Monday, October 21, 2013

Evaluating Codgitator's criticisms of Pope Francis

Originally I was going to just reply to a portion of what Codgitator wrote up in his latest explanations of his Pope Francis criticisms. Instead, I'm going to be a bit more thorough, but hopefully stop short of overkill. Below I'll be cutting and pasting a good share of what Codg says, and giving my replies.

The theme of the post is that Michael Voris gives a number of criticisms of an apparently liberal "Catholic" educator - but those same criticisms can, Codg argues, be equally applied to Pope Francis, even though Voris is reluctant to do exactly that.
As I noted in (the bottom portion of) part 2 of “The Battle Within”, the compaints in his video “Double Video” (16 Oct 2013) which Voris lodges against an increasingly pervasive human-centric Catholicism, have the uncanny potential to be lobbed against many of the things Pope Francis is on record as saying. The marginalization of “the pelvic issues” in favor of “mercy,” the emphasis on smiles and joythe (as I call it, hyper-Marthan) priority of The People And Their Needs, and the scrupulous avoidance of references to Hell–Voris rails against these things, yet he seems oblivious to–or simply unwilling to observe–the fact that the Pope does quite the opposite.
 Alright - so Codg sees a pattern here. I think these complaints are a little scattershot: looking for how many times 'hell' comes up in a search for a Pope who isn't even a year into his papacy, an article reference to the Pope saying that nuns shouldn't become 'too spiritual' and should embrace communal living and try to be happy, and 'people and their needs' talk. But this sets the tone, so on we go.

In the video titled “Distortions of the Truth” (15 Oct 2013), Voris lambasts Julie Sullivan, the new president of the University of St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota, not only for undermining Catholic teaching but also for insinuating that she’s just tracking Pope Francis’s example with her own comments. This Twin Cities Pioneer Press article goes into much greater detail about the context of the speech at UST in St. Paul, but Voris’s treatment in the video should suffice to make my point. Voris targets the following statements from Sullivan:
“We are called to love and support everyone in our community regardless of their sexual orientation…. And, I might add, regardless of the gender of their spouse.”
He then seems even more worked up than normal as he vehemently denies that any of the Pope’s “reported words” could be understood in any way at all to support Sullivan’s statements. First of all, the “reported” words of Francis which I think Sullivan and Voris have in mind are, surprise surprise, on the Vatican website as official papal speeches (in-flight from Brazil, 28 July 2013to Spadaro, 19 Sep 2013). Once Voris implicitly grants that they are the Pope’s words, his proceeding analysis blows up in his face for several reasons.
First, I will admit - when I watch Voris' video, I come away from the whole thing entirely disappointed. A good chunk of this is subjective - I'm not a fan of his tone of voice (it is amazingly sarcastic and preachy from start to finish), and I find the battles he prefers to pick to be bizarre. In the linked video, he actually makes some points I absolutely agree with - he highlights the abuse of the word 'dialogue', which I've actually blogged about, he points out doublespeak. But he talks about all of these methods, he explains the deception and double-speak that goes on... and then fails to land a real blow against Sullivan herself. So we get minutes of 'Judas Catholic' talk, and some pretty damning words... and the strongest thing Voris can say is that 'Well, if we interpret love and support to mean "accepting same-sex sexual acts as moral" THEN...." He doesn't even hammer away enough on the spousal point, which IS damning - since the 'gender of their spouse' is going to determine, certainly by the Catholic view, whether or not said person can even be a spouse to begin with.

The short version is, if you're going to talk about double-speak, Judas Catholics, and opposing Church teaching, if you're going to sound damning and critical... then you damn well better have evidence and quotes onhand that show the Judas Catholic engaged in actual betrayal: attending a NARAL meeting as a supporter, promoting gay marriage, etc. If all you can do after a tirade like that is launch an assault on an interpretation of the words, you've screwed up.

Anyway, this entry is supposed to focus on Codg, not Voris. The problem is that Voris just fumbles right away, so this may impact some of what Codg says.
Let me pause here to note an irony: I don’t think what Sullivan said is controversial. I mean, do we expect a Catholic university to denigrate and persecute homosexuals? Of course not. It’s a basic requirement of Catholic teaching to treat all people with love and respect as persons made in God’s image. As I like to say, hewing close to orthodoxy gets you the nutrients you need with all the manners that others need. To wit, Fr. Rodriguez shows the perfect integration of evangelical love and moral truth in Catholicism when he discusses the four cardinal points of the Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction.
Actually, contra Codg - yeah, I do think what Sullivan said is controversial, though Voris doesn't pick up on it nearly enough. There is no such thing as a 'gay spouse' according to Church teaching. Hell, according to Natural Law. I suppose, then, it's not that what she said is "controversial". That portion is simply wrong.

