Author Archives: Fr. Steve
That’s right. Everything. Sure, I get the irony since I’m writing about the Pope, but I’m speaking in hyperbole… just barely. You might be able to find the occasional article about Pope Francis which is actually accurate, and usually they’re the ones explaining why some other article you read on Pope Francis is wrong. But even then, those explanations are sometimes skewed, because the people writing them are sometimes basing their knowledge partly on other articles they are reading… which are also wrong.
So here’s my conclusion: Just ignore everything your read about Pope Francis. You heard me. Everything. I truly feel this is a relatively safe, sweeping generalization, and that includes news reports on TV, the radio, or the Internet. That latest article, or worse, that latest headline you just read on the Pope? It’s wrong. Even that article that came out after I wrote this—it’s also wrong. What’s that? You just read an article talking about some Cardinal who said something related to the Pope? Yes, this article is also wrong. If it’s an article or headline connected to the Pope in any way, shape or form, it’s likely to be at the very least misleading, twisted and serving some ulterior agenda. It’s wrong. But you say the article you read came from one of the sources in Rome? Sorry to say, even some of the sources in Rome have been known to twist words and draw silly conclusions. Now of course, there are a few golden articles that accurately report on what the Pope is doing, but as the strange phenomenon seems to prevail, mainstream media seems far more content with not knowing what on earth they’re talking about, or just plain making stuff up when it comes to Pope Francis. This is the real “Francis effect”.
But… but… how will I ever know what the Pope is actually talking about? Why is this happening? Let me answer both these questions:
What can I read that isn’t wrong?
Want to know where to look? The original sources. Yes, this means you’re going to have to actually spend some time in reading and reflection, because pretty much the only place you will find accurate info is in the original documents themselves. Read the encyclicals. Read the letters. Read the homilies. Read them in full. I know this goes against every facebook and twittering instinct in our bodies, but you’re going to have to spend time reading and reflecting on these original documents in full, if you want to really know what’s going on. You are also going to need a basic understanding of the mind of the Church. Here’s what I mean: the Church cannot change doctrine. She can’t. If you think the Pope is making changes to the teachings
of the Church, that’s because you read an article about him. As I explained before, that article is wrong. Also, there is a difference between an encyclical and a letter or a homily. An encyclical contains authoritative, infallible teaching when discussing matters on faith and morals. The latter two do not, strictly speaking. They should be respected and held in high esteem, especially when coming from the Pope, but there is no grace of infallibility there due to the scope and nature of these forms of teaching. This means that mistakes can be made and it is no big deal to correct them. Keeping this in mind, when you read something that appears to be off from what the Church usually says, this is when it’s good to look up whether perhaps you are misunderstanding what is being said, not properly understanding the context in which it is said, or maybe even something is being lost in translation. You might need some help from someone more well-versed in Church teaching to help you understand, or someone who can read the original language and explain the disparity.
Why is this happening?
Excellent question. Here’s my opinion. And here’s where my article about Pope Francis may also be wrong. There are currently two Pope Francis’. No, I’m not hocking some silly conspiracy theory. What I mean is, there is the real Pope Francis, and then there is what I would call, “Pseudo Pope Francis”—a skewed and altered version of the Pope that the media wishes he would be. Let me explain. As you may have noticed, the current secular culture is hardly in sync with the Church. The popular moral perspective today definitely goes contrary to a number of the Church’s teachings, especially in regard to sexuality and life/death issues. This is nothing new, but in a particularly strong way today, there is much disagreement with the Church. The voice of this popular morality is mainstream media. Those who work for, own, manage, and produce our media intake, for the most part, belong to this secular culture, and are none too happy with the Church’s ongoing defiance of these popular waves of thought. Of course they’re going to try to “preach” what they believe and are so passionate about. Why wouldn’t they? Enter Pseudo Pope Francis. By twisting the Pope’s words, taking them out of context, etc, the media is in a sense creating their own version of the Pope to act like and say all the things they wished and hoped he would say. I can’t say whether this is intentional and malicious, or out of ignorance and wishful thinking (or some combination thereof), but for people who really want to change Catholics’ way of thinking, it is natural to use the Pope as a platform to change Catholic opinion. As far as secular culture knows, Catholics just do whatever the Pope says, because he’s infallible, right? This preys upon those people who A) do not understand the distinctions of Papal Infallibility and B) do not properly understand what the Church teaches and why, anyway. Unfortunately this accounts for a large portion of Catholics.
Who is Pseudo Pope Francis?
