Papalism and Its Discontents

A digest of rumblings from today’s interweb sources:

For more than three decades, the Vatican of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI operated on a version of the conservative maxim, “No enemies to the right.”

While left-wing theologians were silenced and liberal-to-moderate bishops were shunted aside in favor of hard-liners, and liturgical traditionalists and cultural conservatives were diligently courted and given direct access to the apostolic palace.

But in a few short months, Pope Francis has upended that dynamic, alienating many on the Catholic right by refusing to play favorites and ignoring their preferred agenda items even as he stressed the kind of social justice issues that are near and dear to progressives.

“I’ve personally found many aspects of this papacy to be annoying, and struggled against that feeling from the beginning. I’m hardly alone in this,” Jeffrey Tucker, editor of the New Liturgical Movement blog, wrote as Francis basked in the glow of media coverage of his recent trip to Brazil.

“Every day and in every way we are being told how glorious it is that the bad old days are gone and the new good days are here,” he wrote.

___________

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is renowned for speaking plainly, which in part means he’s often willing to say things out loud that others in his position may sense but are hesitant to acknowledge.

. . . . Chaput acknowledged that members of the right wing of the Catholic church “generally have not been really happy” with some aspects of Francis’ early months and said the pope will have to find a way “to care for them, too.”

___________

That is one of the reasons why the kingdom of the Pope’s master could not possibly be of this world. And the absence of the tragic sense in the Pope’s remarks allowed him to wallow in a pleasing warm bath of sentiment without distraction by complex and unpleasant realities. Perhaps this will earn him applause in the short run; but in the long run he does not serve his flock by such over-simplifications.

___________

It is one thing when conservatives tie themselves in knots, arguing that Pope Francis is only echoing things said earlier by Pope Benedict or Pope John Paul II, even though those same conservatives tended to overlook those same things when Benedict and John Paul Ii said them. And, it has been fun watching prelates squirm as they try to qualify the what the pope said and did not say. Now, the gloves are coming off.

33 thoughts on “Papalism and Its Discontents

  1. Some interesting excerpts from the links you posted.

    ………………….Indeed, under the reign on Francis’s immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI, top church officials frequently blamed gay priests for the terrible sexual abuse crisis afflicting the church worldwide. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana even suggested the church could benefit from the some of the anti-gay prejudice seen in his country, echoing similar sentiments expressed by churchmen in the U.S. In this context, Francis’s comments about gay priests mark him as a very different leader who may be heralding the end of an era deep and abiding intolerance of homosexuality. (During his flight home Francis also said that the church needed a new theological perspective on the role and status of women. “Let us remember,” he said, “that Mary is more important than the bishop apostles, so women in the church are more important than bishops and priests.”)

    In speaking so boldly, Francis risks alienating Catholics in the industrialized West who have supported conservative theology, doctrine, and leadership. This significant minority is energized by the fight against abortion and resistance to those who would welcome both women priests and an end to mandatory celibacy for clerics. They have loyally supported the church with donations and activism and can be expected to oppose any change in direction of the sort Francis has signaled.

    With his comments, Francis poses a challenge to those who felt comfortable with the conservative leadership they have known for more than a generation. But this constituency cannot sustain the church in the long term, and the church now needs a figure able to bridge the gap between its rightward movement and the reality that Westerners are leaving the church in droves.

    Sean: This is true of the clergy as well. The RC can’t sustain itself vocationally on the back of the conservatives.

    ………………………………As Pope Benedict, Ratzinger continued a kind of leadership consistent with his early writings about a future “remnant church” that would be much smaller and less engaged with the world but comprised of true believers. This vision was of a church in a self-protective crouch, waiting for a day, perhaps centuries in the future, when its message would once again be relevant. It is a view which no doubt contributed to Benedict’s decision in February to step down from office. The first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, he seemed a discouraged if not defeated man as he spoke of being fatigued by the demands of his office.

