Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Red Flag Over The New Pope

 While there are many things about Pope Francis I find laudatory, there are also some things which throw up some serious red flags.  I happen to believe one of those red flags will color too many of his decisions.  That flag is illustrated in a homily he gave this morning.  The following excerpt is taken from Vatican radio's translation of his homily.  The link is at the bottom of this excerpt.

“You may ask the question,” continued Pope Francis, ‘Father, what is the weapon to defend against these seductions, from these blandishments, these enticements that the prince of this world offers?’. The weapon is the same weapon of Jesus, the Word of God - not dialogue - but always the Word of God, and then humility and meekness. We think of Jesus, when they give that slap: what humility! What meekness! He could have insulted him, no? One question, meek and humble. We think of Jesus in His Passion. His Prophet says: ‘As a sheep going to the slaughter.’ He does not cry out, not at all: humility. Humility and meekness. These are the weapons that the prince and spirit of this world does not tolerate, for his proposals are proposals for worldly power, proposals of vanity, proposals for ill-gotten riches.”

“Today,” continued Pope Francis, “Jesus reminds us of this hatred that the world has against us, against the followers of Jesus.” The world hates us, he repeated, “because He has saved us, redeemed us.” Recalling the “weapons to defend ourselves” he added that we must remain sheep, “because sheep are meek and humble, [and when we are sheep] we have a shepherd.” The Pope concluded with an invocation to the Virgin Mary, asking her, “to help us become meek and humble in the way of Jesus.”

I have a difficult time believing Jesus came to teach us how to weaponize the spiritual attributes of humility and meekness.  I don't think Jesus came to teach spiritual principles as battle strategies or to use as weapons in military campaigns of any sort.  Spiritual or secular.  Jesus came to teach love and compassion as the two attributes which enact the will of the Father on earth exactly as they do in heaven.  There is nothing in the Lord's prayer about wars and weapons.  There are lines about forgiveness and forgiving, and about being delivered from evil.  There are no lines about conquering evil in the name of Jesus or remaining sheep under the protection of some shepherd as military protector.
Pope Francis has consistently used this kind of military weaponizing language when speaking about Jesus and Catholic spirituality.  I find this trend of Francis' irritating if only because the first thing humanity usually does with a new technology or scientific discovery is weaponize it.  I would sincerely hope spirituality could be evolved in such a way that it precludes weaponization of it in any way shape or form.  Actually, I'm beginning to believe it is precisely this use of spirituality as a weapon in a some inner dimensional war that is precluding Catholicism from leading it's followers in engaging in the spiritual acts that Jesus did.  The aim of any spiritual system should not be to further the kind of dualistic split inherent in an 'us against the enemy' mentality, but to transcend such dualisms by seeking a more holistic and encompassing point of view.  The idea is to heal such divisions, not conquer them.
As long as Francis preaches the war and weapons form of spirituality, rather than reducing the dualism in Catholicism, he will increase it. That for me, is a very big red flag.


  1. Such a dualistic paradigm also inhibits our ability to Listen to the other and to work with them as partners on our pilgrimage together because they are seen as others against us "Them and us" = "unhelpful". It reinforces the notion that the forces of this world are consciously allied against the Church as if everything so done is done in reference to the Church. We end up once again with a self referential Church - something which Pope Francis himself is on the record as being quite opposed...

  2. The dualism is really psychological splitting, and it comes from a very primitive mental state of lack of integration in his child or really baby mind. This pope is a spitter. He will spit further the conservative elements and the progressive ones in the Church. This is a feeling of entitlement by him as it is he and the other bishops that are asking the People of God to be meek sheep in the wake of horrendous scandals that forced his predecessor out of office. No, any critical thinker that follows Jesus will not put up with this dualistic approach. It seems to me that the World Court not Canon law should deal with both Benedict and many other Bishops. This is not the evil enemy attacking Jesus; it is People of God asking for an evil institution that we once had faith in to change.

    Francis is already loosing the black and white conservatives that supported the last 2 popes that gave us so bad a leadership. It seems Francis wants talented peoples of the world not to submit to be loving followers of Christ but to be followers of the RCC dualistic system of leadership. Unless he gets a better message out, this will be as disastrous papacy for society as were the last two. We as Catholics should should ask ourselves who is the enemy. The answer for we as Catholics are: It is UD

  3. I actually heard this rather differently in my head. I recalled Christ in Gethsemane telling Peter to put away his sword, and then healing the ear of the high priest's servant. A warning that in the world we live in, to fight fire with fire only burns up the whole world. I can see how it could be read differently - but I also saw it as a stark warning to the cardinals who interfere in secular politics - that this is not what Christ taught, and it isn't how Papa Francis wants the Church to behave.

    Time will tell.

  4. Certainly time will tell, and I wish and hope to be wrong about Francis who has done a few good things. So there is hope and there always is that, but he can not continue to give such duplicitous messages. At one moment he is agreeing with a very bad decision to persecute religious sisters and nuns and the next moment possibly appointing more women to the curia. At one moment, as a cardinal, supporting legal unions between same sex couples then reacting in silence to the foul American Bishops.

