Friday, June 14, 2013

Has Pope Francis been reading the Care Bears?

"Pope says everyone can do good, regardless of belief" (CNA/EWTN News, May 22, 2013):
Vatican City, May 22, 2013 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Every human person despite his or her beliefs can do good, and a sharing in good works is the prime place for encounter among those who disagree, Pope Francis said at his Mass today....

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone."

“Even the atheists. Everyone,” Pope Francis stressed.

He said that the saving blood of Christ “makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good.”
Well, I know there must be a proper hermeneutic out there somewhere for interpreting the words of the Holy Father. The immediate counterfactual that comes to mind is the depravity of the human heart stemming from Original Sin. The Prophet Isaaiah says, for example, that "all our righteous acts" -- acts performed naturally, apart from divine prevenient grace -- "are as filthy rags" (Is. 64:6), and the Prophet Jeremiah says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9).

In any case, here's what our correspondent on retainer emailed me with the link:
"I read things like this, and I just wonder: (1) How is this theology any different from liberal Protestantism, and (2) why do popes seem keener nowadays on talking to the World than the Church?

Everyone has a call to holiness, even non-believers? Huh?! This to my mind makes no sense. It raises a whole series of questions. Anyway, If the Pope cannot carefully explain theology, who can?!

I simply am mystified on how Vatican leaders read the signs of the times.
Okay, here to the rescue come the hermeneutical theology buffs. Pope Francis, on their view, is only saying what has already been said by St. Paul, Pope Leo XIII, Vatican II in Gaudium et spes, Pope John Paul II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and Fr. Dwight Longenecker "takes it away" with his final explanation of what Pope Francis actually meant to say.

But it's not quite all as easy as that. For one thing, as one commentor on Fr. Longenecker's original post says, "[I am] concerned about the tone. It will be a long haul if 'conservatives' have to keep explaining him, as Fr.Longenecker's post does."

For another thing, however, the efforts to explain can get sloppy; for whatever they may have intended, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul, St. Paul, etc. don't actually say exactly the same thing in the quoted texts. For example, St. Paul says that God desires all to be saved (not that they are saved); that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all (not that all are partakers of the ransom); that the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men (not that all are saved).

John Paul says, however, that all people have become children of God and partakers in the divine nature and heirs to eternal life. This is something altogether different, regardless of what he may have intended by his words.

This sort of seeming carelessness and ambiguity of meaning, this constant need for clarification, for explanation, for hermeneutical rescuers, it seems to me, is a problem.

Your thoughts?

Update: Here are a list of the Pope's "hermeneutical rescuers":[Hat tip to J.M.]


JM said...

Go to the website "Called to Communion," and read the "defenses" of Pope Francis. And then ask yourself, can these guys be serious? Can anyone really think their apologetic holds a thimble-full of water? This is no different than Mormon arguments for the Book of Abraham in the face of rather blatant textual evidence to the contrary. Four out of five popes *can* bewrong, and can issue encyclicals aimed at making nice with the world, but they can't overturn conciliar texts prior to Vatican II. These new apologists' self-assureded pronouncements only demonstrate how easily "faith" can blind you, since they stand all decent logic on its head. Nice guys, by, truly, deluded. As I have recommended before, when anyone can produce a rebuttal to David Wells' "Revolution in Rome" (IVP 1970)... Oh, but wait, they can't, no matter how impressive a NYC club room might be booked to host George Weigel or even, God bless him, Scott Hahn. Really, enough madness.

The offending sophistry:

JM said...

