In re Short


… i [sic.] identify as a totally orthodox catholic but i [sic.]  am also totally pro Francis. [Orthodoxy doesn’t protect against naivete. It doesn’t guarantee good judgment. To the contrary, orthodox Catholics have always been suckers for pious fiction, and of more immediate relevance, we today have a number of people whose orthodoxy is undoubted (Zuhlsdorf and Akin, for example) who seem incapable of adjusting their ultramontane understanding of the papacy (see to reflect what experience has now demonstrated. The Remnant got it exactly right: “[T]o whitewash the treatment of Burke,” to take only the most recent example, “their increasingly hysterical efforts have revealed the [ultramontane] dilemma: the Pope is always right; Francis is the Pope; therefore, what Francis says is always right, even if he is, before all the world, systematically dismantling the foundations of the faith, in the teachings on marriage, sin, redemption and the Divine Eucharist.”]

I have had many discussions online recently regarding Pope Francis where the tone has been rather negative to say the least. [As they reap. Francis’ tone toward traditionalists is also “rather negative to say the least.”] It seems that my orthodox buddies just don’t get Francis. [Right, the critics just don’t understand. It can’t possibly be that we understand exactly what he’s doing and think it’s incredibly dangerous.] At best people think he is sloppy at his job and at worst they think he is single handedly going to destroy the catholic church!

There are several reasons for this:

1. He is not Benedict. [Anyone was going to appear Lilliputian after Benedict, but the idea that Francis is despised simply because he isn’t Benedict doesn’t cry out to be taken seriously.]

Benedict was just the most wonderful pope for the orthodox catholic community. [Benedict was a great man, a great teacher, and an adequate pope. There was too much business that he left unfinished or unstarted for “most wonderful pope” to be anything but well-intentioned flattery. That has its place, but this isn’t it. By the by, what exactly is the “orthodox catholic community”? Not SSPX, one assumes. Does Short people who listen to EWTN and think of themselves as “conservative Catholics”? Does she mean people who subscribe to the Remnant and think of themselves as Traditional Catholics?] He sorted out the liturgy [no, he didn’t. He did a lot: He removed bishops (but not pastors) as obstacles to the celebration of the usus antiquior; he expanded access to a Rome-approved Anglican-use liturgy; he corrected the translation for english-speaking Catholics (although we must avoid anglocentrism: his attempt to fix the German translation stalled and has now been taken out back and shot); he (eventually) “sorted out” the papal liturgy. A year ago, I wrote that these were “thrilling and hopeful prospects—small, tentative beginnings, yes, but gravid with hope for the future.” But one could just as easily reverse the emphasis in that statement, and for the average Catholic in the pews, the “reform of the reform” is a dead letter. Benedict’s fundamental problem on this point was his conviction, understandable but wrong, that legislation would do nothing and that dramatic action would do more harm than good.], he loved and embraced the ‘traditional’ parts of Catholicism in a very visible way, he was a master theologian. He was old skool and rock steady. Orthodox catholic’s [sic.] were extremely comfortable under Benedict. [This much is true. When Benedict’s comments about condoms did the rounds, for example, nobody worried about his orthodoxy. Nobody on either side thought that he was about to change teaching. Maybe the Francis partisans should wonder why, when Benedict spoke, he was understood in an orthodox light, and yet, when Francis makes comments, they are interpreted in a, well, let’s say very different light.]

Francis on the other hand has shunned many ‘traditional’ things ie. [sic.] the red shoes, the papal apartment, the pomp and the highly bejewelled vestments ect… He has a completely different, simplistic style. He breaks with tradition in a big way. [You bet. More on this anon.]

