My friend Suzanne Fortin on what the Pope is doing

This is a great post and worthy of consideration by my readers.  Please pray for Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers.

Suzanne writes:

So what the heck is Pope Francis trying to do with this synod anyway?


I think he’s trying to do something that’s very useful for us culture warriors, so we’d better pay attention.

Let me begin by stating the obvious. Pope Francis is bored by the culture war. He’s bored by the politics of it. He’s also bored by what I call “the orthodoxy agenda”, that is, the attempt to restore doctrinal orthodoxy in the clergy. It’s not that he’s unorthodox. It’s not that he doesn’t think clergy shouldn’t be orthodox.

It’s not what he’s about.

He’s about “the heart”. He’s about bringing people to understand the love of God in their lives so that they can repent and turn to Jesus.

If you think Pope Francis is about anything else, you don’t understand a damned thing about him.

This attitude explains his disdain of proselytism and his love of gesture as a means of attracting people. You know how a lot of us culture warriors get on the internet and debate every issue from atheism to abortion to papal infallibility?

He’s not opposed to that, but he doesn’t think that’s the main way people will come to the Church.

And he doesn’t like the attitude that hammering people with arguments will get them to change (that’s what he thinks of as proselytism).

What he’s trying to do is to get people to understand the love of God by feeling His presence in their lives through action and attitude.

This is why he’s having a synod and not putting forth another encyclical.

As far as he’s concerned, everything that needs to be said about family life has been said, and I think he’s correct, in the main.

So he’s trying to get clergy to find ways to reach out to those very people who have been spiritually sidetracked by the culture of death: the divorced and remarried, gays, contracepting couples, etc.

He wants to find ways to reach out to them that don’t amount to a doctrinal statement. Not because he’s against doctrinal statements, but because that’s not how people are drawn into the Church.

They need to feel loved.

Now I understand many of us who are already good Catholics are of an intellectual bent, and arguments hold sway with us.

Most people in the world are not like that.

Most people need concrete reasons to believe in God, to repent, to believe in Jesus.

And if they don’t have those reasons, they’re going to reject God.

Now you’re right that human nature does tend to evil and justify itself.

But for most people, an argument doesn’t trump the heart. They need to understand what God does to a person. Why should a person ditch the gay lifestyle, or put up with celibacy after a divorce? What’s so special about God that makes giving up contraception seem sensible.

They have no idea.

When they see Pope Francis kiss a man with Neurofibramatosis, or severe cerebral palsy, they understand God’s love.

They are an initiated into it. They want to be part of it.

Pope Francis wants to take that experience of God’s love and put that in the lives of families.

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30 Responses to My friend Suzanne Fortin on what the Pope is doing

  1. Simon Rockley says:

    “When they see Pope Francis kiss a man with Neurofibramatosis, or severe cerebral palsy, they understand God’s love.”
    Beautifully put. Very well said Ms Fortin!

  2. Michael says:

    Do we need another take on “what Pope Francis is about”? He is the Bishop of Rome, not our personal saviour. Is it really relevant what bores him or interests him? His Petrine Office is to preserve and hand on the Faith and to be a focus of Unity for the Church, not a media Evangeliser.

    • Macy says:

      Yes, well said.
      Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica, two great evangelizers, did the love thing from the bottom up. I’m sure Bergoglio did admirable work in Buenos Aires, as do many bishops in their diocese. Maybe he should have stuck to it, redoubling his efforts to the point of becoming an icon of love and holiness. Leaving the Apostolic See to someone willing to be pope.

  3. William Tighe says:

    I think that this article is largely vitiated by its misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of the papal ministry. He is Bishop of Rome; he is also, in a unique way, the guardian and defender of the Church’s doctrinal and moral faith (understood as paradosis). He is not a world evangelizer, a kind of Catholic Billy Graham.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Professor,

      You wrote: He is not a world evangelizer, a kind of Catholic Billy Graham.

      I’m not convinced of that. Many popes have attempted to evangelize the world through their encyclicals and, beginning with Pope John Paul II, though their travels.

      Norm.

  4. Macy says:

    “Why should a person ditch the gay lifestyle”
    The article’s premise seems to be that, before Francis, such things never happened. But people give up sin *all*the*time* thanks to Church teaching that has been imparted without any collatoral damage!
    Francis seems to be *lusting* for success, with the collateral damage, it seems, of confirming people in sin and disbelief!
    Jesus asks us to be leaven in the bread, not a casting of cement.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Macy,

      You wrote: But people give up sin *all*the*time* thanks to Church teaching that has been imparted without any collatoral damage!

