When Is Confusion Not Okay?

‘Cause that’s what the Pope Francis hand-wringing discussion seems to be about.

Germain Grisez can say:

I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity. For a long time he has been thinking these things. Now he can say them to the whole world — and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.

At NCR and a few other places, people have been unloading on Dr Grisez. And rightly so.

Moral theologians, especially conservative ones, are supposed to have a bead on what’s going on. Right and wrong. Black and white. Us and them. If I may be permitted some snark on this point. Self-indulgent? Wine? This Germain Grisez is grasping at straws, and not in a very attractive way. Another elder brother crossing his arms on the front porch. Maybe he should ask for an interview.

Journalists water down stories for a common outlet. There is nothing theologians, scientists, musicians, artists, or other specialists can do. If something a specialist does becomes news, then someone is going to “translate” that event into a shorter and less accurate piece.

Many people have become accustomed to getting their news from mainstream outlets. If I want to be alarmed at the latest Justin or Miley antics, I can attest I’m not going to a fanzine site. When I want news on faith or science, I pay attention to religion or science commentators on speciality sites about 90% of the time. And as is the case with journalists, there is nothing I can do when somebody reads the National Inquirer and learns Mars will appear as large as the moon in the night sky.

At this point, we pause for an appropriate clause from the Serenity Prayer:

God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Okay, now for the theological side.

Pope Benedict wrote, said, and taught a lot of stuff that millions of people misunderstood. Were the elder siblings concerned that younger sisters and brothers were misreading the pope in 2005-2013 and before? Heck, no.

Catholicism was presented in a language that conservative pundits understood, and they gave their ready approval. Because, you know, B16 said a smaller church was a better, leaner thing, right? (Really?) Confusion was fine when other people were confused.

People who resist reform and renewal will resist with their ears and eyes. Things they hear and read and see will be subverted to align with what they know, or what they think they know. Evading the truth happens to everyone. Even solid, orthodox, conservative believers. It is not a quality of liberal and permissive sinfulness. It is part of the human condition. All sin.  All persist in blindness and deafness to some degree. Nothing a pope or theology pundit says can prevent it.

But maybe–just maybe–a friendship based in listening, mutual respect, and a history of good will might place a person in a situation where a friend might suggest a different perception.

Germain Grisez is not going to surf to Catholic Sensibility and get converted. I don’t know the man, and he certainly doesn’t know me. I am sure he is a fine fellow, even when he’s been mellowed by a full plate of food and a full glass of wine.

What I will continue to do is post on Francis commentary. I just like to write. And I find Pope Francis to be startlingly clear in his words and methodology. And sure, people will use his words to excuse their behavior. It happened under the last pope. And the one before that.

Devin asked earlier today about the difference between evangelization and proselytization. The simplest difference is relationship. One evangelizes people one knows and loves and listens to and who trust enough to listen to a believer. One proselytizes a person one doesn’t know. It’s the difference between dialogue and respect. It’s the difference between authenticity and filling a requirement. It’s the difference between a love letter and spam or junk mail from the people trying to sell viagra.

Pope Francis gets it.

Some of his critics do not.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to When Is Confusion Not Okay?

  1. John Mack says:

    Don’t worry. Germain Grisez will get a sympathy call from the Pope, lol.

  2. Liam says:

    The techtonic plates are starting to shift under the Curia:


    The brand new role of Moderator Curiae will remove from the aspects of that job currently in the Secy of State to an independent curial overseer that will not be having to be player and coach, as it were. It also frees Francis up to innovate bureaucratically with a completely new super-office.

    The other big shoe is that the role of the laity is to be addressed in a new constitution of governance, more than the current ghetto of the PC of the Laity.

    The current “constitution” for Curial governance is “Pastor Bonus”, which was issued 25 yrs ago, and it looks like it will be completely superseded.

  3. Prof Grisez is off the mark. “Making this assertion suggests, unfortunately, a caricature of the teachings of recent pontificates.” No it doesn’t. It suggests the portrait of those Catholics who club people over the head with dogma instead of engaging them in conversation. “… what is meant by “moral edifice of the Church”? … who knows what he means?” I do. It means the moral authority of the Church, as perceived by people of good will who are not Catholic. Such authority does exist. “… if it was suggested by a spirit, it was not the Holy Spirit …” Does Prof. Grisez mean that the Pope “… hath an unclean spirit”, like they said of that friend whom Francis is always talking about? Finally, “… [Francis] is self-indulgent enough to take advantage of the opportunity with as little care as he might unburden himself with friends after a good dinner and plenty of wine.” Well put, Professor! Or how about this: “They say, ‘Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners.’ And wisdom is justified by her children.”

  4. bill bannon says:

    Go here….go down to the very last paragraph. Grisez is maritally separated with intent to reunite in the next life (his own website). If that’s orthodoxy, I’m LeBron James. I wish Grisez well but I don’t have to listen to his comments on other peoples’ orthodoxy:


    • Harvey B. says:

      I read the last paragraph as you instructed, and I don’t see any reference to a “marital separation.” (Granted, I’m jumping in almost 2 years later, but what were you talking about?)

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