I speak, of course, of Pope Francis. I’ve been marveling at how he just decided to go all Unum Sanctum on the Knights of Malta like that. If you don’t like condom peddling, you’re out on your ass, just like that! For decades, we’ve been watching as priests and religious orders openly defied Paul, John Paul II, and Benedict and got away with it. Then we’d say “Well, the Pope isn’t a dictator” or “Just wait–the Church thinks in centuries”. But you know what? Francis doesn’t think in centuries. He didn’t like the FFI, so he didn’t wait a hundred years to murder it. When he sensed resistance in the CDW and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute, he didn’t dialogue; he purged them. Not one at a time, either. All at once. Then he promises to closely monitor the JPII Institute to make sure they’re teaching his new depraved doctrine. Priests who don’t like it are suspended. See the decree suspending Father Medina. It strongly suggests that anyone who disagrees with Francis’ newfangled teachings is a schismatic and incurs latae sententiae excommunication. Expect to see that idea percolate up to the top. How new is the new normal? The pope’s own newspaper reprints a letter saying, basically, that it’s okay to have sex with a woman other than one’s wife as long as one feels at peace with God. “I am the tradition!” declared Pius IX, but can anyone imagine him thinking he could rewrite Catholicism like this? On the books, Pius IX was all-powerful, but the Church was never thought to be his to do with as he pleased.
I am struck by how insubstantial the past has come to feel. One used to have a sense that beliefs and practices that had existed for millennia, or even just centuries, were very solid, and if subject to change at all, only in a gradual, organic way. We would mock the ignorance and hubris of American politicians who would demand the Catholic Church change teachings as old as humanity to satisfy some ideological craze of the moment. Now, the past has lost its weight, while ideological crazes seem unstoppable. Those in power can overturn anything and everything with the stroke of a pen, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
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