Provincialism of the present in papal polemics

September 28, 2013 § 17 Comments

I’ve mentioned before that I am watching from a distance, with a kind of bemusement, all of the various reactions to Pope Francis.  I personally haven’t read a single thing he has said that – read charitably – I disagree with; although I haven’t been reading and scrutinizing everything he says at all, so that may not say much.  For example I have seen a few snippets of, but have not read, the Big Scandalous Interview that has everyone so worked up.

Well, there is one exception.  His remarks about the Church “talking too much about abortion” do strike me as … uninformed.  I’ve been to lots of Masses of course, and the number of Masses where abortion is mentioned at all are very few and far between.  And I can understand how those specific remarks could be demoralizing to folks who have dedicated their lives to fighting abortion, which is one of the largest-scale atrocities ever committed by human beings in all of history, far outstripping anything done by the Nazis or the Communists.  I wonder if the Holy Father’s perspective on this is skewed by Argentinian provincialism, because Argentina is a Catholic enough country that abortion is illegal there[1].

But here is the thing.  Lets grant – purely for the sake of argument – that Francis is a terrible heretic out there saying and doing all sorts of scandalous things.  People who think that a pope saying and doing scandalous things contrary to doctrine undermines Catholic ecclesiology simply have to be, among other things, ignorant about some of the basic history of the Church.  They simply must be suffering from a kind of provincialism of the present.

What precisely is it that makes such people think that the current age deserves – that we personally deserve – a better pope than Alexander VI or Benedict IX?

It would be wildly out of character, but I can’t help but picture John Paul II kind of winking at traditionalists and saying “miss me yet?”

195-JPIIBonoGlasses01

(This post is an expanded version of a comment I left at the Orthosphere).

[1] There is a “life of the mother” exception written into the law, as I understand it.  If that exception permits doctors to perform any procedure whatsoever to save the mother, no matter what that procedure entails, it goes against Catholic doctrine and the natural law.  If however it carefully delimits procedures and circumstances it might not.  But in any case the point is that abortion as a political football is quite different in Francis’ homeland than it is in the first world, so his personal view of how things are in America and Europe could be wildly inaccurate.

§ 17 Responses to Provincialism of the present in papal polemics

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I personally haven’t read a single thing he has said that – read charitably – I disagree with; although I haven’t been reading and scrutinizing everything he says at all, so that may not say much.

    This is my view as well. As a person with some sort of right/conservative cast of mind, I remind myself that the cast of my mind isn’t the measure of things. Just because I don’t like the way what someone says sounds, that doesn’t mean they actually said something against me, or what I believe.

    And the charity employed in the reading isn’t terribly gymnastic. I just have to not be lying in linguistic wait.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    There’s a lot of linguistic wait on blogs; information super-highwaymen.

  • Alan K says:

    I’m in the same boat, not seeing any obvious pattern in his statements, but not looking too closely, either. I certainly don’t see any gross heresy, despite the occasionally “odd” comment as Zippy mentioned. Maybe a pattern will emerge. The “talking too much about abortion” quote is really vague. I can just as easily see this as a dismissive gesture, as if to say, “Hey, this is simple. Abortion is bad. Don’t do it. Let’s move on. What’s the problem?” A call to stop the kibitzing and hand-wringing, perhaps? (such as Exodus 14:15, for instance) We’ll see what he means by it, eventually.

    information super-highwaymen

    Heh, I like it. You might have a new caricature on your hands. It’s better than my previous favorite, “com-box guttersnipe.”

  • Scott W. says:

    And the charity employed in the reading isn’t terribly gymnastic. I just have to not be lying in linguistic wait.

    True. I often have to police myself for the Skim-until-Offended habit.

  • Blogmaster says:

    Zippy, there’s no question that we don’t deserve a good pope. We deserve the worst of the worst. But the objective problem is that a bad pope is capable of doing great harm to the Church, and to those who might otherwise belong to the Church. Catholics should care about that. Is Pope Francis is a bad pope? It’s too early to tell, but the present trajectory is not encouraging.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    Information Superhighwaymen is a great term, though it might overly romanticize the phenomenon. The Internet can be like an endless sea of trapdoor spiders.

    Jeff:
    I certainly agree that a bad Pope can do a lot of damage. What I don’t understand (and this isn’t addressed toward what you have written at all) is the kind of ecclesiological crisis that seems to afflict some folks – notably Laura Wood, but she is just a current face of the sedevacantist tendency.

    Mind you I don’t “get” ultramontanism either. In fact ultramontanism and sedevacantism seem kind of “of a piece”.

    Separately, I really don’t see what is so Borgia about Bergoglio. There are no signs that he ranks among the worst popes that we’ve had throughout history. I haven’t heard anything that would surprise me coming from a bishop from South America, and that is who the guy is. The conclave isn’t a secret ritual in which the Chosen One is endowed with super powers.

