The Catholic Herald’s William Oddie about critics of Benedict XVI’s Assisi confab

In the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, columnist William Oddie opines about people who are having a nutty over the Pope’s plan for an ecumenical meeting in Assisi… Assisi III.

Before we plunge in, I must say that I am not a fan of these ecumenical confabs.  Do they lead to anything substantive?  Not from where I am sitting.

But I am not sitting in the Chair of Peter either.

I have been saying all long that Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.  He is drawing individuals and groups closer to the Church.  He has a perspective I can’t possibly have.  These ecumenical meetings… well….

Enough of my thoughts.  Here is Oddie’s piece with my emphases and comments.

If you really think you’re more Catholic than the pope, you’re on your way to the funny farm

The interfaith pilgrimage to Assisi doesn’t compromise a single Catholic belief

By William Oddie

As my readers will have gathered by now, I worry about Catholics who think that the Magisterium of the Church is just one opinion among many, and that it is up to them to decide what a Catholic may or may not believe. But at least their view is comprehensible, if defective. To put it crudely, they may be Catholic; they’re just not Catholic enough. [In some cases they are not Christian either.]

I am much more puzzled by those who think that the Pope himself is open to criticism on the ground that he isn’t Catholic enough, and certainly much less Catholic than they are. Predictably, perhaps, the present Pope’s decision to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s meeting with leaders of other world religions to pray for peace has drawn fire from the SSPX, who have recalled Archbishop Lefebvre’s attack on that event: the Church, he pronounced, had never before been “humiliated to such an extent in the course of her history” and that “the scandal given to Catholic souls cannot be measured”. “The Church,” said the archbishop, “is shaken to its very foundations”. [There is a touch of the drama-queen in that statement.  At the same time, I think people can express opinions about that disastrous meeting in Assisi.  One reason they can express opinions about it is that it has actually taken place and is in the past.  We have some perspective about it.]

Well, it was rubbish then and it‘s rubbish now. The Church wasn’t shaken to its foundations. [But…. but…tens of people were!] On the contrary, John Paul II was the pope who, more than any other in this century, strengthened those foundations. I have to admit that I’m not particularly keen on what I have heard called “interfaith interface”. I think other religions are just wrong. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] But if those who adhere to them are sincerely praying for peace within their own religious traditions, however they may understand what the word “God” may mean, who am I to say that He, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, won’t listen to their prayers? I don’t know what good the Assisi meeting did, who can? But it can surely hardly be argued that it did any harm.  [Not so sure about that.  I don’t the Church was rocked on its foundations.  Still, that was a real low point in ecumenism, in my view.]

The fact is that Pope John Paul did more to defend Catholic orthodoxy than Lefebvre could have in a thousand years: [I can hear the howls of protest already…] for, the fact is that Lefebvre, in separating himself from the successor of Peter in the name of orthodox Catholic belief and practice, did nothing but encourage the notion that orthodoxy, far from being the same thing as ultimate sanity, is on the contrary the mark of the extremist and the nutter. [True.  The late-Archbishop, for whatever good he did, also left the looney left with a sturdy club with which to beat actually faithful Catholics.]

What is the Pope risking by praying with those whose beliefs he does not share? This isn’t an interfaith doctrinal negotiation: he won’t compromise a single Catholic teaching. [Exactly.] This isn’t like inviting a Muslim to contribute a prayer in the context of the Mass (as has been done in Westminster Cathedral) on the ground that “we all worship the same God”, when clearly we don’t. [Another great topic…. for another entry (not here).]

This is the way Pope Benedict understands this event: [I think we can take the Pope at his word…] “I will make a pilgrimage to the town of St Francis,” he said, “inviting my Christian brethren of different confessions, leaders of the world’s religious traditions and, in their hearts, all men and women of good will, to join me on this journey in order to commemorate that important historical gesture of my predecessor, and solemnly to renew the commitment of believers of all religions to live their religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.”

Well? And how is that a betrayal of the Catholic faith? You may think I’m taking the SSPX too seriously. But there are plenty of people in communion with the Holy See who think they’re more Catholic than the pope on this and other issues; if you doubt that, just look at some of the half-crazed comments to be found under the Herald’s online story headlined “SSPX leader criticises Pope’s plan to hold inter-religious meeting”[Or in my inbox at some of the email arriving from the fever-swamp!]

Being a Catholic means believing many things, some of them more important than others. But one core principle is surely indispensable. Quite simply, you trust the pope. For, once you start thinking you are a better and more faithful Catholic than he is, you are well on your way to the funny farm.

I am not sure I would trust every Pope about every issue.

But I think we can trust this Pope on this issue.

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65 Responses to The Catholic Herald’s William Oddie about critics of Benedict XVI’s Assisi confab

  1. Jon says:

    Mr. Oddie is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    How about a pope who’s more Catholic than the pope? I could cut and paste Mortalium Animos for the nine thousandeenth time to prove Mr. Oddie’s wrongness, but by now I’d feel like my dog when she chases her tail.

  2. albizzi says:

    The next Assisi meeting, like the previous one will sow confusion in the catholic faithfuls minds.
    Which good may result in confusing minds?
    There are enough priests and bishops sowing confusion by their words or their deeds (without the hierarchy ever daring to react) that it is useless that the Pope adds his share even with the best intentions.
    The Assisi meeting is the worst expression of this hollow word named “spirit of the council”.
    Would any pope of the pre-Vatican II era have dared to call such a meeting?

  3. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    My own feeling is that the Pope believes there are terrible times of religious persecution, even war, ahead. He wants to leave no stone unturned to persuade people to dedicate themselves to peace. He is leading by example. We may look back one day and see this as a failed effort, but it is an effort. Let us join with our Holy Father in his intention.

  4. wolfeken says:

    We can also trust the saints on this issue:

    “There is no greater enemy of the Immaculata and her Knighthood than today’s ecumenism.”

