In a recent post we have been discussing what to make of Pope Francis in light of his recent statements about atheists going to heaven, not judging gays and the like. As we noted here previously a phenomena was developing very pleasing to the heterodox Catholic left ( think the team over at the National Catholic Reporter and their brethren). We called this theme the “Spirit of St Francis”, and discussed it here . In brief the theory is that the Pope will make ambiguous statements that left wingers will interpret in the most anti-traditional Catholicism manner possible and run with it, claiming Papal support for, anything you can think of but basically a waiver of the 6th commandment more or less. This was the approach used with Vatican II as we had the spirit of Vatican II lay waste to the Church. The always fascinating Fr. Z has picked up on this exact theme. (Do you think he has read us?) No probably just great minds think alike, but his piece written in response to the Pope Francis interview can be read here .
The real point of this post however is to discuss Pope Francis’s recent blockbuster interview ( or at least blockbuster in terms of the kind of analysis over at the National Catholic Reporter), in which they basically claim that the Pope says the Church talks too much about abortion, gays etc.. Actually my take is that he said that the Church should first and foremost preach the forgiveness of God and the moral rules secondarily, as they fall into place later. I do not entirely agree with this but that is beside the point. Anyway don’t take my word for it, read what the Pope actually said here .
I think this interview is note worthy because it answers a question we raised earlier, why is the Pope giving aid and comfort to folks who reject any number of teachings. I am sure readers know who we mean, the “We are Church” crowd, Call to Action, the team at the National Catholic Reporter, lets just call them “The Liberal Catholic Mafia”. Anyway in our posts about Pope Francis we laid out three theories:
1) He has no idea his words are being hijacked and would be displeased by it.
2) He thinks the Church has so damaged its moral credibility with scandals, particularly the repulsive sex abuse scandal that it must speak and present herself in a way that people who ordinarily hate the Catholic Church will give her a hearing.
3) He really does have some sympathies with liberals in the Church, as he is after all a Latin American Bishop and a Jesuit to boot. These are not two groups noted for their conservatism.
I think this interview helps clear things up. First off the Pope makes very clear that he is well aware of the significance of his words, number one is no longer tenable. The real answer is clearly, mostly that the Pope is basically a liberal (That is as he puts it he is not a “right winger”). There is an element of number two, but at this point perhaps not so much. What does this mean?
Well as a general policy this blog will hesitate to use personal experience as evidence for anything, but as someone who has a love/ hate relationship with the Jesuits I hope the reader will forgive a personal reflection on all this. I spent 7 years of my life in Jesuit Universities as a college student at the University of Scranton and an additional three years of post graduate medical education as a medical resident (at Georgetown University Hospital). I have some fond memories of many of the Jesuits I encountered as they were usually fine teachers, all very smart, all made their students think. I am grateful to them for the education they provided.
Sadly however the order as a whole has become virtually heretical at worst, but at best is extremely liberal and loose with Catholic moral and doctrinal teaching. They are truly an order that was swept away by the Spirit of Vatican II. The demise of the Jesuits is well chronicled in an article, (actually a review of the book “Passionate Uncertainty”) that was published in the Weekly Standard in 2002, the author is himself, a Jesuit priest and military chaplain named Paul Shaugnessy SJ. It can be read here . Frankly if you have never clicked on a link before please click on that one. It is a must read. In any case it outlines the order’s decline into heterodox beliefs and less than rigorous morality over time. I would not suggest Pope Francis is quite the heretic his Jesuit brethren have become, and even less that he is other than personally morally upright, but I think its unlikely a man who sought to be a Jesuit out of his desire for community and who has spent the better part of his life as a member of this community could not be affected by the thoughts of the other Jesuits with whom he has shared his entire life.
I have met many Jesuits and I suspect Pope Francis shares the outlook of a certain “type”. Pope Francis is not the out and out heretic that someone like the late pro-abortion fanatic, Fr Robert Drinan was. There is another kind of Jesuit who is much more common in my experience. The type goes something like this: They accept all the teachings of the Church as true in and of themselves. As Pope Francis puts it he is a “son of the Church” So he is not going to change any teachings. Still they appear to find some of the teaching difficult or uncongenial, perhaps even embarrassing. As a consequence they are much less comfortable preaching about some things versus others. One prominent example, is that they do not care to speak of abortion because when they think of abortion, they think not of the mutilated, unjustly killed unborn child, but rather ( Using the specific example Pope Francis mentions ) a young woman who perhaps had an abortion in her past and now is troubled and seeking forgiveness, how to respond to her… Of course the answer is with mercy and love but this is not the point. The point is if that is your only thought, there is a consequent reticence about abortion. When they think of homosexuality they think not of gay activists desecrating the Eucharist, but rather of a gay person who states the Church hates them for being gay per se, and they want to reassure everyone Jesus loves you. For such a Jesuit, preaching about particular personal sins is uncomfortably close to being judgmental. It is not that they deny the teaching, but they find it unpleasant to speak about, may even think talking about it does harm, pushes people away. They tend to pretend its not there.
Conversely certain kinds of sins they are much more comfortable in talking about, as it coincides with the liberal political philosophy some of them like. So to criticize social sin, economic injustice, war etc just feels right.
In short the Jesuits have become political and theological liberals, they are not all heretics but many walk right up to the line, (some do cross this line no doubt) . I think Pope Francis is basically a liberal in ideology and temperament. He will not cross the line into heresy of course. He cannot, and as he already said he does not want to do so, ( “I am a son of the Church” as he puts it) but my guess is he will walk right up to it, in the name of focusing on forgiveness. It is not as if forgiveness is bad, but rather it presumes repentance and the problem is the left thinks there is nothing to repent of except capitalism and sexual repression. The left and the Catholic left specifically will walk over the line as they always do, but now will be claiming loyalty to the pope as the reason. Those of us who oppose this kind of thing will be accused of being the “dissenters”.
This has implications for those of us who wish to prevent the Church from a long dark night and thereby prevent the death of Western civilization. I do not think this an exaggeration; Western Civilization is on life support now, with death a real threat. Let’s count the ways. We are facing the rise of radical Islam, a worldwide debt crisis, moral decay and apostasy all in the setting of a population that is killing unborn children on an industrial scale and contracepting itself into a demographic death spiral. Since Western society declines to have kids, the population is simultaneously shrinking and aging. No society in the history of the planet has both shrunk and aged, but still thrived. I would say we are in very big trouble.
What to do about this we can talk about in our next post. I would begin by praying the rosary daily.