A Cry From The Centre of the Church

Welcome to a new country...

Dr Joseph Shaw draws our attention to this post in Patheos by Dr Greg Popcak. Popcak is a bit of a blast from the past for me, because I bought his book on Catholic Parenting when I first became a dad and found it revelatory and a great help.

The article is a huge slap down of all those who are pretending that everything is great with Pope Francis' Pontificate, there is no confusion and no questions which need answering. It particularly addresses Deacon Bill Ditewig, who has said that lay people, like me, who are genuinely confused as to how some of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia squares with the previous teaching of the Church are not worth considering. We wouldn’t know pastoral practice if it hit us in the face because, apparently, we are just children who have never put out into the deep, who cower in our cave of rules and rigorism.

He argues that people who claim to be “confused” about what Pope Francis’ writings mean and how they square with the historical teaching of the Church are really pretending to be confused when they simply just disagree.

Popcak has four (or maybe five) questions for people in the Church like Deacon Bill:

"For those like Deacon Bill who like to profess confusion about all this confusion, I propose four simple questions.

1) How, exactly, do the recommendations in chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia square with the historical teaching of the church, particularly that of St. John Paul in Veritatis Splendor? And if it is a development, how does this development square with Newman’s rules (so to speak) for the development of doctrine?

2) Who is right? Those bishops in Malta and Germany who are admitting those who are divorced and remarried without an annulment to communion or those bishops, almost everywhere else in the world who aren’t? Why?

3) What would you say about the client who, after AL was first published, came to me and asked, “Are you a JPII Catholic or a Pope Francis Catholic?” Was he confused? Why or why not?

4) And, finally, if you agree with Pope Francis’ approach to handling this crisis, where among the Spiritual Works of Mercy do we find that we can simply, “Ignore the annoying?”

Oh, and one more bonus question of a slightly more personal nature. What do you call it–if not “confusion” or even “chaos”–when the USCCB’s Interim Director of the Secretariat for Evangelization turns to the internet to publicly take to task the Chief of Staff (well, until yesterday) of the USCCB’s Bishop’s Committee on Doctrine?"

Ultimately, Popcak challenges Deacon Bill and people like him to
repent of the incipient clericalism that infects your position that the only possible explanation for asking Pope Francis for clarification of chapter 8 of AL is childish obstinacy. I challenge you, and others like you, to repent of the idea that the voices of the thousands of people gracefully striving to live the gospel in their difficult marital circumstances should be discounted. I challenge you to respond with a more authentic approach to both pastoral ministry and evangelization; namely, one that listens to the lived experience of those who are faithfully striving to live the teachings of the Church instead of one that patronizes the laity with the soft clericalism of low expectations.
Shaw says this is an important post. I think it is too, not least because it tells the absolute truth and exposes the arrogance of those seeking to further an agenda which can only lead us away from Christ. Shaw's point is that Popcak is no trad. He is from the centre of the Church, the "Pope St John Paul II-focused, mainstream, establishment Catholic world, and the Patheos platform, which has hosted a good many attacks on traditional Catholics over the years, is this world's in-house magazine."

Shaw is drawing attention to that fact that people like Fr Weinandy and Dr Popcak have built careers, reputations, even livelihoods, on a positive relationship with the ecclesiastical establishment. For the past 150 years people in that position have not openly criticised the Pope. Now they suddenly are. What has brought about this change?

Acknowledging that it is much harder to defend something than to attack it, he notes that:
The progressives are trying to defend something, admittedly something rather unclear, and the criticisms of it are coming from a wider and wider range of places.
This marks a real and remarkable change in the landscape of the Church. People are saying "enough is enough". The constant push away from Catholicism by progressives in the Church is becoming unrecognisable as Catholic and people are articulating their concern almost daily now (this new criticism came to light yesterday from Vittorio Messori, who came to prominence after interviewing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1984 for the book The Ratzinger Report, said the Pope is in danger of making the same mistake as Protestants by reinterpreting doctrine and undermining the “stability and firmness of the Catholic Church”).

Dr. Shaw sums up the new geography like this:

"The progressives have no idea what forces they have unleashed. What they have done is pushed these good people into a corner. They have reached their non-negotiable principles. To give up on the indissolubility of marriage, the consequences of mortal sin on the life of grace, and all the other things now being thrown into the air by progressives would be worse than losing their careers, reputations, and livelihoods. This reality can be expressed either in terms of human psychology, or in terms of supernatural Faith, but whether you prefer to think of it as being about their entire self-understanding as Catholics, or what their Faith just will not allow them to do, they have reached the end of the rope.

And you know what? There are lots more people like that out there. Not as many as would be nice, to be sure: there are many time-servers in the Church, and it was ever thus. But there are lots of good people, whose intelligence and integrity will not allow them to - as they see it - acquiesce in apostasy. And this, my friends, may be what the indefectability of the Church looks like in the 21st century.

This is going to run and run."


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