      The only people who give up sin because of church teaching are people who are listening to church teaching. Approaching people in a way that causes them to harden their hearts not only causes them not to listen to those who approached them, but also causes them to flee when another attempts to approach them with God’s message of salvation.

      When a man is lost ten or twenty miles deep in a forest, he can’t leave the forest just because you come upon him and tell him that he must. Rather, he needs someone who knows the way to lead him out of it. And if he is travelling on foot, it’s likely that he won’t make it completely out of the forest by nightfall even with a capable guide.

      Norm.

      • Macy says:

        Why do you stigmatize what I say by bringing up the problem of hardening people’s heart? Did I suggest any wrong way of approaching people?

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Macy,

        You said: Why do you stigmatize what I say by bringing up the problem of hardening people’s heart? Did I suggest any wrong way of approaching people?

        Hmmm….

        Actually, I don’t see the word “you” anywhere in my previous reply to your earlier post, so it’s strange that you seem to take my earlier comment so personally. I was not pointing fingers; just contributing to the discussion.

        But in my experience, such reactions normally show that the shoe actually fits.

        Norm.

      • Macy says:

        Sorry, Norm, my words were too abrupt. It seemed you were saying that Francis’ methods are the only kind that will work. But I see now you were simply cautioning about a typical pitfall. Discussion is good!

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Macy,

        You wrote: Sorry, Norm, my words were too abrupt. It seemed you were saying that Francis’ methods are the only kind that will work. But I see now you were simply cautioning about a typical pitfall. Discussion is good!

        Apology accepted.

        But what is abundantly clear is that the pastoral methods that worked a century ago are not working now. We need to adopt pastoral methods that work in the present situation, without compromising doctrine.

        Norm.

      • Macy says:

        You don’t think a Fr Phillip Neri or a Fr Jean Vianney would do well today? 😉

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Macy,

        You said: You don’t think a Fr Phillip Neri or a Fr Jean Vianney would do well today?

        I rather think that people sought them out precisely because they responded in a pastoral manner that was innovative (obviously within the constraints of doctrine), but nevertheless right for their times and for the circumstances of the people who came to them — and that probably is precisely what they would do today. Their solutions for the present day, however, might be very different.

        Norm.

      • Macy says:

        I think they would do well today not because of strategy but because they were holy men.
        Going back to your earlier comment, is there anyone using pastoral methods from a century ago? I doubt it…they might actually be worth looking into… The problem is pastoral methods from 50 years ago. And even though they didn’t work back then, they seem to be back in style again.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Macy,

        You wrote: Going back to your earlier comment, is there anyone using pastoral methods from a century ago? I doubt it…they might actually be worth looking into… The problem is pastoral methods from 50 years ago. And even though they didn’t work back then, they seem to be back in style again.

        Unfortunately, the pastoral methods that were prevalent a century ago were already starting to fail fifty years ago — and it’s not clear to me that they were not really failing, albeit covertly, a century ago when social and familial pressures of ethnically pure villages and urban neighborhoods generally compelled some level of outward conformity on the part of those who had not come to true faith. It was in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s that the mobility of air travel and the economic opportunity provided by widespread college education resulted in large geographical separation of successive generations of many families and blended social environments that don’t demand the same level of religious conformity.

        God does not have grandchildren. Apart from the only begotten son of God, he only has children by adoption — and each of us, individually, must come to faith, repenting of our sin, and embrace adoption as God’s sons and daughters to obtain God’s free gift of salvation. In many Catholic parishes of the 1940’s and 1950’s, that was not happening — and I dare say that it probably was not happening in the Catholic parishes of the 1900’s and 1910’s, either. But then, it probably also was not happening in many Catholic parishes of the 15th and 16th centuries, either, which is precisely what gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. But somehow the One True Church survived this.

        I don’t believe that the reforms directed by the Second Vatican Council are the problem. I am well aware that there were many misfires, and even egregious abuses, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but they did not cause the problem. Rather, they only exposed the problem that already existed.

        The other reality here is that the problem was not made in a day, and it’s not going to be solved in a day. By way of example, the Second Vatican Council identified serious deficiencies in the seminary training of clergy, and directed reforms therein — yet it takes time to implement those reforms in the seminaries, and clergy typically serve in active ministry for fifty or sixty years after their ordination. It will take another fifteen years for the rest of the clergy who attended seminary before the restructuring of seminary formation took effect to reach retirement age, and there are many clergy who obstinately refuse to participate in continuing education (seminars, sabbaticals, etc.) made available to them. As pastors, these clergy normally recruit parish staff who share their defects in formation and thus who pass them along to the laity. It will take perhaps another century for all the malformed laity — who, to be sure, are not culpable in any of this — to depart from our ranks.

