Sunday, January 13, 2019

Rendering Unto Caesar That Which Belongs to God

Reading the comments made in response to news about Catholic teaching can be disheartening. Some of the most vocal responses come from Catholics who spew the slogans of their party as if they were dogma and the teaching of the Church as mere opinions that can be “set aside” for a greater good.

Two of the most common examples involve abortion and immigration. Catholics who hold positions at odds with Church teaching (whether by actively rejecting Church teaching or thinking it’s “less important” than other teachings) argue that the authority of the Church doesn’t really forbid their actions—because they are being faithful to a “higher” teaching of the Church. 

So, one one side, a Catholic who either supports abortion or thinks it’s “less important” than a combination of other issues, misuses the Seamless Garment idea of the late Cardinal Bernadin to say that their vote is not undermining Church teaching because it “also” or “really” defends life, ignoring the words of St. John Paul II:

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

Christifideles Laici, 38

In other words, you can’t invoke those things as a counterbalance to the obligation of ending abortion because they depend on defending the right to life in the first place.

On the other side, we see Catholics arguing that the defense of borders (they usually cite part of CCC 2241) outweighs the teaching of charity. Our Lord, in Matthew 25:31-45, warns us that the final judgment will involve how we treated “one of these least ones.” That obligation will not be negated by what side of the border the “least one” should be on. Whatever the legitimate defense of the borders might be in a specific case, they cannot allow us to ignore the suffering of those we think are on the wrong side of it. Yet, when the Church speaks out on this, some Catholics respond with hostility, effectively saying “am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9b).

There are many other issues, where Catholics disagree with or downplay Church teaching and side with a political party instead. When the Church contradicts them, they either try to explain away the Church teaching as “non-binding,” or attack the leaders of the Church that they dislike. For example, with the current sex abuse scandal, there’s a tendency to focus on the bishops they identify with a disliked faction and claim that this faction is the cause of the scandal. For these Catholics, the “liberal/conservative” nature of the Church is to blame for the spread of homosexuality or the concealment of abuse.

This example shows the problem that must be corrected. By treating Church teaching as a political view or opinion that can be ignored while treating disagreement with a political view as a sign of “heresy,” people are making political orthodoxy the criteria for judging the theological orthodoxy of a member of the Church. Since we believe that the Church was established by Christ with the authority to teach in His name, those that reject what the Church teaches in the name of their ideology are placing political loyalty over fidelity. 

That’s effectively rendering unto Caesar what is God’s. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Missing the Clues, Missing the Answer

Among the dangers of misunderstanding out there, one that comes to my mind is the fact that members of the faithful are all too quick to draw assumptions from what they think they know, treating it as all the information needed to form a judgment. The problem is it is easy to make mistakes over cause and effect, or assume that there is only one conclusion to be drawn.

Assumptions can be falsely positive or excessively negative. I’m reminded of some triumphalistic books written by English Catholics in the early 20th century about the rising divorce rate in Protestant countries. They rightly deplored the divorce rate (back then it was “only” 3 in 10 ending in divorce), but wrongly assumed that the problem was caused by Protestant theology and that Catholics would never run into these problems. Unfortunately, that assumption was based on false interpretation of information. Yes, the Protestant mindset about marriage caused this to appear more quickly among their denominations, but they mistook the cause and effect. The problem was a growing indifference to moral and religious obligations... something that would fester later (after World War II) among Catholics. The reaction of the authors was rather like the above (repurposed) comic by David Low. These authors failed to grasp that the growing threat put them in the same boat if the problem was left unchecked.

Another example might be one described by C.S. Lewis in his essay, “The Decline of Religion” (found in the book God in the Dock). Talking about the missed clues that led to the decline of attendance at chapel in Oxford, he pointed out that the assumed cause and effect was wrong. He wrote:

The ‘decline of religion’ so often lamented (or welcomed) is held to be shown by empty chapels. Now it is quite true that that chapels which were full in 1900 are empty in 1946. But this change was not gradual. It occurred at the precise moment when chapel ceased to be compulsory. It was not in fact a decline; it was a precipice. The sixty men who had come because chapel was a little later than ‘rollers’ (its only alternative) came no more; the five Christians remained. The withdrawal of compulsion did not create a new religious situation, but only revealed the situation which had long existed. And this is typical of the ‘decline in religion’ all over England.

