Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pope Francis.....Heavy Sigh

UPDATE: I'm sort of regretting writing this because I don't want to get lumped in with the wackos and crazies. But still, I want to emphasize that I don't have a feeling of peace about Pope Francis, as much as I like him and as much as I like him more than any other Pope since I've been born. The bottom line, as I mentioned in one of the comments on this thread, is that it's fatiguing to have to deal with the reality that no matter what Pope Francis says, it ends up being that damage control on the side of liberals has to occur and/or damage control on the side of uber-conservatives has to occur. It just seems that everything he says is couched in controversy and why should it be that way? Where is the peace in confident leadership?

Also, I need to emphasize that if you haven't read Steve Skojec's piece that I link to, you may be confused by parts of my below insecure rant, especially concerning annulment and divorce. 

Finally, for the record, as predicted, prominent Catholic bloggers such as Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher are saying to ignore the news story which prompted my rant. Deep down I know that's sage advice. However, I continue to stand by my line of questioning, which is: When will we NOT be discussing what Pope Francis really said and meant so that we can actually learn from and appreciate what he is trying to teach us? I LIKE Pope Francis! I want to respect him too!

I'm conflicted.

Really conflicted.

On the one hand, I love the spirit and mercy of Pope Francis. He is saying things and doing things that need to be said. He really is a breath of fresh air; he is acting like Christ and not a pharisee.

But - and I hate to say it - I agree with the assessments that claim he is either a complete dumb ass when it comes to media, or he is purposely letting the media run wild with his comments because, well, he really does want to change the Church in ways that are revolutionary (or heretical, depending on your point of view.)

It seems that for every good thing I hear him say - things I LOVE and agree with - there is another that just makes me shake my head and wonder what the heck is going on in the Pope Department.

I am especially grieved by my confusion and confliction because I will be travelling to Rome in the fall and I have a guaranteed audience with Pope Francis. I'd like to feel more wholeheartedly excited about it.

I've been trying for awhile not to have a knee-jerk reaction to Pope Francis. In fact, when he was first elected, I was mad as hell at the naysayers who immediately crowned him Heretic #1. Additionally, I have occasionally peeked at Father Z's blog and laughed my ass off at his efforts to back peddle while he tries to cover for Francis.....reading Benedict through Francis? Or is it reading Francis through Benedict? Either way - HILARIOUS! (Seriously, whatever it is that Father Z is doing with his life and ministry, which is still nebulously unclear to me, it must be that he "needs" to be seen by the higher-ups as someone consistently in support of the sitting Pontiff, because come on, given his Traditional Catholic schtick, I've gotta believe that deep down he's more than a little concerned.)

Now, I'm gonna come clean about something. As some of you know, I like love Mark Shea's writings. I pretty much agree with everything he postulates about politics, culture, and religion, with the exception of his pro-vaccination stance. I have watched him try to take down the anti-Francis crowd more than once and have agreed with his tactics and arguments. For example, yesterday his Facebook page proudly proclaimed that if you think the canonization of JPII and John 23 constitutes a crisis in the Church, well then, you're a lunatic.


But recently, Shea posted a link to a very long rant/ramble/argument by a Catholic blogger whose name I hadn't seen in years. According to Shea, the rant was further proof of Francis Hate and he wanted to highlight just how cynical and delusioned the hate was. Because I was more than a little surprised to see the name of this blogger - who used to be on my blog roll when I blogged as Cheeky Pink Girl (back when *I* was personally delusioned by the belief that to be a *good* Catholic, one had to be a judgemental, pharisaical jackass) - I clicked on the link out of sheer curiosity to find out what had happened to this guy.

Well, I took the time to read what Steve Skojec wrote. And I have to say, for the most part I didn't disagree with him. (For the record, it is a really long read, but I'd appreciate it if someone - anyone - would click over there, read it, and comment.) Now, let me be clear: The answer to every crisis in our modern Catholic Church IS NOT the Latin Mass. I need to say this up-front, because of course, rants like Skojec's automatically point to the Latin Mass and I don't want anyone to think THAT'S the part I agreed with. NOT! And also, there were a few spots where Skojec's math just wasn't adding up, jumping from point A to point K in a single leap.

