Francis. He puzzles me sometimes.

There are times when I have listened to Pope Francis or have read what he has said, and I am left scratching my head.

I have stated here quite a few times that, sometimes, I have no idea what he is talking about or to whom he is addressing himself.

Apparently I’m not alone.

At Hell’s Bible there is an article about the USCCB meeting.  HERE

Francis Card. George of Chicago, a seriously smart guy, has the same questions.

“He says wonderful things,” Cardinal George said about Francis in an interview on Sunday, “but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is. What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do?”
Cardinal George, who is 77 and being treated for cancer, remains a voting cardinal until age 80 and says he would like to travel to Rome to see Francis: “I’d like to sit down with him and say, Holy Father, first of all, thank you for letting me retire. And could I ask you a few questions about your intentions?”

If even Card. George is sometimes puzzled, I feel somewhat confirmed.

When I have asked Argentinians about Francis, I have been told that they often express themselves with hyperbole.  I don’t know how much stock to put in that generalization, but… hey….

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54 Responses to Francis. He puzzles me sometimes.

  1. juergensen says:

    I am more puzzled by how the essentially same College of Cardinals can produce such seemingly different results.

  2. Montenegro says:

    I’ve been puzzled by Francis for many months. It’s as though he speaks in riddles, like a character on BATMAN. Jesuit training has likely worsened that condition.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Isn’t there somewhere we can send off for a Pope Francis Secret Decoder Ring? My brain would really appreciate it.

  4. Toan says:

    For a good example of Pope Francis’ hyperbole, see his homilies on gossip. He has a few, if you google Pope Francis and Gossip. In one, he says something like, “never say anything bad about anybody” and doesn’t qualify the statement. In another, he says not to say anything bad about anybody, and adds a stipulation that you can make an exception if the person you are talking to can correct the problem. (This makes me wonder what other exceptions he would make to the rule.)

    I don’t like hyperbole because it can be misleading if taken at face value, but Jesus also used it, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

  5. LarryW2LJ says:

    Fr, for me, your blog post title is an understatement. I was puzzled up until this Synod. Now I’m downright confused.

  6. Iacobus M says:

    He looks like he wants to be a “facilitator” rather than a leader. I’m not sure that works as well in the Church as it does in a graduate seminar . . .

  7. SimonDodd says:

    Toan says:
    “[Francis] has a few [homilies on] … Gossip. In one, he says something like, ‘never say anything bad about anybody’ and doesn’t qualify the statement.”

    Quite, quite. Never say anything bad about anybody. That is, never attack an identifiable individual or idea; instead (pro tip!), say bad things about hazy, ad-hoc groups of unidentified people.

    Have people really not noticed that almost everything Francis says either directly or indirectly scolds somebody (without saying who)? Today, it’s those who, in their “human weakness[,] prefer[] the spectacle”; yesterday, it was “Christian[s] who … do[] not carry forward this gift on the path of service,” and their “sad” and “wasted” lives; the day before, those “who ‘rather than servants’ become ‘masters: masters of the faith, masters of the kingdom, masters of salvation. This happens, it is a temptation for all Christians.” The day before that, it was Christians who “live like … pagan[s]”; the one before that, Christians who “live like enemies of the Cross of Christ”; the one before that, the “shepherd [who] open[s] the doors of the church and just stand there waiting,” and the “Christian [who] does not feel within, in his heart, the need, the need to go to tell others that the Lord is good,” whom Francis branded “scribes” and “Pharisees.” In Evangelii gaudium, of course, it was the infamous “self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagians”; in his speech closing the Synod, it was “the zealous, … the scrupulous, … the solicitous[,] … the so-called … traditionalists …[, and the] intellectuals.”

    Now, my point here is not that his criticisms miss the mark, or anything like that. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Judge for yourselves. My point’s just the yawning gap between “speak ill of none” and his constant carping about all.

  8. Deacon Augustine says:

    Only sometimes, Fr.? Then you must be one of his “in-crowd!”

  9. sw85 says:

    I suspect people are confused by Pope Francis because they are used to being ruled by hyper-intelligent, classically-educated European polyglot Popes who say what they mean and say it very, very well.

    This is emphatically NOT the model which Pope Francis has followed, or wants to/intends to follow, or maybe even is capable of following.

