Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Can Catholics be loyal to both Pope Francis and the Church?

The Catholic traditionalist writer Bonald has found a disturbing quote from Pope Francis:
Dear friends, I cannot fail to express my concern about manifestations of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia that have appeared in various parts of Europe. Often this reaction is motivated by mistrust and fear of the other, the foreigner, those who are different. I am even more worried about the disturbing fact that our Catholic communities in Europe are not exempt from these defensive and negative reactions, supposedly justified by a vague moral obligation to preserve an established religious and cultural identity. The Church has spread to all continents thanks to the “migration” of missionaries convinced of the universality of the saving message of Jesus Christ, meant for men and women of every culture. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been temptations to exclusivity and cultural rigidity, but the Holy Spirit has always helped overcome them by ensuring constant openness to others, viewed as a positive opportunity for growth and enrichment.

I have bolded the most extraordinary part. Pope Francis believes that there is no moral obligation to preserve a Catholic religious identity in Europe. He states this as the man entrusted to lead the Church. He believes it is a moral thing for Europe to become Islamic, as this shows openness to the other.

This puts ordinary Catholics in a difficult position. If they remain obedient to Pope Francis, they are gravely disloyal to the Church.

There are of course serious objections to the moral view of Pope Francis. First, it is uncannily similar to a secular liberal political philosophy. In liberal philosophy, there are no substantive goods. What matters instead is my own will and my own choices. However, for the system to work I have to accord to others a similar freedom to follow their own will and their own choices. Therefore, the moral thing in a liberal system is not to discriminate against others, to be tolerant, to be open, and to be nonjudgemental. If a liberal wants to signal his virtue he can do so by demonstrating that he is most open to the person most other to him, which most liberals today assume to be Muslims. Pope Francis is signalling virtue just as a liberal would, rather than as someone who believes that there are objective goods to uphold in life, as you would expect a Catholic to do.

The second objection relates to something else that Pope Francis has said on the issue:
The only continent that can bring about a certain unity to the world is Europe...China has perhaps a more ancient, deeper, culture. But only Europe has a vocation towards universality and service...We can speak today of an Arab invasion. It is a social fact...How many invasions Europe has known throughout its history! It has always known how to overcome itself, moving forward to find itself as if made greater by the exchange between cultures.

Bonald answers as follows:
Depending on how you read it, it is either insulting to the West or insulting to everyone else. What is this “vocation towards universality and service” that only Europe is burdened with? Why can’t Europe be happy as one people among many? Are our artistic heritage and distinct customs not as satisfying as those of others? Is it arrogance, that we can’t bear that any other people should excel in their own ways that we don’t? Either way, a “vocation towards universality” sounds like a spiritual defect. On the other hand, if it means a striving toward transcendence, toward objective truth, what would Francis be saying about other civilizations? That the Muslims and the Chinese hold to their beliefs and their morals not because they think them true and right, but just because they are theirs, as a means of collective self-assertion? But this is preposterous!

Unfortunately, the pope gives no justification for Europe’s unilateral “vocation towards service”. Why do we exist to serve other peoples rather than vice versa? Why does this “exchange between cultures” seem to go only one way?

I'd like to add something along similar lines. The Jesuits do often emphasise the idea of service. But if service is at the heart of a moral life, as per Jesuit beliefs, and only Europe has a vocation toward service, as per Pope Francis, then it is given to Europeans to be moral actors, whilst everyone else is there to be acted upon. This hardly seems to give everyone an equal human dignity.

Finally, the Pope's account of the moral purposes of man seems very thin, to the point that it seems more like an ideology than a sophisticated theology. To suggest that I have no particular loves, no identity, no cultural attachments, no personal duties, but only an abstract, universal duty to serve the other, treats me like a cipher, like a cellophane man, as if I were not gifted with any place or genuine personality of my own, as if I had no created nature of my own to develop and fulfil together with those I have the closest and most profound relationships with. I cannot believe that those who have been stripped down in this way really have the most to give to anyone either near or far. When we disembed people we usually disorder them and render them unfeeling to genuine and lasting loves and attachments. A certain plane of the human experience is lost to them and is difficult to recover. A theology should not have any such corrosive effect, it should aim to deepen rather than to detach. This is not achieved when a singular belief in service for the other is employed to scorch the ground beneath it, to clear a path for universality - which will not even be the universality of the Church but of some other tradition. A more sophisticated understanding is necessary to avoid this harm, one that does not begin and end with just one type of moral act as representing the sum of the good.

18 comments:

  1. Interesting quote I came across this week by Alexandre Dumas, the elder: "Virtue taken to an extreme becomes a vice".

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  2. The spiritual message is derailed, as you have eloquently stated, with Pope Francis's forays into man's worldly existence. A religious teacher should aim his message toward the heart (spirit, Christ) and not toward the head (the world). You used "ideology" and I think this is apt since direct concerns about the social order are outside theology.

