Jesuit-run Amerika aims at Francis’ “detractors”. Incoherence ensues.

Jesuit-run Amerika Magazine trotted out a piece by a Barcelona-based Jesuit professor of theology which claims to explain why certain, primarily northern, theologians reject Pope Francis’ theology.

The article intentionally misconstrues what it is about Francis’ teaching that seriously alarms more and more Catholics.

Writes Fr. Víctor Codina, SJ,

“Although he had studied and taught pastoral theology at San Miguel de Buenos Aires as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now his pronouncements belong to the pastoral seat of the bishop of Rome. He does not aspire to fulfill this role as a theologian but as a pastor.  … What really bothers his detractors is that his theology stems from reality: from the reality of injustice, poverty and the destruction of nature, and from the reality of ecclesial clericalism. … Obviously, the problem is not that he is not a theologian but rather that his theology is pastoral.”

First of all, among the past six popes (from Benedict XVI back to Pius XII), only one, Benedict, was a theologian in the formal sense of the term. So it’s highly unlikely that “Francis’ detractors” (to use Codina’s designation) hold it against him that he is not a theologian, but a pastor.

Then Codina goes on immediately to contradict this statement by asserting that Francis’ “theology stems from reality … of injustice, poverty and destruction of nature, and from the reality of ecclesial clericalism.” So, after asserting that Francis is no theologian, Codina credits him with being a theologian, albeit one that “his detractors” don’t accept as worthy.

So which is, Father? Is Francis a theologian or not?

Serious, orthodox Catholic thinkers are careful not to distinguish theologians from pastors. The two roles go together. A pastor should be a theologian (though not necessarily an academic), and a theologian should be pastoral (though not necessarily a parish priest or bishop). One of the great mishaps in the Church is the separation of these two roles, an error encouraged today by liberals who denigrate traditional (e.g., John Paul II) theology as not trendy enough. So they claim that faithful theologians aren’t “pastoral,” meaning that they don’t respond to people’s real needs.

This is how many of Pope Francis’ theological adventures are defended even when they stray from the Church’s long-standing tradition.

Pope Francis’ “detractors” don’t expect him to be a theologian. In fact, they’d rather that he dropped theology altogether and confined the rest of his pontificate to stopping the cover-up of the child sexual abuse crisis. However, if he is going to be the Pope, they do expect him to exercise his magisterial office by defending the Church’s teaching against those innovations which, while claiming to be pastoral, actually weaken the Church’s teaching and thereby its sacramental and pastoral practice.

The best example of Francis’ off-the-rails “pastoral” theology is his 2016 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, which received a lot of attention on this blog. This document weakens the doctrine of the indissolubility of matrimony, weakens the doctrine of moral absolutes, and thus weakens the Sacraments of Penance, Matrimony and the Holy Eucharist.

As evidence of this fact is the gross divisions in the Church over the meaning of the Pope’s teaching, something which the office of the papacy is intended to prevent.

I quoted my friend Fr. Gerald Murray, HERE:

“We have had: papal silence on the dubia; papal approval of a draft statement by a group of Argentine bishops of the Rio de la Plata region that opens the door to the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics; affirmations by Cardinal Müller that Holy Communion cannot be given to those living in a state of adultery; the publication by the pope’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, of the statement by the Bishops of Malta that couples in invalid second marriages can receive Holy Communion if they at are at peace in their conscience with that decision; the reaffirmation by the Bishops of Poland that the teaching and discipline enunciated by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio have not changed, and that only those civilly remarried couples who live as brother and sister may be admitted to Holy Communion; the Archbishop of Philadelphia saying the same thing; while the bishops of Belgium and Germany agree with the bishops of Malta and Rio del La Plata, Argentina.

“This is the current unholy mess. As the four Cardinals lament: “And so it is happening – how painful it is to see this! – that what is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta.”

There cannot be a divided truth about the indissoluble nature of marriage, or the nature of mortal sin or the nature of human freedom and responsibility for one’s freely chosen acts. The truth is one and must be defended from errors and misinterpretations.

Francis doesn’t have to be a theologian, but it is his responsibility to guarantee the unity of the Church’s teaching and its solid adherence to Catholic tradition. No appeal to “pastoring” can relieve any Pope – indeed any priest! – of this responsibility.

