Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Is Pope Francis Fighting 'Popular' Battles Only?

Bishop Kieran Conry: 'Fight battles you can win...'
In October of 2012, the anarchic Catholic blogosphere digested the news that the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton had suggested that the Church concentrate fighting on 'those battles that the Church can win'.

At the time, Bishop Kieran Conry was speaking with specific reference to the closure of Catholic adoption agencies in the wake of 'equalities' legislation. Is there, I wonder, a similar kind of thinking emanating from the very summit of the Catholic Church? Catholic bloggers will have read the widely distributed words of Cardinal Bergoglio on same-sex marriage, decrying it as the machinations of the Father of Lies, the Devil, to destroy God's plan for the family and society. Even this letter, however, was sent in private to a congregation of Carmelite Sisters. I don't know whether it was intended for wider publication. While nation after nation, including our own, has tied itself into the global 'gay-marriage' accord, no doubt helped along by the globalist elite so often suspected of handing policies down to Governments to the detriment of their citizens, there has come very little from the Successor of St Peter in terms of outspoken 'fighting' for marriage, the family and the welfare of the child in the specific context of the homosexual marriage movement that has engulfed particularly the West.

Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat
I'm hoping, like so many Catholics must be hoping, that the Holy Father will say something soon to confront the great evils of our age that create the 'culture of death' lamented by Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The strange silence on the 'hot' issues of the day, like abortion, its evil twin, artificial contraception and 'same-sex marriage' is bound to have certain sections of the Church seeing themselves in a strong position to spin the Pope's silence into indifferenc or even acceptance and complicity.

Unless the Holy Father makes some form of biting statement condemning the evils of the age, of which poverty and injustice form indeed one part, Catholics who hold fast to that which the Church has taught 'always and everywhere' will find it more and more difficult to present the enemies of Christ inside the Church with refutations as to the truth of the Papal teaching, relying instead on things said by Cardinal Bergoglio before he ascended to the Throne of St Peter, or, worse, previous Popes.

It is a risky strategy, for Francis the man, and for souls in his paternal care, but it may well be that Pope Francis is concentrating on those battles that he believes that he can 'win'. Yet Christ made it clear that 'the poor you will have with you always', so eradicating poverty and injustice is not a battle the Church can win either. Does that mean we should be indifferent to poverty and injustice? It may be that he is adopting the 'Conry Strategy', a strategy adopted seemingly in Bishops Conferences around the World, including Brazil, in terms of confronting the evils that assail humanity and the Church is the way this papacy is heading. It is striking that during His Holiness's speech to the political leaders of Brazil that there was much content discussing the 'culture of encounter' which His Holiness referred to today once more, but little in terms of confronting these same leaders with the harder teachings of the Church that defend life from conception to natural death. Just days after His Holiness left Rio the Brazillian political class took a leaf out of David Cameron's book and thanked His Holiness for 'making us sit up and think' on his visit by introducing laws liberalising abortion.

Francis at the March for Life in Rome, attended by 40,000 campaigners
If the Church wins friends in its campaign to see the poor treated with dignity and their rights upheld in a new 'humanistic' vision of the poor and of the Church, then it has to be said that while the Church will have won new friends in this battle to combat poverty and injustice, poverty and injustice will continue nonetheless, and doubtless at an accelerating rate in the 'age of cuts'.

Few battles can actually be won - not, at least, by us. If a battle has ever been won for the Church, God and the Court of Heaven are duly given credit - one example being Our Lady of Victories centuries ago. We believe that evil does not have the last word on humanity and that Christ has conquered and will conquer. Christ conquers, Christ rules, Christ commands.

Unpopular with vocal atheists: Bl. Teresa
In terms of what is achieved in 'winning the battle', the battle 'for the poor' can never be truly won and all the Church will have done is to have won new friends and mollified Her enemies. It cannot be won, it is just a more popular battle to fight, attractive even to atheists and heretics. If this is the battle the Pope has chosen, then is it not rather the case that the Church will simply be fighting those battles that are popular and will resonate with people outside the Church, even with the Church's enemies, instead of fighting those battles that She can 'win'? If Pope Francis cannot win the war against poverty and injustice, while consistently focusing of the poor, why neglect to be outspoken on the other fronts of the spiritual war in which we are all engaged which cannot be won by us either, at least, in the eyes of our wise shepherds?

Blessed Mother Teresa said that we were not called to be successful but to be faithful, which suggests that 'winning the battles' was less important than fighting them in the first place. This Blessed attracted the ire of atheists for her words on artificial contraception and abortion, calling the latter the 'greatest destroyer of peace' in the World.

