Angry hypocrisy and convenient ultramontanism at Nat’l Catholic Reporter

Michael Sean Winters is either hoping we are naïve enough to not remember the Reporter’s long and problematic history, or he thinks we are stupid enough to not be concerned with incoherent zig-zagging.

(Image: Screenshot / www.ncronline.org)

The folks over at the National Catholic Reporter must think we have poor memories or no memory at all.

For decades, the Reporter positioned itself as the loyal opposition to what it viewed as an overly authoritarian papacy thwarting the “true reform” of the Church. Operating from within a populist, liberal modality, they adopted the rhetoric of the various grassroots political movements of the Sixties in order to agitate for broad and sweeping changes in Church doctrine, morality, and practice.

The new democratic ethos of modernity and the secular liberal trends of contemporary culture all pointed toward a “curve of history” that the Church needed to get in line with or perish. The “people of God” metaphor was put in the service of this populist message with strong claims being made that the cultural sea change that was going on among Catholics in the West represented a paradigm shift that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit pushing the hierarchy “from below” to change with the times.

The Reporter was not the fringe publication of a handful of disgruntled bohemian Catholics cranking out their little underground newspaper in some stoner’s basement. When I was a young man, the Reporter was the go-to source for dissident Catholics and that gave them ecclesial clout in the American Church and a certain street credibility. The publication was standard fare in thousands of parish reading racks, as well as in every seminary and Catholic university library. Thus, its anti-papal message was not something subtle or hidden. It was the dissident Catholics’ stock-in-trade, their calling card, and anybody who was involved in Church work was well aware of the latest missives from these liberal lions in Kansas City.

This popularity allowed the Reporter to pay little heed to their conservative Catholic critics, among them not a few bishops, who admonished the Reporter for its disobedience to the magisterium and its insolent disregard for papal teaching in particular. Such criticisms were summarily dismissed as the last gaspings of fearful reactionaries who were upset over the loss of their grip on power. The clock was ticking and time was running out on the old Church of papal authoritarianism. And every papal or episcopal move against the more liberal wing of the Church was vociferously denounced by the Reporter as a horrific denial of the rights of conscience and a display of raw autocratic power that was almost Stalinist in its lusting after total control over the lives of believers.

The Reporter excoriated Humanae Vitae loudly and often and its pages were festooned with dissenting opinion pieces promoting proportionalist moral theologians Charles Curran and Richard McCormick, among others. Indeed, after 1968, barely a week would go by without the Reporter finding ever new ways to denounce the teaching on contraception as a horrific hardship for ordinary Catholics that bordered on ecclesial spiritual abuse.

And with the papacy of John Paul II, their tone became even more shrill with regular columns from fierce papal critics Richard McBrien and the preening and self-important Hans Küng. Pope John Paul was routinely denounced as a reactionary Polish romantic nationalist intent on foisting upon the entire Church a nightmare of intellectual repression and apocalyptic rejections of all things modern. Pope John Paul became their bête noire, their white whale, and they missed few opportunities to harpoon his every move, gesture, and word. He was vilified for his moral theology, his corrections of liberation theology, his refusal to ordain women, his insistence (via the CDF’s promulgation of Dominus Iesus), that Jesus Christ is the exclusive path to salvation, his immovable anti-communism, and his exhortation in Ex Corde Ecclesiae that Catholic universities should be, well, Catholic.

And Pope Benedict XVI fared little better on its pages as he was portrayed as a theological arch reactionary who deeply regretted Vatican II and who, in his buyer’s remorse, was doing his best to derail its reforms. His papacy was viewed as an even more conservative extension of John Paul’s papacy with Summorum Pontificum held up as evidence. And his establishment of the Anglican Ordinariates was criticized for being “unecumenical” and an impediment to Anglican-Catholic “dialogue”.

But now the Reporter asks us to forget all of that, or at least it hopes we have short memories.

Because all of a sudden the Reporter has discovered, to its horror, there are actually Catholics who have serious issues and concerns about the current papacy. And like an overbearing schoolmarm, it is wagging its finger in disgust at those Catholics and reminding them that it is wrong for a Catholic to criticize the pope. What chutzpah the Reporter has and what rank hypocrisy! Suddenly, because there’s a pope that it likes, the Reporter has become ultramontanist, reminding us it is “Catholic teaching” to support whatever the pope is doing and saying.

