In the tumultuous 1960s — when some of the Vatican’s prelates began taking unusually liberal positions on economic and social issues — a phrase coined by Garry Wills and popularized by William F. Buckley became popular among conservative Catholics: mater si, magistra no.
Translated from the Latin, it means “mother yes, teacher no.” The phrase acknowledges that while the Catholic Church is an important religious institution that’s currently well into its third millennia, its temporal leaders can occasionally be a little flaky.
Thusly, while you can acknowledge Rome as your spiritual home, following the dictums of whoever happens to be in power at the Vatican at the moment might not just be the best idea, it’s also unnecessary for the practicing Catholic.
If you want an example of this, take Pope Francis. The current pontiff has been so aimlessly liberal that even Bernie Sanders might tell the Vicar of Christ to slow his roll.
His latest controversial statement: God made a Chilean man gay. It also so happens that this man was sexual abused by a priest in yet another blot upon the church’s inability to police its own clergy. (Or call the police on them, which might have been a better idea.)
According to Fox News, el papa made the remarks to Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean man who suffered molestation at the hands of the clergy. Pope Francis was visiting the South American country earlier this year in part to run some serious damage control for (yet another) a massive sexual abuse scandal.
However, that wasn’t the only controversy Pope Francis was dealing with by the time he left Chile. According to Cruz, during their conversation, the pope told him, “Juan Carlos, I don’t care about you being gay. God made you that way and loves you as you are and I don’t mind. The pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are.”
This, you may not be surprised to learn, is not the position of the Catholic Church. While the Vatican fully admits that the “an exhaustive treatment of this complex issue cannot be attempted” in church letters and documents, the church still holds that homosexuality is a “moral disorder” which “prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God.”
Church documents do note, quite rightly, that LGBT individuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” However, they add that the Bible and established catechism maintains that, in order not to avoid sin, homosexual individuals “are called to chastity” so that they may “gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
These official positions doesn’t appear to be anything close to what Pope Francis was telling Cruz (or anyone else who asks, for that matter).
Of course, one could expect no less from someone who once said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about LGBT individuals during impromptu remarks to the press aboard a plane in 2013.
As for the current kerfuffle, the Los Angeles Times reported the church would neither confirm nor deny the exchange; “We don’t normally comment on the pope’s private conversations,” a Vatican spokesman said.
The Catholic Church has explicitly stated that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” (‘Intrinsically disordered,’ for readers working themselves into a foaming, towering PC-based rage, is specific Catholic phraseology referring not to the person committing the act but to the fact that there is no circumstance under which said act can be considered conducive to a healthy spiritual life.)
God loves us too much to leave us the way that we are. It’s a cliche, but there’s a reason it’s a cliche — it’s true. If you don’t believe the Catholic Church’s teachings on the matter, you certainly don’t have have to be a part of the Catholic Church. That is a choice you yourself have to make.
However, catechism is pretty clear on this — the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross washes us from all of our sins and activities that lead to an unhealthy spiritual life. Also, the spiritual guidelines of the Catholic Church specifically define marriage between one man and one woman, who are supposed to be chaste when they enter into marriage, and are supposed to remain married for the rest of their natural life unless they attain an annulment from the church. The church doesn’t actively persecute people who don’t follow these strictures, they simply lay them out there as guidelines for a healthy religious life.
If this is something you don’t feel is right for you, you can simply stop attending services. And if the religion doesn’t confer its unalloyed blessing upon you, well, that’s how faith works. Religion is supposed to change you, not the other way around.
By the way, for all of those liberals ready to gleefully pull out the whole papal infallibility card (something that usually goes unmentioned when the church talks about abortion), let a former Catholic drop a little bit of unfortunate truth on you: Papal infallbility is one one of the most overhyped and underexplicated pieces of religious dogma that exists in the world today.
The pope’s “infallibility” only applies to an insanely limited number of issues decided ex cathedra (literally “from the chair”). The number of ex cathedra decisions can be counted on one hand and have to do with the religious status of the Virgin Mary.
So, while the Los Angeles Times remarked that Francis’ past comments represented “a sea change in Catholic views on sexual orientation” and his remarks to Cruz “pushing the pontiff’s acceptance of homosexuality to a new level,” it actually has nothing to do with what the Catholic Church currently teaches or has been teaching for millennia. It has to do with what Pope Francis is willing to say at any given moment.
Oh, and Pope Francis’ sudden statement on whether or not God creates people with specific sexual orientations have a certain whiff of convenience about them, given the situation in Chile. As the LA Times reported, “Cruz endured sexual abuse as a youth in Chile by prelate Fernando Karadima, who was sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to a lifetime of penance.
“The Vatican did not, however, believe his claim that the abuse was witnessed and covered up by Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. Francis appointed Barros bishop of the town of Osorno in 2015, hugged him publicly during his visit to Chile in January and dismissed accounts by Cruz and other victims as ‘slander,'” the article continued.
“But as public fury in Chile grew, Francis in February dispatched an abuse investigator to interview the victims, inviting them to Rome, admitting he had made ‘serious mistakes.'”
Yes, one might say that — especially given when the Vatican is embracing child abusers and their enablers, sentencing them to “a lifetime of penance” instead of letting the courts sentence them to a lifetime (or a decent chunk of it) in a penitentiary.
While the left oohs and ahhs about Pope Francis directly contradicting the teaching of his own church, they mostly ignored the fact that every single Chilean bishop offered their resignation due to the sex abuse scandal in the country, a practically unprecedented move. Considering that the scandal dates from the 1980s and 1990s, it’s good to see the church has been acting with all due rapidity on this.
Mater si, magistra maxima no.
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