The New Testament makes it abundantly clear, in myriad verses, that the decision to follow Christ means you cannot belong to this world. To be a true disciple involves living the life of faith. And that requires stepping outside of the thinking and values of this world and taking on the armour of Christ. It is a challenge that requires us to strive for truth over popularity. Jesus put it this way: If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. JOHN 15:19
Jesus clearly considered hostility from the world to be normative for the Christian. Proof that you are no longer living according to the world but for Christ in its service. After all the values of the Gospel are diametrically opposed to the values of this fallen world. And certainly history has proved the point. Jesus himself never courted popularity but spoke the truth frankly in love. It ultimately transformed the world for the better but it left him hanging on a cross with just a handful of followers at his side.
Since that dreadful day countless great Saints have followed in his footsteps. The first 33 Popes all having given their life to Christ. Countless other saints witnessing to Christ by their suffering and rejection in this world. Most recently we see this played out in the Middle East where a great many heroic souls have lost their lives for love of Jesus Christ. Indeed more people have died for being Christian in the last Century than all others combined.
We also saw this suffering in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. A man gentle and humble in spirit, who will surely be proved prophetic – a doctor of the church- and yet who was nevertheless constantly attacked in the media and grotesquely misrepresented. What people “hated” about him was his robust and inflexible defence of Catholic faith. Do not fall for the lies of the enemies of the Church. Those who would paint him as a right wing dinosaur to set against a compassionate modern lefty. The Catholic faith has never been about the left and right of human politics. That is the thinking of this world. It is centred on the Gospel. On the fundamental issue of what is truth and what is error.
Thus Pope Benedict delighted Catholics who wanted to preserve the faith of the ages. Yet scandalised those outside the church, as well as those within it who would conform the faith to the world. I speak here of those who uphold the ideals of the sexual revolution to the extent that they would have the church abandon its historic teaching to bend to the will of modernity. What a scandal that amongst this brood of vipers we find those at the highest level of church governance!
What could possibly motivate a Cardinal to desire unscriptural reform? To even attempt a detachment of pastoral practice from doctrine to tip things in the worlds favour? The answer, I suspect, would not delight Christ. Rather we see hunger for popularity, a place at the high tables of society, desire for personal comfort, hunger for church taxes (in Germany) and evidence of those who long ago abandoned faith for the political agendas of this world. Dare I suggest we might also witness the harvest of blind eyes being turned (during the seventies and eighties) to immoral life in the seminaries? That the gay issue might touch more than a few nerves within the episcopate?
People ask me what I think about Pope Francis. I love his charisma and warmth. I love his missionary heart. I believe he is a true son of the Church. At least I hope so because the alternative would be grave. But he worries me or rather his approach does.
I assume his intention is to soft peddle faith amongst unbelievers (realising how far apart the modern world is from the church) without actually changing teaching. Which is to say he holds those of faith to a higher/different standard to those of no faith. Gradualism in other words. This would explain why he said ‘who am I to judge’ to the world but chastised the curia for x,y and z. But, if true, this is a dangerous game to play. I fear he underestimates the power of the media who, by broadcasting only half of his message, are cleverly casting their own face and agenda onto him to make him a tool for their cause. The result: he delights the very people Benedict horrified and horrifies those Benedict delighted.
Think about that. Doubtless the detractors of this blog will hoot in delight- for they are those hungering for unscriptural revolution. But those not entirely sold on the liberal causes might ponder what make of a Pope who, unintentionally (I hope) delights non-believers but dismays the person of faith. Who galvanises those who seek to undermine church teaching but alienates those who, with much difficulty in the modern world, seek fidelity and obedience to it. And I do know of a lot of fine Catholics who feel let confused, let down and demoralised at present. In business terms- does it make sense to chase those who do not buy your product at the clear cost of your faithful consumer base?
So we must pray that the Pope stops playing to the PR gurus and returns to his role in defending the faith even to the point of being disliked. Jesus did not try to give one message to those outside of faith and another to those within it. He just spoke to the truth in love and dared to offend in the process. Our confused world needs that truth more than ever before. And we cannot afford to confuse them by suggesting that a range of opinions are possible. That is called protestantism not Catholicism. And it leads to fracture and schism. Consider again that verse in the Gospel of John
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. JOHN 15:19