The world and Catholicism have had over four years now of the See of St. Peter, occupied by a Jesuit (a first), and a “Francis” (also a first), and some aspects of it are beginning to emerge.
First, the Good News. Pope Francis has effected much needed streamlining of Vatican finances, making the offices of it more efficient, gotten rid of much of the cumbersome bureaucracy of the annulment process, solidified the Church’s relationship in friendship with both the Russian Orthodox Church , and the Kremlin, and opened the door to visiting China.
However — and it is a rather big “however” — there is to conservative Catholics a five-alarm-fire bell ringing in the night. Specifically, in his reign he has shown himself intent on rendering impotent the last vestiges of St. John-Paul II’s and Pope Benedict XVI’s passionate and countercultural vision of the Church, their adamant defense of the integrity of the marriage bond.
Instead, Pope Francis speaks of the arguable fact that “Islam is a religion of peace” despite empirical evidence to the contrary, and he has brutally attacked orthodox Poland as “A nation of xenophobes.”
He has also “floated”” the idea of women priests, and women deacons” despite in 1994, Pope John Paul definitively and Magisterially closed the issue. Further, to the delight of the liberal, lionizing media, Pope Francis has now been said to be “Revisiting ‘Humanae Vitae,’” Pope Paul VI’s encyclical forbidding contraception. This encyclical of summer 1968 restated traditional Catholic 2000-year-old teaching about the sacredness of the nuptial embrace. Many Catholics are therefore wondering what else may be “revisited?”
An excruciating example of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Amoris Laetitia” is that it strongly implies that divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics can approach the Eucharist, and this has caused a firestorm in the 1.3 billion flock. Four Cardinals wrote a respectful open letter to him asking for needed “clarification” because this implicit change radically overturns the blunt truth of Jesus Christ regarding the permanence of marriage. “Taking no Mulligans,” as it were.
There was no answer whatsoever from the pope. Hence confusion and ambiguity result as those asking are castigated for “Excessive legalistic rigor and no pastoral compassion.”
Therefore, reception of the Eucharist is for these Catholics forbidden in Poland, and allowed in Germany, forbidden in Cardinal Raymond Burke’s Malta, and allowed in Philadelphia; it’s up then to the individual to determine his “state of grace.” This is quite potentially an atomic or neutron bomb set to go off in the Church and maybe soon. Ambiguity shrouds moral choice instead of past existential clarity. The saving morality wedded to faith certainty is vaporized: one can define for oneself what is right or wrong in a casuistic and internal legerdemain which may indeed have posthumous consequences at the judgment we all must face.
For no pope, no cardinal, no council, no synod, can abrogate or nullify the Decalogue, nor the natural law, regardless of their “subjective good faith.” A door ajar is a door wide open.
And Catholic dogma and doctrine cannot be changed, though discipline like priestly celibacy or no meat on Fridays, etc., can be. But what we have in this potential “neutron bomb” impending is precisely schism, the same business which vitiates the moral integrity of many of the spiritual confessions of Protestantism — as many of their synods approve of abortion as if feminist pressure, popular referendum, or contemporary mores can make things wrong into right.
Pope Francis, as Peter’s successor, is accountable for our Catholic confusion, and he must forthrightly preach the truth of Christ, which in faith and behavior saves one from what the Old Testament calls the “second death,” and which Jesus, startling us, speaks as eternal Hell. For example, when did you EVER hear with firm clarity the pope condemning on American TV media, say, that abortion is universally a “mortal sin?” Or co-habitation? Or adultery? Or sodomy? Moreover, the Vatican does not bat an eye when one of Francis’ close advisors, Fr. James Martin SJ” recently published a book, “Building Bridges,” about “Reaching out to the LBGTQ Community” although nowhere does Fr. Martin ever suggest in any single sentence the truth of Catholicism as articulated in the Catechism, that “homosexual genital acts are those of grave depravity.” It’s a telling kind of book, equally telling as an omission.
Do we not need currently a Christian-Catholic renaissance of clerical, lay and papal calling a spade a “spade,” and not euphemistically an “agricultural implement?” Yet, I am in sales, while the Lord is in management, although two fundamental realities are massively, significantly present: 1) Who do we think we are? and 2) What have we incrementally become morally and ethically with our NO TRESPASSING sign casually or defiantly put out on out intimate lives?
For all Christians — and people of good-heart and good-faith — dearly need Christ’s RSVP, grace, and moral, saving Law and clarity regarding our real — not apparent — spiritual lives which undergird, enflesh, and vivify our morality and our love. The pope has his own soul to save as we all do, and will answer for it at the Judgment. Thus, in the last analysis, the Lord is
bringing to the human condition His Beloved Son, with Jesus’ saving sacrifice and
commensurate expectations of holy behavior, and just as Christ fought the enemy in the desert,
and upon the cross, this battle resounds fiercely in our own pitchy and resinous hearts.
Pope Francis’ task for the Catholic Church is to remedy this clerical and lay confusion which is
being originated from the “South,” and that is, ultimately, where it is headed. And we are the
stakes, intended to grasp the true and trueing GPS of Jesus Christ, and bravely go “Home.” The
clarity of faith, and the efficacy of what Christ brought means not just getting a man into
“Heaven,” but “Heaven” into a man or woman. Again, “Who do we think we’re dealing
with?” For we will someday find out before the One who cannot deceive. Nor be deceived.
Bill Hensleigh is a resident of Kalispell.