If I can see how uncontroversial Sullivan’s words are, at least prima facie, then surely Voris can, too.
Aye, but there’s the rub.
Voris knows not to treat Sullivan’s words with their prima facie meaning. He knows the way progressive Catholics work, and the rest of the video is an explication of the insidious manipulation of language practiced by Catholic progressives. As I say, though, the analysis only underscores how daft, or stoically coy, Voris is being.
And here's where problems really start to begin.

First, Codg talks about 'insidious manipulation of language practiced by Catholic progressives'. In a certain sense, I absolutely understand what he's talking about. The problem is, to a certain degree, this 'insidious manipulation of language' is just good old-fashioned skillful rhetoric. I don't think orthodox or social conservatives need dishonest presentations of what they say. But holy hell, we could use skillful rhetoric. And my worry is that some social conservatives have hit a point where, unless a social conservative is talking more or less the way Voris does, then they get filed under the 'liberal' label, because only 'liberals' talk in ways that appeal to the masses.

Let me speak strongly here: if someone thinks that it's wrong to communicate in a way that 'the masses' are likely to understand and be receptive to - if someone thinks it is, in and of itself, wrong to try and communicate in a way that will persuade people - then there is a problem. Namely, someone is out of their minds, and it ain't me. And I'm starting to wonder if this is not a (largely subconscious) problem SoCons have. It almost seems as if some SoCons think the only way to detect a True Conservative is if they're actively trying to piss off as many people as possible.
For starters, he subtly alters what Sullivan said in order to put as much light as he can between her and the Pope. Sullivan said we must “support” homosexuals, but Voris retorts that “the Holy Father never said we should give approval to same-sex marriage,” and adds a prolix, ten-second denial that the Holy Father could possibly be construed to have even hinted at such an idea.
Here’s the famous Spadaro excerpt again:
I used to receive letters from [implicitly active] homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them [for living an active homosexual lifestyle]. But the church does not want to do this. [Uhhhm?] … [I]f a homosexual person is of good will [?] and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. … Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but … it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
As I’ve argued before, it the above point is cogent, it should work for any case, e.g. “If a greedy, deceitful, adulterous, and homicidal person is of good will and is in search of God”–hold on right there. What traditionally catechized child does not know that certain acts objectively and intrinsically disqualify a person from being a person of good will, and which objectively and intrinsically make one an enemy of God? “Our Pope is our cross,” as one helpful blog commenter puts it.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. … In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”
Here's where things really fall apart for me, on a lot of fronts.

First, as I already said - Voris' video failed to deliver. He made good criticisms about language and deception in the abstract. He failed to appropriately criticize the one thing she said which was obviously wrong, and he failed to deliver any evidence or quotes in addition that illustrated her deception. Put simply, Voris was in attack mode when he should have been in probe mode - he should have been hammering Sullivan with questions civilly, not rushing to judge and attack her. At least, based on what he provided. So right there we have a problem with working out Voris' logic regarding both the Pope and Sullivan.

Second, however... Codg suggests that the pope's words can be read just like Sullivan's - but in quoting the pope, he inserts into brackets additional terms that the Pope didn't say or imply. So, really, what exactly is being disputed here? Why do the letters become 'implicitly active'? How in the world is the Pope being taken as saying that their 'active homosexual lifestyle' is not a problem? Notice, again, that this is another key way in which Sullivan's statements differ from the Pope's, precisely at the point I've referenced: Sullivan talks about 'spouses', and spousal talk in that context pretty much catches 'sexual acts' up in the process.

But the Pope is talking about homosexuals, period. Full stop. And... this is key... there really is a problem with some people thinking that 'being homosexual' - period, end of story, the state of same-sex attraction itself - is sinful. In fact, some people think that this alone suffices to damn people. How much of this is intentional misrepresentation of Church teaching? How much of this is cultural holdover? Who knows. But it's a real issue, and it's one of the main things the Church has to be clear about: there is a difference between 'a person who is homosexual' and 'same-sex sexual acts'. The former is not condemned. The latter is.

