I don’t know about all of you, but I am so unbelievably sick and tired of being treated as though we’re all a bunch of complete idiots.
And when I see good bishops and priests playing games of mental Twister to try to reconcile deeply unorthodox statements from the pope just because he’s the pope, it doesn’t help anything.
We’re stuck with Francis. He’s the pope. He’s a bad pope. He’s arguably an evil pope. He’s so far from any conception of Catholic orthodoxy that it’s almost impossible to fathom how he could be pope. (Cue the Bennyvacantist comments in 3…2…1…) But the fact remains that he was elected in a legit conclave and universally accepted. So what now?
Now we’re stuck trying to figure out how someone who says the things he does could possibly not be a living violation of indefectibility. And that is a very challenging thing to do.
I have respect for Bishop Athanasius Schneider and the bishops of Kazakhstan for going to the pope and raising objections to things he has said. Bishop Schneider, as revealed in an interview yesterday at LifeSiteNews, went after the comments made by Pope Francis about God willing a diversity of religions in the Dubai statement. Have a look:
Can you say more about how Pope Francis responded to your concern about the Abu Dhabi statement on the diversity of religions? The controversial passage reads: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.”
On the topic of my concern about the phrase used in the Abu Dhabi document – that God “wills” the diversity of religions – the Pope’s answer was very clear: he said that the diversity of religions is only the permissive will of God. He stressed this and told us: you can say this, too, that the diversity of religions is the permissive will of God.
I tried to go more deeply into the question, at least by quoting the sentence as it reads in the document. The sentence says that as God wills the diversity of sexes, color, race and language, so God wills the diversity of religions. There is an evident comparison between the diversity of religions and the diversity of sexes.
I mentioned this point to the Holy Father, and he acknowledged that, with this direct comparison, the sentence can be understood erroneously. I stressed in my response to him that the diversity of sexes is not the permissive will of God but is positively willed by God. And the Holy Father acknowledged this and agreed with me that the diversity of the sexes is not a matter of God’s permissive will.
But when we mention both of these phrases in the same sentence, then the diversity of religions is interpreted as positively willed by God, like the diversity of sexes. The sentence therefore leads to doubt and erroneous interpretations, and so it was my desire, and my request that the Holy Father rectify this. But he said to us bishops: you can say that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God.
For readers who may not be familiar with the distinction between the permissive and positive will of God, can you give some examples of other things that God allows through his permissive will?
Yes, permissive will means that God allows certain things. God allowed or permitted Adam’s sin and all its consequences; and even when we personally sin, in some sense God permits this or tolerates this. But God does not positively will our sin. He permits it in view of the infinitely meritorious sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and because he does not want to destroy our freedom. This is the meaning of the permissive will of God.
Bishop Schneider tries to get at the fact that context makes clear that he couldn’t have meant permissive will when referring to diversity of religions when he obviously meant positive will when referring to diversity of races and sexes.
So Francis busts out The Perón Rule and tells Bishop Schneider what he wants to hear: “Yeah, sure, sure, kid, that’s what I meant. You go ahead and tell people I meant permissive will. That’s the ticket!”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Perón Rule, here it is, in the form of an anecdote taken from The Dictator Pope:
The story is told that Perón, in his days of glory, once proposed to induct a nephew in the mysteries of politics. He first brought the young man with him when he received a deputation of communists; after hearing their views, he told them, “You’re quite right.” The next day he received a deputation of fascists and replied again to their arguments, “You’re quite right.” Then he asked his nephew what he thought and the young man said, “You’ve spoken with two groups with diametrically opposite opinions and you told them both that you agreed with them. This is completely unacceptable.” Perón replied, “You’re quite right too.” An anecdote like this is an illustration of why no-one can be expected to assess Pope Francis unless he understands the tradition of Argentinian politics, a phenomenon outside the rest of the world’s experience; the Church has been taken by surprise by Francis because it has not had the key to him: he is Juan Perón in ecclesiastical translation. Those who seek to interpret him otherwise are missing the only relevant criterion.
I applaud Bishop Schneider, again, for having the courage to ask the pope for a clarification right to his face.
But to then turn around and pretend this answer suffices somehow? No, I’m sorry, it’s not good enough. We all know what he meant. Bishop Schneider clearly saw through the lie. But now, in the hopes of reconciling the irreconcilable, we get to play make-believe as if this isn’t just blatant self-contradiction.
I have no patience left for this game.
I’m working on a video about why I continue to hold the line on Francis being the legitimately elected pope despite all of this, so stay tuned for that. The gist is simple: if we can’t trust the Church to tell us who the pope is when papal elections are so closely related to dogma (namely, that the man elected pope is the successor of St. Peter with all the power and authority appurtenant to that office), then we can’t trust the Church on anything. If Benedict is still the pope even though none of the apostolic successors believes that, including Benedict, then the Church is capable of being deceived and subsequently deceiving the faithful on a dogmatic fact. It necessarily entails that she has defected.
And if we believe that the Church is what she says she is, that’s impossible.
But the dilemma we’re facing is that Francis seems to be impossible, too. How can a man who says the things he does not exist in violation of infallibility and indefectibility?
It’s almost a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It looks as if no matter which road you take, the Church has defected, and the gates of Hell have prevailed.
So this is where we’re forced to walk by faith and not by sight. If we want to continue to believe, we have to trust that God knows something we don’t and that all will be made clear. That there are things that remain hidden, and that we won’t solve this by our own human cleverness and reason.
But all of that being said, pretending these things can be construed in an orthodox fashion also does no favors to anyone. In fact, it damages the credibility of those who attempt to do so.
I get it. There are no good answers. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be discussing the problem as it is, rather than trying to find a spoonful of sugar to ram it down with.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.