The part I agreed with is the part about the Eucharist being potentially demeaned and devalued due to actions that appear to be merciful, but that are really just putting a stamp of approval on mortal sin. And the takeaway being that Pope Francis is more than likely a big fan of pastoral guidance/solutions, and that actions/statements by Francis more than lend themselves to the belief that he might be, shall we say, a rather enthusiastic supporter of allowing divorced and remarried (sans annulment) Catholics back into the communion line.

Note that many of Skojec's allegations amount to nothing more than conjecture and attempts at mind-reading. Interesting to ponder? Yes. Something to think about more when I had the time and certainly nothing to blog about. I was gonna shut up about all of this, thinking and believing what all of us good neo-Caths are supposed to believe, which is that the media has it all wrong - they've misinterpreted Francis - because he has never officially said anything that goes against Canon law or the Magisterium, etc. It's just those stupid liberal newspapers and TV stations that have purposely twisted what Francis has said to fit their own agendas, right? Case in point: Francis' comments about homosexuality, in which he never once said that the Catholic Church believes homosexual behavior is OK.

But then today, this: Pope Stirs Communion Debate With Call to Woman 

Now, OK, I know it's mostly a fact that the media gets it wrong about the Catholic Church about 100% of the time, and why should this time be any different? I'll concede that observation as pretty much true. And yet, and yet.....I don't know how many more times I can see "untrue" stories like this in the media and not have it affect me and wonder to myself and have to repeatedly think about my defense of Catholic teaching the next time I get confronted about it.

See, I care about the Eucharist. I mean, why be Catholic if you don't believe it's the real deal? And if you believe it's for real, why wouldn't you be upset about even the HINT of a relaxing of requirements in order to receive our Lord in a state of grace?

I think the state of marriage and divorce in this country is a total crisis. Most everyone who got married in the Church from the 1960's onward was ill-prepared and was subjected to crappy catechesis to boot. So, yeah, I understand that there are legions of divorced and remarried Catholics who want another go of it with their Catholic faith and I think they deserve that chance. My answer is the Church's answer but with a BUT: Annulment, but streamlined annulments that don't take three or five years or cost $1000.

I stand opposed to those trads who think annulments are given out like candy because I think they should be given out like candy, given what's all went down in the Church in the last 50 years. A two-pronged approach on this is best: Married before the year 2015? Hand out annulments like candy! Married after 2015? Go back to the old way of dealing with annulments (and I mean the old way) because we should've figured out by now that if you want people to understand marriage is a sacrament, you need to properly teach them that, and let's start doing that NOW. No excuses anymore. Make them sign in blood that they understand what they're getting into, I don't care what you have to do, but just make sure to do it because somehow, someway, restoration of an understanding of what marriage is and isn't has got to happen or marriage just becomes a joke. No one will bother to get married anymore. Hello Europe!

If the Church allows divorced and re-married Catholics back to communion, guess who's next in the communion line, people? No, it won't be murderers or child molesters. Rather, it'll be practicing homosexuals. And homosexuals who claim to be married. And homosexuals who have manufactured children for their own vanity and will whine that we're excluding a family from the sacraments.That's who.

Don't accuse me of picking on homosexuals or singling them out. Instead, I am pointing out the obvious in that if you relax the standards of mortal sin for one kind of couple (the divorced and re-married with no annulment type), you will automatically open the door for another kind of "couple," which is the homosexual type, which is almost always the type engaging in mortal sin. And that's because (can you hear the bad catechesis sirens of the 1960's-1980's going off?) we are living in a time when NO ONE actually knows what marriage is or what it's for anymore. No one seems to care, either, given that most average Catholics have long accepted that gay marriage is no different than their own marriages. End result: One kind of married couple in mortal sin will be seen as the same and equal to another kind of "married" couple in mortal sin. Gather us in, indeed!