He then argues that Sullivan is practicing linguistic subterfuge by conflating love and support with acceptance and toleration. Yet, as noted, the Pope emphasized that, like God, “we must accompany [homosexual persons], starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.” In other words, the Pope argues, we must accept people where and how we find them, and then go from there. Further, during the in-flight interview, the Pope dodged the chance to say in plain language that, no, he does not “approve of homosexuality,” opting instead to forge a cutesy-wootsy rhetorical question–Does God reject and condemn the sheer existence of a gay person?–which plainly demands a negation: “No, God accepts and does not judge a gay person.”
Immediately after blasting Sullivan for conflating love with toleration, he reminds us of the Church’s inviolable and clear teaching on the intrinsically disordered, objectively evil, and therefore always condemned nature of homosexual acts. Once more, we’re left facing the dilemma of doing the Pope’s job for him or for pointing out his rhetorical sins of ommission and being tarred as Pharisees, defectors, bedwetters, and the like.
I don't think 'love and support' contrasts properly with 'acceptance and toleration'. There's nothing wrong with 'accepting' a homosexual, or most other people. Accepting such and such acts? Different story. Tolerance? Same thing. 'Support'? It depends on what we're supposed to be supporting.

More than that, though... what is this about 'doing the Pope's job for him'? What IS the Pope's job on this front? Please tell me it's not to act like Voris, because that seems wrongheaded. Is it to treat every question about homosexuals as a question about the morality of sodomy, such that you never talk about homosexual persons AS persons, and always as... I don't know, an anal sex proxy? Again, it seems wrongheaded.

Anyway, I think this has been thorough enough. The rest of the post is largely a criticism of Voris for failing to hold the Pope to the same criticism he holds Sullivan up to. But I think Voris fumbled on Sullivan (Note: It's not that I think that she's a closet orthodox Catholic. But Voris is jumping the gun in a bad way, and is attacking and condemning when he has little ammo beyond 'Well I've seen this pattern before.'), I think Voris missed the one portion of Sullivan's statement that was actually damning, I think said statement differentiates her from the Pope in a major way, and I think the Pope's statements don't come anywhere close to implying what Codg is taking them to be implying.


BenYachov said...

My wife has been having this conversation on her Facebook page.

People misquote and misrepresent the Popes all the time.

Pope Benedict once said that a male prostitute who uses a condom to protect others from the spread of AIDS might be showing the beginnings of a moral conscience.

The usual suspects on the lunatic Catholic right & left interpreted this to mean Pope Benedict was authorizing or recommending the use of condoms for gay men & or approving of homosexuality.

We naturally cry bullshit!

Let us paraphrase what he said. A bank robber who chooses to not use loaded weapons when robbing a bank for fear of shooting an innocent might be showing the beginnings of a moral conscience.

Merely acknowledging the rise of goodness of something is not the same as condoning the lack of goodness still present.

The liberal dirt bags are going to treat Pope Francis like their fantasy Pope John XXIV whom they imagine will start Vatican III, allow women priests, gay marriage, birth control, abortion and Franciscare.

It's not going to happen anymore then the Right wingnut Catholics fantasy of about Trent II abrogating Vatican II & going back to some fantasy "good old days" that never existed.

There is nothing new under the sun.

BenYachov said...

Of course after Pope John Paul II allowed altar girls the left wing usual suspects said this would lead to women priests.

Then he turns around releases an Encyclical that contains language disturbingly similar to the language used in Ex Cathedra decrees saying the Church has no power to convey Priestly ordination upon women.

I will laugh my arse off of Pope Francis before the end of his Papacy (i.e becoming another Emeritus Pope or passing beyond) issues a formal Ex Cathedra decree pissing on some liberal sacred cow.

He could do it.

Crude said...

I don't think Codg is anywhere close to a right-wing nut. I disagree with some of his estimations, but I also am very far from the very of Mark Shea - who, apparently, is no longer capable of having a civil disagreement with many people.

I will say that there is no shortage of people on the left who dislike Francis, and who are feeling left out in the cold. Do you think the Cult of Gnu likes seeing the head of the Catholic Church being regarded so well among its traditional liberal allies?

I think the situation is complicated.

BenYachov said...


I can't disagree with anything you have just wrote.

Especially Mark Shea Oy Vey him & his pal Kevin O'Brian. don't get me started......

I am not accusing Codg of anything but I am speaking of papal critics in general.


Crude said...

I understand, Ben. There's a wide spectrum of papal critics, and I do find myself in disagreement with Codg over a good amount of this. But I think Mark's handling of some of the critics has been... well, typical Mark Shea, sadly. The man has a bit of a self-righteous issue. Some of his opponents do too, but hey.

Kevin O'Brian, I am unfamiliar with.

The Deuce said...

Mark Shea - who, apparently, is no longer capable of having a civil disagreement with many people.

