Skip to comments.Pope Francis wants Catholics to doubt the Church. He's right.
Posted on 05/26/2014 4:42:09 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
After all, this is an institution that has devoted centuries to hammering out and polishing an authoritative system of doctrines concerning who God is and what God expects. It claims to have been founded by Jesus Christ and to be guided infallibly by the Holy Spirit. It has warned of eternal damnation if its authority and precepts are ignored or rejected. In other words: If Catholicism is true, you don't want to be in doubt about its teachings. But by giving the impression that longstanding teachings of the faith might significantly change, Pope Francis and other church leaders have invited just such doubt.
No surprise, Catholic writers have expressed concern. Responding to reports that the church might stop denying communion to Catholics in permanently adulterous marriages, Ross Douthat wonders what the appropriate response of Catholics should be to such changes. Michael Brendan Dougherty, mindful of the church's turbulent history, fully expects that a pope or governing council in the church will eventually issue a policy flatly contradicting church teaching — and he believes that most Catholics will be wholly unprepared for it. In such conditions, some among the faithful would doubt the church itself. Lasting heresy or disbelief might take root and grow in this soil.
According to Catholicism, the core doctrines of the church express absolute truth and therefore cannot be altered, but paradoxically this premise doesn't preclude changes to its teaching. In the parlance of the church, it only means that a previously proposed understanding wasn't really unchangeable doctrine. Still, a big deal. By merely entertaining doctrinal development, the church entices believers to question its authority and the exact content of its faith.
In fact, Pope Francis has explicitly endorsed doubt in the life of faith. In a 2013 interview published in America Magazine, the pontiff said that the space where one finds and meets God must include an area of uncertainty. For him, to say that you have met God with total certainty or that you have the answers to all questions is a sign that God is not with you. Be uncertain, he counsels. Let go of exaggerated doctrinal "security." A devout faith must be an uncertain faith:
The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: "God is here." We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.
The pope has taken a risk with all this, but not without reason. If God really is infinite and indescribable, as Catholicism and other religious traditions imagine, then an uncertain faith makes sense. At the end of the day, those who talk about God really do not know what they're talking about. People refer to God with symbols and metaphors, stories and analogies, believing that these limited expressions disclose a limitless reality, but even if these expressions are true, they nonetheless differ infinitely from any infinite being. Undoubtedly, a lot gets lost in translation.
Trying to understand the full meaning of the words and images one uses to speak about God is like attempting to assess the quality of a translation without knowing the original language. No one speaks "God." Not I. Not the pope. Not even Stephen Colbert. Defending the theological use of metaphors, Aquinas wrote that "what He is not is clearer to us than what He is. Therefore similitudes drawn from things farthest away from God form within us a truer estimate that God is above whatsoever we may say or think of Him." For instance, believers use words like father and mother to refer and relate to God, but without being able to compare and contrast such language with the reality of God, they cannot have a clear sense of the analogies they employ. No one can. Aquinas wrote a lot about God, but he later likened it all to straw. This is the religious condition.
Consequently, religious doctrine has to be understood without the benefit of knowing the whole. As it's only in the context of the whole that one can fully make sense of the parts, the meaning of religious doctrine will always be ambiguous. Imagine readers trying to understand a novel having only a few sentences of the text. They'd have to work with what they have knowing that there's far more to the story and that they might not even have a solid grasp of the few parts they've been able to read. If they discovered additional fragments, they'd have to revise their understanding. If religious believers are serious about the infinity of God, then they should be modest about their doctrines, interpreting and sharing them with conviction and critique, faith and doubt. No one knows what's beyond the horizon.
As Damon Linker has argued, the pope is unlikely to make any major doctrinal revisions given his personality and the institutional limits on the papacy, but simply by encouraging doubt as a necessary aspect of life in the church, he's reminded Christians that, for them, truth is a person and not a set of formulas. In light of this, the development of doctrine should be welcomed, not feared. Especially if it brings a little uncertainty.
Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer, contributor to Ordinary Times, and author of the book Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt (Loyola Press).
RE: Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer, contributor to Ordinary Times, and author of the book Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt (Loyola Press).
A JESUIT MINISTRY.
Coincidentally, the order that Pope Francis belongs to.
If the Pope becomes like our Supreme Court, able to change the meaning of the fundamental principles due to shifting opinions, then the Church will fall apart, just as our republic has.
I think he’s quite ill. I don’t expect him to transform much.
A JESUIT MINISTRY.
Oh, that explains it all.
Pope Francis sure looked quite ill on this Holy Land trip. He was pale, lacked any visible sign of energy, rarely smiled, spoke in a low voice, had difficulty walking, needed help on stairs, kneeling and standing up.
Compare videos of him this weekend with videos only a few months ago. Something looks terribly wrong. He has had to cancel a number of long-scheduled appearances, and he has apparently gained a substantial amount of weight.
Common Core Catholicism.
You do know that he has only one lung. I was wondering about the change in air quality, elevation, etc.
Those who divorce and remarry without benefit of an annulment are involved in a relationship that is adulterous. It is a simple fact that the Church has preached forever. Either it is true or not.
I suspect a loosening of the annulment process. What is really needed is better pre-canna and Catechism. The fact is that way too many priests turn a blind eye to unmarried couples living together and almost none ever say a word about sexual morality and responsibility from the pulpit. Too damn fearful of upsetting the contraception practicing masses and the cafeteria Catholics.
The last thing we need is more of a watered down Catholicism.
Well, he is not exactly a young man. He has also had many health problems and has had a lung removed.
I was extremely shocked that a man of his fragility was picked to be Pope. The man is 77. A Catholic Bishop is required to submit his resignation at 85. Many are not accepted, particularly if the are of good health and vibrant. But NONE are appointed Bishop at such an advanced age. It must be expected that his Papacy would be relatively short and filled with health concerns.
I have much concern for Francis and his entire reign. I believe he has been much misunderstood and not for the better. He seems to be imprudent in his utterances.
Strike that: 75 is when a Bishop submits his resignation, not 85. Key stroke error.
Hate to sound like the cynic, but you got to remember that a lot of priests also do keep a very close eye on those collection baskets and if they preach from the pulpits, those Catholics will hit them right back where it will hurt the most, in the wallet/pocketbook.
I look at Pope Francis as being a transition Pope, in while waiting for a younger cardinal to gain needed experience.
The honest truth is that the Cafeteria Catholics generally have a case of the short arms. They tend to give very little. At our parish we have a school with close to five hundred children grades K-8. Of the hundreds of families, those with the one and two children where the worst givers. Over 100 of the parents gave less than $100 per year.
These are hardly charity cases. Most are two income, one or two children. Lots of local police and firefighters with average salaries of over $60k for their one job.
A strong priest would bring in the bucks by preaching the truth. Those that are regularly in attendance and have more children generally give significantly more.