So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Preaching to the Choir—A word of advice to readers of Pope Francis.

If you are not interested in practicing the Faith with every intention of living the Faith in its entirety, i.e., without compromise, and you are not interested in the Sacrament of Penance to aid you when you fall short of that commitment, then don't read on.

When reading (or listening to) Pope Francis, consider the following:
  1. Pope Francis can and should assume that his Catholic listeners are listening with the ears of obedience, not dissent. If we are listening with our "Catholic Ears" on, then we will be effective disciples who insist that the Apostolic Faith be practiced (communicated, celebrated...) inviolate.
  2. As Catholics, we should know the Faith. One's conscience should be properly formed and informed. We have but to look to Holy Scripture, the Catechism, the Liturgy and official documents issued by the Church's orthodox teachers to properly inform our consciences to respond, in obedience, to the issues christians face in our personal and public lives. The last thing one must do is become one's own pope, i.e., a cafeteria Catholic. Picking and choosing which commandments to embrace is not the mark of an orthodox christian.
  3. A man in Pope Francis' position is not naive enough to think that everyone will put into practice the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Pope is not called to be successful, he is, as are all disciples of the Lord, called to be faithful. Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.—St. Matthew 5:48 DR
  4. We should not assume the Holy Father means what we want his words to mean. If we remove the Holy Father's words from the context of the teaching of previous popes, then we risk creating unnecessary dichotomies which pit one against the other.
  5. A cardinal's or bishop's teaching, however sophisticated, should nevertheless be weighed and weighed with respect. Take for example the recently leaked speech of Cardinal Kaspar, a man given pride of place in the Pope's quest to bring divorced-and-remarried-Catholics back into the fold. Cardinal Kaspar's proposal for a kind of tolerance of second (and third and fourth) "marriages", i.e., pseudo-marriages, is way off base. Why has the Holy Father given Cardinal Kaspar a stage to present his thoughts on such an important issue? Is it because Pope Francis wishes to:
  • keep his friends close and his enemies closer?
  • expose a current of thought that merits close scrutiny in order to consign it, a heresy, to oblivion?
  • create a teachable moment whereby Catholics and non-Catholics can encounter a difficult situation that requires sensitivity and, for the sake of souls, the truth spoken in love? People's eternal souls are on the line and we must do all we can to create an opportunity for informed dialogue, a dialogue that is too often drowned out by the silliness of the world, the flesh, the devil and the rantings of media pundits who have little concern for what happens to souls after death.
If we apply the preceding propositions or cautions to our way of listening to (or reading) the Holy Father's teaching, we will then more likely than not avoid coming to conclusions that merely reflect the outcomes generated by our collective selective hearing. If we avoid our responsibility to listen attentively as faithful disciples, we may reinforce our own personal biases (liberal religionist or dissenting positions) rather than hear what the Holy Father actually intends.
  • We can either read something into Pope Francis' teaching, or we can take what he says at face value and read/listen to what he has to say in continuity with previous popes and councils.
  • The way some people repurpose Pope Francis' comments might be seen in a way similar to the way the Second Vatican Council was repurposed by the media and "progressives", resulting in a liturgical rupture, for one, and a lessening of the influence of soul-saving dogma on the minds and hearts of men. A fitting label for misappropriations of Pope Francis' comments could be "Spirit of Pope Francis", much like the erroneous doctrines in circulation and rampant abusive liturgical practices since the end of the Council are appropriately labelled "Spirit of Vatican II".
To sever the Holy Father's teaching from the context of the Papal office is to engage in a distortion of our role as followers of Christ.
  • Save the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, no other individuals or communities constitute the Magisterium established by Christ. In other words, there is one pope, not millions. Unfortunately, some bishops' conferences have thought themselves equal in authority to the Holy Father. The Canadian bishops, at the release of Humanæ Vitæ, issued their own reading of the prophetic document. Sadly, the Winnipeg Statement led to the wholesale abandonment of the Church's teaching on procreation, marriage and family life. Or, consider the German bishops who think they can admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion. The actions of said conferences are an attempt to impose conciliarism on the Church. To what bishops' conference (or cardinal alone) did Christ give the keys to the kingdom?
Pope Francis deserves our full attention. He deserves our obedience as informed (not low information) disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pope Francis, because he is pope, requires that we hear him as a faithful son of the Church. We can be certain that the message remains the same, even if the "packaging" comes in a different form.

Finally, let us recall that with regards to faith and morals, no pope can err when he speaks ex-cathedra, for he enjoys the protection of the Holy Spirit. No pope has ever taught heresy. The promise of Christ given to Saint Peter to protect the Catholic Church gives Catholics a life giving insurance policy: we can be certain that we hear the truth of Christ, the Truth (capital "T") intended for our salvation.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, Wendell. I was beginning to get discouraged with the thinly-veiled negativity on some of the orthodox Catholic blogging sites regarding our Pope.


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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