Don't shut the doors of heaven in people's faces

The working title of this post was “Are you frickin’ kidding me?”

The greatest sin is the sin of pride, because it is the first sin and it is the one that leads to all the others. Pride is what turns us away from God, and all the rest flows from it.

Meanwhile, the demonic mind is a mind of perversion which always seeks to lead us to perversion. The Devil likes when we do evil, but he likes nothing so much as when we do evil in the name of the good. Fallenness is the work of Man, but perversion is the work of the Devil.

This means we must always guard ourselves against pride, and we must particularly guard ourselves against perversion, in the true etymological sense of turning something good to evil ends.

Nowhere is this perversion more evident than in the never-ceasing perversion of the Church. The Devil attacks the Church relentlessly, because nothing pleases him so much as the flaying of the Body of Christ, particularly when it is self-inflicted. The Devil likes Nero but his masterpiece is the Grand Inquisitor.

We see this pride leading to perversion whenever children of the Church seek to make the Church into something which it is not. A political party. A club. A prison. An elite. An NGO. A commune.

Because doing this to the Church and to us is the Devil’s main obsession, we see it arising always, in ourselves and in the world, and we must keep ever-vigilant about it.

All of which brings me to the trepidation du jour among some Catholics, which is the latest Pope Francis interview.

The mainstream media reaction was as sad as it was predictable, and the less said about it the better.

What was striking was the reaction of some “conservative” Catholics (why do you need a modifier before “Catholic”?) to, well, a message of love. The same people who are faulting the New York Times for focusing only on the culture war issues in this deep, wide-ranging interview are focusing on the culture war issues in this deep, wide-ranging interview.

This interview is just wonderful, so full of depth and love and humility and wisdom.

The Pope says two things about issues like homosexuality and abortion: he says Catholics should show their love first before catechizing, and he says that the teachings of the Church should be remembered in their broader context of love. This is precisely correct.

We have to love sinners before we teach them. We have to welcome sinners into the Church. We first have to show them that Jesus saves them before we can teach them. This is true not just because it works better. It’s true because it is God’s Way. God led his people out of Egypt and then gave them His law. God does not say “Follow these rules, and maybe I will save you.” God says: “I save you—follow these rules if you want to love me back.” The entire dynamic of the Bible and the Gospel is about receiving God’s love first, and His Law second.

Everything the Pope said about “social issues” in his interview was the stark, naked, Catholic truth. He preached an ecclesiology of love, and charity in movement.

And yet some people are saying: Now, Mr Bergoglio, I don’t know just who you think you are, but this will not do.

This is what happens when pride leads us to perversion.

It was written: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Oh but no no no, we are told, the Pope didn’t say anything wrong, exactly (how generous of you to grant!). It’s not that we shouldn’t love sinners, it’s just that the Pope just shouldn’t have said it.

Well okay then. That’s much better.

Here’s Rod Dreher, whom I love as a brother and a friend albeit in a terribly imperfect way, and who I don’t want to single out. I single out this post only as an avatar of the many comments I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere, and not Rod personally. I’m certainly no better than Rod in any way. But this is what Rod writes:

I know what the Pope means here, and he’s right: there is so very much more to Christianity than its teachings on sexuality and abortion. But this is where I think he goes badly wrong: his remarks will be received as the Pope saying that this stuff doesn’t matter all that much.

Well yeah, they’ll be received that way. If you let them.

Can’t risk being misinterpreted! Why, if Jesus’ contemporaries had misinterpreted His message, they might have turned on Him.

This is the perversion of the Church. This is the pride that leads us to destroy the good in the name of the good. We have to find a reason to fault the Pope for saying we must love the sinner, when by our own admission everything he says is right.

You understand, the Roman Catholic Party can’t have one of its spokesmen undercutting message discipline! We can’t have him make us look bad! Yeah, yeah, sure, that love the sinner stuff, it’s in the platform, but this week is Abortion Week. And all the other weeks.

Catholicism is not an identity. It is not a party platform. It is not a clique. It is not a political objective. It is not an ideology.

Writes a priest of Rod’s acquaintance:

Words fail. If this keeps up, everything is going to be much harder. I can’t say it surprises me; the man gave an eighty minute press conference to the assembled press corps on an airplane. But it’s terribly naive, in a time when people graduate from Catholic elementary and high schools, college, and don’t know the most fundamental things about the Faith, not to realize how selectively people will pounce on this kind of thing.

