Christopher A. Ferrara
Another day. Another off-the-cuff remark by Pope Francis. Another rhetorical blunder that undermines sound teaching.
Last week, in his general audience address, the Pope rightly reminded the faithful of the spiritual work of mercy of visiting the imprisoned only to make yet another mess of things with yet another of his impetuous departures from prepared texts. To quote from the Italian original on the Vatican website (translation mine, there being no official English translation), the Pope said this about those who are in prison:
But each of us is capable… Listen well to this: each of us is capable of doing the same thing as that man or that woman in prison. We all have the capacity to sin and do the same, to make a mistake in life. He [the one in prison] is no worse than you or me! Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier, and brings us to look always for the face of the man, the person. And it is mercy that changes hearts and lives, that can regenerate a person and allow him to integrate himself in a new way in society.
Antonio Socci is one of the most prominent Catholic voices in Italy, a journalist, author, commentator, and public intellectual of the first rank. I had the privilege of translating from the Italian his groundbreaking work Fourth Secret of Fatima in which he recounts how had he set out to disprove the existence of a suppressed text of the Third Secret only to become firmly convinced that such a text not only exists but is “well hidden” in the Vatican.
Socci is not a traditionalist. He is a Catholic of the “mainstream” who is nonetheless a supporter of the restoration of the Latin Mass. Indeed, Socci was full of praise for Pope Francis at the beginning of his pontificate. And so was I. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at what I wrote here and here in the immediate aftermath of the conclave.)
One commenter concerning my last blog post expressed dismay that The Remnant engages in so much criticism of the pronouncements of Pope Francis. But when a Pope who obdurately insists on improvising his homilies says one thing after another that any well-catechized ten-year old can see is wrong or highly dubious, every Catholic in a position to do so has an obligation to object.
Thus, when Francis—speaking, as always, off-the-cuff—says that Mary might have felt deceived by God, that Christ only pretended to be angry with His disciples, that Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for their rigorist view of the marriage bond rather than their lax view of it, that Matthew clung to his money instead of following Our Lord’s call immediately, and that Jesus “had” a “Christian identity” when He was Christ Himself and the Word Incarnate, we cannot be silent lest our silence be viewed as consent. Just as John XXII (r. 1316-1334) met a firestorm of public opposition to his erring sermons denying the immediacy of the beatific vision, so must any modern Pope encounter loyal opposition when his erring opinions are instantly broadcast to the whole world.
It seems that not a day passes without Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff homilies and remarks producing a theological embarrassment: Mary “perhaps” felt tricked by God when she saw Her son on the Cross (“Lies! I was cheated!”), Christ merely pretended to be angry with this disciples (“Jesus does not become angry, but pretends to”), Matthew clung to his money when Christ called him (“No, not me! No, this money is mine!”), rather than immediately heeding Our Lord’s call as the Gospel records (Matt. 9:9-13)—and so on and so forth, day in and day out.
Just yesterday Francis, resuming his morning Masses at Casa Santa Marta, opined in yet another improvised homily that “The authority of Jesus—and the authority of the Christian—comes from this ability to understand the things of the Spirit, to speak the language of the Spirit. It is from this anointing of the Holy Spirit.”
Karl Keating is alarmed. “That way madness lies,” shouts the title of one of his recent Facebook posts in a borrowing from King Lear.
What madness does Keating have in view? Could it be the madness at work in the “destruction of the Roman Rite” (Monsignor Gamber) or the “continuing of process of decay” (Cardinal Ratzinger) that has afflicted the Church since Vatican II? Could it be the madness at work in Cardinal Kasper’s insane proposal, praised by Pope Francis, to admit divorced and “remarried” Catholics to Holy Communion in defiance of the constant teaching of the Church, affirmed by John Paul II, that couples in such adulterous unions must commit to continence? Or could it be the madness that has swept the Church at large over the past fifty years, breeding homosexual predators in the priesthood, the “collapse of the liturgy (Cardinal Ratzinger), “silent apostasy” (John Paul II) and “diabolical disorientation” (Sister Lucia of Fatima) among the hierarchy.
