Quick Hits: Questions on Pope's ad-lib reforms, the 'dance' on doctrine, preparing for persecution

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 19, 2016

Three must-read columns—none terribly optimistic—from the weekend’s harvest:

  • By all accounts, in the conclave of March 2013, Cardinal Bergoglio was chosen by the cardinals to be a reforming Pope: specifically, he had a mandate to bring change to the Roman Curia. Has that happened? Father Raymond de Souza notes that Pope Francis has made a series of unusual moves: “sweeping initiatives, deliberately kept secret until announced, without the relevant parties being consulted.” The results have not always been positive, and so the Pope has substantially reversed some of his own decisions. Father de Souza asks:
    Does the improvisational, non-consultative mode of the Holy Father’s reforms mean that he can move fast, going back to fix up the details later? Or does it mean that he simply goes back, undoing what he had proposed to do for lack of proper preparation and attention to detail?

  • Regarding one item that has been at the top of the Pope’s agenda—the question of Communion for divorced/remarried Catholics—Ross Douthat of the New York Times worries about “Diluton of Doctrine.” He acknowledges that the Pope has not formally changed Church teaching, evidently because of “intense resistance from conservatives,” but he sees the “studied ambiguity of papal statements” combining with personal gestures to send a message. “This dance has effectively left Catholicism with two teachings on marriage and the sacraments,” Douthat argues, and the net result is instability, certainly not unity.

  • Msgr. Charles Pope also sees perilous times in store for the universal Church, for different reasons. He writes that pastors should lead the faithful in “Preparing for Persecution.” We Catholics have become too comfortable, he argues, in a culture that is increasingly hostile:
    Again, if there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now. It is “zero dark thirty” in our post-Christian culture. And while we may wish to blame any number of factors for the collapse, we cannot exclude ourselves. We who are supposed to be the light of the world, with Christ shining in us, have preferred to hide our light under a basket and lay low. The ruins of our families and culture are testimony to the triumph of error and the suppression of the truth.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: space15796 - Sep. 21, 2016 10:00 AM ET USA

    The immediate future for Catholics and all Christians in the West is grim, and it appears to be our own fault. To be a Christ follower in times of prosperity is a daily battle - a battle we've grown weary of fighting, while never growing weary of our many blessings, material and otherwise. Of course, we know at the culmination of history we will be victors, but if we keep slipping, what side will we be on in that Day?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Sep. 19, 2016 8:18 PM ET USA

    When the NYT weighs in, presumably reasonably objectively given the extract (no, I won't subscribe), on this subject, it's time to be afraid, very, very afraid. Unfortunately, Douthat's conclusion isn't any news.