A very good reflection by Michael Voris.
I witnessed this eight years ago, and of course we are all seeing it transpire again today. I remember toward the end of Blessed John Paul II's pontificate, some "Catholics" here in the America, particularly those of the more "cafeteria" persuasion, were lamenting it. I remember comments to the extend of: "the pope needs to retire!" And "how long can he last!?!" I remember thinking to myself: "why don't you just come out and say what you really feel? When will the pope hurry up and die already?" Some of them actually did say that in more or less words -- believe it or not. When the broken body of Blessed John Paul II finally did expire, I remember a very odd kind of elation on the part of some of these people. They acted mournful on the surface, almost too mournful, but gave themselves away with subtle slips of the tongue: "Maybe we'll get somebody better now." It was an ugly side to Western Catholicism that I'll never forget.
These comments came mainly from cafeteria Catholics of all stripes. Some hadn't been to mass in years. Others attended faithfully, but openly challenged the Church on every social issue imaginable. I remember one, in particular, who boasted loudly, "I'm a Catholic" almost thumping his chest, "I was even an altar boy!" as if that made some kind of difference, "but I don't believe the pope is infallible!" bragging about his ignorance of Church teaching. Such people often throw around the typical banter "the Church needs to modernise and get with the times," each time they say it acting as though it's the first time it's ever been said. "A woman would make just as good of a priest as any man." "The Church needs to get out of my bedroom!" The list goes on and on. Probably what I find the most remarkable is how almost every cafeteria Catholic seems to think he/she is so original, and spouts this stuff off as if nobody has ever heard it before. They seem to be blind to the fact that they are probably the most unoriginal people on the planet! The world is literally full of them! If I had a nickel for every time I heard one of them, well, I would have a lot of nickels. They're everywhere! Like lemmings on a rampage. The only question is, who is their leader? It's certainly not the pope! That much we can know for sure.
Hidden within the comments of these quasi-Catholics is an error that one might more typically find among Protestants. They seem to believe that the pope rules the Catholic Church like an absolute monarch. Whatever he says goes, and he is accountable to nobody. So, they surmise, if we could just get a new pope (the "right" pope in their minds), we can change the doctrine of the Catholic Church into whatever we want. Just get the right man into office, and presto! You now have a whole new religion. This is what I call the "Dial a pope, get a new doctrine" heresy. It never fails. Every time there is a papal conclave, these people come out of the woodwork like cockroaches. You see their talking heads on television news networks, blathering on and on and on.... Then you hear their voices on the radio, and read their comments in the newspapers or on the Internet. If only the cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel knew what kind of circus was going on outside. I'm sure they have a clue, but I don't think they really know. If they did, they might be inclined to issue some kind of disclaimer before closing the doors of the Sistine Chapel. Perhaps it would read something like: "As we enter into our deliberations on electing the new pontiff, please be advised that we are all fully Catholic, and therefore, we are likely to elect the man we believe to be the strongest Catholic among us. All media statements to the contrary should be considered null and void." Yeah, I would like to see something like that. The priests and bishops outside could read it aloud, over and over again, every time some media know-it-all blathers on about how we need this or that kind of pope.
Obviously, anyone who knows anything about the Catholic Church should have enough good sense to tell you the "dial a pope, get a new doctrine" notion is nothing but nonsense. It just doesn't work that way. Popes, while they do have a lot of power, are accountable for their actions. Naturally, they are accountable to Jesus Christ, first and foremost, but he is not the only one. They are also accountable to their brother cardinals who elected them. If a pope started drifting off the rails, he could expect some private counsel from his closest advisers and high ranking cardinals. If he really drifted off the rails, he might even get some public criticism from them. You see, popes are bound by the traditions and teachings of the popes who preceded them, and they cannot (I repeat CANNOT) teach something that is direct opposition to what is already considered an infallible teaching of the Church. Case in point, let's take an indisputable doctrine for example. Let's take the dogma of the Trinity. The Trinity has been defined as infallible dogma since the earliest days of the Church. Now let's suppose we get a pope, who for some inexplicable reason, decides to teach against the Trinity. I don't know, maybe it's a subtle heresy like Modelism for example, which denies the doctrine of the Trinity (three Persons but one God) and instead teaches that God is one person who just reveals himself in three different ways throughout history. To a person who is not Catholic, or not well educated in Christian doctrine in general, this might not seem like such a big deal. However, to those acquainted with Church teaching, this would be a VERY BIG DEAL! The pope would find himself no longer being the pope. In fact, his entire papacy would immediately come into question. The college of cardinals would turn against him. A new conclave would be called, perhaps even an ecumenical Church council, with or without the "pope's" approval. The man currently sitting on the Chair of Peter would be declared an Antipope, and a new pope would be elected to take his place. That erupting chaos that would follow in the Catholic Church would be unparallelled in modern history, but it wouldn't be without total precedence. Similar things have happened before during the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church eventually recovered from them even stronger than before.
My point here is that popes are accountable men. They're not even elected pope unless they've already proved their accountability in some way. To say that getting a new pope will result in new doctrines, or a radical change of teaching in the Church, is the epitome of ignorance. That's just not how things work. Let us not forget the Holy Spirit, who protects a validly elected pope from making such egregious errors.