To get a sense of how shocking a turnaround this is just imagine, by way of analogy, the Wall Street Journal suddenly embracing Marxist economic theory or the New York Times suddenly endorsing a Federal ban on abortions, and you will understand the journalistic earthquake it is for the Reporter to be a champion of the ecclesial necessity of obeying every jot, tittle, remark, and insinuation of the pope.

For example, the Reporter recently ran an opinion piece, by the ever-outraged Michael Sean Winters, sharply criticizing the American bishops for electing Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military services as the new president of the USCCB. Apparently, the good Archbishop is not enough of a Pope Francis man, even though he has never publicly criticized the pope for anything. Archbishop Broglio is portrayed by Winters as a culture warrior throwback to the bad ol’ days of five minutes ago and is, therefore, by some bizarre stretch of logic, an anti-Francis bishop. He opposed mandatory COVID vaccines in the military as a violation of conscience rights and therefore, according to Winters, he is a dangerous dude who is not on board the Francis train. In November 2020, he issued a clarification about “[c]ertain attempts to distort remarks by the Bishop of Rome” made in a documentary, and did so without criticizing Francis in the slightest.

But Winters is outraged that Broglio would dare to clarify any papal statement (even though Broglio was responding to misrepresentations of comments by Pope Francis) since to do so is “insulting” to the pope. Of course, Winters is conveniently silent on the Reporter’s well-documented and decades-long insults directed at several previous popes. Apparently, one is only prohibited from insulting this pope, whether the insults are real or, as in this case, imagined. Winters also notes that Archbishop Broglio worked under Cardinal Sodano (who died in May of this year) and therefore is obviously implicated in the late Italian prelate’s various mistakes. Winters is, of course, silent on the liberal prelates he supports because they are “Francis bishops” who worked closely with the disgraced Cardinal McCarrick. But logical consistency and ideological neutrality have never been Winter’s strong suit.

In short, Winters presents not a shred of evidence that Archbishop Broglio is “anti-Francis”. His entire essay is a pseudo-journalistic tantrum over the fact that the American bishops did not elect someone with a more progressive agenda. Broglio’s offense against this papacy, according to Winters, is that he is a theological conservative cut out of the mold of John Paul II and is, therefore, by definition opposed to Francis. Nevermind that he has never once publicly criticized Francis for anything.

The very headline of the Winter’s piece says it all: “Bishops elect anti-Francis archbishop as new president.” He goes on to say the bishops must govern “cum Petro and sub Petro” but asserts that the election of Broglio means they are now repudiating that doctrine. Seriously? This is an unfounded, outrageous and deplorable accusation lacking in any semblance of integrity or truthfulness. And it implicitly entails a rejection of the teaching of Vatican II on collegiality, which says bishops are no mere papal vassals.

Didn’t the Reporter used to believe in that? Oh well, I guess they have “evolved” and “God is doing a new thing” with the Reporter now.

Winters also makes the following unsupported, but very revealing, claim: “In the person of Broglio, the bishops had a candidate who rejects Pope Francis’ call for a more outward focused, accompanying church, a throwback to the pre-conciliar vision…”

Where is the evidence that the good Archbishop rejects any of this or that his vision is pre-conciliar? What does that even mean other than his views are not sufficiently progressive and that he does not support the hermeneutic of rupture? And while we are at it, what does Winters mean by a “more outward focused” church other than as a cipher for blessing the sexual revolution via the path of “discernment”?

Don’t bother telling me that is not what he means. I read the Reporter, and Winters is just playing us for fools here. He is either hoping we are naïve enough to not remember the Reporter’s long and problematic history, or he thinks we are stupid enough to not be concerned with convenient and incoherent zig-zagging. Furthermore, a deep reading of the Reporter shows clearly that their notion of “accompaniment” drifts only to folks on the Left and never on the Right. If you are a “marginalized” traditional Catholic who now must hide in the “peripheries” of the Church, do not expect Michael Sean Winters or the Reporter to rush to accompany you, listen to you, or help you discern anything.

