Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pope Francis Criticizes Emphasis on Doctrinal Orthodoxy and Morals

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “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.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “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.”
Read the rest here.

Oh my... this is going to cause a serious firestorm in the blogosphere. And yes, I do find this disturbing. I really hope the Pope has been grossly and maliciously misquoted. Please take a deep breath before commenting.

P.S. For the record, the full interview can be read here. The NY Times, not surprisingly, is focusing on a very small part.


pretoro100 said...

Thanks be to God for a wonderful Holy Father who tells it like it is.

Dave Halt said...

Having read the 12,000 word interview, I am not surprised the the Old Grey Lady of Failing Readership has significantly misunderstood the interview.

Pope Francis explicitly comes down on the side of Church teaching, but argues that making moral purity the first cause of salvation is not the Gospel.

It really is a beautiful and orthodox interview.

Note to the NYT, the Pope is still Roman Catholic.

William Tighe said...

See also:

I tend to take these sort of articles as "media hype" to a large extent. So desperately do they desire "a liberal pope" that all of what he says is exegeted, or distorted, to serve that "spin."

Ordo Antiquus said...

To the first three commenters: nice try. There is liberal spin, but there is also conservative spin. This Pope is obviously unhappy with what the Church has been doing so far on homosexuality and abortion and notably omits the hard sayings of the Church in favor of an approach that is all sugar and sympathy. He can't change the teachings, and he knows that more than most, but henceforth anyone who tries to speak stridently on these matters will face the accusation that he is not taking Pope Francis' words to heart.

Pope Francis has just made it toxic for faithful Catholics to continue speaking out stridently against gays and abortion.

I think that with this interview, the torch of opposition to the "culture of death" has now passed from Rome to the Patriarchate of Moscow.

George CS said...

I totally agree with your words Ordo Antiquus, but I think this is just a temporary setback.

I think the demographics favor the conservatives, even the Latin mass-ers.

For now, we just have to wait it out for the Vatican II crowd to sail off into the sunset with their guitar masses, altar girls and eucharistic ministers.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I think you are seriously underestimating the damage this Pope can do in five years. As but one example consider that he appoints all of the bishops of the Latin Rite as well as the Roman Curia. Clearly the College of Cardinals was not as conservative as many thought since they just elected this man. I can only imagine what the College of Cardinal Electors will look like in five years.

Anonymous said...

If I may offer a dissenting view, my reading of the interview is that Pope Francis is actually saying something extremely important about the context of Christian ethical teaching, and is actually moving Catholicism closer to Orthodoxy.

Ultimately the focus of the Church is on Christ and His redemptive work for us, and on how we come to participate in His life. Ethical teachings are very important in that, but taken apart from the Gospel proclamation and the rest of the Christian faith, Christian ethics can indeed sound to the world like a bunch of legalistic rules. Worse yet, too many Christians fall into the trap of presenting the faith from that distorted viewpoint in reaction to the world.

My reading is that Pope Francis is simply trying to more firmly locate Christian ethics in the context of the Gospel. Nothing I've read suggests he's trying to change anything except emphasis.

And frankly the Orthodox have been complaining about Roman legalism for centuries. Pope Francis seems to actually be taking that seriously. Perhaps it will lead to more guitars and clown Masses, sadly. But I don't fault him for trying to shift the emphasis to that which is truly most important - love for God, and love for neighbor.

George CS said...

You have a point there. Sad situation. I hope someone like Pope Benedict sneaks in then.
As for me, it's hard to watch this happen as a cradle Catholic. But I'm glad I found the Orthodox Church. A new and true home for this weary Christian.

sjgmore said...

There's a sort of Catholic who tries to turn each Pope into some kind of all-wise, all-good, all-loving type of character who can do no wrong in this life. Thankfully, I'm not such a Catholic.

My frank evaluation of Francis is that he may be a genuinely holy man, but he's something of an idiot and a poor leader for the church. I think his great public reception and reputation is a classic example of extraversion bias. People like Benedict, a true-blooded introvert, are often casually dismissed as haughty, out-of-touch, insensitive, aloof, etc., no matter how kindly or compassionate or nuanced or intelligent their thinking and behavior are. Extraverts like Francis are lauded and magnified and beloved for their humor, goodwill, likability, etc., even if they are shallow and incompetent.

