At the risk of appearing to be “going soft,” I’m going to impart
an important message regarding the criticism of Pope Francis: we’re
going to have to stop. I don’t say this because I’ve turned a new leaf
and find myself in the New Theology camp.
I didn’t just become a Jesuit. This has more to do with classical Church piety and tradition with regards to our behaviors and postures towards the Roman Pontiff.
I think we (and this includes myself) are falling into a snare and a trap of
the devil. We are being tricked by the deceiver into muttering and murmuring about Pope Francis. If you follow the approach of the saints (like St. Catherine of Siena), you’ll find a deference to religious superiors regardless of whether you agree with their positions. St. Catherine is well known for having opposed Cephas . . . but not to his face with letters exhorting the pope to return from Avignon back to Rome. Notice how she did that though.
It was done with private letters and not some attempt at grand-standing for the purposes of building an audience and fanfare. Contrast that with Martin Luther, who opposed the pope in a bombastic fashion, nailing a large proclamation of assertions to a doorway, which had the obvious intent of embarrassing and taunting the Supreme Pontiff.
I’ve written a lot about obedience and who does/doesn’t command it. I’ve been very critical of how we extol ill-begotten “experts” to the level of
authority figures. This is not the same issue we have in the Church
(infiltrated by communism or not) with consecrated holders of sacred offices.
I’m by no means suggesting that episcopal office holders (bishops, cardinals, Pope Francis) are infallible on everything, but the dignity of their office requires deference regardless of the occupant. Common sense tells you there is something distinct about the papacy that separates it from secular offices that are crafted out of thin air (like “directors of public health”).
Whether we like the human reality of the workings of those offices, we are
burdened with the need to take seriously the dignity of high Church offices as they are ordained by God. Worldly kingdoms come and go. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is the legacy of a continued apostolic succession proceeding from the hand of God.
I’m perfectly fine with the concept of “recognize and resist”
because that doesn’t imply antagonism when taken at face value. We can resist the dubious teachings, especially if they are beyond comprehension, if we can identify how they are incongruent with extrinsic magisterium. None of that implies schism, antagonism, disrespect, or the like. Again quoting St. Catherine of Siena, “Even if he were an incarnate devil, we ought not to raise up our heads against him – but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom.” This is borne out of a need to recognize the esteem and dignity of Our Lord’s vicar on earth.
Also, without going too far down any rabbit hole, I’m going to remind my readers that neither of us are qualified to interpret the implications of Pope
Francis’ setting aside of the titles “Vicar of Christ” or “Supreme Pontiff.” While I’m as perplexed by those actions as you are, we need to recall that these things that have transpired are well above our paygrade. They might be above the competency of every living person (including Church prelates). In short, we better keep our comments and knee-jerk remarks regarding the pope out of writing and away from our hearts unless we have made the (incorrect) determination that slandering or murmuring against the pope is no longer sinful.
To show that I’m not bloviating, I’ve removed a couple of my previous posts
that had a sarcastic and perhaps taunting tone towards Pope Francis. I also
regret my mention of Pope Francis in Caesar Vacantism. While I mostly stayed away from the topic of papal authority in that book, there were a couple of dodgy spots that I would prefer to revise or eliminate (I referenced Taylor Marshall’s opinion of Francis as the worst pope).
Henceforth, my policy is that Pope Francis’ job performance is not my business. Evaluating it or opining on the legitimacy of his pontificate is neither my responsibility nor within my capacity. If Pope Francis says something I do not understand or agree with initially, I will do the best to form my conscience by weighing his words against pre-existing magisterium. On most matters, we can confidently remain calm and reflect on how not all the pope’s declarations are binding. In this dark age of confusion, this is the best that most of us can do. In summation, I’m going with a no-posting-on-Pope-Francis policy. It’s not worth the risk of wandering down an inadvertent slippery slope into grave error. I encourage others to adopt this approach. We may be frustrated with what has happened in Rome over the past couple of years (or past several decades), but we can take solace in the fact that, not only is it not our business, but we ARE NOT responsible for the confusion insofar as we live our lives in a state of grace to the best of our ability.
As always, and you should do this for every pope and clergymen: Pray for Pope Francis.