    Francis is a Jesuit, meaning he says what he thinks a particular group of people want or need to hear at a particular moment in time in order to induct them gradually into the truth (as he sees and understands it), or at least in order to keep them from running away from the truth. Very often the demands of the groups he is speaking to are radically different, so he says radically different (even seemingly contradictory) things. Hence he can say, with all sincerity and without intentional dishonesty, to LCWR-style nuns that they should just ignore the CDF’s pronouncements, while insisting on absolute obedience from the FFI. Hence he can, in one speech, criticize “do-gooder” progressives while aggressively promoting both them personally and their agenda generally, and constantly sidelining their enemies and resolving judgments in their favor. Hence he can announce, in his list of suggestions for happiness in life, tell people to “stop being negative,” while in his daily Mass homilies issue forth a ceaseless stream of bile against his own flock (who are today gossips, yesterday neo-Pagans, the day before that Pelagians, and so on). He says what people want to hear so that they will love him personally, because this is what incarnating the Gospel means to him: loving particular persons, not bloodless abstractions.

    In practice this means that Francis’ words are effectively meaningless: he uses them as weapons, not to relay concepts; hence you can learn nothing about the man by listening to him talk. You need to look at his actions instead, which as the saying goes speaks louder than words. What does Francis actually DO?

    I would go a little farther even and say that you need to look at what Francis HAS DONE — because he is of course going to bring the model by which he governed Buenos Aires to the universal Church. His model in Buenos Aires was clearly to have a large, inclusive, nonjudgmental Church, in contrast to Benedict’s expectation of a smaller, purer Church. Hence he was perfectly happy to tolerate degenerate slum-priests shacking up with women (or worse) so long as they ministered to the poor. Hence he was perfectly willing to instruct them to disregard canon law and administer communion to people regardless of their state in life. Hence he insisted on these things even as his flock went into schism in horrifying numbers and vocations to the diocesan priesthood collapsed.

    Francis is simply not that confusing of a Pope if you have eyes to see. He has said before that he is the first Pope who has the vision truly to implement Vatican II, and he says this because, having largely been formed during and after Vatican II, he is in thrall to the “spirit” of it. It’s not that he imagines that it is discontinuous with the past, it’s that he doesn’t care: to him, Vatican II inaugurated a whole new paradigm for thinking about and living the faith, and questions of “continuity” concern things which are alien to that paradigm.

    That is the model he is working to bring to the universal Church, and which he will bring unless faithful Catholic laity get their heads out of their butts, remember that they are the faithful sons and daughters of the Church and not its slaves, and start speaking out, demanding that he and the bishops generally hold fast to the traditional doctrines of the Church and the disciplines that express and implement them. Who else will? Mark Shea?

  10. LeeF says:

    With Pope Francis, I don’t think the question is what does he want anyone to do in a concrete situation, but rather what thought process does he want people to use, and what tone to convey their views and decisions.

    He often seems to straddle an issue, as at the synod, where he states his objectives, e.g. applying mercy in pastoral practice to a certain issue, and then also tells what to avoid at both extremes of an issue. And most of all he wishes a softer touch and less criticism of others, especially as regards to their intentions. I.E. he wants clerics and laity to model the biblical virtue of meekness.

    I recommend to folks here to read the meditations posted on the Vatican site, which are translated (incomplete) excerpts of his homilies. Reading them as a whole gives one a pretty good idea of what he believes important spiritually. He wants people to walk and talk softly and carry no stick.

    Implicit for now until he shows otherwise, is that he also is doctrinally orthodox and doesn’t expect differently from others. Very important are his criticisms of both case-based reasoning and legalistic approaches to issues, which are at opposite ends of a spectrum.

    A question to ponder is whether a (much) softer-spoken Card. Burke would still be in his position. It is possible to assert one’s views, even repeatedly as necessary, with such a softer voice, and without being mealy-mouthed.

    Perhaps my analysis above is wrong, but it is the one that allows me for now to not flock to the Rorate view of a “calamitous” pope. The HF is human and has made and will make errors in administrative and liturgical matters. So after a brief and vigorous and charitable discussion of any such errors, it is time to move on.

    Finally as we all know, he won’t be here forever. And another thought worth pondering is the action of the Holy Spirit in influencing papal elections and the seeming fact that apparently Francis was a strong contender at the previous conclave and thus we could now be in the 10th year of his pontificate.

  11. IoannesPetrus says:

    Fr Z: I don’t know how much stock to put in that generalization, but… hey…

    It’s a bit unfortunate that, even if it weren’t intended, I was able to finish the line in my head.

  12. Deacon Augustine says:

    sw85, I think you make a good analysis of the situation.

    The only thing you forgot to mention about him being the first Pope who has the vision truly to implement “the spirit” of Vatican II, is that he is the first one to have “the humility and the ambition” to do it!!!

    If he devoted as much energy to encouraging people to love Our Lord as he does to getting them to love himself, he would be an heroic evangelist indeed.

  13. Marissa says:

    And most of all he wishes a softer touch and less criticism of others, especially as regards to their intentions.