Finally, Winters does not seem to notice the deep contradiction in his own thinking (or perhaps he simply doesn’t care). He has routinely championed the notion of a more “synodal” and democratic Church, a Church without hyper-Roman centralization, and a Church where bishops are free to speak their minds (parrhesia!) without fear of papal displeasure and sanctions. But apparently such synodal openness only extends to episcopal conferences of a more liberal, or even heterodox, persuasion (Germany, Belgium, Australia, et al.) and does not extend to more conservative national conferences such as the United States.

So Winters is speaking out of both sides of his mouth – giving lip-service to participatory, episcopal synodality until he encounters bishops he does not like, at which point synodality flies out the window as a true ecclesial principle.

All of this only underscores the suspicions many have that the current proponents of synodality – the Reporter, Winters, Ivereigh, Faggioli – are cynically using the synodal path to achieve their own progressive ends and are not really serious about an open and honest dialogue in the Church. If they are truly serious about it, then Winters and others would not be blasting the American bishops for their alleged anti-papal hubris and would instead congratulate the USCCB for having its own mind and for contributing to the wonderful rainbow kaleidoscope of viewpoints, all of which are welcome and needed to stitch together the pluralistic quilt of our accompanying Church.

As I said, Winters is playing us for fools. But I am not a fool and this is not my first ecclesial rodeo. At age 64 I am old enough to remember the first iterations of this kind of liberal manipulation of words in order to mask a deeper agenda that is inflexible and authoritarian to its core. I remember well that the liberal Catholics of my younger days spoke incessantly of the need for “dialogue” and “openness” and “ongoing conversation” — that is until they were in charge and got what they wanted: power. And when that happened, all dialogue and openness ceased. Just ask any seminarian from that era what fear and dread it put into your soul if you were ever labeled “rigid” by the formation team politburos of that time.

And that term “rigid” is back in vogue once again and its usage represents nothing other than a recrudescence of that same authoritarian mentality. There is a teleological end to ecclesial history and such authoritarians believe they are that tend. Combine Francis Fukuyama with liberal Catholicism and you get chanceries filled with authoritarian apparatchiks of the Left who are as vicious as they are blind. That is a bad combination for all involved. But Winters, and the Reporter he rode in on, aren’t fooling anyone, which explains the strident slander and hypocritical attacks, which will undoubtedly continue into the foreseeable future.


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About Larry Chapp 62 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".

50 Comments

  1. By its cheeky commentaries, the Reporter is well-positioned as a backup for the newsprint Sears Catalogue in any outhouse.

  2. It is, and always has been, not only a journal of anti-Catholic bigotry, but in its promotion of depraved moral reasoning, a journal guilty of crimes against humanity.

    • National Catholic Reporter: best ignored as malcontents who promote lies. And we heard recently in the readings for Mass about what happens to false prophets.

  3. Great piece, only one little correction is in place. I assume you mean Belgium, not the Netherlands?Belgium has a liberal episcopate that wants to allow for same-sex blessings, the Netherlands has cardinal Eijk (whom you could hardly brand a liberal). My country is in many respects far too liberal but fortunately that does (at least for now) not extend to its episcopate.

  4. I never look at the National Catholic Reporter but I did recently just to see what was going on and it was like slipping through a time portal to the 1970’s. I saw articles written by people I thought were dead. Or at least hadn’t heard mentioned for decades.

    I think there’s a generational element going on and the passing of time is going to be the solution. Younger devout Catholics tend to be more orthodox and that’s the case for many clergy also. So hang in there.

  5. There are two NCRs, the good one and the bad one. I am not interested in losing my time reading the National Catholic Reporter with its liberal, modernistic journalism. Instead, I do read the other NCR: the National Catholic Register. – And of course, CWR 😉

  6. The National so-called Catholic Reporter feeds the anti-Catholicism of the NYT and Washington Post.
    Duco above – Thanks for the clarification of the difference between the Belgian and Dutch hierarchies. Your thoughts, please. Is this partly due to the presence of the Dutch Reform Church?

