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Darrel Manson

Habemus Papam! Pope Francis of Argentina (Was Benedict to resign)

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Greg, 
 
I can't vouch for how you do or don't feel, but to be perfectly candid, when you accuse me of being "disingenuous," I don't take that as "busting chops on issues" (your emphasis). I take it that as a personal attack on my integrity and intellectual honesty. It is not, to my mind, part of the legitimate rough and tumble of spirited, frank debate that is not meant to be prickly or to hurt people personally.  
 
To address the particulars of what you said: 
 

It would make far more sense for these Catholic journalists and bloggers like SDG to just admit their discomfort and say "Look, I didn't love the Pope's comments. I don't like where the Holy See is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" Instead what we get is this disingenuous spaghetti logic about "the liberal media did it" etc... 

 
First, for the record, I'm seeing quite a few "conservative" Catholics, bloggers and otherwise, frankly admitting "this pope is making me uncomfortable with some of his comments." 
 
I guess I've seen a few going on to say, more or less, "I don't like where he is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" That is not, though, the most tenable position in the world for a Catholic, and I'm not surprised that few that I've seen seem to be taking this route. 

 

What I'm happy to report I'm seeing more of from uncomfortable conservative Catholics is a willingness to be challenged and made uncomfortable by a pope who may, after all, know what he is doing better than they do. It is gratifying to see Catholics saying, in essence, "Maybe it's okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe my personal comfort level isn't the ultimate arbiter of all that is good and right. Maybe if the pope makes me uncomfortable, I should be at least as willing to second-guess myself as the pope." (Like the blogger Evan C cites.) 
 
I'm sure there are some engaging in what you characterize as the "disingenuous spaghetti logic" of "the liberal media did it," with the correlative thesis that "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin."
 
That is not and never has been my position. I am genuinely baffled why you seem to take for granted that it is. 
 
Had you read further down into the comments of my piece, you might have noticed this exchange between a reader and myself: 
 

JohnN: Also, perhaps you might comment on my question of why is it that, if the Pope is just restating Catholic teaching and is not making any waves…
 
SDG: Who are you engaging here? When did I say the pope was “just restating Catholic teaching and is not making any waves”?

 
Up in the body of my post, moreover, you might have noticed that I referred readers to Jimmy Akin's piece on the pope's interview. Jimmy's piece cannot be characterized as claiming that the pope is "just restating Catholic teaching and is not making any waves." He concludes: 
 

Pope Francis’ strategy of focusing on the Church’s central message of salvation in Christ, while not devoting the expected amount of attention to “culture war” issues — like abortion, homosexuality and contraception — is a risky one.

It is not an approach that was employed by his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but times and circumstances change, and it is his judgment that a back-to-basics approach is needed, rather than a continued focus on the moral flashpoints of contemporary culture.
 
At the same time, this approach can — and in many parts of the media, has — create the impression that he doesn’t care about these lesser issues.
 
Time will tell whether this “fight the stereotypes, go with the central message” approach will lead to the results he desires, but it is clear that he is focusing on a grand strategy rather than fighting particular, tactical battles.
 
He’s counting on the idea that the moral issues will be sorted out, in the long term, by a compelling proclamation of the Church’s central message: Jesus Christ.

 
This is hardly consistent with "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin." And this link to Jimmy's piece is the one and only indication my post gives as to my larger thinking on the pope's interview in itself. 
 
My post, which I characterized in the combox as "a hasty, sarcastic blog post tossed out on the spur of a moment on a Friday afternoon," was not a broad analysis of the pope's comments, their relationship to previous papal stances, and/or my feelings about them. 
 
The focus of my post was a narrow and modest one: The Times headline and lede wildly distort the actual content and tenor of the pope's comments. 
 
As far as I can tell, you don't necessarily disagree with that at all, although you credit the Times with greater fidelity to the "spirit of the original text" than "conservative pundits," apparently including myself. 
 
This seems to me to implicate me in some grand "conservative pundit" narrative regarding the "spirit of the original text," apparently concerning its homogeneity with the content and tenor of all previous papal stances, with any and all apparent discrepancies to be ascribed to media distortion — a narrative into which I have placed no stock, and which, I hope is now clear, I don't believe. 
 
Your willingness to implicate me in this "disingenuous" narrative leads me to wonder whether you are really reading me in accordance with the hermeneutic of charity, or whether, as has seemed to me in the past, you in fact bring some level of jaundice to reading me -- one that could be somewhat at odds with your protestations that you have "ZERO animosity towards [me] and no axe to grind, personally."

Edited by SDG

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I can't vouch for how you do or don't feel, but to be perfectly candid, when you accuse me of being "disingenuous," I don't take that as "busting chops on issues" (your emphasis). I take it that as a personal attack on my integrity and intellectual honesty. It is not, to my mind, part of the legitimate rough and tumble of spirited, frank debate that is not meant to be prickly or to hurt people personally.  

 Well, to be specific, I found the logic cited to be disingenuous-- not you as a person. There is quite a difference. When you refer to my argumentation as "weak" or "naive", I didn't automatically interpret that as a personal attack. If you have not maintained or held such a position, then move on, I am wrong. Sorry. 

 

 

I'm sure there are some engaging in what you characterize as the "disingenuous spaghetti logic" of "the liberal media did it,"

 

"Some" would actually be you, earlier today. You spent an awful lot of energy in this post, blaming the powerful "liberal media" for something. 

 

 

First, for the record, I'm seeing quite a few "conservative" Catholics, bloggers and otherwise, frankly admitting "this pope is making me uncomfortable with some of his comments."  

 

 

I haven't seen any, except for the one Evan C posted. Akin's brief admission is noteworthy, but I hardly expect the same guy who thinks people in the Church who "commit contraception" are endangering their souls (and is tempted to believe they're going to hell, though he hopes for better) to be open-minded about the  Pope's comments and the possibility-- no matter how remote-- of Catholic reforms regarding homosexuality. 

 

 

That is not and never has been my position. I am genuinely baffled why you seem to take for granted that it is. Had you read further down into the comments of my piece, you might have noticed this exchange between a reader and myself: 

 

 

Perhaps that is part of the problem here. I just read the actual article you wrote and didn't scroll through page after page of reader comments to get the clarification! Ridiculous!