    I see a lot of criticism coming from him and a heavy hand against his enemies.

  14. JesusFreak84 says:

    Bet Cardinal George has a few questions about the appointment of his successor, too…

  15. iteadthomam says:

    I’m very uncomfortable with a Pope who is loved by the world. Jesus was crucified for his sayings, this one is loved by the same world for his sayings. Something is off with this pontificate and it is no longer possible to deny it.

  16. MGL says:

    Simon Dodd and sw84, excellent, perceptive comments.

    The Holy Father is often cited as defending the “hermeneutic of continuity”, but I’m pretty sure he’s not using the c-word in the same way as (say) Benedict did. For Benedict, the HoC meant reading the Second Vatican Council documents through the lens of ancient tradition while for Francis, I get the impression that “continuity” means, more or less, “whatever the Church does next.” So (in this view), we could admit anyone to Communion, and that would be an act of continuity, since the same Church would be doing it.

  17. marcelus says:

    sw85 says:
    13 November 2014 at 8:48 am
    I suspect people are confused by Pope Francis because they are used to being ruled by hyper-intelligent, classically-educated European polyglot Popes who say what they mean and say it very, very well.
    . Hence he can say, with all sincerity and without intentional dishonesty, to LCWR-style nuns that they should just ignore the CDF’s pronouncements, while insisting on absolute obedience from the FFI.

    That is not correct: He allegedly mentioned that to the Celam Bishops (again, it was a leak, not a report) That theymay get a letter or two from the the CDF.

    The LCWR being investigated , was confirmed by PF as one of his fiirst measures.

    Given that some of his statements seem to need an ending line sometimes and that he is a prolific talker, (the daily fervorinos and all) he has to come up with a different subject everyday.

    As for

    “I suspect people are confused by Pope Francis because they are used to being ruled by hyper-intelligent, classically-educated European polyglot Popes who say what they mean and say it very, very well.”

    Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe just the learned and highly educated do not see at least some sense in his words,. I don’t know. The common catholic seems to do well with that,.

    I will tell you this though:In Latin America people found it extremely hard to understand and somehow “feel ” the meaning of the “hyper-intelligent, classically-educated European polyglot Popes”. therefore and I do not mean this as an offense, those papacies are somehow forgotten and never really reached the laity.

    St. JP2 was an exception to your rule. Madly and widely loved by Latinamericans, even stopped a couple of regional wars by his intervention.

    Depending on what part of the world you live and profess catholicism that Popes find a more willing or hostile audience, which is quite different in terms of issues addressed (some countries are contantly battlling against SSM or abortion iniciatives, others, hardly talk about that)

  18. iteadthomam says:

    @MGI

    I don’t claim to know what the Holy Father means by continuity but if the definition you gave is true, then it seems disingenuous to say one believes in the hermeneutic of continuity. Hopefully, he does not redefine the term and sincerely believes his actions are in continuity, but the sad fact is that they don’t appear to be. He needs serious prayer.

    On another note, I believe the Holy Father means we’ll but I also honestly believe future historians will look back on this pontificate and see it as one of the worst in the history of the papacy. I’m not judging the Holy Father’s interior disposition, I’m just speaking about the pontificate objectively.

  19. vandalia says:

    I think this might be explained by the fact that English speaking people often assume that we are the entire Church. Therefore, if follows that everything the Holy Father says must be directly relevant to us. Perhaps the comments that cause us to “scratch our heads” are perfectly clear and appropriate to other segments of the Church in South America, Africa or Asia.

    We saw this phenomenon over a decade ago when the “clerical sexual abuse” scandal broke in Boston. The “victim’s advocates” were outraged that the Vatican did not stop everything and immediately address this issue. Well, the Church is bigger than the US, and there are likely more critical issues and far more children suffering in different parts of the world. It is the height of arrogance to demand that the Holy Father drop everything and address a problem that faces a wealthy, but tiny, fraction of the Church. In the same way, it is a bit arrogant to assume that every phrase the Holy Father speaks must be relevant, and clearly understood, by a relatively small portion of the Church.

  20. Ignatius says:

    Pope Francis’ speaking style has been a riddle for us here in Buenos Aires for many years. It is definitevly NOT an “Argentinean thing”.

    It is fair to say that, when he was our Archbishop, one never knew what he meant… perhaps he always wanted to be deliberately ambiguous. In some instances (homosexual marriage, abortion, etc.) he avoided speaking publicly about these pressing issues, leaving an impression that he wanted to “operate in the shadows”. Which he didn’t, at least succesfully.

    Many people were left very disappointed with his approach. Bear in mind that his tenure as archbishop here was objectively speaking, a very bad period for a local church (very few vocations and a very bad seminary, tolerated heterodoxy, liturgical chaos, a “no” to everything even slightly traditional…). But I assume the cardinals who elected already him knew all this, didn’t they?

