Excerpts from The Week
Pope Francis has a funny way of naming and shaming certain tendencies in the church, using insults that are inventive, apposite, and confounding. His ear is finely tuned for the way the Catholic faith can be distorted by ideology. And I’d like to imitate his example when I say this: Most Catholics are completely unprepared for a wicked pope. And they may not be prepared for Pope Francis either. They are more loyal to an imagined Catholic party than to the Catholic faith or the church.
Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture speculated, “[F]or all we know, she and her husband are now living as brother and sister, in which case there would be no reason why she could not resume receiving the sacraments.” Of course, if this were the case the parish priest could have determined this without the extraordinary phone call from Christ’s vicar.
Before deleting it (perhaps in embarrassment), Jimmy Akin reminded his readers at the National Catholic Register that the pope has the power to act as the church’s chief legislature and to execute judgments immediately, and so therefore he could annul the first marriage and radically sanction the second, implying all this could be done over the phone. That he would have short-circuited the church’s entire juridical process, undermined faith in the church’s discipline, and undercut Catholic priests seems to bother Akin not at all. This same defense was used to justify the pope’s breaking of liturgical rubrics, essentially employing the Nixon defense that “when the pope does it, it’s not illegal.“
Let me suggest that these two good Catholic men are acting not as church men but as party men, and falling into what Hillary Jane White aptly diagnosed as “papal positivism.” Lawler and Akin are not alone. The bulk of Catholic media is devoted to moon-faced speculation about how the discreet governing decisions, words, and gestures of the pope are accomplishing some larger goal that we further speculate must be in the pope’s head or heart. It’s very easy to make the pope into a saintly superhero when you act as his ventriloquist.
For now the members of the Catholic Party are cultivating a kind of denial, saying that Pope Francis cannot possibly endorse the line on divorce and remarriage suggested by Cardinal Kasper [one example here] when very clearly this reform is being actively debated within the highest reaches of the church, and seems to have been implemented in one phone call. If adopted, it will be time for members of the Catholic Church to reach for the rotting produce and give our prelates a taste of the sensus fidelium.