Doctrine, Practice, and Pope Francis I

I really dig Pope Francis I.

Now, take that for what it’s worth.  I’m an apostate.  Here’s how it happened in five easy steps:

  1. An Orthodox buddy and I were talking, and I mentioned ecumenism. 
  2. He shot it down and said “you guys changed up the Nicene Creed for political convenience.”
  3. I said “no we didn’t.”
  4. He said “it’s called the Filioque Controversy: go google it.”
  5. I did.  I realized “oh, shit, they’re right, we DID change it, mostly for political reasons, and the very change in trinitarian understanding they described, I’ve been hearing from priests since I was 14.”

Bang.  Now I can’t say the Nicene Creed, as Catholics say it, in good faith.  Welcome to apostate-ville.  You see, the Nicene Creed is this little thing called Doctrine.  If you’re a X, you sign on for Y, which may be a number of things, but if you don’t sign on for Y, you’re maybe X+, or X-, or 42.  But not X.  And to be Catholic, you gotta sign on for the Nicene Creed.  Doesn’t mean I was ready to go sign up for the Orthodox Life Plan – I’m not and not going to.  Leaves a fellow like me in a quandary.

Which makes me very happy to see that this is happening.  The primacy of the Pope over the bishops, or what those of us who’ve actually studied ecclesiology call the rise of the papal monarchy, was one specific feature which exacerbated the Great Schism, but it was the redefinition of the Trinity,  that made it real.  Combined, of course, with the Arab slavers blocking all the sea routes, and the Avar slavers blocking all the land routes, so that both sides were well and truly used to doing it their way when they got back together and realized they didn’t quite speak the same religious language any more.

Francis has come right out and said “we understand and respect your decisions of conscience, and want all the possible best for you.”  Well, hot damn.  As an apostate, that’s music to my ears.  Doesn’t solve my dilemma, but it does make a guy in Apostate-ville feel better.

Ya know what doesn’t make me feel better? This sort of thing:

If this Pope pulls out the license on the Summorum Pontificum, we are going to the SSPX. Simply said.
Since his damning election, our prayers have been extra for Monsignor Guidi Marini! We are so sad to see him so depressed and hurting inside.

Summorum Pontificum isn’t doctrine.  It’s this little thing called “practice,” and a lot of so-called “Traditional” Catholics, who are traditional about everything except actually understanding their Church, need to calm down, chill out, have a little decaf (and maybe a couple rosaries), and relax. 

Doctine is definitional.  Practice is flexible.  It changes over time.  Summorum Pontificum addresses that.  It says “yes, the Church has not doctrinally knocked out the Tridentine rite or Latin mass, so if people really want to go old-school and do a mass in Latin, hey, as long as all your other t’s are crossed and i’s dotted, go knock yourselves out. It’s all good.”

Whether the Liturgy is in Latin or English (or Spanish or Korean or Swahili) means squat.  It’s Practice.  It changes to suit the needs of the people.  Married priests?  Practice.  Used to have them.  May have them again.  In 11th-century Hungary, one of the laws signed off on by King Coloman was that a priest couldn’t become a bishop unless his wife agreed to it. 

Why?

Because the priest was married, obviously.  By long-standing (and by long-standing, I mean Pauline) practice, Bishops aren’t.  And it would really be an uncharitable, unchristian act for a priest to toss his wife aside like a used kleenex just so he could angle for a promotion.  Practice.  Whether the priest is married or celibate makes squat for doctrinal difference.  In fact, the celibacy of the Bishop is practice, as well, albeit one that’s entirely unlikely to ever be reversed.  For all those budding latinists in the “traditional” movement, there’s a gigantic literature on substantia and accidentia.  Our medieval forebears lived that difference.

Is Pope Francis a liturgical liberal?  Does he genuflect where we want him to, and wear the proper lace doily, without which he’s committing an insult to the Papacy?  The Papacy is what the Pope and Cardinals make it.  Anybody who disagrees with that needs to go check out the Council of Constance, and all the shenanigans involved in it.  Respectfully, if somebody’s deep worry about the future of the Church revolves around Summorum Pontificum or some other random, butt-hurt whining (I hate to be harsh, but check those comments) about what might happen with some liturgical or practice-oriented judgment calls that might happen, they’ve got “rich-people-problems.” 

These are the same people who were crying in their beer when “Joey Ratz” (sic) didn’t go on a fiery ecclesiological purge to cleanse all those “heretic liturgical liberals” out of the Church.  Yes, they actually said that — I even heard it from recent converts, who apparently didn’t realize that the Pharisees got talked smack at in the Bible for good reason.  You know, instead of worrying about the real problems the Church faced.  Like endemic corruption, an ongoing pedophile-abuse scandal, the corruption and sexual exploitation of young men enabled by the cult-like operating opacity of the Legion of Christ/ Regnum Christi folks, and a whole slew of other problems.  Problems that make the deep, involved issue of liturgical linguistics into the legalistic non-issue it actually is.

Francis I is worried about another problem.  It’s an old one.  It’s called “poverty.”  That strikes me as a fine thing to be concerned about — because it’s one thing to not make a lot of money, but still get by.  It’s another thing to be Real-World-PovertyTM, which doesn’t have a lot to do about having a fancy latin log-in name, but has an AWFUL lot to do with whether the lady involved sells her ass out on the street every night or watches her children starve.  This is the man who, as archbishop, ripped his bishops a new ass for the godawful hypocrisy of saying that poor women without husbands shouldn’t have abortions, but that the children from said encounters could never be baptized because they were born out of wedlock.  Then-Bergoglio’s reaction was “you guys suck,” and he performed those baptisms.

Because he’s not approaching the lives of desperately poor people like a lawyer.  He’s approaching it like a christian.

So, shrug.  I”m an apostate.  Nobody in the Church really cares what I think.  But as far as Francis I goes, I can only say “right on, dude.”  The dude gets it.

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