The Vatican has just allowed the blessing of irregular couples, homosexuals in particular. A crisis has ensued; and it is only just the beginning. In this short article, I would like to offer a few thoughts on this crisis, as a way of orienting oneself and considering possible options.
I think I am what is known as a staunch Catholic. I do not believe a pope is infallible all the time—but I do believe him (Vatican I) to be infallible when he teaches ex cathedra. I tend to respect his ordinary teaching. With that in mind, the pope’s absolute power is only just, like all absolute power, if it is strictly limited and framed, with absolute respect for the Deposit of Faith and the institutions willed by the Church’s Founder, Holy Scripture and Church tradition as its counterpart. I also understand that we may not always have at the head of the Church a saint who doubles as a genius and triples as a hero. More generally, my piety is not papocentric. And like John-Henry Newman, I like to drink to the Pope, but first to my conscience.
In previous years, I have always had mixed feelings towards Francis, but overall I have tended to defend his positions, attracting the hostility of high-flying Bergogliophobes.
I took the time to read the text carefully, to reflect and to pray. And now, I have to admit, I have lost it. It’s as if I have come to the end of my tether.
Perhaps we are living in one of those exceptional moments in the history of the Church, and its future now depends on the outcome of the discussion, or struggle, that is taking place.
The essential tradition of the Church is concentrated in Scripture, the Word of God. The Bible includes Paul’s epistles. Saint Paul is the major source of all Catholic theology. The most important of these is his letter to the Romans. The first chapter is absolutely fundamental. So, here is how Paul wrote to the Romans to characterize sin in its essence and root:
And they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:23-27).
These are not very mysterious texts. Even without being a great theologian, or a qualified exegete, one can understand. It is very clear that homosexuality has a particularly close relationship with idolatry and the overthrow of the Glory of God.
With that said, we are all poor sinners whom Christ wants to save. We are all capable of anything. Jesus prefers the lost sheep. He prevents the stoning of an adulteress, but says to her, “Go and sin no more.”
There is nothing of the sort in Cardinal Fernandez’s text.
We understand that there are an infinite number of lost sheep, and it is not a bad idea to try to bring them into the fold with a kind offer, rather than crushing condemnation.
But Saint Paul knew the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge, at least as well as we do. And yet, after dwelling on the atrocious mass of sin, he concludes this first chapter with these words:
They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them (Romans 1:32).
Is it contrary to mercy to speak this way? Who are we to judge the Word of God?
Mercy means calling the sinner not to die in sin, not to lose his soul, not to tarnish the glory of God. Is this what Cardinal Fernandez’s text does?
His text is subtle, I agree. But how can we ignore what the simplifying media will say and do with it? Trouble for believers? The scandal for the weakest? How can we ignore the monstrous global LGBT propaganda? That Rome seems to be going along with these perverse, totalitarian monstrosities? What an immense scandal! What an obstacle to the evangelization of the South and East, which can no longer bear the tyranny of a degenerate West!
So, I cannot help but wonder:
Would the author of the 1st chapter of the epistle to the Romans have signed Cardinal Fernandez’s text? Who is Cardinal Fernandez, to tear up the text of Holy Scripture? Does he not understand that the whole world looks on in amazement and wonders: Has Rome lost its faith? Is the Catholic Church still worthy of faith? Is the Pope here to weaken the faith of his brothers? Has Cardinal Fernandez lost all fear of God? Does he have no fear of hell?
A friend told me: “In my doubts, I used to turn to Rome. In my doubts about Rome, where do I turn?”
And he added: “Why stop there? Every criminal association has its values. Mafiosi have a sense of family, loyalty, sacrifice and friendship. They also want, in their own time, to get back on the straight and narrow, and to gently remind themselves that God remains their Father. Eminence, why do you not bless the mafias?”
And he added: “Of course, we do not change the doctrine, but in practice we do the opposite. I cannot express the disgust I feel at this hypocrisy. How can anyone say that this won’t upset anyone? If an educated person like me is troubled, what about the weak-minded person informed by TV?”
And he said in conclusion: “Facts are facts. Either God abandons His Church, or Rome is no longer in Rome.”
What could I say?
And what will I think?
I am told I have a phlegmatic temperament. I tend to consider all hypotheses coldly.
Here are the main hypotheses:
- The Pope is super-Christian (A) and his critics are sinister Pharisees (B).
- The Pope is ill, slightly senile, not very intelligent, too much of a camarilla, and Fernández has abused his weakness.
- The pope is a real pope in full vigor and is joyfully heretical in good faith and freely, although hypocritically.
- Bergoglio is not the pope and never has been. He is an antipope, put in place by the powers of this world, who have cunningly organized an orange revolution in the Church. A legitimate pope must therefore be elected without delay.
- Bergoglio is a political pope, like Urban II or Julius II, a Machiavellian defender of Church freedom.
That this discussion could even take place at all might seem overwhelming.
If option 3 were true, the question would arise whether to remain Catholic. It is not the most likely.
Option 4 is the most romantic. But conspiracies are not always wrong. However, there are some facts that do not fit the hypothesis.
Option 5 seems the truest, probably, given our current state of knowledge. To be combined with 2 and 1—especially 1 B, because 1 A is not the case. And if Bergoglio is a saint, I have my chances of being canonized, too.
I will now reconstruct the (hypothetical) political reasoning:
The pressure is too great. If we say no to the gays, we will be in trouble, and the clever anti-German maneuvering (we can talk about that later) requires some veering to the left if it is to succeed.
But, of course, we cannot say, yes.
So, Fernandez is asked to give the homos the kiss that kills. He invents an ingenious, theologically-incongruous distinction between first-rate benediction and junk benediction.
And we give homos the junk benediction.
Having thrown them a bone to gnaw on, which the media will turn into a royal feast, they will leave us in peace.
This concoction will go down well, served in a sauce of merciful sentimentality. We cannot rule out the possibility that its aroma will genuinely make the Pope weep with tenderness.
Let us be politicanti. All these LGBT aberrations will soon end along with the power of the West. It is just a matter of time. In the meantime, the power of militant homos to cause trouble must be taken into account. (God knows how much blackmail power they can wield in practice.) The powerful of the world are horribly instrumentalizing poor, grassroots homosexuals. And when the tide of history turns, these unfortunates will be the ideal scapegoats for reaction. So, it is only right to love them, since they will be so much to be pitied tomorrow.
In short, it is worth it to keep our backs to the wall until all these nice people have lost their power. Good Catholics will grumble, but they will stay. There is no explaining it. Intelligent believers must understand that Francis’ word is like Pius XII’s silence.
This kind of analysis may not do Bergoglio any favors, but at least it leaves Peter essentially untouched.
Unless, that is, it is a huge error of governance. This, seen from my window of competence, is indubitable. It ruins the relationship with Islam, bears the seeds of the loss of Africa and the disinterest of Asia, and the bridges will be burned with the Orthodox, while the Evangelicals will have the argument they needed to gain the upper hand in South America. Does Francis want to sink Rome with Washington?
Catholicism needs a pope. Loss of trust now goes hand-in-hand with loss of respect. Tomorrow, the loss of authority will lead to schism, as with the Anglicans.
The Church and the world are decidedly large objects. They do not fit into a too-narrow brain, and global responsibility does not sit well with coffee-shop talk and sub-prefecture Machiavellianism.
We will have to think about that at the next conclave.
In the meantime, it seems clear to me that dismissing Fernandez would be the only way to save this pontificate, which otherwise risks ending in disaster.
Featured: The Vision of Pope Innocent III, by Giotto; painted ca., 1295-1300.