If it seems self-serving to keep demonstrating our consistency on the issues we cover, it’s perhaps only because so many people have sought with such fervor to discredit me (and by extension, the other fine writers here at 1P5) on all things Francis. (The post I’m about to link, incidentally, is worth a re-read just for the documentation of scorn we were receiving at the time for saying that what has now happened was going to happen.)
It has been my contention all along that if you only are willing to see what is right before your eyes, things will suddenly shift into focus. For example, as I wrote in April of this year in a post entitled, Pope Francis Didn’t Change Doctrine (and Other True Stories):
If the title of this post is all you want to hear about Amoris Laetitia, then kudos to you, because it’s true!
He didn’t change doctrine. Never could. Never will.
Of course, he absolutely gutted pastoral application and guidance on the doctrine on sin and marriage to the point that he made them both virtually unrecognizable. He accomplished this, as usual, through a subjective, relativistic approach to truth by way of “conscience” and “discernment.”
The so-called “Kasper Proposal” is, as it turns out, actually the Francis Proposal. It appears, in fact, that Kasper was telling the truth all along.
“I’m not naïve,” Kasper said. “I knew that there are other positions, but I didn’t think that the debate would become, and now is shown to be also, without manners.”
“Not one of my fellow Cardinals ever spoke to me. I, instead, [spoke] twice with the Holy Father. I agreed upon everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do, except be with Pope? I am not the target, the target is another one.”
Kasper again claimed that Pope Francis knew what he was going to propose and fully approved of his speech.
“They know that I have not done these things by myself,” he said. “I agreed with the Pope, I spoke twice with him. He showed himself content [with the proposal]. Now, they create this controversy. A Cardinal must be close to the Pope, by his side. The Cardinals are the Pope’s cooperators.”
Of course, this has been obvious from the beginning. But now, despite certain notable holdouts who are literally setting what little credibility they have left on fire by their continued attempts to spin this, we see others who have been reticent finally swallowing that red pill they’ve clearly had in their cheek for a while but just weren’t quite ready to commit to. People like Robert Royal, who writes today:
So now we know. We knew before, really, but didn’t have explicit confirmation. The long, agonizing slog, however, is finally over: from Pope Francis’ invitation to Cardinal Kasper to address the bishops in Rome in February of 2014 to the pope’s letter last week to some Argentinean bishops affirming guidelines they had developed in a joint document that, in “exceptional cases,” people divorced and remarried (living in an “adulterous” relationship as we believed for 2000 years in Western Christianity), may receive Holy Communion. This whole affair is bizarre. No other word will do.
As I wrote on this page many times before the two Synods on the Family, daily during those events, and subsequently, it was clear – at least to me – that the pope wanted his brother bishops to approve some form of what came to be known as the Kasper Proposal. That he did not get such approval – indeed, that he got significant pushback from bishops from various parts of the globe – visibly angered him, and even led him into a bit of snark at the close of the second Synod, that some opinions had “at times” been expressed there, “unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways.”
In the Church’s 2000-year history – a history of apostles, martyrs, confessors, great saints, brilliant doctors, profound mystics – none thought this new teaching Catholic. Some even died to defend the indissolubility of marriage. For a pope to criticize those who remain faithful to that tradition, and characterize them as somehow unmerciful and as aligning themselves with hard-hearted Pharisees against the merciful Jesus is bizarre.
I’ve lived long enough in Washington and spent sufficient time in Rome not to trust what a journalist says some leader – secular or religious – told him in private. But I’m convinced that when Eugenio Scalfari – the eccentric editor of La Repubblica, the socialist paper in Rome the pope reads daily – said that Francis told him he would allow all who come to receive Communion, he may not have gotten the words exactly right. But he caught the drift.
That last bit may also sound familiar. I dissected the use of Scalfari to disseminate Francis’ most unorthodox stalking horses here, back in November of 2015. And again, more than an “I told you so,” this serves as proof that the handwriting was not just on the wall, it was clearly legible. It was always a matter of willingness to see it. For what it’s worth, I’m glad to have someone of Royal’s pedigree on the side of unvarnished and unpopular truth. And he isn’t pulling punches (except maybe using “bizarre” where “evil” would be more appropriate.) Royal continues:
Indeed, Catholics have a new teaching now, not only on divorce and remarriage. We have a new vision of the Eucharist. It’s worth recalling that in January the pope, coyly, not ruling it out, suggested to a group of Lutherans in Rome that they, too, should “talk with the Lord” and “go forward.” Indeed, they later took Communion at Mass in the Vatican. In a way, that was even more significant. A Catholic couple, divorced and remarried, are sinners, but – at least in principle – still Catholic. Has intercommunion with non-Catholic Christians also been decided now without any consultation – almost as if such a momentous step in understanding the Sacrament of Unity hardly matters?
Need I provide another reference point? I will anyway – this one also from November of last year:
Why am I speaking here about Communion for the divorced and remarried when the topic is Communion for Lutherans? Because it’s all of a piece. 1 Corinthians 11:28 makes it clear how we must approach Holy Communion: “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” What Francis, Kasper, and others have been advocating is the idea that this examination is not necessary. That rather than being fearful that we “eat and drink judgment (or condemnation) against” ourselves if we receive the Eucharist unworthily, we should see it as the very means by which we may be strengthened on our “journey.” This is an outrageous form of utilitarianism, in which we use God — our first beginning and final end — to accomplish some other, lesser thing. If our worthiness to receive Him is treated as a matter of no importance, how can this be viewed as anything other than elevating the concerns of man — and man himself — above God?
Of course, this sort of humanism might produce other indicators – say, excessive concern for the material well-being of the poor, distribution of resources, or care for the environment – over and above concern for the salvation of souls.
We are at a point where it becomes almost impossible to believe that Pope Francis is doing these things by accident. His ideology is interwoven with Catholic belief, but it also works at cross-purposes with it. Statements like the one made to the Lutheran woman above, or the stalking horses floated to the media through surrogates like Scalfari, indicate that he feels constrained by the limits of his office in accomplishing his agenda. One priest — one of the new “Missionaries of Mercy” no less — recently issued an open letter to Pope Francis, warning him that if he continues to try to move against the doctrines of the Church, God will stop him, and he will “either die or be incapacitated, much as Pope Sixtus V dropped dead before he could accomplish his own will on a matter also touching on marriage and divorce…” And yet, all appearances are that Francis is too clever to try something like that. Instead, he’s figured out how to beat the limitations placed on him by papal infallibility. His method never violates the letter of the law, while savaging it in spirit. He does not invite the enemy in, he merely opens all the doors in the enemy’s full view.
It is a strange feeling to find myself in unexpected company on these observations, but a good one. Royal’s final sentence is, I think, a bracing dose of reality for what comes now:
I say this in sorrow, but I’m afraid that the rest of this papacy is now going to be rent by bands of dissenters, charges of papal heresy, threats of – and perhaps outright –schism. Lord, have mercy.
We’ve been watching this beast slouching toward us from a long way off. It is now upon us.
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.