    Father Maximilian Kolbe

  5. NCtrad says:

    The more I read the drivel of so-called “conservative” Catholics (both this article and commentary being great examples), the more I am convinced that neo-catholics are worse enemies of the Church then the extreme modernists. Just like error itself, the obvious error is easily combated. It’s the error that sounds catholic that is the most dangerous.

    Any pre-conciliar pope would be shocked at what passes for Catholic orthodoxy these days.

  6. Fr. A.M. says:

    I, too, have mixed feelings about William Oddie’s views on ‘Assisi I- ‘. However let us wait and see, and pray for the pope. By the way, I wonder if SSPX have made their stand on the issue more ‘nuanced’ :

    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com (for 13 January) :

  7. PghCath says:

    I look at these ecumenical meetings in the same terms as the Pope’s condom comments: It would be great if everyone was Catholic. But they’re not. Moreover, many people don’t believe in anything transcendent at all. Therefore the Pope needs to encourage them to pray before he can encourage them to pray to the one, true God.

    Beyond this, I’m sick of the assertion that meetings like Assisi will cause confusion among faithful Catholics. Can anyone honestly assert that John Paul II wanted us to become Jewish because he visited the Roman Synagogue? That Benedict XVI wants us to become Anglican because he participated in Vespers with Rowan Williams? The Pope is Catholic and he wants you to be Catholic too. There is no reason for confusion.

    As for the assertion that no pre-Vatican II Pope would have called a meeting like Assisi, that’s probably right. Yet it ignores the fact that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been Pope during a period characterized by an unprecedented decline in religiosity. Popes before Vatican II were charged with bringing already religious people into the Catholic fold. Benedict and John Paul must face the antecedent and extremely difficult task of convincing people that religion matters at all.

  8. traditionalorganist says:

    PghCath, I agree. The Holy Father has enough enemies outside of the Church, let alone within. He consistently works to renew the ancient faith and life of the Church, and we, especially, who appreciate such things, ought to support him and place our trust in him, lest we become the “My way or the highway” Catholics.

  9. PS says:

    Meh. If this were a different prelate, I’d be concerned. The idea of our Pope compromising a truly integral Catholic anything (element of ritual, doctrine, etc) seems ludicrous.

    Oh, and:

    “Any pre-conciliar pope would be shocked at what passes for Catholic orthodoxy these days.”

    may not be something to sail your ship by. After all aren’t the biggest detractors of the EF revival big fans of countering the EF by comparing the NO to “early Church” practices? Orthodoxies change.

  10. albizzi says:

    PghCath,
    You cannot deny that confusion was and will be caused by these meetings. This will not lead us to convert like you say to another faith but on the contrary to lose faith since people no longer see the catholic faith’s purposes.

    In addition, when one considers the thousands of miracles which happened in Lourdes since one century and half, and that the medical office that is in charge to check everyone only kept about 70 among them as worthy to be declared as true miracles, one may be nothing but frightened regarding the haste the Vatican has to declare as such the first case thas it was proposed to support JPII’ beatification. What would happen if the sister who was healed of her Parkinson’s disease would undergo a relapse of her illness?

  11. It sounds like the principles the Pope is following for Assisi III is much the same as his principles for Catholics on the Web, from his 2010 World Communications Day message:

    “With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek; indeed, we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization. A pastoral presence in the world… precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the Web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God?

    “…it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities… to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

    “To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.”

    So sure, JPII and B16 both called people to come worship God in a sort of “courtyard of the Gentiles”, a public square, an “agora”. But the agora is in a city that is filled with Catholic Christianity, not really neutral ground; but it’s also in the spirit of St. Francis, because nobody is scared of St. Francis and everybody likes him. It’s not a bad plan.

    In Assisi I, JPII didn’t have enough subordinates ride herd closely enough, so idiocy and abuses ensued. (This is very common with an event taking place for the first time.) The problem was in his assumption that Catholics would know how to act Catholic and protect the non-agora areas. At Assisi II, a certain Cardinal Ratzinger was able to put people in charge who knew what they were doing. At Assisi III, I expect that security will be tighter, because there may be some Bad People visiting who really do want to commit sacrilege (and murder, and….) But there’s also years and years of World Youth Days under the belts of the organizers and security guys, so I expect they know who to hire and how to set things up to prevent chaos or Really Bad Things.

    Framing it as a pilgrimage is also very clever. It draws on the imagery of the whole world coming to Jerusalem to do God homage (and the Three Kings, who weren’t Christian or Jews!). But it also draws on the great hunger for pilgrimages that has been sweeping the world for the last ten or twenty years. People who aren’t even Christian or interested in God find themselves on the road to Compostela, for goodness’ sake; they say the prayers and sing the hymns and go to Mass. Some of them also do things not worthy of a pilgrimage; but they can’t resist going, all the same; and God gets plenty of time to work on them, when they’re out for weeks on His road.

    Offering them Peter is equally irresistable. It’s like the Pope’s got a big drag net, and something like this tends to just catch people up in his net and drag them behind to follow him. Popes in the old days couldn’t really deploy this strange attraction, except on visitors to Rome (or the Papal States). Now they can go out and fish for people in the whole big ocean again. :)

    Remember too that this isn’t B16’s thing. You could argue that JPII just had these shindigs because he got into them. (It’s not fair of course; everybody has gifts and God expects us to use them. Most more recent popes didn’t need to be charismatic types, so they weren’t. JPII is more like a Roman days or medieval pope, who needed charisma to lead.) B16 does them as a duty, and manages to enjoy them when they’re happening; but I’m sure they tire him. Still, he knows he can gain souls this way, so he uses JPII’s methods as well as the ones he’s more comfortable with.

  12. kgurries says:

    Folks, scandal and confusion is a two way street. If the Pope meets with non-Catholics to pray for peace then some Catholics will be scandalized. If the Pope refused to meet with non-Catholics to pray for peace then (very likely) the entire non-Catholic world will be confused and scandalized. I think the Pope is banking on the Catholics being strong enough to know the sign of the times — and not be scandalized. In any case, the Pope has the difficult job to prudentially weigh the differences and avoid scandal the best he can.

