Who Is Listening to Pope Francis? Redux.


On Thursday, I called the pope’s interview news-breaking. The Catholic Right yawned.

Remember what I said back in August? What’s the point of having a pope if every time he says something your response is ‘Yeah, yeah, we already knew that’?

That response is a way for you to avoid actually listening to what he says. Take this statement from Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, who is 100% positive that Pope Francis has nothing new to tell him. “The Holy Father is describing how many priests and bishops, including myself, carry out their ministry as teachers and healers,” he writes. And then: “This is the message that we work to bring to people everyday.”

See? He’s already perfect. No need to listen to that pope guy.

Look, Catholic Right, I don’t know how the interview can be any clearer. In the immortal words of Lana del Rey, “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you.”

You. You!

In the back, yawning: the Pope is talking to you.

If you’ve ever dismissed millions of your fellow churchgoers as fake Christians because they think differently than the hierarchy, then this is for you:

“The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”

If you reject the notion that Christianity finds its way through a process of discernment and dialogue, between people and their pastors, then there’s this:

“And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.”

This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

If your response to anyone who questions the Catholic hierarchy is to demand to know on what authority he or she speaks, maybe you should consider Pope Francis’ attitude towards authority and obedience:

“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

If you’ve written that Christianity is “provable by simple logical and historical proof,” and you’ve questioned the Christianity of those of us whose faith is tinged by doubt, then maybe you need to think a little bit about this:

In this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.

If the first metaphor you turn to when discussing cultural issues is war, then maybe you need to start trying to think of the church through Francis’ metaphor of the field hospital.

And if you’re pretty sure that Francis isn’t talking about you, that you’re already doing everything right and don’t really need his advice, then maybe you should meditate for a bit on the example of your pope, who starts this remarkable piece by putting himself in the place of a sinful Matthew in Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew: “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.”

Okay, okay. I know I’m being a hypocrite here, that I’m pointing fingers and inviting defensiveness while asking you to lower your defenses. But this extraordinary document, which articulates so much of what I’m trying (less articulately) to say here this blog, is too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ll try to be better tomorrow, I promise.

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