Ross Douthat is concerned about Pope Francis breaking the Church. He cleverly cites the Walter Murphy novel which came to my mind about two years and a month ago. He lays out the conservative case for disillusionment, but Mr Douthat is one of the more reasonable voices from the front porch. While others show the true colors more in public that they flashed in my email in-boxes over the past decade, I’m not sure he really wants to be there.
Still, Mr Douthat is not perfect. He misses badly on the aspirations of Catholic progressives. He doesn’t quite have a fix on the Murphy book. The young lion is a political commentator and sees the Church’s internal tussles through the lens of an American conservative. That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s like trying to view a situation with one’s right lung. Sure, you can breathe. But where’s the connection to the optic nerve to be able to see?
My sense is that open discussion among bishops and theologians gives the Church some significant benefits.
People, mainly conservatives, can no longer hide in the cassocks of their gurus. If someone has something on their mind, let them speak up. Start a blog. Publish a book. But no longer will they be able to set themselves up as a court of inquisition, declaring other Catholics heretics and getting people fired from jobs.
Discussion will be more out in the open, and as such, people of all viewpoints will be encouraged to a deeper discernment. It will be a discernment not cluttered by the junked remnants of the culturewar. Which was a lost enterprise from the start.
And lastly, if Ross Douthat really wants to get a bead on Pope Francis, I’d suggest he stop pouting with his confreres on the front porch, and make an eight-day Ignatian retreat. I can suggest a few places.