The article below is typical of what is coming out of the camp of those opposed to Pope Francis. They are so convinced that he is wrong that they cannot take seriously any expressions of orthodox Catholicism that he may make which would challenge their own interpretation of his views. The result is that they render themselves incapable of understanding his teaching however clearly he may express it.
This article is from Sandro Magister, an Italian journalist of L'Expresso and a typical anti-Francis commentator.
No One Listens To Him When He Defends Life and Family. And There's a Reason
One time, when he was visiting Turin, he said to a crowd of young people: “Be chaste, be chaste.” And he almost apologized: “Pardon me if I am telling you something you did not expect.”
Pope Francis is also this. A pope who occasionally goes back in time and reiterates the precepts of the perennial Church. Such as not aborting. Or to use his words to the young people in Turin: not “to kill children before they are born.”
The mainstream media minimize it or are silent when Francis departs from his dominant image, as a pontiff who is permissive on subjects that until a few years ago the Church defined as “non-negotiable.”
And yet there have been so many times, at least a hundred, in which he has departed from it, even in solemn circumstances as in Strasbourg, in front of the European parliament, when he condemned the logic of the “discardable,” of the elimination of all human lives that are no longer functional, “as in the case of the sick, of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for.” It is what he customarily calls “hidden euthanasia.”
But it was as if he had not even said it. His speech in Strasbourg was greeted with thunderous applause from all the seats of the assembly, and calmly shelved.
This is also what happened in mid-November, when Francis dug up no less than a warning from Pius XII to reiterate the condemnation of euthanasia, here too with the media instead interpreting his words as an “opening.”
A week later, in two consecutive homilies at Santa Marta, the pope also took aim at the “ideological colonization” that presumes to wipe out the difference between the sexes. One year ago, while he was in Georgia, he even branded it as “a world war to destroy marriage.”
Even these repeated outbursts of his trickled away like water on marble. Ignored.
The press may have its share of the blame, but it is truly paradoxical that this should happen to a pope like Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whose mastery in the use of the media is seen as unbeatable. Unless one were to hypothesize that he in the first place is the one who wants these statements of his to have no impact, and above all to do no damage to his reputation as a pontiff with the passing of time.
One thing is certain: the epic head-on confrontation between a John Paul II and modernity, or between a Benedict XVI and the “dictatorship of relativism,” is something that Pope Francis does not want to revive in the least. He is perfectly content to have his pontificate interpreted in the reassuring light of “who am I to judge?” and as a consequence never to have any of his spoken or written words on these divisive issues taken as definitive and definitional, but to be offered as harmless, pliable, up to the judgment of each individual.
This result has also been produced by Bergoglio’s ability to perform gestures with an impact in the media that is incomparably more powerful than that of words.
When two years ago, at the end of his visit to the United States, he gave a very warm audience (see photo) to one of his Argentine friends, Yayo Grassi, accompanied by his Indonesian “partner,” Iwan Bagus, this was enough to consecrate the image of Francis as open to homosexual marriage, in spite of all his words to the contrary.
And vice-versa, when imposing crowds, Catholic and not, take to the streets in defense of marriage between man and woman and against “gender” theories, as happened in Paris with the “Manif pour tous” or in Rome with the “Family Day,” the pope is cautious not to say a single word in their defense. Nor much less to protest against the victories of the opposing side. When in May of 2015 in Ireland the “yes” on homosexual marriage won, Francis left to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, the duty of calling that result “a defeat for humanity,” and thus of taking upon himself the inevitable accusations of obscurantism.
In short, where and when the political and cultural battle is raging for or against the affirmation of new rights, Pope Francis remains silent. And he speaks instead far away from the contest, in the places and moments most sheltered from attack.
He preserves the Church’s traditional doctrine this way, as in an air raid shelter.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)
I believe that this article proves that Sandro Magister does not understand Pope Francis, like so many of Pope Francis' critics as well as like so many of his secularist fans among the press. In fact, Sandro Magister commits the same error as the secular media, consigning to oblivion those parts of Pope Francis' teaching that are inconsistent with his pre-conceived picture of Pope Francis.