He’s the guy who is making huge waves in the Church, cleaning house, kicking butt and taking names. He’s changing the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, and wants to make homosexual marriage a possibility within the Church. Remember when he said “who am I to judge?” Yeah, that guy. He’s always struggling to say what he really wants to say about why the Church is all wrong because those stupid Cardinals keep “correcting” him. Who do they think they are? But in spite of the opposition, Pseudo Pope Francis is fighting those fatcat, Cardinal beaurocrats in a war to allow for divorce and for all people to be able to receive the Eucharist. He’s demoting those awful conservative Cardinals right, left and center, and changing the structure of the curia to fix the corruption so deeply set into every single male chauvinist pig to ever don a red hat and cape. Soon the Church will be more with the times and not stuck in the stone age. He’s changing the system, man. He’s taking down the man, man! He’s paving the way for women to become priests, and soon there will be equality and liberty for all! What a great guy, a real modern-day hero. Sticking up for the little guy (or girl!) You can be sure that if there’s a cause that’s dear to your heart, Pseudo Pope Francis is already 10 steps ahead in taking care of that. But most importantly, he’s the guy who only exists on paper. He’s not real. Sorry to disappoint, kids.
Of course, this may be how you may feel about me for saying that this Pope Francis described above does not exist. In fact, everything said above is not true, or at least, it is a twisted version of the facts. Sure, Pope Francis did say “who am I to judge?”—something the media repeats ad nauseam—but this meaning is skewed without understanding the context and intent properly. And sure, he’s also making some changes with those working in the Vatican, but this is nothing new, nor is it necessarily as cutthroat as the media paints it. The issue is that the media keeps guessing at the Pope’s intentions—that, or they’re just making things up purposefully to mislead people. They see something he does or hear something he says, and make large assumptions or twist the Pope’s words. They present these assumptions as “facts”, so that well-intentioned, good-hearted people like yourself are led to believe that they have been well-informed. Ever heard of clickbait? You know those endless Buzzfeed articles that show up in Facebook saying things like “You’ll never believe what happened next!”? That’s clickbait. It’s an article title that is purposefully misleading or over-exaggerated in order to make you curious enough to click on the link. This method is used a lot in articles on Pope Francis. The article title will make a radical claim, but when you read the article you see that the claim is not so radical or is downright false—that is, if you actually read the article. Be honest, you often don’t, do you? At the very least I am sure you have friends who go around claiming something about the Pope which they got from only reading the article title, and now they have built even further, inaccurate assumptions about the Pope. Of course, you haven’t read this far in the article if you are one of those people (or at least you do it less frequently). Kudos. Share this article with others and even if they only read the title, it might influence them to “just ignore everything they read about Pope Francis”. But I digress. One step worse from clickbaiting article titles about Pope Francis, are the pictures of Pope Francis with a quote on it. I hate these so much. Occasionally you can make a good point with a short “sound bite”. Often, especially when it comes to quotes from Pope Francis, these quotes are so far out of context that they can be used to promote any ridiculous thing. And they often do. We should be smart enough to know by now that it’s highly unlikely that we will get an accurate sense of someone or what they stand for from just a short quote, especially if we don’t know the context. But we forget. I forget. What’s worse is that sometimes these quotes are completely made up. I’ve seen pictures of Pope Francis with what claims to be a quote from him that is not at all something he’s ever said. A quick look at snopes in this case usually confirms the fraud. So don’t think me crazy for saying that through various forms of media we are being presented with an alternative, pseudo Pope Francis that is saying and doing what other people want him to say and do.
But I always take the media with a grain of salt…
Of course this happens with all kinds of the information we get, but the phenomenon I have noticed surrounding Pope Francis, or the “Francis effect”, is that reports on the Pope are almost exclusively slanted or false. I am simply amazed by how often it happens. This is probably because it wouldn’t be newsworthy otherwise. Actually, if an article about Pope Francis doesn’t seem all that newsworthy, it’s probably correct. But to make it newsworthy we need to spice it up, add a little scandal or shock value so that people will want to talk about it. Assuming that the articles you’re reading and the news reports you’re hearing are the ones that are making headlines, then just ignore them, because those are the ones that are wrong. You likely are not interested in the ones that are true. So my recommendation, which you are free to ignore, is not to simply take the reports you hear on Pope Francis with a grain of salt, but rather to just ignore them entirely, because they are sensationalized, inaccurate, and it is difficult to separate the truth from the Pseudo Pope Francis. Just go read the original texts, they’re actually really good stuff! That’s what Pope Francis said we should do. (He actually did, as far as I’ve read).
