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Sunday, March 13, 2016

I Don't Criticize Pope Francis, Continued

I realize every time I see Dr. Bryan Cross interacting on the internet about some papal statement or document, whether I agree with Dr. Cross's analysis or not, there is a very good chance that I do not understand all the nuances of whatever has been said. That is to say, there are 3 things that go into apprehending whatever is being said: 1. The true teachings of the Catholic Church on any matter touching faith and morals (to which the universal catechism provides the most ready access for even the educated layperson) 2. The specific context into which the pope is speaking, and the purpose for which he has spoken and 3. The judgments of prudence which led to the pastoral decision to speak, rather than not.

I have a Master's degree in Catholic theology; if anyone should at least begin to say that he could speak intelligently in interpreting Pope Francis, it would be someone like me. The reality is this, however: I can't remember the last time I could say that I understood any one of the 3 areas well enough where my opinion matters. My subjective assessment of what I might have done or said isn't worth the metaphysical paper those feelings are printed on.

If the Holy Father asked me for a private meeting as a theologian, (which will never happen) and also for my opinion regarding his own statements on matters of consequence, I'd offer it. But a statement in public to John Q. Spotty Mass-Attender, or a Protestant, or an atheist, to the effect that defending the pope is getting difficult for you or me, is plain vanity. I myself have barely made a start on the first category, and I have zero access to the second, or the third, at any given moment. Thus, my hopes for what the Holy Father should say are worthless at best, and damaging at worst.

We would do well to recall all this more than we do, especially as pious listening is still obligated of me at each moment. For me, it was a great gift to present a talk on Laudato Si, because, in reading it in preparation, I was not thinking about untangling knots from an airplane press conference. I had the task of making that document accessible and understandable to Catholics. Nobody cares about what my ecology encyclical would say. Why do we tell people what our own encyclicals would say? Have you thought of it like this, before you launched a verbal broadside against the pope, and his alleged robotic defenders? Does it matter that much to you that your friends know you are an independent thinker?

Food for thought.

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