  21. majuscule says:

    A few years ago a friend suggested subscribing to a daily email of a short quote from the writings and spoken words of Pope Benedict. I would look forward to reading these “Benedict Everyday” thoughts. Benedict Everyday continued for a while even after he stepped down.

    At some point it was discontinued and “Francis Everyday” took its place. I mean no disrespect but often Francis’s quotes remind me of the messages coming out of a certain not-yet-approved apparition site. There may be nothing wrong with the words and sentiments, but there is no real there there.

    I do get the feeling I’m on a rudderless ship. And in reality I do not know how to swim.

  22. Mike says:

    Whatever else is accomplished by the Holy Father’s words, they undeniably set traps for facile interpreters. Perhaps this is with the intent of inculcating humility in us who receive them — a result that depends on our docility to the Holy Spirit and our submission to the Will of God, not on our expectation that we instantly be able to figure everything out.

  23. MGL says:

    iteadthomam,
    I don’t think the Holy Father is being dishonest or disingenuous; in fact, he seems transparently sincere (though I’m not necessarily comfortable with the things he’s sincere about!) My comments about the meaning of “continuity” were building on sw85’s remarks about Jesuits, in which the meanings of certain words and gestures may not be those we are accustomed to. So we take comfort when the Holy Father endorses the Hermeneutic of Continuity, thinking (reasonably enough) that he means the same thing by it as we do. But his other actions and statements, taken as a whole, strongly indicate that his understanding of “continuity” might be quite different from ours.

    vandalia,
    I strongly encourage you to use Google Translate to read articles from Italian, Spanish, German and Argentinian sources. (For example, take Ignatius’s comment directly below yours!)

    Believe me, this is by no means an English-speaking thing. The confusion seems nigh-universal.

  24. Joseph-Mary says:

    “he is the first one to have “the humility and the ambition” to do it!!! ”

    So he said. I about choked on my yogurt reading that one! I look at the men he surrounds himself with and that tells me a lot. And he does not love all the faithful and that shows too. He may make magazine covers but there is a blog somewhere keeping a list of all the name calling he has done and never would I have thought a pope could like that. He even said the other day about one sort of Christian that God does not love. Hmmm. Here I thought God is love. And this pope does not like the most faithful of Catholics and that is plain. I pray that in the end, this will be a holy pontificate or else a very very short one.

  25. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Pope Francis might consider himself the true interpreter and implementer of Vatican II, but that would be truly ironic as he is the first pope in 50 years who wasn’t there!

    I agree with sw85 and others that we have serious problems here and I am very grateful to Fr. Z and many others for not pretending otherwise. I was disappointed, but not really surprised, to read Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Kurtz this week saying that the Synod was really not like the media presented it; it was much calmer and orderly and it’s just a process that is working itself out. Well, we don’t have to take the media’s word for it. We have the documents themselves and the clear statements of many cardinals and other bishops who were there: what happened was unprecedented on many counts and very, very disturbing. A couple of cardinals have said publicly and one who was there said privately to me this week that we are in a bad place now and one big problem is that no one knows what the pope thinks. How many others are thinking this? It is not business as usual.

    We must pray very hard for the election of good delegates to the Ordinary Synod next year. And that they get their ducks in a row beforehand because the same team will be back with their Rules for Radicals tactics.

  26. Giuseppe says:

    When he entered the Jesuits, the mass was still traditional Latin.
    He was ordained in 1969. Was he ordained in TLM or OF?
    Were all of his first masses OF?

  27. AnnTherese says:

    Joseph-Mary: “He may make magazine covers but there is a blog somewhere keeping a list of all the name calling he has done and never would I have thought a pope could like that.” That’s kind of antagonistic. If you’re going to make a statement like that, you should really have the blog URL to back it up. And, ” He even said the other day about one sort of Christian that God does not love.” This reminds me of Rev 3–“lukewarm” Christians being “spit out” of God’s mouth. Hearing this sort of thing isn’t really new–lots of people think they know the sort of people–Christian, Catholic, other–that God loves or doesn’t love. And say it aloud. I agree with you, God is love. I don’t think anyone is truly capable of knowing God’s mind. I think we shall have some surprises when we meet God…

  28. sw85: 13 November 2014 at 8:48 am

    Does your rather detailed comment boil down to saying that Pope Francis is really not all that confusing, that his intentions are pretty clear?

    Unless perhaps one doesn’t want believe what his eyes see and his ears hear?

