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When I read the reports of Archbishop Vigano’s accusations concerning Pope Francis late Saturday night, I felt physically sick.  I think I have made it pretty clear here and elsewhere that I love Pope Francis.  And because I am a faithful and obedient Catholic, albeit a bad one, I would have been sickened by such allegations levied against any Pope, because I really believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church.

So at first I felt spiritually unmoored.  For the first time in all of these scandals, I felt a shaking of my faith.

But again, as a faithful Catholic, I felt bound to give the Pope of all people the benefit of the doubt, to withhold judgment while waiting to hear more.  By morning when the mainstream press was unable to independently corroborate Vigano’s statement with documentary evidence, I started to calm down.

See, I don’t know much about Church politics.  I mean, I know they exist, but I hate to think about such petty and worldly concerns being mixed up with God’s Church.  I don’t like the bandying about of terms like “liberal” and “conservative” Catholic, even though I know what people mean when they say that.  I’ve been accused of being “liberal” but I see myself as quite orthodox and challenge anyone to point to any occasion I have ever dissented from any Church teaching, feeling quite confident that they won’t be able to.

So when I saw that a person of some prominence in the Church had accused Pope Francis, my initial reaction was to believe him, because why would he not tell the truth?  But then I realized that he was the person who set the Pope up with Kim Davis, and I learned of his reputation of being too involved in U.S. culture wars.  And I started to think about where the accounts had been published–usually the first thing I look at in assessing news, but which I had overlooked in my distress–in sources I know from my own experience to be right wing and slanted in their reporting.   I noticed that the mainstream press wasn’t finding anything to write even though they were investigating hard.  Finally I saw exactly who was–not sorrowfully, not regretfully, but eagerly–leaping on the anti-Pope bandwagon and I thought I could see what was happening.

I’ve been downright horrified since this Pope was elected to see some of the things people have said about him on social media–people purporting to be faithful Catholics and held up as holy by many.  I’ve even had to unfollow some people and pages that seemed to me were bordering on heresy in their comments about our Holy Father.  I had always thought that respect and reverence for the Pope is a baseline qualification for being Catholic.  I personally wasn’t all that excited when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, but as soon as he became Pope Benedict, that was it for me.  He became my Pope and I gave him my respect and my obedience.   And yet it was obvious that Francis-haters–some long declared as such and some who had been staying quiet out of, one presumes, respect for the office–were leaping out of the woodwork to announce their unqualified belief in Vigano’s testimony.

Do you remember the Steele dossier?  Remember how the mainstream press wouldn’t release it because they couldn’t confirm it?  I think it was BuzzFeed that leaked it initially.  Why do you think Vigano’s representative disseminated his testimony through the outlets he chose?  Why do you suppose he didn’t call The New York Times or The Washington Post with his bombshell news?  Because he knew that the mainstream media would have sat on it, as they did on the dossier, and rightly so–until they could confirm it.  Perhaps he knew that would never happen.

I waited anxiously for the Pope’s response, and I have no trouble admitting I was disappointed at first; but now I think he was being very smart.  First of all, he did not allow himself to be forced into making intemperate remarks on an airplane–as he sometimes has in the past–which seems clear to me is what his opponents were hoping to orchestrate by releasing the document when they did.  If he had openly denied the allegations, what would have made his detractors take his word over Vigano’s anyway?  Therefore, he offered the equivalent of “I am not going to dignify this gossip with a response,”  and he asked the journalists to investigate the claims, knowing that this is the only way his name will ever be cleared.

Think about it–we can and should ask the Vatican to investigate; we can and should ask the Bishops to investigate–but who really believes any of them anymore?  The USCCB came out with a statement which seems supportive of the Pope while also calling for further investigation, but not only is the credibility of the bishops at rock bottom right now, how much credence will anyone give to a show of support to the man who has the power to fire them all?

And let’s remember who else isn’t talking:  Vigano.  Why is no one upset about that?  He made allegations and now refuses to be cross-examined about them.  How can an investigation go forward under those circumstances?

Amidst calls for the Pope’s immediate resignation, I found it telling that the founder and spokesman for Bishopaccountability.org, a site dedicated to providing transparency regarding charges of sex abuse in the Church, is not yet among them.  Even though Pope Francis doesn’t have a spotless record on the site from his days as a bishop, Terry McKiernan told Our Sunday Visitor that he believes “Archbishop Vagano has ‘an axe to grind,’ [and] that there still should be a thorough investigation into what the pope and bishops knew about former Cardinal McCarrick, and when they knew it.”