It seems that every time the Pope (current or previous) opens his mouth on a controversial issue, the media flips out and starts claiming that the Church is changing all of her “old, medieval ways of thinking” and finally “coming into the 21st Century”. That’s not because the Church has been changing any of her doctrines, but because the media doesn’t properly understand what the Church teaches to begin with.
As you’ve probably all heard plastered over the news, Pope Francis was answering questions on the plane home from World Youth Day in Rio, and he said on the subject of homosexuality: “If a gay person is a person of good will who seeks God, who am I to judge?” The problem is that when the media hears this they often assume this means that the Church, whom they believe to hate homosexual people, is now turning over a new leaf.
The Church never taught that. In fact, the Catechism, (which the Pope then later referred to) says that those with homosexual tendencies “… must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC 2358). In the very same line the Catechism also refers to homosexuality as “objectively disordered”. So which is it, Catechism? Care to get your story straight?
In an over-simplified manner, I have often heard it put this way: “hate the sin, love the sinner”. The trouble people usually have with this phrase is that we find it hard not to equate homosexual action with homosexual inclination. For those who are attracted to those of the same gender, it feels like one’s identity, and currently this notion is heavily promoted. In fact, I also recently saw an article parody the Pope’s position by stating, “It’s fine for a man to have Pope-ish feelings, as long as he does not act on them in any way” (from here). The silly thing about this kind of comparison is that being the Pope is an office, not an orientation, and is by election and choice. (I was under the impression the argument was for being ‘born that way’, not against!) So this comparison isn’t really helping the argument very much. The truth is, it is easily possible to have disordered passions, desires, and inclinations. In fact, we all do. EV.RY.BO.DY. If I have the desire to eat until I make myself sick, this is a disordered inclination. Does this mean that I am unlovable, or should not be treated with respect or fully integrated with society? No! But it doesn’t change the fact that gorging myself silly isn’t good for me.
The challenge is that when a particular desire is so incredibly strong and when you really feel like it’s something you can’t say no to, it’s much harder and even feels offensive for someone to even make the comparison I just made to overeating. It may feel like homosexual actions are tied to happiness, and so to say that one’s happiness is objectively disordered is like a slap in the face. I know I can’t relate personally to how difficult the struggle must be, and so I can only sympathize with that pain. I have gay friends who range from thoroughly embracing the whole gay lifestyle and being angry with the Church, to those who have found amazing joy through accepting the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, to those who are in the middle ground, fighting the battle and unsure about which side they will come out on. What I do know is that life is a struggle. It is a battlefield on which virtue cannot be attained without being willing to say no to some of our own most deeply-seated desires. There is no victory without a fight. And simply accepting and giving in to a passion, inclination or desire just because the feeling is very, very strong and rooted, is a road that leads to selfishness and cutting off the good of others around us. That’s something we all have to battle with in various ways. The Christian life is the life of the cross. We live out our lives on the cross and the cross is not a walk in the park, but a victory won through self-sacrifice and an emptying of self for the love of God.
As an extra note, here are some other great references and testimonies I’ve come across over the years for those who are interested:
I love exploring. That’s probably why I love camping. It’s great to just look around and see cool things. That’s what I love about Google Maps Street Views. So here’s my top ten street views I’ve enjoyed exploring from my computer chair. (Keep an eye out, there’s some funny ones at the end!)
I’ve probably spent the most time looking around here, mostly because I’m using it in part as a model for building a Cathedral in Minecraft (I’ll show more of that some other time). What’s really cool about this sight, is you can “walk” right up close to it, and you don’t have to follow the roads. So if you click on the street view, you’ll see that you can wander all the way up close around the building!!!
#2 The Vatican
I’ve never been to Rome. Someday…. someday. But in the meantime, this is as close as I can get to feeling like I’ve been there. Sadly, you can’t wander in and look around St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, though so many people have taken pictures inside the area, you can see those pictures in relationship to the direction you’re facing inside the square… which is neat.
What do you do when you’re being chased down by a Google Maps car? You… well you run I guess. Anyway, click on the link to the street view to see this guy off in the distance, and watch what happens as the car gets closer and closer!
And other times, you’re the one being chased. By uh…. scuba divers. Open this street view and “back away” to watch them follow after you. If you go closer to them, they’ve been blurred out for some reason.
#10 Creepy Pigeons
Sometimes you’re just being watched…. I really gotta wonder if people were told ahead of time that Google Maps was coming in, or if these people just carry pigeon masks with them wherever they go. Either way, move forward and back through this crowd and you’ll see they watch you wherever you go.
. . .
What’s that? I skipped a few of the top 10?