I’ve written more than a few posts recently criticizing the Catholic right, and I meant every word. However, I am not saying that every conservative Catholic has gone astray. Some conservatives are faithful to the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, and others are only “faithful” to their own understanding of Catholicism and to the “teachings” of the conservative Catholic subculture. On the Catholic right, that is to say, among the most conservative Catholics, there is the wheat and the chaff.
The serious problems on the Catholic right include:
* the assumption that the conservative answer to every question of faith, morals, or salvation is always the correct answer
* the assumption that liberalism equals unfaithfulness (or even heresy)
* the substitution of the ideas of the conservative Catholic subculture for the Magisterium — to such an extent that if the Magisterium dares to teach anything contrary to the accepted pseudo-dogmas of that subculture, the Magisterium is deemed to have gone astray
* the acceptance and promotion of conservative teachers of Catholicism, even when they are teaching heresy, as long as they hit all the popular conservative talking points.
* the exaltation of conservatism over Catholicism
* the dogmatization of every conservative interpretation of Tradition, Scripture, and magisterial teaching
* the complete disregard for any theological argument to the contrary
* the willingness to reject the teachings of an Ecumenical Council or a Pope, whenever those teachings disagree with accepted ideas among conservatives
But there are faithful Catholics among conservatives. I consider myself to be a conservative Catholic. But I am not a slave to the conservative subculture. I don’t exalt the Vetus Ordo as if its good and holy aspects of discipline were dogma. I like Latin; but I don’t worship Latin or the Latin Mass. And I don’t think Latin is any better than other languages. I don’t confuse discipline with doctrine.
I love the teachings of Second Vatican Council, because I see in those teachings the subtle and profound wisdom of the Holy Spirit. I have read, studied, and used the teachings of Vatican II in my theology for many years. I don’t find those documents to be “vague” or “poorly-written” or “ambiguous” or “merely pastoral”. And many of the teachings of Vatican II, at this point in time, are now infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium. So the rejection of the teachings of Vatican II is heresy.
I am not “unsettled” or “disturbed” or “confused” by the teachings and comments of Pope Francis. I find nothing wrong in anything he has said so far. He is a liberal but orthodox Pope.
On the Catholic right, there is the wheat and the chaff. Far be it from me to judge each individual conservative Catholic, to decide if he is wheat or chaff. But I discern the work of the providence and grace of God in choosing a liberal orthodox Pope at this point in time. God intends to separate the wheat from the chaff. And then the distinction will be clearly seen.
Sooner or later, Pope Francis will issue one or more papal documents containing true teachings of the Magisterium that contradict the assumptions and pseudo-dogmas of the conservative Catholic subculture. Then we will see which conservative Catholics are truly faithful to the Church, and which are only faithful to the distorted version of Catholicism promoted by the conservative subculture.
Pope Francis (or a future Pope) might teach that the Church has the authority to ordain women to the deaconate. And he might then change Canon Law to permit the ordination of women deacons. The Magisterium has infallibly taught that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. But ordination to the deaconate is a separate question.
Pope Francis might teach that a non-Christian can be saved, without converting to Christianity, by the love of God and neighbor, and by invincible ignorance. Pope Francis might teach that an atheist or agnostic can be saved, without converting to belief in God, by the love of neighbor, which is always also, at least implicitly, the love of God, and by invincible ignorance. If you would like to read a faithful but moderate (not conservative) view of Roman Catholic salvation theology, see my book: Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone (in print and in Kindle format). This book challenges conservative (and some liberal) assumptions about salvation.
Or Pope Francis might teach some other truth found in Tradition and Scripture, but one which contradicts accepted ideas found in the conservative Catholic subculture.
How will conservatives react? Some will accept this teaching by their exercise of the virtue of faith, even if it contradicts their own reasonings. Others will claim that the Pope must have fallen into heresy; they can’t imagine that they could be wrong or that the Pope could understand the Faith better than the conservative Catholic subculture. This attitude of exalting the conservative or ultra-conservative consensus on questions of faith and morals is already easily seen on many blogs, discussion groups, and other websites. This attitude of treating the Pope as if he were the servant of conservatism, and as if they were his judges, is already clear.
I am certain that many, but not all, of the most conservative Catholics will fall away from the Church soon. For many have already departed from the Church in their hearts and minds. They do not follow the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, but only the distorted interpretation of those teachings found in the conservative Catholic subculture.
Pope Francis is a winnowing fan in the hand of Christ Jesus. The wheat will be separated from the chaff. Which are you?