Personally I can totally understand why Francis has been “irritated” by the recent 5 cardinals book reaffirming the true teaching on marriage. It shows that they have not understood his approach and they do not trust him. But why not?
Following my previous post on Pope Francis You are Loved I received this comment:
“Orthodox Catholics feel shaky, afraid the Traditional Latin Mass will be diminished, afraid that all the errors they were taught as children will continue, afraid that the Magisterium will not support the true faith. Many of us are like starving refugees who have (under Benedict) finally got food, terrified the lean times will come again. That’s a cross we must learn to bear; we must love and evangelize in the midst of our fear.”
I think this comment expresses perfectly what so many western orthodox Catholics are feeling at the moment in regards to Pope Francis. Generally i think most of us who are secure in the teachings of the church want to like him but there is this underlying fear that he is more favourable to the liberal side of things. I have already discussed that i feel these fears are unfounded. If you read Evangelii Gaudium you will see that he is an orthodox Pope. His papal style strips away the unnecessary superficial parts of the catholic tradition (the red shoes ect…) and focuses on the central message of mercy. He sees the person before he sees the sin. He meets them where they are in their process of conversion and shows them the dignity and respect they are due simply because they are a human being who Christ died for.
This does not mean however, that he is ignoring their sin. Not at all. What he is doing is putting that persons growing relationship with Christ in top priority. He understands that without a relationship with Christ, Catholic doctrine is just a set of cold hard rules that don’t make a lot of sense in the modern world. So in this respect i guess you could say he is putting the doctrine bit ‘on hold’ until that person is in a place where they are going to be able to understand and accept it. And this is where the problem lies…
In the early 1960’s we had Vatican 2. The 16 documents of Vatican 2 clearly set out the Catholic faith in relationship to the modern world. It was a time of massive change in the church. Sadly, some in positions of authority here in the west either did not study and understand these documents properly, or they purposely chose to interpret them incorrectly. It is down to their poor decisions that the true catholic faith has not been transmitted properly, which has resulted in hundreds and thousands of babies now not getting baptised because their parents don’t see the point.
I used to feel a huge amount of anger and resentment towards these people in authority. But now i realise that they too were/are on their own conversion journey’s and are also in need of compassion and forgiveness. It’s just a shame they ever got into positions of authority. Anyway, here in the west, post Vatican 2, we entered a period where through our schools and parishes, the true teachings of the catholic church were just not taught to ordinary catholic’s. At a time in the worlds history when the true teachings of the church should have been upheld and taught with more vigour than ever, we got served ‘progressive’ ‘modern’ twaddle. Opinions and trends were prioritised over clear doctrinal teaching. In fact it was the faithful catholic’s who clung onto the doctrine for dear life that (i believe) has kept the church going in the west in the midst of a tsunami of modern progressive falsity.
This is the last time i will talk negatively about that period in the church’s recent history, because although it is important to acknowledge why things have happened, i feel it is unhelpful to keep dragging up the past. The new generations of committed western catholic’s coming through now ARE solid in their faith AND they are brilliant evangelisers.
One more very interesting point from a American friend of mine living in the UK…
“I admire Pope Francis for his compassion, his humility and his ceaseless preaching about the mercy and love of our Lord. But I think there are things he does not understand about the Church in the English-speaking Western world. Here, orthodox Catholics are often the movers and shakers amongst the faithful, in contrast to the more liberal within the Church who view traditional liturgical practice as exclusionary and irrelevant, piety as quaint, and evangelisation as gauche and anti-social. Traditionalists are scandalised when the Pope appears to encourage this latter element. Conversely, in much of Latin America and the developing world “conservative” can be a byword for arrogance, clericalism, and an attitude towards the poor that is at best indifferent and at worst repressive, whereas so-called liberals may burn with the boundless evangelical zeal the pope wishes for all Catholics to have. Of course not everyone fits into these boxes, but I do think that these are the social trends that shape the way many of the faithful, including the Holy Father, speak and listen to each other, and may be at the root of the suspicion with which Pope Francis is regarded by some traditionalists, despite their shared aim to live and spread the Gospel.” – Victoria Seed.
Pope Francis’ style is reminiscent of this post Vatican 2 era for us in the west because, as i said earlier, he puts the doctrine part of the conversion process ‘on hold’ until the person has established a relationship with Christ. He is showing the person mercy. But the huge and fundamental difference here is that he still upholds the doctrine. Repentance comes later on in the conversion process and he knows this.
This is fundamentally different from the approach Cardinal Kasper has taken. Kasper also believes in ‘mercy’ for the individual but in his mind this means changing the teachings of the church so as to make it so the person is no longer committing a sin. For example his solution to the issue that most catholic’s use artificial contraception, is to allow artificial contraception rather than actually teaching NFP (something that hasn’t been done over the last 2 generations). His solution to re-married catholic’s receiving communion is to just let them, rather than explore the annulment process AND take responsibility for the lack of effective marriage prep available at the time these people got married. Kasper is choosing to ignore the sin and ignore any responsibility the church may have had in terms of lack of catechesis. He wants to give in and change the doctrine. That is not mercy, it is indulgence. It is defeatist because it implies that the church has nothing better to offer. Kasper is at a stage in his conversion where he believes he knows better than the Holy Spirit. We’ve all been there.
People are getting confused between the two hugely different approaches of Francis and Kasper because they both holler ‘Mercy’. They both look very similar on the surface but one does not have to dig very deep to see that the two men are coming at it from vastly different angles.
“They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops. They want to crystallize the truth in certain formulas … the formulas of tradition.” – Cardinal Walter Kasper, September 2014
This is what Pope Francis said regarding Doctrine:
“Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching; fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, safeguarding this doctrine. Humility and fidelity. Even Paul VI reminded us that we receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we need to transmit it as a gift, but not as a something of ours: it is a gift that we received. And be faithful in this transmission. Because we have received and we have to gift a Gospel that is not ours, that is Jesus’, and we must not – he would say – become masters of the Gospel, masters of the doctrine we have received, to use it as we please”. – Pope Francis, Janurary 2014
Francis is not a threat to doctrine. He is not repeating the errors of past. He is a threat however to those of us who see the sin before we see the person behind the sin, and believe that following doctrine comes before a relationship with Christ. We must not let our fear of the past make us cold. Love comes first, and those of us here in the west who are secure in the true teachings of the church must be the ones to make the first move. Francis is challenging the Pharisees amongst us Orthodox to become Evangelisers – “…we must love and evangelize in the midst of our fear.”