  29. Traductora says:

    I once was puzzled, but now I’m seriously uneasy. His gnomic utterances and snide criticisms may be a little hard to understand, but thing that one can’t ignore is the people around him and the people he is bringing in. One of these, for example, is the horrible Spanish priest, Pablo or Pau D’Ors – ironically, the grandson of Eugenio D’Ors – who seems to believe that he is combining Christianity and Zen, along with a bit of yoga and “drama therapy,” which he will bring to his new appointment to the Council on Culture to which he was personally invited by Pope Francis.

    Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres….tell me who you hang around with, and I’ll tell you who you are.

  30. marcelus says:

    Ignatius says:
    13 November 2014 at 10:22 am
    Pope Francis’ speaking style has been a riddle for us here in Buenos Aires for many years. It is definitevly NOT an “Argentinean thing”.

    It is fair to say that, when he was our Archbishop, one never knew what he meant… perhaps he always wanted to be deliberately ambiguous. In some instances (homosexual marriage, abortion, etc.) he avoided speaking publicly about these pressing issues, leaving an impression that he wanted to “operate in the shadows”. Which he didn’t, at least succesfully.

    Many people were left very disappointed with his approach. Bear in mind that his tenure as archbishop here was objectively speaking, a very bad period for a local church (very few vocations and a very bad seminary, tolerated heterodoxy, liturgical chaos, a “no” to everything even slightly traditional…). But I assume the cardinals who elected already him knew all this, didn’t they?

    Im in Argentina tto and humbly we arfe talking about 2 different countries.No vocations? liturgical chaos?

    If you look at it from a trad point of view, it is understandable you feel that way.

    Abortion,, SSM ? ohhh , he spoke lots and lots about it and not only did he talk, remember his homilies? but he also acted how he could. I remember when the abortion caused by rape got approved here, he not only talked but he summoned pregnangt women, blessed their womb and themselves in front of all the TV crews. Lots of pics frpom those times. Did the same with washing the feet of babies and pregnant women.

    As for the the way he thinks, expresses himself and talks, I agree with you:

    ” But I assume the cardinals who elected already him knew all this, didn’t they?”

  31. Kathleen10 says:

    Over the few years I have followed this wonderful blog, I have been blessed to read a number of things that educated me on matters of the faith. I profit by reading what Fr. Z. has to say and what the commenters say in response. This particular thread was really excellent. Many of you seem to have nailed it on Pope Francis and your points are well taken and sound dead on.
    Since Pope Francis was elected I thought at the time, he has a South American sensibility that may not speak to me as an American, but may invigorate a Latin listener, and that is just as valid as the Popes of prior day, which speak in a manner I am more familiar with and saying things that make sense to me. But that’s not the problem here, as Ignatius has pointed out. I have long thought that is not the problem and am convinced we are in something entirely different, for all the reasons already mentioned here and with which I happen to agree.

    Kudos to all of you for great commentary and especially SimonDodd for doing the homework.

  32. AnnTherese says:

    Yes, great commentary, as usual. I have certainly not listened to or read everything Pope Francis has said, but I try to follow as much as I can. For me, he is pretty clear; I’m not experiencing him the way many readers here are. I hear him preaching Gospel values, and observe him trying to model them, as well. I trust the Holy Spirit has sent him to us for good reason– still much to unfold…

  33. marcelus says:

    vandalia says:
    13 November 2014 at 10:10 am
    I think this might be explained by the fact that English speaking people often assume that we are the entire Church. Therefore, if follows that everything the Holy Father says must be directly relevant to us. Perhaps the comments that cause us to “scratch our heads” are perfectly clear and appropriate to other segments of the Church in South America, Africa or Asia.

    BINGOOOOOOOO!!!

    Kudos! Excellent

  34. Could someone please explain why his Jesuit training is always mentioned? Honest question here. Would he, or anyone, really be that different if they were Carmelilte or Benedictine or Dominican trained? Thanks.

  35. discipulus says:

    Giuseppe,

    Pope Francis was ordained on 13 December 1969, which was just a few short weeks after the introduction of the NO.

  36. LeeF says:

    @CatherineBeier

    The reason his being a Jesuit is often mentioned, is because that order in the past decades has not been known for orthodoxy, and also because they are fairly indifferent to liturgy. JPII imposed a superior-general on them. While the other orders you mention may not be thriving, the Jesuits have been in a nose-dive vocations-wise for a long time.

    Bottom line: if you assume a Jesuit is a liberal you’ll be right far more than you will be wrong.

  37. Ferde Rombola says:

    iteadthomam says:
    On another note, I believe the Holy Father means we’ll but I also honestly believe future historians will look back on this pontificate and see it as one of the worst in the history of the papacy.>>
    __________________________________________________________________
    It is obvious to me Pope Bergoglio is in over his head. He is flailing like a drowning man with no life preserver at hand. He seems to say the first thing that pops into his head in the morning with no cogent examination at all. He is no servant of the Lord. He is the servant of Papa Borgoglio.