    I think the Pope is saying here that he believes Christ will overcome these tribulations, as in centuries past, and that the universality-- of Christ's message-- will prevail. This should be the overriding vocation, both personal and communal, of all Christians in all times and places. At the same time the Pope seems averse to the particular and I wonder if he believes that native Europeans have any meaningful connection to the idea of bringing about a "certain unity" to the world. It may not matter ultimately who is carrying the message but at any given time and place it is existentially concerning to those involved.

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  3. The Pope is not preaching Christianity.

    Somehow, his whole speech and demeanor remind me of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. He has no time for Christ now: he's building a better version of heaven on earth.


    I think the Pope and the Inquisitor are woven from the same cloth.

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  4. Do you think Pope Francis is an actual believer? He strikes me as being like most modern Christians for whom Christianity is just a slightly warner and more touchy-feely variant of secularism. They cling to Christianity for the feel-good aspect but they don't genuinely believe except in such a vague and woolly way that it hardly counts as actual religion.

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  5. I think Pope Francis believes in… The Church.

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  6. I read the Pope's address to the national Directors of pastoral care for migrants, as a non-Catholic, who has long deemed The Church to be the canary in the coal mine. The oxygen being my own vague sense of a rapid loss of order, not necessarily due to a weak Church and no pope, but certainly running along the same time-line in my seeking life. The Church, or the egg?
    I'm a non-Catholic, devout sedevacantist. I can't, for the life of me, understand why anyone who identifies as a Catholic can allow fake Catholics to run the Church. If The Church, arguably the second oldest ongoing institution on Earth, can't maintain it's long established order, then how in this hell are any men supposed to govern themselves properly. The Church, teachings and apologetics, embodies perhaps the most comprehensive body of intellectual works on Earth, on every topic, asked and answered. Not just strictly matters of faith.
    Yet, this new-order pretender, a modern liberal hack who obviously knows where some bodies are buried, runs The Church like day-time talk-show, looking for sponsors. All that seems to be happening, is that the devout Catholic is standing outside of the cafeteria (Catholic) looking in at the fun loving crowd, not knowing whether to throw a brick through the window, or to join the 95% inside who are picking through the offerings.
    If the devout Catholic is going to continue to roll with the relentless punches from Bergoglio the former bouncer, what's the point of The Church?
    I grew up in the 50s with half my friends attending St. Rita's. I always sensed that there was a mystery about them, that they had some kind of secret knowledge that gave them a measure of confidence that I did not have. Many were the boldest and most adventurous, and the most progressive. It's likely that it was just me, that they weren't all-around a little wiser.
    It was an illusion?

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    1. As someone who aspires to be a devout Catholic, I have no choice but to accept Pope Francis as my legitimately-elected pope. We have had bad popes before, so this is not new. What seems novel is the widespread apostasy, but this has been long prophesied. Also prophesied (and in prophesies approved by the Church over the centuries) are a coming Chastisement for the wickedness of men. We certainly seem to be going in that direction and we may well be creators of our own chastisement. All we can do is cling on.

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    2. All we can do is cling on.

      You have to be wary of fatalism. It's fatalism which has played a large part in the ruination of Christianity. Saying there have been bad popes before but the Church survived so it's no big deal is missing the point. It's not just a bad pope. The Church is no longer controlled by men who actually believe in its teachings. It's no longer controlled by men who believe in God in any meaningful sense. It's run by men who are secular in outlook. They see the Church as a political organisation.

      The entire Church hierarchy has been taken over by such people. It's not one bad apple. The whole barrel of apples is rotten. If Pope Francis goes he will be replaced by another tame globalist.

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    3. I ultimately believe Christ's promise to His Church, that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against her. He also questioned whether, 'when the Son of Man returns, will there be Faith on Earth?'

      I continue to pray and hope that combined with those of many others, they will be answered. Maybe this is all fatalistic, but to me what would be truly fatal for my soul would be to apostatise or enter into heresy or schism. I intend to hold onto the religion of the Apostles and Fathers until I draw my last breath and hope that I can pull my loved ones along with me.

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  7. I believe Milo Yeanopolis, open homosexual, devout catholic and far right conservative, summed up the Islam invasion issue quite well. To express his sexuality and Catholic beliefs in a Muslim country would mean imprisonment or death. So, why then should they be able to migrate en mass to Western countries without assimilating into our cultures and respecting our beliefs. While i do not count myself as an expert on Catholicism or secular belief, I do believe Pope Francis has stepped out of line with this statement. He is a spiritual leader, not a politician. Preach the kindness and acceptance of the Holy Spirit but don't mix politics and religion.

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    1. Milo Yeanopolis is not a devout Catholic. He's a cafeteria Catholic, a social Catholic, a secular Catholic. He is, by no stretch of imagination, a devout Catholic.

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    2. Milo is a subversive degenerate, and we should not accord him any legitimacy. He's a left-liberal that pretends to be a right-liberal. If he was "devout" why doesn't he repent for the debauchery that has made up his life so far?