  13. Poimier says:

    May I ask two questions ?

    Did Pope John Paul 2 kiss the Quran or not ?

    Were countless thousands of Catholics horrified by this gesture or not ?

    I was.

  14. JP Borberg says:

    Not too sure about “But one core principle is surely indispensable. Quite simply, you trust the pope”. Really? If Paul VI knew what he was on about when he allowed all those reforms then he’s every bit as bad as the SSPX says he is.

  15. Flambeaux says:

    Bill Oddie’s position, “if those who adhere to them are sincerely praying for peace within their own religious traditions, however they may understand what the word “God” may mean, who am I to say that He, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, won’t listen to their prayers”, only makes sense in light of modern nonsense, espoused by too many priests and prelates, that the false gods worshipped by these beknighted people are not demons.

    If there is only one God and He created and sustains the Church as His voice on earth, then no other “religious tradition”, no matter how well-intentioned, speaks with His authority or benefits from His Grace. Their prayers are, at best, in vain.

    The only charitable thing to do is call them home. And, sadly, “ecumenical and interfaith dialog” has done nothing of the sort.

  16. PghCath says:

    Albizzi,

    I think the Pope has to operate on two levels: to strengthen and confirm Catholics in their faith and to bring those outside the fold into it. I hate to imagine the pressure of being Pope: he is responsible for the soul of everyone on Earth. Everyone. Every night, he must think, “Lord, I’m doing my best, but less than 20% of the world belongs to your Church.” People often say that being President is an impossible job; so much more so being Pope.

    You speak of the “Catholic’s faith’s purposes.” I think the purpose of the Catholic faith is to bring each and every human being to salvation. It won’t succeed, as we know from the “pro multis” debate, but it must try. Should be not then be confirmed in our faith when we see the Holy Father trying to bring more people into the fold?

    I think it’s a beautiful thing that the word “pray” from the Pope leads people to fly from around the world to pray in his presence. I wish it were in the context of a pontifical high Mass, but that’s not to be for the moment. The Pope sees the need to stoop down to the level of non-Catholics on occasion and tutor them on the basics of prayer. By doing so, however, he does not denigrate the higher truths known only to believing Catholics.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  17. digdigby says:

    Massachusetts Catholic says-
    “My own feeling is that the Pope believes there are terrible times of religious persecution, even war, ahead.”
    Yes! Ever since the Pope’s Christmas Message that was tinged with both a sadness and ominous foreboding, I hear distant thunder. This confab will be NOTHING Like Assissi I, of that I’m certain.

  18. Hieronymus says:

    On the contrary, John Paul II was the pope who, more than any other in this century, strengthened those foundations.

    If he is, indeed, talking about this century, I strongly disagree. I would argue Pope Benedict has done an immensely better job of appointing better quality better quality bishops and improving Catholic education (though that is not saying much, given the state in which his predecessor left it).

    If he actually meant last century, this statement defies belief. Oddie is either blind or hallucinating.

  19. kgurries says:

    Dear Fr. Z, I think there may be another key difference with Assisi III. Formerly, most people had to digest Assisi through the filters of the media — and sometimes the whole event was presented and interpreted within the narrow context of a single photo or sentance. Now there are so many good and reliable places to get the real story with the full context. That alone may have a significant impact on the outcome of Assisi III.

  20. paulbailes says:

    As long as the HF refers to Assisi 86 in favourable terms, and Assisi 11 as a “commemoration” thereof, he invites criticism.

    To those (like Dr Oddi) who “Quite simply, you trust the pope” … well, that’s the sort of mentality that allowed the revolutionaries to have their way. E.g. if more people circa 1970 had resisted the illegal suppression of the TLM, we’d have been better off.

  21. NCtrad says:

    PS stated “Orthodoxies change.”

    If that doesn’t just perfectly sum up modernist thought I don’t know what does. Thank you for laying your cards face up on the table.

  22. rfox2 says:

    Some of the language defending the pope sounds a little like clericalism. “Quite simply, you trust the pope”?

    The Holy Father is not above criticism. Not that our criticism will change anything, but it’s important for people to realize that the pope is a man. He isn’t God. He has been given the charism of infallibility, which means that he cannot officially teach error in faith or morals. Throughout the history of the Church, popes have done not only scandalous things, but horrific things. Popes have done things, acting as pope, that would surprise even the liberals among us. Pope Honorius favored the monothelite heresy, and was anathematized at the third council of Constantinople. Pope Leo VII began his pontificate as an antipope, having been appointed by the Emperor Otto. Pope Alexander VI had mistresses and several children, among whom was Lucrezia Borgia. Pope Boniface VIII is reported by Dante to have been guilty of simony. Pope John XII also had mistresses, and on and on. The point is that these men can sin, have lax faith, become beguiled by the world, be prideful in their erudition, be deceived, etc.

    Catholics need to know their faith. They need to know when even the pope is doing or teaching something wrong. That criticism, if done correctly, can be a charitable action. The entire Church is our Mother, suffering, militant, and glorified. We have a responsibility as Catholics to defend her, even if she is being betrayed by a beloved prelate, local ordinary, or favorite priest. I’m not saying the Church is a democracy, but we need to be faithful to the full breadth of our Tradition for which the martyrs died.

    We have no idea, in reality, what spiritual effect the Assisi meetings have or will have. If they mislead thousands of souls into Hell, we won’t know that until we ourselves are judged. I think that someone would be hard pressed to argue that the Assisi meetings, and the synagogue meetings, and kissing the Koran does not implicitly legitimize those foreign faiths in the eyes of many people. If we believe they are wrong, and we believe that Christ is the only way, then we need to state with clarity and simplicity that these foreign religions are false, avoid associations with them. It may be painful, and we may not win earthly friends, but it’s the right thing to do.

    The ad hominem argument of “you think you’re more Catholic than the pope” is smoke and mirrors, and a way to avoid saying what all faithful Catholics who care about their Tradition really think: the Assisi meetings are wrong.

