Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An army of mini-popes

Patrick Archbold has continued to post some things tangential to his post from yesterday, which I blogged about below.  He has also referenced, as has Mark Shea, the stand Michael Voris has taken regarding criticism of the pope (Voris is generally against it.  Good to know.)

It would appear from some of Patrick's writings from today that he is NOT saying we should prepare to become schismatic if the Church does something unthinkable; rather, he is saying that the whole reason we have to speak out and fight against whatever evils the Church tries to inflict on her members is precisely so some of those members won't become schismatic as they struggle to retain the whole, pure Faith and avoid the evils the institutional Church is planning or plotting or scheming to inflict on...the institutional Church.  Um, Houston?  We have a problem.

Look, I get that sometimes people who feel as though they are the remnant of faithful Catholicism in a sea of Nancy Pelosis or Joe Bidens become convinced that they have a stern duty, like some of the saints of old, to march up to the pope, to the bishops, or to their pastors and say, "Hey, this isn't helpful.  Cut it out."  And once in a blue, blue moon, maybe, just maybe, they do have such a duty.

But it is a far cry from occasionally and respectfully pointing out to your pastor that he is not following the rubrics of the Mass in some important area (for example) or writing to your bishop to ask why he has decided to permit some dissident speaker to appear at a local Catholic university (for another example), and deciding that the Church is in such a state of foul decay that you have to be ready to speak up (or blog) daily, if necessary, to denounce the Church's sins and crimes like one of the prophets from the Old Testament lest the weaker of your brethren fall into schism.  Particularly when the sin and crime you're planning to denounce with all zeal hasn't, in fact, become Church policy as of yet, and likely never will.

Sure, it's enticing to think of oneself as a modern-day Jeremiah or a modern-day Saint Catherine of Siena, denouncing the idolators or telling the pope to get His Holiness back to Rome where he belongs, or something.  We rightly have a great appreciation for those figures God has appointed throughout salvation history to speak boldly to His erring priests or kings, bringing them back to the right path when they had strayed from it.  But it is a great temptation to decide, on our own, that we are the heirs to this sort of vocation.  At the very least, it's the sort of thing one really ought to run by one's confessor or spiritual adviser: "Hey, Father, I know it's my vocation to be a wife and a mother and that this involves homeschooling my kids and doing the odd bit of redheaded Catholic blogging, but lately I'm starting to think that I really ought to imitate the saints, and by 'the saints' I mean St. Catherine of Siena, and by 'imitate' I mean fly to Rome to tell Pope Francis what's what, and all that.  Because, otherwise, schism, and whatnot."

Somehow I doubt one's confessor or spiritual adviser would be enthusiastic about the prospect.  Particularly if one is a lay Catholic with no special training in theology or Church matters.  And even if "...fly to Rome..." were to be replaced by "...speak, write, and publicize my deep but fully justified faithful Catholic dissatisfaction with the Church as she's being run presently, because everybody knows you can't trust any of the bishops, while most priests ordained since Vatican II are probably heretics, and while charity compels me to suppose that the Holy Father must be invincibly ignorant of the serious mess things are in, and that the last several Holy Fathers were likewise clueless, it's clear that the Holy Spirit didn't, for His own unfathomable reasons, bother to clue them in--probably because He wants me to do it."

Again, um, Houston...oh, skip it.

You follow me, though.  It is, at the very least, a dangerous temptation to decide that it is your job to guide the Church, unless you happen to be the white-clad papal gentleman in the Vatican, at which point, that is indeed your job.  The Church is not in desperate need of an army of mini-popes, all riled up with their zealous mission to save the Church from herself.

The Church is, in fact, in need of the same thing yesterday, today, and tomorrow: disciples of Christ who recognize her as His Bride and who listen to her, most especially when she speaks with His authority.  Are some of the Church's leaders going to make occasional mistakes when they are creating pastoral policies?  Perhaps.  But so long as they are being faithful to the Church's mission to spread the Gospel and bring Christ to all, even those mistakes can be turned to good account by God in His good time, provided that the spirit of joyful obedience and fidelity to Christ permeates the efforts being made.  And we ought, in the name of true charity, believe that such spirits do permeate such efforts unless it is absolutely proven otherwise.

1 comment:

Gerard Plourde said...

You're right. It's very tempting to cast oneself as the appointee of God charged with the the task of restoring the Church. That may be why our most important prayer, given to us by Jesus Himself has us recognize that God is sovereign, that we ask only that we be given our daily bread and that we not be led into temptation. At Mass this morning our pastor reminded us that St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today, was confronted with situations that he didn't fully understand but obeyed God and trusted in God's guidance. Can we do any less than follow that example and trust that God's promise to guide the Church and His Vicar on Earth is unconditional and effective for all time?