If you are one of those who are shocked, confused, even angry at the image of our Pope projected by the media both in the secular world, and by some of the press officers of the Vatican … allow me to say that I agree with you in more than you can imagine. Bear with me patiently keeping in mind that my mere opinions arenot doctrine that have to be believed and followed, there are simply thoughts that I hope my readers find edifying and leads them to think.
It is simply too much for a human mind to try to figure out how the Church is going to be both protected against the forces of Hell, (the non praevalebunt promise of Our Lord in Matthew 16) and how it will come to pass that there is going to be a generalized apostasy so bad that the Holy Apostles describe it as an age of confusion and disobedience. How can one Church be a faithful “little flock” and also an apostate flock of disobedient goats? It is a conundrum that simply boggles one’s mind.
The mystery of iniquity is at work since the early ages of the Church, St. Paul says. It was there in his time and it has produced all the heresies and deviations the Church had to endure through the ages. We also know that it is a powerful force but we do not know when that force is going to be allowed to act with full potency. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.) Having said that, we know there is a strong possibility that the devil may be allowed to act in such a way that will sway a huge part of the Church into apostasy. We may find ourselves then with two churches: one weakened by and confused but popular with the world. The other a silent and shocked “little flock” mostly kept out of public view because the “other” Church magnified by the media with lots of popular bishops and theologians is getting all the world’s attention.
There can be once again a Pope like Peter with ambiguous attitudes; on one hand he is faithful to Jesus Christ in his teaching but on the other hand he may be sending the wrong signals just like Peter did with the sect of Judaizers of his day. The same Pope could reign over both churches that would continue to be one Church but only in appearance.
Years ago that may have been considered crazy ecclesiology but… wouldn’t you agree that it seems to make some sense today?
Does this pass the theological smell test? I hope so. See, we have a few promises about Pope and Church: the first is that the Holy Spirit will never allow the Pope to teach error. The second that the Church will endure and survive fierce persecution comparable to the Passion of Our Lord (see Matthew 10: 24-34) both promises would be true if our ecclesiological hypothesis comes to pass. That is one way to explain how the great apostasy can be complete (as prophesied) and coincide with the perseverance of the “little flock” that the Father has destined to inherit His Kingdom. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8.)
That seems to me the mission of Petrus Romanus: to be a Pope like Peter who could walk on water only half of the time, and be a good pastor and yet occasionally given to bouts of weakness and favoritism “sending the wrong signal” from time to time. That may be the image that Our Lord wanted the Gospel of John to transmit to us: that Peter denied Him in front of the fire (fire means testing often enough in the Bible) but in front of a different fire, three weeks after the Resurrection, Peter affirmed his faith in Him three times. He was fearful of the crowd the night of the Passion but he was bold and brave in front of the whole city the Sunday of Pentecost! He was two Popes in one.
May be that is why St. Malachy of Armagh called the last Pope “Petrus Romanus,” because that Pope will close the age behaving pretty much like the early Peter, the one that started his ministry saying “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Curiously enough the first words of Francis as a Pope were “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Miserando atque eligendo.
Our heart has to be in the right place. God gave us freedom so we can acquire wisdom and only then surrender that freedom to Him with a will tempered by experience. God pays back multiplying that freedom and giving us more: He makes us His sons and daughters. We only have to trust Him.
Now that we have a treasure of twenty centuries of Church wisdom in her saints and doctors, we can take a so-so Pope. We’ll survive! There will be good and faithful servants giving you your daily quote of good doctrine even if the Pope turns out to be neglectful.
Our first Pope was a saint and no doubt he was perfectly appointed by Jesus Himself… but surely he was not the most brilliant guy and he acted pretty badly a couple of times. He was not educated like Luke and Phillip, not strong like James, not ready to fly the heights of theology like John. But when the chips were down Peter died an awful death for his bride, glorifying his Master. The old foolish, impulsive fisherman turned out to be a lion. The heart of a man is like deep waters and only the very wise know what is in them.
