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Catholic Culture Solidarity

Going the Wrong Way with Studied Ambiguity

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 11, 2022

In the 1944 movie classic, Going My Way, young Father Charles “Chuck” O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is an unconventional “progressive.” He is assigned to replace the stodgy Father Fitzgibbons (Barry Fitzgerald). In one scene, the priest-crooner teaches a young female runaway to sing in the privacy of his rectory office. The moviemakers ensure that we know the sweet young thing is 18 years old: the age of consent. The film is morally subversive. The wholesome popularity of the movie provides ambiguity and plausible deniability to disguise the sexual tension between a young woman and a young priest.

Sexual revolutionaries often use ambiguities to advance their agendas. In 1986, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger identified ambiguity as a tool of the homosexual agenda:

A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they [those promoting a change to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality] attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one’s conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word ‘Catholic’ to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church.

Studied ambiguity, undermining Church teaching but retaining plausible deniability, continues. In 2007, Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia—who is now an archbishop, and president of the Pontifical Academy for Life—commissioned homosexual Argentinean Ricardo Cinalli to paint the cathedral mural. It depicts Jesus carrying nets to a heaven filled with naked and semi-nude homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes, and drug dealers, jumbled together in erotic interactions. Cinalli told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in March 2016 that the bishop oversaw every detail of the work.

In one scene, a male has his hand between another male’s legs, groping his reproductive organ. The image of the Savior carries the face of a local male hairdresser, and his private parts are visible through his translucent garb. Included in one of the nets is the naked Paglia—the diocesan bishop, wearing only his skull cap, clutching another semi-nude man who is tenderly embracing him.

Undoubtedly, Archbishop Paglia would deny that the work depicts “homoerotic art.” He explained, “In the mural, humanity is shown naked to express its radical poverty, and I too am included in the mural as one who needs redemption no less than anyone else. It has been in the cathedral for more than ten years with no objection from the local Catholic community, and I believe it is seen by the community as a part, perhaps to some a too fleshy part, of an overall evangelizing commitment.” Judge for yourself.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2021: “At a meeting in Frankfurt, German [Catholic] church leaders voted 168 to 28. . .to adopt a draft statement on sexuality that includes a resolution saying that ‘same-sex partnerships who want to take the risk of an unbreakable common life. . .should be able to see themselves placed under the blessing of God.’”

In February of 2022, the National Catholic Reporter cited Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, a Jesuit who leads the pan-European Catholic bishops’ conference as saying that “he considered the Church’s assessment of homosexuality relationships [sic] as sinful to be wrong.” Hollerich said: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.” The cardinal said it was time for a fundamental revision of church teaching, and suggested the way Pope Francis had spoken about homosexuality in the past could lead to a change in doctrine.

In July 2022, in an unsigned statement, the Vatican warned the German bishops (but not Cardinal Hollerich) of the danger of schism. A close inspection of the warning includes a disturbing ambiguity. “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, [emphasis added] which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”

That statement itself is a masterpiece of ambiguity. It presumably leaves the door open for Vatican authorities to change Catholic moral doctrine in violation of the Magisterium. By deferring to Pope Francis, Cardinal Hollerich avoided censure.

The saga of James Martin, SJ, provides another example of studied ambiguity of doctrinal confusion. Martin is the notorious LGBTQ activist and celebrity priest, who has earned the favor of Pope Francis. In a message to the controversial Jesuit, Pope Francis praised him for promoting “the culture of encounter.” The papal note encouraged him to continue his work with and for homosexuals. He asked him to “continue in this way, being close, compassionate, and full tenderness.”

“Being close” and “full of tenderness” may describe the love of a husband and wife—and the love within a family. But when applied to perverted sexual behavior, it assumes cringe-worthy ambiguity. The Pope anticipated the criticism. “The Church is a mother and calls together all her children,” he said in his message to Martin, adding that a “selective” Church would be “nothing more than a sect.” The remarks seem unassailable, and aim to silence critics and shield Martin’s LGBTQ agenda.

The ambiguities are far from inconsequential. If the Church is wrong about man and woman created in the image and likeness of God, the nuptial image of the Church breaks down. The LGBTQ ideology annihilates a proper understanding of the Incarnation, the male priesthood in persona Christi capitis and the Sacraments—and the Church herself.

Studied ambiguity has become a formidable weapon advancing doctrinal moral confusion. We have Cardinal Ratzinger to thank for unmasking the technique. Today, we need courageous moral clarity and a willingness to suffer for righteousness. Since abdicating the papacy, Pope Benedict suffers in prayerful, heartbreaking silence. We can join him in prayer, but not in silence.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Aug. 16, 2022 8:58 PM ET USA

    Whether "studied" or not, Pope Francis is a master of ambiguity which is not only not helpful but clearly disruptive.

  • Posted by: cvm46470 - Aug. 13, 2022 12:16 AM ET USA

    Thank you Fr. Pokorsky, for your courage in being a clear voice of truth. I continue to pray for an end to the "ambiguity".

  • Posted by: ewaughok - Aug. 12, 2022 12:07 PM ET USA

    Thanks, Fr Pokorsky, for this post. Ambiguity plays a role in the dramatic action of any story, on-stage or on-screen. The audience is made to think “how is this going to end?” The ambiguity is then resolved as the story’s plot moves toward its end. Just the opposite is required for communicating Church doctrine! As you write, studied ambiguity is one of the worst things that can be done, especially in the realm of morality! Yet Francis has encouraged this sort of thing under the dissimulation that it is legitimate “dialogue“! This is gaslighting at its worst!

  • Posted by: padre3536 - Aug. 12, 2022 11:16 AM ET USA

    “in Frankfurt, German [Catholic] church leaders voted 168 to 28. . .to adopt a draft statement on sexuality that includes a resolution saying that ‘same-sex partnerships who want to take the risk of an unbreakable common life. . .should be able to see themselves placed under the blessing of God.’” Wonder if the risk is a good or bad risk? What are they risking if they wish to place themselves as in an evil unbreakable bond as a blessing before God. Why would the Bishops want this?

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Aug. 12, 2022 11:08 AM ET USA

    Thank you Fr. Pokorsky for avoiding studied ambiguity and calling a spade a spade. May God bless you for your courage. I can only hope that your clear analysis will not get you in serious trouble with Pope Francis' "studied-ambiguity" promoters in the Church hierarchy.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 11, 2022 8:59 PM ET USA

    Pope Benedict never should have resigned. He should have continued working and teaching for as along as God would have allowed. Perhaps we could have avoided the contradiction, degeneration and disgrace of the current pontificate.