What does any of this have to do with Pope Francis? Maybe nothing. Maybe *I'm* the one jumping the gun here and there is no connection. Yet, I think it's pretty darn interesting that Steve Skojec, a professed traditionalist, predicts that the Church will split over admitting divorced and remarried Catholics back to communion and then not two weeks later I read a news story, which must have a liberal slant, saying Pope Francis told someone to do exactly that. 

Again, I TOTALLY LIKE POPE FRANCIS! I haven't really been "into" any Pope until him, which is why - again - it really upsets me that the one Pope I like and really want to love is the one that's starting to piss me off.

Unlike Shea, I do believe that all these media stories ARE adding up to something going on.

I sense that sooner or later, something - and I don't know what, maybe it won't be the divorced Catholics thing, maybe it will be something else - something is going to change at Francis' hand and it's gonna be big and it's gonna rock our faith. Would I go so far as to call it something "wicked" the way Steve Skojec did? Probably not. But I think it will be something that's gonna turn us on our heads.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope I'm a paranoid lunatic like Mark Shea is probably thinking I am after he's done reading this.

Or maybe it will be something so good and merciful and loving that it will rock all our worlds. That would be something, wouldn't it?

My husband, good and wise one that he is, says he will quietly wait and make no rash judgements and he will pray and hope and have nothing but goodwill for our current Pope. I mostly agree with him on this approach.

But I'm still keeping one eye open.

Heavy sigh. Insecure rant over for now.


  1. You make so many good points! Personally, I don't "get" our current Pope, and agree with what your dear husband said about waiting and praying. It seems like there is so much confusion about things the Pope has been saying, but I don't know if that is his fault, or the fault of the media. I feel like, as a Catholic, for the past decade, I've either made excuses for my church or tried to clarify or correct what I feel are misconceptions in the media. I just want to live my faith without having to defend it all the time.

  2. Think of it this way, Char, there have been popes openly keeping mistresses, or leading an actual army (not the Blue Army/Legion of Mary either), or preaching homilies on Sunday that were in direct opposition to the Faith, yet the Church is still here. Yes, more non-Catholics are paying attention and sneering, thus making us cringe and want to slide under the table, but there is nothing new. So if His Holiness is making you feel uncomfortable, keep in mind he's a sinner, albeit on a very big stage. At least, that's what I keep in mind. IDK if that is any consolation, but I hope it is.
    Angela C.

  3. Hi—I’ve sort of lurked here for several years, but never commented much. Anyway, even though our blogs have a very different tone, content, and audience, I’ve always enjoyed your writing and appreciated your perspective.

    I don’t know if this will help you, but from the point of view of someone who is presently living in Rome and studying Canon Law, the idea that Pope Francis would so radically change the Church’s teaching on marriage—or even change the law in a theologically significant way—sounds EXTREMELY far-fetched. I don’t know anyone here in Rome who is seriously expecting Pope Francis all of a sudden to say that divorce and remarriage is okay, to encourage people in irregular marriage situations to receive Holy Communion, to completely throw out the Church’s tribunal procedures for marriage cases, etc. If the Pope did change something in this area, I would expect it to be a point so comparatively minor and uncontroversial that most “normal” Catholics wouldn’t even notice it.

    I sincerely do think that a lot of the worrisome reports on Pope Francis really are due the media misinterpreting things. Even setting aside those media sources which intentionally slant the portrayal of Pope Francis so that he better fits their hopes for the papacy, I think even a lot of well-intentioned journalists would have honest difficulties reporting on the “controversies” accurately.

    There are a lot of nuances in Canon Law that would not be immediately obvious or easy to explain for someone who doesn’t have a background in theology, and the context in which Pope Francis’ “soundbites” were meant to be taken could be hard for someone who isn’t at least a moderately-well-catechized Catholic to grasp. (I’d be happy to check back in and maybe elaborate with more specific details later, but I don’t want to derail the conversation with an uninvited thesis-length comment.)

    Now, whether or not the Vatican could or should be more media-savvy is a different discussion altogether. My only point here is that from where I stand, it seems wildly unlikely that Pope Francis is actually going to try to change Catholic doctrine.

    1. Thanks for commenting and visiting.
      I want to believe - and deep down do believe - that it's unlikely that Francis will change Church doctrine. And I know it's only been a year and that's a short time - but after one year I'm starting to grow weary of damage control every time he opens his mouth. It's either damage control in the direction of correcting liberals or damage control in the direction of telling traditional Catholics to not get their undies in a bunch.

  4. Skojec's post is one that induces great unease with they way he synthesizes so many threads. Is he onto something? I don't know. The general direction of society and the great spiritual malaise I see all around me (and often within me) is a more immediate concern for me. Sunday Mass is usually an island of sanity (NO in a conservative parish) but that can even be a struggle. I try and remember what a person said to me when I was so upset during the last 2 presidential campaigns - we, as Mom's, must first focus on our primary vocations as wives and mothers. Yes, we want to do what we can to provide our children with a sane world to live in...but it's more important to develop their faith and conscience so that they can make it to eternity with Christ.
    You and I are both trying to do that, to make the Faith the oxygen of their lives, not just the Sunday stop.
    John is right. Also, Skojec's final comments about prayer and the Sacraments and trusting in God are apropos to life in general and in particular to his concerns.

    1. "The way he synthesizes so many threads" - Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying when I wrote that he connects point A to point K. Some of it wasn't really connecting in a way that makes sense.

  5. I rarely post, but I always read your blogs, Char, and I so appreciate your keen observation of how our culture impacts the Church. You articulate it so well. My personal opinion about all this media frenzy is that I will wait and see. Some sources have called the this current frenzy "The Francis effect", meaning whatever he says, media sources are trying to find a spin to it. I tend to agree with your husband. Let's pray for our Holy Father and for each other.

  6. I agree, I cringe at some of the things Pope Francis has said, knowing how the liberal media would interpret them. I wish he would be more cognizant of that. On the other hand, that is not the Pope's problem, they will weave their stories to suit their agendas as they see fit.

    As to this issue, I don't really see the big deal. We already have the annulment process in place. I know of a married woman with children who left her husband to marry a priest, who left his vocation as well, and they went on to have children as well. All neat and tidy with an annulment bow on it. Approved by the Church. I don't judge them, they followed the rules. But it does make one think about other divorced couples.

    I think the real argument is whether annulments should be allowed at all. But annulments are in place, so working within that reality, if there was some way to streamline that process...I dunno, I guess I can't see the harm?

    I think the key is to moving on from divorce is honest repentance, but annulments go much further and say that the marriage never existed (which I understand from the Church's point of view). That's a real get-out-of-jail-card, no?

    A murderer can go to confession, confess his sins, and then be admitted to communion. But a divorced and remarried Catholic can't? I understand the idea is that you sin no more, and obviously if you are divorced within an annulment, you are continuing the sin.

    Again, I'm not arguing against the Church's laws, I'm just bouncing these thoughts about annulments and divorce in my own head. It's really complicated. And I keep coming back to the people I mentioned above, who left both a marriage and Holy Orders.

    In summary, I don't think that we should fear any changes that are to come in this regard. I guess I trust that the Church guided by the Holy Spirit will know what to do.

    Good blog post as always.
    As far as schism, aren't some people already in it?

    1. Then big deal would be *IF* (and that's a big if) something changed in this regard, it won't necessarily be marriage that is so degraded, but rather the Eucharist. That's the point of what Skojec wrote - it wasn't about the annulment so much as it was how the Eucharist stands once we would knowingly admit people in mortal sin to communion.

    2. I got that part about the Eucharist. I guess I get stuck on the real-life example I mentioned above with the mother/wife divorcing her husband and marrying a priest, and all of that being ok somehow. Honestly, I am not sure where I stand on the whole annulment concept in general. Again, going back to the example I mentioned, how can that be ok, yet there is no way for a civilly divorced and remarried person to come back to the Church?

  7. Thank you for writing this. I was beyond disgusted at the Trads who started in on Pope Francis within hours of his election because of , well I don't even know what their problem was. But I was also uneasy with a lot of uber libs like Father James Martin and cardinal Mahony who seemed to want to diss BXVI at the same time praise Pope Francis just as quickly.

    Even though he lives in Argentina, I just have a hard time believing that Pope Frandis is THAT naive about the media, and how they would report the things he says. I am very uneasy. Admittedly, I have never been fond of Mark Shea, but every single post of his about Pope Francis makes me angry. I am so not a Trad or a conspiracy kook, but Shea seems to lump all of us who are concerned into horrible Pope haters. I am done with him. I had never heard of Steve Skokec until CMR linked to him, and minus his comments about the Latin Mass, I share the same concerns about marriage and the Eucharist. I just keep coming back to the fact that there is absolutely NO way the Vatican and the Pope do not understand the media today. Thanks again for writing this. -ZBarZona

  8. To everyone - I added an update to this blog post that contains some links. Thanks!

  9. I wonder - Are we all so upset or confounded by his words because it's like being at the optician's and having our lenses manipulated to try and improve our vision? Have we become so accustomed to the filter thru which we hear things, especially regarding the Faith, that anything on a differing wavelength comes thru garbled?
    I'm not saying any profanation of the Eucharist is acceptable, despite politicians seeming to profane it regularly. I can't imagine any real change coming from this meeting on family life, but I can imagine a call to better reach those in irregular marriage situations to see if they can be regularized and brought back into communion.
    Many of Pope Francis' talks convict me, perhaps they are doing that to others as well.

  10. Thank you for trying to give me a fair hearing. I'm well aware that I write some controversial things. I do try to be honest, sincere, and as balanced as possible when dealing with these subjects, which lend themselves to a certain sort of extremity.

    And I am incredibly wary of this pope. I was very surprised my strong, visceral reaction to seeing him, and despite Mark Shea's rather uncharitable mockery of my saying so, I have received emails and phone calls from many people who felt the same thing. This phenomenon deserves to be understood, or at least acknowledged. It's very, very odd.

    As to this particular situation, I wrote more about it today here:

    I will leave you with this: the likelihood that the pope will change doctrine, if one believes in the indefectibility of the Church, is non-existent. If he is so inclined to allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion, there are essentially three options:

    1.) Delegate authority to the pastor of those in these marriages to make the judgment call about nullity without recourse to tribunal, thus opening up the situation to huge levels of abuse and subjectivity without changing any teaching about who is allowed to receive communion (Catholics in a state of grace).

    2.) Continue giving the impression that it's OK to change this doctrine, drawing out the process leading to the synod in October with intrigue on the topic and leading people to believe they may as well just go ahead and do it because the pope thinks it's OK. When the synod comes, nothing is officially changed, some pastoral language is added, ambiguity continues, exploitation of the same accelerates.

    3.) Attempt to change the doctrine in some more substantive way, leading to overt concerns that Francis is an anti-pope, and fomenting an almost immediate schism.

    My fears have been closer to #3, but the most probable is either #1 or #2. #1 is worse than #2 in some respects, because it actually changes the competent authority and removes tribunals and the (supposed) objectivity that goes with them. If pastors can't figure out how to avoid liturgical abuse, they'll do no better on this.

    If you pressed me, I'd say one of these three things, or some variation/combination thereof, is coming this year. And even #1 or #2 could cause a schism, but it would be a less violent one with more jagged lines.

    1. I read your posts about the phone call, your visceral reaction to the loggia intro and the one Char originally referenced. I can see why you are so distressed. In fact, it makes me very distressed as well. For me, I'm afraid to connect the dots as you have because of what it may portend for my family, especially the children. I don't seek out discomfort, no less real suffering or martyrdom.
      You are so right that perception leads to practice, no matter the reality of the teaching. The birth control fiasco is the roadmap that I hope is not being followed again.
      I must pray for discernment, fortitude and peace.

    2. Maureen - if the birth control roadmap is not being followed (with improvements) I don't know what this is.

  11. I posted on this with the same take as the Shea/Fisher contingent, I'm afraid, but mainly because I still remember how every.single.time JPII opened his mouth, the news media would start hyperventilating, "Is today the day he's going to allow women priests?"

