7 January 2016


I feel distinctly sorry for our beloved Holy Father, who is subject to much criticism for a Holy Family homily in which he appeared to some readers to suggest that the Incarnate Word was a naughty boy. I think I know what he was driving at. The Holy Family are easily perceived as remote and stylised static figures in stained glass, or as faded and peeling plaster statues in a cheap Victorian Gothic reredos. The pope wanted to bring them down out of all that and to inject some vividness into them and to relate them to the experienced realities of ordinary family life ... so as to enable ordinary families to relate to the Holy Family. That is a very admirable motive and does enormous credit to his great pastoral heart.

Unfortunately, however, words do have meanings.

In terms of biblical exegesis, I have grave doubts about Papa Bergoglio's analysis. The Lucan pericope of the Finding in the Temple seems to me another (albeit brief) example of a very common literary pattern in the Gospels: a topic or a dispute is raised; there are questions and answers; and the Logos Sesarkomenos delivers a final and authoritative judgement. Francis' exegesis, therefore, seems to me to be based on a genre error.

But are the Sovereign Pontiff's words Nestorian? I refer you to the analysis offered by Father Zed. In a rather striking coincidence, Professor de Mattei (on Rorate) had just published a paper on a heretic pope, Honorius, who did have to be anathematised by a Ecumenical Council and by his own successors in the See of Rome. See my post of three or four days ago.

I would add one point: I think the Holy Father's words prima facie also risk undermining the doctrine of the sinlessness of the Man who is also the Second Person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity; who is "like us in all things except for sin". Good heavens, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has gone to enormous lengths for centuries to refine and formulate her doctrinal belief in the Sinlessness of Blessed Mary. She has not taken so much trouble just so as render the Sinlessness of our Lord and God Himself an irrelevant and disposable minor detail!

Early in this pontificate I expressed a view that the Roman Pontiff ought not to make public statements ... especially statements broadcast Orbi as well as Urbi in a variety of languages through the Vatican Information Services ... without those statements having been checked through by the competent organs of his Curia. That is what they are for. Leo X may have said "Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it". But he is usually criticised for entertaining such a sentiment. And exactly the same error would be imputable to a pope who in any way used his august Office so as to minister to his own idiosyncasies, his personal whimsies. The Roman Pontiff is not an individual, or certainly not an individual like any other. He is the living voice of the Petrine Tradition of his See; of the pontiffs and councils who have for two millennia transmitted and guarded and laid out the sound doctrine handed down from the Apostles*. Pope Francis' conduct, I anxiously feel, might undermine the authority of his Office.

If he talks like this today, how can I read what he may say tomorrow in the practical and humble moral certainty that his words are sent to me as from God for my edification and sanctification?

*Neque enim Petri successoribus Spiritus Sanctus promissus est, ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, sed ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent.


Tony V said...

The only way to square this circle is to conclude that being a Naughty Boy is not a Sin.

And if children find out about that, then pity the poor parents.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Watching "The McLaughlin Group's" recent round up of the year, Francis was given an honourable mention for presumably turning around the perception of the Church in the USA. This latter being the guardians of orthodoxy and discourse. Riding around Washington in a FIAT was particularly well received.

The Church need only know its place in the grand scheme of things in this, the "American Century" part deux, in order to garner a favourable review. Francis would appear to understand this better than his German predecessor. Indeed, one of the comical elements of a Bishop Barron video was a review of a B16 encyclical in which Barron claimed that passages (which might be deemed critical of the American project) were not in fact, written by Pope Benedict.

The greatest achievement of the papacy in recent decades has been the decision of Pope Benedict to resign and finally start living like a Benedictine. His lectures, books and interviews were no less a problem than the errors being highlighted in the original post of his successor.

Benedict's example is in line with MacIntyre's "After Virture" and represents our own future. In fact, it represents our present if we could get more honest with ourselves notwithstanding the attractions of riding around Washington in a FIAT of course.

Matthew Roth said...

Well, the video message that accompanies the papal prayer intention for January 2016 has been released, and it is...difficult to explain it, shall we say...

