Thursday, May 08, 2014

What the church really teaches and practices about the Pope


Benedict the Great: a good Pope is a blessing but it's about the church and the office, not the man.

I loved saying "Jesus saves; Mary prays; Benedict is our Pope," and wish I still could, but:

  • From Fr. Hunwicke: The Montini years: a sadly maximalising Papacy. May it rest in peace. "In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word." Heads up for our cousins in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; what we believe isn't all that different from you. (Fulton Sheen: Most people don't hate the church; they hate what they wrongly think the church is.) ... the limitations which Vatican I had put upon the Petrine Office ... by defining the Infallibility and Primacy of Roman Pontiffs, that admirable Council automatically set limits upon it. That is what the verb definire means. He can't change the church's teachings.
  • On resisting bad Popes. My life in the church: Between Pentecost and the launch of Vatican.va, most Catholics did not have access to the day-to-day musings of their pope. The Roman pontiff's theological speculations have been of almost no interest to Catholics throughout history, and never became so unless he was a great theologian already, or there was a great controversy which the authority of the Roman Church might settle. To the average Catholic living hundreds of miles from Rome the Faith was the Faith, whether the pope was zealously orthodox like St. Benedict II or a sex criminal like Pope John XII. The trouble with well-meaning neocaths, or why St. John Paul the Overrated's reign was low-church: During the post–Vatican II upheavals in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, conservative Catholics developed a mental architecture that told them that even if their parish priest or local bishop was lax, immoral, or even vaguely heretical, there was practically a living saint in Rome, whose unassailable orthodoxy, personal charisma, and good works were taken as the living sign of the indefectibility of the church. They are more loyal to an imagined Catholic party than to the Catholic faith or the church. The truth: Unlike a party, the church already knows the outcome of its election; the blessed reign, the accursed don't. The church already has victory. And so the church and its believers do not depend on the righteousness of the pope; the papacy and the church depend on the righteousness of Christ.
  • As Jeff Culbreath explained to me shortly after he came into the church, "We are papal minimalists." The difference, he went on to explain, between traditionalists, of which I am one by default (not very devout but a convinced Catholic just like many people 50 years ago), and conservatives with "our saint in the Vatican."
  • Like I said, I'm a trad by default, more like what simply were Catholics a few decades ago. Thanks to Pope Benedict's reform of the Novus Ordo, I live in the official church just like people did then. I can go to Mass in good conscience anywhere in the country. I'm leery of trad chapels: self-selected groups of the pious, or cults with the trappings of the church, not the church. That said, in a pinch there's the SSPX: Fellay for cardinal; Lefebvre for saint.

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