In other words, when chapel was mandatory (and attendance was taken), the nonconformists had to report in early. So many came to chapel not out of conviction, but because it meant sleeping in an extra ten minutes. It could not simply be fixed by reinstating mandatory attendance because the attitude had appeared long before.

Another issue is mentioned by Benedict XVI in his work, Milestones. In discussing the attempt of the bishops to defend the schools from the Nazis (page 15), he discusses a problem that doomed their efforts:

Already then it dawned on me that, with their insistence on preserving institutions, these letters in part misread the reality. I mean that merely to guarantee institutions is useless if there are no people to support those institutions from inner conviction. But this was only partially the case. To be sure, teachers could be found in both the older and the younger generations who had deep convictions of faith, people who in their hearts saw Christian faith was the foundation of our culture and, therefore, of its work of education. But in the older generation there existed an anti-clerical resentment that was understandable, considering that the prerogative to inspect schools belonged to priests. In the younger generation there were convinced Nazis. So in both these cases it was inane to insist on an institutionally guaranteed Christianity.

Yes, the bishops were fighting to save an institutionally guaranteed Christianity, but the people didn’t.

This is why I think the Catholics who say things like “Vatican II caused X,” miss the point. The fact that much of our abuse scandal involved priests ordained before Vatican II shows the problem had another cause. The fact that there was a false “hope” among many Catholics that the Church would overturn the contraception teachings after the discovery of “the pill,” and the abandonment of Friday fasting from meat (even though some penance was still required) showed that a large number of Catholics didn’t obey previously out of conviction but out of compulsion. When the social upheavals of the late 1960s arose, many Catholics simply stopped obeying... and if they stop obeying, how can the magisterium succeed in standing for the Church?

It would be wrong to assume that “the magisterium” was to blame. Pope Pius XII was the first to warn about the loss of the sense of sin in the Church. His successors continued that warning, targeting specific evils of that time. It would also be wrong to blame one political faction. Yes, the Catholic “left” rebelled against sexual morality teaching. But the Catholic “right” rebelled against social teachings. Both led to the later Catholics believing they could set aside whatever they disliked. In both cases the rebelling Catholics used the same argument: the teaching they didn’t like “was not binding” and not free of error.

The Popes didn’t miss the clues though. They continued to teach on what Christians had to avoid, and continued to encourage us to go beyond the letter of the law. Pope Francis’ letter to the US Bishops (PDF) is an example of that—saying it was not enough to create policies. We had to change our hearts as well.

As I see it, the problem today involves a legalism which condemns whatever others do that we agree with while evading obedience which condemns what we want to do. In that, we’re little different from the students C.S. Lewis mentioned who only did something so long as it was required under pain of sanction. 

We need to stop assuming that the problem in the Church exist because we changed or did not change a discipline in the Church. That’s being so focused on our pet theories for cause/effect that we miss the real causes. We need to watch for the signs that people no longer care to defend the Church and live it wholeheartedly. If we miss those clues, we miss the solutions.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Who Watches the (Self-Appointed) Watchmen?

Rorschach, “The Watchmen”Vigilantes have been a part of the superhero genre since at least the 1980s. People tired of the clean-cut Superman type of hero became interested in the antihero who repaid violence with violence while the legitimate law-enforcement was portrayed as inept or corrupt.

Of course, the times made the vigilante stories popular. Stories about corruption and criminals getting off scott-free—especially when the two seemed to be linked—tempts people to think that the institutions have failed and we need someone who will defend us if the authorities will not.

There is a problem with that line of thought though. Yes, even with those given the authority to determine what is or isn’t in keeping with the law, there is always a concern over whether they follow the law themselves. But rules do exist (regardless of how well they’re enforced) to govern the abuse of power.

However, the self-appointed vigilante (as graphically demonstrated here by the character Rorschach in the graphic novel The Watchmen [§]) has no authority except brute force, and follows no rule of conduct. If they violate the law in doing what is “just,” they protest that the authorities are focused on petty matters in “persecuting” them while “real” criminals get away.

This strikes me as a good analogy for the self-appointed “orthodoxy cops” who take it upon themselves to determine what is or is not an authentic interpretation of the Catholic Faith... going so far as to pass judgment on the orthodoxy of bishops or even the Pope if these shepherds of the Church should dare interpret the Catholic Faith differently than they do. If you’re not on this “orthodoxy cop’s” side, you’re seen as part of the problem.

