Why do people reflexively oppose Pope Francis?

While it is not exclusive, I think much of the divide over Pope Francis concerns more traditionally minded cradle Catholics and reverts on the one hand, and traditionally minded converts.
Many of us grew up with the oral tradition of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Fatima, La Salette, and more recently Garabandal, Medjugorje, etc. Our grandmas, family friends, and even many priests warned us to be prepared for the Three Days of Darkness, False Pope, etc. When one collective narrative stands so firmly against the world we see as so clearly flawed, it can be difficult to separate out the authentic “traditional teaching” from the popular oral tradition.

Some of the most anti-Francis Catholics I know are people who were raised Catholic, fell into gravely sinful lives and returned to the Church, with a greater appreciation for the oral tradition they were partially raised with, and a mistrust of the post-conciliar permissiveness that they see as having contributed to their youthful downfalls. They’re not so much “older brothers on the porch” but more like the ex-smoker or ex-alcoholic who turns virulently anti-smoking or anti-alcoholism.
Since the Prodigal Son is often brought up in these circumstances, let me offer a modified parable that illustrates the problem more precisely. Let’s say the father in the parable had *three* sons, two of whom ran off, and, when the second son returns home, he says, “Dad, you showed me such mercy, and I was in a horrible state. Please, I’m very worried about my younger brother. I know what it’s like for him out there. Will you please go out and find him and make him come home?”
Dad says, “I can’t force him to come home unless he really wants to.”
This makes the second son very upset, especially given the rebellious tendencies that led him to stray in the first place.
So, I think that’s part of it: people talk as if Francis’s critics do not want the “prodigals” to return, yet that is precisely the problem people have with some of the Pope’s teachings: *he* sounds like he’s saying, “Go ahead and sin, stay non-Catholic, whatever you want to do. God will love you, anyway, even if you stay in the parabolic pig sty.” I don’t believe Francis really intends that message. But that is where his critics are coming from: they want to see souls saved and converted. This aspect of the controversy definitely has its ideological roots at least as far back as the Jansenists versus the Jesuits.
The other part, though, concerns the aforementioned prophecies. It can be very difficult, again, especially when those sources have been proven right in so many ways, to separate out what is authentic Tradition, etc.
To the extent that the problem is with Francis’s critics, I’d contend it’s an issue of spiritual growth, and name-calling and condemnation aren’t an effective approach with them any more than anyone else.
However, it is very easy to see why those who may have had qualms with Vatican II and the past few Popes and sympathies with “radTrads” are feeling greater inclinations in that direction. Francis could have been a virtual redux of Pope Benedict, and some of us would still have that voice in the backs of our heads for the mere fact of the Resignation. When we’ve been told to beware of a time when a Pope is driven from the Papacy and still lives while another is elected in his stead, what else can we think?

The problem is that such matters often can only be discerned in hindsight. I see little evidence from what Pope Francis has actually said that supports the narrative: indeed, some of the alleged prophecies could be read to suggest Francis will lead the Church out of the great crisis.

I’m not saying Francis’s strongest critics are right, though it’s taken me a lot of growth to get to where I am not 100% with them. Indeed, had I not been unconscious, in a hospital, fighting for my life when the infamous foot washing happened on Holy Thursday 2013, I would have been horribly scandalized by it. Part of me still suspects he’s more like “Puzzle the Donkey” in C. S. Lewis’s _Last Battle_: a kind, saintly pope who is being manipulated, not so much a wolf in sheep’s clothing as the opposite, but I do think it’s important to understand where people are coming from. I think he’s far more like St. John Paul II than some Catholics are willing to admit.

Apologetics is in some sense the rhetoric of theology, a notion I will hopefully develop more in a later post. An apologist makes the point of understanding why people think the way they do about “the Faith” and religion in general, answering their objections and explaining the faith in a way that helps their understanding. Yet many Catholic apologists whom I otherwise enjoy reading and often agree with try to insist that the obstinacy of “radTrads” (or “Radical Reactionaries” or “The Greatest Catholics of All Time,” “neo-pelagians,” or whatever the latest label is) is somehow worse than the obstinacy of liberal Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants or non-Christians, that these souls are not worth the effort of discerning and attempting to correct the flaw in their understanding.

False convictions and DNA: “Guilty until Proven Innocent”?