    The caveat is that I really haven’t been paying close attention to his words and deeds. Mostly it has been a matter of some commenter saying that the sky is falling because Francis said X, but when I look at the actual words I just don’t see it.

    And he did start his papacy by excommunicating a notorious progressive heretic. I’d frankly rather have a pope who is willing to do that at this point than a great orator, a savvy PR guy, or a master theologian. Some people want all of those things at once. They seem to forget that the pope is, you know, human.

    You can’t really tell how a guy – you know, a real guy, not some superhero granted powers by the conclave – responsible for a billion people is going to do long term based on the lightweight information we have now.

  • buckyinky says:

    Mind you I don’t “get” ultramontanism either. In fact ultramontanism and sedevacantism seem kind of “of a piece”.

    Yes, both seem to be founded upon faulty expectations. For the sedevacantists there is no way for the Pope to meet them; for the ultramontanists there is no way that he possibly can’t.

  • Yes, both seem to be founded upon faulty expectations. For the sedevacantists there is no way for the Pope to meet them; for the ultramontanists there is no way that he possibly can’t.

    I’m going to steal that one.

    It’s bizarre to listen to Andrew Sullivan and other liberal Catholics gush about Pope Francis. To hear them tell it, the thirty plus years of JPII and Benedict XVI were a nightmare of right-wing reaction where the tyrannical papacy ruthlessly suppressed all forms of dissent and policed our every thought, word, and deed. It makes me wonder what color the sky is in their world. In contrast, my more hardcore Traditionalist buddies think JPII was sympathetic to Modernism, at best. Benedict himself said on several occasions throughout his papacy that the Church must proclaim what she is for and not simply what she is against. But nobody remembers that because it doesn’t fit the narrative of “mean old Benedict, lovey-dovey Francis.”

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    Information Superhighwaymen is a great term, though it might overly romanticize the phenomenon.

    Thanks! And to Alan K., as well.

    I suppose many will think of the bunch-of-lace-at-his-throat vision. Personally–and I’m not sure why this is–when I hear “highwayman” I think of the biker gang in Mad Max. My parents very strictly monitored what we watched, but I spent many weekends at Grandma’s house, and none of them featured poetry.

    ———–

    To return to the topic: Pope Francis talking acceptance while throwing down rebels strikes me as good strategy. I wonder if this approach disturbs Cons and cheers Libs because it’s a Lefty way of doing things; even if the actual accomplishment aids the disturbed and undermines the cheered.

  • Zippy says:

    Peter Blood:
    At this point I think we are beyond Thunderdome.

    In the words of the Prophet Tina, “We don’t need another hero. We just need to know the way home.”

  • […] Against the current pope. Related: The pope’s personal beliefs are not the greatest concern. Related: The old religion is gone. Related: The provincialism of present papal politics. […]

  • I’m pro-life and applaud the Catholic Church for protesting abortion/running homes for pregnant women that provide free legal services for women who consider placing their child up for adoption – but speaking as an ex-Catholic millennial (I assume that’s audience the Pope is trying to win over? disenfranchised Catholic millennials) it would have been nice if my fellow Catholics had focused on other areas of the faith instead of organizing heavily political pro-life rallies. While I was doubting Christ and finding answers elsewhere, fellow Catholics were at pro-life rallies and crusading against abortion laws in liberal states (i.e. wasting time).

    I like the new Pope, he seems down to Earth and nice. Like, he’d genuinely try to answer my doubts and feel bad if I couldn’t beleive. (The few times fellow Catholics did respond to my doubts, they just quoted the Catechism and acted smug. That didn’t help at all.)
    I had an extraordinarily low opinion of Catholicism when I left and he’s improved it. To me, that seems like a miracle.

  • Zippy says:

    Butterfly Flower:
    …instead of organizing heavily political pro-life rallies.

    Part of the problem, at least in the US, may be the heavy association of pro-life with the Republican Party. And while I’d rather go to a barbecue with Republicans than Democrats, the odds of me leaving early in disgust are pretty high either way.

    By the same token, the amount of pro-life preaching that happens at Mass is virtually negligible. There is good reason why the American Catholic bishops are ironically referred to as “the Democratic Party at prayer”. The wholesale slaughter of millions of innocents on the altar of hedonism is, with few exceptions, not important enough to get them to say more than a few perfunctory words, and then only when pressed.

  • […] I should pause to say that I’m on board with Zippy (and I think his diagnosis that Argentinian provincialism is the key to understand this Papacy is proving stunningly accurate): anyone contemplating […]

  • […] main theory of Pope Francis continues to be that he is a fairly dim narrow minded Jesuit provincial […]

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