Convert To The One Church, Not To Francis.
I might be considered one of “those who are sincerely seeking the one true faith.” Having become fed up with the emotionalistic (is that a word?) qualities of many Protestant denominations, a couple years ago I started making tentative steps towards exploring whether it would be right to “cross the Tiber.” I was deeply moved by reading some of Evelyn Waugh’s books such as Brideshead Revisited, and by some of the works of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Also, the emphasis on intellect and some other qualities drew me towards Catholicism.
But the combination of Pope Francis, his “conservative” admirers, American bishops such as Dolan and the prevalence of “The Church of Nice” in Catholicism has stopped me dead in my tracks. No more movement towards the Tiber for me, at least for the forseeable future. One of the main sticking points for me seems to be the very heavy emphasis on authority in Catholicism. I can see how authority has its value, but there have been some huge negative ramifications of it, not just with following bad popes but clearly in the sex abuse scandals. And I have read and heard so many Catholics tie themselves into knots lately, justifying the comments and actions of Francis, and justifying Vatican II, which, it seems clear to me, has almost destroyed Roman Catholicism. Yes, there are the admirable traditionalist groups, but they seem very far from the mainstream in the Church. Even Michael Voris, who I long watched and admired, believes that the Pope is off limits to criticism.
The comment below appeared at the excellent blog of Louie Verrecchio. I feel that a couple of words (or more) of encouragement might be in order not only for the good of the soul in question, but as a little help to all those who might be in a similar state of Francis-induced confusion.
The poster makes, if you ask me, a very Protestant mistake: he confuses the organisation with the shortcomings of the people who run it (the Dolan of the world), and the people who belong to it (the blind Pollyannas who bend over backward to justify everything the Pope or even a priest says or does). When, therefore, the people in charge are way below what is expected from them – Francis and Dolan are the two last examples; or the priest abusing of his position to abuse children; or the bishop helping him to get away with it – this leads him to question the organisation, rather than (merely) the men, bot those who are leaders and those who are led.
This is not the way the Church works. This is not what Catholicism is all about.
To choose Catholicism is to choose the Truth. Truth can’t change, nor can it be devalued by the unworthiness of those who are supposed to defend it, or the blindness of those who can’t get the message – often, because they have never been taught it properly -. I am Catholic not because I like Francis – whom I abhor – or Vatican II – which I despise – or Catholic priests – whom I consider very bad on average -, but because the Catholic Church is the Bride of Christ. It’s as simple as that.
Christ never told us to be Catholics only when the hierarchy is sound. He never told us to wait for a good Pope to convert to Catholicism. He never gave us the option whether to be Catholics or not according to the quality of the leadership. When we talk about the Church, the only valid criterion to discern whether we must be members or not is whether it is the Church Jesus found on Peter, or not. It is, therefore we must.
The Church is much more than an earthly collection of people, buildings, offices, buses, wheelchairs, and black shoes. The Church is the Bride of Christ. The Catholic pledges his allegiance to the Bride, because he acknowledges that She, and She only, is the spouse of the Bridegroom. Popes may come and go; they may be saints or sinners; they may even have no idea of sound Catholicism like the current one; they may even be positively evil people, like certainly many were in the darkest times of the, say, ninth to twelfth century, and like the current reigning one may well be himself – unless he is just a mediocre, unintelligent, vain Jesuit -. The Popes and Cardinals may be as bad as they like – and they will pay a price for it, make no mistake -; but this does not change one iota in two fundamental things: 1. what the Church is and 2. whether we should be part of it.
No Catholics of the past, both converts or cradle ones, have ever been promised a sound leadership. It was never part of the deal. If I were asked to state why I am Catholic I would not point my finger to St. Peter’s dome. I would point it up to the skies. My Catholicism rests on Christ, not on Francis. Therefore, no abyss of shame Francis may ever lead to Church to would move me to deny her.
Protestants see their own church as they see their political affiliation. If they don’t like the leadership, they seek somewhere else. If one “minister” isn’t sound enough, they will seek another “ministry” they like more.
Catholics see the Church as mother, in both a heavenly and an earthly sense. The earthly mother can be criticised, and can be criticised harshly if she deserves to be criticised harshly, but the mother she still remains. If one has an alcoholic mother he will have to find strong words to tell her – if he loves her, at least -; but he will not say to her ” you are not my mother”.
The mother is the mother. The Church is the Church. That’s it.
The Pope could be drug addict, alcoholic, pedophile, sodomite, murderer, and thief. This would not change my allegiance to the Church one iota.
Certainly, I would pray the Lord that the man may be converted, or taken out of the way (whichever the Lord, in His goodness, thinks best). Certainly, I would suffer for it like the one suffers whose mother is alcoholic. Certainly, I would not be shy in calling such a Pope drug addict, alcoholic, pedophile, sodomite, murderer, and thief if it were apparent that he is giving scandal by being all these things. I would have to, in order to avoid others to be confused by his behaviour, and in order not to be an accessory to the scandal. But never ever, never ever would I think that the deal Christ has given me is not good enough, and I am too good to be a part of the Church he gave us.
“Church” is a very complex word. I doubt there is another word in Catholicism that has so many meaning and nuances like the word “church”. A building for worship is a church; the community of the local christians are the local church; a diocese is a church, and so are the faithful of this diocese; the family is also a church – ecclesia domestica -; every one of the many Rites in Catholicism is a church, and there are other meanings still. But most importantly, besides the earthly organisational characters the church has a heavenly character, of which no Catholic ever loses sight. This is the heavenly Church, as holy and perfect as Her origin. The Church is holy because She teaches a holy doctrine, She is holy in Her mission and – again – origin, and She is holy for all the other reasons a good priest will be able to explain to you better than I ever could. She is not holy because the Pope is good, and She does not stop to be holy if the Pope isn’t good, or is an outright disaster, or is positively evil, or a drug addict, alcoholic, pedophile, sodomite, murderer, and thief.
Catholics know this. They believe in the Church, not in a Pope. In bad times they will make their voice heard; but in all their troubles they will keep their eyes firmly set on heaven. And when they look up, they will know that over there there are no Protestant sects, no wannabe “anglo-catholics”, no strange groupings of confused men, no heathenish or Jewish or Muslim anything; but only the Bride of Christ, perfectly holy and perfectly truthful.
This is why many, like me, criticise the Pope – and boy, how could one not do it who has eyes to see! – without this denting their Catholic faith in the least. On the contrary: if my faith is tested by a bad Pope, I will strenghten my faith by clinging to the Church even more closely; praying more; learning more about Her; praying more for the wayward Pope; putting all my trust on heaven, not on the reckless statements of a man drunk with popularity, and as vain as a peacock.
God gives some Popes, God tolerates some Popes and God inflicts some Popes, said St Vincent of Lerin.
If you ask me, God has inflicted this Pope on us so that we may pay the price of the unspeakable arrogance of 50 years of Neo-Modernism. This is cause for sadness for the punishment we have merited, and certainly calls for us to merit – one day – the end of the punishment by reacting to the mistakes or outright abominations of the past 50 years. But a bad Pope, or many bad Popes, are certainly no reason to question the Bride more than we would question the Bridegroom.
I am not a theologian, or even a priest come to that. A good priest – like, say, a SSPX one – would be able to give far better guidance. But this is the contribution I can give to the original poster and to all those who must be in his position.
Convert to the One Church, not to Francis.