So what else in Pope Francis’s exhortation is useful or good? Well, one thing that might be tough for those of us on the traditionalist side of things to hear is the following line:
“At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In our times, divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by human effort and even beyond all expectations, are directed to the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs, in which everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church”.
85. One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centred lack of trust.
What Does Pope Francis mean by this? Is it an attack on traditionalists? Conservatives? Michael Voris?
I am not sure I agree entirely with this comment. I include it in the “Good” section in part because… well it’s the Pope after all we do not want to be excessively critical and there is plenty for the “Bad” and the “Ugly”. As someone sympathetic to all of those groups, My first inclination is to respond, just as it is not being a “sourpuss” for a Doctor to point out to someone with emphysema, that continued smoking will kill them, so too it Is not being a sourpuss to point out that lots of things implemented by modernists in the Church have run her into the ground, and threaten to continue to do so. But…. I think at the end of the day we tradition minded folks need to take this criticism to heart in a couple of ways. First we should always recall that ultimately God is in charge and he wins. We win simply by remaining faithful. Second on a practical level if we wish to do more than preach to those who already agree with us, we need to modulate our tone. To take a political example, President Reagan, an icon to most of us on the political right, was almost always affable even though he was uniformly detested on the left. Nothing new here, didn’t our grandmothers say that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar? In any case it is in keeping with Pope Francis’s theme that we should make Christianity attractive and encourage rather than scold. Yes… it is a little hard to do this when we are confronted with the USCCB funding pro-abortion groups via the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, or dancing nuns concelebrating mass while taking Eucharistic wine from paper cups, not to mention the abuse crisis that has bankrupted the Catholic Church. Yes it is a little tough to not be a “sourpuss”. I suspect constantly dwelling on this however will not put the house in order. As a tradition minded Catholic I always remind myself that demographics is destiny, and the folks most responsible for the above nonsense are… how to say this delicately? Well they are old and dying off. The average age of the Leadership Council of Women’s Religious is about 75. Many conservatives are concerned about the outcome of the recent Vatican investigation, but not me. Based on vocation trends within the religious orders it represents, and the average age of membership, the LCWR and the whole tribe of womyn priest nuns is going the way of the dinosaur. God has voted and God wins. I am not sure if this is exactly what Pope Francis has in mind, but to the extent we are on God’s side we are in good shape.
Some other positive things, Pope Francis suggests we need to evangelize the entire culture and in particular the academic world, therefore there must be a renewed effort at uniting faith and reason, and theology must be in communication with the secular sciences. As he puts it:
Proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles. This means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics which would encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all. When certain categories of reason and the sciences are taken up into the proclamation of the message, these categories then become tools of evangelization; water is changed into wine. Whatever is taken up is not just redeemed, but becomes an instrument of the Spirit for enlightening and renewing the world.
The pope condemns many things that deserve condemning in the exhortation and of course who would not agree with many of these. He attacks self centered consumerism, human trafficking and so forth. It was a great positive that in this document which for reasons we will discuss down the road, has given the modernists and political leftists a useful tool, the Pope has strongly condemned abortion. It will be very difficult for the modernists and leftists to quote Francis in support of their utopian visions while simultaneously ignoring statements like the following:
Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”.
214. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.
It would seem then that the left needs to recognize that the unborn cannot be simply thrown under the bus in order to further their socialist goals. Alas given other aspects of this document I am certain they will try.
Finally the document concludes advocating a devotion and reliance on The Blessed Mother. And in fact ends with a prayer to Our Lady. Any document so concluded cannot fail to produce some useful things, if even at times in spite of itself. We conclude our post with a reproduction of this prayer in toto.
Next posts will deal with the Bad and the Ugly in the Pope’s latest missive.
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelisation,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,