  23. Nordic Breed says:

    Even though many highly offensive things have taken place at Assisi, I have a take on the whole thing that relates to the comment of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI dealing with convincing people that religion is important. The Holy Father is the Father of every person on earth. That’s what humanity needs – a Father figure on earth. Could any other religious leader have gathered people of all religions from all over the world to pray for peace? The Dalai Lama perhaps? Rowan Williams of the C of E? Not on your life. The Holy Father claimed his Fatherhood non-verbally and everyone who showed up tacitly agreed whether they knew it or not.

    What does a Father do? He teaches the truth and provides for his family. No one else but the Pope can do this. The fact that certain family members are not ready to hear the truth and are living in error doesn’t take away from the fact that they are family. He shows the love of God the Father to all men. By the grace of God and over many years if we pray hard enough many will come into the fullness of truth.

    That said, I hope this time they don’t take the crucifixes off the walls.

  24. Larry R. says:

    So, I went to a “night of recollection” put on by Opus Dei a few nights ago. I had been asked by a few friends to go, and in spite of reservations I have regarding that order, I went. It was a very scripted affair, with numerous exhortations to a) bring more friends next time, and b) for everyone to avail themselves of the Opus Dei spiritual direction, which I won’t be doing. During ‘adoration,’ the senior Opus Dei priest went on a sort of rambling discourse, and he talked about Assisi I, and how great it was, and how some Catholics were scandalized, but they’re narrow minded fools, etc. He said that “we’re all praying to the same God, Native American ‘shamans,’ Hindus, Muslims…….” We’re all trying to “find the same God.” I had two impulses – to walk out, and to ask whether some aboriginal tribe that practices human sacrifice is also trying to “find the same God.” It smacked severely of indifferentism. Afterwards, I should have challenged him, but he was old and feeble, and I chickened out and just left.

    I find this kind of thinking difficult to accept. If true, why bother with the Catholic Faith? Why not just be an evangelical protestant, accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior, and be done? If the Catholic Church doesn’t have some unique claim on Truth, not just “a fuller truth,” but the Truth Christ has revealed to us, all of it, the only One True Church, then why remain in such a challenging Faith? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think many Catholics have lost their faith due to this kind of indifferentism.

    And I think that’s the scandal Lefevebre was referring to, the scandal of being indundated in a secular, atheistic culture, and then to see one’s Church hobnob with some of the prime contributors to that culture like they’re on the same plane. Perhaps Assisi III will be wonderful, but Assisi I was not. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do understand where the strong sense of concern comes from. I think it is unfair to declare that anyone who expresses dismay at this event is automatically trying to put themselves above the Pope, or is some kind of fever swamp crackpot. Such statements smack more of an attempt to shut down debate by declaring those with reservations beyond the pale.

  25. FredM says:

    Ditto what Larry R said. How is the public going to figure out who is telling the truth or has the best pipeline to the Almighty? It’s all relative anyway, isn’t it? OTOH Jesus hung out with some shady characters and I sure do trust B16 to know what he is doing.

    Fred

  26. “Pope John Paul did more to defend Catholic orthodoxy than Lefebvre could have in a thousand years…”

    I agree wholeheartedly!! After all, it was Lefebvre that kissed the Koran. … Oh…. wait.

  27. The article assumes that the faithful have nothing to say to Peter. That is absolutely false. Canon law gives us the right, and may impose a duty upon us, to address concerns to the pastors of the Church. That includes the supreme pastor, the Pope. This must be done with charity. But it is fatuous to claim that the faithful are making themselves “more Catholic than the Pope” by making their concerns known to him. It is a false dichotomy. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, instead of telling us to be silent and wait to see what happens, on pains of being guilty of rash judgment or “claiming to be more Catholic than the Pope,” you should do us the justice and honor of instructing on how to address these concerns to the Pope in a proper manner (as you have so aptly done in your advice on how to write to bishops or the Ecclesia Dei Commission). How can you tell us to sit passively when the mere commemoration of Assissi 1986 gives every appearance of a ratification of it? We have the right and duty to urge the Pope not do to this, and if he does it, to call those of other faiths to conversion to Jesus Christ. Period.

    Here is the relevant provision of the Code of Canon Law. Pay particular attention to sections 2 and 3, folks:

    Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

    §2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

    §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

  28. “Some of the language defending the pope sounds a little like clericalism.”

    Clericalism sums up the attitude of the post-VCII Church leaders. Prelates are right, laity are wrong. All reform is top-down. The laity need to sit, stand, kneel, respond and sing when they are told to do so, and that’s all that’s required, expected or tolerated from them.

    That might seem harsh, but if one seriously and sincerely investigates what happened within the confines of the 20th century liturgical movement, one will find a pernicious clericalism and cronyism, especially among the “experts”.

  29. PS says:

    NCtrad:

    “If that doesn’t just perfectly sum up modernist thought I don’t know what does. Thank you for laying your cards face up on the table.”

    You are welcome? Unless you go through the logistical cartwheels it takes to get to where we can say that Church norms haven’t changed since day one, I think it’s fair to say what we take as an acceptable norm does, in fact change. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What we call the EF is the result of an organic growth from within the church. Norms can grow as we come to better appreciate God. Orthodoxy, the term, refers to an accepted truth which extends beyond the eternal truth of the Church and encompasses things like rites. Orthodoxy is, indeed, perhaps as much about norms and practices as it is about eternal truth. So the eternal Church has always professed the eternal truth, but the temporal Church has lost its way (after all, why worry about Assisi redux at all if that were not a concern?). The eternal truth never changes, no matter how much we may try to ignore it; the norms that we believe adhere to that truth sometimes do. So yes, Orthodoxy does change.

    rfox2: I don’t necessarily disagree with any of your points, but I think the examples you use aren’t all that great. The popes you mentioned were alive in a time when the papacy was something quite different than it is now: it was sometimes bought, it was often politically maneuvered into by secular interests, and the transgressions of the various popes were often more or less public affairs. I have trouble thinking of a single example of our current Pope exhibiting any sort of such bad behavior, let alone being a fan of fuzzy thinking or relativism. Those last two things are arguably what made Assisi 86 so scandalous and they also seem to be the top two things on Pope Benedict’s “to expunge from the Church” list.

