Some food for thought today, from a homily delivered over the weekend by the Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, at the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York. Preaching at a Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, he enumerated several points for Catholics to remember—especially those who dislike Francis—regarding the pope:
8) Catholics don’t have to like every Pope, but the lack of fondness ought never descend into carping or, worse, hatred. However, we must love him, above all, willing his eternal salvation. One’s love for one’s natural father does not blind one to his inadequacies or failures, nor does it demand silence in the face of problems. That said, never allow disappointment to diminish your own faith, hope and charity. At all costs, avoid extremism and progressive polemic. Remember: Luther started out condemning genuine abuses in the Church but ended up denying doctrines of faith. In our own day, we have seen how the Society of St. Pius X had its spin-off into that of Pius V. What’s next, Pius the Two and a Half? Cardinal Newman came to a position of intense dislike of Pius IX, even referring to the pontificate at its end as “the climax of tyranny,” encouraging his closest friends to pray for an end of the reign; however, he never doubted the divine institution of the papacy. And a caveat from St. Francis de Sales: “While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal – who allow scandals to destroy faith – are guilty of spiritual suicide.” 9) Don’t look for trouble. Some “uber” Catholics have made a cottage industry of trying to find missteps of Francis and even succumbing to acceptance of made-up ones. St. Ignatius Loyola teaches us always to seek to place the most benign interpretation possible on a superior’s teaching or directive. That helps ensure honesty and good will on our part; it also makes any legitimate criticism we make all the more credible. 10) Any displeasure or discomfort experienced with the present Pope might be an opportune occasion to repent of the ingratitude or grousing directed at his predecessors. I myself not infrequently bemoaned the weak governance styles of John Paul and Benedict – all the while admiring their razor-sharp intellects and direct, effective modes of communicating the truth. Every leader has assets and liabilities. God can punish us for highlighting the negative to the exclusion of the positive. 11) We have the duty to pray for the Pope’s growth in wisdom and holiness. Popes change. Pius IX morphed from being an open-minded individual to being quite reactionary, while Paul VI started out as rather given to change and ended up a stalwart proponent of Catholic doctrine, at great personal expense. 12) Never forget the Church is always in need of reform – Ecclesia semper reformanda. The Council of Trent boldly demanded the reform of the Church in her head and members. Many of us want a hierarchical Church of perfection, but fail to realize that the members of the hierarchy come from the ranks of the lay faithful. If you want a reformed and holier Church, you must commit to becoming a reformed and holier member yourself. As a matter of fact, there has never been an effective reform of the Church which was a top-down movement; it has always been from the bottom up.
There’s much more.