instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, October 25, 2015

He is who we thought he was

I'm cool with Pope Francis, and what interest I had in the Synod was driven by curiosity, not concern. Reading Pope Francis's concluding speech in that light, I thought it was excellent in what it said about the place of divine mercy in the Gospel and the need for sound doctrine expressed in comprehensible ways.

Granted, it's still largely a bishop talking to bishops about bishops and what bishops are going to do about talking about "the family." But I gather that, in the small group discussions, the sheep themselves came up, not just theories about different kinds of sheep, and if "to conclude the Synod means to return to our true 'journeying together,'" then maybe some bishops will be talking to each other about their practice from here on out. (I'm a 20th Century American Roman Catholic, though, so all I really expect from my bishop is a confirmation once a year and a new pastor every six years; anything else is gravy.)

Many who are less cool with the Pope and more concerned about the Synod found much to criticize about the concluding speech, especially the criticisms. And there is a lot of criticism in the speech, largely directed -- as Pope Francis's criticisms tend to be -- at "closed hearts," "superiority and superficiality," false "defenders of doctrine .. who uphold its letter, but [not] its spirit."

Questions of tone aside, I don't see that the Pope is actually wrong to criticize what he criticizes. Everything the Pope says shouldn't be done is being done, or at least advocated, by Catholics who consider themselves fine Catholics. Correcting the flock is what the Pope is supposed to do -- and if you haven't noticed that the Catholics he's correcting have been stubborn in resisting his correction, you haven't been paying attention.

Granted, the speech does nothing to redress the fact that the Pope sure seems to spend more time and force correcting rigorist Catholics than laxiist Catholics. To the extent we are all (depending on wind direction) smouldering wicks, I think that tendency regrettable.

Still, there is a good amount of (at least implicit) correction of laxism in this speech, with references to "marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility," "dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium," "defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults," "the danger of relativism," "the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments," and "necessary human repentance, works and efforts."

I suppose people who consider this papacy a disaster for the Church aren't going to change their minds based on anything that happens, or fails to happen. Nor will those who see Francis as the Great Left Hope. I've seen people in each group say, "Sure, the Synod has foiled the Pope's plans for now. But just wait!"

I hope, though, it's not too much to expect at least a little lessening of the suspicion and doubt directed at  Pope Francis among those who aren't all in on his mendacity.