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    For a good overview of the good and bad popes:

    <>

  31. Bornacatholic says:

    Is it possible that The Holy Father intends to correct the errors of the First Assisi Confab and that that is part of his purpose?

    I really am not a big fan of doing this in remembrance of the initial event anymore than I am a fan of Our Holy Father following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Roman Synagogue; a visit during which he did not Preach Christ.

    That these modern and new approaches seem to be insisted upon being repeated must mean that they are gaining a certain permanence in the practice of the Church and certainly in the world.

    Imagine the storm of protest that will arise if the next Pope ditches the Assisi meeting or does not visit the Roman Synagogue.

    I have to confess I am confused by all of this new orientation and making peace with the world and routinely gathering with those who form a unity of opposition to The Catholic Church.

    I hanker for a return to a healthy Triumphalism.

  32. New Sister says:

    I have been thinking a lot about the dangers of allowing ourselves to get immersed in prayer with different faith groups – or even with unfaithful Catholics! (in fact, our resident priest from Poland gave a homily on this very topic today!) Nonetheless, I fully trust our Holy Father on this — how could we not? GOD sent us Pope Benedict as a gift! We need to pray for him even more as he goes to this event … and for those in attendance “of good will” – that their ears will hear Saint Peter; that their eyes will see Saint Peter; that their hearts will respond to Saint Peter with the love & trust we are blessed to have for him.

  33. michael-can says:

    rfox2, I second what you said, Christ Word ” when salt loss it flavor…” that will be today, we Catholic has loss our saltiness , once 80% came to Sunday Mass and today less than 20% and dropping plus 70% do not believe the true presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist….. need to say more, yes open to the world and let the smoke in , lower the bastion, becoming less Catholic in order to be more Catholic? than what is to be Catholic? is it not to live a Saints life? dying to defense the Holy Mother Church, it is not Christ who told us that the world will hate us ( Catholic) because the world hated HIM? Are we to embrace the world or His Holy Passion? Are our jobs to love our enemies and pray for them or to join them and pray with them( Christ was never polite to those esp: Herod),( who, do not know the One True God or now to confused our own…… and help more to lose their faith), I am not a SSPX, but I asked my confessor, are they valid Catholic?, he says nothing except, if I ever visit them do not mention N.O, they don’t like it. So in my opinion they are still valid, thinking of the many prophecy of our time some how AKITA came to my mind….. Priest against Priest, Bishop against Bishop and Cardinal against Cardinal…. oh how true! pray much for true conversion…. our Holy Church is in ruin, “souls are going to hell like water fall”, as St. Teresa of Avila commended on the reformation, today I fear worst with all this confusion.
    Sign of time, write one above, What is the sign of time? yes it is truly the sign of time, the time when destruction, mess confusion and massive loss of faith begins, where the right hand do not know the left, where pious are confusion as been loonies, where sacrilege are as the norm, where woman looks like man, and man look like woman, where woman want to be priest, and priest want to have wife and family, where family man want to have more wifes, where the rich are to become GOD and Christ will finally be eradicated from His Church and escorted back into the stable, well this will come and the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ can only be found underground, Holy Mass sacrifice by a few Saintly Priest, once above ground the hobby of killing Catholic continue and the blood of those kill cry out to heaven for justice, not too far from now (Revelation)….. Where the temple of God will be occupy by…… ( very close now).

    Altar Cross are gone, Tabernacle is on the way out and let come on in, now we Catholic have the world!!!

  34. Precentrix says:

    +

    I would perhaps be worried if this came from another pope. But this is Benedict XVI we’re talking about. And it surely says something to the world that all other major religious leaders (however mistaken they may be) will come when he calls. Our non-Christian brothers, when they pray at all, are searching for the God Who made Himself known to us. Remember the areopagus, people. Their prayers still have meaning, and they surely have impetatory value even if they cannot be meritorious.

    I would be interested to find the source from the SSPX and know how official this ‘position’ may be. There are factions and factions on both sides, and there are people who don’t want the reconciliation for which we have been longing. Unfortunately they may have just found themselves another excuse.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    I am worried about Assisi III, but perhaps Peter was worried when Paul got on the ship to visit all those Gentiles who were offering sacrifices to false gods, and doing a lot of nasty other things….I shall wait and see. This Pope must think he has to do something before the Christians of the world are slaughtered to the bare minimum. But, then, he has spoken of the remnant Church many times before. He is not his predecessor.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t want to hear about any of this nonsense. I didn’t like it the first time; I didn’t like it the second time; I can’t see why this time might be any different. It’s a bad idea. It confuses people.

    Only one good thing about this one: This pope isn’t likely to be stupid enough to kiss a koran where he can be photographed.

  37. I’m not a fan of these so called dialogue sessions with other religions. Yet, I don’t think we should act with an anathema sit attitude towards every little thing as was one of problems pre-Vatican II (yet it shouldn’t be too lax, as can be argued is today).

    I trust that the Holy Father is going be Catholic, preach the Faith, and offer the most solemn Adoration to God with reverential Holy Mass. The Catholic Faith can be reasoned to the bone, but if hearts are hardened, no one will convert.

    I’m going to pray that this event leads to conversions in masse. It’s a good thing I will never be the Holy Father, ever!

  38. vivaldi says:

    “Quite simply, you trust the Pope.”

    Trust is indeed the cenrtal issue here. The anger many, many people feel is a manifestation of the reality that many may feel like they are losing their trust in the present Holy Father.

    Like it or not, many traditionalists did not Trust is Pope John Paul II. Right or wrong, many, especially in the SSPX have felt hurt and betrayed by those who are supposed to gaurd and protect the faith.

    They have felt Pope Benedict offered hope for the first concrete steps in a return to Tradition and an end to silliness.

