Projecting onto papa


One of the reasons Pope Francis remains an enigma is because few people are really interested in what he has to say. People prefer to project their own agendas onto him in pursuit of a political ideology.

Hence the media has invested so much in spinning the story of  “Francis the Reformer” – the enlightened fluffy Pope to lead the Church into a new era. One at peace with the sexual revolution. One that bows down to worship at the altar of modern political correctness.  A far cry from those wicked dark repressive leaders of old. The ones that were ever hounded and painted in the worst possible light. The flip side of the game currently being played.

It is a story which delights cafeteria Catholics the world over.  For it suggests great change is round the corner. The Anglicisation of the Catholic church no less!  Great news for those who dream of “total inclusion” based, not on God’s terms but your own. Light on sin but heavy on mercy with no questions asked nor demands made of the sinner. Hell is empty in this reality. Crosses need not be picked up. 

This projection of modernist values was obvious from the start. Consider how the “gay times” made Pope Francis its cover boy.  Loudly praising his views focusing on half a sentence-“Who am I to judge?”- but ignoring  the other half “if a person seeks God and has good will”. The half which rather implies a need to be open to the teaching of the Church.

If you doubt that Pope Francis does stand by the teaching of the Church I suggest you put down the media imagined Pope for just a second or two in order to read the words and message of the real Bergoglio Hmm not quite fitting the media image is it?

And after the recent Synod the press again clamoured to sell us “Francis the Reformer” The Guardian hilariously suggesting he had “got with Guardian thinking.” What arrogance! Yet not one mainstream newspaper reported his words post Synod. You have to go to Catholic websites for that. His claim that  the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage have been mysteriously airbrushed out. 

And then there was the ‘revelation’ this week that Pope Francis believes scientific teaching on creation is compatible with Catholic teaching. Another hint to the populace “this is the  enlightened Pope” What a contrast to the dinosaurs before him who imagined  Genesis was a literal scientific manual. All well and good- only Pope Pius XII was saying all of that in 1951! 

Nor was Pope Francis the first Pope to show compassion to the disabled. Or adore little babies. Or to reach out to the homeless. But you would be forgiven for thinking he was because that is part of the projection. Through such suggestion the world attempts to paint the Pope into their corner.  Then hopefully, swayed by all the adulation and headlines he will be a good boy and embrace the thinking of the  world. And to be fair the pressure to do so must be enormous. Who would want the alternative. The vile sneers and lies that were ever spoken about dear Pope Benedict?

The point here is not, of course, to suggest Pope Francis doesn’t care deeply about people outside the church or, in his words, who are in need of the field hospital. He does. As do all who are Christian if living in accord with God’s will. The point is that this compassion and desire for mercy is not going to lead to a changing of Catholic teaching. Not least because such teaching is not a hostile list of rules intended to damage people, but an attempt to convey truth that leads to a fullness of life, a more humanising vision.

It has all happened before of course. In the 1960’s the world played the same game with Pope Paul VI. And everyone was certain, absolutely certain, that a relaxing of teaching regarding artificial contraception was around the corner…but instead the Pope produced Humane Vitae- that  prophetic document cementing Catholic teaching. He was hated for it and never recovered from the ensuing nastiness. But he stood firm and proved himself a true son of the church. I end with his words that stillresonate today:

It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices — amplified by the modern means of propaganda — which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a “sign of contradiction”, yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.

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82 thoughts on “Projecting onto papa

  1. A very good blog, Fr Ed, but you see the Johns, the “Fr” Davids and the Middys of this world seem to take all their knowledge from the Guardian!

    1. Oh there are plenty who comment here with no real interest in anything other than attacking the claims of traditional Christianity. They make the most noise, much like the shallow end of the swimming pool, but the blog reaches a far wider and more interested audience than them. Though the comment posts might not suggest it!

      That isn’t to say they are not welcome. They add a little colour, truth be told! Even if they delight in twisting my words and painting me to be the rigid prude nobody who has met me has ever claimed me to be!

      1. It has the best crossword and the best cartoons, Anthony.

        As for poor Pope Francis, he even has the endorsement of Sir Elton John now.

        1. “It has the best crossword and the best cartoons, Anthony”

          Good thing too, otherwise you’d be reduced to reading the paper.

          1. I don’t think that the Neo-Mohammedian Middy is capable of anything but the cartoons, perhaps maybe just also news about the clown Reginald Dwight?!