It's not that Francis is totally incompetent and shallow, but everything about him compares unfavorably with someone *deserving* of the level of responsibility he has been entrusted with. He talks about humility then makes everything about *his* personality, *his* vision for the Church, *his* priorities for the faith, and this is only the most obvious contradiction between Francis's public persona and his real personality.

Not that I want to turn this into a Benedict vs. Francis thing, but since that seems to be a lot of the media's agenda, I'd just like to highlight the difference between a truly deep-thinking and compassionate Pope whose vision of the Church is expansive and revolutionary, and one who glibly tosses out pietistic catchphrases.

Peter Seewald, who published several book-length interviews with Joseph Ratzinger, reported how Ratzinger would often pause after a question, step away to pray and reflect silently, then come back with a thorough answer. But when Seewald asked, "How many paths are there to God?" Ratzinger instantly and succinctly responded: "As many as there are people."

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in this bloated and meandering interview, was asked, "How do you seek and find God in all things?" (the closest question I could find to the Seewald quote), he responded with about 300 words, including this philosophical gem: "God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes. We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes."

The man is patently an imbecile. God help us Catholics... the conclave's stated goal was to elect someone who would "reform the Curia", but, Deo volente, this is one Pope the Curia *should* swiftly and easily render a lame duck. Though, unfortunately, I suspect they'll rather make good of him as a useful idiot, beamishly following his most far-out and vapid blueprints to distract him while stealthily putting into action their own malicious agenda.

sjgmore said...

Sorry for the rant... :/

sjgmore said...

One last comment, and then I'll leave it alone. I want to point out that when I call him "patently an imbecile," I do in fact understand what Francis is getting at sometimes and the points aren't bad.

For example, in the quote I pulled from him, here's more or less what I think he meant to say:

"God is an active participant in the processes of history. One such process, for example, would be caring for the poor. But these processes become rigid and crystallize into power structures, like the Vatican Bank, say. But we have to find God in the process itself, not in the power structure."

Which is a perfectly reasonable and even praiseworthy sentiment. (Notice that I had to reformulate it to be specific and concrete in order to make sense of it, however. For all his reputation of being "plainspoken" and "accessible", his statements can be grossly indirect, political, and obtuse.)

But the reason I think he must be half-witted, or, worse, disingenuous, is this:

Either 1) he doesn't have the ability to clearly and decisively articulate an actual idea or purpose, which is a major shortcoming in someone with such a monumental leadership task before him, or 2) he *can* clearly and decisively articulate things, but he obfuscates and cloaks his agenda behind gobbledygook so as to act without the knowledge and consent of the Church at large.

Neither inspires much confidence in me.

Archimandrite Gregory said...

To classify Francis as an idiot is, in my view, a statement rendered by a moron. Now enough of name calling! Francis is a Jesuit through and through. He is in the same class as an earlier period of French Jesuits proir to the Revolution who did battle with the so called Jansenists and Port Royalists of that time. The parallels are striking. Both sides show forth an element of the truth as many sided facets of a jewel,or being the opposite sides of the same coin. Name calling and misrepresentation toook place on both sides, and thus the matter was never really resolved adequately. Perhaps today we can revisit the essential issue of mercy toward the sinful person and the admonishment of sinners. This seems to me to be the crux of the matter.

sjgmore said...

Well, and this is the last comment I'll make on the subject since I don't want to hijack John's comments section, it's typical that I gave several examples of exactly what and why I find ugly and distasteful about the man's papacy, but someone fixates on the fact that I used harsh language and addresses none of the criticism.

Everyone from every corner of the Church and society at large trying to grapple with just *understanding* the Pope and what the hell he believes and supports, but I never see *criticism* of the guy. He's the Obama of the Papacy... a cipher whose personality cult followers hold him to be *above reproach*.

People have turned Francis into a sort of Rorschach where they find what they want to see, and out of misguided deference for his office, they never discuss the serious drawbacks and flaws of the way he exercises his authority. I feel I wouldn't have to write so exuberantly if *anyone* outside of the Catholic far-far-right would touch the man's shortcomings.

I think there should be a real discussion and debate about this emperor's new clothes, so to speak. But I know I won't get anywhere by ranting in the combox of a personal Orthodox-themed blog, so sorry for turning this into my little soapbox.

As for me being a "moron" for calling the pope an "idiot"... Pope St. Celestine V isn't in hell, but no one ever called Dante a "moron" for suggesting it.