Friday 13th December 2019

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A Leaven In The World… The Pope Is A Catholic

May 20, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

The Church is in the grip of a frenzy of accusations, some of them rather superficial. It seems we may be in a bit of a correction period after the pendulum of papolatry swung so far during the reign of Pope St. John Paul II. He enjoyed a very high degree of popularity. Held as he was in very great esteem as a world leader and spiritual authority in a time of uncertainty, his words were clung to like a life raft in a storm.
Even his missteps were forgiven. And there are always some of these within the prudential judgments of every Pope. Not every enunciation of our supreme Pontiffs enjoys a guarantee of infallibility and some of us have forgotten that.
There is also much daily conversation about and fascination with Popes with the increasing use of the Internet for live-streaming. Images of events in Rome are made available instantly. We are inundated with visual and text stimulation and thus are attempting to digest and understand more information than ever before.
Greater and greater volumes of information require more time and effort for consideration before making estimations of their value and worth. In our fast-paced consumption of vast amounts of information, we are increasingly challenged to truly understand what we are seeing or reading at any given time and to make reasoned evaluations of it.
It was not always so. Many Catholics once upon a time never even saw an image of the Pope. They rarely heard a word of his daily or weekly homilies. They certainly didn’t have a record of his every utterance, to include the contents of daily conversations with his Curia or the faithful in audience.
Access to official statements such as encyclicals and brief, rare appearances on TV were the fare for Catholics over a period of hundreds of years. All the while they lived their Catholic faith nonetheless to the full and enjoyed engaged lives within our parishes, staffed as they were by adequate numbers of priests and, in many cases, sisters teaching in the parish schools.
Now many Catholics must reach beyond the ambit of the local communities, some withering in membership and some without the regular ministry of a priest. They turn to media for a sense of connection with the Church at large. This is a good thing for Catholic identity.
But there is a down side to everything. Pope John Paul II, perhaps because of his acting background, was acutely conscious of the potential effect of his words and actions. He was very careful to speak always to the faithful as a universal pastor of the unifying Catholic faith. His intense Marian devotion was a visual invitation to all the faithful to take up their rosaries regularly again and to reinstitute May crownings and processions. He was an effective communicator. This regular exposure to the Pope gave many an increasing sense that the man occupying the office was capable in every elocution of being coterminous with the faith itself.
Papolatry, or the erroneous identification of a Pope with the faith itself, grew. It was believed that everything Pope John Paul II said commanded complete submission of intellect and will; that he and the faith were one. This was to a great degree true because he was deeply concerned about orthodoxy in a time of growing apostasy. But essentially misguided.
Popes serve the truth. They can and unfortunately sometimes do make errors of prudential judgment. The first Pope required fraternal correction by St. Paul when he placed Jewish dietary restrictions in importance over the new freedom in Christ through Baptism and redemption.
Pope Francis is a new Pope. He has a very different style. He seems to be less conscious of the effects of some of his words and unconcerned that some aspects of his style may cause confusion. Neither I nor anyone else judges his conscience. But we do measure his words and actions. They are not as clear and consistent as were those of St. John Paul II. If they were easily understood, would we have politicians and others supporting the redefinition of marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and other moral evils while citing the teaching of the Pope as authority for their choices? This is a clear case of violating the principle of non-contradiction. Evil is evil. It can never under any circumstances be chosen without sin.
Popes are responsible for saving souls. This is not possible without clear guidance as to right and wrong. This is clearly a weakness at present. When this is pointed out, as when I recently called attention to the Argentine bishops’ letter calling for giving Communion to Catholics in adulterous relationship which the Pope placed in the AAS, saying that Amoris Laetitia could not be interpreted any other way, I was accused of disobeying the Pope.
Reactionary papolatry does not good theology make, however. Popes are not now, nor were they ever, identified ipso facto with all the truth of Catholic faith. It is a munus they must undertake with constant effort and a grace with which they must cooperate, as is so for all of us who are baptized, catechized, and being led by the Holy Spirit “into all the truth.”
What often happens in these cases is that those who choose to initiate honest critique are targeted for a variety of accusations arising out of an irrational and reactionary papolatrous position. No Pope is above a reasoned examination of his words and actions. This is so because the faith and salvation it brings are prior goods in the Church. One of the accusations frequently lobbed is to accuse others of implying that the Pope is not Catholic.
Let’s clear the air by making one thing clear: The Pope is Catholic.
If the Pope were not Catholic, the Dubia would never have happened, if the Pope were not Catholic, none of the other growing list of letters, petitions and other appeals would have occurred. Yes, Pope Francis is indeed a Catholic. Because he is a Catholic, it is incumbent upon him to consistently profess and teach the true Catholic faith. And that has become a concern.
It is precisely because Francis is both Catholic and the Pope that so many are voicing concerns about his way of enunciating the faith. The faith is not ours to manipulate or to “change so it can’t be changed back.” None of us serves Christ if we do not all share in the mutual submission to Him in the truth, from least to greatest in the Church.
It is precisely the fact that the Pope is a Catholic which has given rise to so many attempts to have a conversation with him, to no avail. And that is not worthy of a Catholic. It is Catholic to pray for and to urge a fellow Catholic to measure and consider his words for the good of the pastoral care of the salvation of all souls. It is also Catholic to generously and charitably dialogue with all comers.
At a recent Rome conference, Professor Roberto de Mattei said this on the matter: “Satan prefers to conquer men of the Church rather than the laity, and from among the men of the Church, those who have the highest vocation; to lose a pure and generous soul, to lose a saint, to lose a bishop, to lose a Pope: These are Satan’s greatest conquests.”
Let us pray for the Pope. Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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