Until that happens, I’ve been “investigating” myself the only way I know how:  by reading a wide variety of sources and trying to understand what is going on.  I have linked several of them below.  I am prepared to be accused of providing “liberal” sources.  I don’t believe that is accurate, but if it is you can chalk it up to the fact that the stories I am linking and the points of view they showcase seem to me to be underrepresented in what I’ve been reading on Catholic Facebook.

My “investigation” leads me to believe that conservative culture warriors have seized this opportunity and hijacked this crisis in an attempt to bring Pope Francis down.  They attack the Pope, his supporters respond, and now the conversation is about church politics instead of the abuse, the cover up, and the victims.  This, I believe, is one reason Pope Francis did not immediately answer the accusations–because he wanted the focus to remain on the sex abuse crisis, as it should.

Now, many faithful Catholics I know are sincerely alarmed by Vigano’s testimony and confused by the Pope’s response, and either don’t believe or may not realize that they are being manipulated by people who don’t care one iota about the sexual abuse or the victims but are playing politics and trying to split the Church into factions, much in the way our country has become divided along harsh partisan lines.  This is in itself a symptom of a sick sinfulness in the Church that exists alongside the sex and the silence.

Tactically I think the Pope’s response was the correct one.  Pastorally, not so much.  People are confused and upset and they want, need, and deserve answers.  I feel the Holy Father has always intended to provide them but I think he needs to do so sooner rather than later.  If there is never any documentary evidence, though, and if the people who could confirm key parts of the testimony–like Pope Benedict and Theodore McCarric–refuse to speak, I have to wonder whether the choice of whom to believe will continue to break along those same tired ideological lines, and whether the political divide in Christ’s Church is the real sin we need to be discussing.

I’ve always been on the side of the truth, ALWAYS.  I’m the obnoxious person who goes so far as to correct misinformation being passed around in emails and on Facebook, even when my own confirmation bias is triggered.  But right now, when we can’t know the truth, as a devout Catholic I stand with Pope Francis until I have more than gossip to go on.

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From the Associated Press:

Document in hand, Tosatti then set out to find publications willing to publish it in its entirety: the small Italian daily La Verita, the English-language National Catholic Register and LifeSiteNews and the Spanish online site InfoVaticana.

All are conservative or ultraconservative media that have been highly critical of Francis’ mercy-over-morals papacy.

The English and Spanish publications translated the Italian document and all agreed on a Sunday morning embargo, coinciding with the second and final day of Francis’ trip to Ireland, where the Catholic church’s sex abuse and cover-up scandal dominated his trip.

Tosatti said Vigano didn’t tell him where he was going after the article came out, knowing that the world’s media would be clamoring to speak with him.

From The Washington Post:

Pope Francis has long faced criticism from traditionalists — a group that includes academics as well as cardinals — who say the church is too willingly following the whims of the anything-goes modern age.

Much of the dissent has remained within the Vatican walls, as Francis’s opponents worked to stonewall reforms. A few high-ranking church leaders have questioned him publicly about his teachings. But the simmering opposition has suddenly exploded across the Catholic world, with a former Vatican ambassador accusing the pope of covering up sexual abuse — and demanding that Francis step down.

From Vatican Insider in La Stampa:

That it is not simply the outburst of a Church man tired of the rotten things he has seen around him, but of a long and carefully planned operation, in an attempt to get the Pope to resign, is demonstrated by the timing and the involvement of the same international media network that for years has been propagating – often using anonymous ones – the requests of those who would like to overturn the result of the 2013 conclave. This is attested by the same testimonies written in the various blogs by the journalists who published the Viganò dossier: always in the forefront in the defense of the traditional family, but careless to drop the bombshell on the very day in which Francis concluded with a great mass the international meeting of families. 

From Our Sunday Visitor:

In his letter, Archbishop Viganò also wades into ideological battles roiling the Church in the United States. He singles out several bishops who were appointed by or are close to Pope Francis, questioning their sincerity and commitment to rooting out sex abuse. And in a time when the role of homosexuality in the clergy sex-abuse scandals is being hotly debated, the archbishop accuses some prelates who are close to the pope of belonging to a “homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.”

McKiernan, of BishopAccountability.org, called Archbishop Viganò’s long statement “a uniquely comprehensive salvo in the Catholic culture wars.” He added that clergy sex abuse cuts across ideological lines.

From The New York Times:

The clerical sexual abuse is not only a personal and professional tragedy, but an institutional one, said John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

“We need to find out who knew what when, and what they did or did not do to protect young people,” Mr. Carr said. “The weaponization of the sexual abuse scandal uses the suffering of the vulnerable to advance ideological agendas and makes a horrible situation worse.”

