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A Curious To-Do List

by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 22, 2015

In his remarks to a gathering of 130 bishops nominated over the past year, the Pope Like No Other reeled off a list of his concerns which reveals the disturbing orientation of this pontificate:

I am thinking of the dramatic challenge of globalization, which brings near those who are distant, and on the other hand separates those who are near; I am thinking of the epochal phenomenon of the migrations that upsets our times; I am thinking of the natural environment, garden that God has given as a habitation to the human being and to the other creatures and which is menaced by myopic and often predatory exploitation; I am thinking of the dignity and future of human work, of which whole generations are deprived, reduced to statistics; I am thinking of the desertification of relations, of the widespread lack of responsibility, of indifference to tomorrow, of the growing and fearful closure; of the loss of so many young people and of the loneliness of not a few elderly. I do not want to concentrate on such an agenda of tasks because I do not want to scare you... You are still on your honeymoon!

In short, the Pope wishes the bishops he has nominated as successors of the Apostles to address an “agenda of tasks” — after their “honeymoon” is over — consisting of the following:

  • globalization
  • the natural environment
  • the dignity and future of human work
  • the desertification of relations
  • the lack of responsibility
  • the indifference to tomorrow
  • the growing and fearful closure
  • the loss of so many young people
  • the loneliness of not a few elderly

Conspicuously missing from Francis’ to-do list is the very heart of the bishop’s mission, and that of the Church as a whole: the salvation of souls through the teaching, governance and sanctification of the Catholic faithful. We see here the same worldly orientation evident in the “Bolivian Manifesto,” the speech Francis delivered in Bolivia during the same visit at which he accepted and took back to Rome with him the infamous
Communist Crucifix” presented to him by Bolivia’s autocratic and anti-Catholic president. It was no “radical traditionalist” but the Pope’s own fellow Jesuit, James V. Schall, S.J., who said of that speech what applies with equal force to the remarks Francis made to the 130 bishops:

As far as I could judge, we find, in this particular address, almost no trace of traditional Christian concerns with personal virtue, salvation, sin, sacrifice, long-suffering, repentance, eternal life, or an abiding vale of tears. Sins and evils are transformed into social or ecological issues that require political and structural remedies.

Apparently of no pressing concern to Francis is the “silent apostasy” Pope John II lamented near the end of his life, which had led, as John Paul II put it in Ecclesia in Europa, to emergence of a “culture of death.”  Regarding that culture of death, John Paul condemned “the spread of abortion, also through the use of chemical-pharmaceutical preparations which make abortion possible without the involvement of a physician and in a way detached from any form of social responsibility.” Ironically enough, here John Paul referred to the outcome of a Synod­, that of 1999:

I gladly make my own these words of the Synod Fathers: “The Synod of European Bishops encourages Christian communities to become evangelizers of life. It encourages Christian couples and families to support one another in fidelity to their mission as cooperators with God in the generation and education of new creatures. It values every generous effort to react to a selfishness in the area of transmitting life encouraged by false models of security and happiness.

But neither the salvation of souls, nor the silent apostasy of the once Christian West, nor the scourge of abortion, nor, for that matter, the rapid advances of militant homosexualism all over the world, made it onto Francis’ checklist of evils to be remedied by his new bishops. Nor does his Synod of Doom seem likely to confront and resist those evils as opposed to finding ways to accommodate them.

Just as Father Schall observed regarding the “Bolivian Manifesto,” in this address to the new bishops — indeed, in the Bergoglian pontificate in general — there is “almost no trace of traditional Christian concerns with personal virtue, salvation, sin, sacrifice, long-suffering, repentance, eternal life, or an abiding vale of tears.”  On the contrary we see the very theme stated by Francis himself:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that…. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. 

While Francis obviously is not “obsessed” with abortion, “gay marriage” and the use of contraceptive methods — in short, an apocalyptic collapse of the moral order in once Christian nations — he is certainly preoccupied with other matters. But those matters have nothing to do with the Church’s mission of translating fallen men into the state of grace so that — provided they “persevere to the end,” as Our Lord admonished — they may attain the Beatific Vision.  And that is why this pontificate represents a new and even more perilous stage in the “fourth great crisis” in Church history.