Restoring the Sacred

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fr. Schall: Our "This-Worldly" Oriented Pope.

Fr. James Schall posted yesterday at an essay on the Pope's just completed visit to Cuba and the United States (in that order for some reason).  The entire essay can be read by clicking HERE, but herewith some excerpts that many of those who attended part or all of the three stops in the USA might find enlightening.
I am not sure with what to compare the Pope’s passage here. Was it like the triumphal entry of a Roman Emperor after conquering half of the world? The Holy Father is clearly a “personality”. His smiles and gestures are winning by any standard. I have never been much a fan of the Fiat as the official Papal vehicle. Most think it is a sign of humility. It seems a bit ostentatious to me. But I do have a capitalist observation. If I were the owners of Fiat in Turin, I would quickly rename the little four-seater “Fiat Il Papa” or perhaps “The Papal Fiat” and promise to contribute half the sales to the poor. A “papal fiat” after all is a phrase of classical legal meaning, “let it be done.”...
Pope Francis put great emphasis on “social friendships”, whatever they are. Where they fit into Aristotle’s classification of friendships of utility, pleasure, and the highest sort, I am not clear. Perhaps they are the sort of things Aristotle talked about when people from the same country meet in a foreign land. They greet each other as brothers, having things in common. “The friends with everyone, friends with no one” still holds, but the virtue of friendliness to everyone (amiability) is probably what he had in mind. The Pope used the phrase “social friendship” again in a talk to Cuban youth where it seems to mean what John Paul II meant by “solidarity”, where everyone puts aside differences and talks...
The Pope’s remarks to the students on environment contained these gems: 1) “The polar bear in Alaska has to go even further north. Why? Because the glaciers are starting to melt.” The implication here, I take it, is that human beings are causing this melting, not natural changes. So if you want to save the polar bear, refreeze the North Pole.
But the polar bear is a “big” problem. The young can deal with “small” problems. Like what? “We can always use biodegradable materials. You know that a non-biodegradable plastic bag stays there for millennia and this brings damage to the environment.” Whether plastic wraps and bags have been responsible for many good things like protecting us from germs, keeping things fresh, and so forth is not considered. Just why we cannot teach people to pick the plastic bags up instead of destroying the whole plastic industry and its jobs, I am not sure. Paper biodegradable bags are made of wood pulp which is made from trees that are found in forests, etc. The “waste of paper” the Pope finds “shocking”; he does not seem to know of reforestation. We have more trees in this country today than we evidently did before Columbus discovered  the place.
Next the Pope tells the students of a conversation with a man who is supposed to know about these things. He tells him that “the Islands of the Pacific Ocean, while they are independent states, within 20 years,” are evidently to disappear. If Julian Simon were still alive he would probably make a bet with the Pope on this assumption. Simon once bet Paul Ehrlich, who was at the time preaching massive starvation, that in several decades there would be more available supply of every mineral than when the bet was made. Ehrlich lost.
I mention all these things not because I think the Pope said too much about the environment in his trip, but because he didn’t. In fact, he finally seems to have realized the connection between environmentalism and the totalitarian views of those who want to control population. He knows that massive strides have been made through normal methods to clean the environment and reduce poverty. There is no real crisis that cannot be dealt with, unless perhaps we so empower governments that, through the power given to them, they exercise absolute control over every movement of the citizenry. His talk to Cuban youth on hope and jobs did not seem to recognize that in Cuba all jobs are in government control...
During the return flight, Maria Antonieta Collins of Univision asked the Pope about forgiveness. I was pleased to read his remarkable response:
If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness; he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open his door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I am saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.
That may be the best passage of this pontificate! Everything is forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice, but forgiveness necessarily follows on admission of guilt. Without it, nothing can be forgiven. This is what free will means.
This “refusal to be forgiven” is the status of much of the modern world, which also denies that there is anything to forgive. All is permitted. This refusal to accept the “tenderness of God” is what we ultimately call hell (see my essay “A Second Look at Hell"). This Pope seldom draws out the logic of this conclusion, but here it is quite clear. No one can be saved without repentance which comes from the inside. Social structures, good or bad, do not excuse personal sin...
Pope Francis does not seem to like normal Catholics, clergy or laity; he opts for sinners and heretics. While here, he did not support in any vigorous manner the efforts of the pro-life movement. He does not seem to admire intellectuals in any shape or form. He has distanced himself from John Paul II and Benedict XVI in many ways, not just in style. Many of his appointments are strange and definitely “left” leaning, as they say. As to his job, he certainly seems to enjoy being pope. He has become a “star”, a world-class figure, to use Hegel’s terms. He thrives before an audience. He seems uncritical about so many things—large government, the United Nations, climate change, criticism of capitalism, and Islam.
As I see it, the key to Pope Bergoglio is that he is primarily “this-worldly” oriented—this is his bent, his priority. The curious notion of making ecology a kind of ethics is most instructive. His eschatology seems centered on this world’s ongoing processes. He spoke to the youth in Cuba about hope. As far as I could judge, there was nothing in this discourse that transcended life in this world, though he would probably be surprised if one took this as a denial of anything transcendent...
Now, I am the first to say, for instance, that the issues of “gay marriage” or contraception, are not primarily issues of revelation but reason. They should be argued at this level. So one can go before Congress, as the Pope did, and not mention the name of Christ; popes are supposed to know about the things that congressmen deal with. But, no doubt, every member of Congress and every representative at the United Nations knew that the man who stood before them in a white cassock had something to do with Christ. However you mix it, without this Christ-overtone, he is just a man from an Argentine immigrant family. In any case, it is not, as in many lands, against the laws to speak the name of Christ in our Congress. The Pope surely knew that.