In Praise of Carl E. Olson

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Carl E. Olson

 

 

I have never met Carl E. Olson, but if I did I would be happy to shake his hand.  Under the current Pontificate too many Catholic commenters either ignore the frequently baffling things that Pope Francis says, or make excuses for him.  Olson does not.  He deals with the situation straight on.  A prime example of this is his examination of the La Croix interview this week with the Pope:

 

4) Here is the most controversial section of the interview:

– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?

Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.

I find it refreshing that Francis admits that “the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam” because he has previously insisted that true Islam has nothing to do with violence. But, in fact, many people in the West are fearful of Islam, in part because they recognize that while the majority of Muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority of terrorists claim to be truly Muslim and—this is essential—there is no basis on which their claim can be denied. Secondly, the “well, Christians do bad stuff too!” argument is not only facile, it is insulting. Of course Christians have done bad things. But saying that the Great Commission—”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20)—to jihad  and the consistent record of violent and coercive expansion by Islam is simply ludicrous. No, it is not the same idea of conquest, and that sort of evasive equivalence is a disservice to the historical record and to the truth about Christianity.

Unfortunately, Francis has often taken this sort of straw man approach to this topic, as when he said in November 2014, “And I sincerely believe that we cannot say all Muslims are terrorists, just as we cannot say that all Christians are fundamentalists – we also have fundamentalists among us, all religions have these small groups.” That is equally facile, because no serious person is making such expansive claims; rather, the issue is the inherent vision and logic of a particular religion, combined with the means by which it regulates itself and interprets its doctrines, combined with the structures by which it controls and directs its actions. That said, I think he is correct in noting the implications of trying to plant some sort of democratic structure in certain countries; it simply doesn’t work and it often has very bad consequences. But that still is separate from the inner dynamism and goals of Islam, which is not only fractures, but quite theologically schizophrenic and disfunctional..

5) Finally, Francis says, “States must be secular. Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of History.” My initial response is: “And non-confessional states end well?” Let’s be honest: the end of any nation is almost always bad; nations rise and fall for a variety of reasons, but the falls are rarely pleasant or enjoyable. The Soviet Union is a good case in point. On the other hand, this insistence that confessional states are simply bad is dubious, to put it mildly. The Byzantine Empire lasted for—wait for it—a thousand years, and it was, on the whole, an impressive and great culture. (Of course, no one knows anything about it, so it’s a moot point, right?) Oh, and it was conquered by, yes, Muslims. And as a recent and important book explains, the Andalusian Paradise was not, in fact, paradise. And, please, can be stop invoking “History” and the “grain of History”? It’s both lazy and meaningless; history is what men have done, using their free will, for good or ill. Invoking vaguely Hegelian concepts only confuses matters.

Francis is right, of course, to defend religious freedom; he says many good things. But, at the end of day, those who wish to understand the place, purpose, and possible future of Europe will be better served in seeking out the writings of Joseph Ratzinger.

Go here to read the rest.  Read the comments for this exchange:

The Pope in general is saying “If we lived our Christianity correctly, we would not need to worry”.

Carl E. Olson:  Glad to know what you think the Pope said in general. However, I was commenting on what he actually said. The West is surely a mixed bag; it increasingly is promoting all sorts of graves ills. Francis’ critique is both uneven and unconvincing. He relies often on a victim mentality, continually resorts to empty clichés about arms manufacturers and such, and appears to apologize for any semblance of Christian culture, as if it is the problem. I’m sorry, but trying to deeply understand these sort of remarks is like telling me to swim deeply in a bird bath.

 

Olson is not a Pope basher.  He is clearly uncomfortable in having to point out the problems in what the Pope says.  However, he is an honest man and so he does his job.  Unfortunately, in the current pontificate we are learning that honesty among the ranks of Catholic commenters is a rarer virtue than one might like.

More to explorer

PopeWatch: Trolling

PopeWatch suspects the Pope is just trolling us now:   Vatican City, Feb 14, 2019 / 05:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis

8 Comments

  1. Carl Olsen is rare indeed. I had an email exchange with one such commentator and he actually took the position that PF’s use of the straw man argument was no different than that employed by the Gospel writers such as John. Just like in the exchange Carl had, mine involved the commentator telling me what PF really meant to say. I responded that I at least respected PF enough to analyze what he actually said, not what I wished he had said.

