Let’s Just Set Reality Aside, Shall We?

I’m glad to see John Allen weighing in on this one, but I’m not exactly sure what he’s saying.  Maybe you all can help?  It seems as confused as the reactions to Amoris Laetitia itself. https://cruxnow.com/analysis/2016/12/17/thoughts-turning-heat-amoris-debate/

Thoughts on turning down the heat in the ‘Amoris’ debate

John L. Allen Jr.December 17, 2016


Someone trying to remain objective about today’s debates over ‘Amoris Laetitia’ would probably have a hard time concluding that either side has a strong claim to the moral high ground, since both are charging the other with virtually the vilest crime in their respective vocabularies.

First of all, is the debate really about Amoris Laetitia or is it about how it’s being interpreted (one could say muddled) by Cardinal Kasper and club?  I mean, I’ve seen many good bishops around the world give pastoral directives on Amoris Laetitia. Not one has said to ignore it.  They have said, “This is how is should be implemented!”, but it’s not in the way Bishop McElroy, Cardinal (that still hurts to say) Cupich, and Cardinal Kasper seem to want.

As most everyone knows, Pope Francis has both fans and critics within the Catholic fold. For those with long memories, that insight rates up there with “water is wet” and “the sun came up this morning” in terms of news value, since every pontiff in the long history of the Church has faced much the same situation.

On this we can concur.  However, that hardly leads to the “dissent” label being thrown around as of late.

Fans of Francis, however, often insist that the dynamic under this pope is different than the previous two, St. Pope John Paul II and emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, because today papal critics generally are not being accused of dissent, and thus are not being threatened with possible ecclesiastical sanctions.

Well, that may or may not be the reality.  I mean, a whole lot of the liberal members of the clergy have said that Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Pell, etc., have all been “demoted” or fired from their spots.  So, which is it?

For now, let’s set aside the fact that this assertion isn’t even true anymore, since here at Crux our own Austen Ivereigh recently leveled precisely the charge of dissent against at least some critics of Francis’s document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, though certainly without any call for sanctions.

RIGHT!  He just heaped on where the liberal clergy left off.  His condescension was really on display.  Why are we setting this aside, though?  It happened, yet it would seem you don’t want to deal with it.

Let’s also set aside the truth that the number of people subject to formal censures, gag orders, publishing bans and the like during the John Paul and Benedict years was remarkably low – zero, in fact, under Pope Benedict – and the idea of papal “thought control” was mostly a fiction.

There were occasional hints of tighter discipline, such as the requirement for a mandate for Catholic theologians in John Paul’s 1990 document Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but for the most part those decrees, in time-honored Catholic fashion, were implemented with great latitude and patience, and very few heads actually rolled.”

Again, why are we setting aside what you acknowledge as reality? Or what is reality?

So, onto your point …

The main point is this: It’s true, so far as it goes, that at this point most defenders of Pope Francis haven’t accused critics of being dissenters, nor have they suggested that people who uphold contrary positions on the substantive positions associated with the pontiff, such as opening Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, are thereby committing heresy.

Yeah, hardly anyone has done that. Just the guy at your publication, the dean of the Roman Rota, the head of the Greek bishops, Cardinal JOSEPH Tobin, etc.  I think you need to narrow it down just a bit.  People in high places are scourging them, or at least hoping it’ll happen and doing their best to make it so.  The average person in the pew, probably not so much.  The average person in the pew doesn’t know who these people even are, but we are told some very public people are making very public statements and it should be glossed over.

The implication seems to be that fans of the pope are more generous, less vicious, and less inclined to question people’s bona fides as Catholics. There is, in other words, often a presumption of moral superiority in the observation that “we don’t talk that way.”

Reality, John, it’s a beautiful thing.  Embrace it.  The truth will set you free.  And, more importantly, calling a spade a spade might actually keep people from doing it again.

Simply as a descriptive matter, that proposition seems a bit disingenuous. Many in the pro-Francis camp don’t invoke concepts such as “heresy” and “dissent,” because frankly, it’s not the worst insult they can think of with which to slur an opponent.”  Instead, they use terms that Francis himself also regards as abhorrent, such as “rigid,” “inflexible,” “legalistic,” “clerical,” and, of course, worst of all, “anti-Vatican II.”

Seriously?  You’re simply fanning the flames here, John.  In the Catholic world, what would be a stronger “slur?”  You can keep stating the “no big deal” fantasy or you can accept that it actually is a big deal.  How is it that you can say out of one side of your mouth that Francis supporters are much kinder, and then turn around and list the slurs they use?  It seems disingenuous because it is!  It’s a typical liberal tactic.  “Let’s throw every horrible label possible at the likes of the four Cardinals and maybe the laity will believe it!”

In effect, what’s on display here is one of the defining differences between the Catholic left and the Catholic right over the last fifty years.

