It's hard to escape the madness in Rome, the madness those people in Rome - both prelates and journalists cannot get enough of. My inbox is full of articles on it; Facebook; the news sites, both Catholic and secular.
I don't want to hear about it anymore. I am trying to avoid it but people keep pulling me back in.
Let me just say this, as a theologian I ought to say at least something for those who don't know.
1) There will always be wars and rumors of wars (Mt 24:6). You won't click on a site that doesn't say something about the Church perhaps reconsidering X or Y. When is the last time you clicked on a site that said nothing has changed in Ottawa, Washington, Poland, Syria...? Why would news on the Church be any different. You got to sell papers and ads on websites. Sensationalizing. That's been the case since I was first brought into the Church. I didn't understand it then, but I do now.
2) We may have a bad pope who has failed to teach the greatness of the Gospel. By 'may' I mean it is doctrinally possible. We have had many ineffective teachers in the past. It is doubtful that we have such a pope now. It may be 1% his fault that the synod has gotten and is daily getting bad press; 10%, 50%, 99%. No one can control the press, just as even great bishops cannot control all nay-sayers, like Archbishop Prendergast cannot (nor should he try). But when a Pope says 'full freedom' to express themselves, there are certain things presupposed in this that every bishop and cardinal presuppose: 1) these prelates know the Faith, 2) desire the Faith be propagated. I think every pope has a right to assume that.
Now the National Post is carrying a story by the Associated Press that wants to hint that the prelates are focusing on the positive aspects of homosexual relationships. It is entirely possible that 1) a prelate said something to this effect, 2) something to this effect will make its way into the final document of the synod. This would be unfortunate. The Church is not in the habit of saying that there are also good aspect in the devil, in war, in pollution, etc., although, of course, there are. It would be imprudent to the extreme for the Church to do this. Any idiot can see that. If the pope permits such a thing that would be remarkably imprudent, as he should have learned from the 'who am I to judge' thing, and, let us not forget, Benedict XVI did with the male prostitute condom thing.
It's not possible to control how information is passed on, but neither can we be foolish. Leo XIII was faced with massive problems relating to communism and workers' rights, an impossible course to navigate, but somehow he managed it, by the grace of Christ. No one concluded support for communism from Rerum Novarum, and yet, yes, for the rights of workers and the dignity of work. No one concluded from Evangelium Vitae an overturning of just war theory, but the dignity of human life was expressed nowhere more powerfully or eloquently.
I have taught in classrooms and now I write and publish daily. I am misunderstood all the time, even by interpreters of goodwill. Some interpreters manipulate what they know to be true for ulterior reasons. They will always be servants of the devil, but never mind them. Sometimes I like to be misunderstood, because I like to provoke reactions and debate. In such cases my goal is a greater engagement with the truth. Jesus did this all the time - like when he called a non-Jew a dog. (Mt 15:21-8) You get misunderstood no matter how hard you try, and we cannot refuse to speak out of fear of this. People interpret things. I was accused of heresy at OLSWA periodically. I was accused to being too harsh and too soft many times teaching elsewhere. Just like JP II, B XVI and F I. These things happen. To Jesus too and St. Paul and St. Ignatius of Loyola, and so on.
But none of this negates the possibility that we have a bad pope, a stupid pope. It is still a doctrinal possibility. What minimizes the possibility is two things: 1) nothing from his past indicates either stupidity, or priestly or doctrinal incompetence. Saint Benedict Press just sent me an e-copy of Bergoglio's List, which I hope to start reading very soon. Based upon the rough summary of the book's contents, one may easily see that Bergoglio is not the type of Christian who is light on the faith and morals even in the face of deadly opposition. I shall let you know in the Christmas edition of the Catholic Review of Books how this book turns out.
Now, let me pour out my scorn upon the prelates who get a rush from being admired for their compassion. Wanting to appear compassionate is wanting to live without humility. Court dandies never change.
I think in time we will see Bergoglio's dark side. Dark is good here; it is for a modern pope, the only person who is able to hold back the gates of hell that come in the form of relativism. It is eminently kind to be unkind now. And soon we will see his unkindness and that will be a great blessing to the world.
We can have a bad and stupid pope, but God will not do that to us right now. He sends bad and stupid popes when we can afford them.