If we are Catholic but have not prayed regularly for Pope Francis, we have no right to complain. Do we think Satan does not specifically target the successor of Peter? Do we think the prayers of the faithful are powerless against these attacks?
In the end, everything depends on God, and Our Lord teaches us to ask our Father, simply and directly, for whatever we need, and to trust Him to provide it. That said, there are many kinds of prayer, and the model for one of them is found in no fewer than four different psalms along with a heartfelt question offered by the remarkable prophet Isaiah. The form of this prayer is expressed in the recurring words: “How long, O Lord?” The latest outrage to Catholic faith, reason and sensibilities is the Pope’s remarks in a new video documentary in which he insists that homosexual persons have the right to a family, and that the important thing is to establish civil union legislation so they are “legally covered”. Phil Lawler effectively demonstrated the uncatholic character of this assertion in yesterday’s commentary, The Pope sows more seeds of confusion. It is not only contrary to the wisdom of the previous two popes as outlined deliberately through the ordinary magisterium of Pope St. John Paul II, but—as Phil amply demonstrated—it is extraordinarily imprudent, based on clear practical evidence. Civil union legislation has been widely advocated to open the way for gay marriage and, in fact, it has contributed to the rapid legal approval of gay marriage. So even the argument that might have been made years ago—that legalizing civil unions between homosexuals was a prudent tactic for staving off the greater evil of legalizing gay marriage—has proven to be misguided. As John Paul II and Benedict XVI predicted, it has had exactly the opposite result.
Not magisterial but still influential
By now I hope everyone understands that a pope’s remarks in interviews, documentaries, and other means of popular human discourse are not exercises of the Magisterium, and not at all binding, either in doctrine or in discipline. Many popes in history have behaved badly and spoken or written stupidly, though most often this went unnoticed outside small circles owing to the lack of instant and comprehensive media. Nonetheless, any pope’s comments are widely picked up as “signals” by those who see agreement with the pope as the logical path of promotion, by those who do not understand the difference between personal comments and official acts, and by those who hope erroneous remarks will help them achieve their own goals. It is far harder to work effectively for legitimate Catholic renewal at every level of the Church when those who are resistant to it can cite various remarks by the reigning pontiff to discredit it and stave it off. I have argued before that, just as the strong pontificates of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI led to substantial improvements in the episcopate and the priesthood around the world, God might well be allowing the disastrous papacy of Francis to prompt those further down in the hierarchy to recognize their own fundamental responsibilities to uphold the Faith and evangelize, rather than simply following the operational procedures laid down in Rome for “branch managers”. It is in this sense that Pope Francis’ own emphasis on the need for a genuine synodality in the Church ought to be understood. We badly need a Church that is committed and active from top to bottom, a Church that is “firing on all cylinders”, so to speak. What we do not need is a Church in which bishops secure promotion by taking their cues from whatever the pope happens to say out loud, or in which priests secure promotion by taking similar cues from their bishops.
No, we need bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity who are rooted in Christ and in the Church as Christ’s authoritative and sacramental presence in the world, and who seek only to extend awareness of Christ and incorporation into the Church and stand for the truth, unshaken and bold.
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