        The fix is not easy. I know one Catholic chaplain who equates it to trying to change a motor of an airplane while the airplane is flying.

        Norm.

      • Macy says:

        Thanks for this message. In-flight engine repairs: good one!
        The sociological factors you cite are indeed relevant. But there are also deeper anthropological factors at play,which are very interesting, especially for how they are so often blocked out of consciousness. It’s indeed insane to repeat the same experiment and expect different results; it’s equally insane to change the experiment and expect the same results, and that’s what has happened, anthropologically speaking, in the past century in the West. At play is what Luigi Giussani called “the fundamental error” (inadequacy of culture as a battleground) and the importance of the thing that comes before culture.

      • Macy says:

        If Foolishness doesn’t mind continuing to host our conversation, I’d like to offer this quotation:

        “Péguy speaks of “a faint-heartedness of diagnosis” saying that priests and Catholics will not want to recognize the dimension and the nature of de-Christianization. But by not recognizing this, one makes what [Luigi] Giussani calls “the fundamental error” of the Catholic response to the modern: namely, to think that modern culture can be won over by Christian culture. This is the fundamental error. If there is no relationship between today’s man and Christianity, it is not culture, not even Christian culture, that is able in and of itself to establish any relationship. Culture in and of itself cannot establish any real relationship; what is needed is something that comes before culture. That is Péguy’s intuition. And that is identically Saint Augustine’s intuition. Saint Augustine goes as far as to say, following Saint Paul, that the entirety of Christian doctrine in the absence of ‘delectatio’ and ‘dilectio’, in the absence of the loving attraction of grace, is letter that kills. It is not culture, not even Christian doctrine, that can establish a relationship with a man for whom Christianity is a thing of the past and does not concern him. It is rather something that comes before culture. This something that comes before, Saint Augustine called ‘delectatio’ and ‘dilectio’ in other words the loving attraction of grace.”
        – my translation of an extract from “Il cuore e la grazia in Sant’Agostino” (The heart and grace in Saint Augustine) by Giacomo Tantardini

        I would add that the thing that comes before culture has a lot to do with nature, and the past century has been a tremendous experiment at the natural level, with very distinct causes and effects.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Macy,

        You wrote: Thanks for this message. In-flight engine repairs: good one!

        You’re welcome!

        You wrote: The sociological factors you cite are indeed relevant. But there are also deeper anthropological factors at play,which are very interesting, especially for how they are so often blocked out of consciousness. It’s indeed insane to repeat the same experiment and expect different results; it’s equally insane to change the experiment and expect the same results, and that’s what has happened, anthropologically speaking, in the past century in the West. At play is what Luigi Giussani called “the fundamental error” (inadequacy of culture as a battleground) and the importance of the thing that comes before culture.

        Yes, and there’s a limit as to how deep one can go in the context of a comment on a blog or a discussion board.

        In the present situation, however, there are more nefarious dynamics. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (KGB) set up organizations designed to undermine Western civilization — and many of these organizations gained traction of their own and thus have far outlived the Soviet Union. These organizations covertly gain control of social institutions (typically including labor unions, the major media, and the educational establishment) that give them total control over the flow of information to the general population, and thus the ability to sway public opinion in favor of their “progressive” program (the welfare state, liberal divorce, Atheist ideologies, contraception and abortion, perversion of sexuality, etc.) that undermines social institutions (the family, the church, community organizations, the proper role of government, etc.) that are the fabric of society. The fact that proponents of this agenda — many of whom are acting out of naiveté, not understanding that they are have become the enemy’s fifth column — attack our faith and our church is not a real surprise, since this is part of what the instigators of this agenda sought to destroy.

        You wrote: If Foolishness doesn’t mind continuing to host our conversation, I’d like to offer this quotation:

