Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Stop Criticizing Pope Francis and Pay Attention

The orthodox hissy fit over the pope's latest interview annoys the crap out of me.

First of all, given that the interviewer is an atheist, we're not even sure if the pope's words were correctly conveyed.

Secondly, there is the issue of translation.

Third: Can't a pope have a conversation with an atheist without it turning into exhibit A for his heresy trial?

Sure, the conversation was recorded. But it's a conversation.

I'll reveal a deep, dark secret about me.

Sometimes, when I'm offline and you're not all paying attention:

I talk about things other than abortion.

I don't even talk about orthodoxy. Or dissent.

Sometimes, I think about how to make myself a better Catholic.

And get out the smelling salts for this one:

I even think about helping the poor.

Does it boggle the mind?

Give yourself a good whiff

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit presumptuous, because I'm not the pope after all. I mean, nobody ultimately cares what I think about abortion or orthodoxy.

Except, maybe, you. :)

But if this is the case for me, why shouldn't it be the case for the pope?

It doesn't make him a bad Catholic.

So you're saying to yourself: but the babies... the dissent.

I get it. I share your concerns.

Nonetheless, what he's doing is not at cross purposes of what we want to do.

Don't we want to bring people to Christ? Isn't that the pope's number one job? Won't that make people more pro-life?

And I know that this is going to make people mad, but you don't bring people to Christ by leading with abortion or talking about how sinful it is to dissent from Church teaching.

If you hadn't noticed, it's not like us orthodox Catholics have done a really bang up job of bringing converts to the Church, or even just keeping baptized Catholics Catholic. Yes, yes, we blame all the professional Catholics, and the bishops, etc. But ultimately, being the bearers of the Truth, it's not like we've driving people to the Church in droves.

We bear that responsibility.

How many people have YOU brought into the Church? Given the numbers of people who go to Mass, I'm going to say that on average you've probably brought zero people into the Church.

We've had the internet for 20 years now. We've been able to reach a lot of people. And sure, orthodox Catholics have done a lot to improve the doctrinal atmosphere of the institutional Church but newsflash: there just not that many people joining. The net growth has not been very good.

And maybe it's swell to be a smaller but more faithful Church, but that doesn't improve the fate of lost souls out there...

Pope Francis has the ear of people who would otherwise not give the Catholic Church the time of day.

Why is that so wrong?

He's not going to talk about abortion and orthodoxy when talking to an atheist, just like he's not going to talk to Jews about Jesus' Resurrection or Muslims about his Divinity, certainly not on the first or second date.

This is how normal relationships work.

People don't lead with "Hi, I believe in Jesus Christ, are you saved?"

Not in Canada, anyway.

Normal people don't work that way so neither should we. St. Paul said to become all things to all people, and it's no different for us faithful Catholics.

We're so wrapped up in culture war battles we sometimes forget how to be normal human beings. I'm as guilty as anyone.

To some extent, we enjoy the battle. We revel in saving babies, the beauty of Church teaching, and bringing greater glory to God. This is normal for faithful Catholics. There is nothing wrong with that.

But the rest of the world doesn't think like that. I understand that the rest of the world gets on our nerves because it doesn't operate on the premises that we like, and on top of that it mocks us for our beliefs, so we retreat into our comfortable little circles and don't bother to stick our necks out so that we can't avoid the discomfort of facing the world's anti-Catholicism.

I completely get that.

But it doesn't bring souls to Christ. It doesn't make faith seem normal. There are people in this world who don't know a single faithful Catholic. Even though there are a billion Catholics in this world.

Whose fault is that? Is it the bishops'?

It's time we stop always blaming the clergy for everything, notwithstanding the weight of responsibility they do bear.

Pope Francis is showing us how it's done-- how to talk to people like normal human beings.

The pope is not going to lead with teachings from encyclicals, much as I love them. He is not going to lead with abortion. That's probably why he didn't mention it as the top evil. He didn't want the conversation to go down that path and be railroaded into another culture war discussion that doesn't anywhere. He wanted to talk about things that this atheist wanted to talk about.

He wanted to start where people are at.

I'm not too good at this stuff. It doesn't mean it shouldn't get done. It doesn't mean that I shouldn't learn.

Does this mean that we stop talking about abortion and that we stop speaking out against dissent?


Our concerns about abortion, and modernism and orthodoxy and the whole culture war litany of issues are completely valid.

But being a Catholic is like being a guy with the spinning plates. Remember those from the Ed Sullivan days?

We can't just spin one or two plates.

We have to spin all the plates.

Culture war, orthodoxy, saving souls, missionary work, charitable work, prayer, etc etc.

Being Catholic is not just about one thing. It's about everything.

So we can't just get ticked off when the pope doesn't lead with our issues.

The best predictor of future results is past results.

In the past, Pope Francis has come out strongly in defense of human life.

He is strongly orthodox.

He will not disappoint us.

We have to stop acting like we have no lessons to receive from our pope just because he's not talking about our issues this very moment.

He's giving us an important lesson on how to reach out to people.

Given our poor record of reaching out to people outside our circles and bringing them in, maybe we should be paying attention.

And I will now don my industrial strength flamesuit.