    2. Don’t assume that everyone who does not agree with Fr Ed’s version of traditional Christianity is a Guardian reading BBC watching fully paid up card carrying leftie.

  2. To be a believer in Orthodox Christianity of any stripe in the modern world is to be completely counter-cultural. I never hide the fact that I am a Catholic who believes in and loves what the church teaches. People will be much more brutal online of course compared to RL. Maybe we all seem harsher in this medium as the normal subtleties of especially British conversation is necessarily completely absent.

    On the other hand the lack of finesse and kindness online hones our skills at explaining and defending the faith in a manner which is more loving. I have sometimes been quite shocked at how blunt my own comments seem when rereading them later, a little humility in us all wouldn’t hurt.

  3. Here are three things Pope Francis has done since attaining office:

    He has set about reforming the Vatican Bank, a byword for inefficiency, opacity and (remember Roberto Calvi?) quite possibly criminality.

    He has required the resignation of the Bishop of Limburg (“Bishop Bling”) and sent a clear signal that spending and ostentation on the scale of a Medici has no place in today’s Church. Perhaps, Cardinal Burke’s recent “demotion” owes as much to his twenty-foot trains and $30,000 vestments as his theology.

    He has admitted, apologised for, and acted decisively against both clerical abuse and the protection of those who perpetrated it without cavil, quibble or equivocation. As a result both victims and Church can start to move on.

    All of these actions should plant in the minds of the faithful, the lapsed or lapsing, and maybe some unbelievers the notion that under his stewardship the Church is preparing to “walk the walk” – not simply “talk the talk”.

    Does anybody truly expect earthshaking doctrinal upheaval from a Jesuit? Instead of second guessing The Pontiff’s motives or possible hidden agenda you might consider
    applauding his actions (rarely, if at all alluded to in this blog). They are in danger of bringing Catholicism into good repute.

  4. I’ve remained an Anglican, but I think the reference to Cardinal Burke is bang out of order, Steve. Even the former +Limburg was, I believe, spending money on a house which he expected to be used by his successor prelates long after he was dead. Cardinal Burke’s liturgical vestments, whatever their cost, are used only during the worship of God, and say nothing about his individual lifestyle. Saint John Vianney, famed for making a spud last several days at presbytery dinner times, firmly believed in beautifying the Church’s worship with fine vestments – even if his taste didn’t appeal to later generations.

    1. Yes, the comments on Cardinal Burke were totally unjustified. Rightly, he deems that we should ‘push the boat out’ when it comes to worshiping the Almighty. There is no evidence that he is lavish in his personal lifestyle. Indeed, a man who has stood so strongly against the tide, regardless of consequence, does not strike me as one who is interested in the comforts of office!

  5. Paul W, I read The Independent – so am probably damned for eternity.

    To Alan and Paul B, I respectfully ask the question: how would Saint Francis – and by obvious extension – Pope Francis view these two “boat pushers”?

  6. Pope Francis isn’t an enigma to me – or to my many RC friends both in the UK and in both Irelands. They all think he’s pushing hard towards a more compassionate Christianity. It doesn’t matter whether this is characteristed as ‘liberal (if this upsets the easily upsettable). More campassionate is what counts.

    1. Answer me this John. What role, if any, do you think truth plays in compassion?

      Say I knew that a batch of cakes contained a slow release poison. And say I had a friend who desperately wanted to eat the cake and told me he would be miserable without it.
      What should I do? Is compassion offering the cake because it is wanted- or speaking the warning though it might upset the hungry man?

      1. Typical fundamentalist argument. I suppose it’s inconceivable that you could be ill informed about the effects of the poison? Really though this analogy is far too simplistic to be taken seriously.

        1. No Harvey it is not inconceivable at all. I could be quite mistaken. But what I would need is some proof that the poison isn’t there before biting into said cake. And that is where the progressive claims falter…they rely very heavily on embracing the philosophy/thinking of the world at present – whilst ignoring the plain teaching of scripture and tradition. When somebody manages to put forth sound theological argument…then I will be the first to apologise. But, as was the case in the C of E, there is much emotive language used, and huge appeals to the heart over the head, and even demonising of those who fail to “get with the message” but never any convincing theological and biblical proof. And that is why..in the end…and huge cost to myself in many ways…I have stood by the teaching of the ages.