The result is, more often than not, symbolically like the panel above. The character Rorschach, investigating a murder, takes it on himself to brutalize people in the hopes (ie. no basis of fact) that one of them will provide the information needed. When it doesn’t, he moves on, justifying himself by assuming that they must be guilty of something.  Likewise, the self-appointed “orthodoxy cop” assumes the guilt in his targets and justifies his or her own attacks by assuming that if others don’t think the way he or she does, they must be heretical and deserves whatever savaging they get.

Think I’m being ridiculous? Consider how many times you’ve seen a “combox warrior” show up in the comments  section on a social media post to accuse a bishop or the Pope of error, based on his or her reading of what was said vs. his or her reading of past Church teaching. If one defends the Pope or bishop in question, or challenges the veracity of the combox warrior, that defender is assumed to be ignorant and a heretic. 

Vigilante comics were spawned from a mistrust of those entrusted to enforce the law, thinking them part of the problem. But the authority to uphold the law exists with law enforcement, not the vigilante. The current attacks on the Church also come from the mistrust of those who interpret and defend the Faith. But, like the vigilante, the self-proclaimed defenders of orthodoxy have no right to impose themselves as judge, jury, and executioner over and above the teaching of the Pope and bishops. Any attempts to claim Catholics must go against the Pope to be faithful has no authority for their actions.

Keep this in mind the next time you see the “orthodoxy cops” at work online. When they equate their opinions with Church teaching and pass judgment on those who reject their opinions, they are basically the online equivalent of a thuggish vigilante.


[§] The entire graphic novel involves “heroes” who have no problem with committing evil acts in the name of a “greater good.” It escalates to the point that one character commits mass murder with the “justification” of preventing nuclear war. The characters display a very Utilitarian morality. While I’m not entirely sure of the intended meaning of the comic as a whole, I think it involves raising questions about vigilantes and morality.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

On Confusing Style With Holiness

Preliminary Note: To pre-empt any accusation of this advocating “modern” or “minimalist” style, let me be clear. This article is not about what the style of churches should be. It’s about people missing the point by saying only a certain style of art is the sign of a holy Church.

Some of the internal criticism on the Church is to compare the glory and temporal influence of the Church at her height (usually in the high Middle Ages or the time of the Council of Trent), and contrast it with the rebellion and contempt against her today. The argument is that ever since X happened, the Church has been in decline. Some blame Vatican II or the Popes from 1958 onward. Others blame Popes after St. John XXIII for “betraying” the Council. But both are operating from the belief that:
  1. There was a time when we had a “golden age” in the Church.
  2. This ain’t it.
  3. We need to go back to what worked at that time.
The problem is, the glory and prestige is a byproduct of the mission of the Church that only exists in certain times. In most times, the Church has had to deal with indifference, hostility, and disrespect. Even in the times of the greatest earthly renown, the Church has needed to deal with hostile governments (some of them Catholics), corruption, dissent, and sin.

When people speak of the decline in respect and holiness, they usually confuse the architecture of churches, the talent of artists, and the solemnity of a High Mass in a certain era with the holiness of the Church. But the mission of the Church exists, regardless of the artistic talent of the times.

There’s a vast difference between the frescoes in the catacombs and the Renaissance art [§]. But the mission to be God’s way of bringing His salvation of the world to every person in every place and time continues regardless of the talent and piety of the individual Catholics. 

That’s not to say that art, architecture, and ceremony aimed glorifying God is meaningless. If not done to an excess that distracts, these things are good at elevating the heart and mind to thinking about God. But if the focus on these ever becomes a distraction away from serving God, then people have missed the point of the Church.

I am reminded of a video shared by a member of the SSPX that purported to show a modern altar that was ignored. Then (through time lapse photography), the altar was decorated (practically buried under cloth and statuary over crates) to look like a pre-Vatican II altar and people started showing it more respect. The point was supposed to be that respect was lost because of Vatican II.

“But,” I replied, “what was sacred was the altar itself, not the decoration on top of it. The fact that people were not being respectful of the altar before it was buried under trappings shows they were missing the point of what was sacred.” The altar should be reverenced because of the role it plays, not because it is adorned with beautiful things.

Of course, when possible, the altar should be dignified. We shouldn’t tear down the old without serious reasons [#]. But dignified is not the same as “ornate.” Music should be dignified, but dignified is not the same as “baroque.” Churches should glorify God, but glorifying is not a synonym for “flying buttresses.” To say that a church that is not ornate, baroque, or designed in a medieval style is not dignified is to miss the point.

