Sunday, November 16, 2014
What About Pope Francis? A Traditional Catholic's Thoughts
Since everyone is talking about Pope Francis, I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts about our current Pope. I am not a man to mince words, but I will attempt to give my thoughts in charity. So far in my opinion, Pope Francis has been at best, a mixed bag when it comes to proclaiming the Catholic faith to the world. I make this statement based on his words and actions alone. For example, one day he will speak about the atrocities of abortion and the destruction of the family, and the next he speaks about being lenient in how the Church applies Catholic doctrine to the divorced and remarried in the context of Cardinal Kasper's theology. Yes some of his comments have been taken out of context by the media, but this is not the core of the problem. Those who keep using this excuse are making fools of themselves. The core problem is the mixed message the Pope himself sends to the world.
I will give a few brief examples of the contradictions he sends. On October 30th, 2014 the Pope said, "This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil,... But the devil exists and we must fight against him." On August 14th he said, "May the Lord bless the family. May He make it strong in this crisis, in which the devil wishes to destroy it.” This is something the world needs to hear, and this is a great Catholic message. Yet, Pope Francis has on several occasions shown direct support for the notorious heretic Cardinal Walter Kasper. It was certainly bad enough that Pope John Paul II put him in charge of ecumenism during his pontificate. But to do as Pope Francis has done, and let him essentially run the past synod on the family was clearly an even bolder move. As this video shows, the Pope has praised Cardinal Kasper directly, and has even endorsed his latest book.
Many of the Neo-Catholics are now even trying to defend Cardinal Kasper because in their minds they have no choice. Their faith would be destroyed if they had to concede the Pope was promoting the theology of a known heretic. So they must use any means to try and justify the Pope's actions. Those Catholics who are following this line however are stepping outside the bounds of the Catholic faith by adopting an error concerning the Pope's guarantee of infallibility. This error can be summed up as, "The Pope can do do no wrong, he can say no wrong, and anyone who criticizes him is not a good Catholic." Anyone of course who adopts this mindset is not mature in the Catholic faith themselves. The Pope is not guaranteed to be free from error outside the Chair of Peter. That is, he is not guaranteed outside the definition of Papal Infallibility. If you are interested in this topic on the Pope and whether he can "go bad." Take the time to read this scholarly work 'Can the Pope Go Bad.' I am not going to speculate on that matter in this blog post, this is a complex question as the linked work above suggests.
However, I read many works concerning the history of the Church, and there have been some horrible Popes that were openly condemned by the faithful. This is nothing new. Most of them however were criticized for their immoral lives, and not for theological errors. There have only been a couple of cases where past Popes made theological errors, and they were primarily communicated by private letter. The information age has put the Church under much closer scrutiny than at any time in history. You would think that the recent Popes would have figured this out and would be extremely prudent in the public eye. Not so for Pope Francis, he is certainly a bull in a china shop when it comes to the public eye. Whatever comes to his mind comes out of his mouth.
This all being said, where does the rubber meet the road with Pope Francis? Has his new open and "more merciful" approach brought more people closer to Christ than previous Popes? I do not think this to be the case. Certainly some people have been enamored with his ideas. He has certainly brought more attention to the Catholic Church than his predecessors, but that does not mean he has been successful in converting people to the Catholic faith. Nor does it mean that he has strengthened the faith of his flock. In my opinion, he has made the Church more worldly than he has made the world more "Churchly", for a lack of a better term.
In brief, here are my top criticisms of Pope Francis.
1. Pope Francis openly supports a known heretic, Cardinal Kasper. There is no question that this is the case. Kasper is a confirmed heretic, and he has been promoting heresy since the 60s. I had the opportunity to see a book written by him in the late 60s where a dear friend of mine, a Catholic priest for over 50 years now, had gone through it and underlined all of his heretical statements. You can listen to this interview of Kasper where he clearly obscures the Church's teaching on contraception, (Minute 24) and it also again confirms that Pope Francis supports his convoluted theology. Kasper also creates a false dichotomy between mercy and justice. What are the ramifications of this support? It is too early to tell, but I can say it is not a good thing. It is no springtime as many are claiming it to be. At least several Cardinals have come out against this support. Cardinal Burke clearly expressed his opinion on Kasper and the synod, "It is profoundly sad and scandalous that such remarks were made by a Cardinal of the Church. They are a further indication of the determination to manipulate the process of the Synod to advance Cardinal Kasper’s false positions,.."
2. Pope Francis openly secularizes the Church. For example, he invited Muslims to come into the Vatican gardens and pray for a Muslim victory over the Catholic Church. He also has now invited openly counter religious performers like Patti Smith to play at the Vatican for the Christmas concert. She has such wisdom, “Freedom is...the right to write the wrong words.” She wrote her own lyrics to a cover of Van Morrison's Gloria, "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine meltin' in a pot of thieves wild card up my sleeve thick heart of stone my sins my own they belong to me, me people say "beware!" but I don't care the words are just rules and regulations to me, me." How can the presence of these people at these Church events be of any benefit for the faithful or those looking for God? Can we convert people in the world when we conform the Church to the world? I think we know the answer, no. Does anyone remember the words of Jesus in John 18:36? "My kingdom is not of this world." Inviting Muslims into the Vatican Gardens and pagan performers like Smith into the Vatican for a Christmas concert desecrates the Church! Just because ate with sinners does not mean he brought them into the synagogue. Nor does it mean he encourage them to pray to false gods.
3. Pope Francis is a poor theologian. He has criticized the Thomistic revival of recent predecessors such as St. Pope Pius X, Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII to name a few. In my opinion, this is not acceptable behavior from a pontiff. I personally tune out whenever I hear him say things like, "Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism" This means that the commentaries that the Popes above recommended, he dislikes. Yet there is no question that Francis is nowhere near the theologian of his predecessors. The modernists who rejected those Thomistic manuals are why they Church is in the sad state it is today. For example, no Pope before him would have ever made such a baffling comment as, “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God,..." What a crazy comment to make in a public interview.
4. Pope Francis has no respect for tradition. From the time he first stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peters, Pope Francis has shown little respect for the traditions of the Church. In fact, he seems to hold much of our tradition in contempt. He refused to wear what his predecessors wore when he became Pope. He has gone to efforts to halt the Latin Mass in the order of the Franciscan Friars. It was also an act against tradition to ignore the rubrics of the Holy Thursday liturgy and wash the feet of female Muslim prisoners. For more coverage on his idea of Catholic tradition, check out this news link. It gives a list of things he has done or not done in regard to Catholic tradition.
In summary, thus far Pope Francis has not been in my eyes a great Pope. Is he an immoral monster like Alexander VI? No, but Pope Francis is a Pope that in my opinion is leading the Church in the wrong direction. That does not mean he is not the current Pope, nor does it mean that everything he says and does is wrong. It does mean that he is not doing a very good job of leading the Church, and he is certainly not proclaiming a very clear message of the Gospel from his words and his actions. No, this does not shake my faith one bit in the indefectibility of the Catholic Church. Read the article above that I linked to, to get an idea of why.
Finally, for those who continue to persevere in their foolish "Pope can do no wrong" attitude, and continue to blame the media for everything, they are hurting the Church by failing to recognize the serious problems that this Pope is causing. It all comes down to the conversion of souls. If the Pope does something deserving of criticism, it is not wrong to criticize, in charity. It gives no Catholic pleasure in pointing out the failures of the Pope. I wonder however if all of these these Neo-Catholics who hold Cardinal Newman up as their hero would have condemned Cardinal Newman when he criticized Pope Pius IX? Anyone remember that one? "We have come to a climax of tyranny. It is not good for a pope to live twenty years. It is anomaly, and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” and “We must hope, for one is obliged to hope it, that the pope will be driven from Rome and will not continue the council or that there will be another pope. It is sad he should force us to such wishes.”Volume 25 of Dessain's "The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman.