Monday, 9 December 2013
On Neo-Catholics and the Pope
As a traditional Catholic it is often my desire to retreat into my study and imagine myself at the University of Paris in the 13th century. Alas, I must emerge to confront some hysteria that has been unleashed in the past few days regarding some of the Holy Father's comments in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. I will limit myself to some remarks considering certain Neo-Catholics' responses to criticism of Francis' words in that document in lieu of attacking the argument presented by the Pope in his latest writing. The position I have in mind is Francis' comments on 'trick-down economics' which was blasted by the American conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh as 'pure Marxism'. It turns out that, if we assume that the Castilian edition of Evangelii Gaudium is the original language, the English translation suffers from a mistranslation in that section. The substitution of ''inevitably'' for the original ''por sí mismo'' (by itself) certainly leads to the confusion and has increased the polemics. I have no desire in this article to tackle the issue ''de por sí'' (in itself) but one which is far more worrying and fundamental.
It may be considered honourable and loyal to defend the Pope from charges and assaults but it is not always required. On occasion, it is a grave disservice to the Vicar of Christ to bow at every word or action simply as you wish to be obedient sons of the Holy Father. I can understand the concern but as Catholics called to worship the one true God and spread His Gospel of redemption, our priorities should be much greater. The Pope himself is the servant of the Faith, the 'servant of the servants of God'. His is a heavy burden, one which will be his eternal glory or his eternal damnation. Let us shudder at that thought. I would address these staunch defenders of the words of Pope Francis and ask how they would have dealt with the heretical sermons of Pope John XXII in the 14th century? Would they have kept quiet? Would they have attempted to adopt a spurious defence of his theological position? Would they have condemned the theologians who resisted John? Would they then have praised Benedict XII who defined the contrary position? Tossed about on the waves of personal loyalty, they would have made fools of themselves. It was through the protestations of the theologians that John recanted. Maybe they saved his soul.
At times it is necessary to defend a pontiff's words from being misinterpreted by the media who are so eager to latch on to any scrap that conforms to their agenda. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has not been immune from ambiguity and often quite troubling words. We understand that the Faith is hated by the world and that Catholicism is the last bastion, the last rampart against secularism and a culture of death or aimless license. I understand the devotion that Catholics feel towards the person of the Holy Father and such love should be fostered. As a Scotsman it is appealing to honour the Bishop of Rome in a protestant land. Yet, let us not be fools in this matter. It is our duty to pray for the Pope each day, asking God to grant him prudence and wisdom in his actions and words as well as for health and security. That is the response of a Catholic who truly loves the Pope because he loves the Faith first. Papolatry and the adulation of the crowd will not save a soul and will blind one to many missteps and errors.
I have often read the apologetical articles written by prominent Neo-Catholics and I have found much of great value. In fact, it was through their works that I studied the Faith before I converted. In approaching historical difficulties concerning papal infallibility, they seem to be in accord with the mind of the Church when they recognise explicitly the restrictions and limits of ''Pastor Aeternus'' of the First Vatican Council. Unfortunately when they are not dealing with issues raised by Popes Liberius, Honorius and Alexander VI, they seem to lose their objectivity and clear understanding. It was my belief that Ultramontanism had died out. However it seems to have resurfaced under the pretext of obedience to the Magisterium. These may be harsh words but it is not the person of the Pope that we are called to proclaim and defend but the Faith handed onto us by God through Jesus Christ. The Pope has the same obligation but one which is must greater and more urgent. His infallibility does not extend to issues relating to the economy, the natural sciences, medicine or geography. If error that is damaging to the Faith is committed by the Bishop of Rome there is a need to resist him. Have they actually considered his words or have they spontaneously reacted with abhorrence towards the fact that someone has criticised the Pope?
The Faith has an objective content that may be presented and explained without the necessity of the Pope of the hour interpreting it. We are not required to suspend judgement on matters of faith and morals already defined until a future pontiff 're-examines them in the light of the Second Vatican Council'. The fickleness towards the Faith exhibited by these, albeit well-intentioned, individuals makes a mockery of the Apostolic Doctrine. The hysterical reaction of some including the ludicrous headline ''The thing that used to be used conservatism has put out a hit on your pope'' is a grave danger to souls understanding the Catholic Faith. It is almost like we are defending 'policies' of a current pope which would soon be altered, assuring the vociferous support of those who defended the contrary simply as the pope said it. On a side note, I am often amused by the self-identified 'conservatives' in the USA, whereas from my perspective as a European Catholic monarchist, they appear rather left-wing. A radio host like Limbaugh who defends the US constituion can only be called right-wing in relation to the modern day Democrats who espouse all sorts of nonsense. From a European context, at least historically, the US constitution is remarkably liberal. Based on the principles of the Enlightenment and Freemasonry it could in no way be described as conservative. In an American context, I am sure the Neo-Catholics devoted to religious liberty are utterly oblivious to that truth.
We must be cautious in ascribing error to the Pope in matters but we must be aware of how authoritative the comments or words are. Off-the-cuff remarks by a careless speaker may be worrying but we must recognise them for what they are. Let us not feel compelled to rise to the defence of the Pope on matters outside of faith and morals because we as Catholics feel somehow obliged. Yet when the Faith is proclaimed by Francis, let us answer 'amen' and refuse to give up his body to the liberal media. Francis is a plaything for the media who will soon abandon him when they have extracted as much capital out of him as possible. Caution instead of cynicism should be our preferred attitude. I miss the days of Gregory VII and Innocent III but I have not been placed by God in the 11th or 12/13th centuries, I can only work out my salvation in fear and trembling in the here and now. It appears that Francis is open to criticism and that is to be welcomed because our concern is for the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness above all things and then we shall truly honour the Pope.
Until He come,