From Steel Magnificat:

For a moment, it was all about the victims. Not people who dislike the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite or people who believe conspiracy theories, the actual victims. People who were raped or molested and then shamed into silence because it was more convenient to pretend they were lying than to work for justice.

Then the people who didn’t care about the victims found a way to make it all about them, and what they want the Church to look like, and how much they hate Pope Francis.

And I’ve heard barely a word about the victims since.

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Image Credit: Donkey Hotey

It’s come to my attention that many (maybe even most?) of my fellow Catholics are a bit confused on the issue of voting.  How do I know this?  Because FACEBOOK, mostly.  If any Catholic is on Facebook telling any other Catholic that he or she is in a state of mortal sin or hellbound for voting for Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump, for that matter), that Catholic clearly needs a refresher course (maybe a first course?) on Catholic voting.

I can see why some of them would be confused, too, when you’ve got deacons preaching about who to vote for and Bishops and priests making ill-advised and incorrect statements in the press and people putting unauthorized flyers in parish bulletins.  I’ve seen and read about all of this, and you probably have too, and I’m not going to link to these folks to give them any more undeserved attention and the opportunity to spread more misinformation. (By the way, here’s what our Bishops have to say about such activities.)

Some of you have probably also seen voting guides from Catholic Answers or EWTN, and have (understandably) assumed that you could trust such well-known sources.   But the ONLY authorized voting guide (and that includes this blog, which is why my advice to you is going to be backed up by authoritative links) is the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, published in every election year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  That’s the ONLY document with the authority of the Magisterium behind it.  If you haven’t read it yet, you haven’t done your homework and you shouldn’t cast a vote until you do.

You might also want to familiarize yourself with Catholic Social Teaching.  And you are certainly going to want to read the section of the Catechism which deals with the formation of conscience.  And it goes without saying that you should read about the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to Catholics, of course making sure to check your sources.

Frankly, I think the Church and its members would be in a lot better shape if we all spent more time reading the above documents and less on Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.  Particularly in matters of faith I would suggest spending more time on the Vatican and USCCB sites and less on LifeSite News and HuffPo Religion.

Anyway, I’m going to paraphrase some of this,  but I am not a theologian and this is not an approved voting guide so you really ought to go to the links provided and read for yourself.

Short version:  You can vote for anyone you want to, but not for the wrong reasons.

What does this mean?  Here’s an example:  We all know that Hillary Clinton supports legalized abortion.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil that deserves the highest level of attention from Catholics.  So if you vote for Hillary Clinton BECAUSE she supports abortion, that’s wrong.  If you are a Catholic, you can’t do that.

Every candidate running this year has certain positions that run contrary to Church teachings.  YOU CAN STILL VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM, as long as you are voting for the DESPITE these positions AND in the presence of PROPORTIONATE REASONS.

Back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict explained how this works.  He’s a scholar and used lots of big words, so here is the simplified version: Voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil (like abortion or racism) requires the presence of a proportionate reason.

In her wisdom, the Church so far has not defined what these proportionate reasons might be, although if you Google you will find plenty of Catholics expressing their opinions.  But they are only opinions, and everyone will reach his own conclusions about this, according to his conscience.

But Trump is just AWFUL, you say.  How could there be ANY reason proportionate enough to justify voting for him?   Well, maybe a Catholic voter is convinced that Mr. Trump really has had a conversion of heart and is truly pro-life.  Our next President will probably have the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices.  Mr. Trump has said he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  Faced with the possibility of ending the evil of abortion, this person feels he cannot in good conscience fail to vote for a candidate who might achieve this.

Still can’t understand it? Guess what? You don’t have to! It’s not your business how your fellow Catholics vote.  It’s not their business how YOU vote! You don’t get to tell them they are going to hell and they don’t get to tell you that you are excommunicated.

One more quote from the Bishops: “We strongly urge all parishioners to register, to become informed on key issues, and to vote. The Church does not support or oppose any candidate, but seeks to focus attention on the moral and human dimensions of issues.”

And from our Holy Father, when directly asked what the American faithful should keep in mind while voting: “In electoral campaigns, I never say a word. The people are sovereign. I’ll just say a word: Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.

Being accused of being more Catholic than the Pope is not a compliment, y’all.  Can we all take our cue from the Bishop of Rome and mind our own consciences–and our own business?

pg-34-pope-getty

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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People love Pope Francis, and they love Pope Francis memes.  They love them so much, in fact, that they will repost them whether they are true or not.