  2. Flattery of Popes as opposed to honest analysis of Popes is a sin and is extant throughout Catholic culture because there is a career connection for many. If writer A has a blog but also plans a Catholic book or especially makes some money on the Catholic parish speaking circuit, he or she will tend to love….or overlove…each Pope who comes along during their lifetime. It’s financially in their mind the secure thing to do. If a Catholic blogger loves Francis exactly as much as he liked Benedict, there’s a chance he’s building a Catholic income which requires him to image as never rocking the papal boat. This syndrome takes place in high clergy also. Arnold Toynbee, the historian, admired Catholicism very much but said it did have aspects of an arrested culture. Careerism is one area. Olson, Ed Peters, Amy Welborn…are the real deal. Their income is Catholic dependent but they have been honest about this Pope.
    The new lesson in this confused papacy is that Popes should be elected while the reigning Pope continues to live AND work and the election should take months and require research by Cardinals as to everything the candidates have said and done. What we have is a quickie process rooted in the emergency of a Pope dying….or quickly exiting like Benedict. Elect a younger Pope as John Paul was in 1979….while the current Pope is living and working so that Cardinals actually research the candidates for months. I do not think Francis would be Pope under a system that gives Cardinals months to research each candidate and their writings.

  3. Unfortunately, Carl Olson is not all light, as you may wish to believe. This is same Carl Olson who, as editor of Catholic World Report, published that hideous Bp. Barron puff piece on Stephen Colbert. That alone would have gotten hm fired if I were his boss. He published at least one of Mark Shea’s noxious “consequentialism” screeds. He has written well on the train wreck that is this pontificate. But he is as two faced as they come.

  4. It seems to me after all the things which this Pope has said and done, he is nothing more than a heretic. He happily receives a commie crucifix, he glorifies control by Caesar, he damns rich people, he equivocates Christianity and Islam, he joyously oversees a pagan light show on St Peter’s Basilica, he treats planet Earth as goddess Gaia, he opens the door for adulterers to receive the Eucharist, he appoints liberal progressive pro-sodomy, anti-pro-life clerics to the episcopacy…..the list is endless.
    .
    We are suposed to love and pray for the Pope, but frankly, I have great difficulty in seeing this man as my Pope just as I have great difficulty in seeing Obama as my President. Maybe I am too self-centered because really, they aren’t mine after all.

  5. Donald: Thank you for gracious post. You wrote: “Olson is not a Pope basher. He is clearly uncomfortable in having to point out the problems in what the Pope says.” Very, very true. I don’t like writing pieces that critique and criticize the Holy Father. But I know that such criticisms, if offered in charity and out of proper concern, are sometimes needed. My sense is that many Catholic writers are indeed bothered or puzzled by Francis, but are hoping that it will all work out. It’s a strange situation; I view it as a sort of unique “triple whammy”: 1) we had two of the most erudite and intellectual popes in history, 2) followed by a pope given to public musings rooted in often curious understandings of, well, nearly everything, 3) in an age of instant communication and overwhelming amounts of information and opinion. It’s not, of course, a good combination.

    Greg: I don’t know if I should even take your remark seriously. I’m as “two-faced as they come”? I think I can be fairly faulted and criticized on many fronts, but being “two-faced” is not one of them. Because CWR posted a piece by Bishop Barron that presented his positive take on Colbert? Ha! Because CWR posted some pieces by Mark Shea (http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Zone/156/Sheavings.aspx)? Good grief. Well, feel free to let Fr. Fessio or Mark Brumley know that I should be fired. Go for it. In fact, I’m going to send them the link to this post and highlight your comment. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll ask Colbert to be the new editor of CWR!

  6. “My sense is that many Catholic writers are indeed bothered or puzzled by Francis, but are hoping that it will all work out. It’s a strange situation; I view it as a sort of unique “triple whammy”: 1) we had two of the most erudite and intellectual popes in history, 2) followed by a pope given to public musings rooted in often curious understandings of, well, nearly everything, 3) in an age of instant communication and overwhelming amounts of information and opinion. It’s not, of course, a good combination.”

    Quite correct Carl.

  7. Carl:

    Bishop Barron wrote a piece extolling the “depth of Catholic faith” of a hard left pro-abortion Colbert. How is publishing such a piece defensible?

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