On this sentence, I can agree.  The left will twist reality and try to get everyone on board, while the right will call a spade a spade and put it in writing to boot so there’s no possible wiggle room.

For the right, “heresy” and “dissent” are about the worst things imaginable, so when they want to say “x is terrible,” that’s the language that comes naturally.

Uh, who’s been using these terms???  It ain’t the right who’s been attacking the four cardinals.  That would be the left.  You seem quite confused.

For the left, the equivalent horror is “rolling back the clock” on the Second Vatican Council, so when they want to call something or someone awful, that tends to be the verbal packaging in which the complaint comes wrapped.

So you’re saying the guy who writes for you is “left” and that he’s using that to win an argument because he’s paranoid about the people who actually wanted Vatican II implemented properly?  I missed where these four cardinals said they wanted anything other than that.

Someone trying to remain objective about today’s debates would probably have a hard time concluding that either side has a claim on the moral high ground, since both are charging the other with virtually the vilest crime in their respective vocabularies.

Who are the objective ones in this little play you’ve got running in your head?  You? Objectivity is based in facts, John.  Not seeing a whole lot of correct ones listed thus far.

To be clear, this tit-for-tat isn’t especially widespread among the Catholic rank and file. Walk into most ordinary parishes and ask what people make of the debate over Amoris Laetitia, and probably, people would stare back with uncomprehending expressions.

I agree with you on this statement.  We can only address those participating in the debate.  That’s why have trouble with your use of “many”, “most”, etc.  They are inaccurate if you are simply looking at those involved in the debate.

That said, there is nevertheless an increasingly nasty cycle of finger-pointing in print, online, in social media, and sometimes even face-to-face, and if there’s to be an end to it, perhaps what we need is the equivalent of a verbal truce.

Great.  Call off Ivereigh.  Probably not going to happen, though, so then it’s a very one-sided truce, right?  John, you’re trying to play middle ground here.  You can’t be the “Can’t we all just get along?” guy and decide who is for or against Pope Francis, who is the left or the right, and who has been nice and who has been naughty.  That makes you a commentator, not objective.  Cardinal Burke, time and again, has said that those who label him as anti-Francis are incorrect.  That would be the same for those who support their quest to have the dubia answered.

If conservatives troubled by some aspects of Amoris Laetitia and other aspects of the present papacy could at least concede that, in the main, those on the other side are not enemies of the faith, and that their positions are not a blatant rupture with Catholic tradition, that might be a powerful confidence-building measure.

Likewise, if supporters of Amoris Laetitia could stop insisting that everyone who raises legitimate questions, either about its content or its binding force, are therefore obstructionists suffering from assorted forms of psychological dysfunction, that would help too – as would acknowledging that there are various readings of Vatican II, and that not everyone who doesn’t quite share theirs is necessarily “rejecting the council.”

Read what you wrote here, John.  Where have the “conservatives” said that those “in the main” are enemies of the Faith?  It seems like you understand that there is a small group doing this, and since the four cardinals have never opposed supporting Amoris Laetitia, you are arguing against the reality of the situation. They simply want clarity.

Now, as for the other side, it would seem that you think that only bizarre accusations are being made (and by your publication to boot).

It would also likely be a balm if both sides could abandon their pretense of not only being right on the issues, but having the more virtuous motives.

Wow!  So glad you are omniscient to know their motives!  We’re talking about two diametrically opposed versions of Truth.  Only one of them can be right, but you seem to want everyone just to give in a little.  You don’t give in on Truth.  You grab onto it as hard as you can.  So, when you have one group saying that the misinterpretations are a jeopardy to the faithful and another group saying “They’re just crazy!”, it should give you pause.

Granted, this cycle of charge and counter-charge has become so habitual over the last five decades that abandoning it now may be little more than a pipe dream. Granted, too, the fact that these terms are wildly over-used doesn’t mean there no longer really is such a thing as dissent, or openly rejecting the teaching of a council.

Really?  This is your take away?  Again, you have people who are totally and utterly willing to back up every charge they make with Church teaching and tradition, and another group that says “They’re just stuck in the past!  The Church is living and breathing and you just don’t like this Pope!”

To reverse Thomas Aquinas’s famous dictum, however, the fact that a thing may be legitimately used does not negate the very real possibility of abuse.

In the end, there are serious questions raised by Amoris Laetitia regarding the Church’s pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried persons, and just in terms of betting odds, it’s a long-shot that one camp possesses all the right answers and the other absolutely none.

I’ll take that bet!  That said, you’re acting as if people are saying the whole document should be ditched.  Is this the case with Archibishop Chaput, who has expressed support for the dubia?  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2016/11/18/chaput-says-issued-amoris-rules-pope-asked/  It’s all about the interpretation!

