Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Post-Modern Pope

I try not to delve too deeply into the Francis Wars.   As a non-Catholic, most of the harshest critics of then Pope John Paul II were the liberal Catholics I knew.  As I moved into the Church and roamed about St. Blogs for an idea about this whole Catholic thing, most who were not liberal simply dismissed such critics.  They didn't like liberals' attitudes about the pope, and when the rhetoric against the pope became vile, they would speak out.  But it was no big thing most of the time.  The emphasis was always on 'we're all under the same big Catholic tent'. 

Despite the fact that most who said that then will rip into anyone who dares question Pope Francis today, I still try to keep a 'big tent' view   I don't think Pope Francis is Satan, Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson or George Clooney.  I agree with some of what he's said.  

For instance, I liked that he pointed out food waste is a sin, and one of the unfortunate byproducts of our industrial age is having so much that we can afford the luxury of throwing perfectly good food in the trash even while millions around the world starve.  Well done pope.  Or his attacks on consumerism, or drawing - perhaps not enough -attention to the Nazi style selective abortion that is becoming all the rage to the left of center.

Nonetheless, I do have problems with him.  Especially in how he conducts himself as a religious leader.  I don't think I've ever known so prominent a religious leader who seems to celebrate 'do as I say, not as I do' as a religious ideal.  His constant 'the problem with the world is those believers over there' rhetoric has led to a cottage industry of Catholics who are thrilled every time they're sure he just blasted those believers over there.

Plus it's not hard to see his sympathies lie to the left of that political center.  He may say marriage is between a man and woman, or abortion is sin, but see if he rips into those who challenge or reject those moral positions.  Yet watch when he takes on critics of various, often political, viewpoints such as Global Warming or open immigration or Covid lockdowns  He has no problem blasting them as sinful deplorables, even moving to judge their inner hearts and motives.  

Then there is that tendency he has to echo what I learned about Marxist inspired Latin American Liberation Theology.  If he isn't a student of it, then some level of Liberation Theology osmosis seems to have had its way with him.  It's not hard to see his sympathies lie with almost anyone except the Western Democratic nations and those believers who happen to live there. 

Finally there is the fact that he just spends so darn little time talking about things like Jesus or the Catholic Church as if they really matter.  Oh sure, you can find some quote of his in a greater talk where he might speak of salvation and the Church, but you usually have to go digging to find it.  Not so with his views on Global Warming, the economy, immigration, or Black Lives Matter.  You google pope and any of those, and you're hit with a tidal wave of multiple references to multiple statements he has made.  Sometimes a little more focus on the hereafter rather than the here and now might do him better. 

With that said, the news a week or so ago that his first post-surgery move was to drop a bomb on the Latin Mass sent my head spinning.  As the world is blowing itself apart, as tyranny and mass killing and eugenics and the move to destroy liberty, religion and life is almost unchecked on a global scale, as the Catholic Church is bleeding numbers and more and more Catholics don't give a rip about Catholic teaching, he decided to drop the hammer on those Catholics attending the Latin Mass under the premise that it's divisive?  Has it ever dawned on him that if it's divisive, it might be because of many reasons and many sides of the issue - including him?  I mean, for a pope whose tagline is 'who am I to judge', he does a lot of judging.  And condemning.  And sometimes almost contemptuously putting down those who don't share his view of unity. 

That he does this under the auspices of bringing unity is like telling people to stop being divisive and admit they're Nazis.  More than that, it reinforces my growing opinion that Pope Francis approaches the Church the same way postmodernity approaches the world.  That is, if we have seen further than others, it's not by standing on the shoulders of giants, it's because we are the first generation of giants to look back at the deplorable history of dwarfs who came before us. 

That's why so many millennials and others raised in the postmodern era have nothing but contempt for the past, and don't really care about learning anything from the past.  That's why survey after study finds younger and younger generations not only not knowing basics, but not caring that they don't.  After all, why care about everyone before us who were clearly losers who messed it all up compared to our awesomeness?

