Sunday, September 20, 2015
Pope Francis and "family meetings" about our teachings
Will Pope Francis try to change the teachings of the church, allowing Communion after divorce and remarriage (separating doctrine from pastoral practice), and thus depose himself as Pope? After talking to a Catholic friend about it, I don't think so. He knows that as Pope he can't.
As soon as I learned about him after he became Pope I realized he'd be another Paul VI, a disaster. What's happening is just like the run-up to Humanae Vitae; it's hurting the church's standing the same way.
You can have a debate as a teaching tool, with a hypothesis (rhetorical question) and discussion. The way of the university, part of whose purpose for Catholics is to discuss every point in the catechism in order to better understand it.
The trouble with this approach outside of academe is the non-Catholic world thinks the church is like a Protestant denomination that can change its teachings by decree or vote. It thinks all this hubbub preparing for the Synod on the Family, with dissenting bishops mouthing off against church teaching (yes, we need another Pius XII to shut them up), is like the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. "Finally those fishsticks are stopping being hypocritical about this and getting with the program. Marriage is only about how the couple feel about each other so of course gay marriage; let's be nice to those downtrodden homosexuals and excuse our own behavior by so doing."
The blogger at Face to Face has made this point about being parents. It's like the rule against fraternization between officers and enlisted men in the military. Nice parents might play games with their children or have family conferences so their kids better understand their rules. The trouble with things like that is it confuses the kids when the parents have to use their authority on them; the false idea that they're equals. He points out that when he was growing up, parents might show the kids how to play a game but not actually play with them like equals. Might be cold and harsh but point taken.
In the 1960s and again now, here's the Pope calling for a family meeting acting like a vote. "Let's have discussion groups and tell me how you feel in various countries about this teaching."
Pope Francis will end up defending the teaching of the church on divorce and remarriage just like Paul VI did against contraception but this run-up will have done its harm: a big backlash just like after Humanae Vitae. A few more people will lose their faith and leave the church.
Maybe he really wants to drop this teaching and, knowing he can't as Pope, is resorting to this tactic.
In a way we're better off than under Paul VI. The church under him still had the huge infrastructure, social clout, and funds it had earned before Vatican II (and thought the "renewal" would make it even bigger and better); we don't anymore. But we don't have the ICEL paraphrase of the English Mass anymore, thanks to Pope Benedict the Great. Just like 50 years ago, I can go to a Catholic church anywhere in the U.S. and hear Catholicism in the Mass text. St. Liberal's is orthodox in spite of itself. So when this synod is done, we won't have to take cover; the official church will still be fine.
If Pope Francis did become an antipope, who would make that call for us?
Walking through downtown Philadelphia this week I saw lamppost banners with Pope Francis' picture and innocuous politically correct quotations from him such as "be happy" and "do good." I realized the hoopla about his visit is NOT celebrating the teachings of the church.