The Pope’s recent visit to the United States has displayed so much Vatican dysfunction that it demands comment. It is difficult to know where to begin. Probably as good a place to start as any is the Pope’s address to the US congress, but we will also touch on the hopeless confusion around the Pope’s visit to Kim Davis, the Kentucky county government clerk who briefly was imprisoned for her refusal to sign gay marriage licenses. She was released and is now involved in ongoing controversy for her refusal to respect the recent Supreme Court decision overturning 250 odd years of tradition and common sense in the United States.
We note that it has been widely reported that during his Congressional address and throughout his entire visit the Pope clearly sent a message to traditional Catholics that “their” issues have been pushed to the side at least in terms of emphasis. So the Pope did not mention abortion specifically, not even to condemn the grotesque late term abortion butchery and selling of baby parts by Planned Parenthood. The evidence of this has been recently videotaped and reported on by the “Center for Medical Progress”. (If you have a very strong stomach you can watch them here . ) The Pope mentioned “protection of human life” obliquely, but even though Congress was considering specific legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in response to their near satanic activities, the Pope did not call for any specific measures to protect the unborn… No, instead after he made the vague call to “protect life”, the Pope went on to call for the abolition of the death penalty. The left was ecstatic and conservatives went through the usual contortions trying to say the Pope was throwing everyone off balance by ignoring the murder of unborn children and pleading the case for killers on death row. The Pope went on to make several other specific calls, including a call for more environmental protection, and for kindness to immigrants.
Neither call makes much sense. Pollution has been improving around the world for decades and no serious politician in the United States wishes to be “unkind to immigrants”. The real issue is what to do about a large number of illegal immigrants, some of whom are quite desperate and are seeking to find work, others are criminals seeking to pedal drugs, with all kinds of other people crossing the border in between. The obvious moral problem is to balance compassion for the destitute with responsible protection of the people already here, (including those who legally immigrated…) from potential criminals and terrorists crossing the border with impunity, not to mention the need to avoid allowing so much immigration that social programs supporting very poor immigrants are bankrupted and overwhelmed. The Pope however seemed oblivious to the trade offs involved in prudent immigration policy preferring to make the following kinds of relatively general and bland statements. We are called:
“To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.”
Terrific, what serious political figure is recommending actions that are inhumane or unjust? (And no Donald Trump is not a serious political figure…)
We will not go into the discussion of the Popes comments on climate change except to note the Pope has no idea what he is talking about. We have discussed this previously at length, here . It should be obvious that technical subjects like climate change,and related policy decisions such as whether and how to limit greenhouse gas emissions, or how to weigh the relative trade offs such policies entail are beyond the competency of the Pope.
Aside from all this messiness, however the embarrassment threshold at the Vatican must be very high indeed given the unseemly spectacle of the Vatican’s flip flopping regarding the visit to Kim Davis. We will discuss this in detail in a moment, but before we go on we would be remiss if we did not mention possibly the most morally offensive thing the Pope did on his visit to this hemisphere. The Pope refused to meet with Cuban dissidents during his visit to Cuba, while he did shake hands with the people responsible for their torture and imprisonment.
Flores: “Good afternoon, Holy Father. I am Rosa Flores of CNN. We understand that more than 50 dissidents were arrested outside the nunciature [in Cuba] as they were trying to have a meeting with you. First, would you like to have a meeting with the dissidents, and if you had that meeting, what would you say?”
Pope Francis: “Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone.
“If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete. For the nunciature, first, it was very clear that I was not going to give audiences because not only the dissidents asked for audiences, but also audiences [were requested] from other sectors, including from the chief of state. And, no, I am on a visit to a nation, and just that. I know that I hadn’t planned any audience with the dissidents or the others. And secondly from the nunciature, some people made some calls to some people who are in these groups of dissidents, where the responsibility was given to the nuncio to call them and tell them that I would greet them with pleasure outside the cathedral for the meeting with the consecrated [religious]. I would greet them when I was there, no? That did exist. Now, as no one identified themselves in their greetings, I don’t know if they were there. I said hello to the sick who were in wheelchairs. … Oops, I’m speaking Spanish. I greeted those who were in wheelchairs, but no one identified themselves as dissidents; but from the nunciature calls were made by some for a quick greeting.”