But truth matters, y’all, and Pope Francis is saying awesome things ALL THE TIME. There’s no need to make things up.

So I’ve made some new memes, using a fair use photo from Google and actual quotations from the Pope’s visit to the United States.  If I make more, I will come back and add them here.  If you like them, please share the post and/or the memes! I’ve already taken care of the attribution. 🙂

Let’s spread some wisdom and truth today!

pope meme 2

Pope Meme 3

pope meme 4

Untitled design (1)

Walls are never the solution. But bridges are, always.

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I’ve done it, you’ve done it–go ahead, admit it–forwarded a meme or an email that was so perfect, such a reflection of and corroboration of personal views, only to find out later it was a pack of lies.  It’s human nature to crave affirmation, and when such a beloved and respected person as Pope Francis is doing the affirming, that’s REALLY affirming.

But let’s remember the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, y’all:

As Francis Fever sweeps the nation, Francis memes, old and new, are flooding the internet.  Two extremely popular ones which I’ve made efforts to combat before are back again and stronger than ever, being forwarded by normally trusted sources including Catholics who really should know better.

pope francis pets

Now, I hope as much as anyone that my dogs are in heaven, but that doesn’t change the fact that this meme is not true.

The above meme comes in many forms, and springs from a longer and more complicated story that made the rounds awhile back and also included the gift of a goat and the blessing of guide dogs.  I was suspicious of the story when I first read it, even though as you can see it was being reported by the mainstream press.  It took me about an hour of clicking back and doing research on the Vatican website to realize that the original article in the Italian press had conflated several events and was being misquoted to boot.  Anyone could have done this research but apparently they did not bother.

Y’all, come on.  I cannot BELIEVE that Catholics are circulating this.  I’ve heard plenty of people saying this, but not Pope Francis.  He didn’t say it or anything like it.

Pope Francis has said a lot of wonderful things.  He has also said a lot of challenging things.  Many are uncomfortable with some of his verifiable statements regarding homosexuals, capitalism, and climate change, to name just a few.

But what he has never done, as he very recently reminded reporters, is say anything that falls outside of Church teaching:

I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church . . . a colleague asked me . . .  “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” . . . Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation . . .  And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

Yes, y’all, you read that right:  all that awesome stuff Pope Francis says is stuff the Church has been teaching all along! It’s all right there in the Catechism and encyclicals, and even most Catholics never read it, and it’s beautiful.  Pope Francis somehow is able to put these teachings into word and action in a way that resonates with people today.  People are listening to him and hearing the doctrine.  Because many cannot reconcile his words with their perception of the Church, they try to frame him as progressive or liberal or as someone who has come to change the Church, and I believe that is what gives rise to these memes that clearly do not reflect Church doctrine.

Pope Francis follows the Church

I’m linking this up to Worth Revisit, the weekly Wednesday linkup hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.  You can join in or read the other contributions by clicking the picture below!

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So, no, we didn’t make it back to campus at 10 a.m.  And John wasn’t ready to leave and I was chomping at the bit.  So  left him at the hotel and walked to Georgetown by myself.

It’s about a mile to campus from the hotel in Rosslyn, Virginia where we are staying.  It involves crossing the Key Bridge, and that’s a trip I’ve made hundreds of times.  There’s no Metro stop in Georgetown, so any time we wanted to go somewhere by subway we walked to Rosslyn.  We also used to walk over occasionally to visit the McDonald’s, since there wasn’t one (still isn’t) in Georgetown.  But the majority of my bridge-crossing took place starting in the summer of 1988, for two reasons:  I had a job as a waitress at the Key Bridge Marriott, and John had graduated and moved into an apartment on the other side of the bridge.

So it was a nostalgic little journey for me this morning, and made even better by the extraordinary weather we are having.  Y’all, usually it’s in the 90s already by now and the humidity makes you remember that D.C. is built over a swamp.  But it was in the 70s today and breezy.  Good thing, too, because while walking across the bridge is easy, walking up the hill to Georgetown from there is a bit harder, and the first thing I did was stop at Wisemiller’s to get a bottle of water.

You know what I did then?  Absolutely nothing.  I planted myself on a bench in front of Copley (the last dorm I lived in) and sat for an hour soaking up the atmosphere and watching people walk by.

Copley Hall

Copley Hall

I talked to my roommate (who did not attend the Reunion) later in the day and she asked how it felt to be back and my answer was, “Not all that different.”  I think that’s one of the things I love about coming back–it’s exciting to be there but also familiar.  It’s a place I know and feel comfortable with, even though there are always some changes and some new things to see.  And of course it does take me back to that time and those memories, but I’m still the same person after all.  Right?