Woody said...

In a simple layman's opinion, I stopped listening to Pope Francis 7 months ago. I found it was the only way to keep me from sliding into sin for angered thoughts toward him. As Bergoglio the priest, I would not attend a Mass he would say. As a pastor, I would not go to his parish. However, he is the Pope and there is no where I can go to avoid him as such. I do pray for him. I respect his office. However, as too often is the case, one must "square too many circles" in order to establish the "hermeneutic of continuity" for his statements. I just don't care anymore. But, I do thank you for your attempts to "clarify" his opinions. You are a blessing.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, my take on the mystery of the finding of Our Lord in the Temple is not that Jesus was "asserting his independence" from Our Lady in some sort of petulant adolescent rebellion, but that he was simply surprised that she did not realise that that is where he would naturally be. After all, she had brought him there. He felt immediately at home in the Temple and his human soul was caught up in his Father's work with all the immediacy and enthusiasm of youth. As so often seems to happen in the Gospels, situations are allowed to develop which then serve to reveal and clarify his identity as God The Son in the Flesh. What strikes me as the major point of the passage is not that it is about an act of youthful disobedience, but how, on the brink of adulthood, Jesus showed obedience both to his Father in heaven and then also to his Mother on earth, as in response to her reaction he accepted that his public vocation was not to begin in earnest yet - she shaped him as much as he shaped her. Perhaps this resonates with his later statement at the wedding feast at Cana when he reminds her that: "my hour has not yet come", but yet he still submitted himself in obedience to her petition and performed a miracle. And of course, she likewise counselled perfect obedience towards him. What I take from it is that the mutual submission of these two sinless hearts is the very template of holiness and of how grace is administered from heaven still. Yes, I think it's right to emphasize and explain how the Gospel story shows that these spiritual realities do not bypass the mundane experiences of living as part of the human family with all its stresses and sorrows and unexpected twists and turns. In fact, it's precisely through all of that that we discover what the spiritual life really means. This little separation of Jesus and Mary with all its anxiety and their reunion after three days surely foreshadows his later death and resurrection. Was Jesus teaching his Blessed Mother that his vocation and hers (and ours too) must inevitably involve loss and pain before final reunion in His Father's house and that we must have faith that this is all part of the Father's work that his must do for us? Was he teaching us that when we lose sight of him we must look for him 'in the Temple' because we will always find him again there (perhaps after a time). I would like to hope that something like all this is what Pope Francis really meant to say ... but I'm afraid it really didn't sound like it!

bedwere said...

When is too much too much, granted that an "ex cathedra" pronouncement will never come?

Mary Kay said...

You touch on more than one important point. First, he is not a terribly deep thinker. Second, he is, perhaps, not very well educated compared to many in a similar position. Finally, he has the typical lack of restraint so common to the modern 'afternoon TV/radio drama' person. In short, he wants to make a show of his personal beliefs, such as they are, despite their vacuousness. It's frightening to be a very ordinary person on the viewing end of a character such as he, who is supposed to be of such a highly spiritual character.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I don’t share the hostility towards Pope Francis.

The scenes outside Cologne’s Catholic Cathedral over New Year tell us much about the pathology of not only the Church’s destruction but entire nations. In fact, it is worth noting that less German women were abused during festivities this year than during the average night of revelry by Allied troops in similar circumstances 70 years ago.

People may argue that this has nothing to do with Pope Francis but I disagree. The disasters which have befallen the Church are totally related to the events of 70 years ago so what can the Pope do about this? The answer is very little. Entire nation states are being endangered by the post-war paradigms. The latest response of “Catholic” Poland to the crisis is chilling: they are demanding more provocation from the UK government towards their enemies just as they did of Chamberlain in 1939.

In the short term, I see no end to the crisis. I fear things will get worse. Pope Francis is the least of our problems.

Victor said...

