Well, kind of. You know my last post about Pope Francis? Our friend Crude (which, from what I’ve seen after reading him for a few months now, we seem to disagree on approximately one minor thing) was mentioned in this post in the blog Fide Cogit Actio. I don’t know the name of the person who writes it but I DO know that in the Catholic blogosphere it’s a moderately big name.
But more importantly, that post he mentioned by Crude? It was inspired by MY last post on Pope Francis. So a moderately big-named Catholic blogger ALMOST mentioned me! I’m going places.
Anyway, the article itself is pretty good. The writer is smart and should be taken seriously. He’s another one of those people who criticizes the interview. His longish opening section is best summarized thus:
The hard part is getting the Church’s wisdom out in as clear a way as possible amidst all that inevitable chatter. Unfortunately, Francis made the easy part much harder than he should have, and now it falls to the laity to play whack-a-mole with the secular retorts that will probably echo for weeks to come.
But this is akin to saying, “Don’t speak”. Either he says something and is a sexist homophobic women-hating bigot, or he is what he is now. Let’s not pretend that there’s anything he could have said that the media wouldn’t have spun. I mean, I feel in some ways that, like Crude touched on a bit, since a lot of these conservatives were the ones being targeted they’re almost “playing dumb” with certain phrases that honestly should be really obvious to people.
But anyway, that’s conjecture, not a real argument. Here’s more. There’s a lot here but for context it’s pretty necessary, so bear with me:
The Holy Father said:
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
What’s my reaction not only to the Pope’s words here but also to people’s reactions to them?
“The words ‘false dichotomy’ have been ringing in my head since ‘the interview’. They’re ringing even more loudly now.”
A solution to my nonplus suggested by a friend?
“The real dichotomy is not between Jesus and the rules, but between talking about the latter without a clear foundation in the former. … In today’s post-Christian, post-modern culture, talking about natural law to people who don’t even know the kerygma or have a personal relationship with Jesus is exquisitely counterproductive.”
I firmly agree, but, again, what keeps nagging at me is how the opposition between the kerygma and the moral law that the Holy Father discussed in “the interview” seems to have come out of nowhere. I have no concrete idea what he is talking about. Granted, pro-life atheists might be a good example of people that have truncated the/a moral law from its home in the Gospel, but I’m truly baffled by the idea that Francis apparently holds that “the Church” has done the same. Ours is the Gospel of Life, and everyone knows that, which is why both enemies of the Gospel spit upon the moral teaching of the Church and enemies of the good (life) execrate moral truth as merely Catholic propaganda in disguise.
I actually think this is one of Pope Francis’s more astute sections of the interview. I completely disagree that the opposition between kerygma and moral law came out of nowhere. Pope Francis is pointing out what I see as a painfully obvious problem. The conservative and liberal ends of the Church are fundamentally split not just in what they teach but in how they get out their message. The right-wing end of the Church is really frustrated that the left wing end became the “popular kid”, and so they’re acting really angry about it. Blaming the media for misrepresenting us and writing lots of blog posts about our problems is fun and all, but it just hasn’t been helping all that much.
So when Pope Francis talks about an opposition between kerygma, evangelization, and moral law he is saying yes, let’s take a page out of the liberals’ playbook. Let’s talk first about the joy of Christ and the importance of conversion and of the golden rule, and THEN let’s get into the nitty-gritty on abortion and gay marriage. In the end, even abortion is secondary to the spiritual mission of winning souls.
I think what frustrates people too is that the Church has a whole IS frighteningly liberal, and they look at Francis’s call as a call to liberalize. In actuality I think Francis is trying to tell the orthodox, conservative end of the Church that if they want to keep up they better project a more positive image.
This all boils back down to “Evangelization Without Compromise”, what I think is the core of Pope Francis’s message. Switch the focus on the conservative end of the Church from the preaching of Hell to the preaching of forgiveness, but do it without compromising your teachings on Hell. We must become more positive without becoming less honest.
I’ll drive my point home a little more. This section from the Holy Father’s interview:
The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
…Goes almost precisely to the heart of what I was saying. Boil the Gospel down to its essentials, which consist of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection. That is the point where the Gospel is a its most profound and, to use his word, “radiant”. The moral consequences of becoming a Christian will be made clear once the Holy Spirit moves somebody to make the commitment.
More from the blog post:
Those defections [He is referring here to a relatively new tendency for South Americans to defect from Catholicism to Pentecostalism], however, are based on a lie, or at least on a misperception that is as perfidious as it is prevalent, namely, that you can be a legalistic Christian (i.e. Catholic) or a passionate Christian. Francis notes how the moral consequences “flow” from the kerygma, but, as I think is painfully obvious, that otherwise traditional idea was lost amidst a tangled heap of caveats and, more to the point, amounts to an explicit endorsement of the Pentecostal misperception that a clash between moral law and the Good News is, and long has been, the de facto reality in the Catholic Church.
There are, in my mind, a lot of problems with this section. To wit:
- The fact that they’re based on a misconception is the whole point. Pope Francis wants us to end that misconception. Let’s shock the world by being passionate AND orthodox.
- It occurs to me, and probably Pope Francis too, that there might be a REASON besides “They’re lying!” that Pentecostalism is winning over converts. They wouldn’t NEED to fill a hole for that more passionate Christianity if Catholicism was, you know, passionate. Obviously there’s a disconnect there that the Holy Father wants to address.
Even while researching fot this post, I came across comments that “this pope” really “gets the [contemporary] culture” and that he is finally moving along with the whole Church in the right direction, towards the lost. In case you didn’t know, such sentiments are just code words for how Protestants and non-believers endorse a less strict, less articulate, less Catholic Pope.
And there’s, I think, where the huge hole in the argument is exposed. This entire lengthy article is boiled down to this fear, and I think its ultimately self-contradictory. On one hand, the Pope is being really misrepresented by the media and, you know, Protestants, and shouldn’t speak. On the other hand, he also shouldn’t change the way the Church has been doing things at all because apparently things were going fine before he showed up? Or something. Whatever way you slice it, it’s not true. The Western Church is losing numbers and the eastern Church finds itself growing in an extremely hostile environment. Something needs to change, and now that Pope Francis is finally giving some idea of how to actually do it people are terrified that the Church will become even more liberal.
I’m not going to quote more, but I see even more of a tendency for conservatives to be rather incredulous that Pope Francis really know the full impact of what he’s doing. That, I don’t buy. The man is nobody’s fool. He even takes a moment in the interview to respond to the criticisms from precisely these corners. What you see is what you get – a Pope telling the orthodox end of the Church to preach like liberals and teach like conservatives.
We need to man up and take Pope Francis’s challenge. Want a more conservative Church? Then preach to the people, don’t focus expressly on issues like abortion or gay marriage, but don’t compromise. It’s just as cowardly to compromise your morals when you’re preaching as it is not to preach at all. And THAT is my takeaway from Pope Francis.
EDIT: PLEASE, please, please read Crude’s and Maura’s comments following the article. This has happened to me several times now, but they say everything I could ever want to better than I can. Maura’s talk about Francis’s audience is particularly insightful.