Upon This Creampuff
Pope Francis mocks Catholicism’s claims of stability
If I hadn’t lost my ability to believe in the authority of the Catholic Church back in 2006, the turmoil under the Francis papacy would have done me in for sure. Here’s the latest from National Catholic Register:
Fifty-five years ago, Pope St. Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical that unequivocally clarified the Church’s perennial opposition to artificially contracepted sex. Although this teaching faced resistance from several theologians and even bishops at the time, it has been reaffirmed and further developed by subsequent papal teaching, from St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae to the current version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church recently revised by Pope Francis, which describes the practice as “intrinsically evil.”
Now is a Vatican institution, which was ironically founded by the late great Polish pope. It’s pushing for a paradigm shift in moral theology. This would mean abandoning established teaching on contraception but also euthanasia, and those who support this “radical transformation” urge Pope Francis to do the same with an encyclical affirming the radical departure from the five decades of postconciliar magisterial agreement.
The revelations are included in a recent text issued by the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), an ecclesial think tank established by St. John Paul in 1994 to study and provide guidance “on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s magisterium.”
PAL describes Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, and Practical Challenges, a 528-page synthesis of the proceedings of a 2021 PAL-sponsored theological seminar, as “a contribution that elaborates a Christian vision of life by expounding it from the perspective of an anthropology appropriate to the cultural mediation of faith in today’s world.”
Although the text is not yet available in English, Italian media confirms that it breaks significantly from established Church teaching on contraception. A translation from the text says that there are “conditions” and “practical circumstances that could make the decision to produce irresponsible.” According to the report, married couples may choose to use contraceptive methods “with a wise choice”, “obviously exempting abortive ones
It is not an expression or modification of the same moral reality as St. Paul VI’s authoritative teachings. However, it is a necessary contradiction to the moral truths that previous popes have described and taught.
To be precise, none of these ideas will make it into the magisterial Catholic teachings. This analysis shows that Church leaders want Pope Francis’ moral reasoning to be incorporated into Church teachings. But it is still to be seen if he will. This is an enormous issue and deeply concerning one, not only for obvious reasons.
The “obvious” reason is that, if the plan goes through the Catholic Church will abandon or significantly weaken its countercultural positions on matters of deep importance to the meaning and purpose of life. It is less clear that if this happens, the Catholic Church will make a complete turn on fundamental Catholic teachings. This would happen very soon after Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II reaffirmed these teachings and outlined them further.
( I can hear all the usual suspects screaming, “Why don’t you care?” As I’ve said many times before, the Catholic Church was part of the West’s construction. You don’t need to be Catholic in order to see that the West’s decline is linked to its decline. The European Protestantism is in decline. It is stronger in America, where it has an Evangelical wing that is much more active than US Catholicism, but it’s on a weak foundation. For example, here’s a piece in American Reformer about the startling number of young Evangelical women who are experimenting with lesbianism and bisexuality. A decade ago, I had a conversation with a prominent Evangelical pastor regarding the culture revolution that was sweeping the country. He assured me that Evangelicals would not tolerate LGBT. But he was incorrect. But from the point of view of 2014, I can see why he made the estimation that he did. )
I met an American young man in Budapest at an Orthodox church. He was visiting Hungary. I was told by him that he converted briefly to Catholicism but later switched to Orthodoxy. He explained that he had discovered that American parish Catholicism was primarily Mainline Protestantism and that solid teachings from the Magisterium and powerful John Paul II encyclicals were simply not being taken seriously in the various parishes where he was a member. He already had questions about the papal authority by the time he reached the Latin mass community.
Referring to Pope Francis’s attack on Catholic Traditionalism the young man stated that he couldn’t understand why the Vatican seemed so determined and bound to destroy this movement. It’s the only area of Catholicism that appears spiritually active, and yet, this Pope has been given supreme authority to destroy it.
I wonder what that young man thinks of news today from Chicago: that Cardinal Blase Cupich is shutting down the Latin mass-celebrating Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest as of August 1. Although the news will be officially announced tomorrow, it was already leaked. Just like that, they will be kicked out of their Chicago headquarters, forbidden to say the Traditional mass there — which, given that the celebration of the Latin mass was their raison d’etre, means they are being kicked out.
If they had been a gay rights organization they could be considered in good standing despite their violation of Catholic teachings. Cardinal Cupich has been a pro-LGBT progressive, even allowing a gay male couple to preach from the pulpit at a Catholic parish there on Father’s Day. His tolerance does not stop at Catholic Traditionalism.
Get weekly emails in your inbox
I have come across Orthodox Catholics who are open to Orthodoxy and look forward to the possibility of unifying the two churches. They are often unable to comprehend how unlikely this is especially with the Francis pontificate. Why? It has a lot to do with the instability in Rome’s Church of Rome. The most remarkable thing for a Catholic coming into Orthodoxy, is the stability of everything. Orthodoxy does not have all the problems. A few of these problems are due to bishops becoming detached. You don’t have to be concerned about your bishop being radical or doing something outlandish. That is just how the system works. In the US, the woke leader of the Greek Orthodox Church caused quite a stir by baptisming the children of gay couples. This is being interpreted (and proclamated by) as an attempt to legalize heterosexual marriage in Orthodoxy. It was shocking not just that the Archbishop did this, but also that he chose to do such a radical act, regardless of tradition and what it might look like to other Hierarchs. This kind of thing is rare in Orthodoxy and has been met with protest.
Let me make it clear that I am not advocating for Orthodoxy being superior to Catholicism. We Orthodox face many of our own difficulties (as you will see from the ecclesial chaos that has erupted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). We don’t face this of problem because there isn’t a pope or any other figure with the same power as the Roman pontiff. For over a thousand years, we haven’t been able even to organize an ecumenical conference. While many Orthodox believe that it is a problem, others think it is a feature. We have witnessed the rapid conservatism of John Paul 2, pushed through partly with the assistance of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Now, Pope Francis has radical reversal of much of the values of JP2 and Benedict XVI. A conservative view would suggest that Francis be replaced by a restorer conservative. However, this would have already caused great damage. It would be obvious to the Catholic Church that a pope is all it takes in order to reverse papal practice and teaching. The Popes will be viewed as presidents or prime ministers, not as preservers of sacred traditions but as policy managers leading an institution that is able to change with every administration.
Neither Benedict XVI nor John Paul II ever closed down any liberal Catholic institution that was in conflict with their Church vision. Why? Perhaps they thought it was too harmful to unity. A potential future conservative pope (if one exists), may not make the same mistake after seeing Francis in action. This instability won’t soon end. The damage this papal papacy, and Cardinal Cupich’s minions see to the Catholic Church’s image seems substantial when viewed from a secular viewpoint. If Pope Francis ends up writing the report on the Pontifical Academy for Life somehow into authoritative Catholic teaching, then what NCR, referring to the document’s de facto overturning of Humanae Vitae, calls “a necessary contradiction of the moral truth previous popes described and taught authoritatively” will be devastating. While it is true that Americans will care less about contraception than the majority of Catholics in America, the Catholic Church’s claims to being the foundation of eternal truth will be fundamentally challenged by the fact Catholic doctrine can shift so rapidly. It’s impossible. It is hard to believe that a tiny Catholic church institute that used a Mass that was common in the Church over centuries and which had been unanimously approved by previous popes, could suddenly go out of business because it no longer uses that mass. And the Church boasts that the Catholic Church has a solid foundation of doctrine. Tell me, if there is a way. I don’t see it.