Friday, February 28, 2014


I hope those pseudo-conservative, traditionalist heterodox Catholics who malign Pope Francis understand that underneath His Holiness pastoral sensitivities and personal simplicity lies a very traditional and orthodox Catholic. He is not a dogmatist but a Papa, the Italian word for Daddy which English mangles into some sort of ecclesiastical title, "Pope." Bishop of Rome is far more formal and ecclesiastical than pope or papa since neither of those terms are formal but are terms of endearment.

What the Holy Father is doing by his particular "reform of the reform" is that he is focusing not so much on the formal liturgies of the Church on the institutional level, but the popular piety of the people in the trenches of life.

Thus he promotes popular piety of all types, because these don't require the institutional Church and help form a strong personal and communal piety of the laity at home and elsewhere, but also in churches after Mass and other formal liturgies.

He continues to uphold the intrinsic necessity for an all male priesthood and the intrinsic necessity of marriage between on man and one woman based not only on orthodoxy, but natural law and how God has designed these two sacraments. Thus the Holy Father refers to the Church exclusively as Holy Mother, she and her. This is anathema for progressives who rid the church of this sort of language in the 60's and 70's in order to prepare the way for female priests and same sex marriage.

Pope Francis: accompany, don't condemn, those who have experience failure in marriage

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican this morning. In remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the beauty of marriage and warned that the Church must accompany – not condemn – those who experience failure in married life. He explained that Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, and therefore you cannot understand one without the Other.

The Holy Father also warned against giving in to the temptation to entertain “special pleading” in questions regarding marriage. The Pharisees, he noted, present Jesus with the problem of divorce. Their method, the Pope said, is always the same: “casuistry,” — “is this licit or not?”

“It is always the small case. And this is the trap, behind casuistry, behind casuistical thought, there is always a trap: against people, against us, and against God, always. ‘But is it licit to do this? To divorce his wife?’ And Jesus answered, asking them what the Law said, and explaining why Moses framed the Law as he did. But He doesn’t stop there. From [the study of the particular case], He goes to the heart of the problem, and here He goes straight to the days of Creation. That reference of the Lord is so beautiful: ‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh’.”

Pope Francis went on to say, “The Lord refers to the masterpiece of Creation,” which is precisely the human person, created as male and female. God said He “did not want man to be alone,” He wanted him to be with “his companion along the way.” The moment Adam meets Eve, he said, is a poetic moment: “It is the beginning of love: [a couple] going together as one flesh.” The Lord , he repeated, “always takes casuistic thought and brings it to the beginning of revelation.” On the other hand, he explained, “this masterpiece of the Lord is not finished there, in the days of Creation, because the Lord has chosen this icon to explain the love that He has for His people.” At the very point “when the people is unfaithful,” he said, God speaks to him with words of love”:

“The Lord takes this love of the masterpiece of Creation to explain the love He has for His people. And going further: when Paul needs to explain the mystery of Christ, he does it in a relationship, in reference to His Spouse: because Christ is married, Christ was married, He married the Church, His people. As the Father had married the People of Israel, Christ married His people. This is the love story, this is the history of the masterpiece of Creation – and before this path of love, this icon, casuistry falls and becomes sorrowful. When, however, this leaving one’s father and mother, and joining oneself to a woman, and going forward... when this love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, [we must] accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them – and don’t practice casuistry on their situation.”

Pope Francis also said the Gospel episode encourages us to reflect “about this plan of love, this journey of love in Christian marriage, that God has blessed the masterpiece of His Creation,” a blessing, he said, “that has never been taken away. Not even original sin has destroyed it.” When we thinks of this, we can “see how beautiful love is, how beautiful marriage is, how beautiful the family is, how beautiful this journey is, and how much love we too [must have], how close we must be to our brothers and sisters who in life have had the misfortune of a failure in love.”

Turning again to Saint Paul, Pope Francis emphasized the beauty of “the love Christ has for His bride, the Church”:

“Here too, we must be careful that love should not fail: [it is dangerous] to speak about a bachelor-Christ (It. Cristo troppo scappolo): Christ married the Church. You can’t understand Christ without the Church, and you can’t understand the Church without Christ. This is the great mystery of the masterpiece of Creation. May the Lord give all of us the grace to understand it and also the grace to never fall into these casuistical attitudes of the Pharisees, of the teachers of the law.”

Text from page,_dont_condemn,_those_who_have_experience/en1-777372
of the Vatican Radio website


Anonymous said...

"I hope those pseudo-conservative, traditionalist heterodox Catholics who malign Pope Francis understand that underneath His Holiness pastoral sensitivities and personal simplicity lies a very traditional and orthodox Catholic."

Pope Francis recently referred to a Pentecostal friend of his as "my brother bishop". Father please explain to me how a VERY traditional and orthodox Catholic (not to mention THE POPE) can make that statement. And I understand that it is not a formal magisterial statement, blah blah blah. I wouldn't go to that man (the Pentecostal) for confession because he is a lay person, would you? Does the pope?
People mean what they say. How can a pope who continues to speak so carelessly all the time inspire unity and be considered traditional and orthodox? Please explain how this is possible. Please explain and not just ignore and not publish my question.

