From An Elder Son

Father Dwight Longenecker is miffed that non-conservatives (his actual words were “liberal Catholics and the secular press”) suddenly like the Pope.

What really gets me going is the fact that suddenly I hear of lapsed Catholics who love the new pope and non Catholics who think the new pope is marvelous. While I rejoice in this obviously successful PR, I’ll believe it when I see them starting to attend Mass and practice their Catholic faith.

I’m not sure how likely it is for this particular priest to be seeing them. If he gives off the same vibe in his homilies and pastoral ministry, his brother clergy in town are more likely to see them attending Mass and getting involved.

I’m all for the Pope, but I am increasingly nauseated by the hypocritical “devout Catholics” and secularists who care nothing for the reality of the Catholic faith, but are captivated by the Pope’s simple style. What I would like to ask these Pelosi Catholics is if their new found fondness for the Bishop of Rome means they are suddenly converted to being pro-life and pro-marriage and in all things.

Is it the pope’s “simple” style? I think it goes way beyond vestments and finery and his choice in apartments. Living with people, in a community is not simplicity as much as it says something about human need, and a recognition that some lifestyles are more grounded in reality than others.

I think this is much more about a man who was a hero to many Catholics, not being a hero for many more. Other people seem to have a new hero, and the reaction of the old cheering section is nausea? Does that give us a depth of hero worship masquerading as orthodoxy?

My take:

Sorry, Father L, but you are way out of line on this one.

As a liberal Catholic, as orthodox a Catholic as you, I object to being lumped in with the secular press, an organism that exists to sell product for corporations, and little else.

The truth of it is that I don’t want the pope to declare abortion ok, ordain women, or authorize clowns in polyester jumpers to launch balloons to canvas in the rafters of St Peter’s Basilica.

I just want what popes for the past twenty-odd years have not given us: a reason to hope.

As a liberal who doesn’t mind that label, I’d like to give you, a conservative Catholic, some insight: you don’t know most of us as well as you think you do. You’re not so secretly ticked off that your frowny-face approach to Roman Catholicism looks like it’s out the door.

My pastor often cites the value of “affirmative orthodoxy,” John Allen’s term for the more positive outlook of bishops like those in New York or Boston. I can get on board with that. But I don’t think that some conservative or “orthodox” Catholics have grasped it.

Faith, and especially the community of faith and the politics of faith is not about affirmation, but about personal triumph.

Reading between the lines, it seems clear what’s happened in the last five months. A hero, a champion to many, has resigned. (“Abdicated” is sometimes their word.) Someone else sits in the chair of Peter who is really not an opposite. But a lot of believers who did not favor one or more recent popes suddenly like what he’s doing. And it causes some consternation.

In order to “like” the new pope, they have to stand with a fairly disreputable crowd. Journalists. Liberals. Incarcerated girls with dirty feet. Concelebrants in vestments of questionable taste.

It seems like a Luke 15 moment. The elder son disapproves of the festivities. His younger brother should be back eating corn husks and skulking with the pigs. Real believers don’t eat and drink and socialize with sinners.

For awhile, this was all rather funny to watch. Now I’m starting to feel sorry for my sister and brother Catholics. Turns out that a lot of “disenfranchised” Catholics throw a bigger bash than they did. And amazingly, they don’t seem to mind all the talk, not of simplicity, but criticizing indifference, timidity in living one’s faith, pastors who need to have the smell of the sheep, and focusing on service, not the world’s big stage.

My prediction is that Pope Francis will not be ordaining married men, or outlawing the 1962 Missal, or even calling Vatican III. But I don’t think this papacy will be a fly-by-night thing like Lindsay Lohan’s virtuous childhood.

I think we are indeed seeing more reason to hope. And that fifty years from now, we will be talking a lot more about the papacy of Francis than Benedict, just like John XXIII outshown Pius XII in the last century. And if the final result is a rejuvenated, affirmative Catholicism, isn’t that something we can all party with?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to From An Elder Son

  1. Elder son, that does say it all. God have mercy on all of us, we need it. What in God’s name is a Pelosi Catholic? And what does it mean to be pro-marriage? And is distilling it all down to pro-this and that, anti-this and that, what it means to follow Jesus? And to do so in meaningful Eucharistic communities? To love our enemies? To embrace them with love? To win them over with the Light of Christ? To come to mutual understanding and live in the truth of God?

    That is Christian living, that is Catholic life to me. I do not always do it well, I have many elder son moments myself, and many younger son moments when I go astray, but I am always focused on the God that welcomes us in.

  2. fraustinfleming says:

    Francis is a man of faith who lives his faith and thus draws many (in, around, away from and outside the Church) to the Church and its beliefs. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

  3. Devin says:

    Could you elaborate on your statement “I just want what popes for the past twenty-odd years have not given us: a reason to hope”? That is a pretty broad and, especially consider the majority of what John Paul II and even Benedict said was speaking about what the faith was about and not what it was against.

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