PopeWatch: The New York Times Does a Victory Lap

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Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings points out a New York Times piece by Tim Egan:

It is a remarkably nasty piece, so linking to it with silent approval left my jaw-dropping. A bitter taste:

It’s long been known that most North American and European Catholics ignore church teachings on gays, contraception and abortion. These teachings range from absurd to unscientific to outright hateful. Without specifically changing the official line, Francis prompted millions of Catholics to give the church a second look when he criticized the hierarchy for being “obsessed” with those issues. Amen, said nearly 70 percent American Catholics who agreed with him in a Quinnipiac poll.

The anecdotal reaction is equally intriguing. “People come up to me all the time on the street or at a restaurant and say things like, ‘I just need to tell someone how much I like this pope of yours,’” said Father Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit (like Francis) who is president of Seattle University, based in one of the most secular cities in the United States. “Suddenly, it seems O.K. to be a priest out there.”

All of this is by design. Francis is working two broad strategies. The first is aimed at lapsed Catholics, and those who are open to a spiritual life with an intellectual framework. Thus, he dismissed proselytizing as “solemn nonsense,” in a recent interview. “It makes no sense,” he said of the blunt harangues over whose God is better.

The Jesuits have always tried to get people to think for themselves, to arrive at belief through an arduous process. When bishops started telling parishioners that their gay and lesbian siblings were sinners, and that family planning was a grievous wrong, people stopped listening to them — for good reason.

This father of six thanks you for the gut punch. Which are my wife and I: absurd, unscientific or outright hateful? No, really–Get bent, you smug pr–k.

And, really–the Church had no intellectual framework in the bleak years Before Francis? Waiter, my essay has a Pseud in it–please take it back.

I’d point out the obvious, that Mr. Egan is obsessed with pelvic issues, but apparently this represents an Important Sign. And the home office has said ixnay on that strategy, so there you have it.

On one point, at least, the Era of Francis in America has one point of continuity with pre-Francis times: the desperate craving of American Catholics for validation from non-Catholics. Starting with Rev. Sundborg, but also, apparently, with more grounded members of the church, willing to post screeds like Egan’s without a murmur of protest.

Proselytism may be solemn nonsense, but self-flagellation is in, baby.

If I am coming across as out of sorts, it is simply because I am. In the face of mounting personal stresses, the sense that I am one of the Pope’s redheaded stepsons is a burden I never imagined I’d encounter. Not having any money coming in assuredly plays into my mental state these days, but I’ve been out of kilter since the first faboo interview. Seeing Catholics cite sneering contempt as–I don’t know, the Spirit in motion?– is something I can’t begin to process.

Go here to read the rest.  Tim Egan has always been an obnoxious jerk who has nothing but contempt for those benighted fools who do not think precisely like Tim Egan.  That he views the Pope through his own distorted prism is only to be taken as a matter of course.  That orthodox Catholics think his reaction is a plus is merely sad.

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  1. Pro-life Catholics are obsessed with Jesus Christ. Pro-choice individuals are obsessed with abortion. The same may be said of homosexuals. Catholic homosexuals practice chastity. Individuals obsessed with lust practice homosexual behavior. The New York Times’ piece proves Pope Francis’ statement that proselytizing to hard-core atheists is “nonsense” totally useless and has no practical value. This said, Freedom of religion must be absolute for when the atheist finds God, the TRUTH will set him free and that he may be welcomed with open arms into the church.
    Right now, in America, Freedom of Religion, all First Amendment civil rights are being obscured, obliterated and are actually being denied, through being granted by our finite government. Not so, the right to worship God in thought, word and deed, in public and in private has not been granted to the citizens by the state. The state is constituted to defend the peoples’ civil rights endowed by “their Creator”. The sovereign personhood of every citizen who constitutes the state is endowed by “their Creator”, by the Supreme Sovereign Being, our God. The finite state has no such authentic authority, as exhibited by the government shutdown, in which Jesus Christ was kidnapped and held captive in the tabernacle in the closed chapels and separated by the state from the hearts and souls of its citizens. The shutdown was used as an excuse to pilfer and plunder the citizens’ civil rights to worship God in speech, in the written word of the Bible as Freedom of the press and in peaceable assembly in community, with people communicating with and observing the reality of our Maker. Petitioning God for Divine Providence as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in the First Amendment was not only disrupted, these civil rights were denied enmass. Dividing the peoples’ ownership of the land from their common good, imposing the power of the state to remove people from the land, and passing laws to inveigh against the souls of the citizens harkens to totalitarianism and despotism.
    Assuming the power to inveigh against peoples’ souls, the state assumes the responsibillty for the peoples’ untimely and unwarranted death. Has anyone died and died without his Sacraments? Let the state answer.
    Death for government is spelled IMPEACH.

  2. “….the desperate craving of American Catholics for validation from non-Catholics.” A deafening roar of approval from without is required to drown out that little voice inside that dares to suggest that just maybe you’re not in God’s good graces after all.
    “No, really–Get bent, you smug pr–k.” Thank you, that sums it up nicely, and I think I’m going to be needing the Sacrament of Penance even more often than usual as this depressing tragicomedy unfurls.

  3. Yes, there is a Pope-Watch, because Pope Francis has done everything possible to communicate ambiguity. Part of it is his educational background: Pope Francis has not had years of profound study and training like JP2 nor BXVI, years of refining and studying Catholic theology at a profound level. He had a weak training in the late 60′s at a middling theology school in Buenos Aires. He failed to complete his dissertation and PhD at Frankfurt—that speaks volumes. The last pope who had a such a lacuna in systematics and dogmatic theology was Paul VI (he studied systems at the MIlan seminary and obtained a PhD at the Gregorian in Canon Law, but mainly he was in the Vatican diplomatic corp) and he was at a marked disadvantage in defending Humanae Vitae to its chorus of “New Theologians” like Hans Kung and Charles Curran. Yes, the last pope without a doctorate was Pius X, Giuseppe Sarto: but Sarto was an outstanding student at his seminary, and was from limited financial means, so he couldnt obtain a PhD for that reason alone. He was nonetheless appointed as a teacher in dogmatics and systematic theology, in which he was outstanding, at the Treviso seminary—so again, it is important to have a pope who deeply comprehends Catholic theology. It is important that a pope be able to literately and effectively teach the faith and to comprehend the meanings of his words–just for example, as Pietro de Marco observes, Francis confuses words [“to judge” (“Who am I to judge?” speaking about (are we to presume active) homosexuals) with “to condemn.”] Francis says “proselytism is solemn foolishness, it makes no sense,” rather dismissing great Jesuits before him like St Francis Xavier and Bl. Peter Faber (Faber he says he models himself upon). Is the Great Commission over (Matt. 28:16-20, Go teach all nations..) ? Francis says “Each of us has his vision of the good” … “we must incite him to proceed toward what he thinks to be the good.” Well, we know that Kinsey, Fidel Castro, and Lenin certainly had visions of ‘the good’—-are there no objective elements and standards that the Church teaches is a single objective good? Of course there are. Bergolio/Francis confuses all these. The fact is, that the numerous ambiguous messages and contradictory statements seem to be increasing, and I can predict that soon, in a year or two years, there will be a serious crisis of faith he will have precipitated in the Church (He already did so to a great degree when he called morally committed Catholics “obsessed” about “homosexuality, abortion, and contraception.”) So, quo vadis, Francis? Yes, there is indeed every good reason for a “Pope-Watch.”

  4. “Part of it is his educational background: Pope Francis has not had years of profound study and training like JP2 nor BXVI, years of refining and studying Catholic theology at a profound level.”

    One doesn’t need a PhD or any other degree for that matter to read and insist on adherence to the plain meaning of Scripture and to 2000 years of Sacred Tradition. This comment isn’t meant to denigrate either B XVI or JP II. Rather, it is intended to point out that orthodoxy doesn’t require volumes of education but an insistence that holiness and righteousness come before social justice and the common good that so appeals to Latin American clerics (and most the USCCB, too, for that matter).

  5. Yes, Mr. Primavera, but then if you are willing to dismiss all these facts, are you not at a loss as to explain the genesis of Pope Francis’ statements? Do you or do you not perceive that there is a problem?

  6. “Do you or do you not perceive that there is a problem?”

    I do – it’s the lack of orthodoxy and of precision. Additionally, when the Pope said in a recent interview, “I have the humility and the ambition to get this done” (or something to that effect), then we see further what the problem is, and it’s not education or a lack of education.

  7. Ah, Mr Primavera, now I think I get the drift of your 1st comment above; I wasnt sure which way to interpret it at first.
    As I try to study this man and his comments, Bergoglio’s comments appear cannot but reflect Pope Francis’ theological education. That is an education that is highly charged (or appears to be) with a personalistic relativist interpretation of matters (ex. “Who am I to judge…”) common to the 1960’s and 1970’s, and also he displays a viewpoint that only sees God as immanent, not transcendent (for example, his bowing after the consecration of the species, when even the Novus Ordo rubrics explicitly call for a profound genuflection at this point). His viewpoint reflects much more that of Hans Kung and Karl Rahner than of Ratzinger and Wojtyla. His opposition to clear absolutes (it is reflected in nearly every statement he makes) and his pre-occupation with immanence logically bodes ill for adherents of the TLM (he was no friend of the trad Mass in Buenos Aires during his episcopate), saying the Latin Mass adherents are involved in the Vetus Ordo’s “exploitation” (his exact words). His calling of male religious he dislikes “unfruitful bachelors” and female religious “spinsters” not only really was quite uncharitable but shows that when it suits his bias, he is quite content to judge. There is a lot to wonder about this Pope, and quo vadis.

