As I left a Church a day or two ago, I walked past a copy of a mainstream Catholic newspaper, I think it was The Universe. The headline took me somewhat by surprise. 'Is this really where we have got to?' I thought. The headline went something very much like this:
'POPE FRANCIS CHOOSES MERCY OVER MORALS WITH NEW CARDINAL PICKS'
You can imagine what the rest of the article was like. I thought to myself that there is something deeply wrong with that headline and that such a headline - and it is accurate in its reportage - is a damning indictment of the pontificate of Pope Francis. In a single headline, we can discern the nature of the crisis enveloping the Church from the top downwards.
Remember folks, you can't have both! When it comes to these qualities of - on the one hand - possessing morals and - on the other hand, possessing mercy a choice simply has to be made. One of them has to be abandoned because, well, aren't these two things just mutually exclusive? Isn't that what the most venerated Catholic Saints and scholars have always held? Isn't that what Jesus Christ taught? Good grief!
Now, I'm no ace theologian. While I've read a little 'City of God' and dipped into the 'Summa', I've no theological credentials to my name, but a smidgen of the sensus fidelium can tell me that there is no conflict between the man who upholds mercy and the man who upholds morality. These are the same man. This Man is Jesus Christ. And the sorry truth of the matter is that Jesus Christ Himself, were He a Bishop instead of the Divine Head of the Church, would very likely be passed over by Francis in his Cardinal picks because He simply wouldn't let go of His 'morals'. The clear inference of the Universe headline - and the clear inference of this papacy - is that mercy is good and, wait for it...
MORALS ARE BAD!
Yes, this idiocy is going out to the parishes via the Catholic press. By this simple but so far successful employment of cynical propaganda the character of, hmm, let's see, among others Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the editorial team of Asia News and anyone who stubbornly remains loyal to Jesus Christ is being denigrated. These are people who still believe that, shock horror, morals are, in fact, good.
Growing opposition to and criticism of Pope Francis's pontificate is now being peddled by Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli as evidence of a club within the Church who are simply against Francis for the sake of it. Despite a wealth of evidence stacked up against him in papal pronouncements, interviews, off the cuff decisions and now an exhortation, Tornielli insists that the entrenched views of those Catholics who appeal to Rome for clarification or who insist on the perennial teachings on the Church are just resentful people who fail to see the enormous good Francis is doing for the Church.
For argument's sake, however, let's assume that, for instance, a Cardinal Blaise Cupich is the model of every Cardinal in the Church, one who, in the image of Francis himself chooses 'mercy over morals'. What kind of a Church aside from one sidelined into the gutter of popular culture is it that proclaims mercy at the expense - or instead of - morals? What does that Church look like? What does that Church have to say to a drug dealer or a human trafficker? What does that Church that chooses mercy over - or instead of - morals say to a pornographer, murderer or terrorist? What does that Church have to say to a pederast or someone who covers up pederasty for the sake of a quiet life? To anyone bound up in a lifestyle of mortal sin, what does that Church have to say? Quite simply, nothing, because of Her Founder, that Church is truly embarrassed. Yes, in the name of mercy, it is He Himself, the Lord Jesus, who is abandoned!
It seems to me that indeed what some will argue is a Pope advocating for a Church that sees not in terms of black or white but in many shades of grey will quickly become a Church of darkness. Why? Because Jesus Christ is Light. He is the Light of the World. His Morality shines a light into not just the darkest recesses of our hearts, our hearts which are dulled by sin - yes, sin, that dirty word! - but also into the darkest recesses of the Church. Shades of grey, like so many clouds that, when they accumulate during a storm can form a thick darkness that blots out the Sun, can act as cover for a great deal. It is the Church that refuses light, that fears the Light, the Truth, that covers the tracks of abuse and attempts to silence victims of that abuse.
'Mercy over morals.' My oh my. Who would have thought that after the years of championing the culture of life over the culture of death, the Catholic Church from the top could offer the World such a pathetic motif as that, and a Pope who played the pied piper for every rogue and criminal on the face of the Earth. Mercy over morals. Mercy over morals. What sweet music to the ears of the amoral, to those who find that Morality itself is a sworn enemy, an adversary, one who must be overcome, slain, like an innocent Lamb upon a Sacrificial Altar!