Friday, August 14, 2015

On Criticism of the Pope

One of my favorite Catholic blogs, Rorate Caeli, posted a very good article yesterday, reproducing a letter memorandum written back in 1976 by a prominent publisher and writer, Neil McCaffrey, and sent to a number of prominent Catholics including, among others, Dr. & Mrs. Dietrich von Hildebrand.  In light of some of my remarks about Pope Francis in my previous post ("These Are Disturbing Times"), I thought it appropriate to also comment on the McCaffrey memo and link to it here. 

The gist of Mr. McCaffrey's commentary was that constructive criticism of a pope is not only appropriate but necessary.  Unfortunately, at the time he wrote his memo and perhaps even more so today, many Catholic commentators seem to believe that any criticism whatsoever by Catholics of the Holy Father is verboten.  This involves, I believe, a serious misunderstanding of the relationship between the Vicar of Christ and the Catholic faithful, as we all serve the One King of the Universe, our Lord Jesus Christ, who requires that we speak the truth at all times, in all situations, subject only to the limitations of the sin of detraction.  When we believe in good faith that our Holy Father is in error in matters not subject to the dogma of papal infallibility, it is incumbent upon us to raise our criticisms, charitably but without dancing around the point.  A couple of examples:

“There being an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glosa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2,14), ‘St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if they should stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects’” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Turin/Rome: Marietti, 1948, II-II, q.33, a.4). (Source)
“Since [Christ] has given you authority and you have accepted it, you ought to be using the power and strength that is yours.  If you don’t intend to use it, it would be better and more to God’s honor and the good of your soul to resign….If I were in your place, I would be afraid of incurring divine judgment.”  -St. Catherine of Siena, in a letter to Pope Gregory XI. (Source)
Let there be no mistake, I love our Holy Father, in the Christian way--I desire only the greatest good for him, I pray for him every day, and I have absolute respect for him and for the office itself, the See of Peter, established by Christ until the end of the age.  (Mt. 16:18-19).  In light of the above, I believe that I stated my criticisms appropriately in my previous post.  But I am a fallen man, a sinner, so if you disagree, please let me know.  I avail myself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently, and one more item added to the list next time around will not be a problem.  :)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

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