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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Popes say the Strangest Things

Pope Francis stated in a homily:

“The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation. The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.”

“‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can — must! Because he has this commandment within him.”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ. All of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”

“‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all!”

It is well understood that Pope Francis is struggling to speak and do things on a level that most people might grasp.  But something is getting lost in the translation.  I am getting so very tired of orthodox bloggers, conservative news sources and Vatican facts checkers bending over backwards to explain that what the Pope said was not really what he said. (Am I doing that here?)  Pope Benedict XVI was careful to nuance his teachings so that only dissenters could take exception. But the free-form of Pope Francis seems to allow for a certain degree of ambiguity which is exploited by progressives. I blame in part an intoxicating atmosphere for change which is based more on minor symbolic externals and disjointed phrases than upon anything really substantive. Let us look at the whole business in a sober way. What has happened to feed this feeding frenzy in the media for religious liberals?

1. It is reported that back in his home archdiocese, he was not very forthcoming about permitting the Tridentine Mass. This along with the life-sized puppet-Mass gave the SSPX people a stroke.  But, of the course, the Eucharist is still the Eucharist: sacrifice, real presence and all.

2. He purportedly saw little reason for the special provision permitting Anglicans to retain their traditions and become Catholic, or so he purportedly told an Anglican bishop. This is suspect because Anglican orders are judged as null-and-void. He has lately been more accommodating than his predecessor.  Recently there was a commotion from a homily interpreted as saying atheists and non-Christians could get into heaven apart from Christ. But I really doubt the Holy Father embraces either religious indifferentism or salvific-universalism. The Vatican clarified the homily by quoting the catechism. As soon as the clarification was offered, Jewish critics decried the intolerance of saying that there was no way into heaven apart from Jesus.  (Of course, take Jesus out of the equation and there is no more Catholic Christianity or Church.  That is not going to happen!)

3. Although the law of the Church specifies that only the feet of men can be washed on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of men and women (actually youth at a detention home). The ceremonial was always traditionally associated with the apostles and the institution of the priesthood. As with the altar girl business a number of years ago, this damaged the credibility of priests who abided by the rules, even in the face of much recrimination.  Nevertheless, this is the stuff of discipline and not strict doctrine.  The Pope evidently connects the foot washing more with the baptismal priesthood of believers:

“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

4. His Secretary of State was quoted by a newspaper as saying that celibacy was not of divine law and so it could theoretically be abrogated to “reflect the democratic spirit of the times.” Just because something can be done does not mean that it will or needs to be done. I am betting that the discipline will be renewed and expanded.

The reference to doing “good” is in relation to the natural order. Popes have long appealed to believers and men of good will. It is here where we meet and many an atheist was moved to faith by the shared work with figures like the late Mother Teresa. As for redemption, the Church does not teach that all will be saved (universalism) but rather there is a universal call to salvation. We need to respond to the redemptive work of Christ. It is that response, accepting Christ as our personal and corporate Savior, affiliation with the Church and sacraments, and obedience lived out in charity that merits salvation or eternal life. On a natural level we are all created by God and in that sense we are his children. However, according to a spiritual level or sense, we are made adoptive sons and daughters of the Father through the regeneration of baptism. I personally like to make a distinction between the words “image” and “likeness.” We were all made in the image of God (we have souls composed of mind and will). Grace restores us to the likeness of God (holiness/right relationship) that was forfeit through original sin. None are saved apart from Christ. Since the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, none are saved apart from the Church. The Church takes care of her own but also intercedes for the world: unbelievers, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, etc. We pray for them and leave the question of individual salvation to God. This is what the Pope means when he talks about not judging.

A wonderful corrective to the confusion evidenced in last week’s headlines is today’s second reading at Mass:

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Beloved:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and apostle
— I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —,
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

What about the Holy Father’s statements on homosexuals? I will devote a short post on that alone, later. But do not jump to the wrong conclusions.  Precision of formulation is important and I suspect we will see more of an effort in this regard.  The deposit of faith is safe.  The faith is secure.  The Holy Spirit will not let us down.