Robert Kitchen may be Protestant, may be Catholic, I don't know. But he rightly takes Preslar and Bryan Cross to the woodshed, and incredibly, they remain oblivious. Count me as one who now views all their studied answers as stilted in favor of defending a predetermined status quo regardless of all common sense to the contrary. Here is Kitchen:

* * *

"It would seem to me, given all of the confusion generated by the Pope’s homily and the subsequent multiple nuanced and lengthy interpretations to 'clarify' that homily that we can all probably agree, with all due respect, that the Pope’s subtle message was ill advised. After all, how many non-Christians (or even “hidden” Christians) are going to take the time to wade through the many varied and nuanced interpretations – even within the ranks of Catholics, the interpretations vary from universalism to still damned outside of Christ depending on the label (conservative, liberal, etc) of the interpreter. Absent clarification from the Pope himself or the Magisterium, one is left wondering whose interpretation is correct. I suppose one could read what the Bible says and go with that, but that is likely to lead to….more…confusion?

Still, the spirit of the age is sensitivity and kindness – even at the cost of obscuring a question with eternal consequences. One thinks of a kindly doctor who in a well intended attempt at sensitivity and kindness is so nuanced in explaining her patient’s life threatening illness that the patient leaves the doctor relieved and completely unaware that he is dying and needs treatment. That is not compassion that is malpractice."

* * *

In this instance, the "Called to Communion" crew are not apologists but zealots, dishonoring their cause. Pope Francis may be Pope, but he is also wrong: there is no way Scripture gives priority after Christ to describing the human population en toto as "children of God" or "redeemed." You would have to read Paul and Revelation with lenses five inches thick to get that take away. "WIthout faith it is impossible to please God." How rude! Let's do handstands and pretzels to make the Pope seem in line here with Tradition. On what planet? Sorry for this emphatic outburst. But if the Pope thinks these comments are timely, he is stuck in the faculty lounge of some 70s South American seminary. And loyal Catholics, whom I normally prefer to honor, do Catholicism no service by defending Popes who say such colossally wrong-headed things. Called to Communion. Not in any Jim Jones sense, guys. Leaders, even Catholic ones, can be dead wrong. The only exception is ex cathedra statements and dogmatic conciliar statements, in this day and age of clear communication, I might add, emphatically so-identified. And these are super-duper rare, witness Pope Benedict XVIs purposeful handwringing to make sure no one mistook his Jesus of Nazareth books as magisterial in intent. At the time that seemed a bit affected... With our plain speaking new pontiff, Ratzinger's impulse may have been a godsend.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone."

Pope Bergoglio does not say that Christ offers us redemption, if only we will accept it. He says that we are, "all of us," redeemed. Case closed.

If true, what's the point of His having established a church at all? Mass, the sacraments, maintaining a priesthood, electing a pope: why bother? Redemption is a fact, a done deal -- why not just carpe diem our way through the pearly gates?

"And we all have a duty to do good."

A "duty," is it? Why do we have a "duty" to do anything? We -- atheists, terrorists, Adolf Hitler, Charlie Sheen -- all of us -- have been given a gift unconditionally. No strings. But wait, 1980 years go by, and along comes Pope Francis, who says we have a "duty"?? Sounds like that "pelagian current" again.

You see the problem here.

The luminaries of the neocath Algonquin Round Table must be doing cartwheels. Here is a pope so inept and inarticulate in his public statements that he makes George W Bush seem like Winston Churchill. There will be work aplenty explaining what this pope "really" meant on this, that, and the other occasion, and how what seems to ordinary folks muddled thinking is really incisive genius; what seems to reasonable people error is really the heart and soul of Roman Catholic doctrine; what seems to simple folk liberal protestantism is really Catholicism for a New post-Pepsi Generation. Baby will get more new pairs of shoes than Imelda Marcos!

Can neocath Grub Street save the papacy? (Can you read the previous sentence with a straight face?) It will take their best efforts to bring Pope Bergoglio's extended stay at Disneyland to an end, and get him on with the business of shepherding the flock somewhere other than over the nearest cliff. Having been Alibi Ikes for the past eight years with Pope Benedict's "hermeneutic of continuity," they will now have to be the same with Pope Francis' fumbling "hermeneutic of rupture." That will take some serious contortions.

Oh well, they have the spines for it.

bill bannon said...