Edited by Greg P

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Well, to be specific, I found the logic cited to be disingenuous-- not you as a person.

 

Per Google:

 

Disingenuous: not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.

synonyms: insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious

 

I don't think this term is parallel to "weak" or "naive" as predicated of arguments (though in retrospect, per my comments above, I now think "naive" was unnecessarily provocative, and I apologize). Still, in calling your argument "weakor even "naive,I'm not accusing you of any moral fault. I don't think the term "disingenuous" can be used in the same morally neutral way.

 

If you have not maintained or held such a position, then move on, I am wrong. Sorry.

 

"Move on" is an odd exhortation to throw out before offering any acknowledgment or apology for accusing me of "disingenuously" holding positions I never advocated — as if I've been harping on something that's already been established to death and which you've already repeatedly acknowledged, and refuse to "move on." 

 

You spent an awful lot of energy in this post, blaming the media for something.

 

The "something" in question isn't mysterious: I spelled it out in considerable detail. There's nothing "disingenuous" or "spaghetti-like" in the argument that the media has distorted the pope's message — you've said the same yourself!

 

So where does the charge of "disingenuousness" come from? It seems to me this charge can only be defended in connection with the claim that this pope has done and said nothing in any way new or waves-making, and that any appearance of newness is due to media distortion.

 

It's like you're trying to hang me on the horns of a false dilemma: I obviously blame the media for something, so I must be be buying into some sort of "spaghetti logic" regarding the pope's message. Really? You can't see how I can possibly blame the media for anything without being guilty of spaghetti logic? And you have no axe to grind? 

 

I haven't seen any, except for the one Evan C posted.

 

I have. You might too, if you looked. Not that you're under any obligation to look. But if you haven't looked, you could try taking my word for it.  

 

Akin's brief admission is noteworthy, but I hardly expect the same guy who thinks people in the Church who "commit contraception" are endangering their souls (and is tempted to believe they're going to hell, though he hopes for better) to be open-minded about the  Pope's comments and the possibility-- no matter how remote-- of Catholic reforms regarding homosexuality.

 

Wow. This sounds as if you're suggesting that people who actually believe what Pope Francis himself says the Church definitively teaches are presumptively disqualified read Pope Francis's comments in an "open-minded" way. If so, that would be a pretty harsh hermeneutic. It seems as judgmental and exclusive as the Fundamentalist stance that if you aren't born again as they define it, you can't understand the scriptures anyway, so why should anyone listen to you?

 

Perhaps that is part of the problem here. I just read the actual article you wrote and didn't scroll through page after page of reader comments to get the clarification. Ridiculous!

 

Yes, but you misunderstand. My comments in the original post don't require any "clarification," to those who don't read into them things that aren't there. Nothing I wrote suggested that the pope wasn't making any waves, so there was no particular reason to "clarify" the point. I only point to the later comment because you, like my earlier interlocutor, seem bent on reading into what I wrote things that aren't there.

Edited by SDG

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Akin's brief admission is noteworthy, but I hardly expect the same guy who thinks people in the Church who "commit contraception" are endangering their souls (and is tempted to believe they're going to hell, though he hopes for better) to be open-minded about the  Pope's comments and the possibility-- no matter how remote-- of Catholic reforms regarding homosexuality.

 

Wow. This sounds as if you're suggesting that people who actually believe what Pope Francis himself says the Church definitively teaches are presumptively disqualified read Pope Francis's comments in an "open-minded" way. If so, that would be a pretty harsh hermeneutic. It seems as judgmental and exclusive as the Fundamentalist stance that if you aren't born again as they define it, you can't understand the scriptures anyway, so why should anyone listen to you?

 

 

I read Akin from time to time, mostly out of curiosity. I went today, in light of this discussion, and read the posts he wrote immediately following the papal hullabaloo. One of them, which I quoted above, had that line "commit contraception" which struck me as humorous because I've never heard it put that way before. As I read the entire piece, in addition to thinking how out of touch with reality it was, I also realized "Look, this guy is still grappling with the horrible fact that married people next to him in the pew actually commit contraception and that their souls are in danger of hellfire...And now his Pope comes along and makes some pretty jaw-dropping statements about homosexuals and the Church's recent error of 'majoring on the minors'... he can't be handling this well."  I think this is confusing for a lot Catholics and I'm not expecting an ultra-conservative like Akin to serve up the most accurate interpretation of the Pope's more liberal comments. That is all. 

 

 

I'm sure there are some engaging in what you characterize as the "disingenuous spaghetti logic" of "the liberal media did it," with the correlative thesis that "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin." That is not and never has been my position. I am genuinely baffled why you seem to take for granted that it is. 

 

 

Probably because of this (again) in which you state that the media has:

 

1) shaped the discussions of the Church's positions

2) consistently distorted the Pope's positions, and as a result,

3) set the agenda for the Church 

 

 

As an addendum you said the Church has had no kind of crusade against these hot button topics, until Obama's policies forced the issue.

 

This reasoning is the kind of cognitive dissonance and spaghetti logic I referred to. It also contrasts the Pope's repeated sentiment in the interview, which acknowledged imbalance by saying "too often WE have_______ (insert any of the Church's hobby horse, peripheral teachings)"

Edited by Greg P

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I read Akin from time to time, mostly out of curiosity. I went today, in light of this discussion, and read the posts he wrote immediately following the papal hullabaloo. One of them, which I quoted above, had that line "commit contraception" which struck me as humorous because I've never heard it put that way before. As I read the entire piece, in addition to thinking how out of touch with reality it was, I also realized "Look, this guy is still grappling with the horrible fact that married people next to him in the pew actually commit contraception and that their souls are in danger of hellfire...And now his Pope comes along and makes some pretty jaw-dropping statements about homosexuals and the Church's recent error of 'majoring on the minors'... he can't be handling this well."  I think this is confusing for a lot Catholics and I'm not expecting an ultra-conservative like Akin to serve up the most accurate interpretation of the Pope's more liberal comments. That is all.

Your armchair psychology is way, way off base. I can say confidently that Jimmy is not at all struggling to "handle this" in the way you (rather condescendingly, it seems to me) seem to suppose. His mind and worldview are far more supple, realistic and sophisticated than you appear to think.