  38. oldcanon2257 says:

    LeeF says:

    The reason his being a Jesuit is often mentioned, is because that order in the past decades has not been known for orthodoxy, and also because they are fairly indifferent to liturgy. JPII imposed a superior-general on them. While the other orders you mention may not be thriving, the Jesuits have been in a nose-dive vocations-wise for a long time.

    “We’re back with the Borgias!” -Don Michael Corleone in “Godfather III”

    The above seems like an accurate description of the curialist manipulators at the recent October 2014 synod in Rome.

    The above also seems like precisely the description Father Malachi Martin had in mind when he wrote his famous book “The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church” which earned him many enemies. Even though I have read the book multiple times, it truly puzzled me how they went from being the Holy Father’s “elite troops” to what was described in the book.

    We also have a Francis now.

    So, we have both a Francis and the Borgias.

    I only wish for the sake of the order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola that a new “Francis Borgia” (Saint Francis Borgia, Jesuit saint) of our time would emerge instead, so that the orthodox members of the Society (à la Servant of God Father John A. Hardon S.J.) could increase and multiply.

    Saint Francis Borgia, pray for us! An interesting tidbit, did you know the late Father John Hardon left his extensive library to then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis who was (still is) the International Director of the Marian Catechist Apostolate which was founded by Father Hardon?

  39. Toan says:

    I find that Pope Francis’ homilies are frequently great for introspection but terrible for application to others.

  40. oldcanon2257 says:

    vandalia says:

    I think this might be explained by the fact that English speaking people often assume that we are the entire Church. Therefore, if follows that everything the Holy Father says must be directly relevant to us. Perhaps the comments that cause us to “scratch our heads” are perfectly clear and appropriate to other segments of the Church in South America, Africa or Asia.

    You appear to make the assumption that there are no Anglophone countries in Africa… My impression is that 10 out 9 times (yes, 10 out of 9, I didn’t write it backward), the English-speaking people in Africa (including the esteemed African prelates themselves) are having a hard time relating to what the Holy Father is talking about, not because of differences in regional applicability, but because his statements are so ambiguous (and maybe purposefully so) that they just can’t pinpoint exactly what he is referring to or what points he would like to teach them about the subject matter (if they even grasp what he’s referring to) or the practical application of his teaching (if they understand the teaching at all). :) My Nigerian Catholic friend complained about this all the time. It seems like what Pope Francis is trying to emphasize is more about the analytical process of doing something, rather than what the end result ought to be. I think the Jesuits’ analytical mind had taken over their life. There’s that joke that the only time a Jesuit would say what’s on his mind is when he had a slip of the tongue, that nobody really knows what a Jesuit is really thinking or what he’s going to do next.

    It’s almost like the Pope Francis specializes in speaking in palindromes and phonetic palindromes. :D

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  42. Unwilling says:

    Piano! piano!

    PF’s words can be confusing. When they seem to contradict what we understand as the Deposit of Faith, we may feel offense, frustration, anger… retaliation. But the very Deposit we cherish includes the requirement of voluntary obedience, unfeigned respect, and even pious reverence of the Pope. Our (humanly inevitable) negative reactions should always be under the control of charity [and the hermeneutic Principle of Charity], careful reason, and dispassionate sobriety.

  43. sw85 says:

    @ Deacon Augustine —

    “sw85, I think you make a good analysis of the situation.

    The only thing you forgot to mention about him being the first Pope who has the vision truly to implement “the spirit” of Vatican II, is that he is the first one to have “the humility and the ambition” to do it!!!

    If he devoted as much energy to encouraging people to love Our Lord as he does to getting them to love himself, he would be an heroic evangelist indeed.”

    Thank you. An endorsement from you is something worth prizing!

    I think key to understanding Francis is that there is, to his mind, little distinction between getting people to love him and getting people to love Christ. This isn’t to say he thinks he’s Christ: rather, Jesuit spirituality is intensely focused on the Incarnation and on the idea that we love Christ as a particular person and in particular people (“what you do to the least of my children…”) and not merely as an abstract/impersonal/transcendent idea. This is why Jesuits are on average so notoriously bad at or indifferent to liturgy (with its emphasis on the transcendental) and so fixated on practical issues like caring for the poor and the sick. In his mind, if he can incarnate Christ effectively, then getting the world to love him is getting the world most of the way to loving Christ. I think he’s miscalculated terribly there (because the world does not, in fact, love Jorge Maria Bergoglio the man, but Pope Francis the abstract blunt object whose words they can use to bludgeon their illiberal enemies), and that miscalculation bore predictable fruits in Buenos Aires and will bear similar fruits for the universal Church. But it’s not really confusing.