Listen to Bishop Barron on Pope Francis:
Listen to Bishop Barron on Pope Francis:
Bishop Barron on Pope Francis
Hence, both the secular media and his critics within the Church tend to distort what he has to say. In Bishop Barron's video, there is a totally different explanation, one for which there is ample evidence in Pope Francis' own words. To understand him you must understand the task of "New Evangelization" set by Vatican II and proclaimed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is a task aimed at lapsed Christians, people who know at least something of the Christian message but for whom it means nothing, just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus before they met Christ
Bishop Barron says that the heart of what Pope Francis wishes to say is found in his famous interview when he says that he, like all of us, is a sinner who has been looked upon by Christ.
"Long before we deal with other issues like abortion, gay marriage, divorce - all the issues we usually talk about, we have to start with this moment of encounter between a sinner and amazing grace. We must keep our priorities clear. We must focus on that moment of encounter: that is the heart of the Catholic thing. If we forget this, then we have forgotten everything."You don't get people to enjoy a sport like baseball if you try to introduce it to people by getting them to learn the rule book. You let the people watch and take part in the game; and then, when their enthusiasm has been roused, then is the time to introduce them to the rules.
The Church does not have a mission: it is a mission to introduce the world to Christ, and we are all participants in that mission simply by belonging to the Church. Firstly, we must remember that this mission is addressed to everyone, and especially to those on the periphery, to those who feel cut off from the Church. This includes divorced and re-married, gays etc. No one is excluded. All are addressed by Christ through the Church. There is no section of the community too unworthy or too weak or too perverted to hear the Gospel. The Gospel is the unconditional love of God for each person revealed in Christ. Only when this love is accepted and responded to does the rulebook make any sense; and, even then, it must be applied with sensitivity, and must not be allowed to blind people to the central message or replace the Gospel as the centre of the Church's preaching. Thus, Pope Francis is not being permissive when he says, "Who am I to judge?" He is trying to redress the balance, to meet gays with the Gospel, not the rulebook, in his hand, to offer them a personal relationship with Christ. What happens next is between them and their confessor, guided by the teaching of the Church interpreted within their own concrete circumstances.
If the main thrust of our pastoral energy is going to be among the lapsed, then we are going to meet many spiritually wounded people, in almost impossible situations from a canonical point of view. In the now-defunct Christendom where most people are lapsed Christians, the world is full of spiritually wounded people. And the spiritual disease even infects people within the Church. Do we meet them with the Gospel or the rulebook? Pope Francis has a different answer from his critics. That is the real difference!!
Do we go on preaching and teaching in the traditional way when the majority who listened were, at least in theory, practising Christians who accepted the basic Christian message and who lived in a society for whom the Church wrote the rulebook, or do we wake up to the fact that we live in a secular, multi-cultural society that does not take the basic Christian message for granted. Therefore, our first task is to preach and teach the basic Christian message which is the Gospel, not the rulebook. That has been the teaching of Vatican II and of all the popes since, especially John Paul II. Pope Francis is in full continuity with them.
Let us now turn to another critic of Pope Francis. Here is a video of Cardinal Burke (7 minutes).
Before we discuss this video, a few introductory remarks are necessary. It was said at the time of the election of Cardinal Bergoglio that his task was to continue with the work of Vatican II. There were three very important characteristics of that council. The first was that it was completely uncensored, both in its subject matter and in the discussions and papers of those who took part. The second was the influence of the Eastern Churches, in the person of Patriarch Maximos IV and the impact of his synodal Melkite government, and long years of dialogue of the ressourcement theologians with Russian Orthodox theologians who fled to France after the Revolution. All subsequent dialogue has been a continuation of that which took place secretly before Vatican II. Out of that dialogue came the eucharistic ecclesiology that was enthusiastically accepted by Pope Benedict XVI and is now normal currency in the Catholic Church. The third was the emphasis on episcopal collegiality and the desire to transfer responsibility from Rome to local, regional, and universal synods. All three characteristics are alive and well in Pope Francis' pontificate and have had a strong influence on the synods on the family.
