The Problem of Papal Authority

Ever since Pope Francis was elected, all of us Catholics have suffered other people trying to tell us what we believe, largely based off of casual comments by Pope Francis in an interview…

Or a presser in a conversation on board a plane…

Or in a rambling, nigh-incoherent speech, even when translated by the Vatican.

As such, we’ve been lectured on guns, on communism, on the environment, and one of the blogs I contribute to, over the Catholic geeks have spent a ton of time refuting it. They have an entire section dedicated to it.

I think I know what the problem is. And it’s not necessarily that he’s totally wrong on immigration, guns and economics … even though he is.

Everyone thinks that the Pope is some sort of monarch. That the whims of the Pope are the dictates of the church.

WRONG!

The following comes from John Zmirak’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism, which sums it up nicely, I think. Emphasis mine

 No doubt you have read breathless accounts in the press of the exciting new changes allegedly impending in Catholic teaching. Pope Francis has used his bully pulpit tirelessly to vent his private opinions on global warming, economics, immigration, and a long list of other issues on which he is less well-informed than the average American who watches Fox news. None of that matters. As you will learn, these subjects are outside the pope’s scope of divinely appointed authority. he has no more claim to anyone’s deference on these subjects than a traffic cop who stops you to offer gynecological advice. Peter and his successors were guaranteed infallibility not so that Catholics would know exactly what to do about greenhouse gas emissions and income inequality, but so that that the signs identifying the narrow road that leads to heaven couldn’t be switched out for the signs pointing to the broad way that leads to perdition. That, after all, is the purpose for which Jesus Christ established the papacy, the church itself, in the first place — to show us the way to eternal salvation, not to tell us how to vote.

So guess what — EVEN IF Pope Francis was some sort of dirty commie (which he doesn’t appear to be) he couldn’t make that part of Church teaching, since Communism is evil in the eyes of the church, ever since Divini Redemptoris, 1937, when the Church realized that it was going to be a thing and not a passing fad. So no Pope can change doctrine. Only an entire conference of Cardinals and Bishops can do that.

So, why is that? Why isn’t the Pope a casual dictator?

Because how stupid do you think we are?

I know the Catholic church has managed some really stupid crap — just look at the implementation of Vatican II. But we’ve been around 2000 years. We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. And you probably just heard that line read in the voice of JK Simmons, and you should have.

The thing that everyone has to remember about the position of the Pope is that we’ve had Borgias and Medicis on the throne of Peter. Which is like having the Mafia running the church. Francis isn’t the worst guy we’ve had in the chair. He won’t even be the dumbest. We’ve survived 2000 years, and the church has been declared dead 7 times before the 20th century, and I swear it’s been declared dead 7 more times in the last 100 years alone. And right now, the most persecuted faith on the entire planet? Christians. In China. In the Middle East. In America. If you don’t know this, you’re probably not plugged into the right outlets. And no, I don’t mean Fox news, just the Tablet will suffice.

And what’s Francis doing? He’s telling the Catholic church in China to surrender to the state that wants to kill us. He hasn’t directly talked about the **Christians** in the Middle East in danger — and IF HE HAS, he hasn’t gotten his message across.

[The child molester problem STILL isn’t the “WE MUST REMAKE THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH TO MAKE IT UNITARIAN” the usual suspects like to talk about it. (seriously, 1% of the priesthood has been evil pricks. Find them, kill them, move on). And Francis is ACTIVELY screwing up what Benedict achieved on this front. But hanging them from lamp posts in the Vatican will certainly correct the problem. And for the namby pamby types who think “Wahh, that’s so harsh, it’s not Christian,” my I direct you to the Biblical passage of “BETTER A MILLSTONE BE TIED AROUND THEIR NECK AND THEY BE CAST INTO THE SEA THAN THEY MESS AROUND WITH CHILDREN.” Give the average short eyes an option between drowning and hanging, my bet is they’re going to take the short drop with the sudden stop.]

There’s a reason that in the entire history of the church, only 7 — repeated ONLY SEVEN — statements by Popes have been considered infallible, and five of those are up for grabs. So even Popes who USE papal infallibility don’t use it like a cudgel.

But yes. We’ve had bad popes. Bad popes disprove the authority of the Church the way that sin in general disproves grace. In other words, it doesn’t.

So, what’s the job of the Pope?

The primary job of a pope is not to be a theologian or a holy man. HE’S AN ADMINISTRATOR. He’s a bureaucrat. We have been SPOILED under John Paul II and Benedict. They were holy, they were theologians, and they had a great learning curve being an administrator. (Okay, Benedict was a better bureaucrat, but then, he was a German academic. I think they invented red tape).

Francis … I’m told he has charisma. I don’t see it.

But after being spoiled by two awesome Popes, we get … Francis. There is a lot to say about Francis. He sucks at public speaking. The transcript from which we get his “opinions on guns” is a rambling mess that requires a diagram to track.

Comparatively, Francis is Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss.

But again, we’ve had unholy popes in the past. We’ve had terrible Popes in the past …. but even Popes who’ve had mistresses (even when the mistress looks like she’s running the church itself!) never violated papal infallibility by declaring married priests a thing, or changed premarital sex as being a sin. They never changed what was and was not a sin. It’s why we even have a doctrine of Papal Infallibility — it DOESN’T NOT MEAN HE’S ALWAYS RIGHT, it means he never teaches what’s wrong in doctrine.

As the Catholic geeks noted a few times, even in the “Global warming” encyclical (and seriously, can someone read the thing before commenting on it?) he HASN’T CHANGED DOCTRINE.

Now, I will grant you, American Catholics can be very American-centric, while the Pope has to look at the world. While many of the tricks the media use is to apply all of the Pope’s comments to American politics, Francis largely doesn’t care. And one of his problems lately is that he should. When Francis was made Pope, many expected and desired that he should reform the bureaucracy… all he seems to do is make little cuts that only serve to piss people off. Right now, Francis should come in and break up the US Council of Catholic Bishops — preferably with a baseball bat. If you don’t believe me, look up Zmirak on Twitter, he has a few ideas on the subject.

Though all in all, I think I would have much preferred Cardinal Sarah as Pope Pius XIII. But no one listens to me on that.

 If you think these ideas are radical … no, none of them are, really. Heck, read Infernal Affairs for some radical ideas.

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