That ain't nothing new. I think the worst I ever saw was this combox "discussion" with Ed Feser over four years ago (if you can call it a discussion when one guy is calmly trying to reason from first principles, and the other guy is furiously shrieking like a banshee and hurling insults). I like the guy in general, but he has a penchant for becoming an utterly unreasonable and irrational hysteric when one of his many triggers gets set off.

Crude said...

Yeah, Mark seems to come from the school of discussion that amounts to 'the first person to act incredibly aggrieved wins!'

rank sophist said...

What's strange about people who criticize Pope Francis's comments is that they simultaneously bash him for speaking "off-the-cuff" and then read what he says as though it has layers of hidden meaning, like an encyclical. Even Codg, who I respect, is guilty of doing it here.

Also, since you didn't mention it in your critique, it's worth saying that Codg is wrong about Pope Francis being a "Hegelian-Whiteheadian". What he's claiming here is absolutely no different from what JPII, Benedict or even Aquinas said. God manifests himself as a real, concrete, historical entity. He isn't a Gnostic idol who is only reached by rejecting nature. Likewise, the Church is a historical entity. As Aquinas puts it, doctrine develops over time (history) as its implications--all of which are present in the beginning--are spelled out. Positive traditions (like priestly celibacy) are on even shakier ground: they may be changed based on the character of the times, and they advance forward from less perfect to more (ST IIa q97 a1). Sorry, Codg, but Hegel was late to the party on that one.

Crude said...

I don't think Codg would dispute that priestly celibacy are not dogmatic as opposed to pastoral. That is one thing even the most orthodox of orthodox seem united in affirming - they just don't think it should be changed for poor reasons.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


Thanks for your thoughts. (You, too, rank sophist!) The following reply also, to a small degree, refers to your latest "freak out" post in mind.

1) Until a few weeks ago, I had "nothing but love" for Pope Francis. Believe me. There were persons and even whole groups who IMMEDIATELY flipped out when Bergoglio was elected, and I was nowhere near them. I don't think I've even been to a Latin Mass before. Alas, the interviews rattled me to the bone and even now (after some rough patches of snark) I'm bending over backwards to read him charitably and as a whole figure. Hence...

2) By no means do I treat Bergoglio as an ex nihilo figure. On the contrary, I am trying to take his background and track record very seriously, but that's the problem: it's just raising more red flags.

3) I am not going to engage with this post in any great detail right now, because I'm not sure how to. Your argument is that, since my argument depends on Voris's critique, and since his critique is invalid, therefore my worries are ungrounded. I'm not convinced of that, but, again, I need to put off a serious reply for now.

4) As for the Pope's Hegelian-Process bent, I'd love to be shown that he's a good ole fashioned Thomist or even an Augustinian like Benedict XVI, but there are simply too many verbal "dog whistles" at this point for me to say, "Oh, yeah, the Church has a history, it's all good, my bad." I am well aware of the Church's doctrinal historicity, and it's actually one of the nuances that made the Church even more attractive when I was converting. Even so, I believe it's not so hard to see that Pope Francis has taken *the contingency of the DISTINCTLY CATHOLIC* to a new level. He's a biblicist and therefore appreciates the "Catholic" accents on the Gospel as his own, but I venture to say he is not committed to treating more than a few of them as truly infallible and non-negotiable. My hunch is that he's tracking the Fraticelli and has an instinct for Joachim of Fiore's, but that requires much more research on my part, so I'll leave it at that.


Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


5) Lastly, the reason I was first alarmed by the interviews (and sometimes by his homilies) is because I indeed thought he was merely speaking off the cuff, and I thought it was at worst a kind of negligence of duty as a teacher in some cases. Now, however, I am willing to grant that no one can avoid being misinterpreted, so the off the cuff is just a 'meme' the media have run with. I am increasingly convinced that the Pope is being intentionally provocative; his off the cuff manner masks a very astute and rhetorically self-aware set of assumptions. Besides, it's a false dichotomy to say that "off the cuff" comments can't convey (or belie) complex philosophical connotations. So even when he is genuinely just shooting from the hip in some cases, he can't help but speak based on his formative ideological background (no one can). In other cases, I think he's intentionally choosing words that send a distinct message or fail to clarify an important ambiguity. In any event, even if he's the most ideologically naive and guileless cleric on the planet, as long as those "off the hand" words are ON the Vatican website AS his official speeches, it behooves those of us who are unsettled by the Pope to take THOSE VERY WORDS seriously.

5a) Also, I do not thnk ALL the things the Pope says are heterodox, modernist, etc. I'm just grappling with some key assertions, presented over time and in various contexts, that truly baffle me. Where do such ideas even come from? How do we reconcile them with his orthopraxis?

6) As I tried to explain in part 2 of "The battle within," I think the Pope's entire sense of orthodoxy is so unconventional that he actually thinks he's deepening orthodoxy by delegitimizing its traditional vocabulary and articulation. He is therefore NOT a progressive and not a liberal; he is trying to speak beyond that entire dialectic. Hence he can affirm the Church's moral positions while still seeing them as historical accretions on "the timeless meaning of the Gospel." He's a biblicist, not a liberal.

Crude said...

2) By no means do I treat Bergoglio as an ex nihilo figure. On the contrary, I am trying to take his background and track record very seriously, but that's the problem: it's just raising more red flags.

How? In what way? I read every post you put up - I haven't really seen you refer to Francis' acts as Bishop Bergoglio. Also, did you see the link Mark Shea posted regarding the Pope's past talk (while Pope) about moral relativism? Shouldn't that impact some of your writings about the Pope - since that was a question that came up for you?

Your argument is that, since my argument depends on Voris's critique, and since his critique is invalid, therefore my worries are ungrounded.

Well, not quite. My argument was that Voris' critique was flawed, sure. But I also think there was a big gulf between what Sullivan said and what the Pope said, in particular re: 'spouses'.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

1a) I'm reading biographies of Bergoglio, but, it's true, most of my posted data come from online sources. Even so, what I'm doing is a "genealogy" of sorts based on what I'm hearing from him.

1b) My problem with the Pope's comments (written and spoken) about conscience, is not, as some argue, that they promote relativism, but that they are simply incorrect, and that the sin of omission in his words about conscience leave enough ambiguity for relativism to find a place at the table. Whether they ought to fuel the fires of relativism is a logically distinct issue. Whether they are technically correct is, I venture, simply false. I might throw up a quick post about the error, but I'm actually more inclined to let my research accumulate so I can produce a respectable, academically up to snuff essay.

1c) Anyway, I don't know why it should be big news that the Pope sounds like a Pope should, and that he says things which don't cause more confusion and backbiting among the faithful. The vast majority of Catholic blogs praise and promote the Pope's good words, so I'd be kidding if I thought I were really bucking his good impact, as if I wanted to, anyway. No, the majority of people that find my blog are, apparently, already troubled by him and in search of understanding. I'm not running a "Follow Francis" blog; my blog is highly eclectic. It just happens that right now my current focus is on making sense of the contradictory voice that Pope Francis has. If it were just me noticing that, I'd swallow it and shaddup, but I'm just one "bedwetter" among many, and the number of bedwetters seems to be going up rather than down. If I believed the Pope were a modernist, I'd quote this: “Hence in their books you find some things which might well be expressed by a Catholic, but in the next page you find other things which might have been dictated by a rationalist” (Pope Saint Pius X, cf Pascendi, #18). All I am willing to say is that the Pope teaches in a way that, at heart, I suppose, *strives* to be non-modernist, but, in actuality, is infected by tinges of modernist imprecision and ambiguity. I'm trying to understand the complexities of the Pope, and parsing them is necessarily a critical task. I realize that gives my writing a one-sided appearance, but it's the best I can do for now. At least I don't feel literally insane anymore and the despair has backed off several steps from its earlier embrace.

2) As for Sullivan and Voris, which assertion do you think the Pope would be more likely to say: a) "We should support every person regardless of his/her sexual orientation and relationship status?" or b) "We should support every person, except those with a same-sex partner"? In any other mouth (e.g. Sullivan's), the buzz words I get from the Pope would be seen by conservatives for they always have been -- code words -- but from the Pope they're required to be respun to cut off all loose ends.

3) You may have kept up or are keeping up with Ches, but these posts, to cite only two from him, echo many of my own concerns: i. and ii.

Crude said...

My problem with the Pope's comments (written and spoken) about conscience, is not, as some argue, that they promote relativism, but that they are simply incorrect, and that the sin of omission in his words about conscience leave enough ambiguity for relativism to find a place at the table.

Alright - but how is this squared with him explicitly denouncing moral relativism? How does that allow a seat at the table? Maybe if you're saying 'well, read in isolation' - but isn't that exactly what we shouldn't do?

As for Sullivan and Voris, which assertion do you think the Pope would be more likely to say: a) "We should support every person regardless of his/her sexual orientation and relationship status?" or b) "We should support every person, except those with a same-sex partner"?

I think the Pope wouldn't refer to a gay person's same-sex 'spouse' as a 'spouse'. And I also question whether the Pope would use a word like 'support'. It's not an issue of 'don't support someone with a same-sex partner' but 'don't treat their marriage as a marriage.'

In any other mouth (e.g. Sullivan's), the buzz words I get from the Pope would be seen by conservatives for they always have been -- code words -- but from the Pope they're required to be respun to cut off all loose ends.

I think if someone is tempted to read what the Pope says, with his track record, in the same way they'd read Sullivan with a lack of track record (or, more likely, having the track record of a Catholic academic), they'd be making a mistake.

I'll look at the posts.

Crude said...

Also, part of the reason I'm not immediately sold on 'the Pope has made a bad move, and that's obvious because look at how demoralized and upset so many Catholics are' logic is because... well, for one thing, I've been on the receiving end of that. I don't know if you followed my blog when I was arguing with Lydia McGrew and company over at What's Wrong With the World, but I was getting pigeonholed as a liberal and such for arguing that our approach and language should change, even if our orthodoxy shouldn't change a scrap. But *that alone* is enough to set a lot of people off. In McGrew's case it was even more bizarre, since she was happily implying she'd fire any employee of hers if she knew they were gay because if she knows then obviously they didn't hide it enough and she is against people being public about their same-sex attraction whatsoever.

Let me put it to you another way. Let's say the Pope tomorrow said that, while he calls us all to love and be compassionate towards gays, at the end of the day there's no such thing as a gay marriage or a gay spouse. Let's further say that this results in overnight OUTRAGE. Liberal Catholics and atheists show up and start screaming that the Pope is using hate speech and establishing that people with same-sex attraction 'are subhumans'. Andrew Sullivan talks about how the Pope was, with a wink and a nod, giving his blessing to guys who beat up gays, etc. Catholic liberals start bemoaning that, just as the Pope was making progress, he's set back the Catholic image among gays a hundred years.

One could suggest that the Pope really made a mistake there, and perhaps there was some better way to say what he did. One could also suggest - in my view, with far more justification - that the people reacting to him were overreacting, and that *even if they were sincerely upset*, this indicated a fault on their end, not the Pope's. That's the problem with communication: if person A says something and person B reacts poorly to it, it may well be A's fault or B's fault.

In this case, I think the reaction to the Pope in some quarters has been over the top. Even if there's a legitimate concern, to engage in a lot of the speculation I see people engaging in, just strikes me as ill-considered. More than that, I think the sort of thing I see the Pope as doing cannot be done without riling up some individuals, including orthodox individuals. I want to minimize that sort of damage - but I don't think it's possible to eliminate it altogether and still do what needs to be done, anymore than it's possible to evangelize gays and atheists and liberals and, at the same time, make an idiot like Richard Dawkins happy.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Crude: You meant the Fr. Lucie-Smith article on conscience, right? I read that a couple nights ago, but again, it seemed to elide or garble a crucial point in Aquinas' teaching on conscience. I know he cited GS 16 (which is a peerless distillation of the Church's teaching, btw!) and ST I-II q. 19 a. 6, but it's always tricky just to pluck out one article from the ST. Everything in Aquinas' thought was rigorously interconnected, though we must allow for variations over time across texts, and so we can't just read ST I-II q. 19 a. 6 in isolation from the preceding articles.

Anyway, I don't like sounding coy, so I'll try to just say in a couple sentences what the error is, in my opinion... (OOPS, ON THAT NOTE I have to hurry home, lost track of time, grades due tomorrow!)

Crude said...


No, I meant this:

Anonymous said...

That's funny because I'm pretty sure I cited that homily in a post or a comment to Malcolm. It just added to my bafflement, actually, heheh. I'm about to wrap up my "discernment" posts for a while, do some reading, pray things out, etc. Still grading, will try to explain my key point about conscience soon, but, hey, it's the internet.

Crude said...

And today we have this:

"Without this awareness of the before and after of which Paul speaks to us, our Christianity does not help anyone! More to this: it takes us on the road of hypocrisy. ‘I call myself a Christian, but live like a pagan!’ Sometimes we say ‘Christians at half-speed’, who do not take this seriously. We are holy, justified, sanctified by the blood of Christ: Take this sanctification and carry it forward! Though people do not take it seriously! Lukewarm Christians: ‘But, yes, yes , but, no, no’. Neither here nor there - as our mothers said, ‘rosewater Christians’ - no! A little touch here and there, of Christian paint, a little ‘paint catechesis’ - but inside there is no true conversion, there is no such conviction as that of St.Paul: ‘Everything I gave up and I consider garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."

Anonymous said...

Oh, trust me, I don't need any convincing that he knows how to say the right things at the right times. My problem is his unpredictable ability to do the obverse. I mean, just read the quotation you gave with the following quotations. Maybe it makes perfect sense and all fits together in your mind and the Pope's, but it's literally almost cognitively painful for me to find his true voice, sort of like trying to listen to two loud radios tuned to different stations. Easier just to stop listening.

"They are today’s Pelagians who believe in the firmness of faith and are convinced that “salvation is the way I do things.” “I must do them seriously,” without any joy. The Pope commented, “they are very numerous. They are not Christians. They disguise themselves as Christians.”"

"With faith comes a new reliability, a new firmness, which God alone can give. If the man of faith finds support in the God of fidelity, the God who is Amen (cf. Is 65:16), and thus becomes firm [rigid?] himself, we can now also say that firmness of faith marks the city which God is preparing for mankind."

Crude said...

Maybe it makes perfect sense and all fits together in your mind and the Pope's, but it's literally almost cognitively painful for me to find his true voice, sort of like trying to listen to two loud radios tuned to different stations. Easier just to stop listening.

Well, I had to hunt down the sources for both the quotes: and

In context, I admit - I don't see any problem. The biggest issue seems to be that in 'Christians of action and truth' Francis talking about "confusing solidity and firmness with rigidity", and then he talks about their firmness of faith. Questionable translation, using 'firmness' again, but I don't need to appeal to that to say he's being rather clear, especially considering he just got done talking about Christians who 'love beautiful words' and superficiality. In "Faith and the common good". The contrast seems to be between firmness in faith / resolute belief (good) and rigidity / being too serious and mechanical (bad).

I sympathize, though, when you say that this drives you nuts. Maybe a lot of what your problems with the Pope can be attributed to is ultimately "style". Personal preference.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Yes. I'm just having to learn by grace that he's just "not the pope for me"; but of course the Church doesn't revolve around me. I have enough trouble staying in the saddle of my own rambunctious mind, so trying to navigate the asteroid belt of one of the most byzantine (or erratic?) minds I've ever met this side of Catholicism, is like trying to adjust Ptolemaic orbits with new epicycles every day or so. I mean, even as I posted those quotations I was like, "well, if you take that in this sense and this in that sense, etc. etc. it all kind of gels in a kaleidoscopic pastiche," but I'm just not finding it worth the effort to keep twisting my decoder ring for Pope Francis. As I've said, even the straight, orthodox stuff is pretty avuncular and boilerplate, if not frequently sappy. So, I'm left with two fairly depressing options: maybe I've merely convinced myself that he's got this elaborate set of assumptions which account for the inconsistencies, so that I have a hermeticist key that cures my vertigo, or... maybe he doesn't care about overall consistency, preferring to tailor his words with reckless abandon to each unique interaction and there's literally no internal scaffolding to his theology. I think I'd rather believe in the elaborate theory than admit that this pope doesn't care about intellectual coherence as long as he produces the desired "effect" in his immediate audience. The upshot is, first, as I've said before, that if this pope is not really trying to reach me then I'll just ignore him until he does, and, second, that if he doesn't care what words he uses from day to day, then neither do I. Godspeed, Jimmy Akin!

Crude said...

I guess the problem I have is that I don't see the consistency here as being very complicated or patchwork. In fact, 'complicated' seems to be the one thing Francis doesn't really do - he speaks in a pretty down to earth manner, with his main problem is that he at times relies on nuance.

I think we've gone over this, though, so I have a request for you to possibly take up sometime: tell me what you'd LIKE the Pope to say. Not just broad affirmations like, 'Well, I'd like him to decisively condemn (x) or say that (y) is true'. Tell me how he should say it, how he should do it. Write a paragraph you'd like Francis to say, and why you'd welcome it being put that way.

Up to you whether you decide to do it, but I'd honestly be interested.

Anonymous said...

So you know, because I see I was mentioned, I've been following this conversation with fascination, and mostly because I'd pretty much be parroting what Crude is saying more clumsily anyway.

*Sits back, chews popcorn*

Anonymous said...

Crude, do you mean about conscience, or about "God, life, and the universe"? I'm not up for the latter challenge, not the least because there's not a whole lot in Francis that I think it wrong. There are just some red flags and clues that I keep trying to iron out.

Crude said...

You're right, that was a little open ended. Let me try to narrow it down.