This is kind of off topic, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. We often hear, especially in reference to the death penalty, that people convicted of crimes and later “exonerated” or “proven innocent” by DNA evidence. The following statistic gets to what I’m thinking:
“In almost 50 percent of DNA exoneration cases, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing.”
This is a perfect example of phrasing. One could just as easily say, “In less than 50 percent. . . . “
The only way to “prove someone innocent” is such “Perry Mason” type situations: DNA cannot “prove someone innocent” unless it proves someone else guilty. Showing that DNA samples found at the crime scene do not match the suspect doesn’t mean he or she wasn’t there; it just means they found no samples to verify his presence. I read somewhere that, at any given time, there are probably hundreds of DNA samples on a shoe. DNA evidence is based upon matching up the random samples of hair, skin, bodily fluids, etc., to the suspect. A lack of DNA or other evidence means legally “not guilty”; it does not mean “innocent.”
However, on the other hand, it speaks to how the theory is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty,” but in practice most of us think the opposite.

They’re not just “Pelvic Issues”

Some people on the Left, in the “Center” or whatever, say that Catholics like me who prioritize abortion and family-issues are “obsessed with the ‘pelvic issues'” and disregard the Church’s teachings on economics or other life issues. While that is true for *some*, there is a difference between disagreeing about interpretation or prioritization and disregarding them. I’d contend that both “Parties” in the US get the Church’s economics teachings wrong, and that’s a whole other issue.
Here, I’d like to address the annoying insistence on “Pelvic issues,” which is a slightly more superficially polite way of resorting to crudity or of insinuating some Freudian double meaning.
First, abortion is not a “sexual issue.” Abortion is a life issue. It’s about killing, and the recent attempt by a National Catholic “Fishwrap” columnist to turn pro-life rhetoric around to say that alleged global warming should take priority notwithstanding (again, another time), there is nothing that can match 3,000 legal homicides a day, as I have represented previously.
Abortion is only “about sex” to those who do not want to recognize the rights of the victim.
As for contraception, divorce, redefinition of marriage, etc., the Church teaches these issues are important because they impact the family. Catholic “Social Teaching” is often presented, even by the Popes, as striking a balance between “subsidiarity” and “solidarity,” and those in turn are often applied as the Catholic equivalents of being “left wing” and “right wing.” Solidarity says government and individuals owe a responsibility to the “common good,” to helping one another out. Interestingly, the workers’ movement known as “Solidarity” in Poland was credited with politically bringing down Communism in Poland and, by extension, the Soviet Bloc. On the other hand, “subsidiarity,” which I often write about, says that the family is the basic unit of society, and that whatever can be accomplished close to the family “level” should be. From the Compendium

185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical[395]. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth[396]. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to “the creative subjectivity of the citizen”[397]. This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity[398].

It goes on to discuss how it is unjust to deprive smaller social units of the rights proper to them, that the purpose of higher levels of organization is to foster and support the lower levels, etc. The Compendium is such an easily accessible and relatively short document that every Catholic interested in politics should read it.

Wow! Here’s the Pope who called for Vatican II wearing the Tiara and being carried on a litter! It would be nice to see some of these external signs of papal authority return.

The whole point of Pope St. John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra is that Catholic social, economic and moral teachings go hand-in-hand, and require a commitment by people in all social strata. This is what the “common good” means. People must have their basic needs met in order to live full moral lives. Economically, society has to look out for families. What cannot be done at the local level must be done higher, but it is also wrong of government to usurp the power of localities or of private organizations to do good. This is why many Catholics interpret libertarianism as the most convenient ally of subsidiarity (though many also mistakenly equate the two).

“Abortion kills the common good.”


As Francis Cardinal George, OMI, put it:

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

“Common good” implies an understanding of “the good.” If society is fundamentally at odds with the Natural Law, then that has to be the priority of the “common good.” If “common good” presupposes Natural Law and understands money as a means to the end of promoting a moral society, and if subsidiarity is seen as government existing to support the family, we can see on the one hand why “old school” liberals are right about the “social safety net,” but we can also see why “family issues” must take priority over everything else. It matters to everyone when states declare that “husband and wife” must be replaced by “spouse 1″ and “spouse 2″ (or more). It matters to everyone when divorce is presented as an easy out to marital difficulties, and vows supposedly made under oath are easily broken. It matters to everyone when children, as C. S. Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man become reduced to property and status symbols of their parents.

Which is easier to deny?