    • I am not sure about the exact reasons behind these differences; but these are my thoughts:
      1) The Dutch Church is traditionally indeed more defined by the presence of Protestants in the country. The “struggle” with Protestantism might have created overall a stronger tendency in the Dutch Church to clearly define itself as Catholic. The Catholic Church in Belgium, on the other hand, is traditionally more of a “popular catholicism,” which in itself is something beautiful, but which, in a secularizing age, might make the Belgian Church at times more inclined to conformism (though I should note that I see this kind of conformism also too often among Dutch catholics, though not so much in the hierarchy).
      2) There was nevertheless a lot of experimentation going on in the Dutch Church in the sixties and seventies, that went along with a more liberal hierarchy (dissent from Humanae Vitae, for instance). In the following decades more conservative minded Bishops were appointed by the Vatican, which we fortunately still feel today. I have the impression that the Belgian Church right now finds itself in a similar stage of experimentation as the Dutch Church found itself in the sixties and seventies.
      3) The Belgian Church is recovering from a huge crisis connected with clerical sexual abuse in the highest ranks of the hierarchy: the conduct of former Bishop Vangheluwe of Bruges, who abused his nephew (in some sense maybe comparable to the scandal around cardinal McCarrick in the U.S.). Though it is absolutely NOT the right answer, I would not be surprised that this crisis, which severely weakened the Belgian Church, has also something to do with the greater readiness of the Flemish bishops to bow to the pressures of society around them (like also the German bishops try to legitimize their conformism by the crisis of sexual abuse).
      Again, I do not know the answer, but just some disparate thoughts about why it looks like this.

  7. Aside from all the political juggling to suit their fetid agenda, it’s really a good sign regarding Archbishop Broglio. A very good sign.
    Those dedicated to slander the just, and justice itself react to the promptings of a different spirit, one with heavy influence in our world referred to by the Apostle as the Spirit of the Air, a spirit highly sensitive and reactionary to what is good and true.

  8. Michael Sean Winters doesn’t hesitate to define himself as a liberal leftist Catholic, as he did in a talk titled Catholic Culture Wars for Call to Action, a liberal organization popular in upstate New York.
    He began his talk excusing his hoarse voice, which he said was due to lilacs growing outside his bedroom window. Which is why he sounds like Lauren Bacall [at that I repressed my compulsion to turn somewhere else].
    Winters begins his tutorial to Leftist Catholics on how libertarianism has been distorted by Catholics who believe it’s their freedom of choice to refuse the Covid Vax. That, he implores, is not libertarianism. Similarly, he points to freedom in Dignitatis Humane as a negation of Government overreach, whereas freedom is always a positive for the good and the beautiful, for the common good. Which is why Catholic bishops et al appealed to a false sense of liberty in refusing the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, a mandate Winter’s says is really for the common good [he refers to Pius XI skewing the concept of libertarianism in his condemnation of it].
    Apart from lilacs and a hoarse voice Winters understands libertarianism in an inviolable, universal sense, to the detriment of individual or sectarian rights. This understanding is basically Marxist. An emptying of the Catholic faith of Christ. Replaced by an idol.

    • Although, despite the disparity, my intention isn’t simply to criticize Sean Winters. As a priest, ordained, including those of us baptized into the universal priesthood of the faithful whose mission it is to follow Christ’s way of divine love, the Cross for the salvation of souls.

  9. Some time ago, the National Catholic Reporter stopped permitting commentary on its articles. It was a prudent, face-saving move. The NCR’s devoted readers are even more unhinged than its authors. But I really miss perusing the rants that followed the zany NCR offerings. It was like listening a roomful of cranky septuagenarians waking up from their afternoon nap and shouting about who “stole” their false teeth.

  10. “The folks over at the National Catholic Reporter must think we have poor memories or no memory at all.” It’s the Orwellian rewriting and airbrushing of history, whereby Big Brother tells us that 2+2=5 (or men can get pregnant or there is no Hell or all religions are equal), and if we don’t join in enthusiastically chanting whatever the current party line is, we are the rigid unloving bigoted Pharisees who need to be cancelled. It’s right out of Stalin’s playbook. Thank you for speaking out against it.

  11. The “National Catholic Distorter”’s influence has always been due to who read it rather than how many read it. On today’s (Friday’s) website is an appeal for new subscribers. It appears that their circulation has plummeted over the years. Perhaps the paper is a victim of its own success. It has convinced a large number of “faithful dissenters” that the Church is not worth belonging to.

  12. It is always the least spiritual who seek to dilute restrictions on their personal greed and their embracing of the world and all its pleasures. Of course, that could be fairly said of many “othodox” Catholics, as well.