    Marriage was not even recognized as a sacrament until the 11 hundreds. Legal marriage may or not be the same thing as two people witnessing their own commitment to each other. Priests have no real roll, but the Church has defined them as the "necessary whiteness." There is a lot of work to be done about marriage and sacraments and rolls of men and women in and out of the clergy. Francisis does not make it any easier with his approaches toward women, gays, marriage, birth control etc. This type of spitting will only cause a lack of attention to this and other Christian Churches.

    At the root of most of the problem is the belief by so many leaders that there is an absolute truth and they and only they (the magisterium) have it. When it becomes apparent that finite men have no absolute truth and that truth is really relative to circumstances, the whole psyche of the Church Leadership and very black and white thinkers shatters. They are thrust back into a primitive mental state of spitting, dividing and flight or fight mentalities. These leaders are simply not acting "Christ-like" at all. He made Himself an instrument of change. A change toward love and forgiveness. These leaders only split people apart. dennis

  5. I think he is using military language to talk to the people who would be likely to use violence against evil because he knows that is the language they will understand, it makes more sense to them because that is how they view the world. I think there are groups that do push militarism in the name of religion. I think he is talking about that.

    I hear him acknowledging the good intentions, wanting to destroy sin of those who would use violence against others, but he is telling them to be meek and humble and loving instead.

    For those of us who are nonviolent already he is saying, "Look, be meek and humble and loving, but don't wimp out if you have a chance to correct somebody about sin." This is kind of a "don't give in to peer pressure, but do it in a loving, graceful way." You know how when people are talking about other people in a not very nice way and it makes you feel a little sick, you know it is wrong. How easy it is to say, "oh, I forgive them, I turn the other cheek." Pope Francis is saying it is our duty to say something charitable or to somehow let the person know that you don't feel it is ok to gossip. Don't just turn the other cheek, stand up for what is good, but don't start slugging anybody or resort to anger, in this case, have the courage to address them yourself instead of talking about them behind their backs.

    I think he is trying to get people sort of back to the basics of what Jesus would do. He is saying "Don't be violent" because the whole idea here is to turn the other cheek. He has to use rough language or the violent types won't get it, they think turning the other cheek is wimpy and the sign of being a loser, giving in, etc.

    Thanks, I enjoy your blog, I just don't think that Pope Francis was referring to spiritual mystic type people when he was saying these things, although I could certainly be wrong about that.

  6. I might be able to accept this explanation if the exact same thing had not been used to enable abuse.

    “because sheep are meek and humble, [and when we are sheep] we have a shepherd.”

    But what happens when the shepherd is the abuser? Whether it is the priest who abuses a child, or the bishop that covers up for the abusive priest, or the abusive husband beating his spouse; anger on the part of the abused is absolutely justified. It does no one any good at all to tell the abused - just tolerate the abuse, love the abuser, ACCEPT the AUTHORITY of the shepherd to abuse you. This is an incredibly soul-destroying message.

  7. Nancy, I appreciate your reading this blog. That's always good to hear.

    I wish I read what Pope Francis is about with this kind of language the way you do, unfortunately I don't. Maybe it's the shrink in me, but I really believe the language you choose to use says a great deal about the way you think and the message you want to send. Francis has chosen battle language because he sees Roman Catholicism in war like terms. Some of those 'battles' will be fought with in the curia and some of those 'battles' will be fought elsewhere, but he will see them all as battles. Mystics are not troops in his battles and I really wish he understood that. My fear is that he doesn't.

  8. The sad thing T'pel is that our US military generals are held to a higher standard in sexual abuse issues than the Vatican holds our clergy. It's unfortunate that 'Semper Fi' means more to the Marine Corps than it does to the Vatican.

    When one is told to accept abuse of any kind as a badge of religious identity, that thinking only squares the abuse.

  9. I suspect that military members are held to a higher standard in abuse issues be it sexual or otherwise. Fratricide is looked down upon, as it collateral damage to some degree. It does catch up with careers.

  10. Coleen, I hope your view is correct, but this type of splitting is very pathological and indicates unworked through primitive mental states of feeling and thinking. I fear he is more like Cardinal Mahoney than Pope John.

  11. I sure hope you are correct.

  12. We agree here Colleen but I see this man and our church caught up in a boarder line mentality. One that is really a psychotic transference toward its members.

  13. I have thought that myself on many occasions. Occasions usually precipitated by the actions of certain hierarchical types who have enjoyed favor with the previous pope---who himself was a bundle of contradictory borderline type behavior.

  14. It seems that Borderline personality disorder was the major qualification for a man to be selected bishop by both JPII and Benedict. Many were from the secretive fascist Opus Dei group of Men.

  15. I appreciate the psychological knowledge you can bring to bear on this, but it seems to me you're glossing over his whole formation. Surely the chaos and militarization caused by the Junta in Argentina had a huge impact both on how he thinks and on how he delivered faith/religion to his people there. I think to judge his wordings using the standards of our cultural language is to do a huge disservice, and fails to acknowledge the myriad cultures the Catholic Church by definition is meant to span.

    Pope Francis does obviously view the world as having a real personification of evil acting within it-- and that is how much of South American (and developing world) countries view the issue. I'm inclined to not hold this against him, just as I would expect him not to hold my lack of personifying evil against me...even though the Bible does personify it in several spots. And I think in a world were a lot of Catholics and Christians feel-- or are quite literally-- attacked because of their faith, giving them the hope of "spiritual weapons" might be one of the biggest graces he can provide.