Pope Francis refused to permit the normal Vatican curial practice of guiding the synods through censorship so that no "scandalous" disagreements could erupt to challenge the Vatican line on the family. This move paralleled the move in the opening session which lasted only fifteen minutes of Cardinals Lienart and Frings of Cologne with help from his secretary Father Joseph Ratzinger to snatch Vatican II from the clutches of the Curia. Vatican censorship gave a false appearance of unity, and when it was neutralised at the very beginning of the council, the consequent freedom allowed the council to make the changes that it did. Pope Francis considers the type of censorship the Curia wishes to impose to be a worldly substitute for the action of the Holy Spirit and as an out-of-date way of misusing power.
The adoption of eucharistic ecclesiology obliged the recognition by the Church of the traditions of the apostolic churches not in communion with Rome as true manifestations of Catholic Tradition because the root of the "Carisma Veritatis" is the guidance into truth by the Holy Spirit as a response to the Spirit's invocation in the epiclesis at Mass. Recognition of "valid orders" in these churches implies more than a recognition of their sacraments. In the light of this, Patriarch Maximos IV of Antioch suggested to the assembled bishops in Vatican II that the Orthodox distinction be adopted when interpreting church laws between acribia, or a strict interpretation and implementation of the law, and economia in which the strict implementation of the law is laid aside in certain circumstances for the good of souls because, by its very nature, the Christian economy of salvation puts mercy above law when the observance of a law becomes an obstacle to salvation. Moreover, if, in the first thousand years, permitting divorce in the East and its prohibition in the West it in the West was never a reason for schism, it cannot become so later, nor can it be called "basic to the Catholic faith" as Cardinal Burke calls it. Hence there is nothing new in the Church in Africa holding a strict interpretation of the law on divorce and remarriage while the Church in Germany, which is in a completely different pastoral situation, tends to invoke economia more often. There ought to be enough love and respect for one another and enough humility to realise that our understanding of the same doctrine will be partly shaped by our own pastoral environment. The Orthodox say that whether to use acribia or economia is a decision for regional hierarchies, not just for individuals to decide because the law is important and laying it aside in certain circumstances is not to be done lightly.
In fact, neither Pope Francis nor the synods invented the differences. They merely brought them out into the open. I was ordained a priest in 1961, and there have been these same differences all the time I have been a priest.
We arrived in Tambogrande, Frs Luke, Paul and myself, in 1981 and found the whole marriage scene to be a complete mess. Most were not married in a church, and many of those who were were not living with the woman they were married to. Yet, at communion, they would crowd around the altar "like hungry dogs", as Graham Greene put it, exclaiming, "A mi, Padre! A mi!!" and their sexual irregularity in no way diminished their enthusiasm for the faith. Nor did it take away from the real heroism of the women who held their family together through thick and thin, whether they were sacramentally married or not. We gave out communion to all and sundry; but, as the situation became clearer, Father Paul, who was the parish priest, went to consult the archbishop in Piura.
The archbishop said that the Spanish converted the people before the Council of Trent made it compulsory to get married in a church and it has never caught on. Perhaps this had something to do with the social necessity of giving a fiesta to the whole village or street, with food and music etc, and few have the money to do this. Also, most people seem to form a really permanent family on their second try; and there are often good grounds for calling into question the validity of the first marriage, but that involves inhabiting a legal world of papers and processes completely foreign to them and, at least before Pope Francis, the canonist charged $500. How could someone who earns less than $100 a month to feed his family spend that much? Only a priest living in his own little clerical world could even suggest it. The archbishop said that, if they are living a good Catholic life, then we should give them communion when they ask for it. This is what we did and, gradually, the number of people marrying in the church began to rise. When people begin to live as regular members of a eucharistic assembly, then the rulebook begins to make sense.
We shall now take a closer look at Cardinal Burke's views. Firstly, let us look at the text he uses when talking about marriage and divorce. This is St Matthew's version - St Mark's is without the escape clause.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
This discussion takes place within the context of Jewish Law and, therefore, does not explicitly involve the effects of Baptism, but no one believes that he was about to inaugurate a new edition of the Law of Moses. In East and West, Tradition accepts that Jesus has jumped from teaching about the old dispensation to how his disciples were to behave in the new. However, their theology of marriage is a bit different, probably based on the fact that in the Christian East the Roman Empire was intact and adequately administered by the State, while the the Christian West was made up of semi-barbaric tribes and the formation of law was done by the Church.