And quoting exactly what the pope said is not disrespectful. He said those words, not me.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Even though the Catholic Church does not recognize the Orders of the Anglican Communion (which has kept the deacon, priest, bishop paradigm none the less) we do recognize the role of leadership the ordained in Protestant denominations have and we refer to them by their titles as used by them. The bishop Pope Francis called my brother bishop in Italian or English could have too connotations,

First of all, if I refer to you as my brother Bishop Whoever, I'm referring to you in a familiar colloquial sense. You are not technically my brother (no blood or legal relationship, although through baptism a spiritual bond exists) and you are not my bishop, but in the formal dialogue or respect you are my brother Bishop Whoever.

I think we need to listen again the the Italian way in which he addressed this man using the title of his Anglican ordination (even if breakaway from mainline Anglicanism) and understand he was calling him a spiritual brother and using a formal title.

WSquared said...

What the Holy Father is doing by his particular "reform of the reform" is that he is focusing not so much on the formal liturgies of the Church on the institutional level

Bingo. Sometimes, the way to focus on something or show people why it matters is to get at it indirectly. Moreover, he assumes that we're already well steeped in what the liturgy offers us, and that we're now ready and prepared to share it with others. That's a far cry from thinking that it "doesn't matter."

Also, he knows that all this comes from encountering and engaging Jesus Christ head on-- which also means letting Him engage us. "I believe so that I may understand." That's straight out of Lumen Fidei, which simply communicates anew what the likes of St. Anselm of Canterbury and St. Augustine knew. And this is the ground where formal theology, doctrine, dogma, etc. meets popular piety. Popular piety opens the door to this sort of engagement, and entering deeper into the Sacred Mysteries of the Mass.

I think what Pope Francis is doing is preparing people to connect the dots by meeting them where they are: at the level of popular piety. Because the popular-piety level IS where you can go forward to appreciate the beauty of the formal liturgy. But unlike some people's odd ideas of "ecumenism," he's actually inviting them to go somewhere specific.

We live in an age and culture where the latter is all but unintelligible to a vast swath of people-- whether they've never experienced it, are afraid of just engaging it and letting it engage them, or think it "elitist," or all of the above. Or whatever. This much, Ratzinger laid out in the 1989 preface to Introduction to Christianity. For way too many Catholics, the Incarnation is the elephant in the room.

Popular devotions like Novenas and the Rosary all predispose one to not only be receptive to the liturgy, but also to think with it: as per my own temperament and what the Lord has given me, I'm intellectually inclined. Always have been. But orthodoxy, the EF, the work of Ratzinger, Von Balthasar, etc. only truly began to hit home in a profound way with slowly, but surely, learning to receive the Sacraments worthily, and daily Rosary and prayer. Then and only then did all of those things start to knit themselves together in a more integrated manner, such that the coherence of the whole suggested itself more readily.

Moreover, Catholicism is 24/7, and down to the nanosecond, and not to be squished into just one hour on Sundays. Catechesis has experienced a host of cognitive disconnects at so many levels over the last 50 years. For example, there is nothing wrong at all with learning the Baltimore Catechism. But there's everything wrong with not having learned to think about it or with it-- kudos to Fr. McDonald for stressing the need to go beyond the "pray, pay, and obey" mentality.

In sum, I think Pope Francis simply wants everyone to have what many of us on this blog take for granted as "obvious." And he's showing them how they can have it. It's also okay for it not to come all at once.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

WSquared excellent.

I think what many people who are younger than me don't realize about the 60's and 70's apart from the misrepresentation of the actual council (not on the level of Consilium) but on the popular grassroots level that deformed the revised Mass beyond recognition of what it was intended to me in terms of the art of celebrating it and in continuity with the 1962 Missal in terms of that, is that this same mentality on the grassroots level insisted that popular devotions and the piety of the communion of Saints and even one's love for Mary and praying the Rosary and so on and so on was no longer needed and hindered ecumenism.

That in short is where Pope Francis' form of the "reform of the reform" is going back to the days prior to the Council to recover popular piety as it was and to make it in part of the spiritual lives of Catholics especially at home, but also at Church. We should not be ashamed of our traditional popular pieties and the cultures that inspired them.

WSquared said...

Agreed, Father. Thank you for reminding us.

Anyone who is wary of Pope Francis should perhaps remember these specific words of the Gospel, where Christ reminds us: "without Me, you can do nothing." Whenever we are tempted to fret about a lack of orthodoxy (which is not lacking at all in Pope Francis), we should recognize that it is grace-- and Sacramental grace in particular-- that makes that orthodoxy possible.

I think this is why Pope Francis emphasizes encounter and engagement. He doesn't beat anyone over the head with orthodoxy, because it's a gift, and it will come through constant engagement. It's also why I will contend that if we've read our Ratzinger, we should've seen this coming, and (coming the other way) it's why the "God's Rottweiler" thing is truly unkind.