    Like

  2. Darryl, you can’t say you haven’t tried. Yeesh. I swear I never knew this cat growing up. He could only come from y’alls side of the fence. (dig dig)

    Like

  3. That’s it. Francis does not have the same personality and approach that B16 or JPII had… and some people do not like this! They even talk about! Publicly! My faith is shattered. I must return the ecclesial stability and unity of Protestantism.

    Like

  4. Dave, it potentially accomplishes two things; One, the promise of a pope providing ecclesial stability is a myth in RC(see Vat II, the Italian curia and Benedict’s butler). Two, it makes hash out of the supposed doctrinal unity and ecclesial stability, folks such as CtC claim RC provides. Noumenally appraised religious certainty is a paper tiger. It has relevance in the land of Narnia. There’s as much theological diversity in Rome as in protestant liberalism.

    Like

  5. Dave H, as a lifelong Protestant, I sleep well at night, even though Reformed Protestantism isn’t exactly as I’d like it to be. Further, I don’t feel the need to post comments in Catholic blogs about my satisfaction with where my feet have landed. I’d try to not let this stuff get to you. It’s only a blog, after all. Take care.

    Like

  6. sean,

    When I go into any Catholic Church, on any given day, in any given location, I am going to hear the same scritpures read and receive Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity sacramentally.

    These arguments are not new and they are not good. You guys have better arguments that this very-not silver bullet.

    Dave

    Like

  7. AB,

    It was not getting to me. I was not upset. I was just being sarcastic.

    I have not been around for a few weeks so I peeked in and repsonded on a whim. Nothing more. Just me being a punk.

    Dave

    Like

  8. Dave H,

    It’s a pointed polemic against the high papalists. You need to go let the boys over at CtC know that the pope ain’t the dealio, even Francis owns this, it’s the mass. I’m with you all the way, that the heart of Rome is sacerdotalism. Unity in Rome, where it exists as observable phenomenon, revolves around the mass.

    Like

  9. To His Seaness’s point:

    Lefebvre of SSPX

    Good ol’ Lefebvre, no logic jello.

    We must therefore come back to this idea of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is essential to our salvation, and see in this Sacrifice precisely that element which has been the splendor of our civilization, and to understand why, today, this civilization – Western civilization, Christian civilization – is shaken to its very foundations, how the decline of our Christian civilization began when we came to express doubts about the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, when we began to attack, abolish and suppress the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This incredible phenomenon traces its origins to Berenger in the fourteenth century. Then in the sixteenth century, Luther boldly declared that the Mass is not a Sacrifice. Luther’s attack, therefore, was directed at the very heart of the Church, to its most precious dogma. And in thus undermining the Sacrifice of the Mass, he destroyed the priesthood instituted by Christ, because without the Sacrifice, what need is there for a priesthood, what ideal does the priest strive for? The priest becomes merely a functionary designed from among the members of an assembly to offer worship, to perform a communion, to break bread.

    That is what Luther achieved 450 years ago, and, as those familiar with the history of his reformation will recognize, that is precisely what is happening with respect to the transformation of the liturgy in our own time. Many of the elements of change are identical. During Luther’s reformation the vernacular, German, was adopted and, needless to say, there was great rejoicing: the youth became enthusiastic, the laity could now understand, they could return now to what appeared to be a more evangelical church, they could worship now more meaningfully. The laity, in a word, had discovered a new relevance in the life of the Church. But the euphoria of juvenile enthusiasm soon gave way to disillusion: the priesthood began to disintegrate, priests and nuns left their monasteries, the convents were emptied and the religious married. How could this be so soon after the fervor and enthusiasm of the early years? The whole phenomenon was but a straw fire because the reformers had attacked the essential elements of Christ’s Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    http://www.fsspx.org/en/liturgy/the-mass/the-holy-sacrifice-of-the-mass-2/

    Like

  10. Dave H., we have just as good a theory of ecclesial stability and unity as you do — you know, the Holy Spirit uniting all the faithful in Christ. Plus, we don’t depend on a bishop who happens to be a big deal in the West because his see is where the Roman Empire’s hq was and because he has no rival sees the way the Eastern Churches did. Plus, if you became a Protestant you’d have the truth, not some equivocal hermeneutic that allows you to say one thing and mean another 200 years later. Come on in. The water is warm.