    Well, the Holy Spirit had His usual last laugh, because JPII not only didn't allow women priests, he wrote a document explaining why it was never going to happen. Now, we still get goofy ex-Catholic women renting boats and tie-dying "vestments" as they pretend to get ordained, but I can't remember the last time I heard any serious speculation about female priests outside of a few diehard media enclaves.

    I think something similar is going on with Pope Francis. The media wants to believe in their fake Francis, the cool pope who wanders into the crowds and feeds the poor and whatnot, but who is also just waiting for the right moment to usher the Church into the Age of Aquarius, and put the Church on the "right track" with regard to the sexual revolution. You can tell them over and over that it is not going to happen, that it is NEVER going to happen, and they still drool over the possibility. I don't think Pope Francis is behaving dangerously or is a dupe or anything else--I think he's planning to streamline the annulment process in a way that will bring real relief to Catholics left hanging for years waiting for what should have been a fairly straightforward decree but will also deeply, deeply disappoint the Usual Suspects (most of them in the media) who think the Church is going to be cool with divorce/remarriage, contraception, SSM, and a whole parade of other sins of lust any day now.

    If nothing else, all of these minor tempests are reminders that we ought to be praying for our Holy Father every day!

    1. I agree. What we will get is a streamlined annulment process. It will also be a process that those like yourself can say "see, the teaching of the Church has been preserved" And you will be correct.

      And those who want Catholic divorce and remarriage will also get what they want, just more streamlined with a much bigger loophole than the current farce pretending to uphold Catholic teaching on the indissolubleness of marriage.

      We already know how it's all going to come down, Cardinal Kasper has already told us, with Pope Francis endorsing his proposal.

      Everybody wins. Except the children and betrayed spouse.

      Which also makes Sponsa Christi above correct. It will be comparatively minor, (or at least it will look that way), and it will be uncontroversial, because it will simply be more of the same, just streamlined.

    2. love the girls,

      The tone of your comment sounds like it may be coming from some painful personal experiences, so I truly don’t want to sound disrespectful.

      But, you may not be really familiar with the technical side of the Church’s laws for marriage cases. The Church does still whole-heartedly believe in Christ’s teachings on the absolute permanence of marriage, and this becomes very evident very quickly when you study canon law.

      Yes, there have apparently been situations where a declaration of nullity (the term the Church actually uses) might seem to have been treated like a “Catholic divorce.” But, if this is the case, then this would represent an abuse, or a failure to adhere to the laws currently in force. It would be an injustice committed by the individual people in an individual tribunal, but it would NOT be the Church herself soft-peddling doctrine. (Also, n.b., not every petition for a declaration of nullity is granted. Very often, marriage cases investigated by tribunals are determined to have been valid after all.)

      Likewise, I think a lot of the difficulties which people might tend to have with the system for investigating the possible nullity of their marriages are not due to the law itself, but rather to practical issues like understaffed tribunals—or perhaps to human failings in things like pastoral sensitivity or basic workplace organizational efficiency.

      So if anything, the only “change” I would be expecting from Pope Francis would be something like an exhortation to greater zeal and charity in doing whatever was possible to reconcile, through the proper and licit channels, those in irregular marriage situations with the Church (e.g., asking parish priests to be generous with their time and attention in counseling the divorced and remarried; reminding the staff of tribunals that they are ultimately there to work for the salvation of souls, etc.).

      If—and this is a gigantic “if”—the Pope did make a real change to the Church’s law on marriage nullity cases, I would expect it to be something not only relatively minor, but also purely procedural. That is, a change that would in no way affect the Church’s constant teaching on the nature of marriage.

    3. How dare you!! Those of us who are co-habitating, are divorced and remarried and who are in gay relationships----are in 'love' relationships!!! Pope Francis is all about love and mercy! The Eucharist is about love! Many of us and our partners have returned to the Church because of Pope Francis! I have yet to meet a priest who cares about my sex life when I go to Communion. Thank God for this pope!