I am personally bothered by the amount young Catholics are very eager to dismiss the media caricatures of Pope Francis without even reading what he was saying.
Every time there is a Pope story in the news, and I am certainly one to whom this is true, we find ourselves having to scramble trying to clarify all that the news media gets wrong. It happens so much, so much now, that I think if the Pope were to say something profound, we would miss it. I think that just happened.
Since nobody in the news media is actually looking at my blog, I do not really need to write correcting them. Some of the caricatures of Francis are false, obviously. Neither am I aware of having any followers who have no deep conviction of their Catholic faith, that follow these media caricatures blindly.
I am writing to young Catholics that have been so desensitized by the media portrayals of the Pope, that we have dismissed them before we listen to them. This is what it looks like:
Young Catholic: NO! what the Pope said, has to be put in context, and he didn’t authorize or applaud sins, abortions, etc…
And when you get down to it, this is what it looks like:
Young Catholic: You see, it appears that the Pope said something, but indeed the Pope said nothing!
By being so busy dismissing these news media caricatures, we have, in effect, begun dismissing the Pope.
There was a time, when the Church had immense credibility. All we had to do was speak on authority, and everyone gladly said, well the Church said so. All you needed was a catechism, church documents, and traditions, and people nodded their heads. Then there came a time, when reason and secularism became prevellant, and we started focusing on making rational arguments for our policies that *sic* had nothing to do with Jesus Christ and our Tradition. We still used our catechisms, and perhaps even the Bible.
By being so eager to have an intelligent response to godless rationalists, we have made the entire basis of our Catholic Identity contingent upon reason, and not necessarily on the person of Jesus Christ, the fullness of God’s revelation to mankind, our encounter with Christ in our public worship, and that tradition. We have pushed friendship with the living God in Christ Jesus to the backseat, in order to have an intelligent answer to all the issues in our secular world. We have often subordinated proclamation of the Incarnation of the Son of God, to enacting just public policies or protecting the family. We have, in the moment of cultural crisis, often times forgotten the core mission we have received.
I believe that since Vatican II, Popes JPII and Benedict have attempted to put Christ at the front of our engagement with the world. Unfortunately, they are only remembered for having stood unflinchingly for the tradition of the Church. They are not often remembered, either by the secular news media, or Western Catholicism, for having tried to put the person and teaching of Christ at the center.
This is why I am so bothered by it. Nowhere, has it been in the discussion about this Papal interview, is that Pope Francis is explicitly trying to get us to engage the secular world, and other persons, primarily in and through Christ. Nowhere is the newsmedia making mention of this. Nowhere are young Catholics making mention of this. I am not saying All Catholics, always and everywhere subordinate Christ. I am saying that it does happen. It happens often enough, that there is a caricature of Pope Benedict, that there is a caricature of practicing Catholics as being, in the words of Pope Francis, “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” This caricature is so deeply embedded in our contemporary culture, that it is more urgent than ever that we make it clear that our proclamation is Christ-ocentric. After having done that, lets talk about catechizing and moral formation.
It might be, perhaps, that there are people who are cheering for Pope Francis, who are also oblivious to the fact that he is convicted deeply of the veracity of all the Church’s traditions and moral claims. It could also be, that people so influenced by these caricatures of the Church, are at a threshold in which they may encounter Christ, and begin to reconsider our traditions and moral claims that they have already blatantly dismissed.
After the Second Vatican Council, a very prestigious and conservative Irish Catholic Archbishop had just returned from Rome. The Press was ferociously eager to hear about all the radical liberalizing changes in the Church. The Archbishop flatly responded: “Nothing changed!”
I think we are in danger of becoming like that conservative Irish Catholic Archbishop, who is more concerned with the reputation of the Church, and it’s teachings being understood than that the Press can have an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.