Some may be called to create beautiful churches, beautiful decoration, and beautiful music. They should carry out that calling of course. But let’s not forget that this beauty is not the point of the Church. The mission of saving souls is. If our quarrels over beauty obscures that mission, we have missed the point of what the Church is.


[§] I’ll set aside the discussion of the general decline of art as we go forward in time. Much of the recent bad “Church art” seems to coincide with bad art in general.

[#] It was tragic when some Catholics carried out a mini iconoclasm in the misinterpretation of Vatican II. But this was not done at the instruction of Vatican II.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

No Exceptions: Reflections on Church Authority

(Ven. Fulton J Sheen, Treasure in Clay)

A major struggle in the Church today is the issue of contrasting being faithful to the Church as the bride of Christ with giving religious submission of intellect and will when the Pope teaches (canon 752), and accepting his authority to govern all areas of the Church (canon 331). The problem is that while the Church makes clear that these things are required of the faithful, a troubling number of Catholics are arguing that to be faithful they must disobey the Pope.

Not only has this argument never been taught by the Church, the reality is it has only been used by dissenters who want to reject an unpopular Church teaching. For example: those Catholics who attacked St. Paul VI and his successors used the same arguments about “erring” Popes in order to deny their authority that the Catholics who attack Pope Francis today use over teachings they oppose. 

The problem is, many of those Catholics who use these attacks against Pope Francis denounced the same attacks when used against his predecessors. This brings up the question: if the dissent against the previous Popes was wrong, then how is the dissent against the current Pope justified? The common defense in this case is that we haven’t had a heretic Pope before. But that’s the point they have to prove... and there’s a lot of theology that has to be ignored to “prove” it. 

The starting point is the promises and commands of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that He promised to build His Church on the rock of Peter, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against her. (Matthew 16:18). We believe that Our Lord gave Peter the keys to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19) and promised to protect and guide Peter (Luke 22:31-32). We believe that He will be with His Church until the end (Matthew 28:18-20). We believe that Our Lord made clear that to love Our Lord is to obey Him (John 14:15, Matthew 7:21), and that to reject the Church is to reject God (Luke 10:16). 

But there are no exceptions to that obedience. Even in the case of sinful Popes, Our Lord drew a distinction between their authority to teach and govern and their behavior (Matthew 23:2-3). Yes, we have had morally bad Popes. Yes, we have some Popes who were suspected of dubious beliefs. But none of them ever taught error, and based on what Our Lord taught us, we know He will never permit them to teach error. 

The second point involves reason. If a Pope can teach error, then Our Lord’s promise was false. If His promise was false, He is not God. If He is not God, the Church has taught error in teaching He is God. In such a case, it would matter very little what Pope Francis said. If what a Pope teaches or governs is binding on the faithful, we sin if we disobey. We trust in God that He will never permit His Church under the Pope to teach error. A bad Pope might end up teaching nothing under this protection, but He will not teach error.

The third point to remember is that the authentic interpretation and application of past teaching is ultimately done by the Pope and bishops in communion with him. An individual Catholic cannot use his or her own reading of Scripture or past teaching to judge the orthodoxy of the Pope.

The arguments used to deny Papal authority ignore all of these points. They assume that the Pope can err, because they don’t like his teaching. But they ignore the fact that assuming him erring in teaching means ignoring the words of The Lord on protection and the obligation to obey. Let’s be clear: the idea that only ex cathedra teachings bind was condemned by Piux IX. The appeal to a council to judge the Pope was condemned as a heresy (conciliarism). The cardinals who elect the Pope cannot remove him from office.

Since there are no exceptions or escape clauses to the authority of the Church and of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ, we must put our trust in God. God may afflict us with a bad Pope as a chastisement (and let me be clear: I deny that Pope Francis is a bad Pope) but He does not give us the exception clause to reject the legitimate authority of the Pope.

Once we recognize the protection from Our Lord is always with the Church, we can recognize that the claims that he teaches error are garbage. We must assume that the accusations of error against the Pope are to be disbelieved. The individual blogger, theologian, priest, bishop, or cardinal has no authority to teach in opposition to the Pope.