 

As an aside, you appear willing to use the label "ultraconservative" for Catholics who merely believe the Church's teaching on sexual morality, even if, for example, they a) read Genesis 1ff mythically and generally read scripture in a critical, non-fundamentalist way, b.) have no special interest in the Latin Mass or other forms of very traditional Catholic devotion, attend a very ordinary "Novus Ordo" English Mass, etc., c) unscrupulously consume a wide range of movies, books TV shows with mature content, etc.

 

This kind of labeling seems to me unhelpful. For one thing, it's not a true representation either of the range of Catholic thought or of the individual in question. (The people I would consider "ultraconservatives" are likely as not to consider Jimmy a heretic — including his "liberal" views on contraception and natural family planning!)

 

Labeling a person "ultraconservative" generally has the effect of placing the person beyond the pale of reasonable opinion or credible discussion partners. If a person is ultraconservative, I don't need to take their opinion all that seriously (for that matter, they probably consider me so liberal and far gone that they wouldn't even bother with me). Presumably it means they are rigid and unable to cope with change, and therefore can't be expected to "deal well with" or "serve up the most accurate interpretation of" change when it comes along. This model does not serve you well in interpreting Jimmy.

 

If anything, the shoe seems to me on the other foot. Jimmy sees very clearly (as do I) that the pope is taking some risks and saying some eye-opening things. "Jaw-dropping" seems to me an exaggeration on your part — predicated, I speculate, on wishful thinking and an assumption that everything in Catholic moral teaching is ultimately up for grabs.

 

It doesn't work that way. Pope Francis's comments clearly imply what he has always stated, that the Church's teaching on these positions is clear. He is proposing changes in emphasis and focus, and perhaps even some changes in praxis, but the Church's moral teaching is not going to change in any basic way.

 

I'm sure there are some engaging in what you characterize as the "disingenuous spaghetti logic" of "the liberal media did it," with the correlative thesis that "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin." That is not and never has been my position. I am genuinely baffled why you seem to take for granted that it is.

 

Probably because of this (again) in which you state that the media has:

 

1) shaped the [public] discussions of the Church's positions

2) consistently distorted the Pope's positions, and as a result,

3) set the agenda for the Church

I said 1) and 2). 3) is your own invention.
 
And, again, this is a false dilemma, guilt by association. 1) and 2) by themselves don't imply any kind of "spaghetti logic," or that "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin." You assumed I thought that, apparently because you were profiling me or fitting me into your grand narrative about how "ultraconservatives" think.

As an addendum you said the Church has had no kind of crusade against these hot button topics, until Obama's policies forced the issue.
 
This reasoning is the kind of cognitive dissonance and spaghetti logic I referred to. It also contrasts the Pope's repeated sentiment in the interview, which acknowledged imbalance by saying "too often WE have_______ (insert any of the Church's hobby horse, peripheral teachings)"
 
I'm afraid I need to ask you to be specific. What quotations, specifically, from the papal interview are you thinking of specifically with regard to how "we" have "too often," etc., in relation to contraception specifically?
Edited by SDG

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I said 1) and 2). 3) is your own invention.
 
And, again, this is a false dilemma, guilt by association. 1) and 2) by themselves don't imply any kind of "spaghetti logic," or that "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin." You assumed I thought that, apparently because you were profiling me or fitting me into your grand narrative about how "ultraconservatives" think.

 

Let me take these in reverse order.

 

First, this statement and perceived accusation from me: "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin"

 

You have quoted this several times already and I've brushed past it only because I wanted to address larger concerns. The quote you attribute as some type of accusation against you, is taken completely out of context and is actually a response to Peter and was framed as a question because I wanted to know if I understood him correctly. It is not an accusation and it is not directed at you at all, which is very clear from the context.

 

Secondly, as to my summary of your position, which you say is my own invention:

(The liberal media has) set the agenda for the Church  

 

 

 

Here's what you actually said, concluding a four-point breakdown of how the liberal media has manipulated the Church's positions:

So. Not really the Church setting the agenda as much as you might think.

 

 

 

I inferred from this, quite rightly i believe, that the liberal media was the entity steering the agenda, in your view. Perhaps I should've finished that with "to a large degree" or to a "greater extent than previously thought". Regardless of which footnote one chooses to add, it is clear that you believe the media has an influential role in setting the agenda for the Church. Not an invention on my part.

 

What quotations, specifically, from the papal interview are you thinking of specifically with regard to how "we" have "too often," etc., in relation to contraception specifically?

 

 

 I wouldn't attribute any of the Pope's quotations directly to the topic of contraception, but I do believe he addressed what he sees as a general imbalance in Church emphasis and that the majority of Catholics I've talked to about this, seem to know exactly what he's referring to. Again, it's ironic to me that with all of this blame of how the liberal media has twisted the Church's positions and set agendas etc, the Pope took no such issue with the media in the interview. Any imbalance in the cultural discussion is leveled at Church politics, hierarchy and imbalanced doctrinal emphasis ALONE (as it should be) I offer quotes here and have tried not to wrest them from their context, but that accusation is probably inevitable.

 

"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules."

 

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…  it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. "

 

"The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."

 

"We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

 

"The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ."

 

"Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. "

 

Edited by Greg P

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Greg P wrote:

: The quote you attribute as some type of accusation against you, is taken completely out of context and is actually a response to Peter and was framed as a question because I wanted to know if I understood him correctly.

Oh, did I not answer this yet? Sorry about that. The short, hasty answer is no, I do not believe there are *no* differences between this pope and previous popes. But as SDG says, they appear (so far) to be differences of emphasis and perspective rather than anything substantive. My point in linking to that quote of Benedict's, which sounds so much like the sort of thing Francis said in his recent interview, is to underscore that the differences between the two popes *are not what the media say they are*.

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First, this statement and perceived accusation from me: "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin"

You have quoted this several times already and I've brushed past it only because I wanted to address larger concerns. The quote you attribute as some type of accusation against you, is taken completely out of context and is actually a response to Peter and was framed as a question because I wanted to know if I understood him correctly. It is not an accusation and it is not directed at you at all, which is very clear from the context.