Thought: if a conservative Catholic says that, for example, Pelosi, Biden, or Giuliani isn’t “really Catholic” because Catholicism is a set if beliefs, and one must at least nominally adhere to them to claim membership, secularists will insist that baptism and possible parish registration are sufficient.

On the other hand, if you respond to the claim that conservatives are racists and/or sexists by pointing out conservative figures who are women and/or minorities, it’s “Clarence Thomas isn’t ‘really’ Black,” or “The Little Sisters of the Poor are anti-woman.”

“Really” Catholic, and don’t dare suggest otherwise:
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These people are anti-woman:

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Alan Keyes, not “really” African American, and only a racist supports him since his conservative ideals, say the liberals, are too nuts for anyone to actually support:

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On Cameras, Selfies, and my Grandpa

There is a growing “meme” (in the original sense of the neologism) that the ubiquity of cameras in the past decade or so has, like every other complaint about recent technology, “ruined us.”

All this technology is making us antisocial: we read tablets instead of newspapers.

“You just sit there staring at that book all the time.”

Then there’s this  one:

If the world were ending, people would probably take pictures with their camera phones

Except that should be Jesus, not a meteor.

Just as the original “selfie” was taken in 1839, people taking photographs “instead of intervening” in various crises long predates smart phones.  Indeed, it’s the basis of photojournalism.  The main difference between “now” and “then” is that Peter Parker and Jimmy Olsen’s careers are now fairly obsolete, as more news agencies get their “on the scene” photos and videos from average people.

My Grandpa Hathaway had a bad hip.  He walked, when he did, with a cane for as long as I knew him, and most of the time he sat.  He was already about 70 when I was born, and my understanding was that he was disabled long before that.  I still remember listening on the extension when Grandma called in February 1988 and said, to my dad, “Your father has a touch of cancer.”

Devastated by the diagnosis, Grandpa stopped even making the journey from his first floor bedroom to his basement rec room.  However much was health and however much was depression, he stayed in bed and occasionally went out to the living room.  We had moved to South Carolina the year before, and my grandparents spent 2 months at our house while we finished up the school year in Pennsylvania.  They enjoyed their time, and when we came up to visit for spring break, my parents invited them to come spend a few more months.

We all drove down in two cars, my aunt Barbara accompanying us for the trip.

When we arrived in Sumter, Grandpa’s “routine” stayed about the same, only now he got up in the morning and sat on the lounge chair in the screened patio.

Until, after a few days, my Mom was cleaning the pool and tripped.  Suddenly, the invalid came to life.  He started laughing, “Ho! Ho!  Nancy fell in the pool!  I need to get my camera!”  He jumped up out of the lounge chair, ran into the house, through the living room and into his room and got the camera.  Mom said it was worth it to get him out of bed.

Times really haven’t changed all that much.

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So, “Have it Your Way” is now “We’re all the same on the inside”?

Burger King has raised controversy by their so-called “Pride Burger”.  Obviously, restaurants are in the business of promoting capital sins, usually in the form of gluttony and covetousness (advertising), to serve their own avarice.  So we shouldn’t be too surprised when they branch out.  However, what strikes me about the attempt at raising “awareness” that has “progressives” rejoicing and conservatives disgusted is that it coincides with their transition from their classic  “Have it Your Way” motto to the nonsensical “Be Your Way.”
The burger, as you’ve probably heard, has a special wrapper that says, “We’re all the same on the inside.” I’ve read it as a one-time thing in San Francisco and as a national campaign.  Either way, the corporation supports it.

Let’s side the fact that we are not all the same on the inside: that, as St. John Paul II points out in _Theology of the Body_, the differences between men and women are far greater on the “inside” than the “outside,” that our very skeletons differ in how women’s bodies are constructed specifically for child-bearing.
Let’s set aside the fact that the very claim of LGBTQXYZ advocates is that they’re not the same “on the inside,” that they may look “male” or “female” but “identify” differently “on the inside” than what they appear.

imageLet’s ignore that and focus on the stupidity of this phrasing as a marketing ploy: “Have it Your Way” is now “We’re all the same on the inside,” doesn’t that mean, “Eat your pickles.  Eat your lettuce.  Special orders do upset us”?

Why are we being told to take “Pride” in Sin? People apparently forget that pride *is* a sin.

And that’s it, right there: “Love yourself.” “Make yourself like gods who know.” “I will not serve.”