  13. National Catholic Reporter is the official pseudo-journalism publication of the Tyrannical Neo-Pharisee World Council (my name for them). Their gospel is the tyranny of sin disguised as ultra-orthodox Catholicism, the “purity of the original Gospel”, being more Jesus than Jesus and more God than God, being Luciferian. While God is Love, they are Hate-Filled-Love, as Hate is Satan’s “highest-morality” claim to absolute superiority.

    The National Catholic Reporter is full of hateful attack dogs because that’s the loudest and most blinding way to hide their own sins that are infinitely worse than any they criticize or attack on others. It’s the hermeneutic of the continuity of sinful hate as god.

  14. I’m not convinced that some of the late Cardinal Angelo Sodano’s actions could be classed as “mistakes”. He shielded Cardinal McCarrick and Macial Maciel from scrutiny. I suspect these were Machiavellian gestures designed to protect major fundraisers for the Church.

  15. `As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen`
    Theologians come and go, the Church doesn`t.

  16. It’s all very well to ignore the N.”C”. Reporter (and I do) but, as I said above, it feeds the anti-Catholicism of the NYT and the WaPo. Many newspapers, including the local Toronto Star, take their cues from these two. Even getreligion seems to take the Reporter seriously. So I think Chapp’s takedown is useful, even necessary.

    • I searched your question, and found this: “Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, has confirmed that the National Catholic Reporter should not advertise itself as a “Catholic” publication.

      In a column appearing in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Finn notes that he, as the bishop of the diocese in which the Reporter is located, has the duty to “call the media to fidelity.” He cites the Code of Canon Law, which (in #1369) calls for “a just penalty” for anyone who “excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”

      Excerpt from Catholic Culture article, citing Catholic World News, January 2013.

      • Right. The condemnation of NCR predates Bishop Finn. In 1968, Bishop Helmsing of KC condemned their use of the word ‘Catholic.’ See the online article by Lepanto Institute. https://lepantoin.org/national-catholic-reporter-should-be-banned-by-us-bishops/

        “In fact, the National Catholic Reporter was firmly condemned under the strictest terms by its local ordinary, Bishop Charles Helmsing, in 1968. In his letter of official condemnation, Bishop Helmsing suggested that NCR’s writers may be guilty of formal heresy, saying:

        ‘It has given lengthy space to a blasphemous and heretical attack on the Vicar of Christ. It is difficult to see how well instructed writers who deliberately deny and ridicule dogmas of our Catholic faith can possibly escape the guilt of the crime defined in Canon 1325 on heresy, and how they can escape the penalties of automatic excommunication entailed thereby.

        In fairness to our Catholic people, I hereby issue an official condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter. Furthermore, I send this communication to my brother bishops, and make known to the priests, religious and laity of the nation my views on the poisonous character of this publication.

        IN AS MUCH as the National Catholic Reporter does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching. I ask the editors in all honesty to drop the term “Catholic” from their masthead. By retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings.’

        In 2013, Bishop Robert Finn reaffirmed this condemnation, adding that ‘NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.'”

    • For the same reason “Catholics for Choice” has never been disturbed by any bishop. “Wrong Side of History” and that sort of thing.

  17. More like the
    National Catholic Enquirer
    given its pseudo-journalism.

    The blue haired crowd loves it. But then again it’s the same crowd that reads the Enquirer.

  18. There are plenty of reasons I have so often seen this mess of a “news” organization called the National Catholic Fishwrap. It’s the only thing it is useful for. It bears an uncanny resemblance to much of the media like CNN, MSNBC, et al., who will change their stories fast enough to cause whiplash when the political winds shift.

  19. This is further evidence of citizens from two echo chambers shouting at one another, and no one outside their respective bubbles is listening. The periphery is not a place where one is consigned, it is where life and faith are wrestling and small, beautiful things are emerging.

  20. Does the attempted gravitas of pieces appearing in National Catholic Reporter in general and Mr. Winters’ commentary in particular warrant much attention? In the “synodal” churches of northern Germany, Belgium, and Australia, the pews are empty.

