Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Political Papacy: A Sunday Rumination

     This is a supremely difficult subject for me to address. I’m merely a lay Catholic, in no way a voice of authority. I write from my own, utterly personal perspective. I love my Church, but only insofar as it remains faithful to the teachings of Christ Who founded it. When the Church goes astray – when it deviates from the teachings of Christ – Catholics’ moral and spiritual obligation is to cleave to Him and do what we can to correct the Church.

     Please keep that in mind as you read what follows.

     Organizations are magnets for those who desire power or influence over others. As I’ve written on several previous occasions, the dynamic of power guarantees that “the worst” – those persons most driven by power-lust and least concerned with the ostensible mission of the organization – will “get on top,” as Friedrich Hayek has told us. Thus it comes as little surprise to learn that the College of Cardinals has been corrupted by power-seeking and the consequent formation of “cabals:”

     Catholic journalist Edward Pentin got his hands on a copy of the authorized —repeat, authorized — biography of retired Belgian cardinal Godfried Danneels. Blockbuster stuff in it, according to Pentin’s report. Excerpts:
     At the launch of the book in Brussels this week, the cardinal said he was part of a secret club of cardinals opposed to Pope Benedict XVI.

     He called it a “mafia” club that bore the name of St. Gallen. The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it “much more modern”, and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. The group, which also comprised Cardinal Walter Kasper and the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has been documented in Austen Ivereigh’s biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer. ...

     It was also revealed this week that he once wrote a letter to the Belgium government favoring same-sex “marriage” legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups.

     The cardinal is already known for having once advised the king of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990, for telling a victim of clerical sex abuse to keep quiet, and for refusing to forbid pornographic, “educational” materials being used in Belgian Catholic schools.

     He also once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development,” although he has sought to distinguish such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.

     Thus, we learn that Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio was the choice of a group of politically-minded cardinals, who worked studiously to elevate him to the Throne of St. Peter. Given that, should it surprise anyone that Pope Francis has politicized his papacy – that his principal concern is the influence he can wield over governments?

     No other pontiff ever addressed the Congress of the United States or the General Assembly of the United Nations. I’d like to think that, had those opportunities been offered to John Paul II or Benedict XVI, they would have declined them as outside the proper role of the Vicar of Christ on Earth. I could be wrong, but that is my belief. But then, it’s also my belief that any cleric’s entire responsibility lies in safeguarding the spiritual welfare of his flock. The Holy Father’s flock is merely the largest such.

     As is always the case when a hierarchically elevated figure speaks, the reverberations travel far and wide.

     Let us all remember and reflect on what Jesus said:

     When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
     And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
     And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
     Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
     For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
     Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
     Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
     When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
     Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
     And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
     Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
     For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
     I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
     Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
     Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
     And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

     [The Gospel According To Matthew, 25:31-46]

     I don’t see a word in there about governments, or voting; do you?

     Christ’s message to the world was about our conduct as individuals. If the Gospels are a reliable guide, He never once said anything about governments or public policy. Moreover, when He told us to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” He beautifully skirted the question of what “the things that are Caesar’s” might be; considering the pervasive and inarguable lawlessness of governments, that, too, is a question properly resolved by the individual conscience. And let us not forget that He effectively forbade a bloodthirsty crowd to stone “the woman taken in adultery,” making it plain that temporal punishment is not appropriate for a spiritual sin.

     When a cleric of any altitude whatsoever deviates from Christ’s prescriptions and proscriptions for individual conduct, he ceases to function as a cleric. From deacon to Supreme Pontiff, the consequences are the same: he lays down his shepherd’s crook and becomes just one more crank venting his own opinions. When a man upon whom has been bestowed the Throne of St. Peter does so, he abuses the authority of that chair by yoking the respect felt for its occupant to his personal agenda.

     The deleterious effects are being felt in parishes around the world.

     Allow me to close with two snippets of fiction. The first comes from a writer whose religious inclinations I don’t know, but who has written more feelingly and accurately about the malaise that besets contemporary Christian churches than any clerical authority:

     'You see, the overall concept of evil in the Catholic Church has undergone a radical change in this century. Do you know what caused it?'
     'I imagine it was Freud.'
     'Very good. The Catholic Church began to cope with a new concept as it marched into the twentieth century: evil with a small "e". With a devil that was not a red-horned monster complete with spiked tall and cloven hooves, or a serpent crawling through the garden - although that is a remarkably apt psychological image. The devil, according to the Gospel According to Freud, would be a gigantic composite id, the subconscious of all of us.'
     'Surely a more stupendous concept than red-tailed boogies or demons with such sensitive noses that they can be banished with one good fart from a constipated churchman,' Matt said.
     'Stupendous, of course. But impersonal. Merciless. Untouchable. Banishing Freud's devil is as impossible as Shylock's bargain to extract a pound of flesh without spilling a drop of blood. The Catholic Church has been forced to reinterpret its whole approach to evil - bombers over Cambodia, the war in Ireland and the Middle East, cop-killings and ghetto riots, the billion smaller evils loosed on the world each day like a plague of gnats. It is in the process of shedding its old medicine-man skin and re-emerging as a socially active, socially conscious body. The inner city rap-center ascendant over the confessional. Communion playing second fiddle to the civil rights movement and urban renewal. The church has been in the process of planting both feet in this world.'
     'Where there are no witches or incubi or vampires,' Matt said, 'but only child-beating, incest, and the rape of the environment.'
     Matt said deliberately, 'And you hate it, don't you?'
     'Yes,' Callahan said quietly. 'I think it's an abomination. It's the Catholic Church's way of saying that God isn't dead, only a little senile. And I guess that's my answer, isn't it? '

     [Stephen King, Salem’s Lot]

     No one could say it better than that. Certainly not I. But it must be said...and I did try to say it:

     Schliemann took his duties seriously. His vision of those duties was clear, and quite at odds with the notions of most newer priests. He had little patience for the social-activist clergymen, whatever their denomination. They seemed to want to make their churches into gathering places for the envious and self-pitying. They were infinitely willing to use politics to impose their visions of good upon others. Father Heinrich Schliemann led no marches, signed no petitions, and never talked politics. While the prelates of the American Church tacitly permitted the social-activist priests to convert the legacy of Saint Peter into a stained-glass staging area for the crusades of special interest groups, the pastor of Onteora parish remained exclusively a man of God.

     [From On Broken Wings]

     Stand against the politicization of the papacy and the Church. We have more to lose by allowing it than words are capable of expressing.

     May God bless and keep you all.

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