Friday, 7 November 2014

Galatians 2:11

So why did I go quiet, then?

Well, simply because I found myself in disagreement with some of the prudential judgments of the Holy Father. When I started this blog, I was deeply excited by Pope Benedict and his project of reform and renewal: I had wanted to add my weight to that. Those were wonderful, heady days.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, has made me deeply uneasy. The man is of course a Catholic ('Is the Pope a Catholic?'), but he seems to have, in a frighteningly magnified way, the same instinct that John Paul II had, that, as Pope – however much he may dress it up as being, humbly and simply, the Bishop of Rome – the Church is his to govern as he sees fit. It is a kind of charismatic leadership; 'I know where I'm going; follow me, chaps!' This is a frightening overconfidence that now seems to have implications for doctrinal orthodoxy. And leading so far into uncharted waters smacks to me of a belief in a personal infallibility (rather than a strictly circumscribed infallibility of office) that would have made Pope Pius IX blush.

There is no way that I wanted to be seen to be out of communion of mind and heart with the Holy Father, our very touchstone of communion. So, on the old principle that if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all, I decided to say nothing at all.

It was a recent article by the very interesting Ross Douthat that made me think again. If Peter's job is to strengthen the brethren, then perhaps we, as a Church, have the duty to strengthen Peter when his arms grow tired on the ship's tiller.

When interest groups try to force the Church onto another course, do not we who are loyal have a duty to state clearly and unambiguously what we understand the Church's teaching to be, that the Holy Father may truly have a sense of the sensus fidelium, and not merely of the zeitgeist?

Let us remember the words of St Paul: 'But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was wrong'. (Galatians 2:11) Perhaps there are times, even while reverencing the Petrine office, we need to strengthen his arms. History provides us with many examples; Pope Liberius and Pope John XXII, to name but two, who needed to be encouraged to stand firm in the faith.

People have talked of the threat of schism recently: mostly journalistic hyperbole, of course. But is the Pope, or Cardinal Kaspar really willing to force this serious division of opinion to the point where it might become a schism? Because schisms do precisely come when there are serious threats to doctrinal orthodoxy.

You need only read history.

4 comments:

William said...

To this (in theory at least) disinterested but very far from uninterested observer, it has been remarkable to see how much the tone has changed since the Synod among many Catholic commenters who had previously preferred to keep their own counsel on certain current developments and trends.

Mater mari said...

I suspected that your silence was prompted by discretion. Nevertheless, in the circumstances I couldn't be more delighted that you're back with your always-reliable comments. Thank you.

NonAngelusSedAnglus said...

I am delighted that you're back. It is our duty to stand up for truth but to do so with charity. You have always managed both and I am sure you will continue. Laudate Dominum!

Angus Nisbet said...

Hi Father
Apologies for commenting late on this blog. I was just scrolling through you excellent blog site and saw this and it occured to me that with your great intllect, theological knowledge and knowledge of the histroy of Christianity and the Church (in its broadest sense), I don't see why you still hold so dearly to the superiority and holiness of the office or person of the pope. It should come as no suprise that Paul opposed Cephas. There was NOTHING special about Cephas just as there was nothing special about Paul, except that they were both followes of Jesus, the only man who can be called holy or truly good. Remember, Jesus said no one can be called good except God alone. Paul said that becoming in awe of other was a mistake: remember he rebuked those who said I follow Cephas, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Paul.
It is only Christ, we can revere as good and holy. Revering the saints is a mistakethe Chuech has made and we see the equivalent in the protestant church particularly when it comes to charismatic leaders. I follow ,Christ alon should our moto. ALL others are sinners made good only through him. Yes they can set us an example but that is all. Each of us have our own paths along which to follow Yeshua Ha Machiah. Angus