Perhaps you can help me clarify exactly what your accusation is, then. Here is what you actually say:

 

I think the New York Times piece took some obvious liberties in its framing of the Pope's interview, most egregiously to conservatives the bit surrounding the context and use of the word "obsessesion". Whatever liberties were taken by the press with that interview, I would argue that they still reported the spirit of the original text in a way that conservatives pundits have not. It would make far more sense for these Catholic journalists and bloggers like SDG to just admit their discomfort and say "Look, I didn't love the Pope's comments. I don't like where the Holy See is headed with this, but I'm Catholic so what can I do?" Instead what we get is this disingenuous spaghetti logic about "the liberal media did it" etc...

 

In isolation, the phrase "disingenuous spaghetti logic about 'the liberal media did it' etc" doesn't seem very clear or specific. What exactly am I and others supposed to have accused the media of doing that they didn't really do? How is this false charge implicated in "disingenuous spaghetti logic," whatever that means? In what way have conservative pundits distorted the spirit of the pope's words to a greater extent than the New York Times headline and lede? What is the nature or character of the conservative distortion?

It seemed to me that the most natural way to interpret your comments was that you saw conservative pundits wrapping themselves in knots ("disingenuous spaghetti logic") to deny any uncomfortable new reality (as opposed to "admitting their discomfort") in the pope's stance, effectively minimizing or denying any divergence between this pope and other popes, and by implication ascribing any appearance of divergence to media misrepresentation ("the media did it").

Was this reading mistaken? If you meant something very different from this, then I confess I'm at a loss to know what exactly I and others are being accused of.

And if you didn't mean something very different from this, then it seems to me that the proposition "this Pope is really no different than previous ones and that any perceived difference is really just media spin," despite having been originally phrased as a question in a parallel discussion with Peter, stands as a reasonable phrasing of your thesis in your own words.

At any rate, if you object to my application of this phrasing to your accusation, perhaps you could offer a better and clearer articulation of the indictment.

 

Secondly, as to my summary of your position, which you say is my own invention:

(The liberal media has) set the agenda for the Church

Here's what you actually said, concluding a four-point breakdown of how the liberal media has manipulated the Church's positions:

So. Not really the Church setting the agenda as much as you might think.

I inferred from this, quite rightly i believe, that the liberal media was the entity steering the agenda, in your view. Perhaps I should've finished that with "to a large degree" or to a "greater extent than previously thought". Regardless of which footnote one chooses to add, it is clear that you believe the media has an influential role in setting the agenda for the Church.

Not at all. The context for my comments in question — as I think should be very clear from the pattern I described — was my suspicion that you might not fully appreciate "the extent to which the media, not the Church, have shaped the discussion around the Church's positions." "The discussion around" the Church's positions refers not to the Church's own internal dialogue or dialogue with the world (which the media does not substantially shape), but to public dialogue about the Church's positions, notably in the media, which, it seems likely to me, is more responsible for shaping your own perceptions on the matter than what the Church herself has actually been saying.

In other words, my "four-part breakdown" was not about "how the liberal media has manipulated the Church's positions," but about how the media has manipulated public perception of the Church's positions.

Specifically, I was commenting on the disconnect between the reality that the Church herself has for decades been overwhelmingly silent about contraception and your perception that the the Church has made "cultural discussions about…contraception a priority in [its] public dialogues over the past few decades" — a perception grounded, so it seems to me, not in the Church's own internal dialogue or dialogue with the world, but in public dialogue about the Church's positions in the media.

As an aside, let me clarify an important point. You say:

 

As an addendum you said the Church has had no kind of crusade against these hot button topics, until Obama's policies forced the issue.

That is not what I said.

Specifically, I never said the Church had no crusade against abortion until Obama's policies forced the issue. That would be absurd. The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the pro-life movement since 1973. There are pro-life offices in most dioceses around the country. Of course the Catholic Church has a decades-long crusade against abortion.

It was specifically about contraception, and only contraception, that I said the Church has been "silent for decades." I didn't attend closely enough to the fact that in your reply you immediately broadened out the scope of discussion to "abortion, contraception and homosexuality," and went on to metonymize to "homosexuality and abortion," neither subjects concerning which I have claimed the Church has been silent.

So when you go on to say

 

I wouldn't attribute any of the Pope's quotations directly to the topic of contraception…

…then it seems likely to me that the substantial area under dispute between us contracts significantly.

You continue:

 

…but I do believe he addressed what he sees as a general imbalance in Church emphasis and that the majority of Catholics I've talked to about this, seem to know exactly what he's referring to. Again, it's ironic to me that with all of this blame of how the liberal media has twisted the Church's positions and set agendas etc, the Pope took no such issue with the media in the interview. Any imbalance in the cultural discussion is leveled at Church politics, hierarchy and imbalanced doctrinal emphasis ALONE (as it should be) I offer quotes here and have tried not to wrest them from their context, but that accusation is probably inevitable.

Why do you close with that pre-emptive jab? Why assume that I'm likely to accuse you of something you say you've tried not to do? Why suppose that such an accusation is "probably inevitable"?

As it happens, I'm not going to accuse of that — and not because of your pre-emptive jab, but because you've offered a) quotations without explicit commentary, and b.) explicitly clarified that you wouldn't apply any of the pope's quotations (except of course the one that explicitly mentions contraception!) to the topic of contraception. What would a charge of "taking quotations out of context" even mean under these circumstances?

I'll even acknowledge that Pope Francis may well perceive contraception to be among a number of topics that have at times been presented as part of a "disjointed multitude of doctrines" and even "imposed insistently," etc. That doesn't necessarily contradict my thesis that the Church has been for decades overwhelmingly silent on the subject.

For one thing, I'm speaking primarily of the Church "in this country," and secondarily of the popes as spokesmen for the Church as a whole. Pope Francis is from the global South, from South America. The cultural realities there may be significantly different. Francis addresses a world that is much broader than the United States; we mustn't assume everything he says is meant for us, or applies to us. 

Finally, any hope that Pope Francis' comments might herald some radical about-face in Church teaching is, I submit, rash, misguided and doomed to disappointment.

Although Pope Francis included abortion in the topics of discussion about which he said the Church needed to find a "new balance," he went on to condemn abortion the very next day after the interview appeared, as previously noted. 

Only four years ago, as Cardinal Bergoglio, he condemned proposed same-sex marriage legislation in Argentina as "a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." There is no reason to think that his basic views on the subject have changed in four years. Even in his famous "who am I to judge?" comments, it's clear that he still regards homosexual acts as sinful. 

