Friday, October 04, 2013

Pope Francis –What Did You Mean Exactly?

Dr. Monica M. Miller

Another interview with Pope Francis appeared in the Oct. 1, 2013 online edition of the Italian journal Repubblica.  The link is below. Again, the Holy Father, similar to the America magazine interview, has much good to say. But those statements are mixed in with statements that are ambiguous and thus subject to exploitation and misuse by those who do not accept the teaching of Christ.

Here are the troubling quotes from the latest media saga involving Pope Francis:

1) “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.”... Youth unemployment is:  "the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."  Why Francis made such a statement is perplexing. I can think of at least 20 other more dire problems than these two—and yes, legalized abortion is certainly near—if not at the top of the list.

2) "Heads of the Church have often been narcissists"--etc.  Who does Francis actually have in mind here? Recent popes?  Or is he drudging up the Borgias?  It’s difficult to know who or what he is referring to in this statement.

3) "The Church should go back to being a community of God's people."   When did she cease being this exactly?   Just because the Vatican has its problems doesn't mean Christ's Church has stopped being "the community of God's people.”

4) "Proselytism is solemn nonsense."   Here there is no distinction between evangelization and improper proselytizing that does not respect the rights of persons-- and the Church's mission is not ultimately a matter of let’s "listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us." 

5)   We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good" and "Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight the evil as he conceives them."   Francis's articulation of conscience exhibits a lack of moral theological precision. The statements sound like moral subjectivism and even a kind of relativism. It is true that, in terms of “autonomy, the Church affirms that even an erroneous conscience must be followed. However, it would have helped enormously if the pope had explained that human beings have a duty to form their conscience according to objective truths and goods so that they can choose what is truly consistent with human life and dignity. They are not just to follow their own personal lights--maybe though acting in "good faith.” But even in “good faith” many people mistake evil for good.

6) "Jesuits are still the leavening...perhaps the most effective-- of Catholicism, culture, teaching, missionary work, loyalty to the Pope."   Someone needs to inform Francis that not too many Jesuits these days are "loyal to the Pope" and if the Society of Jesus-- known primarily as a heterodox force in the post Vatican II Church, is the most important "leavening" agent-- the Church is in big trouble.

7) "We need to include the excluded."  Yes-- true! But what does this mean exactly and who are they?  Who exactly are being “excluded”? Perhaps he means by "include",   a la Vatican II, dialogue with non-believers as he went on to say one sentence later. 

8) When asked if: "'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' has happened?"  Francis said: "Unfortunately, no." What is the pope saying-- exactly-- that the Church has never practiced this-- that the Church has failed in this practice since her beginning? Who does he have in mind here? Maybe he means generally speaking--the world does not practice this?  This may be true but again ambiguity is a problem. 

9) When the reporter claimed that the “institution [of the Church] dominates the poor.”-- Francis said "In fact that is the way it is."  It sounds like the pope agrees that Christ's Church oppresses the poor? Francis should have pointed out that the Church everywhere and in all ages has been and is the chief defender of the poor--- and then perhaps point out that there have been instances of corruption, etc? 

10) Francis indicated that with his papacy: "This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal."   The Church has never neglected the horizontal aspect of her being. But what exactly does Francis mean here-- a democratization of Catholicism? Many will read it this way-- and maybe (because of ambiguity) that's what he meant to say.

11) "I believe in God, not in a Catholic God."  In a sense this is a completely proper statement. However in another real sense a Catholic can say that they do believe in a "Catholic God"--namely the God who has shown himself to his people, the God taught by the Church and served by the Church and the very God who directly founded her existence though the shedding of His blood for her. This may be called the "Catholic" God. After all, that non-Catholic God founded he Catholic Church.

12) "Our species will end, but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will be in everyone."  This may be the most theologically off statement in the whole interview.  First of all, "our species" namely the "human race" will not end. Yes, the world as we know it will end, that’s Christian teaching. But God created people and they live forever. The human "species" doesn't end. Furthermore we are not just a bunch of disembodied souls that will be “invaded” by the light of God that “will not end” and "it (God's light) will all be in everyone." 

God does not invade all souls. He doesn't invade anyone. God must be accepted freely and there's no way that Francis can say God's light will just be in "everyone at the end." I mean, we hope that's the case-- pray for this to be the case--work for this to be the case!  But he makes it sound like this will happen to everyone no matter what, apparently even in souls that don't want him. 

This view of the spiritual life is unhinged from the Catholic spiritual/ theological heritage. There isn't even a Christian vocabulary here upon which to stand. The statement is just flying out-there in some new age cosmos. If God will “invade” all souls in the end, the Church can stop evangelizing. Apparently there is no need.  In the meantime we can all be obsessed with that youth unemployment problem.

Ok-- here's the good stuff-- Francis is obviously a great and holy man and before this atheist reporter he affirmed the existence of God as Father, the existence of the soul, man’s need for grace and that the Church is feminine. Let us humbly pray for Pope Francis.

Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph. D.-Director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Madonna University, Michigan. The foregoing article is posted by permission of the author.


JM said...

Ms. Miller is ver helpful. And respectful. But all rhetorical points aside, if the Pope does not believe in a Catholic God, let's just bulldozer the Catholic Church. "Holy Father, are you Catholic?" "Well, I don't believe in a Catholic God, if that is what you are asking." And his comment on the JEsuits reveals that Argentina and Antartica are apparently parallel in terms of cutlural isolation. A clueless comment for anyone familiar with Europe, America, OR Latin America. You know, Geo Bush was a Very Nice Guy as well (look at African charity work!), and no one hesitated to point out when he sounded like a Dope.

Conrad J. Noll said...

A Google alert on the word "Pope" brought me here, other-wise I doubt I would ever have stumbled across your blog.

I know a few folks who think like you. I don't meet many but I always feel a little uneasy when I do.

I know you will likely not allow this comment to post. That's OK.

I'm sure those, who, in the post 9/11 world, find belief in supernatural entities, souls and such, disturbing, make you uneasy too.

I'm not sure how we bridge this divide we exist in essentially different realities.

Pertinacious Papist said...

"I know a few folks who think like you."

Amazing that we still exist, isn't it. We don't quite seem to fit into the modern world in the "sanitized" image of it conveyed by the secularized media. We look may seem like antedeluvian troglodytes.

The first thing I'd say is that your outlook conforms to that of most of your averagely well-educated contemporaries today, and that it is the product of your environment.

The second thing I'd say is that you can never be too careful of what you read, since reading may carry you outside the box, as it did for a well-known atheist Oxford don who made the mistake of reading too widely and found himself dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom of God, the most reluctant convert in all of England.

The third thing I'd say is that your comment reminds me of the remarks of E.F. Schumacher in the opening pages of his book, A Guide for the Perplexed. There he talks about standing in Moscow's Red Square across form a church (before the Soviet Union fell), and being unable to find the church on his map. Finally a passerby told him that only the churches that had been converted into museums were shown on the tourist maps, not "living" churches.

Schumacher concluded his thought by declaring that this is exactly the image of contemporary education: the maps it provides leave off huge tracts of land, anything that fails to conform to the template of secular, empirical, naturalism. Hence, all the references to "living" religion, to God, to objective right and wrong, to actual prayer, etc., are omitted from the maps we've been given. Questions about how to build a better mouse-trap are considered manageable, but questions about the meaning of life, the point of suffering, etc., are considered meaningless and unanswerable.

Kind regards, PP

RP said...

"Ok-- here's the good stuff-- Francis is obviously a great and holy man".

This is on a par with the nonsense Miller pointed out in the interview of Pope Francis.

It's not obvious he is either.