First Things just posted an excellent post by William Doino, “The Pope’s True Agenda.” It is necessary reading, because it it is a well documented piece showing that Pope Francis doesn’t fit into any of the boxes partisans wish to put him in. He is not a liberal, nor a conservative, but a Catholic. Thank God for Bill Doino’s courage.
It strikes me as a bit ironic, especially among those concerned about orthodoxy, that even as people eschew labels and generalizations, they attempt to pigeonhole Francis. I recently read a post by a well-known theologian, who while admitting he ordinarily argues against the use of labels, decided to use the tags “liberal” and “conservative” just one time in defense of Francis.
I for one, have never argued that the labels are inappropriate in the concrete because they say something real. There are liberals and conservatives who are Catholic, and attempt to bend the faith to their party. This goes on all the time, and even those who say the labels are inappropriate do it.
This is really obvious when the social teaching of the Church comes up. Both liberals and conservatives have to do a dance to get around the parts they don’t like. It is the conservatives most of all who tend to be offended by the labels because they say they are for orthodoxy. Yet the labels continue to be useful so long as peoples’ behavior does not change.
And it is not just the liberals, and conservatives. There are other partisans, as we all know, who find their own excuses for sowing division. Pope Francis is not averse to the give and take of public discourse. He has called for the “conversion of the papacy” and has said:
It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization (32).
But he is fundamentally opposed to the sowing of discord. This is why just yesterday in an interview he said, contrary to partisan views, the recent synod was not a parliament, and that while he had no problem with the content of the discussions being the subject of news, he did not agree (as a personal opinion) that the names of who said what ought to have been released. I interpret this as meaning he did not wish to see the formation of parties fomented within the synod, or to give partisan journalists and bloggers fodder for their already loaded canons.
Lest I be misunderstood, I must say once again that for me all this really does not touch upon the question of what Catholics are obliged to believe and what they may legitimately discuss. This has much more to do with the phenomenon of the information highway. Even for those who do not read blogs, news is instantaneously and information is regularly filtered through sources who can hardly be said to be objective. (I will treat of the problem of the Internet in the next post). It seems to me that there is much more heat than light in the new information democracy, and narratives are created and repeated that are too convenient for the agendas of the creators not be be seriously questioned. In my opinion Pope Francis’ repeated warnings against ideology are entirely warranted.
Perhaps everyone should calm down and read the Encyclical of Four Hands and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter in a prayerful and trusting way. Perhaps we need to confidently entrust Pope Francis’ ministry, which he has received from the Lord, to the Immaculate Virigin. But I believe, most importantly, that we also need to entrust our own lives to Her as well, so that at the heart of the Church we might work to build in God’s way, rather than tear down in man’s.