And of course, we must never forget The Peron Rule.
On the matter of intercommunion, it’s true that he signed off on the CDF’s rejection of the German bishops’ handout.
Catholics who wanted to believe the best immediately got excited. “Hey look! He’s orthodox on this one!”
But now, we see what it for what it was: sleight of hand. A rhetorical head fake. Another papal shell game.
“Pope says local bishop should make the call on intercommunion” reads a new headline over at Crux. The pope has circled back to the intercommunion issue and spun it in a new direction. If you want to see what he did, you have to pay close attention to the way the cups move. Do you see which one the ball — which of course represents papal authority and approval in our little metaphor here — is under when he starts? Watch closely – the emphasis is mine:
After a day of touting ways in which Christians might share in greater unity, that commitment to coming together didn’t prevent Pope Francis from backing the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog in its decision to insist on caution regarding proposals for intercommunion with Protestants.
On a return flight to Rome on Thursday from a day-long ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva, Francis said he supported the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria, in requiring a rethink of a draft proposal from the German bishops that would allow for non-Catholics to receive communion under certain conditions.
Last month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) rejected the German proposal, which was approved by roughly three-quarters of the bishops during a meeting earlier in the spring. In a letter published this month, Ladaria said the proposal was “not mature enough to be published.”
Francis said that Ladaria did not act unilaterally, but with the pope’s permission…
Up until now, we’re all on the same page. Everybody is watching the cup labeled, “Francis forbids intercommunion via the CDF”. But while he’s talking about Ladaria having his permission, he’s distracting us. People are watching his words, and when he sees our eyes are not on his hands, he makes the switch. The ball goes under another cup so quickly that almost nobody even sees the transition. Slow it down and keep your eye on the ball:
…and that under the Code of Cannon [sic] Law it is up to the local bishop to decide under what conditions communion can be administered to non-Catholics, not local bishops’ conferences.
“The code says that the bishop of the particular church, and that’s an important word, ‘particular,’ meaning of a diocese, is responsible for this… it’s in his hands.”
Moreover, Francis said, the problem with having an entire bishops’ conference deal with such questions is that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal.”
Did you see him make the switch?
The problem with the Bergoglian version of this illusion is that there’s no final reveal. The magician distracts the audience from what’s happening on the table and then thanks them for coming without ever lifting the cups to show them where the ball landed. He doesn’t actually want them to know he performed his magic, because his whole job was simply to distract them long enough that they forget he was pulling a trick at all.
The ones watching the stage show go home assuming the ball stayed right where it was.
But it’s not under the “Francis forbids intercommunion via the CDF” cup anymore. It’s now under the “Francis says individual bishops can decide the rules on intercommunion” cup.
Some people have seen him perform his version of this trick enough times that they’ve learned how to look for the switch. But most, unfortunately, have not. And since they’re confident that the ball is still under the cup it should be under, they will argue with anyone who tells them otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Catholic media is unlikely to report on the unscrupulous magician who isn’t really doing harmless party tricks, but playing a confidence game.
So the game will continue.
Departing from my imperfect metaphor before it falls all the way apart, I’d like to return for a moment to what I wrote back in April. I said that I believed Francis wasn’t happy with the flaming bag of… um… intercommunion handouts that was left on his doorstep. The Germans overstepped. They got a little too cute. This isn’t how Francis works, and that’s “a good part of the reason why this document was rejected. Because where Francis seems most comfortable working through insinuation, the Germans tried to create something more explicit. In writing.”
He more or less confirmed exactly this when he said, in the comments cited above, that “something worked out in an episcopal conference quickly becomes universal.”
We can’t have that. Remember what he told the Lutheran lady who asked him if she could receive Communion back in November 2015:
I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.
No ruling from the top. No official decree. Much easier to kick it downstairs and create chaos. Atomize and deconstruct the universal faith, one bishop at a time.
Because Hagan lío or something.
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.