I think there is a temptation to misunderstand Francis here. He is only breaking with tradition on superficial matters. If you take the time to really listen to his homilies and read Evangelii Gaudium (or a summary of it – it is 51,000 words long!) you immediately see that he is a completely orthodox pope. [That is not at all how I would characterize that exhortation. In hindsight, it reads (with apologies to Gerald Kaufmann) like the longest declaration of war in history.] The man knows he is not God. [How novel! A pope who doesn’t think he’s God! Unprecedented, right?] He is not trying to change doctrine [isn’t he, now? See] or re-write the 10 commandments or ‘loosen the rules’. [Isn’t he, now? See] What colour the man’s shoes are makes no difference to his capability to lead the people of God for goodness sake! [Yes, it does, actually. This is something that liberals have never grasped: Why is it, they cry, that meanie conservatives/trads/radtrads fault trivial frippery like Francis’ refusal to submit to the accouterments of his office? What does it matter that he rejected the mozzetta and the slippers, what does it matter that he ignores the rubrics, what does it matter that he refuses to live in the papal apartment, what does it matter blah blah blah… ? Because individually and severally, such things are proxies for a man’s attitude toward tradition, and a man’s attitude toward tradition directly bears on his capability to lead the people of God. If a person is a liberal, that is, if they have a restless need for change and novelty, if they have itchy ears (cf. 2 Tim 4:3), that is directly-relevant to their fitness to serve, because such a person naturally feels a constant need to fiddle, to chum the waters, to be in motion, etc. And even if you don’t think a disregard for tradition is a problem per se, consider the practical consequences: Papal jurisdiction is supreme, full, immediate, universal, and ordinary, and the restrants on his use of it are traditional, nothing more. And we have a pope who visibly cares nothing for tradition. He will do whatever pleases him; if it goes against tradition, what of it? The left doesn’t care less today, because it’s not their ox being gored (and they can’t stand tradition anyway), but sooner or later, Francis may decide to do something that pleases him but which greatly displeases them; they may find themselves horribly abused by Francis (over the LCWR, perhaps), and they will wail and knash their teeth, and I for one will feel no sympathy for their being made to lie in a bed of their own making. We have an idiosyncratic pope who acknowledges no external limits on his actions—that which is in his judgment is right, is right, and full speed ahead. If you don’t see that as dangerous, if you don’t see the connection, there’s no helping you.]

2. He uses ambiguous language.

Many orthodox catholic’s [sic.] i [sic.] have spoken to have described Francis’ ‘conversational’ style to be wishy-washy at best, and open to wrong interpretation at worst. [If they’re wrong, it’s only because they are understating how profoundly dangerous his flapping mouth really is.] Personally I think this style of speaking to be extremely clever. I believe he uses ambiguous language on purpose. [I think this is far more damning a criticism of him than anything that I have said. Far better to call him an oaf than to call him a conscious minion of the enemy, because if he is doing what he is doing deliberately, it’s infernal.] It is difficult for the fringe catholic to immediately reject something that he/she might agree with in part… Francis understands modern western culture. He understands modern man’s lack of respect and suspicion of authority. He understands the moral relativist media style we have all become so accustomed to hearing. In fact the style Francis uses is actually very biblical in nature. [Poppycock.] Jesus spoke in parables which [sic.] people could easily understand and interpret in different ways [poppycock] – the core element of the teaching is still the same, but the interpretation of how it actually effects your life is individually relevant to each listener on a personal level. [That a teaching must be applied to many concrete situations, or that it may look different as applied to two different situations, is not the same thing as saying that it can be interpreted in different ways.] Francis’ style actually encourages the reader to look within themselves and apply what is being said to their own lives. [No, it doesn’t; what his style is apt to do is, through the magic of confirmation bias, make people less likely to self-examine. After all, who is he to judge, right? It is not the faithful flock who are scandalized by his off-the-cuff interviews. We know what the Church teaches. It is, rather, the lukewarm Catholic and the “devangelized” world (to which, ironically, Francis seems to believe himself an apostle) that do not know what the Church teaches and are therefore misled. Whenever these Francis conversations come up, I feel as though I’m back in another conversation. There was a particularly-crass television show, “Two Broke Girls” (perhaps since cancelled, I have no idea) and I lamented its effect on the culture. “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,” I was told, and I marveled at how completely my point had been missed; my critique was that it was bad for America that this show existed and was pushing the cultural envelope in yet more crass directions, and my watching it or not is immaterial to that problem. So it is with Francis. “If you don’t like him, don’t read him” is no answer; the problem isn’t that he makes me angry or that he misleads me, it is that he misleads others, and that will not change simply because I have tuned him out.]