    Like

  11. Sean, and by my reckoning, the papacy has actually created as much schism as unity. First, the Eastern churches were none to happy with Rome’s superiority. Then there were the three different popes and the Western Schism. And then there was the pope that wouldn’t budge when Protestants wanted to reform the church the way that most of Europe did. Rome’s is the unity of I say so (until Francis tells us that we say so).

    Like

  12. C-Dubs, SSPXers make so much more sense in one sense. The problem is they completely bypass Vat II. Vat II is a real S.O.B. for SSPXers and CtCers. About the only group who are completely comfortable with Vat II are cradles born after 1965. We ‘caught’ ALL of it. And the ‘dinner table’ conversations were dynamic. One of the important virtues you picked up as a cradle after ’65 was a certain healthy skepticism toward the heirarchy, which makes the CtC vibe so disconnected. Not a cynicism necessarily, that would come later, but an understanding of the application of pew practice and the movement of God amongst the laity. CtC wants to do the harmony no rupture jig, but they don’t want to tell you that there are MULTIPLE allowable interpretations and that rarely does the heirarchy declare the bounds of the interpretation; see Christian Smith. Part of the intention of Vat II was a PURPOSEFUL flexibility in interpretation that allowed enough laxity to jump in whatever direction modernity jumped. Rupture doesn’t mean what the CtCers think it means when even the docs prior to Vat II ALREADY allowed for multiple applications and rather open-ended interpretations, which is why in 2005 Ratzinger gets in front of the CDF and declares; “continuity and/with reform but no rupture” and then bids them adieu. Even Ratzinger with his conservative bent and extraordinary charism, doesn’t try to bound the interpretation particularly and gives broad parameters with a wagging finger. That’s why you don’t hear the pope or bishops who sound anything like CtC. It’s also why Bryan, at the end of the day, lives at the forks of ‘principled distinction’ and ‘I believe what the church believes’. You can’t draw the hard lines that CtC wants to draw and live with your feet on the ground anywhere in RC, except in newly carved out anglo-catholic communions, maybe. Anyway, just the morning sound off.

    Like

  13. At the risk of sounding too much like an American pragmatist, the whole “principled distinction” is so incoherent and a red herring because it doesn’t work and is rarely applied. When I’ve pointed out to RCs that Rome has a tremendous amount of theological disunity, the response is, “well, at least Roman Catholicism could in principle settle these issues. Protestantism does not have a way in principle to settle differences.”

    What good is a principle that is only rarely applied and then applied in such a manner to allow so many diverse interpretations of the particular application when it is given?

    Like

  14. Robert, I hear ya. I think it helps some people sleep at night. And as you know, protestants do have a principled way; we endure until we can’t any longer and we sorrowfully and regrettably part ways. We have process and we dutifully plug through making distinction between essentials and non-essentials. It’s the way of life this side of glory. It was no different for the apostles and it’s been no different ever since.

    Like

  15. Darryl,

    we have just as good a theory of ecclesial stability and unity as you do — you know, the Holy Spirit uniting all the faithful in Christ. Plus, we don’t depend on a bishop who happens to be a big deal in the West because his see is where the Roman Empire’s hq was and because he has no rival sees the way the Eastern Churches did. Plus, if you became a Protestant you’d have the truth, not some equivocal hermeneutic that allows you to say one thing and mean another 200 years later. Come on in. The water is warm.

    You do? Really? What does that stability look like? Oh yeah… it’s invisible right?

    You have the reasons for why it’s Rome all wrong. That Christ came during the Roman Empire and God saw fit to put people in places in the fullness of time should not be controversial.

    I tried Prostantism for 30 years. I had several “truths” during that time. Because, of course, I was was the final arbiter or truth… I mean scripture was. But of course that depends of which atomized texts each group considers to be essential.

