fredag 19 januari 2018

Stop criticising Pope Francis

The high altitude wedding ceremony conducted by the Pope has, predictably, attracted criticism from the many conservative Catholics who run blogs and websites complaining about the state of the Catholic church and criticising the Pope. This is washing dirty laundry in public. Christians should not do it. It gives scandal, in the real sense of the word: it sets up a stumbling block against belief. It is also spiritually damaging to those who engage in the sport.

Criticism has been going on for the past 45 years, but until the election of the present Pope, the primary focus was not the Pope but the liturgy, following the reforms of Vatican II. What seems to have been lost in most of this criticism is that these reforms were the outcome of a movement whose origins can be traced at least three-quarters of a century before that; it was in 1910 that Pope Pius X found it necessary to make clergy swear an oath against Modernism, which indicates the scale of the ferment of unrest. Thus Vatican II was the start of it, because liturgy is both a product of doctrine and a shaper of belief; “Lex orandi, lex credendi”. The phrase in Latin literally means the law of prayer “the way we worship”) is the law of belief (“what we believe”). What is happening now is the outcome of a process that began long before Pope Francis was born. That there was a run of solidly conservative popes from the middle of the eighteenth century at least until Pius XII has caused complacency. It is no secret that some of the popes have been a disgrace to the office, not the least being Julius II whose actions kicked off the Reformation.

People who are unhappy about the situation should bear this in mind. They should also consider Pope Francis within the wider context of the office of the papacy as such. In order to do this, it is necessary to desist absolutely from personal criticism, especially in public. It is a distraction from the underlying issue, which is how the Petrine ministry has developed from the moment that Christ himself uttered the famous phrase recorded in Matthew 16:18.

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