Our Holy Father simply is not a very good theologian. There is nothing wrong about it - as Fr Hunwicke has often told us, most popes weren't. But add to this a stubborn unwillingness to take advice, and you have a problem. I don't want to judge (after all, who am I to?), but it seems to me that, under all the humility he showcases, Pope Francis has a problem with the sin of pride.
Remember Pope Benedict's reaction to the protest of the Islamic world against his Regensburg lecture? Or his letter concerning the protest against the reconciliation of SSPX? He was meek of heart indeed, always ready to admit when he felt he might have done something wrong. Oh how I miss these days!

Christopher Boegel said...

When a man campaigns to be Pope...you have a man who wants it bad...and as we say...when you want it bad...you get it bad.

Tabernacle of David said...

It seems quite clear to me that Benedict believes that he has retained at least part of the papal ministry. He dressed in white and is going about that ministry. So what does that make him? I don't think the answer is simply: "confused"

rick allen said...

"Per questa sua “scappatella”, probabilmente anche Gesù dovette chiedere scusa ai suoi genitori."

Father, I have to say that this epitomizes for this layman a far-too-scrupulous anxiety about Pope Francis.

To say "excuse me" is not to confess sin. My doing the right thing may seriously inconvenience others, and if so I may apologize for anxiety given or hurt feelings, even if what I did was right. That's part of treating each other with kindness, and presumably why Francis didn't think it improbable that Jesus so responded to his worried parents.

The only silver lining I see is that it may one day get through that "papal infallibility" doesn't extend to every word that proceedeth from a pope's mouth. (Though I fully expect now that if the pope exclaims "dammit!" after hitting his finger with a hammer that the secular press will proclaim, "Pope Condemns Hammer to Hell," followed by the religious press taking him to task for heretically attributing a soul to an inanimate object.)

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The Catechism entries, 587-589 and 2284-2287 already, for nearly a quarter of a century, teach that Jesus sinned so maybe the Pope learned his wrong lessons there.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

This is simply stunning. It has always been the case that indirect scandal (passive in Tradition) is not a sin but the Catechism upends this tradition and teaches that even indirect/passive scandal is sinful.

But that is an insane evil and blasphemous teaching especially when such a teaching has to do with Jesus Christ.

ABS pines for the old days, back before this Universal Catechism, back before it, for the first time in history, identified a person who gave scandal and the fact that the person identified as giving scandal is the Divine Person, Jesus Christ, only infinitely increases the magnitude of error/ material heresy contained in these entires.

Anonymous said...

@ ABS. Catechism 587-589 says: "Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. Against those among them 'who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others', Jesus affirmed: 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves."

This does not mean that Jesus encouraged others to commit sin. Words can be used in different ways. He "scandalized" the Pharisees by going against their false assumptions about what God wants of us and of their own self-righteousness. The preceding paragraph makes the context and the usage clear:"If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel's religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them." (587). The fact that some people may take offence at what we do does not make what we do objectively offensive. Similarly, the fact that others may be scandalized (according to their presumptions and prejudices) by something we do does not mean that we have truly given scandal in the sense of someone in a position of authority giving a genuinely bad or sinful example about how to behave.

Paragraph 2287 does talks about giving scandal in this latter sense of incitement or encouragement to "do wrong". This does not mean that someone is responsible if others react negatively when we do the right thing, but of behaviour that leads others to think that it is OK to commit sin of some kind. That is surely immoral, even if we are only indirectly responsible for the sinful behaviour and bad example by failing to correct or speak out against a manifest evil, for example. There is nothing in the Catechism that teaches that Jesus did such any such thing. To cross reference two paragraphs from separate contexts in different sections in order to come to the inference that it does is wholly unjustified and profoundly mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Woody says " I stopped listening to Pope Francis 7 months ago." I too have stopped listening or reading any thing that Pope Francis says. After the light show debacle at St. Peter's on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I had a few choice words for which I had to go to confession.

I have decided just to stick to the Catechism and Mass, and forgo reading/listening about the Holy Father's exploits. "Whatever they do in the Vatican, I am still remaining Catholic." ...I read that on The Catholic Thing, some time back, and decided I will adopt it during the pontificate of Pope Francis

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis is the product of the New Mass and the New Catechism ...be very careful