    Quite simply, Assisi brings back bad memories and all those feelings of betrayal and anger and causes one to question their trust in the Holy Father.

    Sad, but true.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    vivaldi, and Larry R,

    Which is why we have a Doctrine of Papal Infallibility, as all that a Pope says or does is not infallible. I lost a job in a Catholic school for criticizing Assisi I many, many years ago. I tried to point out this doctrine, but those who were in charge were not interested. It was an Opus Dei school. At that time, I felt that there was pope-idolatry going on, but I also think the indifferentism, not present in the founder of Opus Dei, could have been a factor.There is a great distinction between loving and evangelizing others in pagan religions, and stating that the goals-that is the One, Triune God, or means are the same, which is simply not true.

  40. Joe in Canada says:

    I think it is useful in these contexts to limit the word ‘ecumenical’ either to its original meaning – all the bishops – or its modern extended meeting – all Christians (or representatives of them). Assisi was not an ecumenical meeting, it was an interfaith meeting.

  41. Mike says:

    “the senior Opus Dei priest went on a sort of rambling discourse”

    LarryR–I’m not going to prolong this off-topic remark, except to say that sometimes older priests everywhere can ramble; I’m sure SSPX has its gems too.

  42. jm says:

    “If you really think you’re more Catholic than the pope, you’re on your way to the funny farm”

    Same old straw man. The Pope can’t be wrong, ever. Paul VI’s Mass is thus beyond criticism. etc etc etc. Totally wrong-headed.

    I am not more Catholic than the Pope. But I can certainly question one of his policy decisions and still remain loyal to him. Assisi is a bad idea.

  43. jm says:

    “Pope John Paul did more to defend Catholic orthodoxy than Lefebvre could have in a thousand years…”

    With all respect to JPII, this statement is extremely debatable.

  44. Tony Layne says:

    @ rfox2: “[The Pope] has been given the charism of infallibility, which means that he cannot officially teach error in faith or morals. … [Catholics] need to know when even the pope is doing or teaching something wrong” [emphasis mine]. In your rush to defend fraternal correction, you accidentally contradicted yourself—unless that’s precisely what you meant to say.

    Dr. Oddie’s detractors can’t have it both ways: Either the Pope is implicitly teaching error by praying with non-Catholics, in which case infallibility is broken, or he is not implicitly teaching error, in which case claims of scandal are based on false premises. There’s no third option here; kissing a Qu’ran and praying in a synagogue are different in substance from keeping mistresses and selling indulgences. Neither of the first two actions “legitimizes” anything; to Moslems and Jews (and liberal Christians), their religions need no legitimization, and for conservative Christians nothing short of a declaration coming from angelic hosts will make their religions “legitimate” in the sense meant. Legitimacy is a red-herring argument; legitimate or not, non-Catholic religions are an important reality in world affairs, and it makes more sense to work with them towards world peace than to treat them like red-headed stepchildren.

    People who are well-formed in the Faith are not going to be confused or driven out by Assisi III any more than they were by Assisi I. Those who aren’t are far more likely to quit as a result of the predator-priest scandals or the Church’s ongoing struggle to teach authentic Christian sexual morality; I doubt Assisi III is even on their radar screens. Modernism and indifferentism are such pervasive influences in our culture that I doubt the Pope’s actions there will either confirm or destroy them; what he does to support the “new evangelization” will have much more long-term effect.

    (Clarification: Honorius was condemned, but not for favoring monothelitism; there is no record that he did favor it. Rather, the substance of the charge was that he didn’t go far enough to condemn it, which speaks to a lack of either skill or zeal but doesn’t necessarily lead to a belief that he was trying to protect it.)

    I’ll agree that there is a point where respect for the clergy and the hierarchy verges into clericalism. But we also have to keep enough charity in our criticism so that, in avoiding clericalism, we don’t fall into the other trap of Pharisaism.

  45. Leonius says:

    “But one core principle is surely indispensable. Quite simply, you trust the pope.”

    That is not nor has it ever been nor can in ever be a core principle of Catholicism.

    We trust God, the Pope is not God he is the Pope, Popes can and do make mistakes.

  46. Andrew says:

    I have come to this debate late in the piece.

    But nobody has commented on the words from Nostrae Aetate, the Vatican II document on the relationship of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, because surely in questioning the wisdom of Assisi I, II, or III this should be the benchmark.

    When commenting on the value of non-Christian confessions it said,

    “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”

    All religions possess some degrees of truth either greater or lesser, so that does not diminish their merit entirely. Of course we can never discount the notion that Christ and He alone is the redeemer of humanity.

    John Paul II in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, devoted whole chapters to non-Christian confessions, noting both their positives and negatives.

    It would be absolutely ridiculous to assume that Pope John Paul or Benedict are relativists or syncretists. As they have both said, in the pursuit of peace, the religious dimension is an important part of this, and gatherings like Assisi have been an initiative to proclaim this boldly, regardless of differences.

    Yes, these events are open to criticism and may have been handled better by the organizers, but that doesn’t mean that the effort shouldn’t have been made.

    It would have been easier if everybody in the world was Catholic, but that goal is far from being realized. If we are powerless to draw most of the people to Christ, does that mean then we should have nothing to do with them? Does that mean that there aren’t some issues on which we can find agreement? These things can only be fostered then by dialogue, having something to do with them!

    Pope Benedict is the pope of Christian unity, and considering his misgivings about the original Assisi in 1986, we can be sure he wants to preserve the good elements from this, adding perhaps some other aspects which would be beneficial to all.

    Jonathan Swift (167-1745), Anglican theologian once said, “…the problem that exists today is that the people of the world have just enough religion to hate one another and not enough to love one another”

    The popes are reminding us of the big picture, too. We have the choice, to either love each other or hate each other. History is replete with examples of the bad consequences of the latter.

