Dear Friends in Christ,
Here we go again! Pope Francis is in the headlines for a radical departure and changing of Catholic doctrine! It’s true because Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon and CNN all say so! Not so fast. I have lost count of all of the landmark changes of Catholic doctrine that are based on comments by Pope Francis that weren’t. That’s right, No Change. Despite seven and half years of headlines, Pope Francis has not changed Catholic doctrine or dogma one time! So be upset, be disappointed, be relieved or be confused. Or perhaps take a breath and try to see what the truth really is.
Whenever I hear about these supposed earth shattering developments, I always take a wait and see approach. After a few days or so, sure enough, a pattern emerges. 1. Pope Francis says something in a non-traditional medium or forum. 2. The statement is usually not given in theologically accurate or precise language. 3. The pope’s words are taken out of context usually with significant parts missing and transmitted widely by the secular media. 4. The statement is hailed, lauded and welcomed by those who disagree with the Catholic Church on most teachings. They rejoice that the Catholic Church is changing proving that they were right all along and the Church was wrong. 5. There is great confusion among faithful Catholics. 6. The Vatican has to do damage control – pointing out (usually with little success) that the pope’s words were taken out of context or deliberately misquoted. 7. The Vatican (and all others in authority) then attempt to try to explain the various levels of authority of papal and ecclesial statements. 8. Confusion and misinformation remain. 9. The Church’s teachings remain intact but still widely ignored, misunderstood and unappreciated.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Catholic doctrine is not something that can be easily reduced to a 20 or 30 second news blurb or sound bite. Surprising to many, Catholic doctrine is neither “conservative” nor “liberal”! Those are generally political terms that do not adequately or accurately describe Catholic teaching. Likewise, Catholic doctrine is not determined by popularity polls. The truthfulness of the Church’s teachings is not dependent upon people’s approval or adherence. Just because most people tell lies does not make lying OK! The teachings of the Catholic Church are true not because the Church teaches them. The Catholic Church teaches the doctrines of the Church because they are true!
In our contemporary society, we erroneously and arrogantly believe that we can change anything and everything. The standard by which we change things is not a universal or transcendent standard but usually one that merely suits our individual and momentary likes or dislikes, our comfort, pleasure and ease. Indeed, thanks to technology and the liberty we enjoy, we are able to change many things in our everyday lives to suit our individualistic appetites, desires and wants. There are some things however that we cannot change. We cannot change nature. Nature is nature. We cannot change truth. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time. It is either true or it is false. We cannot change God. We can ignore nature, truth and God. We can rebel and fight against nature, truth and God, but we cannot change them. God is the creator of nature and God is the author of truth. Perhaps, all of those who rejoice at the ersatz news of “pseudo papal pronouncements” and all of those who become angry and disillusioned at the same should take some time and reflect on the actual teachings of the Church. Go to the source – not FOX or CNN or even Wikipedia – pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Reflect on why the Catholic Church’s teachings are the church’s teaching. What is the good behind these teachings? What is saving and beneficial for those who accept and live by these teachings? Then, pray for the grace to know, understand and live these beautiful teachings.
I won’t hold my breath for the headline “Catholic Church Teaches Truth!” But I am happy that it does.
In pace Christi,