  8. Steve Phoenix

    The theology of most of the last century has been a reaction against what Cardinal Henri de Lubac called “the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought… which recognized “no other link between nature and the supernatural than an ideal juxtaposition of elements which…were impenetrable to each other, and which were brought together by our intellectual obedience, so that the supernatural can subsist only if it remains extrinsic to the natural and if it is proposed from without as something important only in so far as it is a supernature…”

    He chiefly credits the philosopher Maurice Blondel, who wrote, “First, the scholastic ideology, which still exclusively dominates, includes the study neither of religious psychology nor of the subjective facts that convey to the conscience the action of the objective realities whose presence in us Revelation indicates; this ideology only considers as legitimate the examination of what objectively informs us about these realities as designated and defined. Moreover, and especially, everything is instinctively resisted that would limit the authoritarianism born of an exclusive extrinsicism. And, without formulating it, the conception is entertained according to which everything in religious life comes from on high and from without. Only the priesthood is active before a purely passive and receptive flock.”

    One recalls the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s emphasis on the receiving subject in the act of revelation.

  9. I do – it’s the lack of orthodoxy and of precision. Additionally, when the Pope said in a recent interview, “I have the humility and the ambition to get this done” (or something to that effect), then we see further what the problem is, and it’s not education or a lack of education.

    Dunno. I think there is something to be said for the thesis that the man’s background is such that he is in danger every day of stepping in it in a way none of his predecessors over the last century ever were.

    The Church in the industrial occident has made one tragic set of errors after another over fifty odd years – the 2d Vatican Council, the 1965 and 1970 missals, the breakdown of discipline in the seminaries (1970-198?), the subcontracting of disciplinary matters to dodgy characters in the mental health trade (ca 1982 – ca. 1993 on a large scale; on a small scale earlier and later), the general refusal to defrock any clergy bar at the request of said clergy (1965- ), acceding to a hideous modern aesthetic in church architecture (1950- ), and building seedy apparats engaged in public relations and lobbying (1965- ; with roots earlier). Also, you had some exploding time bombs: the corporate architecture which rendered Catholic colleges vulnerable to secularization and the esoteric social processes which put so many latent homosexuals in the clergy (after 1925 or thereabouts) who came to cause so much trouble (‘twixt 1950 and 1990 or thereabouts). Selecting this man seems like another tragic error. We may have something we have not seen in centuries: a buffoon Pope.

  10. Is it a myth or truth that the church was involved in the creation of “artificial contraception” to enhance the ability of natural family planning? Honest to god I was told that once and I just filed that in the round file of my mind. Could anyone verify or debunk that accusation? Thanks

  11. Enovid was developed as a menstrual regulator and to treat conditions such as dysmenorrhoea. Obviously, that is a perfectly ethical treatment

  12. Michael P-S, yes, Pope Francis appears squarely from the descendants of the Jesuit “Fourviere School” of Lyons, which got into a lot of trouble prior to Vat2. De Lubac (who by the way, never obtained a Ph.D nor completed a dissertation either—he was awarded it by the Jesuit provincial at the time [about 1930] because he was designated a rising star, apparently), got into trouble by using patristic & scriptural exegesis and his personalistic interpretations thereof as a battering ram against traditional magisterial teaching (remember Luther? remember also how “scripture scholars” attacked Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae as being insufficiently scripturally grounded? Or how Schillebeeckx attacked Ratzinger’s definition of male priesthood also for “lacking scriptural basis”?)

    But, dear friends, this all may be academic: because I don’t think Bergoglio cares about these matters or their historically traditional basis. It helps to be ignorant: makes it easier to “ignore”, especially facts. Yes, having a Ph.D isnt everything: but it says a lot when you rise to the top of the corporation and make pronouncements as he has made as “Teacher of the Faith.” Air turbulence ahead.

  13. Steve Phoenix

    Not only Jesuits.

    There was the Oratorian, Lucien Laberthonnière, who edited Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne.

    Perhaps the greatest scholar of the period was the ex-Jesuit, Abbé Henri Brémond (incardinated in the Archdiocese of Paris), whose « Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en France, depuis la fin des guerres de religion a nos jours » [Literary History of Religious Feeling in France from the end of the Wars of Religion to our days] published in eleven volumes between 1913 and 1936, is a classic history of spirituality. His « Prière et Poésie » [Prayer and Poetry] and « Introduction a la Philosophie de la Prière » [Introduction to the Philosophy of Prayer] are based on his unrivalled knowledge of mystical writings and devotional works, which along with his writings on poetry, symbolism and romanticism, earned him election to the Académie française in 1923, in succession to Mgr. Duchesne, the Légion d’ honneur and a eulogy from the French Symbolist poet, Paul Valéry. He was a seminal influence on the Nouvelle Théologie.

    Then there were the great Dominican theologians, Marie-Dominique Chenu and Cardinal Yves Congar and the Oratorian, Louis Bouyer.

  14. The spectrum from learned volumes to unwritten remarks, all serving to influence the world’s understanding of the original generous, helpful and divinely inspired writings, has certainly enhanced the shades of gray.

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