  47. Genna says:

    I agree with Massachusetts Catholic and similar comments.
    We are all aware that what we see and hear of meetings of world leaders is a tiny fraction of the whole story. The real stuff goes on behind the scenes and at Assisi it will be political as well as religious.
    It will be an opportunity for the Pope to talk seriously and in private with those of non-Catholic belief about the increasing persecution of Christians in their countries and to urge them to condemn it publicly. It may not yield results but it’s worth a try.
    Basically, in public he will be taking part in a faith jamboree to which he is viscerally opposed, but it is a means to an end. And he must try every means possible.

  48. Ezra says:

    in public he will be taking part in a faith jamboree to which he is viscerally opposed, but it is a means to an end

    This strikes me as rather implausible. I don’t think Benedict is a “the ends justify the means” kinda guy.

  49. Legisperitus says:

    I too would trust this Pope on this issue.

  50. Widukind says:

    I agree with Tony Layne’s assessment above.
    The way people are lopping off each other’s heads here on this thread puts the jihadist to shame. To bad there won’t be any Christians left for the jihadist to slaughter because we have done that already ourselves. Yes, trust Pope Benedict, he has the wisdom and humility to know what he intends and will do. That, is not clericalism. One needs to be careful about being critical and not trusting. This will lead to a person eventually trusting no one and accepting nothing as truthful. It wedges a person in a corner from which there is no escape, unless 0ne has the sense and humility to turn around. For those who trust no one, how can they honestly expect any one else to trust them, let alone they trusting their own selves? Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. Do we take Him at His word? By the way, I do not know of anyone who left the Church because of Asissi I. For the most part, this was off the screen for most people.

  51. Pete says:

    This is all rather amusing.

    Nobody has yet grasped the fact that the Anna Arco article (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2011/01/12/sspx-leader-criticises-pope’s-plan-to-hold-inter-religious-meeting/) was not critical of the SSPX, but rather just reporting that the SSPX are critical of the Popes inter-religious meeting.

    This is a typical newspaper tactic. They cannot themselves be openly critical of the Pope so they use SSPX to expound the Heralds (they lost the Catholic prefix several editors ago) critical opinion of the proposed Assisi III inter-thingy.

    Bill Oddie, a former editor, realises this tactic and so launches an incoherent rant: JP2 did more for orthodoxy that ABL could in 1000 years (like kissing the koran), his adhominum attacks etc. – all rather pathetic and already shot down by others. Notice too that his comments are on his herald blog and not part of the “news” (doubt they will make it into print).

    Clearly an internal conflict at the herald.

    And so, in retaliation the herald’s current editor launches it’s “readers you decide”: Do inter-religious gatherings sow confusion among the faithful? (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2011/01/13/debate-do-inter-religious-gatherings-sow-confusion-among-the-faithful/) knowing forewell that almost all comments thus far have been anti Assisi III and putting BO in his place.

    Oh how people use the SSPX to further their own ends. I know some who use them every fortnight because they can’t get their weekly induct; some who uses them for confirmations; even one report of them being used solely for an ordination, and now the editor of a newspaper using them to criticise the Pope because they have the guts to do themselves.

    What many things people use the SSPX for.

  52. Bornacatholic says:

    For those of us born well before the start of Vatican Two, such things as Assisi I were a scandal because such an event had simply never occurred during our lifetimes nor had we even read about such a thing happening in the past because such events were forbidden under Catholic Doctrine.

    But, now, all of a sudden, if we are not quiescent in the face of radically novel and seemingly unorthodox practices we are no different than a Pharisee.

    Well, that sure seems fair and just and reasonable.

    And what about the responsibility of The Magisterium, the Pope in particular; what about his responsibility to explain that how something that was always forbidden under Catholic Doctrine until, like yesterday, is now perfectly fine?

    Is that any way for a Shepherd to treat its sheep?

    “Sheep; heads-up; I’m speaking to you – don’t you ever go into THAT pasture.”

    Next day. “Sheep; heads-up; I’m speaking to you – I am going into THAT pasture and I want you to follow me.”

    Shut-up and accept what we do even if it appears to go against everything you have ever been taught; even though what we do appears to be in direct opposition to, say, Mortalium Animos, promulgated way back in the dark ages of 1928?

    I maintain the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine, and Authority. I am neither a heretic, schismatic, or any shade of Sedevacantist. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable and well-informed vis a vis Catholic Doctrine but I have never read The Magisterium give an explanation about how what was one day an action that has always been condemned (Assisi Confabs) suddenly began to be considered Orthopraxis and and the questioning of that novelty became Pharisaical.

    BTW, I have had more than one family member tell me I was full of the stuff sheep leave on the grass in the pasture because what I used to, in perfect simpatico with the Church, claim was a heresy is now the norm; “See, what you said all along was a bunch of _ _ _ _ because The Pope is doing exactly what you said was wrong.”

  53. CPKS says:

    Flambeaux has put his finger on the major premiss behind much of the disgruntled muttering. God doesn’t give grace to non-Catholics, or as Flambeaux expresses it:

    ‘no other “religious tradition”, no matter how well-intentioned, … benefits from His Grace.’

    In the Gospels, Jesus attests that those who understand who He is owe their insight to the grace of God: see e.g. Jn 6:29, Mt 16:17 and parallels. Faith is the result of grace, not the precondition of it.

  54. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I think Assisi III will be subtly different from the first two incarnations. This is the same pope who, “forgetting he’s no longer a university professor” advances Islamic reflection. This is the same pope who gives the French bishops their own words in support of the SSPX and tradition more generally. This is the same pope who goes to Westminster Hall and praises Thomas More.

    Do I wish he weren’t going? Perhaps. Do I hope and pray that he will use this occasion for real Christian witness? Certainly. Am I convinced that it will be different this time? Absolutely.

    For those of you tempted to get down on the pope, remember his interview with Peter Seewald. The news media reported that he had changed the Church’s teaching on contraceptives. The reality was otherwise. Perhaps if these people are praying at all, they can begin to pray to the one true God? Isn’t there a Pauline letter which specifically deals with this situation?