For Fr. Codina,

“The opposition to Francis is opposition to the Second Vatican Council and to the evangelical reform of the church that Pope John XXIII wanted to promote.”

This charge of opposition to the Second Vatican Council is an old saw among LIBERALS  who use it to discredit today’s orthodox Catholics all the time. If they really want it to stick hard they’re going to have to apply it as well to St John Paul II, whose theology the “detractors of Pope Francis” are championing at every available opportunity.  Fr. Codina’s alignment of “Pope Francis’ detractors” with opposition to the intentions of St. Pope John XIII in summoning the Council also misreads the sainted pontiff’s deliberate instructions to the Council in his inaugural address to it (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia), instructions which have also been repeatedly recalled by this blog HERE:

“The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of good will.

Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries. […]

… But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine ….”

Writing in the 2015 Five Cardinals’ Book™,  Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church [US HERE – UK HERE], Gerhard Cardinal Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, underscored the Second Vatican Council’s role in reiterating the long-standing Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

“The Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes on “The Church in the Modern World”, presents a theologically and spiritually profound doctrine of marriage. It upholds the indissolubility of marriage clearly and distinctly. Marriage is understood as an all-embracing communion of life and love, body and spirit, between a man and a woman who mutually give themselves and receive one another as persons. Through the personally free act of their reciprocal consent, an enduring, divinely ordered institution is brought into being, which is directed to the good of the spouses and of their offspring and is no longer dependent on human caprice: ‘As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them’” (no. 48).

Similar evidence against the charge that “Pope Francis’ detractors” by opposing him are in reality opposing the Second Vatican Council is provided by the positive reference to Council documents made by those who criticize Francis for his statement in the Abu Dhabi Agreement that:

“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”

Against the assertion that God wills non-Christian religions into existence, “Pope Francis’ detractors” cite Vatican II documents Dei Verbum 2-4), Lumen gentium 2-4, 16, Nostra aetate 2 and Ad gentes 3. They also cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church 53, 60, 62, 63, 65, 2084-2086, as well as the encyclical letter of St. John Paul II, Redemptoris missio 5, each of which is based upon the above-mentioned teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

So far from opposing the Second Vatican Council, “Pope Francis detractors” know the Council documents well – better perhaps than do Pope Francis supporters at Amerika.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Thomas S says:

    I thought Theology stemmed from the reality of God. Silly me.

  2. Amerikaner says:

    Meh, God is in control. rosary in one hand, beer in the other. Who is like unto God?

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    The pope is chosen by the cardinal electors to fulfill two roles: vicar of Christ, and successor to Saint Peter. He is not chosen to be the successor to Christ.

  4. MitisVis says:

    I remember a time when theological and pastoral were a perfect fit in harmony to the practice of the faith. To remember and maintain this makes us detractors? This mysterious division posing the two in opposition (there really is no sin, it’s just too unrealistic) seems to be contagious, with the first symptoms being an urge to arcane wordsmithing and anti-social behavior. I’m feeling cosmologically unbalanced so I’m headed to my cabin where gravity still works and I’ll have real and dire consequences if I shoot myself in the foot.

  5. roma247 says:

    And the ink wars go on, without end.

    How can we know that this Pope is neither a Theologian nor a Pastor? It’s so very simple:

    Capital-T-Truth requires little ink.

    The issues for which Team Francis has to call out the quarterbacks with their quill pens, are not dogmas like the Immaculate Conception or the nature of Christ as both God and Man, which require serious theological chops. These are issues of moral teaching that are backed up by mountains of Christ’s own words in the Gospel. Either you believe that the Gospel is a true account of Christ’s teachings, or you don’t. There is nothing here to argue about. No. Ink. Needed.

    If only the Catholic world would just respond with crickets when these groomsmen shovel out their horse stalls, this three ring circus would eventually break down. The problem is that their piles of manure irritate us so, that we get pulled into responding. Crickets is all they deserve.

  6. JonathanTX says:

    There was another line by Fr. Cadino with even more disturbing consequences:

    Viewing the shifting winds over the course of time, we can see that the type and orientation of opposition always reflect the historical moment. There are progressive and prophetic voices in periods when classical Christianity or neo-Christianity dominates, and reactionary, fundamentalist and conservative voices in moments of ecclesial reform and attempts to return to evangelical origins and the style of Jesus.