  21. Well written. In my experience, so-called progressive Catholics simply want what they want and they will use any means or institution to achieve their ends. And once they gain ascendency, they will turn the full power of that institution against anyone who questions them. One thing for sure is the aren’t kind, tolerant or compassionate. Those virtues extend to only those with whom they agree.

  22. The staff of NCR could have everything they want tomorrow by becoming Episcopalian. But then they’d have to put their money where their mouth is and give up professorships, jobs at chanceries, writing/speaking gigs etc. They would also have to give up the fantasy of being “prophetic reformers” and just be run of the mill Episcopalians. Their whole grift is predicated on the need to be in opposition to orthodox Catholicism. It’s an ego trip for them.

    PS: They also never seem to acknowledge that millions of Catholics don’t want their reform. Their response? Marginalized and persecute. In other words, they are intolerant bullies who freely choose to belong to an organization, lobby for change, mock those who don’t want their reform and then exclude those same people for believing what the Church asked them to believe in the first place. It’s galling.

    • Yes these folks could have everything they want by going to the Episcopal church – but the rub is that they would no longer have the “street cred” of being called Catholic.

  23. The Fishwrap is good for a few things: lining the bottom of a bird cage or wrapping a dead fish. It gives it’s fellow rag “America” a run for its money as to which one is the worst.

  24. That was an excellent takedown of Mr. Winters and his ilk. They are troublesome flies. What is of much greater concern is that so many of today’s Vatican powerful including our Holy Father are consistently on the same page as these misguided souls.

  25. I’m about 12 years younger than Dr. Chapp but can confirm everything he said in this article about the Reporter and the type of Catholics who used to read it.

    Upon graduating college in 1994, I had a pretty radical reversion back to the Church, mainly because I was always pro-life and found that the Church’s moral theology/philosophy was the only serious position capable of defending the dignity of the human person. To make a long story short, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps because my dad had attended a Jesuit high school and university, and I thought they were the pope’s intellectual army, the smart guys who laid there lives down to defend the truth. You can imagine my dismay when I discovered that my pro-life views were unwelcome and that, even back then, the organization was full-on dissent on most moral issues, including gay marriage, contraception, etc. And as Dr. Chapp so keenly observed: there was no “accompanying” those of us who loved JPII’s moral/anthropological teachings on the dignity of the human person. Instead, we were scolded for being rigid: didn’t you know that abortion is like just war theory, a prudential matter on which faithful Catholics could disagree? I can’t remember exactly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if every JVC house had a subscription to the Reporter. I know the Jesuit recreation rooms and libraries did.

    The dissenters back then definitely loved to lord the power over any young person who was excited about JPII’s pontificate and did everything in their power to discourage us. During my year in the JVC, the parish I belonged was run by a religious order who had a number of young men in their pre-theologate. There were probably about 15 of them. Two made it through the “screening” and became priests—but not without a cost. During the first year of their novitiate, the authoritarians in charge literally removed the Blessed Sacrament from the chapel.

    But those of us who refused to quit and kept our faith despite the authoritarian middle-managers went on to become dynamic priests and sisters, youth ministers and teachers. It’s been a while since I’ve checked, but I imagine there’s numerous parishes and Catholic high schools that have at least a couple of YMs and teachers who are dynamically orthodox and filled with love for Christ and the authentic teachings of the Church. Back in the 80s and 90s—not so much!

  26. The Fishwrap, i.e the National Schismatic Reporter, i.e the Fake NCR (as opposed to the Real NCR, the National Catholic Register) is only read by aging hippies who never accepted that the “spirit of the age” left them behind.

  27. Most Catholics in the U.S. and other places who identify with conservative or trad ideology have problems with Pope Francis. In the last two papacies the shoe was on the other foot: Catholics who identified with progressive ideology had problems then. I have a solution to this:

    Don’t identify with any ideology, just strive to be a good Catholic, and you will never find yourself angry and publicly at odds with a Pope.

