VIEW FROM THE PEW
Is it arrogant to question or criticize a Pope’s words? Is what the Pope says ‘law’ – even if it contradicts Catholic teaching?
Five ordinary US Catholics got together on Facebook recently to hash it out. Here’s what Zachary, 31, a security guard from California; Robert, 61, a lawyer from Maine; Malia is 44, an enterpreneur from LA; Sean, 34, a laboratory technician from Chicago, and Rosemary, 59, a substitute teacher from Jerome, Idaho had to say to REGINA MAGAZINE recently, in this third in a seven-part series.
MODERATOR: I often hear people mention humility in this context. What does it mean to be truly humble as a faithful Catholic? How can we have valid criticism with a true spirit of humility?
Sean: One can pursue a proper understanding of the virtue of humility by studying classics like Aristotle’s Ethics, the Rule of St. Benedict or the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, and many Catholic spiritual and theological works. In any case, I think a concerned Catholic’s criticism of Pope Francis ought to refer primarily to the pope’s words and deeds. These are objective realities that one can cite in order to express a sincere concern with little danger to one’s humility.
Zachary: I personally think you can be blunt and direct while being respectful, Pope Francis (like all Popes) should be judged on his faithfulness to Christ and His words. The argument about him being a anti-Pope cannot be confirmed until the next conclave, but I personally believe it is more likely he is a real Pope, and he has been allowed as a punishment to the Catholic Church for previous personal sins of the clergy which were either covered up, or never given true justice when exposed. Being humble is acknowledging your status as a human with a tendency to sin and not letting that stop you from caring and countering when the doctrine and teachings are attacked (even from within).
Robert: People who object to criticism of the Pope will often say that we are prideful and “think we know more than the Pope.” No. If that were true, then St. Paul was prideful when Cephas (Peter) “was come to Antioch, [Paul] withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (Galatians 2:11.) Likewise, there must be reason at times to criticize legitimate authority, for St. Paul also said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.” (1 Galatians 8.) How do the saints define humility? St. Teresa of Avila tells us that humility is truth. Being humble means seeing the truth, particularly about oneself, Humility does not seek self-abasement by denying the good qualities one has, the gifts God has given him, or the truth one knows. God gave us, each of us, the capacity to grasp certain truths. On the other hand, we must always guard against pride, and we should only criticize a Papal act or statement reluctantly, being sure that there is sufficient reason and that the reason of our speech, to defend the Faith, is sufficiently serious to warrant our discussion of the matter. It is important to remind ourselves that all truth comes from God, and we are always in danger of deception, and we need God’s protection, lest we fall.
Malia: The perfect exemplification is the Mother of God! Humility is suffering humiliations silently, but never fail to propose the TRUTH, which must always be made evident. The Mother in Her Essence moved and directed everything within and from the depth of Her Heart. She bore all the humiliations and sufferings from within, yet Her actions and executions were the truth displayed outwardly. How was it that She was behind the scenes and yet She guided and directed the actions of the Apostles? This is the key to understanding! How do you know what is right and what is wrong? If we are each given the “free will” to choose, how do you go about choosing? Obviously, you go through a certain process to get to the decision that you will make i.e. the cost, the sentimental value, the attraction of how it will look on you, and how others will view it, etc. These are “testing” innate abilities that are natural and we each possess.
Where is “humility” within this process? Nowhere! A faithful Catholic humbles himself/herself to love Christ by obeying His Commandments and amending one’s life. We seek the face of Christ; we seek His truth; we seek His opinion and ask for His help in our daily affairs; we attend Mass to give thanksgiving; we abide by the traditions and doctrines that have been passed down from time immemorial, etc. Aren’t these within itself “actions” of humility, simply because we seek Christ who is TRUTH! Where then is the separation and breakdown? Finally, a valid criticism is one done objectively, through the lenses of charity and correction, simultaneously. It also means suffering through it because of criticisms. Once again, the perfect example is the Mother of God.
Rosemary: I think if we are respectful of the “position of Pope” yet defend our faith while questioning the Pope’s opinions we are doing our duty as faithful Catholics. Respect the position but question the man. He has not proclaimed and of his opinions “ex cathedra” so those opinions are not infallible. I was brought up to “never criticize a priest”. I think this is the feeling of a lot of people. But, there is a difference between criticizing versus questioning his non-traditional ways. People need to be educated in Apologetics, The Catechism of the Catholic Faith and GIRM in order to be able to identify the many abuses that are committed in the Catholic Church. This is a catch 22 situation, however. I doubt the liberal parishes would be willing to incriminate themselves, yet they are the ones most in need of this education. Mormons and Jehovah Witness’ are trained all their lives on how to defend their “religion”. Catholics — not so much.
TOMORROW: The Papacy and the Global Media