Monday, March 2, 2015

A Catholic tyrant’s spin on the Pope

Please also see my previous post by another Catholic “Is this why no show (82122.4)?” at

Also, see CANON button.

Some quotes from the article:

The Pope is engaged in a struggle to bring the Church into the modern age. And American conservatives are fighting him every step of the way.

The world’s most renowned Christian theological guide is, of course, the Pope.

Each Pope, therefore, must make use of the richness of Church tradition, while also ministering effectively to a world of ever-evolving challenges and realities.

Legendarily plainspoken Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said that the right wing of the Church “generally have not been really happy” with Francis’s papacy.

In May 2014, conservative Catholic writer Michael Brendan Dougherty published a provocative op-ed in The Week arguing that “Catholics must learn to resist their Popes—even Pope Francis.”  Dougherty suggested that the legitimacy of papal teaching—and in a sense, the principle of papal infallibility—was subject to review by the greater body of Catholic faithful. The duty of the believer, he concluded, “is not just to rebuke and correct those in authority ... but to throw rotting cabbage at them, or make them miserable.”

There have always been grumblings about popes, but the differences in opinion between Francis and the movement collectively known as the “American right” appear especially numerous.

Irving Kristol, an influential neoconservative, wrote in his 1976 essay “What Is a Neoconservative?” that conservatives should be “respectful of traditional values and institutions” as a central tenet of their politics and practice. Kristol believed that obligation to “the sovereignty of traditional values” kept people moored to the past in a way that prevented the nihilism that leads to authoritarianism and anomie. The freedom of markets and appropriate weakness of the state depend on citizens preferring traditional modes of living to the heady vertigo of progressivism.

Suspicion of a Catholic gesture toward modernity—and thus the world—colors the attitudes of conservative Catholics toward him.

Pope Francis approaches the past with dialogue, not mere deference, in mind. He knows that the only useful approach to the past is to recognize it as a work in progress. This has the effect of imbuing accumulated tradition with no special authority over current conclusions. The present and the past must speak as equals, as both are works of human effort. From that alone conservatively disposed Catholics might flinch. This attitude—this disposition—allows him to utilize a modern lexicon while drawing on Church tradition. Consider, for instance, his remarks on financial inequality, in which he called for a “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.”

Every blowhard with a stake in unmitigated capitalism, from Rush Limbaugh to The Economist, has had their turn at accusing Francis of sundry McCarthyist infractions, Marxist, Leninist, and otherwise.

Francis’s handling of tradition and modernity privileges neither, but rather produces a workable synthesis of their contributions. Conservative appeals to the past, in contrast, rely on the sort of “decline” narrative for which they seem especially partial. Newly elected Republican Senator Joni Ernst used her response to this year’s State of the Union Address to reminisce about her childhood in Iowa, recalling that “[my] parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.” Ernst’s words harken back to a time when people were satisfied with poverty. They also cast modern-day folk in a less-than-flattering light: We don’t work for what we have and instead subsist on oft-maligned handouts like welfare. Finally, those who do work have less to show for it than the imagined bootstrappers of yesteryear, thanks to the regulatory bogeyman that is the federal government.

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