Catholics believe that all creation is good and that evil is the wrong use of good and that without Grace we use it wrong most of the time.
It is simply that [Pope] Francis, following the tradition of the name he has taken, has changed, not the essence of the message, but its tone, dialect, and presentation. Francis feels the void into which he must reach — he knows the materialism, nihilism, and skepticism from which he must reclaim men’s minds. Thus, he does not emphasize morality so much as compassion, and he is ready at every moment to mingle acts of mercy with calls for justice. He does not fear paradox. He is capable of writing theology, but he prefers a gospel of encounter. He does not lead with condemnation; he leads with the caress. He affirms neither Right nor Left, neither socialist nor capitalist. He moves through such mental barricades as if they were not even there, declaring openly the hollowness of ideology.”
Looking at the history of the Church, the “reforms” that stick tend to flow from the “spirited” energy of a charismatic founder: Benedict, Francis, Dominic. The monastic and mendicant movements were not options debated academically. Nor were they more-or-less well-planned alternatives to the status quo. They were the fruit of the Spirit, raising up leaders among the anawim of their time. No one movement is condemned into obsolescence by the arrival of a new charism. They are many parts serving the One Body; each aiming to live the vita evangelica in their own cultural context. At present, the majority of the “option” conversations seem too heady, lacking the spirit necessary to function effectively as creative minorities. Such conversations are not useless. They might even be necessary. History shows, however, that in times of upheaval, the Church – and thus the world – is kept afloat not by brilliant schemes but by the intervention of the Spirit.
One of the most common complaints I hear on a regular basis begins with the phrase, “The Church isn’t doing enough for…” and you can fill in the blank a million ways. The Church isn’t doing enough for engaged couples preparing for marriage. The Church isn’t doing enough for the poor. The Church isn’t doing enough for married couples who are struggling, and of course, the one I hear the most is, “The Church isn’t doing enough for divorced Catholics.” So, I just have one question in response… who do you think the Church is?
We are the Church. We, alongside Pope Francis and the cardinals and bishops, the priests and deacons and religious, are the Church – the everyday Catholics in the pew. Why isn’t the Church reaching a strong and powerful hand out to the niche groups we all see are suffering? Well, the hierarchy is. You may have noticed a little Synod on the Family going on in Rome these past weeks. But for complaints and cries and calls for action that are heard, what are we complainers doing to help?
Given this, it is not at all a stretch to say that Catholics in the post-Christian West find ourselves as captives and strangers in a new empire of the mind, the Empire of Man, which is marked by incredible technological achievement and vast material wealth, but at the heart of which lies a cult that is fundamentally at odds with the Christian understanding of man. Pope Paul VI neatly defined that cultic heart in his 1971 apostolic letter marking the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum. “At the very root of philosophical liberalism,” the Pope wrote, “is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty.”
So if we are going to pish-tush at some teaching of the Church — like the teaching that the death penalty is only to be used as a last resort when there is no other way of keeping society safe* — calling it “marginal” or “liberal,” or saying that we just can’t get ourselves to care about it? Then we are very close to being in dissent. At very least, we have what I might call a “dissenting mentality”: pretending to submit to the guidance of the Church, but actually only adhering to and defending the doctrines which appeal to us, while ignoring, scorning, or even openly defying the ones which we don’t like.
Since the Secular Franciscan Order is part of a special spiritual family raised up by the Holy Spirit within the Church, it is a representative piece of the whole Church and an expression of the entire Church in miniature. Just as the traditions of the Church and Holy Scripture are inspired by the Holy Spirit and just as this inspiration is given concrete explanation by the official leadership of the Church, so the authentic meaning and direction of the rule for Secular Franciscans comes ultimately from the leaders of the Church!
Catholic moral teaching is not a mere code of prescriptions and prohibitions. It is not something that the Church teaches merely to keep people obedient, doing violence to their freedom. Rather, Catholic morality is a response to the aspirations of the human heart for truth and goodness. As such, it offers guidelines that when followed will make these aspirations grow and become strong under the warm light of the Gospel. Catholic morality is not by nature oppressive: nor is it in principle conservative. It seeks to educate for growth. This is its true mission.
The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.
I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.