Wednesday, December 25, 2013


My comments first: I couldn't have said it better myself!

The Choice 2014

Catholics face an important choice in 2014 and in the years ahead.
Some of the comments and reactions to my post earlier this week on Pope Francis’s decision not to renew Cardinal Burke’s membership on the Congregation for Bishops revealed a disturbing trend to me, namely, the extent to which many Catholics have adopted an apprehensive attitude about the current pontiff.
pope-francis3Sure, I get it, it’s fun to be a cynic. It’s cool to be the one always predicting the next bad thing that’s going to happen, and being the one who is never surprised when it does.

Dissenting catholics have gotten really good at playing the role of the cynic for the past 30 years. Some priests, who shall remain nameless, have spent more time and energy complaining about the pope to the mainstream media than they have spent studying theology.

So I can understand why some orthodox catholics may be enjoying the novelty of being a papal skeptic. Certainly the media has done everything in its power to perpetuate the falsehood that Pope Francis is a liberal made in their own image. What I can’t understand is why Catholics, who say the media can’t be trusted and believe the media doesn’t “get” religion, continue to let the media form and influence their impression of who Pope Francis is!

We’re better than this. The Pope is not our president. We don’t have the right to say the current pope wasn’t our pick and we’re waiting around for the next guy. We must trust that when the cardinals chose Cardinal Brogoglio to be Pope, the Holy Spirit knew what He was doing. So let’s quit with the doom mongering. The church is a family. We don’t get to choose the members, and we scandalize the world when we air our dirty laundry in the site of others. Especially when the laundry isn’t dirty to begin with!

The more I read about Pope Francis, the more I am convinced that the soul of this papacy is up for grabs. Here’s what I mean:  the Vatican expert Sandro Magister paints a picture of a new pope not yet sure of what he wants to do. George Weigel and others have easily taken apart the media-driven meme that Pope Francis is a liberal, i.e. not orthodox. The Pope himself has preached against “adolescent progressivism”. The case of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, which so many liturgical traditionalists site as an example of Pope Francis’ supposed antagonism to the Latin Mass, is far from black-and-white when you examine the evidence.

Simply put, it’s just way too early to judge what the future holds when it comes to the new occupant of the Chair of Peter.

But here’s one thing I think I can safely say Pope Francis doesn’t tolerate: allowing liturgical rubrics and clericalism to keep us from the proclamation of the Gospel. I’m right with him on that one. Good liturgy and a healthy respect for clerics should lead us to a more passionate living out and witness to the Good News, not the opposite!  

And so while Pope Francis is no liberal, he also has no patience for traditional Catholics who let preferences and small-t traditions become a stumbling block to living out there faith fully.

If your love for the Extraordinary Form leads you to criticize your fellow Catholics who prefer the Novus Ordo instead of leading you to a more perfect life of charity, you’re doing it wrong.  If you’ve spent more time reading articles claiming that Pope Francis has condemned capitalism in his latest exhortation instead of actually reading what he wrote, you’re doing it wrong. And if you spend more time bemoaning the fact that so many people are misunderstanding the Pope when you could be doing something about it by leaving comments, posting Facebook messages and engaging people, you’re doing it wrong.

That’s why I say the soul of this papacy is up for grabs. If Pope Francis sees dissenting Catholics living more active lives of charity, showing more passion in their desire to fix the problems of the world, and being more vocal in the great debates of our time, what happens then? This is our opportunity to put our money where our mouth is, so speak, to show our compassion for the poor with concrete acts, to live our faith more authentically, to be more active in the public square, to show how much we care that we are catholic and how much that reality forms who we are and inspires what we do.

So which is it going to be? Are we going to spend the next few years wringing our hands worried to death that all the accomplishments of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict are about to be undone, or are we going to take Pope Francis up on his challenge and live the Gospel more fully every day, in plain sight?

That’s the choice we face in 2014 and always.
So let’s fight, let’s fight for the church. It’s the only one we’ve got.


Gene said...

There is nothing cynical about legitimate concern on the part of devout Catholics regarding careless statements and off-the-wall behaviors on the part of Christ's representative on earth. Cynical is refusing to acknowledge the problem and continuing to insist that all is well when one knows better...

Rood Screen said...