Finally, without any accusation of taking quotations out of context, allow me to quote more fully one of the commonly quoted lines (about "small-minded rules") from the interview:

 

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that.

Pope Francis' critique of "small-minded rules" does not, then, represent a tendency toward greater laxity, or toward declaring as non-sins what were previously declared to be sins.

As I understand Pope Francis's comments here, it is not the Church's moral beliefs themselves that are "small-minded rules," but the proclamation of moral rules (perhaps of either type, rigorist or lax) in a way insufficiently bound to the overarching narrative of the gospel and an authentic commitment to the good of the person.

I've tried not to engage in disingenuous spaghetti logic here. I'll dare to hope that will be reasonably clear to all charitable readers. 

Edited by SDG

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Rod Dreher, in an interesting blog post on why Pope Francis's seemingly "merciful" words only confirm Dreher's decision to leave Catholicism for Orthodoxy, offers an apropos observation that bears on recent discussion in this thread: 
 

If you only know about the Catholic Church from reading the papers, you are in for a shock once you come inside. The image of American Catholicism shown by the media is of a church preoccupied with sex and abortion. It’s not remotely true. I was a faithful mass-going Catholic for 13 years, attending a number of parishes in five cities in different parts of the country. I could count on one hand the number of homilies I heard that addressed abortion or sexuality in any way. Rather, the homilies were wholly therapeutic, almost always some saccharine variation of God is love
 
…Was I frustrated because the priests wouldn’t preach God’s judgment instead of God’s mercy? By no means. I was frustrated because they wouldn’t preach God’s judgment at all, which is to say, they preached Christ without the Cross. 
 
…Broadly speaking, there seemed to me to be no particular interest in the American Catholic church in repentance, because there was no particular interest in the reality of sin. The stereotypical idea of the Catholic Church as a sin-obsessed, legalistic hothouse surely came from somewhere. But for Catholics like me, born in the late 1960s, this cramped and miserable picture of the church may as well have come from antiquity.

 
Dreher's indictment of the state of mainstream homiletics and catechesis in the Catholic Church in America is absolutely on target.
 
Even though I said above that on the subject of abortion the Church has certainly not been silent and has even been at the forefront of the pro-life movement, it's a very low-level crusade.
 
There's very little overtly political activism (since pro-life skews Republican, and American Catholicism traditionally skews Democratic). Very few bishops (prior to the last two or three years) have been able to bring themselves to suggest that Catholics shouldn't vote for candidates who support abortion, or suggest that abortion is in any way a bigger deal morally than, say, immigration policy or having the right education agenda.
 
Hell, we still can't more than a few prominent conservative bishops to agree that canon 915 in the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should be denied communion, should be applied to pro-abortion Catholic politicians—which is really just a matter of reading the words and applying them to reality. 
 
If Catholic politicians can openly support abortion and then walk into any Catholic church in Washington, DC, or most anywhere in the country, and openly receive communion, it's hard to say the Church is all that "obsessed" even with ending abortion. 
 
And that's abortion. Dreher doesn't even mention contraception, and with good reason: Chances are he never heard a single homily on the subject. Very few American Catholics had, prior to the threat of the HHS mandate—and even after that it hasn't exactly been a hot topic of discussion.

Edited by SDG

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Why do you close with that pre-emptive jab? Why assume that I'm likely to accuse you of something you say you've tried not to do? Why suppose that such an accusation is "probably inevitable"?

Because-- if I can be totally forthcoming here-- I feel that you are more often concerned with precisely how things are said, rather than general tenor of what is being said, which can sometimes stymie the ebb and flow of discussions. I brace myself accordingly going into any dialogue with you. This "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel" is helpful in legal proceedings or policy-writing, but presents a problem in discussion boards like this, where time is of the essence and most of us are typing between service calls, phone messages, meetings or gulps of quick lunch protein shake. I wish I had the time or energy to be more thorough, and the literary chops to be able to frame an argument in a more grammatically concise manner. I sometimes find that you take a single word and sidetrack the discussion because it rubs you the wrong way or it's not quite as precise as you require it to be (your above post is a case in point for me). Of course, having said that, don't think for a minute that i'm not aware or critical of my own tendencies in these debates. Hope this isn't offensive. 

 

Perhaps you can help me clarify exactly what your accusation is, then. Here is what you actually say:

 

 

I will. But first just accept and acknowledge that you've been misquoting me. You have not been accused of what you claim. The statement you've quoted me repeatedly on, was actually a question posed to brother Peter a bit earlier. 

 

 

Not at all. The context for my comments in question — as I think should be very clear from the pattern I described — was my suspicion that you might not fully appreciate "the extent to which the media, not the Church, have shaped the discussion around the Church's positions."

 

I understood what you meant and my response should have been more precise. I knew you weren't saying the media shaped the Church's positions but rather the cultural discussions around the Church's positions.

 

 

 

Specifically, I was commenting on the disconnect between the reality that the Church herself has for decades been overwhelmingly silent about contraception and your perception that the the Church has made "cultural discussions about…contraception a priority in [its] public dialogues over the past few decades" — a perception grounded, so it seems to me, not in the Church's own internal dialogue or dialogue with the world, but in public dialogue about the Church's positions in the media.

 

If we can leave our other arguments behind for a moment, this is where we fundamentally and most profoundly disagree. It's also an issue that may be impossible to objectively prove, either way.

 

Just because papal encyclicals haven't devoted inordinate attention to the subject, doesn't mean that the American Church in practice hasn't made these things an emphasis for decades. Just because the recent Popes have perhaps (and I say "perhaps" because I'm unprepared to cite data) only mentioned these issues in passing, doesn't mean that the Catholic political apparatus in America hasn't trumpeted the issues repeatedly and resoundingly, and used all means to get the message out. I know I've heard my fair share from Catholic friends, family members, homilies and articles. 

 

Of course, that's all anecdotal.

 

But so is the "liberal media consistently shapes the cultural agenda for the Church"... unless of course you can cite the actual data for the number of times the media writes about the Church and frames the discussion negatively on these hot button topics or else only covers the Catholic hot button topics at the expense of more substantive matters that affect the general public. Maybe one of these independent fact-checker groups has done this already. I'd be interested and open to any data, if it exists.