Pope Francis sometimes gives whiffs of this viewpoint.  He often acts as if the first 2000 years of the Faith were a dress rehearsal for now when we're finally getting things right.  And this new vision of the Church is finally the right one, firing on all pistons correctly, understanding all of the new visions of the world that finally shed the proper light on the true revelation of how things always should have been. 

As my sons have said, if it was any generation other than this one, such thinking might seem more plausible.  I sometimes think that never in history has a generation with so little to show for its time on Earth spent so much time speaking of its superiority to everyone who came before who built the civilization that same generation inherited and yet despises. 

And like postmoderns, who are getting nastier and nastier the more we see the latest, greatest ideas of the last couple generations unravel and fail, it seems as though the more questionable results of the Church's attempts to modernize become apparent, the worse those who support the Church's modern approach to dealing with the Faith in the world become similarly nasty.  Unfortunately, I could include Pope Francis in that assessment. 

25 comments:

  1. Interestingly, there was a secular journalist that accused John Paul of wanting to create a "Rome/Riyadh alliance," to kill the atheists or something. It seems that, before 9/11 and the War on Terror, leftwingers were actually harsher in their criticisms of Islam than the Right. Interesting how times change

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    1. Growing up in the 80s, the Islamic world was still a pretty nasty place as popularly portrayed. At the same time, as fitting the age, great pains were made to separate between the bad and the good. Nonetheless, back in the ERA days, Islam's track record with women and general treatment of minority groups (which hasn't changed much in some parts of the Islamic world) brought it in for heavy criticism. That began to change in the 1990s. One of the first cases I remember where the Left/Pop Culture sided with Islam was Muslims criticizing Disney's Aladdin. Later I remember seeing a special newscast in which different individuals were interviewed complaining about the negative portrayals of the Arabic world. The late Casey Kasem was one interviewed. Likewise, following the first World Trade Center bombing, I do recall some early whiffs of 'if they're trying to kill us, it must be our fault.' I just think 9/11 gave them to chance to come out of the closet and declare sides - in this case, with the Islamic world (or anyone not-Western). I still remember that 2 part PBS special months after 9/11. It presented Islam in such a beautiful light I almost converted.

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  2. I admit I agree with most all of what you said but on the other hand I have one beef with people who claim themselves as being staunch practicing Catholics. Yes, this pope has not been one who has followed in the footsteps of JPII or Benedict. I do not agree with all he has said AND done, however, is it right to call him everything under the sun that is distasteful because we do not agree or believe as he does? No matter how we feel about him he is still the head of the Catholic Church like it or not. The man does demand respect simply for occupying the office of St. Peter. We don't have to like him, agree with him or even be friendly with him but we do have to love him as called for by Christ. Do we consider him an enemy? Then pray for him instead of calling him a loser.

    Sometimes I think we should consider biting our tongues when it comes to describing what we really think of Pope Francis. I'm not saying we can't criticize his words or actions we should do so without the personal attacks on his person and character as we've seen many times over online from admitted Catholics. Our thoughts about the man may be uncharitable, but that's on
    us not the Pope. Yes, we can give our opinions in what he has done and what he has failed to do but in doing so we do not have to go hog wild describing him in unsavory adjectives. It doesn't do the Church any favors when we display for all to see our derision on the man who heads our Church we think his is legit or not. If he isn't our legitimate Pope then let us prove it otherwise we should at least respect him as the person who holds the office of St. Peter.

    I know this will ruffle feathers of those who disagree with me and I know of one commenter in particular who will be particularly so, but I really don't care, since I've never really seen any Christian behavior from him towards other commenters.

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  3. I agree, and I tried to refrain from going overboard, while keeping honest my appraisals of how I see him in the day and age. I do think, as is always the case, there are those who go overboard with their criticisms. Hopefully I'm not one. I also know there are those who go overboard with their defenses of him. I think one of the worst things to happen over the last several years is that such behavior among Catholics has almost been sanctioned - by the pope himself. Not that he behaves that way toward everyone, but he clearly does to some. Which might be worse.