I think Ven. Fulton J. Sheen (in Treasure of Clay) recognized the need to remain in communion with the Pope:

Our Blessed Lord told His Apostles: “The devil had asked to sift you as wheat.” There is no indication that Our Blessed Lord denied that there would be a demonic trial or testing; there is even a suggestion that He permitted it. Though the other Apostles were there, He spoke only to Peter: “Peter, I have prayed for you.” Our Lord did not say: “I will pray for all of you.” He prayed for Peter that his faith fail not, and after he recovered from his fall that he confirm his brethren. I think bishops are strong only when they are united with the Holy Father. As we begin to separate from him, we are no longer under the prayer of Christ And if we are not under the prayer of Christ, we are no longer protected, nor are we strong guardians or angels of the churches.

We should remember this. If we seek to find exceptions so we don’t have to listen to the Pope, we are removing ourselves from the prayer and protection of Christ. And then we are like sheep lost and easy prey.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Foundations of Falsehood

When I do theological study, sometimes my research takes me into non-Catholic sources. In reading these sources I notice a common trend: When people attack the nature of the Church (as opposed to the individual behavior at odds with our teaching), there is always some sort of falsehood involved. For example, reading the appendixes of the Eastern Orthodox Bible: New Testament (EOB), I came across their explanation of Matthew 16:18-19. In trying to claim they were the true catholic (universal) Church despite their smaller numbers and being limited national churches compared to the Catholic Church, the people responsible made a curious statement. They alleged that the Catholic Church only considered “universal” to mean all people in communion on Earth at the present point in time while the Orthoox considered “universal” to be in communion with the Church past, present and future, and in communion with the saints in Heaven.

The problem is, we do not define universal in that matter. We consider ourselves in communion with the Sacred Tradition in the Past, and recognize that while all members of the Church on Earth today are members of the Church militant, we also consider ourselves in communion with the Church suffering (purgatory) and Church triumphant (Heaven). The statement of those writing this defense of the Eastern Orthodox churches by attacking the Catholic Church was a falsehood. It’s not for me to determine whether they knew this was false (a lie) or whether they wrongly thought a falsehood was true. That’s for God to decide. But whatever level of culpability, wrong was done.

This sort of thing goes on among anti-Catholic Protestants as well. People claim we worship statues, claim we sell forgiveness of sins, claim we think the Pope is God, claim we think we can earn salvation, claim we invented torture, and so on. All of these accusations are false. If the people knew they were false when repeating them, they would be guilty of a lie. But even if they sincerely believed these things were true, they have an obligation to investigate and not bear false witness.

Are you angry when you hear of this? Do you want God to provide punishment to those non-Catholics who speak falsely? Good. But now that you’re indignant about these injustices done against the Church by those outside of it, it’s time to reveal that once again this is a case of bait and switch. This point of this article is not to denounce non-Catholics for the falsehoods they believe. It’s to speak about the falsehoods we within the Church are willing to believe.

The basic layout of the falsehood is to focus on the evils within the Church at a certain time and claim they did not exist in the Church before this time. So a certain Pope or council is blamed for the evils within the Church. We’re told that this is the greatest danger the Church has ever been in on account of “heretical” Popes and bishops causing confusion and spreading error. The problem is, like the non-Catholics who speak falsely about the Church, these members of the Church also speak falsely, repeating misrepresentations of what they said or claiming that their words “contradict” past teaching—which is solely based on their individual interpretation. As I said above, It’s not for me to determine whether they knew this was false (a lie) or whether they wrongly thought a falsehood was true. That’s for God to decide. But whatever level of culpability, wrong was done.

Here’s what we should beware: Those outside the Church (and therefore do not recognize her authority) who speak falsely about the Church may have an excuse before God. They could sincerely believe that their teachers were honest men who did the research instead of merely passing on a falsehood from generation to generation. But those of us within the Church do not have that excuse. We profess to believe that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, established the Catholic Church and remains with her, protecting her from error. If we believe that, then we are without excuse when we accuse the legitimate teaching authority of that Church of falling into error while we do not. Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Henry Newman made a point [†] about why these dissenters break ranks:

Such a person, never accepting the infallibility of the Church, reasons that when they hear something they dislike, it is  the Pope and bishops who must err—because they cannot. But if we accept that the Church is infallible because of the protection God gives His Church, then when there is a conflict between individual interpretation and Church teaching [§], then we must accept the teaching and consider our own view to be error. St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, warns us of this attitude:

This means that when a site we follow, or a favorite theologian criticizes the teaching of the Church, saying the magisterium teaches error, that is the fruit by which we can know the tree. We cannot appeal to the site or the theologian against the Church. They may be sincere. They may be malicious. But if they speak falsely—and speaking against the teaching of the Pope and bishops as if it was an error is speaking falsely—then we are not excused by citing them.

