In the continued spirit of fulfilling my apparent vocation of being the person who faces and then clearly explains the unpleasantries of life, let’s have a little talk about Pope Francis.
The incident precipitating this essay happened last week, but this has been building for a while. Pope Francis has acquired the habit of saying daily Mass in a chapel on the grounds of the Vatican (and, of course, the chapel is ugly, often described as looking like a particularly cheap set piece from the original Star Trek series, because, you know, ugliness equals poor and dazzlingly humble, or something don’t get me started).
In these near-daily Masses, Pope Francis has been delivering what are being called “sermonettes”. They are delivered off-the-cuff, and are breathlessly reported by the global press after being picked up from the original reportage by the Vatican Press Office. And, as is expected, and as is very easy to do, the press sensationalizes Francis’ words and frequently scandal and error regarding Church teaching is the result. Last week Francis made headlines with one of his sermonettes that was widely interpreted as implying the possibility of salvation for atheists qua atheists through good works.
Believe it or not, the point of this piece is NOT to pillory the press. In fact, I will offer a defense of the press, which even I am having a hard time getting my head around. Here’s the deal. Pope Francis, while the Vicar of Christ gloriously reigning, is not a terribly bright man. What brings Jorge Maria Bergoglio’s intellectual shortcomings into even starker relief is the fact that his predecessor, Benedict XVI Ratzinger is not only a bona fide genius, but also still alive. Francis is a mediocre intellect, poorly educated, and a member of an order (the Jesuits) that is so far-gone that it should be suppressed. Layer on top of this the generation of which Francis is a product: perhaps the most godless, evil, blind generation in human history, and add in the fact that while being poorly educated in the age of the hippy, he has also lived his entire life in South America, which has been more steadily and overtly influenced by Marxism, both in the secular world as well as in the Church, than either Europe or North America over the last fifty years.
Jorge Maria Bergoglio is the first “affirmative action” pope – which is a different thing entirely from nepotism. The College of Cardinals, again, not exactly a collection of the smartest men in the world – remember Tracksuit Timmy Dolan, dinner host of antichrists and celebrant of “gay” Masses, a man whose capacity for intellectual nuance is on par with a box of hair, is not only a cardinal, but the head of the U.S. Bishop’s conference – went into the conclave wanting to elect not the best man, not the brightest intellect, not the most competent manager. No. The criteria were racial and geographical. “Um, we need to have a pope from the Western Hemisphere. We need to have a pope from a Spanish-speaking country. We need to make the Latinos feel good and keep the Latino money flowing, because they are the only ones not contracepting themselves into extinction.”
And, if this culture of stupidity persists, then mark my words: they will elect a black African next time for no other reason than “affirmative action”.
Now, back to Francis’ sermonettes, and defending the press. There is a tremendous uproar on the internet with people cursing the Vatican Press Office for not releasing the full transcripts of Francis’ sermonettes but instead only piecemeal summaries consisting of brief quotes from Francis with press-written prose between the quotes to give context. “Give us the full transcripts!”
The reason they aren’t releasing the full transcripts is because Francis’ sermonettes are so rambling, so incoherent and sometimes so embarrassing in their delivery (verbal ticks like, “eh?” and “right?”) that the Vatican Press Office is trying to protect both Francis and the dignity of the Holy See by taking Francis’ stream-of-consciousness rhetorical sausage and presenting it as something that could maybe pass as steak. And remember, we are coming off of the pontificate of Ratzinger, who was and is a rhetorical genius, and who routinely delivered not just steak, but super-prime rhetorical filet mignon with the care and precision of speech that one would expect from the Vicar of Christ – and even then could still be quoted out of context or have his words twisted by the press and the world.
While some people might shallowly claim to love Francis’ “down-to-earth style”, the events of last week in particular brought to the fore why it is that Francis needs to be “sat down” and told in no uncertain terms that he MUST stop these rambling sermonettes. When you are the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the head of the Magisterium of the Church, the world will hang on your every word, both for good and for ill. Obviously, good Catholics are interested in what the successor to Peter has to say. Conversely, the Enemy and all of his minions are looking to pounce of every single opportunity for scandal and confusion. Rambling, off-the-cuff sermonettes are fertile, fecund soil in which to cultivate scandal and confusion. That is what happened last week. Francis’ rhetorical slop resulted in countless atheists becoming convinced that they could go to heaven so long as they occasionally do good works. It also resulted in scandal as many Protestants who subscribe to the Lutheran “sola fide” (faith alone) heresy were given a huge bit of ammunition with which to confuse and seduce the ignorant, uncatechized Catholics, which is to say 99.99999% of modern Catholics.
We are indeed saved by faith, but faith without works is dead. But, what Francis either doesn’t understand or was negligent in not making clear, is that good works without faith are without merit. What Francis’ bumbling sermonette slop last week implied, and was splashed all over the planet within minutes, was that works alone could somehow save atheists qua atheists. I don’t know if Pope Francis actually believes that – it is possible given that he is indeed a hippy Jesuit from South America. I cannot over-emphasize how poorly educated and contra-educated these people are. The point is that he isn’t sharp enough to ANTICIPATE the reaction to his words, and then rhetorically pin-down any loose ends so that there can be little to no confusion. A speaker who covers all of his bases and essentially rebuts and answers all questions before they can even be asked is said to be “shooting in a tight circle”. Francis does not shoot in a tight circle. Francis lacks the self-awareness to realize that he is NOT a rhetorical genius, and thus the humility to just not speak, which is generally good advice for any Pope. Say as little as possible, Holy Father. Additionally, he also lacks the self-awareness to recognize the scandal that he causes both among the faithful and those outside the Church.