    Notice the chiasm: “Progressive” and “prophetic” are positively associated with “moments of ecclesial reform and return to evangelical origins and the style of Jesus” while “classical Christianity or neo-Christianity” is negatively associated with “reactionary, fundamentalist and conservative voices”

    In other words, for Fr. Cadino, “classical Christianity” is a bad thing! This is not just a modern updating of the perennial Faith like Vatican II hoped to accomplish – this is a complete break with the Faith in order to recreate it in their image, under the cover of ressourcement.

    A perfect example of the apostasy in action!

  7. Kerry says:

    And in the same way, King Barack the Last was a gifted scholar of the Constitution.

  8. Lurker 59 says:

    Thanks @JonathanTX for the additional quote, it is very interesting.

    In looking at the quote, which is telling, a different thought comes to the surface each time. I have eventually settled on the thought that the line of reasoning makes no sense.

    Hypothesis presented by the Quote: During each epoch, the prophetic voices are (necessarily) counter to the prevailing and dominant thought/institutional structure of the time.

    This is only true if one considers history in a Hegelian sense, of thesis and anti-thesis. It is also manifestly false as there are plenty of epoch where the “prophetic voices” are “on the side” of the dominant thought/institutional structure. In fact what makes Jesus truly radical, and what makes Christianity truly distance, is that his voice is not a contrarian’s voice saying “everyone else is wrong, only I have discovered the true path” that Mohammed, Buddah, Luther, Joseph Smith, and every other founder of a mand made religion says. Jesus rather “only does the Father’s will” which is to uphold and complete the Jewish faith and covenants thereby, through the Cross, opening the Church, which is rooted in, built upon, birthed from, God’s own chosen people and their Faith, but does not supplant it or exist alongside of it as a secondary and/or temporary covenant for the Gentiles.

    Back to the quote.

    Two examples are given.
    1. Dominant = classical/neo Christianity prophetic voices = progressivists
    2. Dominant = reform movements that attempt to return to roots prophetic voices = conservatives and fundamentalists.

    Notice how these don’t actually match up and prove the hypothesis. #2 is very clearly a mismatch as your fundamentalists would be supporting reform movements. (Additionally, fundamentalists tend towards being liberal, in a ridged sort of way, and tend to be at odds with conservatives. ) #1 is harder to see but still a bit of a miss-match. This is because progressivists are never “prophetic voices” in any age but always the heterodox voices. Likewise, it can be said that neo-Christianity isn’t Christianity but rather a variant of Christianity. (I’d be really curious to know who, of Calvin or Zwingli, that the author sees as the neo-Christian and who the fundamentalist.)

    This all is a strong misunderstanding of the roll of prophecy in Christianity and Judaism. The prophets never ever called people towards something new, but it was always always always a calls to return, a call to repentance and conversion. Same way in Christianity. The Fathers of the Church only have really one thing to say — return and repent. It is different depending on the age, bit it is the same call over and over and over again.

    This is also how you know that these people currently in power in the Church are preaching a false doctrine leading people pastorally in a false way — they are not calling people to return and to repent. Prophets don’t lead people “into the future”, they lead people back to God – they teach the way back not the way “forward”.

  9. Reginamater says:

    To borrow from Fiddler on the Roof: “Rabbi, is there a blessing for the czar?” (Or in this case, the Pope) “A blessing for the Pope? Yes, my child: May God bless and keep the Pope..far away from us!” But the battle is coming to us whether we like it or not…so rosary in one hand, holy water in the other, Confession, Communion and Mercy from God!

  10. ChrisP says:

    The problem with Francis is not whether he is a theologian or pastor.
    The problem is that he and his minions don’t care for theology, pastoral or otherwise, that predates theirs, save perhaps that in the movie Avatar.

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    Codina writes out of the void of the last sixty years of ecclesial self-deception. Some might term it ecclesiastical Stockholm Syndrome. It could be regarded as comic were it not cosmically tragic.

  12. Cincture says:

    Given the coincidental timing of the recent head of the de-Catholiced JPII Institute expounding on “planetary theological space,” one wonders what the papal reference to “global” space of United Nations obeyance means in comparison.

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