  44. sw85 says:

    @ Henry Edwards —

    “Does your rather detailed comment boil down to saying that Pope Francis is really not all that confusing, that his intentions are pretty clear?

    Unless perhaps one doesn’t want believe what his eyes see and his ears hear?”

    Yes, basically. To summarize:

    – Francis says what he needs to say to a particular group of people at a particular moment in time in order to get them to love/identify with him.

    – He wants them to love/identify with him so that they will love Christ in him.

    – Hence, his words are useless as a means of understanding his mind on any particular issue, because he does not use words the way bloggers use words.

    – Hence, you need to look at his actions.

    Historically his actions suggest his interest is in creating a large, inclusive, nonjudgmental Church, and the evidence for this is in the very aggressive support he gave to the slum priests in Buenos Aires, his willingness to overlook their sometimes heinous moral deformities, and his historical support for administering communion to just about everyone all the time regardless of their state in life.

    If he seems to be persecuting people of a nonliberal bent that stands to reason. People of a nonliberal bent do not value having a large/inclusive/nonjudgmental Church at any cost. They want a Church which is faithful to her doctrines and disciplines and traditions above all else. Catholics with their attachment to abstract doctrine and dusty old traditions and impersonal disciplines are impediments to the realization of his ambition for a highly pastoral Church which welcomes actual people where they actually are. So those impediments have to be sidelined.

    In a nutshell, he wants the Church to be more welcoming to liberals, and is willing to accept that this means it being less welcoming to non-liberals.

  45. robtbrown says:

    Catherine Beier says:
    Could someone please explain why his Jesuit training is always mentioned? Honest question here. Would he, or anyone, really be that different if they were Carmelilte or Benedictine or Dominican trained?

    Great question.

    In the period between the two World Wars the Jesuits began to change their intellectual formation, dumping Neo-Scholasticism in favor of Existentialism as the foundation for theology. Existentialism emphasizes concrete experience and usually denies that the human intellect by reason alone can know Truth. Any efforts at that are just considered Ideology

    This has affected all orders. It has affected the SJ’s more because they have always emphasized intellectual formation and because they are, as one commentator said, trained to be extremists.

    It has affected the Dominicans less because, even though there were Dominican Existentialist theologians like Schillebeeckx, St Thomas is always there in the background. And Dominicans are formed not to be extremists but rather balanced.

  46. Unwilling says:

    sw85, not to negate the value of your insights, nor to deny the probability of your last paragraph, but I wonder on what scale of micrometer measure it is still possible to make modernists “more” welcome in the Church and traditionalists “less” so. It seems to me that that effort of hospitality has so far and so long succeeded it is now a reversed hostility.

  47. The Masked Chicken says:

    “People of a nonliberal bent do not value having a large/inclusive/nonjudgmental Church at any cost.”

    Neither did Christ. Matt 5: 17 – 20 says:

    “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.
    For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
    Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    This brings up a very important question: what makes Pope Francis right? It seems that we have had two fairly conservative Popes and now Pope Francis, but the world, itself has not changed. Were the last two popes blind? The see-sawing between Popes’s ideas of what to do does not make the current one, whether conservative or liberal right, just because they are the current Pope. On what basis does Pope Francis rightly claim that a, “large/inclusive/nonjudgmental Church,” is the way to go, if, indeed, that is his thinking and not just your surmising? His predecessor certainly did not agree. One cannot, I repeat, cannot claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit for a Pope on merely prudential matters, otherwise, it looks like the Holy Spirit has done a 180 degree turn if the Popes are this polarized. Do we need a lean mean fightin’ machine Church, today, or a Pillsbury Doughboy Church? That is a matter for prudential judgment.

    “Existentialism emphasizes concrete experience and usually denies that the human intellect by reason alone can know Truth. Any efforts at that are just considered Ideology.”

    If this is truly the case, then there is profound problem, because these two theological approaches – Thomism and Existentialism, do not, necessarily, converge to a unified truth, do they?. St. John Paul II was a phenomenologist, which is a philosophical system also related to exploring human experiences, but through reasoned observation. If one is committed to exploring human experiences more through reactions and feelings rather than logic, then one has set oneself up to deny or at least weaken the connection between the super-rational God and His human creatures. Emotion must be slaved to reason, not the other way around. It is exactly this upside-down and backwards mentality that let some in the Church rationalize the use of contraception.

