Just In Time for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

A papal crackdown:

For most of us, who are not Knights of Malta, the resignation of the group’s grand master will have little immediate impact. But the unprecedented papal intervention into the affairs of that venerable body fits into a pattern that should, at this point, worry all faithful Catholics. Under Pope Francis, the Vatican is systematically silencing, eliminating, and replacing critics of the Pope’s views.

During the reigns of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, “progressive” Catholics frequently complained about a crackdown on theological dissent. On the rare occasions when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a warning about a wayward theologian’s published works, there were anguished warnings about a reign of terror at the Vatican. Now a crackdown really is occurring—instigated by the Pontiff who famously asked, “Who am I to judge?” And the objects of the current crackdown are not theologians who question established doctrines, but Catholics who uphold the traditional teachings of the Church.

The first and most prominent victim of the purge was Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was exiled from the Roman Curia soon after Pope Francis took office, and given a mostly ceremonial post as patron of the Knights of Malta. It is ironic—and perhaps not coincidental—that the latest incident involves his new charge.

As much as I admire and sympathize with conservative Roman Catholics (like Ross Douthat and the author of this piece, Phil Lawler), can such folks really complain about papal supremacy? Isn’t this what rule by one is supposed to look like (and why Americans love to talk about checks and balances)? In fact, as long as Rome depends on the Bishop of Rome to support its claims of superiority — unity, authority, antiquity — can devout Roman Catholics really object to popes who use their authority to enforce unity?

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3 thoughts on “Just In Time for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

  1. Except that the real crackdown and purges seem to be occurring by attacks from the Left now that Francis and his minions are in control, whereas the those from the Right were few and far between during JP2 & Benny16’s reign. Is this is not coincidently similar to what has been going on in US gov’t during the past several terms in office: The same people who probably had little regard for Obama and subsequently embraced The Donald made little noise while the rug was being pulled out from under them by the Leftists. However, now that the shoe is entirely on the other foot, POTUS as well as majorities in Congress, the Leftists are howling, screaming, protesting, and nearly rioting in the streets. There’s probably an object lesson here, but I’ve yet to understand it.

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  2. I appreciate Ross Douthat’s book, “Bad Religion.”
    I wonder, Dr. Hart, if you have read this book? If so, what do you think of it?

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  3. Chuck, I like and admire Douthat and the book has merits, but he starts with 1950s religion as his baseline and even though that world was better than today, Douthat doesn’t have much of a sense for Protestants who were outside the mainline looking in and who didn’t particularly care for mainstream religion back then. A different starting point for the book would alter the argument, I suppose.

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