The truth is, a good number of quasi-Catholics (cafeteria Catholics) want a lot of changes in the Church. They want the Church to loosen up on abortion, gay-marriage, homosexuality in general, artificial contraception, etc. They also want the Church to start ordaining women to the priesthood, and openly permit gay priests to minister. In effect, what they really want is a Catholic Church that matches virtually every other institution in the Western world. They want a Catholic Church that bows down to the culture, and all the while they think they are so "original" and "unique" for advocating such a thing. Here is a news flash to those people... That point of view is nothing new. People have been advocating it for 2,000 years. You may now join the ranks of millions who have gone down in history as the heretics and apostates of their time.
I bring all this up today because of the latest news reports concerning the recently elected Pope Francis. I've watched with disgust as the Western news media has played favourites with the last two popes. Pope Benedict XVI they hated, depicting him as a heartless old man, out of touch with reality and the modern world. Conversely, they've depicted Pope Francis as a new, hip and more lovable character who is open to change and understands the people. I find this narrative repulsive and categorically untrue. Many of these things Pope Francis has said are virtually identical to things Pope Benedict XVI said. The only difference is, when Benedict said them, the news media ignored it. When Francis said them, the news media shouted it in headlines around the world. Likewise, when Benedict excommunicated some priest for heresy, the media decried the "injustice" and "backwardness" of Rome. But when Francis did the same thing, the media fell silent. Am I the only one that sees this? It's a game people! The news media is playing us, manipulating us, and attempting to form our opinions for us. When it comes to the difference between Benedict and Francis, almost all of it is style and personality. Substantively, in practise and action, there is virtually no difference at all, or at least, there hasn't been so far. It makes one wonder what the media hopes to accomplish with this manipulation game. I'm not sure exactly, but I do know that many of these quasi-Catholics (cafeteria Catholics) do occupy rather high positions in the media. Could this be part of their attempt to "dial a pope, get a new doctrine?" I suspect it is.
What is equally frustrating is how easily conservative and traditional people fall into this medial trap. Relying almost solely on what the mainstream news media says, a source that has proved unreliable time and time again, they formulate their opinions based on this. I recently read a short opinion article by Jerome Corsi, a correspondent for what I can only describe as a popular Evangelical news source called WorldNetDaily. The news organisation itself may oppose my description of them as "Evangelical" here, but I call them as I see them. In the article (see here) Corsi latches on to the infamous (and probably fraudulent) prophecy of Saint Malachy, and drawing his opinions about Francis straight from the secular Western news media, he muses on the possibility that this pope may be the last pope ever. On the same note, we have seen dozens of commentaries from traditional Catholics who lament the retirement of Benedict and eagerly await the retirement (or passing) of Francis as well. All of this based on how the Western news media portrays him, twists his words, interprets his actions, and omits those portions that don't fit their manipulative narrative. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousands times, one simply does not believe what the Western news media reports about the pope -- any pope. If you want to know what the pope really said, or did, go to a recognised Catholic news source, or to the Vatican news outlet itself. These days, even the formerly communist newspapers of Russia do a better job reporting on the pope than the Western news outlets. That's saying a lot.
I'm going to go ahead and stick my neck out here and make a few predictions about Pope Francis. If I'm wrong, you'll know soon enough, and I'll eat my words. If I'm right, well, again you'll know soon enough. I'm going to predict that Pope Francis is neither conservative nor liberal. He's a Catholic and he is orthodox. I'm also going to predict that while in style he is very different from Benedict, in substance he is not so different at all. Seeing as how they are both still alive, it almost reminds me of a "good cop, bad cop" routine, wherein Benedict plays the role of the "bad cop" while Francis plays the roll of the "good cop," but both having the same mind and intention when dealing with things. This analogy breaks down a bit, as the former pope now lives in seclusion, but it would seem the popular Western news media is unwittingly doing the work for him in his absence, depicting him as the "bad cop" based on his previous pontifical acts. Seeing as how he is not dead yet, there is no need to act mournful and respectful toward him, so they just speak their mind, portraying him as they want. I'm going to predict that stylistically, Pope Francis will continue to play the role of what some would like to call "the hippy pope" (not my description), or the "good pope" as the media would have us believe. In pontifical acts however, he will be quite regimented and orthodox, excommunicating at least as many dissidents as Benedict XVI, if not more so. I predict he will make no major changes to the traditional liturgy liberalised by Pope Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum, and if anything he will assist the blossoming Anglican ordinariates created by his predecessor in Anglicanorum Coetibus. (He has done this once already.) I predict his attempt to streamline the Curia of the Vatican will result in a much more "no-nonsense" hierarchy, and I suspect this will be followed by a crackdown on the administrative roles of bishops around the world. Now here is my radical prediction. I predict, that by the end of his pontificate (assuming it is not cut short prematurely) that Catholic politicians (in many countries) who support abortion, euthanasia, homosexual "marriage," and unjust wars, will be excommunicated, or at least openly threatened with it. Yes, I'm really going out there with this one, but there it is. All the while, we are going to see a Church that is more engaged in the inner cities and a hierarchy that is calling for more public assistance to the poor and disadvantaged. The latter part is already widespread, and I predict no change in the opposite direction in this. If anything, I suspect it will be more so. I also predict an attempt to rescue some points of "Liberation Theology" from the outright socialism that often accompanies it. This process was begun by Pope Benedict XVI and will likely continue under Pope Francis.
So there you have it. That's my thinking on the matter, and I believe I have more credible evidence to support my point of view than cafeteria Catholics who want a liberal pope, and both Protestant and Catholic conservatives who fear this pope might be too liberal. To everyone reading this I say we should not read too much into what this pope says. If you read anything he says, go to trusted Catholic media, not the secular Western media. Rather, pay more attention to what he does! This pope is a man who defines himself by actions not words. So in the weeks and months ahead -- watch that.
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