Pope St Sixtus II, Martyr for the Faith
Pope Francis has praised this Blessed woman but, while reaching out to the poor, the outcasts, disabled and outcasts, is yet to say what she said. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was despised and hated by many atheists for her implacability in the face of calls for changes in Church doctrine and openly defended them in deed and word. While Pope Francis attended the March for Life in Rome, attended by 40,000 campaigners, the story of his attendance did not reach the mainstream media and outside of Catholic blogs was left ignored. Words are important.

The Pope, even in his role as the Bishop of Rome is still a 'Teacher' of the Catholic Faith. As Successor of St Peter, he is the Supreme Teacher of the Faith. While the world still speaks well of Pope Francis he will continue to cause concern among those who take to heart the Lord's words that we should be concerned when people speak well of us, since that is how 'they treated the false prophets'.

Today is the Feast of St Sixtus II. May the intercession of this Pope and Martyr give Pope Francis and all of us the courage to preach the Gospel without fear of what people may think of us, to be generous to the poor and to know that God gives victory to those who trust in Him. Let us not be put to confounded, or put to shame.


Claire Shorthand said...

Actually what you say about Francis' 'complicit silence' isn't quite true...

the Holy Father joined the March for Life in Rome on 12 May, as reported by LifeSite News: “I invite you to keep the attention of everyone on the important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception,” the pope told the marchers. He also invited all to attend the Vatican’s “Evangelium Vitae Day,” which he said would be “a special moment especially for those who care about the defense of the sanctity of human life,” to take place “in the context of the Year of Faith," on 15 and 16 June.

Actions speak louder than words sometimes. Maybe it's a good thing that the things he shouts loudest about are not these hot neuralgic topics. After all, you can only keep upping the anti and shouting ever louder for so long before people stop listening. One thing for sure is that Francis' strategy is getting him heard and having greater impact than Benedict could ever manage. This way Catholicism may have more influence in the social sphere than being ignored as during the last few years. You can't command non-catholics or democratic societies to listen to you and do as you say without question, in a pluralistic society you can only influence - like it or not. That's the reality, deal with it!

Nicolas Bellord said...

Pope Francis has introduced mention of St Joseph into the Canon of the Mass after Our Lady. I think this is very significant as emphasising the role of St Joseph in the Holy Family and thus the importance of fathers in all families. Is this not sowing a seed that will grow and grow?

BJC said...

"The strange silence on the 'hot' issues of the day, like abortion, its evil twin, artificial contraception and 'same-sex marriage' is bound to have certain sections of the Church seeing themselves in a strong position to spin the Pope's silence into indifference or even acceptance and complicity."

This is the problem isn't it, and it all boils down to Humanae Vitae again. He has now made an attempt to address the gay issue, but he's going to have to repeat himself to make sure he unspins the spin. The gay marriage issue he'll have to confront sooner or later because the media won't let him off the hook. I wonder what his diary looks like for the next few months, there may be a good opportunity there to make it loud and clear what he thinks. We have to hope and pray a strong statement is in the pipeline.

Personally, I wish he would start using the 's' word more, i.e. sin, and just make it clear, if the Church is here to fight any battle, it's to help each one us fight our individual battles against sin and temptation, to live lives of holiness and virtue. This She seeks to do through the sacraments and prayer. I have only followed the WYD proceedings minimally, but I don't remember that message coming through loud and clear. The social gospel has been done to death, and in any instance the need for it is due to sins like pride, greed and envy, and they can only be overcome ultimately by the sacraments and prayer anyway. The Church has the answer to all these problems, and we have to make that clear. Ironically we are just ending up as another NGO, and not getting across the spiritual side of the Church's mission. Sin damages the soul, and the sacraments and prayer repair that damage. When was the last time we heard that?

jaykay said...

"One thing for sure is that Francis' strategy is getting him heard and having greater impact than Benedict could ever manage"

Only insofar as those that control the "news" outlets permit him, which is to say, as long as he says things that they think they can manipulate towards their own agenda. As soon as the "hard stuff" comes out, then they'll be down on him like a ton of... well, ok, bricks.

"You can't command non-catholics or democratic societies to listen to you and do as you say without question, in a pluralistic society you can only influence - like it or not. That's the reality, deal with it!"

Yeah, I think a lot of us had managed to get that somewhat basic point quite a while ago. The reality is, however, that no matter how hard you may try to influence people by teaching and exhortation (which is what the Church does) if those in control do not like what you're putting out then it'll be spun against you. Benedict is a prime example of this in recent years but as many of us remember it didn't take long for the criticism and spin to start hitting John Paul II as soon as he started to enunciate Church teaching clearly.

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