 

To blame the liberal media for the Church's own imbalance is what I was referring to as "knee-jerk cognitive dissonance" and "spaghetti logic". To be blunt, If I want to read about backslidden Church members "committing contraception" and possibly jeopardizing their eternal future, I won't find it in the New York Times, I'll find it on the blog of one of your favorite "moderate" Catholic writers. When the Pope admits and acknowledges the propensity to be locked up in "small things" and "small-minded" rules, he wasn't talking about the liberal media. He was talking about the Church and her priests. And such acknowledgements are obvious to most, as much-needed and timely advice. When the Pope said, "we cannot insist only on the issues of abortion, homosexuality and contraception" , it's because first and foremost the Church has been guilty of insisting on these things at the expense of more pressing things. For conservative Catholics to take this basic context and  then turn it into an issue of the liberal media manipulating and setting the cultural discussion, is to ignore the most obvious in favor of one more Us vs. Them/ liberal vs conservative construct.    

Edited by Greg P

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Why do you close with that pre-emptive jab? Why assume that I'm likely to accuse you of something you say you've tried not to do? Why suppose that such an accusation is "probably inevitable"?

Because-- if I can be totally forthcoming here-- I feel that you are more often concerned with precisely how things are said, rather than general tenor of what is being said, which can sometimes stymie the ebb and flow of discussions. I brace myself accordingly going into any dialogue with you. This "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel" is helpful in legal proceedings or policy-writing, but presents a problem in discussion boards like this, where time is of the essence and most of us are typing between service calls, phone messages, meetings or gulps of quick lunch protein shake. I wish I had the time or energy to be more thorough, and the literary chops to be able to frame an argument in a more grammatically concise manner.

I sometimes find that you take a single word and sidetrack the discussion because it rubs you the wrong way or it's not quite as precise as you require it to be (your above post is a case in point for me). Of course, having said that, don't think for a minute that i'm not aware or critical of my own tendencies in these debates. Hope this isn't offensive.

This is all well taken, in general. I think I usually consider the precision I strain for to be something between a gnat and a camel, worth straining for if not always of the essence in the discussion, but when passions are high I can see where I might be susceptible (though no examples come to mind) to the temptation to use precision as a rhetorical weapon to score points or control the flow of discussion. I'm not above that.

I'm trying to measure my words and avoid unnecessary polemicism here, among other things by taking a substantial break between replies, so as not to reply too much in the heat of the moment. Any cooperation you can offer regarding whatever unspecified issues you have with your own tendencies in these debates is appreciated.

Speaking of which, I especially appreciate that tacked-on acknowledgement about your own problematic tendencies. Considering I started out accusing myself of coming at you with a chip on your shoulder and displaying a regrettable tendency to escalate rather than de-escalate, even as I've indicated that I don't think I'm the sole cause of the problem, it's nice to know that even if you feel you have zero animosity towards me and no axe to grind, you don't necessarily absolve yourself of all blame.

For what it's worth, I too brace myself for engaging you. The outcome of each of us bracing for engaging the other is, I think, less than ideal. I'm trying to break the pattern.

 

I will. But first just accept and acknowledge that you've been misquoting me. You have not been accused of what you claim. The statement you've quoted me repeatedly on, was actually a question posed to brother Peter a bit earlier.

 

I accept and acknowledge, as I already indicated above, that I — knowingly and deliberately, even — quoted, out of context, a comment from your post to Peter, repurposing it as (so it seemed to me) a convergent characterization of what it seemed to me you were saying about "conservative pundits" generally and me specifically.

 

In doing so, had no intention or thought of misleading you or anyone else into supposing that I took those specific words to have been written by you in regard to conservative pundits generally or me specifically. In that sense, it wasn't intended by me as a "quotation" of you at all, with respect to what you wrote about conservative pundits. It was just a convenient shorthand, in your own words as it happened to be, of what it seemed to me you were alleging in the case of conservative pundits, given what I saw as a not coincidental convergence between the proposed state of affairs in your question to Peter and the proposed state of affairs in your comments about conservative pundits.

 

If you say your actual intent was otherwise, I'm willing to accept that, in principle. I'm still not sure I understand what your intent was, but we'll get to that.

 

I understood what you meant and my response should have been more precise. I knew you weren't saying the media shaped the Church's positions but rather the cultural discussions around the Church's positions.

Okay, but hold on. I hope you won't think I'm straining at gnats if I point out that the original issue wasn't simply whether the media shaped the Church's positions or only the cultural discussions around the Church's position, but whether I was "painting the Church as some weak entity constantly being assailed and misrepresented by the almighty media." I think if you were in my place you might object to having those words put in your mouth, too.

 

Specifically, I was commenting on the disconnect between the reality that the Church herself has for decades been overwhelmingly silent about contraception and your perception that the the Church has made "cultural discussions about…contraception a priority in [its] public dialogues over the past few decades" — a perception grounded, so it seems to me, not in the Church's own internal dialogue or dialogue with the world, but in public dialogue about the Church's positions in the media.

If we can leave our other arguments behind for a moment, this is where we fundamentally and most profoundly disagree. It's also an issue that may be impossible to objectively prove, either way.

Just because papal encyclicals haven't devoted inordinate attention to the subject, doesn't mean that the American Church in practice hasn't made these things an emphasis for decades. Just because the recent Popes have perhaps (and I say "perhaps" because I'm unprepared to cite data) only mentioned these issues in passing, doesn't mean that the Catholic political apparatus in America hasn't trumpeted the issues repeatedly and resoundingly, and used all means to get the message out. I know I've heard my fair share from Catholic friends, family members, homilies and articles.

 

If we're going to finally clear this up and address the actual claim of mine with which you took so much umbrage, calling it "outrageous," we need to stop speaking generically of "these things" and "these issues," etc, and address the specific subject my comment addressed: contraception.

Is it your contention that the American Church, in practice, has made contraception an emphasis of their moral teaching for decades? That the "Catholic political apparatus in America" has trumpeted contraception repeatedly and resoundingly, using all means to get the message out?

Because that is precisely what I'm saying bears no relationship whatsoever to reality as experienced in the daily, weekly and yearly lives of countless lifelong Catholics. There is no meaningful sense — none whatsoever — in which it can be said that the American Church as an entity, or the "Catholic political apparatus in America" (whatever that means), has made an "emphasis" of contraception, "trumpeting" it "repeatedly and resoundingly, using all means to get the message out," etc.