So, we should keep this in mind: If God will punish those outside the Catholic Church for speaking falsely about the Church, what will He do with those inside the Church who speak falsely about her?


[†] While he was speaking about converts who left the Church again, I believe this also applies to “cradle Catholics” who reject a teaching they dislike.
[§] Which must be distinguished from an opinion at a Press conference, or a bishop or priest who breaks ranks with the Pope.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Thrown Under the Bus: Pope Francis and the USCCB Conference

[Note—this article intends no disrespect to the bishops. Under Canon 212, I am expressing my concerns that the reaction at the November conference is being misused by the Pope’s critics to make it appear that he is to blame for this. I plead with them to consider the unjust resentment directed against him because of it.]

The aftermath of the USCCB bishops’ conference last month led to one undeniable conclusion: the secular and Catholic media are generally treating the Pope as if he were the one to blame for the state of the abuse crisis.

There were things leading up to it: for example, Vigano’s (unjust, in my opinion) accusations started the narrative that the Pope was part of the coverup conspiracy. There was also the Pope effectively telling the reporters to do their homework and investigate the claims themselves (which showed Vigano’s accusations had more holes than Swiss cheese riddled by a machine gun) which was wrongly portrayed as “no comment.” Using the “argument from silence” fallacy, the Pope’s critics argued that his refusal to play along with a stunt (that was obviously calculated to be released at a time that would cause the most damage), as “proof” that he was hiding the truth that would convict him (also a “shifting the burden of proof” fallacy).

This sets the background for the USCCB conference in November. The bishops planned to vote on some proposals involving oversight and sanctions against covering up bishops that were potentially in conflict with canon law. Then, on the opening day of the conference, it was announced that the Vatican had ordered that the bishops not vote on these issues, and wait instead for the meeting of all the leaders of bishops’ conferences scheduled for February. Cardinal DiNardo and others expressed “disappointment” at the decision, Catholics were outraged. The term, “swept under the carpet” was a common epithet.

Except it wasn’t. Cardinal Müller and others pointed out that these proposals were literally submitted at the last minute. There was no time to review them properly to make sure there were no conflicts [§]. In other words, the Vatican wasn’t covering up. Those responsible for submitting the proposals in a timely manner dropped the ball in an unforced error [@]. But bishops were saying they were disappointed instead of saying mea culpa. It was troublesome because it’s not like this requirement was unknown prior to November 2018.

In fact, the situation probably would have been worse if the Vatican had just allowed it to go for a vote. Canon law requires that decrees from such a meeting be reviewed and approved before they can take effect. Both the 1917 and 1983 Codes of canon law make this clear:

(1917 Code of Canon Law)

(1983 Code of Canon Law)

If these dubious proposals had been voted on and, after review, found to be in conflict with canon law, they would have to be rejected. But do you think people would recognize “oh, the bishops were corrected”? No. The Pope would be attacked as “blocking reform” and vilified by people either unaware of or uninterested in the fact that the Church is governed by the rule of law, not arbitrary decrees [&].

This is not a case of the Pope “having the right” but being unwise to use it (as someone told me). This is a case of the Pope being in the right. There may or may not be canonical problems with the proposals. But that must be determined before they can be promulgated. The USCCB (for whatever reason) failed to submit their proposals in a timely fashion then. The USCCB can submit their proposals to the February meeting where this can be determined now. Then we can determine their merits and whether they fit in with or contradict the nature of what the Church is.

But the use of language expressing “disappointment” over something that could not be otherwise is stirring up resentment against something that is not the fault of the appropriate Vatican Congregations (Congregations of Bishops and CDF), and to use it risks looking like “throwing the Pope under the bus for the failure of others.


[§] I find it curious that many Papal critics who rightly laughed at Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy,” wanted the Vatican to accept exactly that.

[@] I don’t know if it was bad planning or deliberate. But it seems to me that to avoid rash judgment, we must not make an accusation of malfeasance without proof.

[&] Canon Law, like secular law, can be amended. But it can’t just be ignored when we desire it.