Thus, in the East, the marriage contract was a state matter. The whole emphasis of the sacramental celebration was on a blessing by the Church which transforms the merely natural marital relationship into a participation in the divine relationship between the Persons of the Blessed Trinity and which involves the couple dying and rising with Christ: it is all about theosis. Therefore, there is no contract expressed in a Byzantine marriage service.
In the West, the Church had introduced to pagan society the whole idea of marriage as an exclusive, life-long contract. This became the very matter of the sacrament, the legal contract itself. Indeed, the whole Gospel became legalised so that Christ's death came to be seen as his fulfilling a legal debt that the human race owed to God but which only Christ could repay: a metaphor was turned into an actual description of the event.
When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons. (Gal. 4, 4).
We must see Christ's prohibition of divorce in the light of his other statements and of his own example. Christ came to set captives free, to forgive all our failures, to unbind us of all that restricts us; and he reached out to the most marginalised and sought to show mercy. To use modern political jargon, to sinners he appeared to be a liberal, eating and drinking with publicans and sinners and refusing to condemn those that the political and religious establishment condemned.
However, we must ask, he freed the captives, invited the marginalised to the marriage feast, and embraced the lepers, to what end? So that they may become sons and daughters of the Father; so that they may become so united with him that they will share in his sonship, and will live and love and die as he lived, and loved and died, and thus share his resurrected life for all eternity. There is nothing liberal about that!
As Christians, they will aim to love God with their whole being and their neighbour as themselves: two criteria for interpreting the Law that defy any form of legal formulation because they are without limit and break through any mould or restriction. The Beatitudes, in contrast to the 10 Commandments, are all concentrating on the very best we can do rather than laws that restrict and thus can be legally formulated.
The two laws of loving God and neighbour, the obligation to unrestricted forgiving and the Beatitudes all require a complete change of attitudes, a change brought about by a close encounter and union with Christ, which is why the original proclamation of the kingdom was, "Repent, for the kingdom of God has come!" where "repent" means a complete change of direction.
The teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage belongs to the behaviour of those who are not living under the Law but as sons, which is why Jesus makes it subject to a change of heart. Moses allowed divorce because of a hardness of heart; but now, for those who live under the law of love as sons and daughters, the permitting of divorce no longer applies.
Of course, when the western Church included this prohibition of divorce in the Law, it could no longer be based on the two-fold law of love which escapes legal definition, but on whether people are baptised or not, which is legally verifiable.
For this to work, it is necessary to believe that the sacrament of baptism will give links with Christ, even when the baptised person is not brought up in the faith or has a completely secular mindset, that are strong enough to make a conversion of heart unnecessary when imposing this prohibition of divorce. It must also hold that marriage of two baptised people, whether they have a living faith or not, has an ontological resistance to divorce.
Cardinal Burke holds both assumptions, neither of which is in the Gospel; and he opens himself to the charge that the ressourcement theologians made against the neo-scholastics in the years before the Council, that the supernatural life of grace in their theology had lost its connection with natural, human experience.
It is my contention that there is a continuity between especially the last four popes, that the four, including Pope Francis, are traditional but, to a growing extent, appeal to Eastern as well as Western traditions to find solutions to modern problems. All four are sons of Vatican II and follow the theology taught by Vatican II, but each has interpreted it through his own experience, Paul, John Paul and Benedict as participants, Francis as a young observer from the outside. Perhaps, as an observer, Francis was more conscious of those projects of Vatican II that had fallen by the wayside; and, whether he was elected to do this or not, he has made it his business to revive them and to put them into practice. Of course, this has aroused opposition as it did during the Council.
Pope Francis is intent on following Christ. Like a convinced liberal, he is open to everyone, condemning no one, "Who am I to judge?" has almost become a distinguishing motto. However, unlike a liberal but like Jesus, he invites all sinners, and he includes himself in that category, to a complete change of mentality and to a life dedicated to loving God and our neighbour in Jesus Christ. He does not thrust this down people's throat, content to show people God's love and leaving Christ to do the rest.
Pope Francis is still a Jesuit