Pope Bashing {What it is... and isn't}

I've decided to add another 1000 words or so to the endless stream of digital blab in the latest papal plane drama. But I'll tell you three things I won't do:

1) I won't engage in personal attacks.
2) I won't try to interpret the Pope.
3) I won't pretend I'm not angry or confused.

The rest of the internet has those three covered pretty well. The most respectful thing that we can do when the Pope speaks is to take him at his word. He is not an infant or an idiot but a grown man and a prince of the Church. I read what he said. And then (in spite of the million internet column inches written by Catholics denying he meant what he said) I read a confirmation of his position (of his word and intent) by the official Vatican spokesman. There's nothing else to be said on that count. It is shocking. But it is done. (Unless, of course, there is a further clarification coming.)

That leaves us in a pretty uncomfortable place as Catholics but we've been here before throughout the centuries. Been awash in confusion. Been stuck with some pretty lame and corrupt leaders. Been confused by heresies and divided by schisms. We've more recently been rocked by the priestly abuse scandals and watched some of the most revered and notable names in the Church fall. And fall hard. Today's first world Catholics may be more sheltered than ever... but our circumstances are really not that different from our forebears in faith. 

We've got to face the facts... we've got a confusing Pope. That's the only descriptor I'm going to use because I don't understand his reasons so I can't address them further...

  • But I'm not going to defend what is not defensible.
  • And I'm not going to run reckless interference for what may be ignorance, error, ill-intent, or carelessness.
  • I'm not going to interpret the Pope according to my preferences and call it "respect."

To "bash" someone means to strike a damaging blow. You can accuse me of "pope bashing" but you'll be wrong. I won't attack him personally and I have no comment that can possibly be more damaging than his own reckless words spoken on a plane. 

Let me be clear... I love the man. He is my spiritual father and head of the universal Church. I love him like I love any priest. I look to him as the visible head of the Body of Christ. But...

We are not obligated as Catholics to defend the poor choices of a Pope when he has loose lips on a plane... but we are obligated to uphold the teachings of the Catholic faith. We worship Jesus Christ and follow the teachings of His Church. Consequently, we honor the holy office of pope. If the words of a pope on a plane and the teachings of the Church ever come into conflict, we DO know what to do:

Persist in charity. And hold fast to Truth.

We are not obligated to defend the indefensible even if it stings our pride. And it is not "pope bashing" to fight for the truths to which we have pledged our lives. Our identity is in Christ, not any man. Even the best of men.

We are not papal fangirls... we are Catholics.

When the Holy Father gave a strong indication that he would support contraception within marriage, I was shocked. I read and reread his words and no amount of interpreting by bloggers and Catholic media could set that confusion completely right. It was a bad scene all around and a lot of people just assumed that the Pope had to mean something else. Because... who's more Catholic than the Pope? He MUST mean something else because the alternative is... horrible. 

But when the official Vatican spokesman clarified the Holy Father's words and confirmed what on its face is a break with Church teaching? It's time to be very clear...

We do not serve the fashions of men. We serve Christ alone. 

Our Pope is not an imbecile. He is not naive. He is an adult man who knows what he's doing when he opens his mouth on a plane. We can at least give him that respect. And then we can give our God the ultimate respect by holding fast to the Truth, come hell, high water, or Father Lombardi. 

We say we want to be saints. But we too often forget what the saints endured. Most were not "culturally relevant." They were tortured, exiled, rejected, hated, spat upon, and scorned for defending the faith. Not just the BIG things of the faith... but all of it. They didn't always die or suffer for only dogmatic issues... but often for the minutiae of love. Because they knew Christ was at the center. 

"If we are 'out of our mind,' as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us..." {2 Corinthians 5:13-14}

Who do we think we are? Are we so holy that we can afford to let go even one small aspect of our Christ-identity? Do we decide which elements of doctrine can be changed or altered? Can we give that permission or make that allowance for others?

No. We aren't. We don't. We can't.

It is not "pope bashing" to be who we are made to be and speak out in defense of Truth for the sake of our souls, those around us, and those who lead us. 

The Holy Father owns (or at least has access to) a copy of the CatechismHumanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, and other relevant Church documents. Let's assume that he has read them and understands them. And then if he deviates, we must also assume that it is not we who have stopped being good Catholics... but he who has wandered off the reservation. I assume that is not the case here... and eagerly wait for a clarification of the clarification. That it has not already been done is surprising. And damaging. 

Now before anyone goes berserk in my combox, I'm going to say it again: I haven't judged the Pope. I don't hate him. I haven't interpreted him. I respect the Holy Office of the Pope. And I'm Catholic 'til the end. That means I'm not going anywhere. Which means if this kind of crazy is going to go on in the Church, neither will I be silent.

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we preached to you, let him be accursed." {St. Paul to the Galatians 1:8}

Hopefully, the Holy Father will set everything right today. He will affirm his unequivocal support and adherence to the teachings of the Church. He will distance himself from (and hopefully rebuke) Lombardi. And then... he will resolve to control his tongue and set firmer limits on media access. Phil Lawler said it well HERE.

The stakes are incredibly high. This is not a game or titillating blogger/media combox drama. Real souls are at stake. We need to get a hard grip on truth and wake each other up. If it means a little discomfort, so be it. 

Papa Francis... I love you. In the truest sense of the word. Which means I'm obliged to make some noise. 

Posted on February 20, 2016 and filed under Faith.