On the speed of mercy

Father Mark A. Pilon’s piece in The Thing this morning (here) gives an unusually frank account of the mess Holy Church is now passing through, which (Warren opining now) may yet prove a blessing. Sometimes war offers the only way forward; or in this case, the “moral equivalent” thereto. There are acts — there could be acts even by a pope — that must be confronted and corrected. Surrender is not an option, when one has Christ’s own Church to defend, whether the enemy be from without or within.

In his refusal to reply to the Dubia of the happily-dubbed “Four Cardinals” — Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner — all learned, sober, and impressive men — Pope Francis has displayed a shocking insolence, a caudillo hauteur. His very job, as pontiff, is to uphold the teaching of Holy Church, never more needed than in a time like this, when it is taken frivolously. It is to end confusion. In the five questions addressed to him – straightfoward, concise, and each answerable with a yea or a nay — he was requested to do that. These questions were not only about divorce and communion. They drew attention to five distinct points in Amoris Laetitia, at which a grave contradiction could be construed between what the pope was teaching, and what the Church has always taught.

On that marriage question alone, it is worth reading with attention Ross Douthat’s comments in (of all places) the New York Times (here). Douthat shows, with admirable precision, the consequences of Bergoglio’s doctrinal adventure for Catholic life, and thus, in the souls of a thousand million living people.

From the beginning of his pontificate, it is now clear to many, whose trust he has squandered, Bergoglio intended what amounts to sabotage; to rekindle the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” that Pope Benedict so eloquently condemned; to undermine the courageous work of Saint John Paul, to restate for our age Catholic moral teaching in his Familiaris Consortio and other writings. We cannot simply ignore the consistency with which he has insulted reliable Catholic teachers, and the longsuffering Catholic faithful — in his words, in his flighty and irresponsible gestures, in his persistent appointment of craven liberal mediocrities to vital Church offices. He has been described, aptly, as a papal wrecking ball.

The justification for the cardinals’ action in these circumstances has been stated (here, most accessibly).

A pope serves the Church, and not vice versa. He is servant of her servants. He is charged to defend the Faith, not to revise it. Beyond the specific issues, in which Bergoglio has toyed so coyly with doctrine and law, he has set an appalling precedent for his successors. It cannot be allowed to stand.

Yet all this may prove, in the long view which Christians strive to maintain, a blessing in disguise. We are coming to a juncture in which a glib, smarmy, and false account of Catholic Truth is widely accepted — even within the Church, where it is expressed in a slapdash liturgy. The parallels with the Arian crisis of the fourth century become ever more striking (see here).

It may take a few more decades to extinguish the Hydra-head modernist heresies. Without intending, I think our current pope draws the reckoning nearer.

Our Lord is not indifferent to the fate of His Church, and we may be surprised by what Flannery O’Connor called “the terrible speed of mercy.” (Not the fake mercy of laxity, but the divine action, which includes the admonishment of sinners.)

A path will emerge; may have emerged already.