    But yes, there is a line we shouldn't cross, I'll agree. Especially on the Internet. It's so easy to do, where we're safe behind our keyboards and out of fist's reach.

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  4. For instance, I liked that he pointed out food waste is a sin,

    I don't. That's a silly statement of his.



    Francis is notable for his neglect of his proper functions and performance so poor in those functions that neglect would be an improvement while at the same time delving into areas he knows little about and about which he can do little. He's an unserious institutional politician who damages everything he touches.

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    1. That comes from my days working with the SB missions board. I got to know several from other countries. No small number of them, no matter how much they admired our country, were bothered by the amount of food - good, usable food - that was tossed in the garbage while people from their homes were starving. That's not to say Pope Francis is the one to figure out some quick solution, but sometimes a reminder to take a second look at what we've come to accept as normal doesn't hurt.

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  5. "12 And when everyone was full, He said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”

    I agree with you David. The west has for a long time enjoyed the horn of plenty with little consideration for those who barely have enough to even eat nutritiously. Not anyone's fault really. Most of us alive in the US has not been without our fill and have not really known hunger to the extent of those in third world nations. Again not our fault and we should rejoice in our blessings. However, being aware of this divide today most if not all parishes do have programs to help those who need food here and abroad. We can't save the whole world, but there is no harm in doing what we can to alleviate hunger. For as Christ says, "so that nothing will be wasted."

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    1. There is no 'horn of plenty'. Outside of tropical Africa and a scatter of other places, there is ample nutrition because (1) people produce the food in situ or (2) they can trade for foodstuffs with the goods and services they produce. Malnutrition abroad is a function of deficits in technology and the organization of production. The solution is incremental improvement in these realms of mundane life. You have sporadic famine and mass refugee flows which can be addressed through trans-shipment of foodstuffs, but ultimately you have to address the production deficit in everyday life in these areas. Having people in Peoria be OCD about what's in their refrigerator addresses that not at all.

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    2. "Malnutrition abroad is a function of deficits in technology and the organization of production."

      All the more reason to supplement their food supply until said technology and organization of production is met to satisfy hunger. No need to dangle food over the heads of the hungry because their governments aren't up to speed. Western nations have the resources and means to accomplish this in the interim.

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    3. All the more reason to supplement their food supply until said technology and organization of production is met to satisfy hunger.

      No it isn't. Relief works to address acute problems. Chronic problems can only be addressed by incremental improvement in human capital. You're very likely to inhibit that by removing a motor for so doing.

      This isn't a matter of 'governments not up to speed', although bad policy can inhibit economic development. This is the human condition as it has been experienced since forever.

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    4. "This is the human condition as it has been experienced since forever."

      Ah so because this human condition has been experienced forever we should just throw our hands up and say "no more food until you learn how to take care of yourselves otherwise you won't learn from this experience". Very charitable. Yes, relief works to address acute and chronic problems until the condition is improved.

      By your logic this scripture passage is conditional upon the poor doing a better job of feeding themselves:

      Deuteronomy 15:11
      "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."

      I totally disagree with you. You're in luck though. You don't have to feed the poor since they may take advantage of your help. It's your choice just as I choose to feed the poor and if I get taken for a ride by the recipients of my generosity then so be it. I did what Christ asked me to do. Give to the poor without condition.

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    5. Ah so because this human condition has been experienced forever we should just throw our hands up and say "no more food until you learn how to take care of yourselves otherwise you won't learn from this experience". Very charitable. Yes, relief works to address acute and chronic problems until the condition is improved.

      Again, charity comes from re-distributing production within societies. There has to be product to re-distribute. There has to be an understanding of social relations which comports with human nature through which the common life approaches a social optimum. The problem with these societies is that they're not producing enough. You don't address that problem by making them chronic mendicants of other societies. You just turn them into chronic mendicants.

