At the NYT (aka Hell’s Bible) Ross Douthat has a reaction to Pope Francis at the new Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.
In the first part, Douthat sets up that while in most world religions there has been a split between orthodox and progressive, in the Catholic Church the factions have remained officially together in a kind of truce: conservatives have their orthodoxy but liberals have a soft heterodoxy.
Then comes Francis.
Douthat thinks that what Francis has done is come down in favor of the truce, rather than tolerate the heterodoxy and heteropraxis. My emphases:
But there is also now a new papal teaching: A teaching in favor of the truce itself. That is, the post-1960s separation between doctrine and pastoral practice now has a papal imprimatur, rather than being a state of affairs that popes were merely tolerating for the sake of unity. Indeed, for Pope Francis that separation is clearly a hoped-for source of renewal, [!] revival and revitalization, rather than something that renewal or revival might enable the church to gradually transcend.
Again, this is not the clear change of doctrine, the proof of concept for other changes, that many liberal bishops and cardinals sought. But it is an encouragement for innovation on the ground, for the de facto changes that more sophisticated liberal Catholics believe will eventually render certain uncomfortable doctrines as dead letters without the need for a formal repudiation from the top. [It is hard to deny.]
This means that the new truce may be even shakier than the old one. [Surely it will be. There will be far more division among priests and among priests and bishops.] In effectively licensing innovation rather than merely tolerating it, and in transforming the papacy’s keenest defenders into wary critics, it promises to heighten the church’s contradictions rather than contain them. [Divison.]
And while it does not undercut the pope’s authority as directly as a starker change might have, it still carries a distinctive late-Marxist odor — a sense that the church’s leadership is a little like the Soviet nomenklatura, bound to ideological precepts that they’re no longer confident can really, truly work. [Ouch.]
A slippage that follows from this lack of confidence is one of the most striking aspects of the pope’s letter. What the church considers serious sin becomes mere “irregularity.” What the church considers a commandment becomes a mere “ideal.” What the church once stated authoritatively it now proffers tentatively, in tones laced with self-effacement, self-critique. [Indeed. When I first got the text of the Letter (before its release), one of my corespondent (who also had it) wrote: “It reeks of ‘effeminacy’.” I suspect that this move might have a strongly negative, dampening effect on priestly vocations. Not that that will bother liberals, of course: they have been trying to destroy the priesthood for decades.]
Francis doubtless intends this language as a bridge between the church’s factions, [doubtless!] just dogmatic enough for conservatives but perpetually open to more liberal interpretations. And such deliberate ambiguity does offer a center, of sorts, for a deeply divided church.
But not one, I fear, that’s likely to permanently hold. [Ditto.]
This will make the libs (especially Jesuits) have a spittle-flecked nutty. The last time Douthat commented on issues of the Synod, a passel of libs signed a letter asking Hell’s Bible to fire him… in that spirit of “liberty” for which liberals are so famous.