the negotiation of non-negotiable principles under Pope Francis

TWO PROMINENT CATHOLICS RECENTLY EXPRESSED DEEP CONCERN ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE CHURCH UNDER POPE FRANCIS

                               “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Just last week I came across two articles which both expressed deep concerns about the present direction of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis, and since both articles were written by sincere, prominent Catholics, I wanted to quickly summarize for you the essence of their concerns.

The first article was written by the prolific Catholic author, philosopher and theologian, Father James Schall, a Jesuit. The article caught my attention because it was entitled: “Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic?” –  a fairly provocative title from a sober minded priest. I have taken the liberty of providing a caption to the following four quotes which I have selected from Father Schall’s article (as expressive of his concerns).

Quote No.1. THE LOSS OF INTELLECTUAL ACUMEN IN THE CHURCH

“In the past several years, I have perceived a noticeable loss of intellectual acumen that the Church gained with John Paul II and Benedict. Many are upset by this lack of depth, especially more recent converts who came into the Church with the help of the vigorous thinking we still see in these two popes. But the main reason for the decline of Church membership is the desire to be like others in modern society. Many want Catholic teaching to be viewed and interpreted through a modern lens.”

Quote No. 2. HERETICS WITHIN THE CHURCH

“In thinking about these things, I again take my cue from the ‘heretics’ who refuse to leave the Church but stay in it to transform it, as they say, into their image of modernity. In the end, they can find no place else to go. They are already wrapped within modernity’s orbit. The effort from within to transform Christianity into modernity, to align its basic premises with those of the modern world, seems like a plausible, shrewd tactic. Many have already made this transition.”

Quote No. 3. WHY REMAIN CATHOLIC?

“Why should we continue to be Catholic?” Much of the controversy that swirls around the Holy Father has, at its origin, the feeling that certain basic—once-thought non-negotiable—principles and practices have been denied or at least implicitly allowed to pass away. Under the aegis of finely tuned “mercy” and “discernment,” a method has been developed that would justify this accommodation of the Church to that modernity and its principles that everyone seems eager to embrace.”

Quote No. 4. CAN WE CONTINUE TO BE CATHOLIC TODAY?

“Only if one thing remains true and upheld. Only if the same teachings and practices that were handed down and guaranteed down the ages remain the foundation of the Church. This revelation in all its ramifications is what best explains human meaning and destiny. If the substance of this revelation is not upheld, the question is no longer a merely human problem of whether or not to be loyal to a tradition. It is the breakdown of revelation itself since it is no longer credible on its own terms. The guarantee of Christ is to be with us till the end, with the central teachings and practices of his life at the center. If this content and sequence is not maintained in a living way, i.e., in a thoroughly nuanced but plain way, we have no reason still to be Catholic.”

The second article in question was actually an interview with the Catholic convert and brilliant New York Times Columnist, Ross Douthat. Here is a pertinent excerpt from that interview (as summarized by Dorthy Cummings McLean) that goes to the heart of Douthat’s concerns about the Church:

The New York Times columnist [Ross Douthat] stated that Pope Francis has “pragmatically” backed an evangelization that has made a “truce with the sexual revolution.”

It is a “mistaken belief that there can be some sort of pastoral, pragmatic truce with the sexual revolution in the West that enables the Church to evangelize anew,” Douthat said.

“And that’s a real risk, for liberal Catholicism’s proposed truce can’t be reached without emptying out things that are distinctively and essentially Catholic, which the Church has admirably preserved for centuries,” he added.

Douthat said such a truce is strategically unwise, “for it simply doesn’t gain the ground that liberal Catholics imagine.” Instead, the truce ends up becoming “a tacit surrender” to the culture. In this way, the Church becomes an enabler, and a “meek and ineffective chaplaincy” to those who no longer know God, he added.”

COMMENTARY: It is hard not to detect tremendous concern for the well-being and authenticity of the Church in these words of Father Schall and Ross Douthat. By trying to accommodate or make a truce with modernity’s new vision of morality the Church, in essence, is destroying the foundation it was built upon. And a Church that was once viewed as the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) comes to be seen as a dying institution no longer capable of defending the morality it once treasured and its members were even willing to die for. The contamination of moral subjectivism or situation ethics entered the Church for the first time in Amoris Laetitia (see especially AL 301-303), even though the great Saint John Paul II had specifically warned that the adoption of such arguments would constitute serious error. See my previous post:

WHY AMORIS LAETITIA IS MUCH WORSE THAN ORIGINALLY …

Pray for the Church. Pray steadfastly for the Church.

P.S. Here are links to both articles:

Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic? – Crisis Magazine

https://insidethevatican.com/news/newsflash/letter-33-2018-ross-douthat/

Leading U.S. Catholic commentator: It’s ‘legitimate’ to voice concerns …

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