For the pro-Amoris Laetitia side, there are important values at stake, including the authority of the synodal process that led to the document as well as that of the pope who issued it. For the camp with doubts, it’s the broader tradition of the Church with regard to marriage and divorce.

I don’t know what common ground between the two might look like, but I suspect it begins by accepting all of the above as valid, as well as a “cease and desist” order on impugning people’s integrity.

Who’s questioning the authority of the pope????

Over time, the Church will almost certainly evolve towards one of its classic “both/and” solutions to what were initially seen as “either/or” problems. How long it takes to get there, however, may in part be determined by whether in the here-and-now, the rhetorical heat can at least be turned down.

Yes, the slowly boiled frog does die much easier.  Sigh.  What can a guy say who’s just published a scathing review of the four cardinals say?  “Let’s all turn it down while my publication just turned it up!”  Come on, John.  It would have been better just to say “Whoa!  I didn’t read before I published!”  Trying to play the middleman now is rather hypocritical.

I think what you might have meant to say, John, was “Mea culpa.”




17 thoughts on “Let’s Just Set Reality Aside, Shall We?

  1. What an absolutely useless article. Nothing but weasel words. This is the thing with “conservatives”, both in religion and in politics: they hate picking sides. They have neither the passion of the traditionalist who wants to preserve the Church, or the passion of the liberal who wants to ruin it. All they care about is a meaningless peace, a pathetic truce, which will allow them to remain apathetic, lukewarm, and slothful, never having to pick a side. Totally useless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you NOT read my words? It in NOT good for the Church to sow seeds of division and unrest. You clearly think that there should be “sides” chosen and yours is clear: it contains no phony conservatives, or liberals or persons who simply may not be inclined to choose a side who you’ve so generously labeled as “apathetic, lukewarm and slothful.” These may be simply faithful Catholics who refuse to be part of those who would divide the Body of Christ, the Church into factions. No, these types who you feel lack “passion” are simply of another mindset than the few choices given by those who promote divisiveness. No, your “side” contains a bunch of like-minded traditionalists. This very first sentence of yours states clearly your whole goal: “This is the thing with “conservatives”, both in religion and in politics: they hate picking sides.” Choose a side! Divide the Body into factions. This sentence makes it clear: if you want to be passionate about your religion, then prove it by choosing a side, as if everyone needs to know exactly which side they endorse or they are lukewarm, slothful and apathetic Catholics. So kind of you to judge the Body that way. God bless. Ginnyfree.


      1. Ginnyfree, I’m afraid we have no choice. We have to pick a side. For example, if traditionalists say that sacred doctrine cannot evolve, and liberals say that sacred doctrine can evolve, you have to either pick one side or the other, because they are “mutually exclusive” (meaning that you can’t hold both positions at the same time). It’s not a matter of wanting to divide the Church into factions. The Church IS divided into factions, whether you like it or not, so you have to pick one. Sitting on the fence won’t solve anything, it will just aid the faction which has the most power at the moment (currently, the liberal faction). To go back to an earlier age, in the Arian crisis the greater number of Christians were in the Arian faction, whereas the truly Catholic faction, with St. Athanasius, was relatively small. The Arians said that Our Lord was a man, and not God. The Catholics said He was true God and true man. You couldn’t just sit on the fence and be a half-Arian, and a half-Catholic. You had to choose to be either an Arian or a Catholic. Refusing to choose just meant giving power to the Arian faction, who were the more powerful at the time. The problem with conservatives is precisely that they want to be half-traditionalist, half-liberal, which means that they are effectively useless and concede power to the liberals.


        1. I chose Christ, not sides of an argument. Once I made that choice for myself I knocked on the Rectory door and asked “What do I have to do to become a Catholic?” No one answered with a list of current conflicts and asked me which side I might find most appealing, nor did they present a false dichotomy, which you have, and then ask me to choose one over the other. 1 Cor. 12:25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. There is only one “side” to be on; Christ’s. Those who try to divide the body work against unity. We are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. We are not a body politic. Have you ever read Hobbes’ Leviathan? Just wondering. God bless. Ginnyfree.


    2. You want unlukewarm, here you go. The article was informative not a call to arms! Dialogue has to happen before action and coming from a fundamentalist background there’s no room for that ,perhaps it’s your background as well!


      1. My problem is that Allen is describing (more so Ivereigh) a scenario that’s not really happening.

        BTW, when you guys say “article” can you pinpoint if you are talking mine or Allen’s? I think there may be some confusion going on.


