instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Like sheep without a shepherd

Catholics are freaking out.

I mean that as an [inexactly expressed] observation of an empirical fact. A good number of "faithful to the Magisterium" type Catholics are deeply unsettled by Pope Francis generally, and his extraordinary synod in particular.

Early in this papacy -- and the freakout started early, with every word of praise for the new Pope being treated as a spit in the face of the Pope Emeritus -- I saw it as mostly a matter of patients objecting to the bitterness of their medicine. Pope Francis seemed ideal for weaning a lot of Catholics off undue ultramontanism and excessive focus on the person of the pope in Catholic doctrine and practice.

When it began to show up, I was not sympathetic to the complaint that Pope Francis seemed to like non-Catholics a lot more than tradition-minded Catholics, that, while he was always finding disarming and bridge-building things to say to people far from the Church, he seemed to have only harsh words for those who had been defending the Church their whole lives. To me, the complaints sounded like they came from wounded pride, like people were mad that they weren't getting all the cuddling and skritching behind the ears that the best Catholics have a right to. There was an off note of the prodigal son's elder brother to all that -- and of course, when the parable was brought up, there was even more indignation and outrage.

Now, though, I think I was wrong.

I think I should have been sympathetic. Not supportive or encouraging, but willing to meet the people who felt that was where they were. I was too busy judging their unwillingness to take their Franciscan medicine that I didn't notice I'd been prescribed a dose myself.

And I have to wonder whether Pope Francis takes all of his own medicine. Stipulating that Catholics are wrong to freak out, should the Pope leave them to climb down off the ceiling themselves? Or should he take his own words to heart:
The Church ... is not ashamed of the fallen brother ... but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Not to tell them they don't have to take their medicine -- that would be "a deceptive mercy [that] binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them." But to assure them of his love for them, a love that wills their healing and wholeness, when all they see is disdain.