    I do not know the Pope’s mind and, frankly, I don’t care about it until he actually puts down something in magisterial print. Until that time, my duty as a Christian is exactly as it was 2000 years ago – to love God with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, and my whole strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.

    What does this love look like? Does it change with the seasons? Aye, there’s the rub.

    The Chicken

  48. robtbrown says:

    TMC says,

    “Existentialism emphasizes concrete experience and usually denies that the human intellect by reason alone can know Truth. Any efforts at that are just considered Ideology.”

    If this is truly the case, then there is profound problem, because these two theological approaches – Thomism and Existentialism, do not, necessarily, converge to a unified truth, do they?

    I mentioned Neo-Scholasticism not Thomism (or neo-Th0mism).

    If this is truly the case, then there is profound problem, because these two theological approaches – Thomism and Existentialism, do not, necessarily, converge to a unified truth, do they?. St. John Paul II was a phenomenologist, which is a philosophical system also related to exploring human experiences, but through reasoned observation.

    Phenomenology also has a heavy subjective side. For various reasons (e.g., intersubjectivity) phenomenology has lent itself to a serviceable assessment of moral acts. I don’t think it lends itself to explaining the articles of the Faith. Some use it in Trinitaran theology (Communion of Persons), but it means rejecting the approach of Ss Augustine and Thomas.

    There is of course a problem with certitude in Existentialism–and it only takes a bit of exposure to Rahner to see it. On the other hand, Neo-Scholasticism produced in the Church an unfortunate tendency to confuse Truth with Vatican loyalty (and that Truth is legislated)–they have a Venn commonalty but are not the same. Thus, the maddening demand by Rome that the SSPX sign a document saying they accept Vat II.

  49. sw85 says:

    @ The Masked Chicken —

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think Pope Francis is right. I think his judgment is terribly mistaken and that it produced characteristically terrible fruits for the local Church that was under his care. I think that he is so blind to the ruinous consequences of his own convictions, or so convicted of them that he simply doesn’t care how ruinous they are when put into practice, shows how dangerous these days are, and how urgent is the task of the faithful to speak out in defense of the faith and the disciplines that express that faith in reality.

    I don’t know exactly what that means but it certainly won’t be accomplished by pietists like the Mark Sheas and Simcha Fishers of the world, busily showering anathemas over everyone who expresses a single concern, so it is left to folks like us. For myself, since the final report of the Synod was sent to the dioceses “for discussion,” I intend to contribute to that discussion by writing my Archbishop a lengthy letter detailing my concerns and outlining (in pastoral language hopefully very accessible to him) a forceful response in defense of tradition.

    And I’ll CC his more conservative auxiliary, too!

  50. JPK says:

    I thought when Cdl Bergoglio was elevated to Pope Francis, taking some of his first public remarks as a sign of things to come, that his main focus would be on a)cleaning up the Curia and b) setting an example for present and future bishops on living a life closer to Christ (as opposed to being too wrapped up in things of this world). My initial impressions was that he would set an example of humility (one pundit observed the press stressing this so much that the pundit referred to Francis as Francis the Humble), simple living, and simple evangelization.

    Pope Francis was in his late 70s when elected, and his time to would be limited. Pope Benedict, being a theologian, spent his time shoring up Catholic Doctrine; Pope John Paul II, being much younger than most Popes, had the luxury of time. My assumption was that because of Pope Francis’ age, his stress would be on a return simple evangelization, and a reform of the Curia. In light of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I am now not so sure. In his short time at the Vatican, nothing but confusion and division have come about. If anything, he seems intent on finishing up what the “Spirit of Vatican II” began. Many priests and theologians of his generation never got over the disappointment of Humanae Vitae.

    I think one way or another we will come to know Pope Francis better after the completion of the Ordinary Synod of the Family.

  51. pj_houston says:

    sw85 wrote: “I don’t know exactly what that means but it certainly won’t be accomplished by pietists like the Mark Sheas and Simcha Fishers of the world, busily showering anathemas over everyone who expresses a single concern, so it is left to folks like us….”

    John Zmirak in a recent piece refered to these Church of Nice folks as “those that like to put authority over Truth.” Thanks for your excellent observations, sw85, they help to explain much. American Catholic liked them so much, they reference you over in their Pope Watch series.

  52. robtbrown says:

    JPK says,

    My assumption was that because of Pope Francis’ age, his stress would be on a return simple evangelization,

    Nothing is ever simple with the Jesuits.

    and a reform of the Curia.

    One thing already has been done–taking finances away from the Sec of State.

  53. LuisFernando says:

    F. Z´s:
    When I have asked Argentinians about Francis, I have been told that they often express themselves with hyperbole.

    LF:
    Don´t ask argentinians traditionalists about Francis unless you want to panic, :-)

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