The term “seven deadly sins” really means “seven deadly vices”–seven bad habits that could, individually or in combination, kill the soul.  The seven capital vices are pride, lust, envy, sloth, greed/avarice, gluttony, and anger/wrath.   I don’t know why the traditional lists leave out despair, but let’s look at them, particularly in a rough correspondence to the theological and cardinal virtues.  Here’s a good summary article that attempts to parallel the “seven virtues” with the seven deadly sins by grouping them into two categories each: three spiritual and three corporal.  It also suggests the “remedial” approach to the virtues, and here is another.

What disturbs me most about the “Progressives” is how everything has become about “Pride.”  Lust is one thing, but pride quite another.  Certainly, neither side of the Culture Wars has a monopoly on anger, greed, or gluttony, but that people who profess to be Christians are not only falling for but promoting a message of “pride” is horrifying.

St. Thomas Aquinas addresses “Pride” in Question 162 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica.

Article 6. Whether pride is the most grievous of sins?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the most grievous of sins. For the more difficult a sin is to avoid, the less grievous it would seem to be. Now pride is most difficult to avoid; for Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi), “Other sins find their vent in the accomplishment of evil deeds, whereas pride lies in wait for good deedsto destroy them.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

Objection 2. Further, “The greater evil is opposed to the greater good,” as the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. viii, 10). Now humility to which pride is opposed is not the greatest of virtues, as stated above (Question 61, Article 5). Therefore the vices that are opposed to greater virtues, such as unbelief, despairhatred of God,murder, and so forth, are more grievous sins than pride.

Objection 3. Further, the greater evil is not punished by a lesser evil. But pride is sometimes punished by other sins according to Romans 1:28, where it is stated that on account of their pride of heart, men of sciencewere delivered “to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.” Therefore pride is not the most grievous of sins.

On the contrary, A gloss on Psalm 118:51, “The proud did iniquitously,” says: “The greatest sin in man ispride.”

I answer that, Two things are to be observed in sin, conversion to a mutable good, and this is the material part of sin; and aversion from the immutable good, and this gives sin its formal aspect and complement. Now on the part of the conversion, there is no reason for pride being the greatest of sins, because uplifting whichpride covets inordinately, is not essentially most incompatible with the good of virtue. But on the part of the aversion, pride has extreme gravity, because in other sins man turns away from God, either through ignoranceor through weakness, or through desire for any other good whatever; whereas pride denotes aversion from Godsimply through being unwilling to be subject to God and His rule. Hence Boethius [Cf. Cassian, de Caenob. Onst. xii, 7 says that “while all vices flee from Godpride alone withstands God“; for which reason it is specially stated (James 4:6) that “God resisteth the proud.” Wherefore aversion from God and Hiscommandments, which is a consequence as it were in other sins, belongs to pride by its very nature, for its actis the contempt of God. And since that which belongs to a thing by its nature is always of greater weight than that which belongs to it through something else, it follows that pride is the most grievous of sins by its genus, because it exceeds in aversion which is the formal complement of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. A sin is difficult to avoid in two ways. First, on account of the violence of its onslaught; thus anger is violent in its onslaught on account of its impetuosity; and “still more difficult is it to resistconcupiscence, on account of its connaturality,” as stated in Ethic. ii, 3,9. A difficulty of this kind in avoidingsin diminishes the gravity of the sin; because a man sins the more grievously, according as he yields to a less impetuous temptation, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 12,15).

Secondly, it is difficult to avoid a sin, on account of its being hidden. On this way it is difficult to avoid pride, since it takes occasion even from good deeds, as stated (5, ad 3). Hence Augustine says pointedly that it “liesin wait for good deeds“; and it is written (Psalm 141:4): “In the way wherein I walked, the proud [Cf. Psalm 139:6, 'The proud have hidden a net for me.'] [Vulgate: 'they'] have hidden a snare for me.” Hence no very great gravity attaches to the movement of pride while creeping in secretly, and before it is discovered by thejudgment of reason: but once discovered by reason, it is easily avoided, both by considering one’s own infirmity, according to Sirach 10:9, “Why is earth and ashes proud?” and by considering God’s greatness, according to Job 15:13, “Why doth thy spirit swell against God?” as well as by considering the imperfection of the goods on which man prides himself, according to Isaiah 40:6, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field”; and farther on (Isaiah 64:6), “all our justices” are become “like the rag of a menstruous woman.”

