Please go on “Protect the Pope” (please, please do!) and read there about the “Tablet” correspondent now suspended for calling the Pontiff Emeritus “The Rat”.
Now, please let us understand ourselves here. I am not prone to any form of Papolatry, or excessive deference to the Pope whenever one thinks that the Pope is seriously damaging the cause of Catholicism. I have written here very often, and will continue to do so, that we must not be blind, and if a Pope behaves like, say, a clown we must call him out as clown even if he happens to be Pope, because the fact that he is the Pope makes it so much graver that he acts like, say, a clown.
I also have no doubt myself that this papacy is an utter disgrace for the Church; that with it God is punishing us; that we are going to go through terrible times. I have also made no mystery of the fact that I wish the end of this Papacy, because I am persuaded that the danger of a new conclave is preferable to the danger of the continuation of this papacy, with the attached appointments of cardinals and bishops. I do not need to remind you that a faithful Catholic has the right to ask the Lord for the painless death of the Pope, if he thinks that this Pope is gravely damaging the Church. It goes without saying that the same faithful is not for this reason exempted from praying for the eternal salvation of the very Pope he thinks it would be better to see six feet under. In my case, I am so astonishingly soft that I limit myself to pray the Lord for the restoration of Tradition, which theoretically includes events like the conversion of the Bishop of Rome to sound Catholicism, or a judicious toccatina (“little touch”; that's how Italians call a small, but worrying heart attack) or other problem leaving him healthy enough to care for his soul, but suggesting to him that he steps aside. Basically, I am being as soft as the final aim I am praying for allows, but I still wish the attainment of the aim in precedence to the Pope's life. Yep. This, just in case you think I am a retiring wallflower thinking we will advance spiritually if we drink the same brand of mineral water as the Pope, or none if he drinks none.
I have, though, three observations to make.
1. The way I see it, every criticism of the Pope must concern something he does or says or thinks. You criticise the Pope for a reason, the reason generally being that he has said or keeps saying or thinks of doing something damaging for the faith and the souls of Catholics. But not even this robustly critical Southerner can condone the comparison of the Pope with one of the most universally despised animals on this earth; a comparison made in a fully gratuitous way, as purest name-calling. This is not the reaction to something outlandish that Benedict said, and that called for such a comparison (for example: if the Pontiff Emeritus had hypothetically extolled the merciful life and familial ties of rats; or their being non-judgmental; or their smelling like the canalisation; or the like). No, this is simply a very gratuitous, uncalled for, insulting way of calling a Pope Emeritus. If he had called him “Pope Holy Water”, or even “Pope Mozzetta”, or “Pope Bespoke”, at least one would see there is a criticism there of a certain way of seeing the Papacy; there would be a message. What, however, Mr Mickens writes says nothing more than his despise for Benedict, full stop.
If the usual Papolater criticises the words Mr Mickens uses, is one thing. If after what I have just written even I am scandalised, it might be quite another.
2. The Mickens' type of people are those always ready to accuse Catholics of being “uncharitable” for not wanting to cope with every kind of abomination or scandal. How this should be “charitable”, is beyond me.
These alleged “tolerant” people generally are the worst. Mr Mickens seems no exception.
3. I truly hope Mr Mickens does not lose his job because of this. Whilst this is bad, and very bad for a journalist, if this is his livelihood – as it generally is – I truly hope it will not come down to that. Let him apologise and pay more attention in future, but it would be bad if Catholics would now call for such a crisis in the life of a man who could have a wife, children and/or a mortgage, because of a very stupid Facebook message. Firing Mr Mickens would not change the Tablet, for sure.
You see, perhaps we “intolerant” people are those who, in the end, have more sense of proportions even towards those who have no sense of decency.
“Giovanni Paolo II non chiedeva applausi, né si è mai guardato intorno preoccupato di come le sue decisioni sarebbero state accolte. Egli ha agito a partire dalla sua fede e dalle sue convinzioni ed era pronto anche a subire dei colpi. Il coraggio della verità è ai miei occhi un criterio di prim’ordine della santità”
“John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he ever look around worried about how his decisions would be received. He acted from the starting point of his faith and convictions, and he was also ready to take blows. The courage of truth is to my eyes a very important criterium of holiness.” (translation and emphasis mine).
Shockingly uncharitable, this criticism.
How does he dare…
I am appalled.
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Look, dear readers, why are you all so angry?
It is very clear here that the Bishop wanted to say that Guam is a beautiful island, and he will spend a very interesting Christmas there, and everyone is so nice, etc.
The hate press is obviously trying to misinterpret Bishop dal Covolo here, as they always do with Francis.
Look, what has he said that would be unorthodox? “Francis is a sign of discontinuity”. And? Is not every Pope a discontinuity compared to his predecessor? Of course he is! This is why we speak of the Pontificate of Benedict XV as something different from the one of Pius X! Discontinuity clearly means “difference” here, but it does not mean that the Bishop is being dismissive of the Pontiff Emeritus! Don’t be fooled by the haters…
And then there is the one with the “ingratitude”. Really, what is this hate? What don’t we love each other like as many sisters from a Louisa May Alcott’s novel? Oh, if we all just followed the words of Pope Francis…
Whenever we read a prelate, we must read him according to what the Church says. Does the Church say that a Bishop should be ungrateful to a Pontiff Emeritus who made him bishop? No? Well then, case closed…
Well, OK, I agree… he might have expressed himself in a slightly inappropriate way. He has said “discontinuity”, but I think he wanted to say “substantial continuity with small, organic, not at all worrying differences”.
These small errors happen. Apparently every 1000 words there is a mini- blunder like that. Scientists swear on it, and my cousin is also very much of the same opinion, and everyone knows he is smart.
Please stop listening to the hatemongers who don’t like our dear bishop, and consider instead what he really, really, really wanted to say…
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******************* MUNDABOR MODE ON ***********************
Seriously: the conceit is unbelievable.
It goes to show, once again, how wrong in his choices Benedict could be.
Unfortunately, the cognac and chocolate did not provide for the entire reading of the encyclical, because the work is rather long. Still, I finished the reading after my breakfast this morning, and I must say I am underwhelmed.
First of all let me say Pope Francis is clearly not the author of the greatest part of this, the general quality of the exposition being brutally above the Pontiff’s paygrade as abundantly seen in three months of off-the-cuff waffling. One has the impression he is reading one of the many books published by the Pontiff Emeritus, as the style is very recognisable: full of quotations and interesting comparisons, perspectives, and historical references, it makes for a robust and enjoyable reading. There are here and there sudden falls in the lofty style, with the insertion within a brilliant exposition of examples or reflections or digressions of striking banality, and which I suspect constitute the vast part of Francis’ additions (we’ll never know about the possible subtractions). Several times, I had the impression of an aeroplane suddenly losing altitude and, after four or five periods, recovering it again. Whilst this is not extreme, it is noticeable, and I think many of the readers who have gone through the work will share my view. An example is in paragraph 57:
Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, “fragmenting” time and changing it into space. Time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.
When I read this, I instinctively looked for the “no?” at the end… The next encyclical will have a lot of this “wannabe deep” tofu nonsense, I am afraid.
As to the content of the encyclical itself, no doubt many who are more learned and versed than I am will make their opinion known in due time, and I myself might get further insight from re-reading. Still, where the problem with this encyclical lies is, in my eyes, that it does the following:
1. It does not go to the very core of the matter.
2. It preaches to the choir.
3. It is descriptive and suggesting, rather than assertive and demanding.
As to 1, it is as if the encyclical would fly around faith examining it in all his historical, psychological, and even sensorial aspects, without insisting on the only concept worth insisting about, and without the insistence on which the entire exercise appears certainly interesting reading, but ultimately futile: that faith is, together with works, necessary for salvation. There’s no going around this and every discussion about faith that does not forcefully smash this point in the face of the reader has, if you ask me, missed the mark. In pure V II style, this encyclicals dissects faith in its various aspects, but doesn’t tell you loud and clear why it is so important. It is like a doctor talking about the human heart for 88 pages of the .pdf file and not telling you in a very clear way that when one’s heart stops beating, one dies. Perhaps, looking with the lantern one could find some veiled warning. Perhaps. If I had been an atheist, or a man of troubled faith, or one of the obviously extolled agnostic “seekers”, I would most surely have emerged from the reading without any impression that I have been warned. Then one wonders what use not 88, but even 888 .pdf pages on faith would have been.
On the contrary, the usual waffle sneaks in. Just to mention an example, the part entitled “faith and the search for God” opens with the words
“The light of faith in Jesus also illumines the path of all those who seek God, and makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of the different religions”.
Read this and tell me whether faith is not reduced to a tool for “dialogue” rather than an indispensable tool for salvation. It is here as if “dialogue with the followers of different religions” were the aim, and “the light of faith in Jesus” the tool with which Catholics pursue this aim.There are other points that are almost as worrying, but this is the one that strikes me most.
Or think of this, further in the same paragraph:
“Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith”.
Faith has to do with those who don’t have faith. If they are “open to love” (something not only the usual man “with the heart in the right place”, but every child-raping, dog-foxtrotting, sodomitical man will say of himself without any hesitation) they are “already on the path”, and the suggestion that at the end of the path is, automatically, salvation remains unspoken, but is hinted at very strongly; strongly enough to lead everyone who wants to read it this way to feel satisfied.
As to 2, I have started reading this encyclical thinking this would be a work fitting for evangelisation. Whilst I do understand this is not the primary aim of an encyclical letter, both the object and the natural curiosity linked to this being the first encyclical signed by Francis should have, in my eyes, moved the authors to make of this a more openly catechetical work. Unfortunately, though, there is no mention of , say, the frequent categorisation of faith as logical faith, rational faith, and mystical faith. There is no explanation of why the first two must be compelling to us if we do our homework. There is no taking the unfaithful by the hand and saying “you think you’re smart, right? You think you’re logical, right? Well let us see how you react to this …
For example, the encyclical explains why Abraham believed in God, but doesn’t explain why an atheist should believe that God truly spoke to Abraham. Faith is analysed from the point of view of faith or if you prefer, it is an encyclical on faith in which the faith of the reader is taken for granted. Again, this is perfectly legitimate, but I think it is also a lost occasion.
As to 3, this is once again a reflex of the reigning V II mentality. This is a work on faith in which Hell – through refusal to have faith – is not mentioned once in 88 .pdf pages; in which marriage is suggested as being good, without a word against the abominations some people would call marriage; in which baptism is extolled as being oh so fine, without saying that without baptism (of water, blood or desire) there is no salvation. The encyclical suggest to the reader that the Church and her sacraments are mighty fine things, but doesn’t say one strong – and by strong I mean unmistakably clear to one who disagrees – word about what happens to those who remain outside of her, are not baptised, refuse Christ, refuse the Church, but “do good” as, hey, everyone does.
As always with V II documents, one has the strange impression if one were to re-read everything three times he might find, with much exertion, something which, if twisted in a certain way, might, arguably, be read in the desired way. But the message doesn’t come out of the work, full stop.
In the end, I do not regret the time spent reading this letter. It is very Ratzingerian in its complex, “meaty” exposition, elegant in the presentation, and intellectually instructive in its content. Still – and we will never know whether this is the result of Francis’ “adjustments” or in the original blueprint – it does not get to the heart of the matter. It is an encyclical about faith that does not give a person without faith any serious reason to start looking at it, and does not present faith in a way that would challenge him intellectually and logically (as for example St Thomas Aquinas, the prince of those faithful “writing for atheists”, actually even “thinking like an atheists”, does so well).
Summa summarum, whether this was the original Benedict’s plan or the result of Francis’ rework, this encyclical is very much a piece of the V II church: an advertisement for those who already like the product, and overly concerned with not offending or “provoking” those who don’t.
Around midnight now, and still trying to digest the new Pope.
Whilst I do so, I’d like to share some reflections with you, on which I might expand in the next days.
1) Many have asked the SSPX to accept the “preambolo” no matter how bad. It is now evident this would have been a very bad move not only in itself, but in light of a Pope clearly hostile (at least up to now) to the Traditional Mass. Also, an agreement that might have been changed or recused only months later isn’t the smart thing to do in any case. The SSPX has decided to do things only when they can be done properly, and this is very good. Let them wait for any hostile initiative of the new Pope, if he dares. More prestige, publicity, and followers for them.
2) Too many conservative Catholics play “loyal Catholic” at the expense of the SSPX. It will be interesting to see where they stand if Francis starts to demolish Summorum Pontificum, and force the likes of the FSSP to celebrate the New Mass, perhaps the new Mass exclusively. I expect from them that they all obey without a moment’s hesitation; it would serve them right, too…
3) The same applies to the Pontiff Emeritus, who might well pay a terrible price for his indecisiveness. He initiated a reform (Summorum Pontificum) he never had the guts to enforce. He might now see how the only notable achievement of his pontificate is demolished under his very eyes. It would serve him right, too: if he had demanded that Summorum Pontificum (and himself) are taken seriously, and had appointed more conservative cardinals (both liturgically and otherwise), we might have lived a very different day. Live by Vatican II, die by Vatican II.
I wish everyone a good night. Though the dreams might not be so sweet.