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    6. "Again, charity comes from re-distributing production within societies."

      No, Christian charity comes from the heart and the product from your own larder. As I said, no one is forcing you to feed the poor, it's your choice. I choose to.

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    7. No, Christian charity comes from the heart and the product from your own larder. As I said, no one is forcing you to feed the poor, it's your choice. I choose to.

      Thanks for the attitudinizing. Always an education.

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    8. Nah lol not attitude just conviction of faith which you obviously don't seem to share.

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  6. It was fashionable ca. 2004 to tear bishops to pieces in fora like this, even though a great many of them were asked to make impossible decisions. "Impossible" would mean being prudent and fair when a 31 year old man sends you a letter informing you that Fr. So-and-So fondled his genitals when he was 14. People like Rod Dreher and Leon Podles simply pretended there was no information deficit and pretended bishops faced no dilemmas in investigating and adjudicating these cases. I haven't seen Francis abused the way generic Anglosphere bishops were at that time.

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  7. The moral of the story, I suppose, is to put not your trust in princes, even in princes of the Church. It was wrong to treat John Paul II as not merely a saintly Pope, but even as a kind of demigod. That is an error that I suspect no one will make again about a Pope within our lifetimes.

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    1. The strangest part of it is, most Catholics I knew in my non-Catholic days were not fans of Pope John Paul II. The highest praise for PJPII I heard often came from fellow Evangelicals (I even knew a KJV only fundamentalist pastor who gave him a nod). It wasn't until I came to the Catholic St. Blogs that I found such high praise from Catholics. Now, many of those who were no fans of him (or Pope Benedict) are the ones fawning over Pope Francis and defending him to the point of going to the mattresses. So I don't know what lessons will come from this.

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    2. Most Catholics I knew when I was a Protestant were not very Catholic. Part of my conversion came with finally meeting someone who took his Catholic faith seriously. You may have had the same experience.

      As for Francis, most of his fans, Catholic and Protestant, seem to like him only to the extent he gives them cover to do whatever they please. Given the Pachamama incidents, given the change he wanted for the Our Father, given his ambivalence on sodomy, I can see within my own family that the more serious my Protestant relatives are as Christians, the harder it is for them to look at Francis and not think that Jack Chick may have really been onto something.

      That said, no Pope who kisses the Koran can be considered "the Great" -- especially if he does not die as a LITERAL martyr. (No dry or white martyrs need apply.) Several of the saint's decisions were questionable, but kissing the Koran was indefensible.

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    3. Somehow my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs came out in the opposite order to what I had intended.

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    4. I don't see the 'kissing the Koran pope' any different than the first pope's faux pas having to be reamed by St. Paul or by his denial of Christ. Which is worse? They're all human eh?

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    5. Do you see it as any different from Pope Marcellinus sacrificing to idols?

      Suppose you and your family for generation after generation had held on to the Faith in Muslim-occupied lands, accepting poverty, disgrace, indignity, and even death. The pressure on you to convert to Islam is infinitely stronger than the social pressure on a pope to "just be a nice guy". And yet, there he goes, attesting by his actions that IT WAS ALL FOR **NOTHING**. That is not what St. Peter did, whether you understand it or not. That is not a "faux pas", any more than what Jim Jones did was a "faux pas". That is NOT what a great pope does.

      John Paul II is a saint (as is Marcellinus) , but NO, he is NOT on par with Gregory the Great or Leo the Great.

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    6. There was a suasive article in The Latin Mass some years back on the gangrenous effects of the busyiness of the bureaucracies devoted to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Well worth your time. The whole Assisi mess was an embarrassment. A description of it in detail is found in Ferrara and Woods The Great Fa├žade

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    7. @Art -- I've been through middle school and high school. I understand peer pressure. It makes no difference of the peer pressure comes from guys wearing little hats that were actually quite popular about 800 years ago; it's still the same thing. It's also no more an excuse for bishops than it is for sophomores.

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