

    What you describe is akin to what is called Generative Learning. Quoting from MIT Professor Edward Schein's essay, “Organizational Learning as Cognitive Re-definition: Coercive Persuasion Revisited,” he writes, “I would suggest that generative organizational learning puts most
    managers and employees into a situation comparable to the prisoner in a political prison. It is not a spontaneous joyful process to give up one’s beliefs, values and concepts in favor of
    untested and inimical new concepts and anchors for judgment. It is not a particularly
    comfortable situation to be subjected to re-engineering or culture change programs with
    the clear threat that unless one participates wholeheartedly one might lose one’s job.”

    Schein goes on to say, “It may seem absurd to the reader to draw an analogy between the
    coercive persuasion in political prisons and a new leader announcing that he or she is going "to
    change the culture." However, if the leader really means it, if the change will really affect
    fundamental assumptions and values, one can anticipate levels of anxiety and resistance
    quite comparable to those one would see in prisons.”

    He further states, “It remains to be seen whether the level of organizational change that is
    implied by "generative" learning can be accomplished without imposed culture change. And if such imposed culture change is involved we must accept the reality that learning may involve some painful periods of coercive persuasion. One of the most difficult aspects of this reality is that we cannot ignore that the same methods of learning, i.e. coercive persuasion or colloquially brainwashing, can be used equally for goals that we deplore and goals that we accept. In making organizations more competitive we may well resort to methods that under other conditions we would deplore.”

    I think the vast majority of us have no idea how we are being manipulated by our leaders, in the political, religious, and workplace world.

  19. Harry Seldon...truly WELL SAID!

  20. @harry seldon
    Either your skills in psychohistory are impressive or you are the mule. I will have to think about what you are saying as it resonates pretty consistently with many contemporary dealings

  21. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.


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