Friday, March 29, 2013

Fr. Z on what Pope Francis is really up to

"What is Pope Francis really saying?" (WDTPRS, March 28, 2013). Fr. Z. writes:
Here is what I think Pope Francis is up to.

In this explanation I am not necessarily endorsing specific things that he is doing (washing the feet of females in a prison) or not doing (refusing the mozzetta, etc.).

... Before liberals and traditionalists both have a spittle-flecked nutty, each for their own reasons, try to figure out what he is trying to do.

Firstly, we are not succeeding in evangelizing. We are going backwards, globally....

In the wealthy west, the Church is often perceived (and it is so very often portrayed) as not being compassionate. The Church doesn’t care about women in crisis pregnancies (and therefore we don’t condone abortion or contraception because we are not “compassionate”. The Church doesn’t care about the divorced and remarried (because we don’t admit them to Holy Communion and therefore we are not “compassionate”).

I think what Pope Francis is up to is trying to project, re-project, is an image of the Church as compassionate.

... I’ll wager that, as a Jesuit, Francis doesn’t care about liturgy very much. He is just not into – one whit – either what traditional liturgy types or what liturgical liberals want....

Francis wants priests to talk to people and find out what they need and get involved in their daily struggles. Liturgy, for Francis, seems to be involved precisely in that. Do I think Francis may be missing huge points in this approach? Sure, right now I do. But I am leaving the jury out.

I don’t have to 100% embrace what Francis is doing even as I struggle to see and understand what I [think he] is up to.
This post raises all sorts of good talking points. Too many for Good Friday night. One that comes to mind however, is that the chief problem with our "not succeeding in evangelizing" is not so much our lack of good public relations icons to put a compassionate spin on the Catholic public image, so much as a failure to evangelize. Witness the total collapse of Catholic missions over the last half-century.

What would it require for us to begin evangelizing in earnest? Changed lives, souls converted to our Lord and Lady through the heart of Christ's Church. Cleaning house. Letting go all those whom our former Pope Benedict called "professional Catholics," those sacramentalized pagans who inhabit administrative positions in the Church with no shred of personal faith, along with DRE's, Catholic university and seminary professors who dissent from Church teaching and exhibit no personal enthusiasm for the propagation of The Catholic Faith or salvation of souls.

If hearts were converted to the Catholic Faith, compassion would follow and there would be little need for public relations undertakings for shows of compassion. On the other hand, there is little guarantee that shows of compassion will necessarily yield a harvest of Catholic Faith.


bill bannon


Oddly optimism about salvation in Von Balthasar, Rahner, John Paul II and Benedict inhibited evangelizing.
The first two hoped for an empty hell rather than believed in one ( universalism). And both Popes said we could not be certain Judas is in hell ( Augustine and Chrysostom said he was). All of that works against missionizing unless an individual were very separate from that modern Catholic zeitgeist. Pope Francis mentioned Von Balthasar and the new Pope said God never tires of forgiving. He is correct but is leaving out that if one keeps sinning and is never sorry, God at some point becomes severely punishing either here or after life....or both where there is an obdurate will. The NT says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God " Hebrews 10:31. That is partly an echo of Deuteronomy 32:39..." See ye that I alone am, and there is no other god beside me: I will kill and I will make to live: I will strike and I will heal, and there is NONE THAT CAN DELIVER OUT OF MY HAND."
That piece is missing from modern Catholic leaders and magazines and blogs and homilies. Unfortunately when it existed there was missionizing but also burning people which in Joan of Arcs case got down to her wearing men's clothes.
In short we need those scriptures minus the burning people that once accompanied that emphasis. Way in the future...not in your lifetime.

Pertinacious Papist


Hi Bill,

I'm afraid you're right about the missing piece. Ralph Martin has written a book critiquing the idea of an empty hell, which is sometimes based on a misreading of Gaudium et Spes, as he shows; and as John L. Lamont argues in several places, the one thing missing from the Second Vatican Council is a clear rationale for the New Evangelization, even though the call for one is there. In other words, people need to know that the reason the Gospel must be preached isn't merely to be happy, which is something they could learn from Barney the Dinosaur, but rather so that they can be saved from damnation and be happy forever in heaven in the fellowship of the Holy Trinity. That's something that Barney "don't teach."

Burning? No worries there. The burnings will be done by the other side this time round. We'll all be on the receiving end. Cheers, and Happy Easter! -- PP



I will add, however, that I've been appreciative of Francis' blunt recognition of Satan, the diabolical, and Ephesians 6:12 -- contra the "enlightened minds" who would sweep such medieval-language under the rug, I find it refreshing.

Robert Royal:

"A pope who openly and repeatedly speaks about the language of the devil, the father of lies, the war against God, and prayer to the Holy Family as a way to combat it clearly isn’t trying to win points with the progressive media. Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner accused him of medievalism for these remarks, but that didn’t intimidate him or others. And she was forced to withdraw the criticism.

It may only be a personal reaction after hearing so many different political, liturgical, and theological views about Pope Francis, but any pope who can seriously assert again that sin exists, that it’s more than a matter of mere human weaknesses and errors, that the whole of the old Christian drama as a contest between God and Satan is still the center of the Faith – and the reason that the Church exists – just may have something fresh to say to the world."

bill bannon


Oh I like the new Pope so far. No one needs coffee now. You wake up, open your eyes...and say..."what the heck is next?"



Whatever he is up to it has to be better than what has been happening since the roman catholic church became a state institution which goes back about 16 centuries
Mel Schulz

I am not Spartacus


Dear Mr. Schulz. If you think you can can identify a Century one-seventh as good as the Thirteenth Century, go ahead.

Hell, even Kilgore Trout would have been constrained to confess that the Thirteen is the Greatest of Centuries and it was great because all that as good, and true, and beautiful suffused that century due to the moral, spiritual, cultural, economic, and religious influence of The Holy Roman Catholic Church whereas a real Catholic Traditionalist today feels like Billy Pilgrim hiding out in a meat locker while all around he hears the explosion of the bombs of usury, sex, violence, pornography, free thought, atheism, socialism, feminism and homosexualism.



Yes, I am a bit stupefied at the talk of mercy conjoined as it is to a consistent refusal to discuss man's personal as well as social bent to choose sin. You have to have an acute sense of the problem to have a strong appreciation of the solution. Same thing applies to the gay question. We have been tied in verbal pretzels stressing the dignity of the SSA-afflicted and their inherent goodness and worth. Then we are in the least surprised we can't convincingly make the case that gay sex acts are grave offenses and disordered behavior? Rhetorically the two pictures are wildly discordant. But our leaders all act like it is all clear, and what's needed is a pat on the back and a little tune now, since everyone has been pistol-whipped by Catholic severity for the past fifty years, Maybe that comes from living in a clerical bubble, I don't know. Perhaps I am being unfair, but the stream of bureaucraticly-tweaked talk gets exhausting. Even in conservative precincts, the signs of any real change vary. Ignatius Press just printed--and then pulled--a review of Martin's book because it was overly favorable. They promise a broader forum on the topic. TO be followed with interest.