When Pope Francis speaks, the world listens. Well…usually. What really happens is that people often hear what they want to hear. I’m probably just as guilty of this as a lot of people. I know I listen for confirmation of orthodox Catholicism. But I don’t ignore the parts that challenge me as a Catholic Christian. Pope Francis certainly does challenge us to be more merciful and charitable, which is not nearly as easy as it sounds. But the reason for this blog is to discuss the fact that some people manipulate what the Pope has said in order to fool themselves and others into the idea that Pope Francis condones behavior that is contrary to God’s plan and Christ’s word and example.
I am talking about people from the liberal bent such as Bob Shine, Justin Lee, Eugene Robinson, Matthew Vines, Frances Kissling and dozens of others who try to twist Christianity into something they can accept. Lemmings such as Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Joe Biden seem all too eager to follow those who misinterpret the Gospel instead of taking time to read the Gospel themselves. People like Hillary Clinton, Cecil Richards, Warren Buffett and President Obama don’t even appear to care about the Gospel.
You can call these people liberals, activists, relativists, fools or worse, but the best way to define their true ideology is: Progressivism. Progressivism is the belief that progress in science, technology, economic development, and social organization is the answer to all the problems in the world.
Progressivism’s popularity expanded rapidly during the Age of Enlightenment. People like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Maximilien Robespierre believed that societies could achieve civilization by improving and strengthening knowledge. Knowledge was to be the foundation of society. In other words, Robespierre would not have allowed, “In God We Trust” to appear on the money of his French Republic. The French Republic’s One Franc Note would have probably said, “In Knowledge We Trust”. Figures of the Enlightenment believed that progress had universal application to all societies and that these ideas would spread across the world from Europe. The revolutionaries of the French Revolution rejected all forms of Christianity, especially Catholicism. Robespierre developed a new deity for France called the “Supreme Being”, which developed into a new pseudo-religion called “The Cult of the Supreme Being”. The ideology was that the people of France could achieve pure virtue through knowledge, civic-minded fidelity to justice, liberty and fairness apart from all Christian concepts of truth, morality and goodness.
In the end, Robespierre could not resist the allure of the power the “Supreme Being” could wield if the people of France could be influenced to follow his newly created false god. Therefore, he attempted to be recognized as the leader of the new “state religion” of France on June 8, 1794. It was on this date that all of France was required to gather and celebrate the inaugural festival of “The Cult of the Supreme Being”. When Robespierre presented himself to the people as the Supreme Being, they were repulsed and reacted quickly. Robespierre lost his head to the guillotine less than two months later. Maybe this is what Richard Dawkins is talking about when he says “god is dead”. I could go on about the French Revolution even more, but that isn’t the topic of this blog.
People Who Should Know Better
The topic is the distortion of Christianity by people who should know better. This cannot be truly understood until you see that it isn’t simply liberal ideology that causes the distortion, it is progressivism. And you can’t understand progressivism until you look at history such as the French Revolution and the cultural revolution we experienced in the U.S. in the 1960’s. But keep in mind that these are not the two defining sources of progressivism. Progressivism has been around for thousands of years and these are simply two of the more recent and most prominent events in history which increased its attractiveness to people who should know better.
The people who should know better are university and college professors, political officials, government officials, lawyers and those in the media and entertainment industries. Unfortunately, each of these fields are heavily populated with people who harbor some level of the progressive ideology and most of them are on the extreme end of the scale, which would classify them as fanatical. Maybe fanatic is too strong a word. Let’s just say they are devoted to their ideology.
The problem with Christianity in America today is that too many of us depend on someone to tell us what someone said or what someone meant by what they said. In the legal system, we call this hearsay, and it is known to be so unreliable that you can’t use it in a court of law. Our judges do an excellent job of keeping hearsay out of the courts.
But there are no disinterested third parties keeping an eye on the news media. Knowing this, our news sources do not simply report the news. Almost all of them write or tell a story about what they believe to have happened, what they believe someone said or what they believe something means. And because the media (in general) is run by progressives, they are really fond of things like abortion, contraception, consumerism, homosexual behavior and silencing Christians. Therefore, the media tends to celebrate things that can be used to further these behaviors and distort anything that will help people see that these behaviors are harmful.
