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Some Thoughts on Some Things Pope Francis has Said

October 12, 2013

…and on things other people have said in response.

I’ve been horribly busy over the past few months, but I’ve managed to write a few pope-centric posts at Gaudete Theology that might be of interest to BLT readers. Here are the titles and initial excerpts of those posts, in chronological order; please click through to read the rest and join the conversation.

(And thanks, Theophrastus, for encouraging me to crosspost!)

Papal Interview: “Disjointed Multitude of Doctrines”:

In the excerpts of the papal interview I’ve been seeing, this one leaped out at me (emphasis mine):

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

because it reminded me of something I blogged about earlier, when discussing Roger Haight’s Systematic Ecclesiology:

Haight’s analysis demonstrates that the common pejorative “cafeteria Catholic” (wielded in both directions) is not only unfair, but inadequate, to describe what’s really going on. It is not a matter of cherrypicking items out of a coherent body of teachings based on personal preference. The fact is that the body of teachings is not presently coherent: faced with this situation, many Catholics are, with great integrity, constructing a self-consistent theological system, resolving contradictions by applying (what they understand to be) the core values of the gospel.

It also resonated very strongly for me with an experience I had as a young adult. I moved “back home” after college for about six months, and was singing with my parish choir during that time. It so happened that my last night to sing with the choir before moving out of town again was Ash Wednesday, which is a fast and abstinence day for Catholics (no meat, no snacks between smaller-than-usual meals).

After mass, up in the choir loft, there was a little farewell party for me, and one of the women brought out a cake that said “Good Bye and Good Luck” on it. To which my immediate, internal response was:

Oh no! It’s Ash Wednesday, I can’t eat this! It’s a fast day. We just started Lent!

followed immediately by the realization that…

The Pope and the Atheist:
This was a fascinating interview that I wish I had time to blog further, but this was my favorite part:

The Pope comes in and shakes my hand, and we sit down. The Pope smiles and says: “Some of my colleagues who know you told me that you will try to convert me.”

It’s a joke, I tell him. My friends think it is you want to convert me.

He smiles again and replies: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

And I smile when I read the next line, because this is how my conversations with my atheist friends always go, too…

“Your Christianity will be Personal, or it will be Bullshit”: Beneath Grisez’s Critique of Francis:
In response to Francis’ recently published interview with an atheist, Germaine Grisez had some startling criticism:

I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity. For a long time he has been thinking these things. Now he can say them to the whole world — and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.

Katherine Mahon over at Daily Theology has some thoughtful reflections about the interview that also, I think, implicitly engages with the substance of Grisez’s critique, but I want to focus on the subtext, the assumptions, beneath this critique, which I find far more disturbing.

Grisez affirms that the Pope’s job is to to guard [the truth] as inviolable and proclaim [it] with fidelity. The truth we’re talking about here is the truth of the gospel, the truth which was entrusted to the Church.

He then criticizes Francis for being open and honest in saying what he really thinks and how he really feels.

The underlying assumption is that popes, bishops, and preachers have a responsibility to conceal any personal thoughts, feelings, or opinions that might potentially be interpreted as inconsistent with any element of the formal teachings of the church. …

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