Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture is about as far from being a bomb thrower as it is possible for a Catholic commentator to be, and thus I read with some astonishment his recent post entitled This Disastrous Papacy:
Something snapped last Friday, when Pope Francis used the day’s Gospel reading as one more opportunity to promote his own view on divorce and remarriage. Condemning hypocrisy and the “logic of casuistry,” the Pontiff said that Jesus rejects the approach of legal scholars.
True enough. But in his rebuke to the Pharisees, what does Jesus say about marriage?
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.
Day after day, in his homilies at morning Mass in the Vatican’s St. Martha residence, Pope Francis denounces the “doctors of the law” and the “rigid” application of Catholic moral doctrine. Sometimes his interpretation of the day’s Scripture readings is forced; often his characterization of tradition-minded Catholics is insulting. But in this case, the Pope turned the Gospel reading completely upside-down. Reading the Vatican Radio account of that astonishing homily, I could no longer pretend that Pope Francis is merely offering a novel interpretation of Catholic doctrine. No; it is more than that. He is engaged in a deliberate effort to change what the Church teaches.
For over 20 years now, writing daily about the news from the Vatican, I have tried to be honest in my assessment of papal statements and gestures. I sometimes criticized St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, when I thought that their actions were imprudent. But never did it cross my mind that either of those Popes posed any danger to the integrity of the Catholic faith. Looking back much further across Church history, I realize that there have been bad Popes: men whose personal actions were motivated by greed and jealousy and lust for power and just plain lust. But has there ever before been a Roman Pontiff who showed such disdain for what the Church has always taught and believed and practiced—on such bedrock issues as the nature of marriage and of the Eucharist?
Pope Francis has sparked controversy from the day he was elected as St. Peter’s successor. But in the past several months the controversy has become so intense, confusion among the faithful so widespread, administration at the Vatican so arbitrary—and the Pope’s diatribes against his (real or imagined) foes so manic—that today the universal Church is rushing toward a crisis.
In a large family, how should a son behave when he realizes that his father’s pathological behavior threatens the welfare of the whole household? He should certainly continue to show respect for his father, but he cannot indefinitely deny the danger. Eventually, a dysfunctional family needs an intervention.
In the worldwide family that is the Catholic Church, the best means of intervention is always prayer. Intense prayer for the Holy Father would be a particularly apt project for the season of Lent. But intervention also requires honesty: a candid recognition that we have a serious problem.