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Friday, April 20, 2018

Pope Thoughts, Continued

You know, I lost my father when I was young. Simultaneously, my experience of human fatherhood was not at all good. I will spare you the details. Let's just say that being in the Church--an intact family--is one of the greatest joys of my life. I experience that joy every time I see a priest. Perhaps you have had the luxury of taking the Church for granted. Perhaps you have had the blessing of an intact family of origin. In both cases, I have not.

I did not know I could love a person as much as I love Benedict XVI, both as pope, and now as Pope Emeritus. I was doing a Holy Hour at the moment he left the Chair of Peter. It was hard. The Blessed Trinity reminded me that the heavenly throne will not be abdicated. The time between popes is terrible; I hate it. In any case, as we used to say, "God is good, all the time."

And now, with Pope Francis, it's in his eyes, his face. That joy. It can only be the joy of the Holy Spirit. If I never read a word of him, it'd be alright if I could see that smile. Whenever I see him, it's there. There have been hard days, I'm sure. You'd never know it, though. If you think of him, and there are not warm feelings, something is wrong. Pray until you find them. This stands apart from anything that starts out, "I wish he had said..." or, "I wish he hadn't said..." We all have them; they're close to irrelevant here. Some people pray for the pope, but they are hate-praying. They're praying mad, or worried, or something else. God and the saints have power we just don't. You do realize that prayer is communion with Almighty God? Sovereign, all-powerful immovable God. Suffering may not cease, the job may not come, et cetera, but if I pray for an increase in charity, or fortitude, or any spiritual good thing, I will get it. If we had any idea the plutonium we are playing with, we'd pray bigger than we do. All of us. But, I tell you, I do begin to understand.

What do I think of Pope Francis? People ask me that sometimes. I have no idea how to answer. It's like asking me if I like my Dad. I realize for some of us that is a very imperfect analogy, and in that, I mourn. Still, the way some people ask it, I can tell Pope Francis isn't family for them like he is to me. I mourn for that, too.

I suppose one day, we could have a truly wicked pope, who brings scandal and shame to us continually, and maybe after the fact. Then it'd be harder to love. But what a luxury to be here now! What mercy has come to us! If we find love for our spiritual father difficult, the problem is us.

I have nothing to add. Read and take what is good. The joy of the Lord be with you.

The Pope Has Nothing To Prove

I will not tell you that every utterance is the greatest wisdom ever produced. I will not tell you that no criticism of the pope is ever acceptable. I will say that most people shouldn't and can't. If that bothers you, good. Do you realize that John Paul II is a saint? I'm not God, obviously, but there is a strong possibility that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI probably is as well. And besides that, arguably the greatest theologian you'll ever live to see. Do you want the job following those guys? It seems like some people do, and it's as silly as it sounds.

What a great gift the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to us! Don't let anyone ever tell you that nothing good came from the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, because that Catechism is its fruit. Those two magnificent popes made it their life's work implementing the Council, and taking us out into the world with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. You could spend the rest of your intellectual life reading those two guys, and it would not be a waste. Far from it! Read older things too, but the previous two popes as popes and as private theologians are top-notch.

Did you also know that we have older catechisms that are just as good today as the day they were written? The Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Council of Trent can educate and edify you as well. In short, if you need to know the faith once delivered, it's all there. Talk with your priest or a trusted spiritual director if you have questions, or even doubts.

My job as a member of the faithful in the Body of Christ is to listen and obey. Let me say that again: our job is to listen and obey. That sounds scary and undemocratic. Yeah, well, this ain't the United States Senate; it's the Church. Jesus is already King, and he left His Vicar here as well. The positions are filled. I'm so glad we didn't have Facebook and Twitter and cable during the "Babylonian Captivity" (one real Pope, two antipopes at the same time) or the Borgia popes! You think the printing press made the Reformation schism and heresies worse? Hoo boy! I'm thankful for St. Catherine of Siena, who told the successor of Peter to suck it up and get back to Rome, where he belonged. Now the only problem is, everyone thinks they are her.

If I'm being direct about it, I wouldn't watch EWTN (the global Catholic network) if I could, with the exception of the Holy Mass broadcast and other prayers. I don't care what Raymond Arroyo thinks about the state of the Church, or Pope Francis, or American politics. God love him. But it's really not my job to save the Church from itself, or to rebuke Pope Francis. My job is to listen and obey. That includes praying as well.

As long as we're being direct still, so-called "dubia" are used in the Church when there is an unsolvable confusion about a theological matter of great importance. As far as I know, it's never been used as a shot across the bow of the pope, so to speak, until now. If those four cardinals knew the teaching on marriage, they're not confused, and they didn't need to ask. How weak is our faith, if we need the Holy Father to feed us culture war scraps, just so we know the sky isn't falling? Just asking.

If I can't square something Pope Francis says with what I already know, I have the option to stick with what I do know, until it is made clear. I can stay silent and pray. I can humbly ask my pastor. I might even recognize the difference between a private opinion, and something else. The psalmist, whilst lamenting the apparent triumph of the wicked in the 73rd psalm, says in verse 15, "If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children." If you ask me why I don't have anything to say in criticism of the pope, I'm going to quote this verse. If this Catholic Church is the household of faith, we'd better get used to obeying the human father Jesus gave us. You know, my Dad was far from perfect. But what kind of son would I be, if I ran him down in public, in front of the watching world? In the name of truth-telling, let's say. My father was a good man; I'd be a horrible son, even if everything I said were true. We're living in the very Kingdom of God as the Body of Christ. Grace builds upon nature, and yet some Catholics treat the Vicar of Christ like a stranger. That's no way to live.