Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Pope is not a media puppy

Predictably, my agreement here on MOJ with Germain Grisez's trenchant criticism of Pope Francis's already-hallowed interview has generated some spirited, often misguided, and sometimes even angry correspondence.  That goes with the territory, although the anger really isn't becoming or intelligent.

What should not go unnoticed, though, is this.  Many of my correspondents are quick to find fault with me (and others) for criticizing a journalistic INTERVIEW given by the Pope.   These same correspondents and their ilk, however, are frequent self-styled "dissenters" from magisterial teachings taught authoritatively in official Church documents.  The interview is "sacred," but the actually sacred and officials teachings of the magisterium remain always ripe for "dissent."  The sophistry and inconsistency are patent.  

This is a good opportunity to share something I heard John Haldane (the first Catholic Professor of Philosophy in the University of St. Andrew's since the Reformation) say the other night in a fine and moving talk about being a Catholic intellectual today.  According to Haldane, the time is overdue to stop dividing the Church along lines borrowed from politics.  We shouldn't talk about "liberal Catholics," "conservative Catholics," or the like.  This is a view I've long held.  As Haldane stressed, what matters are othodoxy and orthopraxy.  And these come by living the whole Tradition, not by any other means.  Politicizing the internal life of the Church only blocks the all-importance of being united in Christ in all essential matters.    

Those who seek to live the whole Tradition will be eager to be docile in the face of authoritative teaching and governing by Pope Francis, and they will devoutly hope to be sanctified by his example and ministry in order to become more docile and obedient in matters of orthodoxy.  They will be prepared to be "surprised" by his evangelical example and to be vivified by it.  They will, however, be intelligent if they deny that an "interview" is beyond criticism, and they will resist the suggestion that criticizing the interview represents a refusal to be "challenged" by the new Pope.  For the reasons given by Grisez, we Christians cannot responsibly build our lives around ambiguities of the sort Pope Francis irresponsibly throws around in the medium of a journalistic interview.  There are clearly inspiring and sound points in the interview, but they do not elevate the piece as a whole to a text from which one could, if one were so inclined, "dissent."  One can intelligently disagree with an interivew, no matter which mortal gives it.  

Pope Francis can do better, I hope.   


Brennan, Patrick | Permalink