This is okay, but I think that when followers perceive a leader's possible hostility towards them, it becomes the responsibility of the leader to rebuild trust. Peters says "it’s just way too early to judge what the future holds..." I think faithful Catholics are just worn out with having to judge whether their parish priest, bishop or pope is faithful to Apostolic Tradition. These Catholics shouldn't have to judge at all, but they feel they've been betrayed too many times to let down their guard. Peters' words can seem like telling abuse victims to "just get over" their lack of trust.

Pater Ignotus said...

FrJBS - When followers invent hostility to themselves where none exists, it is their responsibility, not the leader's, to get back in line.

There are far, far more faithful Catholics who are not wasting time judging a parish, priest, bishop, or pope every time they hear or see something that is displeasing to them than there are those rushing to post cynical, even despairing comments on blogs.

Gene said...

Wrong yet again, Ignotus...

ytc/Cameron said...

I don't believe harmful "clericalism" actually exists in the vast majority of parishes in the USA. I don't deny that it can exist, just that it isn't as common as some would [love to] think.

It's kind of like harping on about sexual sins. Well, yeah, I guess that's possible, but nobody actually does that. I've never heard a priest even mention a sexual sin in a homily. So.... ?????

So, who does these things? Next to nobody. So why focus on "fixing," as if 50% of priests hate laypeople and preach about nothing except contraception? I think that's just completely false. There is no fact there at all.

And FrJBS, I agree that it becomes the responsibility of the leader to rebuild trust, at least in part. But I also think that it is the responsibility of the leader to make important things crystal clear when almost all evidence shows that only a tiny minority really understand what the leader is saying. That, I think, is a fundamental responsibility of leadership. I'm not saying the Pope "has" to do that, as if it were some divine command. I'm saying the Pope should do that if he wants people to understand him.

Pater, I have learned to do two essential things as a Catholic: 1. ignore, and 2. not care. So most of the time when I see/hear something stupid I just say to myself, "Whatever," and then I forget it.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of being ridiculed and called names by this pope. Just because I believe everything the Roman Catholic Church has taught since day one does not make me a self absorbed, promethian neo-pelagian. If Francis is supposed to be rebuilding the Church he would be wise to stop insulting the only group of people that actually believes in the Faith.

Rood Screen said...

Pater Ignotus,
Agreed, when followers invent such hostility, it is certainly their own responsibility to seek reconciliation.
And, agreed, there are more faithful Catholics who are positive than negative about their spiritual leaders.

rcg said...

Pater, I do disagree with your first point and would say it is wrong, but not in a moral manner. The leader, by office, MUST be sure the meaning of what he says is clear as much as he can humbly make it. The trade are being a little paranoid, although not without cause, for they feel contradicted by exclusion. For example, the press and public figures are assuming a lot of what Pope Francis says to be a repudiation of Pope Benedict. I think it would be in Pope Francis' interest to present his teachings in the context of Pope Benedict, and for that matter any other Pope, as an extension or expansion.

If he is allowing the press and world leaders to portray his teachings incorrectly because he is not fully aware of them then he is going to have Hell managing his bishops and the curia.

Anonymous 2 said...

An excellent article, indeed!

Merry Christmas to one and all!!

Pater Ignotus said...

"...the only group of people that actually believes the faith."

This is precisely why many clergy have little or nothing to do with the traditionalist crowd, myself included.

And the great majority of the complaints from that crowd that "Father won't give us what we want" can, I suggest be traced to this exclusivist and neo-gnostic - and erroneous - understanding of the Faith.

Tim said...

Another example of why I unsubscribed to his blog awhile ago.

John Nolan said...

Fr Allan, in what respect do liturgical rubrics keep people from the Gospel? This was the argument of Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley and the other protestant reformers when they criticized the Sarum Rite. They went on to abolish the Mass altogether.

Furthermore, 'clericalism' is one of those catch-all insults ('racism' and 'sexism' are prime examples) which defy accurate definition, which makes them useful as brickbats. When Pope Francis talks of not clericalizing women the obvious meaning is "not making them clerics". However, in the next sentence he uses the term clericalism in a loose pejorative manner.

In a cathedral choir the boys are referred to as 'choristers' and the men as 'lay clerks'. The latter are substituting for clerics, so are they guilty of so-called clericalism?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI Pope Francis says progressives besides being adolescent are the neo gnostics, the traditionalists while much more mature or adult are the neo Pelagians.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John I don't think that rubrics keep people from the Gospel, but coldness and what might appear as aloofness might well do that. Today most people are into the more human aspects of Christ, meaning down to earth. That is reflected in the comparison of Princess Diana and her popularity and now her sons generation compared to the Queen and her son the Heir Apparent.

Gene said...

"…into the more human aspects of Christ…" Yeah, like the Nestorians and the Arians…

I still do not see where you get that traditionalists are Pelagian. That is a stretch...

Gene said...

OK, I'll see your Arians and Nestorians and raise you one Monophysist…LOL!

Gene said...

Regarding the Traditionalist/Pelagian thing, are you saying that traditionalistsw, by strictly observing rubrics, etc. believe this is one "work" that will earn them grace or salvation? I suppose I could see the danger in that. Prots tend to make faith a work by seeking testimonies and "proof" of devoutness.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes that is what the pope is decrying.

rcg said...

PI, I think you are doing yourself, and your parish, a disservice by avoiding the Traditionalists. In my experience many Progressives have quite emotionally put forth that they are the True Church as forcefully as any misguided Trad. I think we have to accept that both are right and it is good for the Church if both are nourished to see each other that way.

The balance the Priest must strike is to keep the Trads from worshiping the form and the Progressives from losing reverence.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I deleted this by accident:

rcg has left a new comment on your post "THOMAS PETERS CAPTURES MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY! MERR...":

PI, I think you are doing yourself, and your parish, a disservice by avoiding the Traditionalists. In my experience many Progressives have quite emotionally put forth that they are the True Church as forcefully as any misguided Trad. I think we have to accept that both are right and it is good for the Church if both are nourished to see each other that way.

The balance the Priest must strike is to keep the Trads from worshiping the form and the Progressives from losing reverence.

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Posted by rcg to southern orders at December 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - Traditionalism is not a legitimate expression of Catholic belief. So, no, I am not going to welcome or embrace or encourage it.

And Traditional is not traditionalist.

When a traditionalist believes that they are "...the only group of people that actually believes the faith..." he/she has stepped beyond the bounds of Traditional Catholicism and entered the realm of the gnostic self-righteous.

It sounds an awful lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 - "The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, 'O God, I thank you that I'm not like other people—thieves, dishonest people, adulterers, or even this tax collector."

No disservice is done when an illegitimate expression of the Catholic faith is discouraged. I think the opposite is true - encouraging such is a disservice to the Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI your pontificating on traditionalists is certainly heretical. If only you would correctly call out progressives who think they hold the truth all the while being heterodox in liturgy, Christology, ecclesiology and soterology!

John Nolan said...

Fr Allan, I never bought into the Princess Di cult, and found the mass hysteria and synthetic grief shown at her death to be extremely unedifying. It was also, like most effusions of this sort, rather short-lived.

The Church in her wisdom accepted that there were people like this, sincere enough but uneducated and prone to confuse sentiment with sentimentality. So she tolerated popular and pietistic devotions and cults, provided that they did not go to extremes, as the medieval flagellants did.

What she did not do was allow this into her liturgy, which remained objective. That is, until the Second Vatican Council. Objectivity was replaced by subjective sentimentality; sonorous Latin by vernacular street-language; elevated music by the sentimental ear-candy of the new mass popular culture.

This has been so throughout my adult life; I saved my faith by clinging to a few rocks of sanity and trusting that my intellectual understanding of Catholicism was sound. Many others were not so fortunate.

rcg said...

PI you are right, if a traditionalist does that. I keep the Litany of Humility on my desk at work for when I get a little over confident or excessively concerned with how people regard me. If you can't convince a Trad that he is wrong (especially when he isn't) try convincing him that other folks are not as bad he may think. You can use that exact formula with the Progressives, too.

Anonymous said...

Why are we Traditionalists the ones that are attacked and called names by this Pope, when we are the ones who believe in ALL the Church teaches? Nobody can answer that simple question without excuses again saying Francis was taken out of context, that is OLD already!!!!!!!! Yet the clowns,dancing girls, hand holding, giant puppets, kiss of peace Masses are all in communion with Rome and we the true believers are the weirdos.

Gene said...

Anonymous, you are quite correct…the issue has always been one of belief/unbelief. When we zero in on that, the Left gets nervous and hyper-critical and the good Priests get nervous for fear of the conflict and difficulty that might be caused if Bishops and Priests like Ignotus were called out for real and the issue forced. They need not worry...there is no one in a position of authority anywhere with the stones to make that happen.