We used to have journalists providing the news to us, but now we have storytellers, and the storytellers (who still consider themselves journalists, reporters and people of integrity) inject their agenda into everything they present. They do this by ignoring truth and promoting half-truths or outright misinformation. An example of journalism is the interview Mike Wallace conducted with the Black Widow otherwise known as Margaret Sanger. Wallace asked questions that would have sent Cecile Richards marching off the set in a rage. There are few journalists who would have the professionalism, courage and skill to conduct such an interview today. They would need nearly miraculous courage because their career would almost immediately end and they would be relegated to working as a free-lance journalist in the much smaller Christian news market.
Who am I to judge?
Pope Francis poses a particularly difficult situation to the storytellers. He sometimes says things that can sound unorthodox. But when you read his entire statement, you see that he was not promoting a new teaching, he was simply teaching the Gospel to people who refuse to accept the Gospel or have so little familiarity with it that it just sounds bizarre to them. The most famous example of this is the Pope’s statement on his way home from Brazil in the summer of 2013, when he was asked about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and responded with a long response that included the phrase, “Who am I to judge”. To a Christian and especially a Catholic Christian, the Pope’s statement does not sound radical. But to a progressive, it sounds like the shot heard around the world.
I’ve had over a dozen conversations in the past 18 months in which someone has quoted those 5 words from Pope Francis as definitive evidence that he is poised to single-handedly flip the Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior. Most of these people have little or no recollection of anything Pope Francis has said since that plane ride in 2013. Why would they when it actually takes quite a bit of effort to locate the Pope’s statements? You see, the storytellers in the media only report two things about Pope Francis: They report short statements that they can take out of context, such as “Who am I to judge”; and they report what they interpret the Pope to mean. When they cannot take one of his statements out of context and when they cannot twist their interpretation to somehow support progressivism, they ignore it completely. This is why you do not see major news outlets reporting that Pope Francis calls on Catholics to defend marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. This is why you don’t see stories about Pope Francis speaking in favor of life and against abortion, contraception and euthanasia. The fact is, Pope Francis is defending marriage, life, family and children. He’s talking about these things, but the press is ignoring it. You will not see the NBC Nightly News reporting the Pope’s recent speeches and homilies in the Philippines, such as:
“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life”.
“Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.”
“[Catholics need to] proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
How could a progressive take those three statements from January 16, 2015, and make them fit with, “Who am I to judge”? They can’t. Only a Catholic with a decent understanding of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality can see these statement as consistent with the Pope’s other statements on the issue and with the magisterium of the Church.
When the Pope said, “Who am I to Judge”, he was not talking about a situation where an active and unrepentant homosexual was the subject of discussion. In the Pope’s own words, he was talking about a person who had, “experienced a conversion”, has gone to confession and “seeks the Lord”. But do not try using CNN or The New York Times to find the rest of the Pope’s statement, because they don’t want you to know about it.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.- Jesus Christ
Pope Francis’ message of mercy and forgiveness is the same message in two recent films on homosexuality and the Catholic Church. These films are titled, The Third Way and Desire Of The Everlasting Hills. Again, don’t expect to hear anything about those through the media, at the Sundance Film Festival or any other industry that is run by progressives. I suggest you watch the films yourself by clicking on the links. You will find that the message is the same message that Pope Francis wants you to receive. We are incapable of seeing what is on the heart of another person and we cannot condemn anyone. In fact, we are called to mercy, repentance and forgiveness for ourselves and others.
Pope Francis talks about same-sex attracted people and the mercy and forgiveness they receive once they have repented. The movies show us the actual people who have received the mercy and forgiveness because they have repented and asked for forgiveness. The progressives would sell their souls for the opportunity to shoot a documentary or film about some LGBT activist who gets married to his or her partner in the Vatican, with the Pope presiding over the ceremony. It would be even better if it were two lesbian priestesses who had a few kids in tow. The problem is, such a script is based on fantasy, as is everything else in progressivism. Progressives are so good at deception, they usually deceive themselves.
The truth is that Pope Francis is not a progressive and he does not have any ability or interest in attempting to overturn 2000 years of Catholic doctrine. Pope Francis is a loyal son of the Church and his faith pours out of him wherever he goes, whether it is at an audience in the Piazza, a poor and downtrodden part of Rio or a prison or hospital to teach about the corporal works of mercy. Pope Francis helps people recognize the beauty of Divine Mercy and forgiveness in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately it seems that many progressives are trying to use Pope Francis as some sort of weapon against faithful Catholics. While this doesn’t do much harm to faithful Catholics, it can cause those who are on the fringe of the Universal Church some confusion.