Your final paragraph may go too far with "heirs" etc. as paraphrase of " John Paul" ( did you mean Francis?). The only thing I'd note is that you avoided a verse from Christ that is way positive vis a vis the Isaiah quote and qualifies Isaiah in a new way. That phrase is
John 12:32 in the DRheims..." And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." The NAB reads, " And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." This is new from Christ. It is not happy clappy in a surface universalist sense but it is new...His being lifted up on the cross and then in the Ascencion draws all men to Himself in a new way which does not exclude them perishing...( millions of criminals perhaps have died throughout history attempting to
murder law enforcement...I find it hard to believe many of them reached purgatory through mental defect etc.). So unlike Von Balthasar e.g. I think many are in hell but Christ's new phrase means they resisted more grace of a type than Jezebel did at Jehu's time in the Old Testament. They resisted Christ Himself who is drawing e.g. even the Sinaloa cartel members to Him right now even though they may be ignoring Him right now by resisting all thoughts of escaping that life.
And finally....Popes are not constantly infallible despite Catholic media internet culture which heretically implies he is 24/7. This new Pope may have been sent by God to stop the posterior osculation which has attended the more reticent, scripted Popes...and which posterior osculation has been institutionalized by the last paragraph of the Profession of Faith which repeats the ever incomplete LG 25's " religious submission of mind and will" but without all LG's qualifications about repetition etc. Francis' two predecessors made papacy infallible de facto in many minds. We're back to Ignatius' " think with the Church" which Ignatius urged 28 years after Pope Leo X's affirmation of burning heretics under excommunication latae sententiae for dissenters in Exsurge condemned.
Ignatius would not repeat that unqualified pan infallibility now after Vatican I. No matter...Catholic culture will use it regardless.

bill bannon said...

Just saw the Manila quote from John Paul II in 1981 at Olsen link: " In the Holy Spirit, every individual and all people have become, through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, children of God, partakers in the divine nature and heirs to eternal life."
Weird and in line with real Catholicism saying Popes are seldom infallible de facto. Imagine the poor person who took the Profession of Faith and had to give that statement religious submission of mind and will. It reminds me of John Paul calling the death penalty " cruel" in 1999 in St. Louis...a death penalty that God gave in Gen.9:5-6 to both Jews and Gentiles BECAUSE the victim is made in the image of God ( verse 6).

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

There seems a deliberate equivocation in these statements, which have become boilerplate over the last few decades.

Take bill bannon's reproduction of JP2's quote:

"In the Holy Spirit, every individual and all people have become, through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, children of God, partakers in the divine nature and heirs to eternal life."

In my formation, the explanation for this type of statement would have been along the lines of baptismal graces, which are freely given but which infants are not yet capable of "accepting." In the dispensation of these sanctifying graces, one is redeemed.

That used to be it. Lately, of course, there has been great emphasis put on irregular baptism, of "blood," and of "desire." Baptism of desire, in particular, has been so attenuated in certain readings that it has come to mean not much of anything more than Bergoglio's expression of a vaporous "duty to do good."

Again, in my formation, doing good meant something specific: one has "a duty" to accept the gift of baptismal redemption through keeping the commandments and living in accordance with the gospel, and through importuning God in prayer -- perhaps 3525 rosaries? -- for actual graces to avoid the sins and temptations that we all, thanks to Adam's sin, are heir to.

But the tendency in such remarks as JP2's, and especially in Francis's, is to dumb this all down virtually to the level of protestant heresy. Is this entirely inadvertent on their part? Is it deliberate equivocation designed to attract protestant flies to the honey pot? Something else? Whatever the answer, it is a result of the Church's obsession with ecumenism, an obsession which grew out of the great council of the Age of Aquarius, and which has done and continues to do immeasurable harm.

Flannery O'Connor wrote a story where calamity is visited upon a social worker (named Sheppard) who ignores the needs of his own son out of a desire to "help" a rather nasty reform school delinquent. I believe something like that has happened to the Catholic Church in the past fifty years. The Church has in effect said to us, “ok, you’re all saints, now get out of here and do something good while I play patty cake with your separated brethren.”