          1. You are so entrenched I doubt there could ever be anything you would deem sufficient proof. I have to say, I had thought that after nearly 4 years your zeal would have subsided in favour of a compassionate pragmatism but it seems not.

  7. Dear Father Ed.,

    I think – correct me if I’m wrong – that you and I remain on very – how shall I put it? – amiable terms? (Deny it, if you will, because obviously you wouldn’t want to be so besmirched.) Obviously, if it were a matter of poison, you would be right. But a certain latitude towards people who through no fault of their own are constitutionally gay or who have been through the distress and trauma of divorce? That’s all Pope Francis is driving at – and, as I’ve said before on this blog, it seems to me profoundly Jesus-like, the Jesus who really isn’t greatly concerned with these things.

    1. First I have no idea how you know what Pope Francis does or doesn’t want.
      Second you make the assumption that those who hold to orthodox teaching don’t have compassion for people in difficult situations.
      Not true. It reminds me of when I say no to my small children and they shout back “you don’t love me”….what they mean is “I hate the answer no”

      1. Compassion without truth is sentimental and too easy. Put down that cross! It gives ‘what you want’ to ‘whoever wants it’ and falls into the relativistic belief system of personal “rights”. These “rights” then have to be managed when they collide with someone else’s rights. We look to the State to arbitrate. Consider right of unborn vs right of mother. Stalemate. Thomas Hobbes would be proud! Compassion with truth falls into the belief system of universal morality. We look to the Church to teach. This morality is ordered to the Truth as handed down to us from the apostles and is lived by the Way and gives us Life. There is objective good and bad. But there is subjective culpability. However the negative effects of my sin still happen regardless of my culpability so I need to make sure my conscience is well formed. Again I look to the Church (Scripture,sacraments, confessor, spiritual director, writings of the saints, etc, etc) to help avoid my blind spots.

  8. Just responding to the points- no malice John and I always have respected your courtesy and that you are, unlike so many, genuinely liberal by which I mean you try to understand and support those you don’t agree with

  9. It interests me greatly when reading this blog how keen Catholics are to use the noun, “Catholic” rather than “Christian.”

    Doubtless there will be an argument regarding identity and association with Anglicans like myself but surely true orthodoxy would demand a label that is Biblical?

    1. The term Catholic implies the Petrine office- and that is what gives us a clear label that is biblical in foundation. One might ask, cheekily, where the biblical label is to be found in an ecclesial body formed by parliament in Tudor England ; )

      1. It doesn’t in the same way there’s no biblical foundation to name a church Catholic. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but its a non biblical issue IMO….just as my church (not ecclesial body) made historic decisions to influence England at the highest levels for our faith. There may come a time (I hope and pray) when we disestablish from parliament and rid ourselves of this awful monarchy, but that’s a way off yet.

    2. A direct disciple of St John the Evangelist, said “wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church”. His name? St Ignatius of Antioch. Indeed to be Christian for the first 1000 years meant to be called catholic. It was only after the Great Schism and the Reformation that to be Christian didn’t automatically mean to be called catholic, yet before that there was no distinction. Why should Catholics change their name when others leave the Catholic Church? What did true orthodoxy look like before the Bible was put together in a canon? Where does the Bible say it is the only source of orthodoxy? It must say it somewhere if it is the only source. But it doesn’t. Hmm bit of a problem. Maybe we should go to the pillar and the bulwark of the truth (see 1 Timothy 3:15) as the source. Yes, Luther rightly challenged the failings in the practices of members of the Church even at the highest level. But Luther had to become his own ‘magisterium’ and sadly prostestanism today is now very splintered – with each claiming their own interpretation as orthodox. Despite its sinful members the Church never did backflips on the Deposit of Faith – she has guarded orthodoxy – certainly not by her own strength but by that of the Holy Spirit. The Church gave us the Bible as a big part of the Deposit of Faith. She decided its canon. Read Benedict XVI’s “The Joy of the Gospel” to understand what a sacred and life giving part of the Deposit it really is. Passages from the Bible are read four times during every Catholic Mass on Sunday, not counting the quotes spread elsewhere throughout the Liturgy. So yes the Bible is orthodox but it is not self-contained. It does not interpret itself, nor can we individually interpret it in increasingly contradictory ways. Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. Come home.

  10. “They rely very heavily on embracing the philosophy/thinking of the world at present – whilst ignoring the plain teaching of scripture and tradition..”

