So back to Pope Francis. What is my problem with him? Well, let me start by saying that I had hope for the papacy that followed Benedict XVI. I had an inclination that maybe he really knew what he was doing with his abdication and that something was coming that the Church needed. And yet, when I saw Francis that first moment as he stepped out to face the massive crowds in St. Peter’s square, I found myself filled with inexplicable dread. I had no idea who the man was or what he was about – I had never even heard his name before that moment. But there was something in his face, in the deadness of his eyes, that inspired in me a feeling of revulsion. I have always had a strong ability to judge character, but I tried to suppress it. I attempted to find ways to give the benefit of the doubt. I could not discount a successor of St. Peter because of nothing more than a feeling. But that feeling was strong, and I have never been ill-served by listening to my feelings about people.
Then he started speaking. And the statements he has been making are intensely problematic. Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere. Many of his other statements, by and large, are less egregious, though they are still quite problematic. They are open to wildly varying interpretation because they are made without context, thus leaving it open to the will of the interpreter to apply it.
There are a lot of Catholics out there – good ones, probably far better ones than I am – trying to put a positive spin on every foolish thing the pope says. They don’t like it, not one bit, when other Catholics say things like, “Hey, what this guy is saying doesn’t sound at all like the Catholicism I’ve lived and studied MY ENTIRE LIFE. It sounds like something far different. It sounds like something intended to change the way Catholics believe.”
Skojec says he can’t fathom why anyone faced with the Church of 2013 would choose to convert to Catholicism:
For fellowship? I can get fellowship from the local MegaChurch, with far fewer impositions on my personal liberty. For the sacraments? But most Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence, most parishes have no adoration or Eucharistic devotions, most priests offer an hour or less per week of confession time on the parish schedule.
As a convert myself, I can totally understand and identify with this. Now, mind you, I completely accept the teachings of the Catholic Church without hesitation or qualification. But the point is, I didn't discover what those were until I'd already been drawn toward the Church. There was something about it that was a powerful attraction for me, and the question I have is this very one - would I have been attracted to the Church, would I have bothered to take the time to find out what she stood for, if this was the Church being offered to me.
And ultimately that's what disturbs me - the number of people who will never discover the Church because they've been turned off by her, the number who will turn away from her because they feel as if they've been deserted, the number who will come to her because of a misguided belief in what she teaches, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to force her to conform to their desires.
Check that - it's not the number of people I'm worried about; it's the number of souls.
(And by the way - if you don't like what I have to say here, then it's just as well I don't write much about religion anymore.) ◙