    I am Catholic because of truth. God is a not the God of choas.

    Like

  16. It’s so weird to see so many Catholics whose primary reason for being Catholic is epistemological or because of some abstract commitment to “truth”.

    If you aren’t there for the offering of the propitiatory sacrifice to an angry god for the sins of the world you’ve missed the point.

    Like

  17. Dan, the same could be said over here of Reformed epistemologists who like their Catholic counterparts seem to think faith is more the sum of its logical parts and less the alone instrument through which God reconciles sinners to himself.

    Like

  18. Dave H., perhaps you should have tried Protestantism not Prostantism.

    But I digress. Yes, the unity among Protestants is just as invisible as the unity among Roman Catholics.

    I think you meant that God is not the order of chaos (not choas). If you ever read Ecclesiastes, you may come to realize that order (while good) can be overrated.

    Like

  19. Dave,

    Nothing you said there proves why the Pope’s opinion is better than yours.

    Somehow amidst all the “choas” (chaos) of the last 400 years of Protestant sects in America we’ve all gotten along and even thrived. I know I’m getting three squares a day.

    Like

  20. Darryl,

    Dave H., perhaps you should have tried Protestantism not Prostantism.

    You may be a blog typo nazi – but I still deserved that.

    But I digress. Yes, the unity among Protestants is just as invisible as the unity among Roman Catholics.

    Not sure what a Bishops Tobin’s party switch has to do with anything… but sure Protestants all have the same beliefs.

    I think you meant that God is not the order of chaos (not choas).

    Hah! Now I get to be the blog typo nazi. No I did not mean that “God is not the order of chaos”.

    (not choas) I did not have time to proofread – what can I say?

    If you ever read Ecclesiastes, you may come to realize that order (while good) can be overrated.

    I have read it. If you think Ecclesiastes validates ecclesial chaos you may be reading to much into it.

    Like

  21. Zrim,

    Dan, the same could be said over here of Reformed epistemologists who like their Catholic counterparts seem to think faith is more the sum of its logical parts and less the alone instrument through which God reconciles sinners to himself.

    I appreciate you saying this.

    The tendency for some Reformed to psychoanalyze Catholics to deterrmine the real reason for their conversions (despite what they actually say are the reasons) gets really tired really fast.

    When I was on your side of the fence I found the type of logicians you refer to troubling. Though I have not yet met any, I am sure I would find their Catholic counter-parts equally troubling.

    Like

  22. Darryl,

    I wish I was a “Prostan” for 30 years. According to Google, a Prostan is an anti-inflammatory. So it is kind of the opposite of Protestant.

    Oh. Snap.

    I kid.

    Like

  23. Dave H., the point wasn’t about a bishop switching parties, it was about the disrespect a layman showed to a successor to the apostles. What church are you living on?

    Like

  24. Dave H, you’re obvious lack of charity makes it inconceivable to carry on an ecumenical dialogue with you. Should you choose to defer and genuflect in the future I’m sure some here, lingering sentimentalism from being evanjellyfish, may be willing to conversate with you. I’ll have to check with the inside of my Kangol lid and the bottom of a shot glass to see if I can participate.

    Like

  25. Dan said,

    If you aren’t there for the offering of the propitiatory sacrifice to an angry god for the sins of the world you’ve missed the point.

    I thought that sacrifice occurred once for all, around 2,000 years ago.

    Like

  26. Justin,

    The Baltimore Catechism might help here:

    “362. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass?

    The manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the cross Christ physically shed His blood and was physically slain, while in the Mass there is no physical shedding of blood nor physical death, because Christ can die no more; on the cross Christ gained merit and satisfied for us, while in the Mass He applies to us the merits and satisfaction of His death on the cross.”

    Like

  27. Dave H, sorry man. All that parochial school training. Making fun of protestants is just second nature. When the protestants become RC, but still act like protestants, well that’s a whole new pinata of fun.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.