Assume you're the Pope. Your goal is to try and communicate these ideas to people:

* Having same sex attraction is not in and of itself a sin - it's the sexual acts that are. Thus, gays and lesbians have a place in the church, but but sodomy is still a sin, and gay marriage is still illegitimate/immoral.

* An atheist, despite not believing in God, can still nevertheless do good - and if they really believe that there is 'good' to do, they should continue to seek both to do it and understand it.

I could add more, but let's keep it simple. Now, consider these following pitfalls you need to be aware of.

* If you focus too much on lecturing about the sins themselves, you sound as if you're talking down to them and that they'll basically be tolerated if they show up at the church, rather than actually welcome, thus sabotaging your outreach effort unnecessarily.

* If you are too welcoming, you can be more easily misinterpreted as thinking the sins are utterly irrelevant and don't matter, thus riling up conservatives and orthodox.

* If you are too specific and your explanation is too thorough and too wordy, you increase the odds and ease of miscommunication - or of not being communicated at all, because most people won't take the time to understand what you're saying.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

This needs to be a video game.

Crude said...

It would be a fun one! Princess Maker, but with the Pope.

BenYachov said...

Codg you claimed a statement made by Francis on conscious was in error.

BTW here is Francis quote in context.

"I now wish to address the three questions from your article of 7 August. I believe that in the first two questions, what interests you is to understand the attitude of the Church towards those who do not share faith in Jesus. Above all, you ask if the God of Christians forgives those who do not believe and who do not seek faith. Given the premise, and this is fundamental, that the mercy of God is limitless for those who turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart, the issue for the unbeliever lies in obeying his or her conscience. There is sin, even for those who have no faith, when conscience is not followed. Listening to and obeying conscience means deciding in the face of what is understood to be good or evil. It is on the basis of this choice that the goodness or evil of our actions is determined."

Here is again the Quote from the 1910 Catholic Encylopedia in the entry under Idolatry..

QUOTE" Considered in itself, idolatry is the greatest of mortal sins………………………….No sin is mortal — i.e. debars man from attaining the end for which he was created — that is not committed with clear knowledge and free determination. But how many, or how few, of the countless millions of idolaters are, or have been, able to distinguish between the one Creator of all things and His creatures? and, having made the distinction, how many have been perverse enough to worship the creature in preference to the Creator? — It is reasonable, Christian, and charitable to suppose that the "false gods" of the heathen were, in their conscience, the only true God they knew, and that their worship being right in its intention, went up to the one true God with that of Jews and Christians to whom He had revealed Himself. "In the day when God shall judgethe secrets of men by Jesus Christ . . . . . the gentiles who have not the law, shall be judged by their conscience" (Romans 2:14-16). God, who wishes all men to be saved, and Christ, who died for all who sinned in Adam, would be frustrated in their merciful designs if the prince of this world were to carry off all idolaters.END

What is the difference? I see none.

Maybe you are just plain wrong? I doubt you can make the case the CE article here is against Aquinas or the CCC.

BenYachov said...

I really must fix that stupid autospell.

It's conscience not conscious.

BenYachov said...

At this point Crude I will without fail doubt every Pope Francis "critic" to the N'th degree.

They have to prove to me their good will & they will have to document everything in context.

Especially the Codg.

BenYachov said...

>My problem with the Pope's comments (written and spoken) about conscience, is not, as some argue, that they promote relativism, but that they are simply incorrect,

Rather Codg doesn't know enough theology or philosophy to comment with any authority.

Or can he make the vain case the editors of the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia had the same problem as the Pope.

On Dale Prices Blog Codg and the sharks where attacking Pope Francis with all these cheap shots & smears. I & my wife defended him.

Codg cited this article as a source for Francis "wrong" teachings on conscience that I quoted above.

Well it is clear to anyone with a brain or IQ larger then 3 that the Pope was talking about conscience in regards to the salvation of invincibly ignorant non-believers. NOT CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL!!!!!!

He has taught nothing the 1910 CE itself endorses.

I am pissed & I am in full BenYachov Mode!

This slander of the Pope is a mortal sin!

I won't tolerate it.

BenYachov said...

There is an anti-Catholic secular bigot in the Whitehouse. A moral scumbag who thinks he has the right to negate the first amendment and force the faithful to buy birth control for the heathen.

Who as of today's news was spying on the Holy Father before and during the sacred Concave!

Yet certain people in these dark times hide behind the ivory towers of their blogs throwing monkey fecies at the Holy Father by slander and detraction. Yet they are not man enough to come out from behind the curtain to either eat crow & admit the one instant I document in this commbox was bogus or rebut it.

I just want to say isn't that special!