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    3. My apologies (i like to admit when i have made a mistake) whilst Milo may not be a 'devout Catholic' he does have some very legitimate (if extreme) views on the Islam issue. However, you are gravely mistaken by calling Milo a liberal-left. Just because he is a homosexual does not by default identify himself with left. If you've listened to any of his speeches and have been able to sort through the trollish and absurd comments; he does make some very legitimate arguments in favour of the right. It is just as absurd to label him as Alt-right as it is to label him a liberal leftist. This is a man who is an avid trump supporter (yes i realise Trumps Policies have been increasingly liberal), former senior editor of the popular Conservative website Breitbart and an all around impressive public speaker. To call him a subversive degenerate is definitely only looking at his exterior without listening to his messages. As someone who is quite excited for his Australian Tour I invite you to maybe read some more about him before labelling him.

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    4. However, you are gravely mistaken by calling Milo a liberal-left.

      He's not a left-liberal, he's a right-liberal. And they're the most dangerous enemy our society faces. Right-Liberalism combines all the worst features of liberalism with all the worst characteristics of the right.

      I'd prefer an honest leftist or a Muslim to a right-liberal.

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  8. Bergoglio is a man. He was elected. The Church's hierarchy is a political structure. They spent most of their time on the politics of the Church, position papers and policy.
    The teachings is The Church. What is, is. It can't be constantly re-interpreted and modernized to keep up with a changing society. That is the most bassawkards conception of tradition and faith imaginable. That is what politicians do.
    For God's sake. Be a Catholic or move on.
    The Holy See is the government of The Roman Catholic Church and governor of Vatican City. He is a head of state, with territory (a fortress), temporary (dual)citizens, and a seat at the UN; the only religion with an official voice in the General Assembly.
    The pope is an executive who adminsters a large cabinet (Roman Curia) that runs The Church and oversees untold wealth. The Church enters into treaties with other nations.
    The Vicar of Christ? Please.
    Pope John Paul II kissed the Koran. Remember that? The Koran (Allah) says, among other things, that Jesus Christ was NOT crucified. The Koran says that the pope is illegitimate and a fraud, and that every member of The Church is a dupe and that all of Christendom is false. That pretty much covers it all.
    Was that a religious or a political move? Was it authority or submission?
    For the life of me, I can't understand Catholics, so-called, cafeteria, devout...
    I ask, when it's appropriate, and the answers that I get from self-identifying Catholics always come with mocking laughter or a lame and embarrassing circular argument that anyone can see that they don't believe. Only the rarest is devout and can even begin to handle a discussion of the Eucharist; the essence of the Mass, which is the heart of The Church.
    You either believe, or you don't believe. Don't tell me that you don't believe this or that, and tell me that no one really believes that. What are you doing?
    Francis is a political hack. I can't understand how any devout Catholic can even begin to respect him as an authority on their faith or a the legitimate head of the Church.
    I could go on and on. I'm holding back. The Church makes me angry and I'm not a Catholic, not even a Christian. I get the value of tradition and ritual and the general sense of some kind of order that parents offer their young children. That's sort a hail Mary isn't it?
    Religious hypocrisy is the flip side of fanaticism. There's got to be a way for The Church to right itself and to keep the canary alive. I just don't See how it can happen in this modern liberal world, not in many lifetimes.
    I don't know. I wish there was a safe place to hang my hat.

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    1. You make a very good argument against Pope Francis and I tend to agree with you on most of the points you make. However, the statement "You either believe, or you don't believe" is a bit of a cop out and blanket statement. You may have faith in the Christian values but not in the Church. I think this ties in with what you are trying to say.
      Trying to argue with a Catholic who does not have a good idea of the foundations of their 'belief' is like trying to argue with your typical liberal-leftist. Like talking to a brick wall. I realise this is a generalisation but that typical mocking laughter is usually followed by a statement such as "because it's the right thing to do" or "You wouldn't understand". This is what i find more frustrating. Or the typical SJW reaction, as soon as you don't agree with their views, you are an awful person and deserves to burn in hell.
      I just want a world where i can have a civilised conversation or debate.

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  9. As an Anglican I am a Protestant, albeit a high church one, and my opinion of the present pope is that if Luther was wrong about the pope being the Antichrist in the sixteenth century, he would not be wrong to make the same charge in 2017. If I were a Catholic I would have to be a sedevacantist.

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  10. I'm not understanding what my "cop out" is. We seem to agree. We certainly couldn't agree more on the need for civilized conversation or debate, if it leads to some form of effective action.
    My own greatest fear is always the same; not of engaging the already disagreeable, but engaging with the most agreeable. It is there that the sharpening of differences, rather than the blunt force of full opposition, poses the greatest risk of opening a fatal wound. It makes many of us tip-toe when we would rather wish to fearlessly and loudly foot-strike on our long treks to get to the truth.

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