The most that can be said is that a few comparatively lonely voices in the worlds of "conservative" Catholic publishing, academia and apologetics have spoken out in a vast sea of apathy, silence and dissent, attempting to help Catholics rediscover this most widely despised and neglected of Catholic teachings.

People like Janet Smith, Christopher West and Jason Evert have written books and given talks on Catholic sexuality, including contraception. Lay organizations -- note well, lay organizations -- like Catholic Answers and EWTN have published and taken to the airwaves in defense of Catholic teaching.

But the Church, as the Church?

The bishops? I can't think of a single peep on the subject prior to the HHS mandate from the USCCB, or from any local bishops conference. Has any individual bishop ever said anything on the subject? I can't rule it out, but I'm confident that the vast majority have said precisely nothing, and only a minority have made more than a token affirmation of the Church's teaching.

Certainly I've not heard of a single bishop or bishops' conference prior to the HHS mandate even circulating a letter to be read in parishes in their dioceses. That's a pretty basic, low-level "means of getting the message out" to omit, if the goal was really to use "all means." I honestly don't know what means would have been used. Such a claim has to go beyond "Some of my Catholic friends tell me they've heard homilies," etc.

Mainstream Catholic academia? Catholic University, Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgetown, Villanova, Fordham? Ha! Hardly. Quite the opposite in fact.

Catholic politicians? What, exactly, would Catholic politicians, as politicians, have been militating for or against, prior to the HHS mandate? I don't remember any Catholic politicians fulminating to outlaw private insurance plans from optionally covering contraception, or anything like that.

 

To blame the liberal media for the Church's own imbalance is what I was referring to as "knee-jerk cognitive dissonance" and "spaghetti logic".

But when did I do this? When have I made any comment on the Church's imbalances in reference to the media? When have I blamed the liberal media for anything other than public misperceptions of the Church's stances or culture?

 

To be blunt, If I want to read about backslidden Church members "committing contraception" and possibly jeopardizing their eternal future, I won't find it in the New York Times, I'll find it on the blog of one of your favorite "moderate" Catholic writers.

And my oldest friend, and the godfather and confirmation sponsor of my son James. So, smile when you use those ironic scare quotes.

What's your point? That Jimmy takes Catholic teaching seriously and may use language you find precious?

I'm well aware that the very suggestion that contraception is gravely sinful elicits a powerful emotional response from you. I have a similarly powerful emotional response to the use of contraception itself, especially the pollution of marriage by contraception. Our viewpoints are offensive to one another. How does this violent disagreement indict anyone in "spaghetti logic"?

 

When the Pope admits and acknowledges the propensity to be locked up in "small things" and "small-minded" rules, he wasn't talking about the liberal media. He was talking about the Church and her priests.

True. But as I've indicated, this doesn't mean the pope thinks the Church's teaching on abortion, homosexuality or even contraception should change. He seems just as critical of the laxist dodge that says "This is not a sin" as of the rigorist dodge that "leaves it to the commandment." His point is that "when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

 

And such acknowledgements are obvious to most, as much-needed and timely advice. When the Pope said, "we cannot insist only on the issues of abortion, homosexuality and contraception" , it's because first and foremost the Church has been guilty of insisting on these things at the expense of more pressing things. For conservative Catholics to take this basic context and then turn it into an issue of the liberal media manipulating and setting the cultural discussion, is to ignore the most obvious in favor of one more Us vs. Them/ liberal vs conservative construct.

This seems to me a total non sequitur, not least in light of your own dismissive, divisive use of labels like "ultraconservative" (and scarcastic use of "moderate," meaning the opposite).

Allow me to review some salient facts that I think we should be able to agree on:

1) Pope Francis gave a far-ranging and thoughtful interview criticizing elements within the Church of a tyranny of "small things" and "small-minded rules." Warning against various dangers, from the danger of being "obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently" to the danger of laxity that simply says "This is not a sin," the Pope urged Christians to rediscover the riches of the Gospel, putting first things first, proclaiming God who is greater than sin and living authentic commitment to one's neighbor, etc.

2) The New York Times wrote an article about this interview that at one time bore a moderate headline that actually reasonably encapsulated this message: "Pope, Criticizing Narrow Focus, Calls for Church as 'Home for All'."

3) The Times then replaced that moderate headline with an egregiously provocative, distorted, flat-out false one: "Pope Says Church Is 'Obsessed' With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control." Even you admitted, in what I would call highly understated language, that the Times "took some obvious liberties in its framing of the Pope's interview."

4) I banged out a short (under 325 words!) little blog post doing little more than pointing out, in a flippant, provocative style, the obvious fact of 2) and 3), largely for the amusement of my readers, whom I knew would enjoy this ironic about-face. I also pointed out the news flash that Pope Francis still believes that abortion is wrong, and linked to actual analysis of the interview (sober and realistic, IMO) from my friend Jimmy.

I proposed no grand narrative about "the liberal media" manipulating or setting any agenda. I offered no interpretation or commentary on Pope Francis's comments generally or their relationship either to problems in Church culture or previous papal stances.

My post was not, in short, a response to Pope Francis's interview at all, only a humorous throwaway commentary on the Times's knuckleheaded about-face (at least in its headline and lede) from moderate journalism to provocateur attack activism/commentary.

For some reason, though, such commentary seems to be judged by you out of bounds. Somehow, by simply noticing and commenting, however briefly or flippantly, on the Times's journalistic malpractice, I find myself implicated in your mind in "knee-jerk cognitive dissonance" and "spaghetti logic."

Perhaps you feel that the Pope's message is so urgent and transcendent that in its light the vagaries of MSM journalistic malpractice should be beneath the notice of Catholics, even in passing. Perhaps you feel that by even deigning to make fun of the New York Times, I've somehow betrayed the spirit of the Pope's message. Perhaps you feel that the need to focus on the integral authenticity of the Gospel is such that the only authentic blogging response would be to blog about the Pope's Message And What The Church Must Do, and take a pass on the ha-has about the silly New York Times.

If that's your stance, you're welcome to it, except, well, I doubt that really is your stance. But I'm at something of a loss to figure out what you are saying, and what my little blog post is supposed to indict me of.

