Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Pope Francis Effect: False compassion which leads to a weariness of proclaiming the moral norm

Writing for the Associated Press, Rachel Zoll notes that, "The Vatican ambassador to the U.S., addressing American bishops at their first national meeting since Pope Francis was elected, said Monday they should not 'follow a particular ideology' and should make Roman Catholics feel more welcome in church.  Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano noted the challenges from broader society to Christian teaching....'the Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people....He made a special point of saying that he wants pastoral bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.'  In a September interview, Francis said Catholic leaders should give greater emphasis to compassion and mercy, arguing the Church's focus on abortion, marriage and contraception has been too narrow and alienating..."

Too narrow?  But Our Lord insisted that we must, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7: 13, 14).

Why is the Holy Father insisting that the Church's focus on moral norms is something "alienating"?  Pope John Paul II has already refuted this lie.  In his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, he explained that, "The Church's teaching, and in particular her firmness in defending the universal and permanent validity of the precepts prohibiting intrinsically evil acts [such as abortion, homosexual acts and contraception], is not infrequently seen as the sign of an intolerable intransigence, particularly with regard to the enormously complex and conflict-filled situations present in the moral life of individuals and of society today; this intransigence is said to be in contrast with the Church's motherhood.  The Church, one hears, is lacking in understanding and compassion.  But the Church's motherhood can never in fact be separated from her teaching mission, which she must always carry out as the faithful Bride of Christ, who is the Truth in person.  'As Teacher, she never tires of proclaiming the moral norm....The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm.  In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection." (Veritatis Splendor, No. 95, citing Familiaris Consortio).

The Holy Father goes on to remind us that, "..genuine understanding and compassion must mean love for the person, for his true good [the greatest of which is his soul and his salvation], for his authentic freedom.  And this does not result, certainly, from concealing or weakening moral truth, but rather from proposing it in its most profound meaning as an outpouring of God's eternal Wisdom, which we have received in Christ, and as a service to man, to the growth of his freedom and to the attainment of his happiness." (Veritatis Splendor, No. 95).

While it is true that everything must be done to help sinners, this cannot include helping them to sin or to remain in sin. Because of human frailty, every sinner deserves both pity and compassion. However, vice and sin must be excluded from this compassion. This because sin can never be the proper object of compassion. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.1, ad 1).

It is a false compassion which supplies the sinner with the means to remain attached to sin. Such 'compassion' provides an assistance (whether material or moral) which actually enables the sinner to remain firmly attached to his evil ways. By contrast, true compassion leads the sinner away from vice and back to virtue. As Thomas Aquinas explains: "We love sinners out of charity, not so as to will what they will, or to rejoice in what gives them joy, but so as to make them will what we will, and rejoice in what rejoices us. Hence it is written: 'They shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.6, ad 4, citing Jeremiah 15:19).

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that the sentiment of compassion only becomes a virtue when it is guided by reason, since "it is essential to human virtue that the movements of the soul should be regulated by reason." (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, c.3). Without such regulation, compassion is merely a passion. A false compassion is a compassion not regulated and tempered by reason and is, therefore, a potentially dangerous inclination. This because it is subject to favoring not only that which is good but also that which is evil (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.1, ad 3).

An authentic compassion always stems from charity. True compassion is an effect of charity (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 30, a.3, ad 3). But it must be remembered that the object of this virtue is God, whose love extends to His creatures. (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 25, a.3). Therefore, the virtue of compassion seeks to bring God to the one who suffers so that he may thereby participate in the infinite love of God. As St. Augustine explains: "'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Now, you love yourself suitably when you love God better than yourself. What, then, you aim at in yourself you must aim at in your neighbor, namely, that he may love God with a perfect affection." (St. Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, No. 49,

Weakening or watering-down moral norms is not an act of charity.  It is an act of counterfeit charity, an act of spiritual violence.

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JB said...

Well said. His "holier than all prior popes" attitude is becoming very off putting at this point. I have stopped listening for the most part.

Ellen Wironken said...

Well put JB! Francis appears to want us to accommodate the Culture of Death. At a time when more and more states are accepting "gay marriage" we need to stress the moral norm, not remain silent about it or speak less about it.


Unknown said...

Did Jesus ever run around like : "Look at Me how humble I am, I ride a donkey not a jaguar".

this "pope" too much attracts the attention on himself
by his "so called" humility.

Lets be united in prayer that satan does not succeeds in destroying the Church completely and with her so many souls. I know the victory will not be his, but so many souls will be lost by following him.
Viva Christo Rey.

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