The ugly side to this of course is that people on both sides of the fence can take ‘some’ of the information and misunderstand what has really been said ie [sic.] the “who am i to judge” comment. [No kidding. Katrina Fernandez punctured the attempt to insulate Francis from his own mouth more than a year ago: “Are we supposed to read Francis’s comments like protestants read their bibles now, through the lenses of their own personal interpretation? It’s exhausting. And confusing. And I don’t know that I buy the language barrier excuse anymore, not that I ever really did. The Pope is a smart man and capable of saying what he means and, it’s the fact that he doesn’t that’s so troubling. And how many interviews has it been now? I think it’s safe to say we’ve crossed the point were we can continue to ignore the intentional vagueness of his remarks. I hate to say it but maybe Francis should stick to well thought out and carefully worded encyclicals and addresses, or at the very least, give off the cuff interviews to media outlets that can be trusted not to heavily edit the content to fit their specific narrative. ”]

3. He challenges the Orthodox catholic to evangelise. [Right! Because until Francis came along, no one wanted Catholics to evangelize, right?! (Remember the purpose of the list? This is a list of reasons why her “orthodox” buddies don’t “get” Francis.) You know, I hear that Francis is doing a new initiative called “the new evangelization.” I look forward to seeing how he plays that one out.]

Something i [sic.] have certainly been guilty of in the past has been to sit up nice and tall on my theological and moral high horse. Even though i [sic.] still am in no doubt that I AM RIGHT, high-horsing is never going to work in terms of evangelisation. Francis is a man of great humility. [No, he isn’t. Francis is a man of simple tastes. There’s a difference. Short has been bamboozed by linguistic happenstance: Francis has simple tastes, and “simple” and “modest” are near-synonyms in English; moreover, modest is, in another sense, an antonym of arrogant. Suppose a pope arrived in office and he has very regal tastes. He immediately begins to impose them on the papal office. His personal crest has a crown and scepter, for instance. We would easily identify that man as arrogant, but it is important to note in what precisely his arrogance consists: It is not the content of his taste that is arrogant, that is, it isn’t improper because it’s regal, but rather his imposition of his personal tastes on the papacy, regardless of what they are. And once you realize that, you realize that the same applies if a pope arrives in office with very simple tastes and begins to impose them on the papal office. There is not an ounce of humility in Francis; to the contrary, he is the most arrogant pope I have ever seen. Pius X, by contrast, was a man possessed of no less simple tastes than Francis, and yet he did not see fit to impose himself on the office. Ditto, for that matter, Benedict XVI.] Just as Christ did, Francis meets people where they are on their journey of conversion. [Poppycock.] He doesn’t point the finger or condemn, but instead sees the person behind the sin and encourages them into a deeper relationship with Christ. [Poppycock. “Who am I to judge” is not encouraging someone into a deeper relationship. “I don’t want to convert evangelicals” isn’t encouraging them into a deeper relationship. What Francis does at every turn is to encourage people to stay where they are. Jesus, by contrast, met them where they were and told them to move. Cf. Jn 8:11.] This requires sensitivity, kindness, compassion and patience. [Read the Church Fathers. Is this model found in the Church Fathers?]

By his example, Francis challenges us to evangelise in the same way. [The great commission could be rendered, without violence, “go, and proselytize all nations.” Francis has explicitly rejected proselytization. So I’m not sure that Francis even believes in evangelization. Heck, to evangelize is to spread the good news, and I’m not entirely sure that Francis believes in the good news. Not the same good news that I know.] Essentially the Gospel is a message of mercy and forgiveness. Christ died for every single human being who has ever lived out of total pure love including all members of ISIS and Adolf Hitler and paedophiles. He loves and values every human being the same as he loves you. This is the radical message of Christianity. Introducing people to this love, to this person – Jesus Christ – is the first step.

We are called not only to preach love, but to be love to others. For those of us who are secure and solid in our faith the weight of responsibility is much, much heavier regarding evangelisation. If we don’t get out there and start proclaiming the truth, other will (and their version of the truth is well, not true!) [Indeed: If we don’t proclaim the truth, others, such as Walter Kasper, might, and their version certainly isn’t true. And yet Kasper is Francis’ beloved son with whom he is well-pleased. Interesting!] But it is how we approach our brothers and sisters that is key. Calling someone ‘a homosexual’ or ‘a muslim’ or a this or that in a negative tone, dilutes their humanity. This makes the person defensive. This is not bringing Christ to them. Im not saying sweep all the other stuff under the carpet – not at all, what i [sic.] am saying is that they will never understand and accept the doctrine without first having a relationship with Christ. You have to BE Christ to them as you build bridges of trust, and respect where they are on their journey of conversion.

Pope Francis understands this. He is out there doing it. And you might, just might, have totally misunderstood what he is doing. [Or we might have understood it perfectly and Short has missed the point profoundly. One of these two possibilities squares with the facts on the ground, and the other is Short’s.]