There has been some feedback from readers who were disturbed by a recent post of mine encouraging folks not to fret too much about the pope and to continue to get busy at the local level doing what they can with what they have where they are.
I still think this is the best advice for the majority of the faithful.
What worries me about a lot of the online criticism of the pope is that much of it seems based on mainstream media headlines, the breathless articles from extreme right wing websites, the harsh criticism from alarmist bloggers and social media pundits.
Furthermore, too often the criticism is uninformed or only partially knowledgable and written by folks who have too often jumped to conclusions and are blinded by their own prejudices and personal likes and dislikes.
However, does that mean I think we should put our head in the sand and pretend all is happy in the garden?
Not at all. We are not called to be either Catholic robots or Catholic Pollyannas. Where criticism is needed, the right people, whose calling and charism it is should speak out, but they should do so in a powerful and proper way.
This week at The Catholic Thing and Crisis there are two articles which illustrates what I think is a proper kind of critique of the present state of affairs in the Catholic Church. The first article is by a priest, Fr Gerry Pokorski.
Here’s why it’s a good article:
- Fr Pokorsky avoids personal attacks on the pope. There’s no name calling or calling the pope “Bergoglio”
- It is not emotionally charged. The article isn’t a breathless diatribe against the pope.
- It is informed and balanced. Fr Pokorski gives good reasons for his critique.
- It does not come across as self righteous, rigid or holier than thou
- The tone is not complaining, whining or petty.
- It focusses on the larger issues, not just on specific nit picky problems.
- It helps us understand the smaller problems as symptoms of a deeper and wide malaise in the Catholic Church
- It returns us to the priorities of the faith: our soul’s salvation and the reverent worship of God
- It offers a positive attitude in the midst of worrying details.
This is the sort of intelligent, wise and measured critique that is needed, because it highlights the faults of our current situation in the Catholic Church and calls for the right, good and positive response.
In other words, Fr Pokorsky’s article does not just criticize Pope Francis, it does not point out what is wrong as much as what is lacking, and when we see what is lacking we can begin to fill in what is missing, and that is a positive and good thing, which grumbling and carping rarely accomplishes.
I have tried to approach the matter in a similar way in posts like this one in which I call for a new Reformation–not just for Catholics, but for the Protestants too. The post recognizes that Christianity today has lost its bearings and is adrift in a sea of Moral, Therapeutic Deism.
Fr Pokorski diagnoses the same disease from a different perspective, and sees it in the ministry of Pope Francis.After lauding the triumphant proclamation of the Christian gospel by Pope St John Paul II, (which had history changing implications) he contrasts this with Pope Francis:
Under the current pontificate, that bold Christian triumphalism has given way to a kind of stealth secular triumphalism – with calls for dialogue, open immigration, and environmentalism – rarely an invocation of Jesus.
During his recent “Address to Authorities, La Moneda Palace” in Chile, Pope Francis complimented the Chileans on their beautiful country and advances in democracy. He urged them to avoid consumerism and to address environmental problems. But the Holy Father continued a pattern he established in America during his speeches to civil authorities. He carefully avoided mentioning “Jesus,” “Lord,” and “God.” As a result and perhaps by intention, he appeared primarily as a visiting head of state, with a mostly secular policy agenda.
This is the critique that is needed–not attacks on a person or particular actions so much as a real critique of the problem at the heart of it all.
The second article is by the inimitable Fr George Rutler at Crisis. Entitled Where Are the Churchmen With Chests? he speaks about the present spinelessness of our leadership, but puts it in a larger historical context.
As Fr Pokorski criticizes the pope for preaching a secular gospel in Chile, so Fr Rutler points out the same defect in Pope Francis’ address to congress in the USA.
A pope is not merely another head of state, and the whole history of the economy of Christ and Caesar makes clear that popes are never stronger than when they are weakest in things temporal. Surely a man resolved as Pope Francis is to do what is right for mankind, was ill-served by those who counseled him on what to say in addressing a joint session of Congress. On that awkward day, the Holy Father spoke of refugees, human rights, the death penalty, natural resources, disarmament, and distribution of wealth, but there was no mention of Jesus Christ. The speech invoked acceptable figures like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, but no canonized saint that the nation’s legacy boasts.
These articles get down to the real matter at hand: the preaching of a secular gospel rather than a sacred gospel.Why have so many Catholic leaders substituted the saving gospel of Jesus Christ for a message of worldly salvation?
Because so many are universalists and semi universalists and because so many have either watered down or denied by neglect the cardinal doctrines of our faith.When the real, vital, supernatural saving grace of the Catholic faith evaporates all that is left is the residue of good works, and that comfortable false religion has an old name: Pelagianism.