A letter to a concerned Catholic friend
I am sorry that you are so upset by what Pope Francis has said about civil unions for homosexuals. I agree with you that he should have not said it. It was, to use a word he seems to like, inadmissible. My conservative Catholic friend has observed that Francis has not actually contradicted Church teachings because he did not deny that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. In which case, it is now up to Francis to clarify what exactly he meant. I am not holding my breath: he has a reputation for maintaining silence when he so chooses. Ask Jeeves and he will respond: "indubiatably, sir."
Why was Pope Francis wrong to say what he said? Because we all know that civil unions are a stepping stone towards gay marriage. We do not need Obama to remind us of this. The damage has now been done and the dissidents are rejoicing. Read the James Martin tweets if you can do so without feeling sick.
All this reminds one that the papal magisterium is actually rather limited. When the pope makes a solemn declaration on matters of faith or morals affirming what has been already taught, obedience is required. When he talks about global warming or open borders or evolution, he is giving his own personal opinion. Papal interviews by definition are not infallible acts. And, if I may say so, this pope is not good with interviews. For some inexplicable reason, he reminds me of Uncle Theodore in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop.
Why did he do it? I don't know. Some say it is his way of thanking his backers among the infamous Saint Gallen Group. My own opinion is more charitable, I hope: he is an old man who gets easily confused. As a Jesuit, his own formation may not be that solid. Too much Rahner. Not enough Aquinas. He should say as little as possible and never without recourse to his Burke's Peerage. As a medical man myself, I would also recommend some regular intakes of Muller yogurts as well. Muller Light as he might find his Aquinas tough going.
All this reminds me that it is now time to move on from decades of extreme papalism when we were told to sing "every where that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go." It does mean that were I to get my way and find the next pope to be a new Pius XII or, better still, a Pius X, I would still have to treat papal interviews with the same reserve that I grant Pope Francis. Indeed, I pray the next pope stops giving interviews altogether.
Can anything good come from this mess? Probably not for some decades. I have been praying for some time that one day the Eastern Orthodox churches will be in communion with Rome. Perhaps in his own inimical way Pope Francis has made this a little easier by reminding us how limited the papal magisterium actually is.
You have told me that you are thinking about swimming the Aegean and joining the Orthodox. I urge you not to do this. It is not the Church that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ founded. The devil drives out the liberals by one means and us traditional Catholics by another. He does not care how he does it. As long as we are out. Saint Paul of the Cross said: "the whole of life of one who serves God should be to remain on the cross with Jesus." May God grant us the grace to stay and pray. As for Pope Francis, I stay, pray and disobey when I have to.