Thursday, September 3, 2015


Every now and then I pray that news agencies will hire somebody who knows the Catholic faith well before attempting to write a report on it.*  The simplest misunderstanding of a word can lead to grave mis-reporting.

Let's take just one example:  Who does the Catholic Church refer to when she says, "Church."

This is extremely important when considering sentences such as, "Will Pope Francis change Church teaching?"  The very phrasing of the sentence shows a Protestant mindset not consistent with the Catholic Church.  As we have seen, whether it be a storefront Church or a mainstream Protestant Church, tectonic shifts in what is considered core beliefs can change often by having a vote.  The Church, having come to a new understanding of what God intends, can take a vote and change what the Church believes.

When the Catholic Church says "Church," she does not mean Pope Francis.  She does not mean those "old men in Rome."  She does not mean all of the clergy and religious throughout the world.  She does not only mean every single Catholic alive in the world.  For the Catholic, the Church refers to every member of the Catholic Church who has ever lived.  St. Peter's mother-in-law is still a member of the Church.  A milkmaid in the middle ages is still a member of the Church.  My deceased Mother is still a member of the Church and still has a vote.  G. K. Chesterton called this the Democracy of the Dead.  What they held as true to the faith must be held by us and by those who come after us or the true faith has not only been unknown, it is unknowable.
It is categorically wrong to think that Pope Francis is going to change Church teaching.  Church discipline?  Maybe.  The WAY the faith is taught?  Sure.  But that he could change a doctrine?  It is impossible.  You might as well ask if he is going to change the laws of the universe.  The laws of the universe are not his to change nor is he capable.

Someone might point out to you something about the infallibility of the pope - another thing that is gravely misunderstood.  One of the very definitions of an infallible statement is that it does not contradict 2,000 years of Catholic teaching.  If it does so, it is not an infallible statement by definition.

Will Pope Francis change Church teaching?  That is the wrong question to ask.

* But not all the time because I would have a difficult time finding fodder for the blog.

No comments: