Sunday 22 September 2013

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." (CCC 882)

I am finding the reaction of some conservative Catholics to Pope Francis quite extraordinary.  As orthodox Catholics we believe that the Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth.  And we don't believe this only applies when he delivers carefully parsed ex-cathedra statements enjoying the charism of infallibility.  We believe it's something real, solid, substantial.  He is Peter among us.  And when he leads we ought to follow.  This Pope is calling us to greater simplicity, to poverty, to mercy.  He's calling us to wisdom in how we deal with a world that isn't listening to our moral pronouncements.  He's reminding us that winning souls is more important than winning arguments (and when you win the soul you win the argument as well!).  So, by all means explain how he hasn't turned his back on traditional Catholic teaching (as if he would) but then start doing what he's asking us to do and reach out me and show people the mercy of God.  The father of the prodigal son ran out to meet him, covered his nakedness, killed the fatted calk, put a ring on his finger.  There was time enough the next morning to talk about what had gone wrong.  Don't let be the other brother sulking in the corner.  And if you don't trust Francis, Benedict said the same sort of things as well.

"We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us."

Benedict XVI - 2006

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” said the Pope.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.

Pope Francis - 2013

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