Contrary to some opinions about the papacy, we owe obedience to the pope and bishops in union with him only in the areas of faith and morals, but in continuity with what has been taught over the centuries. Development of Doctrine explains our beliefs and morals in a way that makes sense within the culture it is taught. Development of Doctrine is not a denial of earlier expressions and usually makes the morals of the Church more difficult rather than easier. Think of Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor!
For example, Jesus teaches us about the development of doctrine when He speaks about the 10 Commandments. He calls us to follow the Commandments to the maximum, not the minimum. "You have heard it said, you shall not commit adultery, but what I say to you if you even think about committing adultery you have broken this commandment." (a loose quote!)
We do not have to agree with any pope's opinions, unless in the opinion is contained divinely revealed truth. The pope can pontificate on the weather, but we can disagree with him and point out the faults of his logic. However, the good stewardship of creation, as with our own physical and spiritual bodies, is a part of Catholic morality.
And then there are these gaffs from Pope Francis about Russia, Mongolia, the United States and those with concerns about the synod in the past month or so. Traditional or orthodox Catholics recoil in concern, because it is this type of thing the pope has done over and over again which diminishes not only his papacy, but the institution of the papacy itself.
Let me offer a bold opinion! Those who complain the most about this pope more than likely love this pope and the papacy more than those who demand absolute obedience and respect in regards to the foibles of any pope. We are shocked and embarrassed by what has happened in the 10 years and have a disdain for shifting the blame for the grotesque polarization we are experiencing with the clergy, to include bishops and some who are cardinals, as well as rank and file laity. The blame has to be laid at the feet of this pope and his circle of close advisors.
Here is something Dr. Robert Royal wrote in today's "The Catholic Thing":
In the past week or so, the pope has: praised “that great imperial Russia” for its noble culture and humanity (a remark later admitted to be “badly phrased”); lauded Genghis Khan’s blood-soaked empire for its religious tolerance and “pax mongolica” (40 million killed, give or take); encouraged Chinese Christians to be good citizens of a nation whose “culture” he greatly admires and whose government is, he says, “very respectful” towards the Church (other views abound); shied away from saying anything more about Nicaragua where the Ortegas are basically outlawing Catholicism and a bishop has been sentenced to 26 years in jail; and denounced worried Catholics, especially American Catholics, for their criticisms of – well – many things, but especially “politicizing” the upcoming Synod on Synodality, and embracing rigid and empty “ideologies” instead of following the living doctrine of the Faith.
Even for someone like the present writer, who has seen “unbelievable” things happen over decades of following faith and politics in Rome and Washington, this has been a breathtaking stretch. And one has to ask, seriously: Is there something wrong in Rome?
The remarks about Russia and Mongolia, for instance, read as if some ghostwriter in the Vatican was given the task of finding something positive to say about those countries. And after a quick glance at Wikipedia, plucked those gems out of a mass of other, far less flattering, material.
That was already bad enough. But it’s scandalous, in the proper sense of the term, that those ridiculous remarks, isolated from any other considerations, past and present (e.g., the invasion of Ukraine or the kind of “imperialism” Pope Francis would recoil from, in horror, if perpetrated by the United States), could have passed in front of various pairs of eyes – or at least been discussed privately with the Holy Father – and then aired in public by the head of the One, Holy, Roman, and Apostolic Church.
Pope Francis may not believe it – given his circle of advisers, who know as little about America as he does – but loyal Catholics, even in America, feel great reluctance having to point out the nakedness of the Holy Father in such matters. In fact, we lament having to say anything about it at all, given that it often could be, with a little more care, avoided. Still, it would be a betrayal of real loyalty and even of a certain affection for the office – to say nothing of the Truth – if we simply indulged such things without a bit of truth-telling.
In terms of the pope making a fool of himself in a public manner, a good doctor friend of mine texted me his opinion of the pope's statement on Genghis Khan. He quotes what Pope Francis said:
"May heaven grant that today, on this earth devastated by countless conflicts, there be a renewal, respectful of international laws, of the conditions of what was once the "Pax Mongolica", namely, the absence of conflicts."
My doctor friend then states:
"Absence of conflicts" only because the Kahn killed everyone and everything in his path! So by the pope's logic, if Hitler had only been more ruthless, we could have had the "Pax Germanica".
My final comments:
In 2013 I was in Rome for a four month sabbatical. Pope Francis had been pope for only a few months. At dinner, I was at a table where there were some high powered theologians who taught at various Roman institutions. They voiced concern that Pope Francis was listening to all the wrong people and they were giving him terrible advice.
I have heard that recently as well and again from a theologian in the know.
Do these sad papal advisors have it in for this pope and are they the ones who hate him and the Catholic Church the most and thrive off of embarrassing him, the papacy and the Catholic Church? Are Orthodox Catholics the only ones who truly feel bad for this pope and for what his advisors are doing to him, the papacy and the Church?