The misinformation in the media, in the colleges and universities and in the entertainment industry can lead people to believe that God is changing to fall in line with their desires and intentions. While this can cause a temporary euphoria, it is no different than all the other promises of the world that are apart from God. Worldly promises lead to discouragement, despair, addiction and all kinds of other really negative consequences. Such is always the case when people place their trust in fiction and fantasy. And although I’m no historian, I feel confident in saying that there has never been a group who has put more trust in fantasy than the progressives have.
Don’t Drink the Kool Aid.
Here is a possible solution to this. Instead of getting your religious news from secular media, go straight to the source. If the news is about Pope Francis or any other pope, bishop, encyclical or doctrine, go to the Vatican website or the official Vatican News, www.news.va. If it is about some broader aspect of the Church such as a saint, a small “t” tradition, theologian or priest, go to an authentically Catholic source such as the National Catholic Register (not to be confused with the National Catholic Reporter. Reporter rhymes with “distorter” for a reason), www.catholic.com, EWTN or your local Catholic radio station. Above all, you have to read the actual document from which the writer or speaker has gotten their information. If they are referring to a homily or a speech given by Pope Francis, you can find those at www.vatican.va. If they have referred to an encyclical, letter or any other writing, you can find those on the Vatican website as well. What you will find is that the Catholic reporter or speaker will stick to the words of Pope Francis and he or she will do so in context. The secular reporter will often be a little more general with the Pope’s words and he or she will often take them out of context. Additionally, the Catholic will write or speak about the Pope’s defense of life, marriage, family, etc…, whereas the secular reporter won’t even notice that the Pope said that, “every threat to family is a threat to society itself.”
Do yourself a favor and look for the good, the beautiful and the true in the world. Leave fantasy up to the progressives because they are going to need you to help them pick up all the broken pieces of their life when the promise of the world leave them empty and hurting.
Step Back and See For Yourself.
This is a great time of year (January) to put my theory to the test. And here is how you can do it. On Thursday, January 22, 2015, approximately 500,000 Pro-Life advocates will start marching down the street in Washington, D.C. We all know that Washington, D.C., is one of the most saturated news markets in the United States. If a tourist slips past the first security checkpoint of the Capital, we have 500 photographs and 2 hours of video to watch. But when 500,000 people show up to call attention to the lie of abortion, every news outlet on the East Coast has the day off. Any reporting that does take place is a travesty.
On January 25, 2013, approximately 900 people gathered outside the Capital building to protest guns. The next day, 650,000 pro-lifers marched up Constitution Avenue. But the news outlets didn’t see any difference in the participants in the two events and simply reported that “thousands” turned out for each “protest”. I’ve done the math and the Life March had 649,900 more people than the gun protest. Therefore, it is like comparing Denver Colorado (the 16th largest city in America), to a moderate sized high school.
Additionally, calling the Life March a “protest” is in itself, a show of bias. The Life March is only a protest to those who like abortion. For most Pro-Lifers, it is a march for life, not against anyone or anybody. In fact, it is a march to ask that we stop discriminating against babies based on their age, color and social status. But crafting language in order to “frame” the discussion is for another blog.
So this year, watch the news, the newspapers and the news feeds on January 22 and 23. If you do nothing more than take what the mainstream media wishes to provide, you won’t even know Washington, D.C., exists on those two dates. The President will probably be out of town and stories from all other parts of the world will attract much more attention than the largest march D.C., sees every year for the past 40 years. If a puppy is born with two tails in the Netherlands or if a cab driver in Tokyo hits a fire hydrant, you will hear all the details. It is kind of like the Kermit Gosnell trial. If Gosnell had been raping and murdering adults, the trial would have had coverage around the clock from day one of the trial. But because he was an abortion doctor who usually only killed babies, the trial was invisible until local outcry shamed the mainstream media into giving it some attention.
Synod On The Family
Nonetheless, the quotes I pulled from the Vatican News stories about Pope Francis’ defense of marriage, life and family give me a lot of hope for the Synod on the Family that will take place in Philadelphia later this year. I look forward to the strong message that will come out of that Synod and it could not come at a better time in America. Too bad the progressives won’t understand it.