  2. ” We’re talking about two diametrically opposed versions of Truth.  Only one of them can be right, but you seem to want everyone just to give in a little.  You don’t give in on Truth.  You grab onto it as hard as you can.” 
    …and that seems to be the crux (sorry) of the problem.
    I love the way you sling reality back into the face of the giant. Thank you OMM.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What I find troubling is the assumption being made by the Editor, Mr. Allen that the whole Church has been divided into two camps, one being pro-Francis and the other being, well what does that leave? a false assumption, the other side being anti-Francis, and thusly rendered anti-papal. Hello? This is not true. The Church is not divided, nor do the faithful generally chose sides when attending Mass. His falsehood is actually more damaging then the actual topic he’s chosen to advance an even more dangerous disinformation. Flesh it out just a bit, Mad Mom and you’ll see what I mean. Imagine his words being applied: everyone tries to figure out what “side” they are on, and then whammo, they take sides naturally and suddenly the Church IS divided as his misinformation does its work. Tell the sheep they’ve are divided and they will look around to figure out which “side” they belong on. This is why evangelism that is divisive is to be avoided. Some sheep believe whatever their pastors tell them and there are a growing number of persons in the press who have progressed themselves into a position of pseudo-shepherds. They’ve stopped reporting the news and commenting on it and have promoted themselves to shepherds or subordinate to other shepherds who do intend to promote a form of indoctrination into a theology that is very contrary to our Catholic understanding and practice. Yes, there is a purpose to all this fuzziness. It is more smoke and mirrors and this fellow wants folks to believe there already exists a divided church so he can create a division where none existed before. If you tell a lie long enough, folks will begin to believe it. Nothin’ new under the sun, so all is vanity. We aren’t a divided church and folks who claim we are are in themselves divisive. God bless. Ginnyfree.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you. That said, I think there are “sides.” I just don’t think Allen and Ivereigh understand what the sides are. You can be pro-pope, VII, etc. and still want clarity over Amoris Laetitia and not be in dissent. We’ve seen a lack of clarity bring on disaster before and some learn from history.


  4. One need only look at Granada and Santiago Spain AB and Gomez , McGrath, Kasper, Cupich and McElroy using Amoris Latita to Promote a Homosexual agenda to see the need for a Correction and the Dubia by AB Burke etc,, Look at the Dying Anglican Episcopal protestant sect with Tutu-South Africa,, Scot and USA Episcopal church promoting homosexual communion and marriage.. A result of this is the dying Anglican communion disintegrating as .African and Anglican Catholic and Orthodox anglicans deserting the Collapsing Anglican sect by the millions. Seeing this is why AB Muellar and Burkes have concerns about apostates promoting communion for persons living in sin running loose in California and Spain etc in an already dying RC faith there to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Keep up the good work, OMM! What’s also unsettling is this Crux confusion is funded by the Knights of Columbus! I’m sending a letter to Carl Anderson urging him to cut ties with Crux. I urge OMM readers to do the same. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have to understand that John Allen gets his news by being chummy with Vatican insiders. At this point, the only way he will get access to privileged information is by being chummy with Pope Francis’s team. He will only retain that as long as the string of “Isn’t the Pope wonderful?” stories keep coming out.

    He is a good reporter, on the whole. But he does tend to retain his access by being ingratiating.

    Crux has been notably absent in reporting the AL controversy. It is a rotten source for news on that controversy, because they want to pretend there is no controversy over AL, which is what their Vatican contacts want.

    I imagine that the blowback to the idiotic Austen Ivereigh article was so fierce that he felt compelled, for pretty much the first time, to acknowledge there was a controversy, and that the Pope did not have the complete upper hand. So from his standpoint, it was a risk even to acknowledge the controversy, let alone suggest that the people in the Vatican had to tone down their silliness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim G states; ‘You have to understand that John Allen gets his news by being chummy with Vatican insiders. At this point, the only way he will get access to privileged information is by being chummy with Pope Francis’s team. He will only retain that as long as the string of “Isn’t the Pope wonderful?” stories keep coming out.

      He is a good reporter, on the whole. But he does tend to retain his access by being ingratiating.’

      Thus, John Allen is NOT a good reporter. Just stick with the facts – good, bad, or ugly.
      John Allen needs to take a page out of Nat’l Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin’s book. Just stick with the facts. The Truth sets us free.

      God bless and Merry Christmas!

      Ted Condo


  7. Perhaps we have different roles to play. It is true you cannot compromise truth. And those who stand out so clearly – by having a web site especially – must have the most courage. And support, especially with continual pprayer and ith a ‘crow-sourcing’ like financial support. (I have no idea how this is done) They and their families are in the front lines every moment. – like the Canadian who formed the advance, spear-head troops in World War ll.

    Others are the intercessors. and those who once played the roles of persecutors, like Paul, like me, are most able to pray for those who now fill us with fear.As we were prayed for. And I have been critical of those on the front lines often, for the harshness of their words for instance. I am coming to see how comfortable my own choices are made by their sacrafices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful! I never say that people have to do what I do. If we all did it the same way, we’d be lacking somewhere! Look at the saints. There were all kinds. No two were alike in their demeanor or mission. I have high regards for contemplative people since that is not my gift.


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