Unlike everyone else who witnessed the Holy Father taking a phone call in the middle of a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square the other day, I was not the least bit surprised. And why should I be, since I was the one who made the call?
No sooner had I dialed the number than I was put immediately through to the pope, who seemed quite delighted to hear from me. For about five seconds, that is, no doubt thinking I was the Reverend James Martin, whom I had instructed the switchboard operator at the Vatican to inform the pope was on the other line.
And until things fell apart, which happened fairly quickly, I was hoping for a productive exchange. Once he realized he’d been snookered, however, he abruptly hung up, leaving me to imagine the number of heads likely to roll on the floor of the Vatican switchboard.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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But not before I had succeeded in leaving my own message, which was to tell him to stop all the madness. At once. Otherwise, I managed to blurt out just before the papal smartphone slammed shut, it would not be possible to acquit His Holiness from complicity in the disasters taking place in the life of the Church. He will own them. Whether wittingly or not scarcely matters anymore. The point is, it has got to stop, and until he steps in to do so the Church will continue to fracture and unravel, spiraling completely out of control.
Will he do so? Will he finally decide to put an end to the madness?
What madness? In setting out the pathology report, where does one begin? Why not begin with the Deposit of Faith, the depletion of which appears to have been a programmatic theme of this pontificate from the beginning. (Bishop Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a fearless fellow, is not the first to take notice, but he needs brother bishops to step up and do likewise.)
Take for instance the agreement struck back in February of 2019 when the pope and Sheik Ahmed El-Tayeb met in Abu Dhabi. What did that portend? There was certainly no ambiguity on the part of Francis when, pronouncing on the “pluralism and diversity of religions,” he went on to insist that it was all “willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings.”
Say what? When exactly did God change his mind and decide to include all religions in the plan of salvation? Is Islam now to be considered a necessary player in divine revelation? An instrument of divine grace? What does that do to the importance heretofore assigned to Christ, without whom no one can be saved? It would seem, in light of the language agreed upon by both the Grand Imam and God’s Vicar, that the place occupied by Christ for the last two thousand years had just been downsized. The absolute singularity of the Christ Event will no longer apply.
How does one reconcile that alongside all the Gospel accounts in which Christ is presented not as an optional extra but as the real deal, the pivotal figure in the entire history of the world? In other words, once the Incarnation happened, everything and everyone changed, nothing would ever be the same again. Otherwise, it could not have been God who came down among us more than two millennia ago. And if Christ is no longer the authoritative center of the cosmos, why be Christian at all?
Which brings us to Synodality, that vaunted process whose outcome threatens to strip the Faith of all that renders it distinctive. And Pope Francis has done absolutely nothing to stop it. He simply will not unplug the engine of destruction now running at high speed across Germany and elsewhere. Why is that? Does he want to see the Church imploding everywhere? Which brings us to Synodality, that vaunted process whose outcome threatens to strip the Faith of all that renders it distinctive. And Pope Francis has done absolutely nothing to stop it.Tweet This
So, the centerpiece of Christian faith having just been relativized, what next? Shall we take a look at the moral order, which seems to have been equally gutted? In fact, it has been so cheapened and debased that it hardly matters where the Church draws the line. I mean, are there any lines left to draw?
One immediately thinks of the Disney documentary recently released, featuring ten young people firing off questions at the Church’s Chief Shepherd as if he and the Church he leads were the object of carefully targeted airstrikes. About what? Sex, of course, concerning which the pope pretty much gave the store away, assuring his young friends that, well, actually, the Church’s “catechesis on sex is still in diapers.”
Can he be serious? After two thousand years of reflection on the human condition, the level of understanding is no more than infantile? Was St. Thomas Aquinas in diapers when he distilled his moral theology? Or St. John Paul II, for heaven’s sake, whose insights into the mystery of human love—like a stick of dynamite waiting to go off—became so many iconic intimations of the inner life of the Triune God? These were not men wearing diapers.
Perhaps, then, the pope is serious. How else does one explain the dismantling of the John Paul Institute in Rome? Or the radical redirection of the Pontifical Academy for Life under the leadership of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who disdains the image of a Church as “dispenser of truth pills,” as if she were somehow the custodian of transcultural values and verities, “a priori given truth,” he calls it.
But isn’t that precisely the claim she makes? In fact, she gives it a name, which is Jesus the Christ, the Word of the Father, who burst into time in order to gather it all up and thus return the whole ball of wax back to the Father in what we dare to call the Easter miracle. If the Church is not the guardian of “a priori truth,” if she cannot speak for God in the world His Son suffered to save, then she is a complete fraud.
If Pope Francis does regard the Bride of Christ as fraudulent, then it’s time he stepped up and said so. Oh, yes, and stop taking calls from Fr. James Martin, who has nothing to say anyway.
[Photo Credit: AFP via Getty Images]