    • There is plenty of ideology at play, without doubt, but the real concerns about Pope Francis cannot be dismissed so easily or with such simplistic analysis. The endless ambiguities, constant feinting, insults, scandals (financial, sexual, etc), and synodal shenanigans of the past decade demonstrate there are plenty of real problems with this pontificate. The undermining of John Paul II (especially in the realm of moral teaching), Benedict XVI (in matter liturgical), and Paul VI (HV, with more to come, I’m quite certain) is there to see. The real issues here have to do with orthodoxy, authority, and magisterial assertions. The pope and the bishops, as teachers and guardians of the word of God, are supposed to listen to, guard, and explain said word of God with great care, devotion, and faithfulness. They are supposed to unite the People of God in their proclamation of the deposit of faith (cf Dei Verbum, 9). For the past decade, there has been both a growth in confusion and a growth in agitation for actions that simply cannot take place: reception of Holy Communion by those not in a state of grace, the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexuality as normal, allowing use of artificial contraception, etc., etc. Francis’ exact beliefs about each vary or are unclear in various ways, but that is, in an important sense, beside the point: the Petrine office has a specific function, and it is NOT that of catering to or indulging ideological factions in the Church. And yet this apparently continues, with the “synod on synodality” issuing various statements, texts, and working documents that continue the blur lines, cause confusion, suggest that closed matters are open for discussion, etc.

    • Timothy,
      Methinks that so-called “conservative” Catholics (a manipulative misapplication of political classifications) are anyone who are not amnesiacs.

      And then there’s the “simplistic” notion (yours?) that all differences in human affairs are explained by an imaginary pendulum that swingeth backeth and fortheth (as you would have it, between the past to pontificates and the present). Like an equally mythical universe riding on the back of a turtle swimming through space!

      Less patronizing is Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” So, regarding an informed understanding of current ecclesial events, the deepening tipping point for St. Augustine in his personal conversion is instructive: “tolle lege,” (Latin!), or “take up and read, take up and read!”

  28. I prefer the path of not being a public papal dissenter. Many are like me. Others during the last three papacies (and even before) have had a different preference. This raises an interesting question: How much dissent, public and private, can a Catholic get away with before God? We can measure to some extent how much a dissenter can get away with before the Church during the last few generations —quite a bit in varying degrees depending on the Pope and kind of dissent. Humane Vitae -illicited a lot of dissent but were any bishops deposed or priests rejected from the ministry? And if some were we also know a lot weren’t.
    During the pontificate of St. JPII some were censured but still were allowed to practice their faith. During the current pontificate, while there have been many interventions and attempts at correction, many are still allowed to subtly or more openly dissent and oppose without losing their places. In fact many are allowed to grow in influence precisely because of this dissent. And this isn’t just the case among the dissenters who identify as orthodox, traditional or conservative. Many progressively minded Catholics, while being encouraged often by Pope Francis, have also seen fit to publicly take him to task several times over the years.

    So I would like to say more clearly what I believe is the case: if I am successful at becoming a good Catholic Christian I will not be found tearing down a Pope, sitting out his papacy, questioning whether he is even really pope, and/or dissenting from his magisterium. The reason: the papal magisterium is safeguarded and I am obliged to render my Obsequium religiosum (religious assent) to it.

    • You raise an important point, but one that is also beside the point…

      More of a half truth. The real point is the widening difference between the “safeguarded papal magisterium” to which we do owe “religious assent,” versus an inconsistent pattern of silences, ambiguities, and decisions of governance. Is an off-the-cuff blunder or hiccup in an extemporaneous airplane interview part of the papal magisterium? “God made you that way.” Seriously? What about other matters which are, in fact, only personal prudential judgments? And, what about the divorce between, yes, reaffirmed truths, apart from (!) signaled and enabled exemptions in practice? Why no response to the dubia and moral absolutes (Veritatis Splendor)? Why the optics of “walking together,” no longer so much with the pied-piper Batzing but now, still, with the chorus of likeminded synodal Cardinals Grech and Hollerich—all with the signaled and unchallenged intent to mainstream sexual immorality by mutilating the Catechism itself? The Church’s Magisterium!

      As part of our union and deeper obedience within the Church, can one constructively question events, actions, signals and silences without being tarred as “tearing down a Pope”? Can one address clarifying questions to the pope—as in the dubia—without the illogic of being accused of “questioning whether he is even really pope”?

      Your point—with which we troglodytes can actually agree—is how to still pray daily for the pope’s “intentions” from the heart…But, without remaining silently complicit with a mingled and (after nine years) quite different pattern of messages, etc.? The drop of cyanide in the punchbowl?

      From the infallible seer William Shakespeare: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

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