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An interview with Francis, the bishop of Rome was published in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion this past Sunday, the 7th of December. (see here) I have refrained from commenting until now, since writing first impressions would have done this article a grave injustice. I wanted to give myself some time for reflection to allow this information to really sink in. And here are my thoughts.
One more thing. The title of this post relates to the pejorative term “The Magic Words”, that the
hippies modernists if the 1960 used to describe the words of consecration in the Roman Canon.
The reason for the above mentioned time of reflection was that this article was a watershed article in my humble opinion. The words of Francis in this interview provide the observer with two important pieces of information. The first piece of information is that we see a Francis on the defensive. He admits that mistakes were made, but they are really not his fault. And even if they are, it’s just the way he is. The second important piece of information is that he appears to be justifying his actions, and himself as well. The question is, who is he justifying himself to? He is after all the
king pope, so he can do whatever he pleases. So the question is why?
So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
Francis admits that he is a failure
Part of the reason why it appears that Francis needs to justify himself is that he admits that he is a failure. How else can one explain the following exchange:
Question: A recent survey (Pew) confirmed that, despite the “Francis effect”, Catholics still keep leaving the Church.
Francis: I am familiar with the figures disclosed at Aparecida, it´s the only information I have. There are evidently several factors of influence, independent of the Church.
Proof of the admission of failure is a negative proof, in the sense that we do not hear from Francis the usual “happy-clappy”, “new springtime” and “spirit of Vatican II” gospel of luv and joy and mercy and internal fuzzy feelings is just around the corner talk. By acknowledging that he is “familiar with the figures” that “Catholics keep leaving the Church” and moving on to rationalize for why these figures are as they are, we have a de facto admission of failure not only on his part, but by extension the failure of the entire hierarchy of South American Catholic Church. Hence the references to CELAM. They are in on this too, you know!
So how does Francis explain this failure? First he tries the “extenuating circumstances” route, when he answers:
Francis: The theology of prosperity, for instance, just to quote an example, has inspired many religious propositions which people feel attracted to. These people, however, end up in the middle.
So it’s the fault of the “theology of prosperity” and its practitioners. But why is this bad? It could be that the former faithful choose “theology of prosperity” in a large part as a result of the revulsion against the years of Church sponsored liberation theology? But this is not a conclusion that fits the narrative, and definitely does not conform to the workings of the “god of surprises”, so therefore it must be something else. And that something else is the notion that event though “these people feel inspired”, they don’t really, really know what’s good for them because they will “ end up in the middle” according to Francis, whatever that means. Remember that expression. So what we have is a situation where for 40 years, these people might be “ending up in the middle”, but they are definitely not attending his puppet masses or his tango masses. Furthermore, they are probably acting rationally, which might need a further rethink from Francis.
But Francis doesn’t want to exclusively focus on the external factors since he has the internal “straw men arguments” that can be throw out for mass consumption. Surely, the problems are with:
Francis: I wonder about ourselves, what is it that we ourselves do, what is within the Church that makes the faithful unhappy? It´s that people don´t feel we are close enough, it´s clericalism.
Yea, that’s the ticket!
And what is the problem with “clericalism”? Why it does not allow the “Church” to “reach out to” and be “close to them”. Here is the rationale:
Francis: Today , to be close means to reach out to Catholics, to seek people out and be close to them, to sympathize with their problems, with their reality. Clericalism, as I told the CELAM bishops in Río de Janeiro, stopped laypersons from maturing. Precisely, laypersons are more mature in Latin America when they express popular piety. Clericalism was always an issue for lay organizations. I spoke of it in Evangelii Gaudium.
Get that? The cause is “Clericalism, as I told the CELAM bishops in Río de Janeiro, stopped laypersons from maturing.” Notice the lack of any semblance of self criticism in these responses. So much for the idea of a rethink! And what does this “laypersons maturing” mean? Remember this expression also.
The Magic Words
So now that we found out how Francis diagnosis the problems, let’s see what solution he offers. Here we can observe Francis’s solution to the Catholics leaving the Church problem in the following passages:
Francis: I don´t like the “dropping out” image because it is all to close to proselytism. I don´t like to use terms connected with proselytism because that´s not the truth. I like to use the image of the field hospital: some people are very much injured and are waiting for us to heal their wounds, they are injured for a thousand reasons. We must reach out to them and heal their wounds.
I don´t like the word “strategy”, I´d much rather speak about the Lord´s pastoral call, otherwise it sounds like an NGO. It´s the Lord´s call, what the Church is asking from us today, not as a strategy, because the Church isn´t into proselytism. The Church doesn´t want to engage in proselytism because the Church does not grow on proselytism, it grows on attraction, as Benedict said. The Church needs to be a field hospital and we need to set out to heal wounds, just as the good Samaritan did. Some people´s wounds result from neglect, others are wounded because they have been forsaken by the Church itself, some people are suffering terribly.
So there you have it. The modernists are in search of their very own Magic Words. The resolution to the problem, as Francis sees it, is that the Church needs to “change the words” and use “new imagery” and that will remedy to the problem.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Just to draw an analogy. What Francis is saying is that if you change the label of the meat that you are serving at the Buenos Aires Greasy Spoon from “Hamburger” to “Salisbury Steak”, people will come back to your establishment and eat it. Yes? But that’s not even the whopper. No pun intended, but I just couldn’t help myself…
Next observation should be one which jumps out and just screams at anyone reading this. It is the “interchangeability” with Francis assigns to the words “proselytize” and “attract”.
Here is the relevant passage again:
Francis: The Church doesn´t want to engage in proselytism because the Church does not grow on proselytism, it grows on attraction, as Benedict said.
