Pope says there is a 'strong reactionary' element in U.S. Catholic Church

Pope Francis puts his finger on the core of much of todays kerfuffle.

The Catholic Church in the United States has “a very strong reactionary” element that is well-organized and refuses to see how Catholic doctrine can and must grow and mature, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Portugal.

“I would like to remind those people that ‘indietrismo’ (being backward-looking) is useless, and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals,” the pope said in response to a question about U.S. Catholics during a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 5.

On most of his foreign trips, Pope Francis spends time with the local Jesuits, answering their questions. As is customary, the Rome-based Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica, published the transcript of the Lisbon encounter several weeks later, releasing it in Italian and English Aug. 28.

A Jesuit brother had told the pope he spent his sabbatical year in the United States and something that made “a great impression” on him was how many Catholics, including bishops, were “criticizing your leadership of the church.”

“In the United States the situation is not easy: There is a very strong reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally,” the pope responded.

“Those American groups you talk about, so closed, are isolating themselves,” Pope Francis said. “Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies. When you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.”

The pope insisted there is a difference between haphazardly changing church teaching and growing in understanding.

As examples, Pope Francis said, “Today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs. The death penalty is a sin; you cannot employ it, but it was not so before. As for slavery, some pontiffs before me tolerated it, but things are different today.”

“So, you change, you change, but with the criteria” taught by St. Vincent of Lérins that it be “ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate” – consolidated by years, enlarged by time and refined by age, the pope said.

“In other words, doctrine also progresses, expands and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but it is always progressing,” he said. “Change develops from the roots upward, growing in accord with these three criteria.”

“The view of church doctrine as monolithic is erroneous,” the pope said.

Another Jesuit, who works in campus ministry at a university, asked Pope Francis about his insistence at World Youth Day in Lisbon that there is room in the church for everyone and about how to respond to Catholics who identify as homosexual, want to be full and active members of the church, and yet do not feel in conscience that their sexual activity is sinful.

“Jesus is very clear about this,” the pope said. “The door is open to everyone; everyone has their own space in the church.”

The question becomes how the church can help each person “live so that they can occupy that place with maturity, and this applies to all kinds of people,” he said.

“What I don’t like at all,” he said, is that “we look at the so-called ‘sin of the flesh’ with a magnifying glass” and tend to ignore other sins. “If you exploited workers, if you lied or cheated, it didn’t matter, and instead (only) sins below the waist are relevant.”

The first church welcomes everyone, Pope Francis insisted, and then “the most appropriate pastoral attitude” is taken for each person.

“We must not be superficial and naive, forcing people into things and behaviors for which they are not yet mature, or are not capable,” he said. “It takes a lot of sensitivity and creativity to accompany people spiritually and pastorally. But everyone, everyone, everyone is called to live in the church. Never forget that.”

Pope says there is a 'strong reactionary' element in U.S. Catholic Church.

Just an fyi… Pope Francis has explained this concept in the past as more than just looking back to the past sentimentally. He relates it to Hebrews 10 39 ‘But we do not belong to those who shrink back’… as in shrinking back from faith the the lead of the Holy Spirit.

Having read his remarks, it’s no wonder so many Catholics are confused and frustrated by the ambiguity and assuaging that seems to take place.

If I were a member of the LGBTQ+ community I would feel like I was being welcomed with open arms, without fear of having to change my sexual behavior or being forced

Actually, that could apply to anybody who doesn’t feel “capable” of changing their sinful behavior.

Yes, we are called to live in the Church, but not everyone will be allowed to remain if we persist in our sin.

and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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People think that Pope Francis is inventing novelties but in reality he is carrying out the mission of Vatican II where St John XXIII said that the Spouse of Christ (the Church) nowadays prefers to emphasise the medicine of mercy, rather than severity. Of course this was backed up by the NT in saying so.

Things needed to change because over time people were tending to compartmentalise like the unfortunate Pharisees did presenting an outward holiness but having an inner dirtiness. It’s not good for faith and spirituality to exist in that sort of state.

Pope St JPII almost immediately upon his papacy, developed this mentality further in 1981 Familiaris Consortio where he wrote…

Gradualness and Conversion

9. To the injustice originating from sin-which has profoundly penetrated the structures of today’s world-and often hindering the family’s full realization of itself and of its fundamental rights, we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness: such a conversion cannot fail to have a beneficial and renewing influence even on the structures of society.

What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives.

It’s only quite recently that Catholics have had liberal access to letters and encyclicals for themselves but back in the pre internet days, these attitudes were fostered in us by homilies and essays and articles by theologians and Priests in Catholic periodicals. Some oldies did have trouble letting go of ‘severity’ and being able to regard other sinners with distain to that end, but at the end of the day we all know the difference between Jesus’ way and the Pharisees way so it wasn’t that foreign of a mentality to absorb.

It’s in that light that we should be able to be comfortable with welcoming LGBT who want to be part of the Catholic community. The Pope has already said no to any kind of blessing of unions that mimics marriage. But the Church is in Francis’ unique terms, a field hospital sinners. The go to parable here is that of the Unmerciful servant and his fate.

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