Tuesday, September 1, 2015
POPE FRANCIS, THE WHO AM I TO JUDGE POPE, JUDGES AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
On Sunday, Pope Francis at the Angelus had some off-the-cuff remarks about Catholics who appear to do everything right as Catholics, go to Sunday Mass, Holy Days of Obligation, observe the fasts and abstinence, pray devotions and seem well versed in the faith, but there is a disconnect with their everyday lives.
They gossip, cheat on their spouses, fail to repent, don't honor their commitments, swindle their friends, cuss, cheat and steal. I suspect they don't go to confession frequently about these things, but I could be wrong.
I suspect too, the Holy Father may have had in mind the elaborate funeral given to a mafia don in Rome last week. How does a public sinner like that get such a wonderful send-off by Catholics who should know better but loved the don?
What do you think Pope Francis had in mind in his off the cuff remarks reported by the Vatican Insider:
Pope Francis has strongly criticized Catholics who brag that they are perfect followers of the church's teachings but then criticize or speak ill of others in their faith communities, saying they cause scandal and even offer a "counter-witness" to Jesus.(I have to admit that I've never heard of a Catholic in any parish I've been brag they are perfect followers of Christ, never! Have you? Certainly, though, I have heard and seen practicing Catholics cause scandal and offer a counter-witness to the faith, think Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and other pro-choice politicians who are also pro-gay marriage and proudly receive Holy Communion thinking they are perfect?)
"We all know in our communities, in our parishes, in our neighborhoods how much hurt they do the church, and give scandal, those persons that call themselves 'Very Catholic,'" the pontiff said Sunday.(Again, the only ones I know who fit this are politicians and public persons who claim to be Catholics in good standing and yet do not live the faith but make sure to have a photo op receiving Holy Communion from the pope or bishop or anyone else for that matter. Keep in mind that Pope Francis does not distribute Holy Communion to the laity because he said in Argentina people were looking for a photo-op receiving from high church officials, corrupt Catholic politicians in particular).
"They go often to church, but after, in their daily life, ignore the family, speak ill of others, and so on," he continued. "This is that which Jesus condemns because this is a Christian 'counter-witness.'" (there is nothing new about this.)
Francis was speaking Sunday in an off-the-cuff moment during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter's Square, which focused on one of Jesus' teachings about the role of the proscribed laws of the faith of his time.
The Gospel for the day, taken from Mark, sees Jesus questioned by Pharisees about why his disciples did not follow Jewish law regarding the cleansing of hands before eating. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, quoting the prophet Isaiah and saying they honor God with their lips but not their hearts.
Jesus' response to the Pharisees, Francis said Sunday, "has the force of a prophetic pronouncement."
"They are words that might fill us with admiration for our teacher," said the pope. "We feel that in him there is the truth and that his wisdom liberates us from prejudices."
But then the pontiff sharply warned that Jesus words apply also to Christians today.
"Caution!" Francis exhorted the crowds in the Square. "With these words, Jesus also wants to put us, today, on guard against considering that the exterior observance of the law may be sufficient to be good Christians."
"As it was for the Pharisees, there also exists for us the danger of considering our place as better than others for the only fact of observing the rules or customs, even if we do not love our neighbor, [even if] we are hard of heart or prideful," said the pontiff.(It isn't just those who strictly follow the rules, though, that do this! And certainly we cannot paint with a broad brush all people who strictly follow the rules as being hypocritical as many also do the right thing in their lives too! )
"The literal observance of the precepts is something sterile if it does not change the heart and is not translated into concrete attitudes," he said, giving examples: "Opening yourself to the encounter with God and God's word in prayer, searching for justice and peace, giving help to the poor, the weak and the oppressed." (Those who break the rules, like priests who don't follow the rubrics and do things their way rather than obedient to what the Church requires can have very corrupt lives too and in fact the breaking of small rules may be an indication of other moral disorders, so it works both ways!)
Exterior attitudes, Francis said, are determined by what's in our hearts.
"The exterior attitudes are the consequence of what we have determined in the heart," said the pope. "Not the opposite! With outside attitudes, if the heart does not change we are not true Christians."
"The border between good and evil doesn't pass outside of us but rather inside of us," the pontiff continued. "And we can ask ourselves: Where is my heart?"
"Jesus said your treasure is that where your heart is," said Francis. "Which is my treasure? Is it Jesus and his doctrine? Then the heart is good. Or is your treasure another thing?"
Beginning the Angelus prayer, the pope said they would ask Sunday that the Lord grant those present "a pure heart, free of every hypocrisy."
"This is [what] Jesus says to the Pharisees: Hypocrites," said Francis. "Because they say something and then do another."
[Joshua J. McElwee is Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.]