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Pope Francis: Get it? Got it. Good!

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 01, 2015

The older I get, the more I tend to screen out all the “noise” which my lengthening experience has confirmed to be useless. So maybe this is just me. But my impression is that the cacophony of self-serving jabber surrounding the pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio has subsided dramatically in recent months. It’s about time.

The main reason for the decline of all this hyper-chatter is most probably this: Our more volatile brethren have figured out that, over time, Pope Francis succeeds in placing everything in an eminently coherent perspective.

It is true that he has a manner of raising critical questions, as well as a penchant for one-liners, that alternately annoy or charm those who see the life of the Church in terms of the left-right dialectic (that is, liberal vs. conservative, as if those terms were adequate to encompass something as deep and rich as Catholicism). But over time, both the most disaffected “conservatives” and the most triumphant “liberals” have begun to realize that (for better or worse in their eyes) Francis is a son of the Church.

Of course, we have also gone through a major Synod without the sky falling. That’s hard to imagine, given the rhetoric so common as little as seven months ago.

The Pope’s remarks during an audience with the Italian Science and Life Foundation on Saturday are a case in point. Francis forcefully denounced the “scourge of abortion”, upholding the “sacredness of every human person”. But he also put this in a larger Catholic context, as he is prone to do: “[T]he degree of progress of a civilization is measured by its ability to protect life, especially in its most fragile stages, rather than by the diffusion of technological instruments.”

He then explained:

The scourge of abortion is an attack on life. Leaving our brothers on the boats in the Sicilian channel is an attack on life. Job-related fatalities are an attack on life insofar as minimum safety conditions are not met. Death from malnutrition is an attack on life. Terrorism, war, violence, but also euthanasia, are attacks on life.

In our knee-jerk reactions as conservatives, we too often fail to see the whole picture. Our ideological serenity is undisturbed by such things as war and grinding poverty. In our knee-jerk reactions as liberals, we also fail to see it, for now our ideological serenity is unfazed by abortion, euthanasia and most sex-related attacks on the human person. But as sons and daughters of the Church, we must see the whole picture, because the whole picture is the Catholic picture.

Pope Francis refuses to think like an American, or in any of the inadequate categories which pass for options in the secularized West. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were characterized by the very same refusal. To borrow the fine phrase coined by philosopher Frederick Wilhelmsen in Triumph magazine in the late 1960s, this Catholic way of seeing—this Catholic way of being—is what it means “to transcend the dialectic”. He referred, as do I, to the transcendently false dialectic of left and right.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jim.K - Jun. 02, 2015 10:08 PM ET USA

    I am often discouraged by some of those in the Pro-Life movement who only want to talk about abortion. Many don't even know about JPII's "Gospel of Life" that makes it clear that the movement should be widened to include "cradle to grave" life issues, as does Pope Francis, to include, birth prevention, IVF, gender selection, same-sex "marriage" and adoption by homosexuals, euthanasia, etc., as well as abortion. Pope Francis adds a few more Life issues! (see above). Bravo!

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jun. 02, 2015 12:47 PM ET USA

    Sandro Magister has produced a document gathering a lot of sayings from Pope Francis in the last months which show that he is a "son of the Church". Regrettably, many are not aware of it. For some reason, the media sees no reason to publicize that kind of thing. Woe to you dishonest journalists, pitting the people of God against their pope!