Avoid despair over Church problems, even those made worse by the Pope.
Over at onepeterfive.com, Maike Hickson reports some (alleged) details surrounding Pope Francis’ decision not to renew the term of Gerhard Cardinal Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nobody knows whether these details are authentic. Indeed, if you read the piece carefully, you will also see that nobody knows what, if anything, these details really mean.
We have a remarkable tendency to interpret according to our own prejudices, offering noble interpretations for those we like, and ignoble ones for those we don’t. This is one reason CatholicCulture.org tries very hard, even when raising questions, not to assume motives that cannot be proved. But my point here is not to question the story, but rather the responses to it.
If you scan through the reader comments, you’ll find some condemning Pope Francis for being a “monster” and others asserting that, since he is a heretic, he cannot really be the Pope. The latter argument, by the way, has always been specious, because nobody is competent to render an authoritative judgment as to whether Pope Francis is a formal heretic who has separated himself from the Church. This theory would, if true, mean that the Magisterium of Pope Francis has lost its divine guarantee. Nothing could be more calculated to prove that Our Lord’s prayer for Peter (Lk 22:32) and His promise to be with the Church until the end of time (Mt 28:20) have failed of their purpose.
Such responses reveal the extreme danger of handling serious concerns about Pope Francis with anything less than the greatest care, and without making sure readers understand what the legitimate implications of a report are, and what they are not. But there is an even more important point than this to make, and one that we all have some control over.
I first recognized this point in an incident very early in the history of Trinity Communications, back in the dark ages, before I (not Al Gore) invented the Internet. A lady had written to me to say she was joining an allegedly Catholic group that was in formal disobedience to Rome, because she was so upset by her current liturgical and doctrinal experiences in her diocese.
She believed that she had no choice but to take this step. In a letter, she wrote: “I have no alternative. What else can I do?”
My reply was simple: “But you do have an alternative. You can suffer.”
All breaks with the Church are in large measure an effort to avoid suffering. I wonder why so many seemingly well-intentioned souls forget this grace-filled option. Why do so many seem to think that personal satisfaction and theological congeniality are necessary to salvation? We ought to know by now that only three things endure. One of them is hope, and the others have nothing to do with our personal comfort zones.
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