I’m really sorry that the Pope expounding on the verities of the faith will make your job harder. I hadn’t realized that you had signed up for an easy job.

People “don’t know the most fundamental things about the Faith”? It’s pretty good, then, that the Pope is teaching the most fundamental things about the Faith.

People will “selectively pounce on this kind of thing”? Yes! As they always have, and as they always will! Your job is hard! It involves carrying a Cross! And dying!

But hey, look on the bright side. Catholic institutions of education have been failing at their mission for decades, but now we can blame the Pope who was elected two seconds ago.

“The man” (that’s “His Holiness” to you, Father) is “naive.” He just doesn’t know how to do his job right.

“Words fail”? Father, if this quote reflects what’s in your mind, then you need to go to confession and say penance.

This accusation of naïveté, it’s quite something.

Writes Rod:

I love his style — seriously, I do — but I am sure the liberal Pope has been very, very naive in his words here.

First of all—“the liberal Pope”? Really? When, exactly, did he become a liberal? Was it when he called same-sex marriage a plot by the Devil as bishop of Buenos Aires? Was he a liberal when he denounced abortion literally today?

Anyway, this (hold your nose) liberal is just naive. (How often do you hear a Jesuit described as “naive”?) If he’d been a Provincial, and Primate of a big country, he might have some worldly wisdom. But he’s just a holy fool. And holy fools aren’t bad, exactly, you understand, but they just shouldn’t mess with grown-up stuff. They just don’t know any better.

There are many words that can apply to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. I really, really don’t think “naive” is one of them.

The world wants to be told, “It’s okay, do what you like.”

No, actually, the world wants to be saved by a King of Glory.

For liberals and Moralistic Therapeutic Deists within Catholicism, it’s springtime. For traditionalists and conservatives in the Catholic Church, it’s going to be a long winter.

This is it. This, right here. This is the problem. This is the perversion. This is the defiling of what is holy.

The Pope is measured by whether what he says helps politically the “Republican Party of the Catholic Church” or the “Democratic Party of the Catholic Church.” This is the disease. This is the cancer. We have our cliques, we have our parties, and the question is who is going to win. Who cares!

Is it going to be a long winter? Why? Because you don’t love enough? Good!

Is it going to be a long winter because you’re going to look bad? Tough! You shouldn’t have looked good in the first place. A Christian who looks good is headed in the wrong direction.

What does it mean to have a long winter? The Pope isn’t going to give you brownie points? He won’t hang out with you at recess anymore? The Pope’s job isn’t to take care of the feelie-feelies of self-described Modifier-Catholics.

Anybody who thinks the Pope is promoting Moral Therapeutistic Deism or cafeteria Catholicism or anything like that is just out of their mind. Anyone who is challenged by the Pope saying that we must first love the sinner ought to be challenged, and is not challenged by the Pope but by Christ, who is speaking through His Vicar is the Pope.

When will it get through our thick skulls? (Mine is certainly very thick.)

The Gospel of Life is the Glengarry Glenn Ross speech, except with love instead of selling real estate. “Nice guy? Good father? I don’t give a shit.” LOVE. Take up your Cross and follow Him.

It is written: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

It’s not a figure of speech!

It is also written: “Dreadful it is to fall in the hands of the living God.”

Dreadful! Christianity is not a cake party! The Spirit burns like a flame!

Now, I am not saying you cannot ever criticize the Pope. I have questions about his comments about the Latin Mass, and his comments about Papal Infallibility, although they seem to be well-within the bounds of Catholic doctrine and to be taking it in an interesting direction. These are not things that I would criticize, because I just do not know enough about what the Pope is saying, but I certainly understand why there are questions.

But to treat an interview where the Pope urges us to treat sinners with love first with alarm is, for a Christian, demonic. It is a perversion of the good in the name of the good. It is yielding to temptation.

Do you know how many people feel excluded from the Church because they have had abortions, or are gay, or are divorced? “Oh, but they’re not excluded.” You have quite the way of showing it, by freaking out when the Pope says they shouldn’t be excluded. Love! The way the Catholic Church treats homosexual persons is very often a damned disgrace (I am in no way referring to the Church’s doctrine) and it is a blessing that we have a Pope with pastoral experience who realizes it.

The Pope is calling on you to love.

I am cutting out here because I have hated writing this post, which is almost certainly an unhinged rant which is not treating people faithfully and is all wrong.