    God bless,

    Chris

  55. rfox2 says:

    Tony Layne: This is taken from the acts of the Third Council of Constantinople – “Therefore we declare that in him there are two natural wills and two natural operations, proceeding commonly and without division: but we cast out of the Church and rightly subject to anathema all superfluous novelties as well as their inventors: to wit, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius and Paul, Pyrrhus, and Peter (who were archbishops of Constantinople), moreover Cyrus, who bore the priesthood of Alexandria, and with them Honorius, who was the ruler (????????) of Rome, as he followed them in these things.” The pope was condemned for, at the very least, being sympathetic to monotheletism.

    Also, the pope exercises the charism of infallibility only under certain conditions. The decrees of Vatican I state what the conditions of papal infallibility are, and they certainly don’t pertain to everything the pope says and does. Tony Layne: the dilemma you propose is a moot point. An “implicit” teaching that the pope gives, or for example public conversations he may have such as the interview in _Light of the World_ are not infallible or binding in any sense. On the other hand, the pope is THE public face of Catholicism to the world. The Holy Father represents all of us when he does things like hold the Assisi meetings. His presence there doesn’t objectively legitimize or falsify any religion. However, the implicit message is deafening: Catholicism now accepts foreign religions and Christian sects as legitimate expressions of authentic faith. When he prays with leaders of foreign religions as opposed to praying for them (gasp! that would be far too offensive!), then the message is that Catholicism is on equal footing with these other faiths. That, by any standard, is wrong.

    Nostrae Aetate would take us far afield, but who can argue, convincingly, that that particular document is in any way dogmatic? It’s filled with platitudes that, by the way, are unprecedented in the history of the Church. I agree that Pope Benedict is simply living out the platitudes of Nostrae Aetate, but I think one could make the argument that that document is not in line with the Catholic and Divine Faith.

    By the way, I’m not a member of SSPX or anything like it. I’m just Joe Catholic who hopes and prays that some day the Church will once again preach with absolute clarity to the world, in her prayers, words, and in praxis, that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life that any of us can place our hope in. That message needs to be unambiguous and forceful because souls that are precious in the eyes of God are at stake.

  56. Hidden One says:

    Whatever happens, many people shall eat their words.

    Oremus.

  57. Rob Cartusciello says:

    If another man were Pope, I may have cause for concern.

    However, Pope Benedict, who was unapologetic about his statements at Regensburg and who gave not one inch in England, does not.

    I agree with Hidden One: regardless the outcome, many people will live to regret their predictions.

  58. Teresa-1962 says:

    After reading many of these comments over the past couple of days I was confused about the issues and went to my go to guy for information; my pastor who is orthodox, brilliant and currently the only priest offering the EF of the mass in the diocese where I live. He cut through all the chaff for me and said, “Teresa, there are some people in this world who think that the only conversation a catholic or the Pope can have with a non-catholic is about conversion, which is ridiculous.” Since the “conversation” has not yet even taken place, don’t you think we should at least see what the Pope does/says before we pillory him?

  59. Genna says:

    Ezra,
    I think we might say that the creation of the Ordinariate is a means to an end. Though whether the end will justify the means we can’t yet know.

  60. The whole concept of Assisi is troubling from the start–probably since the Etruscans.
    Francis was a troublemaker and his friars minor mostly intolerant hippies (like today’s). Now this!
    I expect the whole $#^@ town to roll off hill and land on top of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

    cricket

  61. michael-can says:

    Buddha on top the Tabernacle? Kissing the Koran? Assisi III should take place outside, some field in Africa or Brazil, not in the Holy Ground of St. Francis… some above mention that he/she think that there were no decrease of faith, how do you know? when the little one are show the picture by their teacher, and folk that all it takes, just what Stalin called them useful id…., please don’t be one. At least have a mind set that understand the true teaching of Christ: ” I and My Father are one…” “My Peace the world cannot give”….. now, did St. Peter invite a group of high priest from the temple of Zeus and welcome them into the catacomb and pray for peace and hopefully he can convert them to Catholic, unthinkable!!!!! let pray together for peace so your emperor Nero would stop throwing the Christian to the Lion.

  62. jlmorrell says:

    BornaCatholic,

    Thank you for your post. Assisi and similar events all over the Catholic world do nothing but undermine the faith and make it more difficult to win true conversions. I too am waiting for a response to your query:

    “And what about the responsibility of The Magisterium, the Pope in particular; what about his responsibility to explain that how something that was always forbidden under Catholic Doctrine until, like yesterday, is now perfectly fine?”

    Many of us also face what you pointed to in your last paragraph:

    “BTW, I have had more than one family member tell me I was full of the stuff sheep leave on the grass in the pasture because what I used to, in perfect simpatico with the Church, claim was a heresy is now the norm; ‘See, what you said all along was a bunch of _ _ _ _ because The Pope is doing exactly what you said was wrong.'”

  63. Dauphin says:

    This Assisi madness promotes relativism and religious indifferentism. I think the Pope is wrong to mark its anniversary.

    People like Oddie who insist that you have to agree with every prudential decision of the Pope are actually elevating him to godhood. The Pope is not impeccable ; he is not inspired and faultless in every action or decision. Mature, respectful criticism of the Pope is not an act of disobedience. I think His Holiness would agree.

    To dismiss any reasoned critique of the Pope’s decision with “more Catholic that the Pope” rhetoric is to do a disservice to the church’s necessary internal dialogue.

  64. catholicmidwest says:

    “The whole concept of Assisi is troubling from the start…..” LOL

    No, not really, but at least 80% of the whole St. Francis thing is really only legend. People didn’t keep track of things then like they do now, and he left very few writings…. So now, he’s sort of a blank slate that people transfer their own inkblots onto. He can be anything to them that they think he is. So now he’s the ultimate social worker. No! He’s the ultimate environmentalist. No! He’s the lobbyist to Congress and the model for an NGO!

    And of course, the church that bears his name in the town where he lived becomes the venue for the biggest inkblot of them all, ecumenism with no consequences.

    I suspect if St. Francis could roll over in his grave, he would be spinning over all of the above. I somehow don’t think he was the amorphous inkblot type.