Not even wanting to comment on the Benedict “Straw Man” here, and the logically contradictory “proselytism does not equal growth” absurdity since it’s worked for the Evangelical very well, what should be painfully obvious to the reader is that the word “attraction”, in Francis’s mind appears to be nothing more than “proselytism without the theological element”.
This is real important, so let this sink in for two minutes. This is the Vicar of Christ that is speaking!
Now back to the story. But at the end of the day, the goal of this exercise is to get the former Pew Sitter back in the Pew. So what is Francis offering them, that the restaurant or disco or Jehovah’s Witness meeting hall down the street isn’t? Imagery and semantics and nothing more!
The Francis Magisterium
Above I have tried to demonstrate the absurdity of the irrational thought process, internal contradiction of arguments and use of logical fallacies that Francis provides the reader with in the La Nacion interview.
Now one can say, as the typical “real non-straw man” Pollyanna would, that these communications put out by Francis are informal, off the cuff, subject to journalistic license, do not translate well into English, do not capture what Francis was really trying to say etc. Up to now, we could have pretended that the words Francis uses have deeper meanings and the message that Francis is giving is much, much more sublime. But after the two answers that I quoted in the section above, we see that we are dealing here with what a marketing executive would term a “re branding exercise”. But that isn’t the best part of this interview.
For the best part, I quote the relevant passage: (emphasis addes)
Question :As a Pope you are different because you speak with utmost clarity, you are completely straightforward, you don´t use euphemisms and don´t beat about the bush, the course of your papacy is extremely clear. Why do you think some sectors are disoriented, why do they say the ship is without a rudder, especially after the latest extraordinary synod of bishops on the challenges posed by the family?
Francis: Those expressions strike me as odd. I am not aware of anybody using them. The media quote them. However, until I can ask the people involved “have you said this?” I will have brotherly doubts. In general people don´t read about what is going on. Somebody did say to me once, “Of course, of course. Insight is so good for us but we need clearer things”. And I answered, “Look, I wrote an encyclical, true enough, it was a big job, and an Apostolic Exhortation, I´m permanently making statements, giving homilies; that´s teaching. That´s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out, it´s very clear. Evangelii Gaudium is very clear”.
Did you catch that? Once again the relevant part:
Francis: “Look, I wrote an encyclical, true enough, it was a big job, and an Apostolic Exhortation, I´m permanently making statements, giving homilies; that´s teaching.
So why is this so important. First of all, for all the Pollyanna’s who maintain that what Francis says through his various speeches, conversations, musings at the Domus Saencte Maertha, and other off the cuff comments DO NOT constitute his personal magisterium. In this one sentence, Francis is saying is that all of his various speeches, conversations, musings at the Domus Saencte Maertha, and other off the cuff comments ARE his magisterium.
Again, let this sink in for three minutes!
Or to put it another way. There is nothing more to what Francis teaches, than what is present in his various speeches, conversations, musings at the Domus Saencte Maerta, and other off the cuff comments.
THAT IS ALL FOLKS!
The underlying reason for why Francis did this interview, is no doubt that Francis did what a number of leading cardinals and bishops have been asking Francis to do since the Shameful Secret Synod of 2014. He has answered them about where he stands on the issues. He
let his guard down was forced to let this guard down and exposed himself to the entire world. And what he exposed to the entire world is that what he teaches… his magisterium is nothing more than GIBBERISH.
Just to define the term gibberish: (see here)
Gibberish or gobbledygook refer to speech or other use of language that is nonsense, or that appears to be nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or forms such as language games or highly specialized jargon that seems non-sensical to outsiders. Gibberish should not be confused with literary nonsense such as that used in the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.
The word gibberish is more commonly applied to speech, while gobbledygook (sometimes gobbledegook, gobbledigook or gobbledegoo) is more often applied to writing. “Officialese”, “legalese”, or “bureaucratese” are forms of gobbledygook. The related word jibber-jabber refers to rapid talk that is difficult to understand.
For our purposes, we can add the Verrecchian term ” “pseudosacral homopoetic prose” to the second paragraph above.
As you can see by now dear reader, there is no depth or breadth in what Francis says.
Please keep in mind, that according to what Francis defines as his magisterium, this interview is part of it.
And what do we see in Francis’s magisterium? Ad homonym attacks on “straw men “ whose purpose is only to justify Francis’s own incompetence as with the “clericalism”charge. We see arguments put forward, which are “speech or other use of language that is nonsense or appears to be nonsense” such as the case of “laypersons maturing”, or “language games or highly specialized jargon that seems non-sensical to outsiders” such as the concept of “end up in the middle”. And that is topped off by the logical contradiction of the phrase “The Church does not grow on proselytism, it grows on attraction”. But to the causal relationships that do exist in Francis answers, like the negatively correlated “spread of liberation theology” and “growth of the evangelical sects”, Francis is totally oblivious.
Summing up, what we see in the Francis interview, is the complete banality, shallowness, intellectual confusion, delusion, and the rationalization of a lifelong failure who was able to convince a couple of old Germans, a American and an Englishman, that he knew what he was doing. And just as one American cardinal quipped, that “ these aren’t the good that we were sold”, those same cardinal electors must be having those same thoughts about their electee at present.
And I suspect that it is these same cardinals, to which Francis is trying to justify his actions at present. After all, he did promise them that he would be leading the charge to
hell the “New Springtime”. So he now desperately needs to keep them pacified if not until that blissful event, then at least to the end of the upcoming Secret Synod of 2015.
And from reading this article, it appears like he is beginning to panic.