Fox News Latino reports before the God he himself has just made present on the altar during Mass, even though his Master of Ceremonies and all the altar servers do so).
God Incarnate to His disciples:
“Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
Pope Francis to the Asian bishops:
“And so, with my identity and my empathy, my openness, I walk with the other. I don’t try to make him come over to me, I don’t proselytize.”
In departing for Seoul, Pope Francis flew in a personal helicopter to a chartered jet embossed with a Vatican logo for the trip. During the flight an Alitalia crew provided first-class treatment to the Pope, who occupied “the first seat in business class with no one next to him,” and his large entourage. The service included a four-course Italian dinner: sparkling wine and salsiccie (diced sausage and olives), fresh cannelloni with ricotta cheese, rocket salad, Italian prosciutto ham and cantaloupe, and “a hearty beef stew.” On arrival, the Pope walked down a long, red-carpeted airstair, and then a red carpet that appeared to be at least 200-feet-long, at the end of which he was greeted by leading South Korean dignitaries.
■ First they came for the Roman Rite, which they destroyed. Then they came for the Church Militant, which they disarmed and surrendered to the spirit of the age. Now, at the Synod, which threatens to become Vatican II rebooted, progressivist bishops and their apparatchiks will be coming for the moral law itself under the guise of a search for “pastoral solutions” to “challenges facing the family”
The Return of Vatican II Fever
The symptoms are unmistakable: after a period of relative remission during the years of Pope Benedict’s mysteriously self-terminated reign, the postconciliar “process of decay” remarked by the former Cardinal Ratzinger has resumed with a vengeance, like a rebound infection after an incomplete course of antibiotics. The progressivist priests and prelates who are the disease-causing agents of Vatican II Fever are now running amok throughout the ecclesiastical bloodstream. They have been let loose by a Pope who is so fond of publicly staged “surprises,” all tending to the diminution of traditional Roman Catholicism, that Respice in Me (look at me) could serve as the motto of this pontificate.
As we see our Pope high-fiving a Protestant televangelist and prescribing ten rules for right living that Oprah would applaud, not one of which has anything to do with the Catholic Faith or eternal life, we realize that the embarrassing comedy of this papacy is not going to end. Indeed, it appears that Francis is just getting warmed up and that we may be dealing with a bottomless bag of tricks.
Someone whose vocation or avocation is commenting on Church affairs has three ways to approach this unprecedented situation: First, simply ignore Francis entirely while bashing the bishops for following his lead. This appears to be the neo-Catholics’ prescription in keeping with their historical role as enablers of the post-conciliar revolution, which is clearly entering a new and probably terminal phase. Second, raise an objection every time Francis says or does something objectionable, which would be almost every day. (As one wag put it: “If he doesn’t talk he’s not a bad Pope.”) Third, limit one’s objections to papal stunts that have serious theological implications as opposed to being merely ridiculous.
While Francis perplexes faithful Catholics and delights the world almost daily by saying and doing whatever occurs to him as a good idea, a surprising voice in defense of sound orthodoxy has emerged in the midst of the vast confusion this Pope is causing: Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In a book-length interview just published in Spain, Italy, and the United States, Müller has resoundingly reaffirmed his opposition to Cardinal Kasper’s evil proposal to admit a supposedly small number of divorced and “remarried” Catholics to Holy Communion without any commitment to end their adulterous relations. Recall that this blatant attack on the indissolubility of marriage was part of Kasper’s address to the “Extraordinary Consistory on the Family” back in February, and that Francis praised the address as “beautiful and profound.” Recall also that Kasper, with no objection from Francis, is now being identified as “the Pope’s theologian.” Indeed, Francis made it a point to praise Kasper as “a talented theologian, a good theologian” on no less an occasion than his first Angelus address as Pope.