Over at RNS, Mark Silk isn’t above tweaking ideological foils. He takes aim at Rod Dreher’s piece here. A lot of Catholic handwringing, even the little that’s coming from the Left, seems to me to be more “elder brother” fussing. “After he gets a full belly, he’ll just go out with prostitutes tomorrow night. And probably start ripping through my share of the inheritance.”
Mr Dreher wags a finger:
But this is where I think he goes badly wrong: his remarks will be received as the Pope saying that this stuff doesn’t matter all that much. Francis can’t claim he was misquoted or that the article gave the wrong emphasis, because he personally approved it before publication. He may not have intended it this way, but it will be taken as such by a people, especially in Europe and North America, who have closed their hearts and minds to the Church’s unchanging message on these topics, precisely because these are the hardest things for modern people to accept.
But this strikes me as reflective of the essence of the conservative approach. This blogger described the interview as “absolutely, fundamentally Catholic,” then fussed on me because I suggested it was also eminently Ignatian. Most all recent popes have said and written “afC” things. The difference I perceive is that none of them have been Jesuits, nor have brought an Ignatian perspective to bear on the Catholic faith.
Too many Catholics take their methods from pages of the ideological manifesto: sift through the opponent’s words, look for weaknesses, use Google to search out juicy little tidbits that will send people running back to their mommy and daddy.
I don’t get the sense Pope Francis is going to play that game at all.
Additionally, Mr Dreher and many others seem to think they have a bead on what the hedonists are doing or what they will say in the future. I think this is a silly exercise. It’s a very common exercise for people who are ideologically focused and who see all life through the lens of a culturewar. My sense is that the culturewar induces casualties. Casualties on both sides, as wars always do. Including innocent victims. The Church-as-Field-Hospital is a very discerning metaphor.
Another Catholic blogger sees the example of the Holy Father’s self-criticism as an example to follow. I don’t expect Big Name bloggers to follow in those footsteps, at least not publicly. But the observation is a discerning one. Maybe there was a reason why the elder son never got a party to celebrate with his friends. It could be that he was too busy making a chronicle of his brother’s faults.
It seems to me that hedonists and others despised by conservatives have done pretty well staking their claim to various indulgent lifestyles despite what John Paul II and Benedict XVI and various American conservatives have preached. It seems to me that Pope Francis sees the elder siblings in a lot of places in the Church. It seems to me that my sister and brother Catholics drain themselves of a lot of energy trying to control things they can’t control. That kind of energy is better spent elsewhere.
From Mr Dreher’s conclusion:
For liberals and Moralistic Therapeutic Deists within Catholicism, it’s springtime.
I think that spring is a time for planting and hard work, as I see it from living in the farm belt. Spring is also a time of final exams, as viewed from a university community. For people who are fed via supermarkets and mainstream media, I’m sure that March, April, and May are times of unbridled excess for everybody who doesn’t think with their mind.
For traditionalists and conservatives in the Catholic Church, it’s going to be a long winter. It was easy for conservative Catholics to be strong papalists under John Paul II and Benedict. This papacy is going to be a time of trial for them.
Winter is also a time of work, and traditionally, of preparation and introspection. It’s a good time to go on retreat. It’s a good time to do repairs in the barn and house, and to ration one’s resources to be able to survive till the spring thaw.
I think the last fifteen, twenty years have indeed been an “easy” time for many Catholics. But a believer’s life isn’t about ease. It’s about sanctity, and seeking God’s grace to enter into the holiness that is offered to us. If this papacy is going to be about some Catholics exiling themselves to the front porch, then yes, there may well be years of trial ahead. On the other hand, those not gravely wounded might ponder how to take a shift in the field hospital.