    This is the basic mistake in the “traditionalist” approach Ed. Scripture, when it written, embraced the philosophy/thinking of the world as it was then. Tradition embraced the philosophy/thinking of the world as it was then. Why are scripture and tradition somehow immune to the faults that the (then) current philosophy and think imposed upon them whereas our current philosophy and thinking is, according to you, riddled with faults?

    1. Andrew if I accept in faith that Jesus was God, then it naturally follows that scripture is not merely a man made document reflecting the philosophy of its time but a divinely inspired part of the revelation speaking to all men in all ages. The only alternative that holds intellectual integrity is that Jesus wasn’t God and the bible is just a text reflecting its day. Should I ever join you in that belief- I will leave the church and take up golf.

      1. Far too simplistic a reply Ed. You need to do rather better at engaging with the argument than simply repeating your binary thinking. A cursory reading of scripture shows how much it was influenced by the philosophy and thinking of its day. The same is true of tradition. That does not deny inspiration.

        1. “Inspiration” is far from revealed truth. No wonder that liberal protestants like Canon Godsall are the heretics of our age!

          1. Would you like to explain that first observation with reference, perhaps, to Cardinal Schoenborn’s Bumper Book of Facts and Fun?

    2. Andrew
      What do you think that Jesus’ teaching on divorce would be now in the light of thinking in the world today?
      Your answer may mean I will be joining Fr.Ed at the first tee shortly.

      1. And I would ask Andrew what stopped Jesus from speaking out about LGBT issues? Were the rights of gay people to be sexually active then somehow different to now?

        1. The rights of gay people to be sexually active were nil in this country until not many years ago. Do you want to make gay sexual activity illegal again Ed?

          1. Please answer the question I posed, instead of sidestepping it and deflecting attention onto my views, then I will happily answer yours. Why didn’t Jesus speak out about the right of gay people to be sexually active?

          2. And your answer as regards divorce? I would suggest that does not require the speculation needed to reflect on gay issues.

          3. I have answered it: we don’t have any evidence on which to speculate.
            Do you think homosexual activity should be made illegal again?

          4. No evidence. Are you just dismissing Christ’s clear teaching on marriage as the union of one man and one woman, his silence in regard to any other form of sexual union suggesting his acceptance of Jewish teaching in his day, Paul’s writing on the subject, the views of all the early fathers and the teaching of the church in all ages….

            No evidence that suits your argument maybe more accurate.

            And no I would not make homosexuality illegal – my vocation is to instruct people on the Christian way of life. What non Christians choose to do is their business, though I should be equally free to call them to Christ.

            And you still haven’t answered my question. Why did Jesus not speak out on pink issues? Why not Andrew- if it is so important for the church?

  11. We simply don’t have enough evidence to speculate about either of those things. Jesus was culturally conditioned – he was a first century Jew.
    And what do you mean when you talk about the plain meaning of scripture. Do you just mean some bits of the NT? Do you think the OT is culturally influenced in a way that the NT was not? Were those prophets who talked about God wiping everything off the face of the earth denying the story about Noah in Genesis for example?

    1. I fear, Canon Godsall, that for all his spiritual journeying, Fr Ed remains an old-fashioned evangelical protestant at heart. His faith is the same – except he’s stuck the Pope on top.

      1. In what way is anything I say protestant? As to evangelical you will find that is a positive thing and perfectly at home in the Catholic Church. Something I am proud of. But by all means show where I digress from the catechism to prove your observation sharp

    2. “Jesus was culturally conditioned – he was a first century Jew.”

      But he was also God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, as the Church confesses, and as is an intrinsic foundational aspect of Christian belief. If, despite this, the Word Incarnate can be characterized as “culturally conditioned,” then we ourselves ought to rush to be “conditioned” in the same way, since that particular culture was so uniquely suitable as to be the context of the Incarnation.

      But, then, those who speak, or rather prate, about the “cultural conditioning” of the Lord and of the Scriptures, will almost always be found to be idolaters of the Zeitgeist, as in this thread.

  12. Andrew

    Presumably this isn’t evidence on which we should speculate:

    3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

    8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

    1. I think it is indisputable that marriage, as the correct forum for sex, and as a union between one man and one woman, runs like a river through scripture. It is fallen in the old testament and in need of redemption in Christ. But it is there. After Christ we have marriage perfected, backed and clearly the Christian way culminating in the marriage of Christ and his church, the bride, in the book of Revelation.