Reply to Objection 2. Opposition between a vice and a virtue is inferred from the object, which is considered on the part of conversion. On this way pride has no claim to be the greatest of sins, as neither has humility to be the greatest of virtues. But it is the greatest on the part of aversion, since it brings greatness upon othersins. For unbelief, by the very fact of its arising out of proud contempt, is rendered more grievous than if it be the outcome of ignorance or weakness. The same applies to despair and the like.

Reply to Objection 3. Just as in syllogisms that lead to an impossible conclusion one is sometimes convinced by being faced with a more evident absurdity, so too, in order to overcome their prideGod punishes certainmen by allowing them to fall into sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful. Hence Isidore says (De Summo Bono ii, 38) that “pride is the worst of all vices; whether because it is appropriate to those who are of highest and foremost rank, or because it originates from just and virtuousdeeds, so that its guilt is less perceptible. on the other hand, carnal lust is apparent to all, because from the outset it is of a shameful nature: and yet, under God’s dispensation, it is less grievous than pride. For he who is in the clutches of pride and feels it not, falls into the lusts of the flesh, that being thus humbled he mayrise from his abasement.”

From this indeed the gravity of pride is made manifest. For just as a wise physician, in order to cure a worse disease, allows the patient to contract one that is less dangerous, so the sin of pride is shown to be more grievous by the very fact that, as a remedy, God allows men to fall into other sins.

Article 7. Whether pride is the first sin of all?

Objection 1. It would seem that pride is not the first sin of all. For the first is maintained in all that follows. Now pride does not accompany all sins, nor is it the origin of all: for Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xx) that many things are done “amiss which are not done with pride.” Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (Sirach 10:14) that the “beginning of . . . pride is to fall off from God.” Therefore falling away from God precedes pride.

Objection 3. Further, the order of sins would seem to be according to the order of virtues. Now, not humilitybut faith is the first of all virtues. Therefore pride is not the first sin of all.

Objection 4. Further, it is written (2 Timothy 3:13): “Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse”; so that apparently man’s beginning of wickedness is not the greatest of sins. But pride is the greatest of sins as stated in the foregoing Article. Therefore pride is not the first sin.

Objection 5. Further, resemblance and pretense come after the reality. Now the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 7) that “pride apes fortitude and daring.” Therefore the vice of daring precedes the vice of pride.

On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 10:15): “Pride is the beginning of all sin.”

I answer that, The first thing in every genus is that which is essential. Now it has been stated above (Article 6) that aversion from God, which is the formal complement of sin, belongs to pride essentially, and to othersins, consequently. Hence it is that pride fulfils the conditions of a first thing, and is “the beginning of allsins,” as stated above (I-II, 84, 2), when we were treating of the causes of sin on the part of the aversion which is the chief part of sin.

Reply to Objection 1. Pride is said to be “the beginning of all sin,” not as though every sin originated frompride, but because any kind of sin is naturally liable to arise from pride.

Reply to Objection 2. To fall off from God is said to be the beginning of pride, not as though it were a distinctsin from pride, but as being the first part of pride. For it has been said above (Article 5) that pride regards chiefly subjection to God which it scorns, and in consequence it scorns to be subject to a creature for God’ssake.

Reply to Objection 3. There is no need for the order of virtues to be the same as that of vices. For vice is corruptive of virtue. Now that which is first to be generated is the last to be corrupted. Wherefore as faith is the first of virtues, so unbelief is the last of sins, to which sometimes man is led by other sins. Hence a glosson Psalm 136:7, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,” says that “by heaping vice upon vice a manwill lapse into unbelief,” and the Apostle says (1 Timothy 1:19) that “some rejecting a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith.”

Reply to Objection 4. Pride is said to be the most grievous of sins because that which gives sin its gravity isessential to pride. Hence pride is the cause of gravity in other sins. Accordingly previous to pride there may becertain less grievous sins that are committed through ignorance or weakness. But among the grievous sins the first is pride, as the cause whereby other sins are rendered more grievous. And as that which is the first incausing sins is the last in the withdrawal from sin, a gloss on Psalm 18:13, “I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin,” says: “Namely from the sin of pride, which is the last in those who return to God, and the first in those who withdraw from God.”

Reply to Objection 5. The Philosopher associates pride with feigned fortitude, not that it consists precisely in this, but because man thinks he is more likely to be uplifted before men, if he seem to be daring or brave.