It is high time to trust in the doctrine given to the saints, to have confidence in the One who gave us that treasure. “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” We are not bound by doctrine to like the Pope; we are not supposed to worship the ground he walks on. We are obliged to believe that behind him God is doing wonders and then obey him in matters of doctrine — even a wicked heretic Pope could not teach heresy. That is guaranteed. In this case God is giving us occasion to trust in Him.
I for one trust the words of Jesus “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:9) Scandals are inevitable, Jesus said that much and added: “woe to those by whom the scandal comes.” That should send chills down the spine of any believer on either side of the present controversy.
On one extreme I see those (madmen) who want to introduce in the Church the “gender ideology” promoted by the political left. On the other extreme I see some that apparently demand absolute purity of those who approach the Church seeking salvation. The first extreme is heresy of the criminal kind. The second extreme is a form of Donatism the kind that places heavy burdens on other people’s backs.
Christ calls all to conversion. Period. He may have found very valuable qualities in the adulterous woman but still He said to her: “Sin no more.” That’s the model. Now the people ready to stone that poor sinner were condemned later by the Lord’s words: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” That story has bothered many, including St. Augustine who himself thought that must have been inserted in the Gospels by some anonymous hand. Yet the Church left that fragment untouched.
Christ’s actions bother even some saints, it seems. Among those sodomites and adulterers there are some left that are going to be saved. In the last minute of the last hour the doors of the Church are going to be closed by God, not by us. (See Genesis 7:16)
Think also of the words of St. Paul: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who lay with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Yet that is what some of youwere.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
A repenting homosexual who was received in the Church in the last days of his life, Oscar Wilde, wrote about this: “Of course the sinner must repent. Why? Simply because otherwise he would be unable to realize what he had done. The moment of repentance is the moment of initiation. More than that: it is the means by which one alters one’s past. The Greeks thought that impossible. They often say in their Gnomic aphorisms, ‘Even the Gods cannot alter the past.’ Christ showed that the commonest sinner could do it, that it was the one thing he could do.” (De Profundis, cited from one insightful article by Juan Manuel de Prada: A synodal ruckus)
Look at Wilde’s understanding! God placed that jewel of a thought in his mind and heart — in spite of an awful life of sinful transgressions — “Omne verum, a quocumque dicatur, a Spiritu Sancto est.” That is a witness of the Holy Spirit working in the soul of arepentant sodomite.
All I wanted to say is: I also find some of the Pope’s actions confusing. I also agree with Scripture and Holy Tradition in this: there will come a time of great apostasy when most of the Church is going to be confused, even seduced into disobedience. May be that necessitates a not-so-clear Pope. Yet some, the “little flock,” are going to remain loyal and obedient to the eternal faith and the Pope will teach no error. We have God’s guarantee. If I am not mistaken all of those in the little flock are going to be former sinners being kept alive by the Sacraments of that very Church that will be presiding over the general confusion. Perhaps some of those in the little flock are going to be people who used to practice the awful sins described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Who am I to judgewho goes through the door in what condition?
If the adulterous woman comes to me I will not ask her to deal with sin on her own and then come in the Church when she is free of sin. Such purity was not demanded of me when I came into the Church. Believe me I have been to Confession often since that day thirteen years ago and every time I was sent off with the same words: “Go in peace and sin no more.”
I agree with Fr. Gordon MacRae who commenting in his site said: “Perhaps it is simply time that the lost had an ear, and voice, in Rome.”
If only one of the lost is found and repents there will be joy in Heaven. With that in mind let us not be promoters of the gender ideology some bishops shamefully presented in the Synod papers. Also let us remember that no one named us guardians of our brother’s orthodoxy. We have enough dealing with the beam in our own eye. Our witness should be our conduct — not a “holier than-thou” attitude that slams the door in the face of a repented sinner who wants to come in and turn his life around. Let us shout to those out there: “Come and be cleansed of your sins!” that’s what the Sacraments are for, that’s what the Church is for.
Finally let us hope that the Lord will be as merciful with our load of sins as we have been with other people’s sins. May be there’s the key: mercy informed by truth, light penetrating the darkness of this world.