Reality And Delusion.
One reads, every now and then, criticism of those who criticise the Pope. At times, this criticism is not only based on consideration of opportunity, but is linked to an attack of the character of the critics: you criticise the Pope, because you are bad and want to make yourself important by playing holier than thou with the oh so good Holy Father.
This kind of thinking neglects a fundamental consideration: that for a Catholic it is not easy to criticise a Pope, and if one wants to play holier than thou the Pope is the last person with whom to play such a play. In fact, it can easily be said not only a blogger, but every Catholic talking with his friends cannot criticise the Pope without putting his own credibility on the line. He must, therefore, very much pay attention to what he says.
Another extremely banal consideration is that no one likes to criticise the Pope. As the successor of Peter, the Pontiff is met with a natural desire to like him and approve of him. The idea that there would be an army of Catholic bloggers just enjoying their criticism of the Pope is evident nonsense. How such people would then be taken seriously by other Catholics is not said. How this behaviour would now have come suddenly in fashion, is also not explained.
These critics talk without looking at reality, without considering the facts.
The criticism of the Pope is based on objective reality, observable by everyone. A reality that has been observed not once or twice, but dozen of times, with a repeatedly scandalous behaviour the Pontiff always refused to correct. Similarly, the sound criticism of the Bishop of Rome you read around is never based on the kind of emotional sweeping generalisations people may use with, say, politicians – you know the type: “all politicians are thieves”, & Co. – but is constantly based on undeniable facts.
Now, Catholicism is not based on whims, or on easy emotionalism. It is based on hard Truths of Faith to which everyone is bound, and which bind the Pope first as he is the first of God's servants.
What shall we do, then: ignore reality? When has it become a Christian precept that Popes are not a legitimate object of well-deserved criticism? Since when it is Christian to allow scandal to go unchecked, when the one who gives scandal happens to be the Pope? Is the Pope not bound by the rules? Are we not accessory in his son by silence, when we are silent concerning the scandal given by the Pope? What kind of delusion is that?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty. I believe all that the Church believes, and profess all that the Church professes. I simply cannot become suddenly blind, when the most elementary tenets of the Church of Christ, and with them the obedience to God, are put into question. I cannot suspend my duty to react to scandal exactly when the scandal comes from the most dangerous of places. This would be not only blindness, but wilful sinful neglect of my own duties as a Catholic. This would mean to decide that Christ should take a place in the second row when the Pope has put himself in the first; nay, that I should simply ignore Christ everytime the Pope is at variance with him. How can I, or everyone else, blind myself to reality without becoming an accessory to Francis' sins?
There there is the objective dimension of the scandal. When the Pope gives scandal, the damage is bigger than when even several Cardinals together do it. No one on earth can give as much scandal, and confuse so many faithful, as the Pope. Therefore, the problem of a Pope giving scandal simply puts in the shadow the antics of every other Cardinal or Bishop or Priest. We cannot ignore this self-evident reality, that a child of five can easily grasp.
Besides, we are not talking of personal interpretations here. Francis' trespasses are many, richly documented, made under the sun without any shame. He even goes to the extraordinary length of documenting them in spontaneous home made videos! And we are supposed to shut up in front of such scandal? Really? What kind of Christianity is that, that orders one to forget Christ?
I refuse to do so. I refuse to do so as a blogger, as a friend, as a relative, as a colleague. I will not ignore the simple reality on the ground and take refuge in a delusion of normality that is just not there. I cannot ignore the Pope more than I can ignore the reality of Church teaching; and if I do the first, I unavoidably do the second. There is simply nowhere to hide. Christ and Francis can't be both right, it's as simple as that.
Now, one can understand that a priest may, out of his hierarchical loyalty to the Church, be nuanced in his criticism of the Pope. But when a priest accuses the critics of the Pope of having issues of their own merely because they look at reality for what it is, he is being disingenuous. What he is asking us to do, is to become deaf to every stupid statement coming from the Pope – very many of those, unfortunately – in a sort of “Pope before Christ” slogan that is simply unacceptable, and it is very sinful in his demand that we all become accessory to Francis' sin.
Delude yourself if you want to. I refuse to do so.
The Pope's good servant, but Christ's first.