Edited by SDG

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Listen, guys...if Bill Maher likes the Pope, he is uh... Poping... wrong.  ;)

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Listen, guys...if Bill Maher likes the Pope, he is uh... Poping... wrong.  wink.png

 

What should we conclude from the widespread popularity among various heathens and pagans of Mother Teresa, Saint Francis of Assisi and Jesus of Nazareth?

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Listen, guys...if Bill Maher likes the Pope, he is uh... Poping... wrong.  wink.png

This is actually segues into a really interesting point that was addressed on an NPR show I listened to a couple of weeks ago. One journalist had a beef with what he perceived as an almost universal media bias in praise of this Pope, with virtually no negative coverage by any major outlets. Not sure if I agree, but the man does seem to have struck a chord with people outside the Church in a way that his predecessor did not. This is good, right?

 

 

 

This is all well taken, in general. I think I usually consider the precision I strain for to be something between a gnat and a camel, worth straining for if not always of the essence in the discussion, but when passions are high I can see where I might be susceptible (though no examples come to mind) to the temptation to use precision as a rhetorical weapon to score points or control the flow of discussion. I'm not above that.

 

 

  Thanks for this. And let me add that even with some "bracing" and occasional sparks flying, in the end, I almost always appreciate the discussion. I also think the sparks have a lot to do with the limitations of the online forum. I'm confident if we were in the same room together this would not be an issue (I'm actually a lot more affable and goofy in person than I am in my posts)

 

I will try and address these other issues in a bit...

Edited by Greg P

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Um, wow. So I was just making a few tweaks to my latest post above, and when I clicked "Save changes," boom, the bottom half of my post was gone. The board just swallowed it. Nothing I could do to get it back.

 

Fortunately, I believe I have most of it in a text file at home. I've become so distrustful of the board that I've been working in text files and carefully pasting content in, sometimes block by block because the tag editor seems to have become dodgy lately, randomly misplacing quote tags and such.

 

I'll try to restore the post tonight.

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Listen, guys...if Bill Maher likes the Pope, he is uh... Poping... wrong.  wink.png

 

What should we conclude from the widespread popularity among various heathens and pagans of Mother Teresa, Saint Francis of Assisi and Jesus of Nazareth?

 

 

 

That is different.  I am speaking only of Bill Maher.  (And just trying to take a moment of lightness here  I was not being serious in least about Maher...hence the made up word "Poping".)  smile.png

Edited by Thom Wade

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That is different.  I am speaking only of Bill Maher.  (And just trying to take a moment of lightness here  I was not being serious in least about Maher...hence the made up word "Poping".)  smile.png

 

Gotcha. To, me, though, it seems the shoe is on the other foot: If anything, I think Maher is "atheisting" wrong -- as evidenced by his obvious cognitive dissonance (knee-jerk or otherwise) over Francis' faith, even going so far as to speculate that Francis might be an atheist!

 

The reality is that Francis' whole thought and worldview is so supernaturally oriented, and so specifically Christological and Christocentric, as to pose a challenge even to devout believers.

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Um, wow. So I was just making a few tweaks to my latest post above, and when I clicked "Save changes," boom, the bottom half of my post was gone. The board just swallowed it. Nothing I could do to get it back.

 

Fortunately, I believe I have most of it in a text file at home. I've become so distrustful of the board that I've been working in text files and carefully pasting content in, sometimes block by block because the tag editor seems to have become dodgy lately, randomly misplacing quote tags and such.

 

I'll try to restore the post tonight.

 

SDG, I have the board set up to give me email notifications for every new post in every thread I've posted in, so I still have the entire text of your post in an email. If you're not able to restore it, I can help you.

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Pope Francis! Almost thou persuadest me to be a Catholic!   [edited to include the original article]

 

Some wonderful comments here. 

 

The most serious evils facing the world these days? The most urgent problems that need to be addressed? Committing contraception? Abortion? Homosexuality? Nope.

The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: Can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.

 

 

This feels spot on to me. Although I would add a couple more items to the list, like political corruption, oppression, the rights of women in other countries, lack of education and healthcare in third world nations...

 

 

And, amen!

 

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

“I believe … that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace. … I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.”

 

Edited by Greg P

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Seriously, this pope. I like him. A Catholic friend, grasping for a single term to describe Francis (after having described the previous two popes as a 'hero' and a 'teacher', respectively), settled on a 'lover'.

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Seriously, this interview speaks to me in a way that makes Christian things seem lovely and fetching again, even to an old, burned-out post-evangelical curmudgeon like moi. 

 

He also happens to touch on themes that I feel very much need to be said in this wider cultural climate of abrasive political/religious conflict. I know the fallout from conservatives is a-comin'. And as per morgan1098's link, Evangelicals are firing their volley into the discussion, because of course they think the Pope's gone "weak on sin", which in their world is the highest offense imaginable.

Edited by Greg P

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This feels spot on to me. Although I would add a couple more items to the list, like political corruption, oppression, the rights of women in other countries, lack of education and healthcare in third world nations...

 

 

I know what you';re saying but then it strikes me that he's chosen two evils which are non-divisive and universal, whose victims are our children, our parents, ourselves. There's really no conventional enemy to blame, no 'us' or 'them'. And what he's really decrying is isolation, vulnerability, despair. 

 

The reality is that Francis' whole thought and worldview is so supernaturally oriented, and so specifically Christological and Christocentric, as to pose a challenge even to devout believers.

 

 

And I would never call myself a devout believer and am in some lights an outsider. Yet this is what Christianity has always meant to me, the emphasis I've come back to, try and fail to live by , the hook I don't want to be let off. So at first I was dismayed that his words wouldn't be unequivocally stirring and heartening to everyone else. I understand the reservation better now, though, and I don't want to disparage people's principles or tenets of faith. 

 

I agree this Pope is remarkably popular and believe that's because (or maybe I mean for the same reason) Christ is. When  atheistst and agnostics and members of other religions reproach us with what Jesus would do, with hypocricy and treachery and small-minded faith, it's a s much a testament to Him as a jab or dig at us. 

Some people may be quoting or praising Pope Francis because they don't think for themselves and parrot media. 

B ut many, I'm convinced, are truly disarmed and impressed. Often in spite of themselves, in spite of a residual mistrust of religion in general and perhaps the V atican in particular. 

 

Anyway, I love the enthuthiasm and the recognition of what someone called Jesusism. I love the hopeful note this thread ended on. 

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