There is now a wealth of online news material of stories covering the Pope's comments on 'rigid morality', 'rigid Catholics', 'rigid seminarians', 'rigid priests', the latest (but doubtless not the last) being his 'Q and A'' with La Civiltà Cattolica.
As an aside, every interview His Holiness does now only creates more mystery concerning the unanswered dubia. It is strange how His Holiness can happily conduct a 'Q and A' with a Jesuit journal but not with his four Cardinals.
The funny thing is that when we deal with 'rigid' 'morality', if you just take out the adjective preceding the noun the headlines and quotes are more accurate to the truth of what the Pope is really saying.
So for example, we have...
'Pope despairs of current politics and rigid seminary morality'
'Pope despairs of current politics and seminary morality'.
Pope on families: 'A rigid morality will not do'.
Pope on families: 'Morality will not do'.
Am I being unfair? The definition of morality is:
(n) principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.
Does removing the adjective do an injustice to His Holiness? I think not. The principles themselves are either right or wrong. The principle, 'Direct abortion is always wrong in all circumstances' is according to the Church, right. If I contradict it for any reason, I've gone against the principle to which I say I hold to be true.
|Nice Mr Castro: Not believed to have held onto a 'rigid' morality|
See, the argument posed by His Holiness is no longer even as nuanced as 'the application of morality is too rigid'. You know, 'confessors, go easy on your penitents'. That's not it at all. The problem is deeper than that. It is morality itself being challenged and being ushered into the firing line. Believing what Catholics have always believed about God, death, judgment, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the moral law, prayer, the Sacraments, the Catechism - everything that is Catholic - is now being challenged. Yet we either believe what Catholics have always believed or we don't. We can't believe it 99.9% and be called authentic. We either take Christ at His word and believe He is God, He is trustworthy and worthy of our love and fidelity or we do not. We are either for Christ or against Him. We cannot be both at the same time.
The subtle and repeated appeal to lose 'rigidity' in the life of the Church is not an appeal merely to a 'merciful' approach to pastoral issues. Or even a merciful overlooking of the faults in ourselves and others. I've never experienced a confessor who was anything but merciful. This idea, surely, is a bi-product or a far deeper objection to Catholic Truth. It would seem rather to be an appeal to relativism and subjectivism towards the whole life of the Church, including, but not only including, Her morality - one that echoes the world's own rejection of Catholicism because it allows itself to be guided by moral absolutes. In terms of papal teaching, well, I don't know my history of the Popes that well, but the rejection of moral absolutes has got to be something of a first.
Principles, we know, are by their nature fixed and inflexible, unless you are a man of no or few principles. It is a given that morality - if it is to be sincerely held - be rigid. If a set of morals are going to be credible and possess integrity that cannot yield to objection or defiance. So, 'rigid' becomes an unnecessary (but highly effective) word employed to cast a negative light on those who hold onto morality itself.
Quite simply, a morality that is elastic and has no rigid quality is no morality at all. It is either something of substance or its empty. It means literally nothing. So remember, the next time you hear the Pope talk about 'rigid morality' or 'rigidity' in general don't take it personally. His war is not on 'rigidity' or even those who hold onto their morality rigidly. His war is on morality itself. And the author of Christian morality, and indeed natural law, is Almighty God. Good luck with that war, Your Holiness.
|Joseph Goebbels: Master of Nazi propaganda and not believed to have held onto a 'rigid' morality|
However, in terms of propaganda - and His Holiness and his entourage seem masters of it - what it looks like he is trying to do is to make Catholics feel terribly bad for holding onto very reasonable, sound Catholic teachings and values (Catholic morality) and make Catholics look bad for holding onto very reasonable Catholic teachings and values (Catholic morality). Having cast the first rigid stone, His Holiness in turn gets to look good in comparison to those who would apply morality or uphold it in a rigid manner. And it is propaganda, quite clearly, because only propaganda is something so intellectually unconvincing that it has to be repeated since 2013 to filter through to the minds of its hearers. As Joseph Goebbels said:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
The cold, harsh 'rigid' reality - for unlike Popes, reality isn't subject to alteration - is that Pope Francis is by a very subtle linguistic technique really telling the Church - that is the Body of the Faithful, no matter what their rank - to consider giving up Catholicism and embrace something else. Whether it is amoralism or nihilism or atheism or some other -ism right now that doesn't really matter. It is what we are being asked to renounce that matters. Emptied of its capacity to be 'rigid' morality as even a concept loses its original power. It either is or it is not. Morality is either binding on us or it is not. We either believe what we Catholics believe and strive to live what we believe or we don't believe what we Catholics believe and we don't strive to live what we believe. We are either Christians in truth or we 'reject the inner power of it'.
No wonder His Holiness looks so much more comfortable in the presence of left wing dictators, infamous abortionists, unbelieving celebrities and prominent atheists than a growing number of Cardinals striving to remain faithful to the teaching of Christ. Groucho Marx's quip, 'Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others,' was meant to be a joke! Under this papacy, its a motto.
Do we really have to remind His Holiness that it was just the opposite of a 'rigid' morality or even 'rigid' application of morality that led to the clerical sexual abuse crisis? Do we really think that uppermost in the minds of those clergy who have abused children was the vital importance of the moral law and its strict adherence in each and every situation in their lives as priests or religious brothers? But never mind, all that, eh? Each to their own, eh? As long as they're not rigid. When it comes to morality any position is valid, it would seem, as long as the Pope's utterly confusing perspective on it is not questioned, or, if it is, that it goes unanswered.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” ~ Joseph Goebbels
As news has it, One Peter Five has just posted on the statement by Cardinal Hummes which, in the face on an still unanswered dubia from the four Cardinals is meant clearly to instill a further element of fear into those who seek clarification on and further explanation of Amoris Laetitia from the Pope.
'The pope could be wounded by the motives which led these four persons to go so far as to want to correct him. But, he is very calm, relaxed, and moves forward. He knows which is the right path that one has to follow. And the College of Cardinals is with him, without any larger problems. The whole College of Cardinals is with him.'
Unpack that for propaganda value if you wish. It won't take you long. 'Calm, relaxed and moves forward'? Not boiling with rage then?