      1. Yes. God forgot to tell us. It is something that we have learned since we discovered genes, nurture, human psychology and the complexity of sexualities.
        (He also forgot about blogs on the internet).

    2. New International Version Matt 19 v 9
      “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
      Damn revisionists!

  13. I sometimes observe how the moral tone of this blog is akin to that of Anglican Mainstream and Reform. The sentiments are identical without their Catholic flavour. (Pope Francis is much more nuanced and shows compassion). Fr Ed, having enjoined battle for Anglo-Catholicism in his former Church, now fights the iniquities of so-called ‘liberal’ Roman Catholics. Fundamentalists and many evangelicals need an enemy with whom to boost their own righteousness. Also, some people just love a fight!

    1. Teenagers like the heretic “Fr” David and the neo-Mohammedian Middy are the very epitome of self righteous and arrogant provocateurs!

  14. When I was at theological college more years ago than I care to remember, the OT tutor ( now the distinguished Dean of Durham Cathedral) suggested that in the future the fault line in christianity would not be catholic and protestant so much as trad and rad
    ( perhaps we can add to that lib) .
    This is what we see with the long standing arguments of Andrew and Ed ( with the odd hand grenade thrown in by others from both sides)
    ‘Jesus was culturally conditioned – he was a first century Jew.’
    says Andrew.
    The suspicion, however, is that the sub text is ‘ but we know better now’
    Trads, ( like myself) would want to say, culturally conditioned, OK but infinitely more important the Son of God,! the window through which we as christians see the Father, the person whose words should ( unless we want to rewrite the whole show) carry so much more weight, and not to be dismissed or superceded by cries of cultural relativity.
    The danger for Trads is the perception that we can sound too harsh, lacking compassion in the things we say.
    Firmness of faith Yes! but fulness of compassion as well. This is, I think anyway, one of the great gifts which Francis is bringing to the church for which I am thankful. I have to say I think Benedict brought the same gifts but for many reasons the secular world refused to listen to him.

  15. Interesting article in the Telegraph today saying that the Catholic Church has in fact ordained 7 women, and the world did not stop turning…..

    1. Oh do tell me where they minister and show pictures of the celebrets that prove their validity. No? I didn’t think so…

      1. Read the article – it explains all. You will of course deny their validity but it does demonstrate that there are vast swathes of the RC chruch, both lay and ordained, that are out of step with your conservative outlook.

        1. The Church denies her validity, and she is no longer a catholic and that also goes for her “followers”! What you secularized protestants can’t understand is matters of truth, since you have become totally corrupted by the world!

      2. Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger is obviously a lovely woman who attracts large congregations. As the Telegraph reports she is ” there on the altar at Kremsmunster, the oldest Benedictine monastery in Austria, with the congregation spread out in front of her”. It’s only a matter of time when all the other women priests are recognised.

        1. “Fr” David, I suppose it is because of your youth (or a perpetual lack of intellectual ability) that you don’t understand the meaning of excommunication. This protestant lay person has never been and will never be an ordained priest in the Catholic Church!

  16. I think this discussion needs to take account of – and wrestle with – the implications of ‘kenotic Christology’ (= ‘God emptied himself’), itself intensely controversial. It’s often helpful to pose banal, but concrete, questions. E.g.: could Jesus speak/understand ancient Persian? The answer obviously seems to be no. But since there were Persians at the time, predominantly monotheist but outside the Christian story, who were praying to God/god as sole god, it would seem to be the case that God at that time could speak/understand ancient Persian. In other words, Jesus, as fully man and fully God, was in his/His earthly existence not fully co-extensive with God. Which fact – if it is a fact – obviously allows some ‘space’ for ‘additions’ to the Jesus message as transmitted in the Gospels and Acts.

  17. But does God recognise it? I don’t think She does!

    Fr David,
    I am fully aware that God is beyond gender, and yet you have chosen to refer to God as She.
    There is one other thing that might be of concern here. Jesus
    only refered to God as Father.
    Does that fact hold any weight, or do we ‘ know better now’?

  18. Ian, teenagers often believe that they have all the answers and that the latest trend also is the truth. It is the same with the secularized “adolescent” protestants on this blog!

      1. I know. Fun isn’t it! Reminds me of the good old days. Whatever happened to Marlene Blister?

        Even so I think Fr Ed has lost his sense of humor somewhat since becoming a Catholic.

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