I did visit the bookstore to buy a t-shirt and pick up some snacks before John joined me, and then we went to another lecture.  This one was on The Church in the 21st Century, and was mostly about Pope Francis, which was great because you’ve probably gathered by now that I absolutely love Pope Francis.  Then we walked around and explored.  We went inside the oldest building–1792–on campus, which I think was used for storage in our day but is now a meditation center.  We also went into the Copley Crypt Chapel which for some reason I had never been inside.  And we visited the awesome new performing arts center which has two theatres and classrooms and offices and is a pretty amazing addition to campus.

Icon in Copley Crypt

Icon in Copley Crypt

Copley Crypt Detal

Copley Crypt Detal

Copley Crypt Detail

Copley Crypt Detail

The next event was called Love on the Hilltop and it was a reception at the Alumni House held in honor of those of us who met our spouses at Georgetown.  They even gave us champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.  Isn’t that romantic?

And then we met up with my dear friend Tom.  Tom lived on the first floor of New North freshman year when I lived on the fourth floor.  He and Renee (my roommate) and I dyed Easter eggs on the fire escape.  We danced to Madonna’s Get into the Groove as part of a pre-exam ritual.  We cooked many a stir fry supper.  Tom and I spent a summer making beds together as employees of summer housing.  We have lots of memories and it was wonderful to see him.

John and I had dinner at The Tombs.  It’s a Georgetown tradition, but one that I didn’t take up until after a graduated, because I was kind of a nerd in college honestly.  So we’ve gone there almost every Reunion.  Do you know that restaurants up here are much more crowded and noisy than the ones back home?  I wonder why that is.

We meandered back towards the garage where we left our car last night, stopping for about an hour just to sit and talk and BE here.  And also to make that aforementioned call to the roommate and to tell her she MUST come to the next Reunion.  Now we are back in our hotel room for an evening of reading, quiet, coolness, and rest.  Tomorrow is the farewell Mass and brunch and then it’s back to Tennessee.

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So, I’m thinking now’s a good time to be getting all Catholic on the blog because HABEMUS PAPAM, y’all!  This doesn’t happen every day–I mean, this is only the fourth time it’s happened in my whole life (which is edging ever closer toward the–gasp–half-century mark).

Pope Paul VI was just a picture on the school wall to me, less important by far than Father Henkel, whose picture was up there too.  Pope John Paul I, bless his heart, wasn’t around long enough to make an impression.  I just remember being enraged when I got to school one morning and a classmate (it was Chris Clem, I remember) announced that he was dead.  (Isn’t it weird to think of how long it used to take to find out things?)  I loved Pope John Paul II, as did most of the world.  (Fun fact:  he was a good poker player, according to a Polish History professor at Georgetown who knew this from personal experience.) I knew he’d be a tough act to follow but I’ve got no complaints about Pope Benedict XVI.  His graceful resignation, I believe, will turn out to have been a great gift to the Church, as it has resulted in  . . .

Pope Francis!  Just the name makes me swoon.  St. Francis, apparently the most beloved saint according to everyone on the Internet (do they go by the number of yard statues, I wonder? The number of people who choose him as Confirmation saint?).  So many ideas come to mind when we hear his name–his Prayer for Peace, the Canticle of the Sun, preaching to the birds, talking to the wolf, holiness, poverty, stigmata, the Franciscans, “Rebuild my Church . . .”  No matter what was going on in the Holy Father’s head when he picked that name, it had to be good.

He’s a Jesuit!  I went to Georgetown so I love Jesuits.  Now certain people can just stop making sly comments about them because the POPE IS ONE SO IT’S NOT NICE.

He’s from Latin America!  I wanted a Pope from Latin America or Africa so thank you, Holy Spirit, for taking note.  Seriously, though, the Church in Europe is in a bad way.  Most of the Catholic countries of Europe seem to be so in name only.  Churches are empty.  Maybe some fresh blood is a good idea?

Then there’s everything I’ve read about him and I know you’ve read it too–kissing the feet of AIDS victims and riding buses and cooking his own meals . . .  even the anti-Catholic muckrakers (and oh how they are always out in full force) haven’t been able to find much mud to sling.

Finally, just look at him!  He looks kind, don’t you think?

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I don’t think I was wrong about Pope Francis; do you?  I’m sharing this today at the #WorthRevisit linkup.  Please visit the hosts here and here.  You won’t be sorry!

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