        “Péguy speaks of “a faint-heartedness of diagnosis” saying that priests and Catholics will not want to recognize the dimension and the nature of de-Christianization. But by not recognizing this, one makes what [Luigi] Giussani calls “the fundamental error” of the Catholic response to the modern: namely, to think that modern culture can be won over by Christian culture. This is the fundamental error. If there is no relationship between today’s man and Christianity, it is not culture, not even Christian culture, that is able in and of itself to establish any relationship. Culture in and of itself cannot establish any real relationship; what is needed is something that comes before culture. That is Péguy’s intuition. And that is identically Saint Augustine’s intuition. Saint Augustine goes as far as to say, following Saint Paul, that the entirety of Christian doctrine in the absence of ‘delectatio’ and ‘dilectio’, in the absence of the loving attraction of grace, is letter that kills. It is not culture, not even Christian doctrine, that can establish a relationship with a man for whom Christianity is a thing of the past and does not concern him. It is rather something that comes before culture. This something that comes before, Saint Augustine called ‘delectatio’ and ‘dilectio’ in other words the loving attraction of grace.”
        – my translation of an extract from “Il cuore e la grazia in Sant’Agostino” (The heart and grace in Saint Augustine) by Giacomo Tantardini

        I know from experience that authentic Christian culture will win converts, in very significant numbers. The problem is that one must first have an authentic Christian culture — and that is what has long been missing in many Catholic parishes. Pope Benedict inaugurated the “New Evangelism” precisely because he recognized that we need to evangelize our own members and, in far too many cases, even our own clergy.

        Norm.

  5. Macy says:

    Lately, the message seems to be “The flesh is weak. The spirit? Who cares!”
    So why shouldn’t the flesh stay weak? Why should a person ditch the gay lifestyle, indeed?!

  6. EPMS says:

    Who would have thunk that a blog which many turned to, rightly or not, as primarily a source of Ordinariate-themed news would have become a forum for Pope-bashers? Of course we are all entitled to an opinion, but the idea that we get to phone in our opinion after every papal undertaking, à la American Idol, is not the idea of the Church many of us grew up with.

    • William Tighe says:

      The idea that an opinionated and willful pope could allow others (including a cardinal caught out in a barefaced lie) to manipulate a synod in an attempt to eviscerate the Church’s longaeval teaching about the adulterous nature of remarriage after divorce ” is not the idea of the Church many of us grew up with.”

    • Michael says:

      Pope-bashing? An opinion piece was put up on this Blog about the Pope and readers of this valued Blog are free to make comment here about the merits or otherwise of that Opinion. Otherwise, there is no purpose to having a comment box. If the comments offend or off-put you, then you need not look in the comment box. Or you may write to Deborah asking her to close her Blog to comments.

  7. TACit no more says:

    Nevertheless, the sort of thing I would really like to know is. what was written in those notes that Pope Francis reportedly passed to Cdl Baldisseri during some sessions? For the sake of transparency, of course!

  8. EPMS says:

    Have we given any thought to the idea that, since this is a preliminary meeting, the pope may be encouraging cardinals to speak out ahead of some strategic transfers? The Order of Malta spot is now taken, but there must be some other ecclesiastical Siberias that need staffing. Effective leadership is a long game.

    • John Walter S. says:

      Someone should rid the Church of certain turbulent priests.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You wrote: Have we given any thought to the idea that, since this is a preliminary meeting, the pope may be encouraging cardinals to speak out ahead of some strategic transfers? The Order of Malta spot is now taken…

      In spite of all the hyperbole from traditionalist quarters, Cardinal Burke remains the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura as of this writing. Note that his position as Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is customarily a collateral assignment given to the head of one or another of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. The fact that he apparently is “into” elaborate choir dress and ceremony made him a natural candidate for the collateral position, which apparently is largely ceremonial.

      You continued: … but there must be some other ecclesiastical Siberias that need staffing.

      I’m not sure that “ecclesiastical Siberias” is a fair term, but there are many positions in the Catholic Church that carry a lot of prominence but little real influence over ecclesiastical affairs. Here, I’m reminded that, a couple decades ago, an African bishop who had gone off the deep end theologically suddenly found himself removed from his diocese and appointed as Director of Tourism at the Vatican.

      Norm.

      • EPMS says:

        I thought that Cardinal Burke had given a number of interviews to the effect that he had been personally informed of his removal from the Signatura, although he didn’t have “the letter in his hand”. I certainly read an interview on BuzzFeed along this line. When asked who told him, he replied “Who do you think?”

      • EPMS says:

        According to today’s NYT, Cardinal Burke’s removal as head of the Signatura is now official.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        EPMS,

        You wrote: According to today’s NYT, Cardinal Burke’s removal as head of the Signatura is now official.

        Yes, it happened yesterday. The news bulletin announcing the appointment of Cardinal Burke as Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the appointment of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, previously Secretary for Relations with States in the Vatican’s Secretariate of State, as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura is now available in Italian on the Vatican’s web site. It should appear in tomorrow’s bulletin from the Vatican Information Service (VIS), as VIS normally does not send the bulletin on weekends.

        Norm.

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