Christian Life

In Defense (kinda sorta) of Pope Francis for his Recent Homily on Cowardice

The quote below is from the post “Francis: Pope accuses Christians of ‘cowardliness’ for overfocus on following ‘all’ 10 Commandments” by Tantumblogo at A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics.  I was going to reply in their comments sections, but found, as you will soon see, that the reply was much too long.  That is not the only reason that I’m posting it.  As I’ve found since I became a Christian I learn when I write.  I think this a thing of God because sometimes I don’t learn a thing until I have written it.  That phenomenon occurred while I was writing this post and is another reason I have for sharing it with you.

The quotes are from Pope Francis’s recent homily.  Those comments in red have been inserted by Tantumblogo.  My reply is to Tantumblogo, but also includes my thoughts on the Pope’s encyclical Amoris Laetitia.

“In another in a long stream of apparent attacks on his critics, Pope Francis gave a homily last week accusing Christians who avoid taking risks out of concern for the Ten Commandments as suffering from “cowardliness,” warning that such people become “paralyzed” and unable to “go forward.” 

‘Not taking risks, please, no… prudence…Obeying all the commandments, all of them…,’” [Do you not get the implication that the pope sees something seriously wrong with people who actually obey the Commandments?  That would explain a very great deal, wouldn’t it?] the pope said, characterizing the thinking of such Christians. “Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward.”

Such people become “confined souls” who suffer from the sin of “cowardice,” the pope added. “And the presen[ce] of a Christian, of such a Christian, is like when one goes along the street and an unexpected rain comes, and the garment is not so good and the fabric shrinks…Confined souls…This is cowardliness: this is the sin against memory, courage, patience, and hope.” [This doesn’t remotely make sense.  It’s just a gratuitous insult.]

I’ll probably get yelled at for this, but I’m going to defend the Pope on this one.  I have seen God do miraculous things with people’s lives.  I’m talking drug addicts, murderers, etc.  It’s a phenomenal thing to see someone completely turn their life around for Christ, so they literally become a new person in Him.  The Church has many saints who’ve undergone this transformation and their lives are an attestation of what Christ does for the repentant sinner.  There is another benefit provided by those who embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness and it is that they tend to use their experiences to help others like them.

But there are other people, who cannot forgive themselves for their past transgressions and, therefore, cannot claim that new life in Christ.  These people are so focused on what they did wrong that they forget the reason Christ died.  They forget He died so they could have a new life and they forget about God’s mercy.  And the world, who crucifies every misstep a person takes (especially these days) doesn’t help at all.  Anyone who has only seen the derision and contempt of the world without seeing the mercy of God would, of course, be fearful.  I know a person that is filled with so much loathing for her past that she cannot claim what Christ died to give her.  She is terrified her friends will find out and crucify her.  This not only keeps her from claiming that new life, but also from helping others who are in similar circumstances and prevents her from proclaiming the mercy of God to others that may need to hear that message.  A message that is much more powerful coming from the prodigal son than it would be coming from his brother.  This is what I believe the Pope is addressing in the quote above.

‘Not taking risks, please, no… prudence…Obeying all the commandments, all of them…,’” [Do you not get the implication that the pope sees something seriously wrong with people who actually obey the Commandments?  That would explain a very great deal, wouldn’t it?] the pope said, characterizing the thinking of such Christians. “Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward.”

As to Tantumblogo’s comment in red let me say this: “No, I don’t get the implication that the Pope sees something seriously wrong with people who actually obey the Commandments.”  What I do believe the Pope is saying that those people I spoke of previously also have another problem: they are fearful of making a mistake and this too can keep them paralyzed, if they don’t remember that all God wants from us is an honest effort (or firm purpose of will) and to remember He will provide grace and forgiveness when we are lacking.

Now Tantumblogo also seems to believe that the Pope is against people obeying the Commandments.  This may stem from previous comments of the Pope against Pharisees.  To this I will also defend the Pope, in part.  A pride and a hardness of heart can develop from those who focus on the law to the exclusion of all else.   Both of these apply to all those who follow the law whether that law be of man or God.  This is why we see the same hateful behaviors in the religious right as we do the ungodly left.  We also see it in the rich, the beautiful, the talented, etc.  It applies to anyone who excels at something and sees the other as lower than themselves who don’t live up to their expectations (or laws that they hold dear and rule their lives).  This can be such a large stumbling block, as I myself know, I wrote a post that I hoped would help others overcome it.

I also realize that there are people that love the law AND who understand that the law is a guide to keep us from hurting ourselves and others: sins so grievous to God they could only be paid with the precious blood of Christ.  This was also understood by the saints, which is why they were not hesitant in reproving and correcting the sinner: all done with a focus on the salvation of the sinner and their abhorrence of God being offended, as other people who follow the law also understand.  For who would encourage someone they love to murder, lie, steal, or covet?  No one who understands that these things are harmful and sins against God and man.  No, they would rather discourage than encourage. This also needs to be remembered.

As to Amoris Laetitia

Lest we forget allow me to remind all God has a special place in heart for the orphan and the widow.  Therefore, all is not lost for anyone, who for circumstance beyond their control is the sole survivor of a failed marriage.  To intimate the only recourse for those people is to trespass against God and their fellow man in the sin of adultery is to forget the power and grace of God and promotes a sense of hopelessness, not hope.

That was an indirect censure of Amoris Laetitia now let me get more direct: the dubia needs to be answered.  There is more than one type of cowardice.  It is cowardly to intentionally obfuscate an issue in hopes that the resultant confusion will result in what you wanted without you having to come out and say it, so as not to have to personally deal with the consequences.  Especially, as what you may want, yet refuse to say, will have very real and lasting consequences on those who are left to their own interpretations and consciences.  It is not only cowardly, but duplicitous. It is also cowardly to put something out there and when someone asks you for clarification not to answer.  Human decency, leadership responsibilities, and the salvation of souls require an answer.  Especially the salvation of souls, as not providing clear guidance on this issue in this day and age when sin is a dirty word and expecting people to rely on their own darkened insight and the opinions of the world is like throwing the Christians to the lions.  I also ask you to consider that Amoris Laetitia speaks not only to people now, but also to those of the future.  Left in the dark they, wanting to do God’s will, may consider a course of action that they may not have otherwise considered leading then not closer to God, but farther away.

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