The Pope then answered a follow up question from Flores about what he would tell the Cuban dissidents if he met with them.
Pope Francis: “Oh, my daughter, I don’t know what I would say. I would wish everyone well, but what one says comes in that moment and … You’ve got the Nobel Prize for being a reader of the future, eh?”
I will leave it to the reader how to square this with the Pope’s concerns for prisoners who happen to be violent felons. He had plenty of time to meet with them in Philadelphia as reported here. I personally think his response to Ms. Flores speaks for itself. You can read the full report at this site .
But back to Kim Davis… let us first set the stage. There was a time in recent memory when the official teaching of the Catholic Church was that homosexual actions were sinful and that a “marriage” between homosexuals was seen as not just impossible, but as a distortion of real marriage and an attack on the common good. In fact in 2003 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document authored by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by Pope St John Paul II, entitled “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”. The full document can be viewed online here .
A key point it makes is the following:
“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”
So it seems obvious Kim Davis had not only the right but the moral duty to oppose the issuing of same sex marriage licenses. At least until yesterday, but perhaps things have “changed”.
On first blush then the Pope’s visit to Kim Davis was viewed as a sign of support. In fact the Pope was quoted by reporters as supporting “conscientious objection” when asked about the meeting. You can read about this here . No sooner was this report issued then the Vatican began rapidly distancing themselves from Kay Davis, stating that this meeting was one of many meetings, the Pope meets with lots of people he does not agree with, and blah, blah, blah…. For an example of this kind of thing you can read here if you are so inclined.
This spectacle suggests a couple of possibilities… Perhaps Pope Francis agrees with the teaching as articulated in the CDF document re same sex marriage, and issued by his two immediate predecessors, but is inept in defending it, allowing his minions in the Vatican to obscure it. Alternatively, Pope Francis personally disagrees with the teaching, deliberately is partially ignoring it or even obscuring it himself, but realizes that to formally “overturn” it would call into question the authority of the Papacy itself and the Church he leads. I tend to favor the former theory, but they tend to produce the same result, moral confusion.
It should be obvious that if the Church was to “flip” on this teaching than the teaching authority of the ordinary magisterium is zero and the credibility of the Church as a teaching authority is nil. After all consider that the last 2000 years of teaching on this issue would evidently be in error. Of course, if it all the past Popes were so abjectly wrong for a couple of thousand years, including the last two Popes, on what basis are we to give a damn what the Pope says? The teaching will simply follow the cultural breeze, being as the liberals like to say… “historically conditioned”.
Yesterday homosexual sex is bad, today its fine. Conversely yesterday the death penalty was just, now we must make haste to abolish it. One wonders what the deal with divorce and remarriage will be, as apparently the Pope and the Catholic left seem to want to breathlessly catch up to the moral clarity of the Episcopal Church. We see how effective this is as the Episcopal Church is imploding and one can hear its death rattle across the globe as reported here.
In fact if the Church goes down this path, why should any moral teaching of the Church be believed? If a teaching simply stands or falls on its own merits, than one really need not care what Pope Francis thinks, beyond the fact that he is a prominent individual. One might very well happen to be ok with gay marriage but think his statements on say economics and “social justice” are idiotic. Ditto “climate change”. They all would be just his particular opinions, which on the merits might be often ill informed. Certainly his words carry no inherent authority, as coming from the “Pope”, since Popes would clearly be able to contradict one another. Under such circumstances it is obvious the Papacy confers no more authority then a political office. In any case we can judge the arguments on the merits but he rarely advances an argument. He typically makes assertions. Why be concerned about his particular assertions?
IF the Catholic Church can flip back and forth, it becomes a political institution like any other, perhaps mildly interesting to some, but credible to a shrinking minority. It will have shown itself to be merely human. If it is merely another human construct, then to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, “to hell with it”. We at Catholic X-ray do not believe the Church is merely human, and so think an explicit rejection of authentic teaching will not occur, for the simple reason that the Holy Spirit will not allow it. The Holy Spirit might very well allow the teaching to be obscured, and hidden for reasons known but to God. That appears to be just what is going on.
Pope St John Paul II, pray for us