Friday, August 4, 2017
Frank's Style of Governing. . .
I meant no disrespect in calling him "Frank." He has cultivated a humble and casual culture as pope. He does not wear fancy shoes or vestments. He does not live in the traditional papal apartment. He loves the photo op and informal question. He delights in raising questions about doctrine and solving them by changing practices so that they are inconsistent with doctrine. He loves to party with the Lutherans -- even more it seems than he loves to play with those Roman Catholics more in tune with Benedict XVI than him. He seems to want to loosen everything up in the Vatican except papal control. He seems to delight in micromanaging when it seems things are not going his way and to ignore the very people he has placed in office. He does not explain himself and appears to be above the details when it is in the details his purpose is being advanced. What do we make of him?
For many years Roman Catholics stood with Missouri Synod Lutherans and others well outside the Roman Church to present a solid witness against the culture of death advancing across America as it has in Europe. From abortion to euthanasia to assisted suicide, there have been many challenges we have faced together. But now it seems there is a strange softening of this pro-life stance and an equivalence between these sins and the sins of oppression. In fact, in the stand for marriage as a life-long union between man and woman, Rome has become somewhat muddy. On the one hand, the desire to regularize the many divorced Roman Catholics and the kind of accommodation to same sex marriage and the GLBTQ agenda promoted by Fr. James Martin, S. J., and its seeming suggestion that homosexual unions are no more or less sinful than heterosexual unions, leaves us wondering about our partners in witness against the prevailing morality of the world. On the other, it appears Rome is no longer the reliable and uncompromising voice for the pro-life cause. Read here how Frank has reshaped the most important pro-life institution in Rome. In the case of the recent and well publicized status of baby Charlie, the Vatican statement was a master of waffling when a clear voice was needed. You can read it here and the commentary here.
At the very time when the Church needs solidarity (in Wittenberg as much as in Rome), we have waffling voices who seem unwilling to say this is what Scripture says, tradition witnesses, and we believe, confess, and teach. Frank's style of governing is not good for Rome but it is also not good for Christianity in general. His willingness to live with fuzziness when clarity is required means that real Lutherans and real Roman Catholics are further apart and not closer. Who knows what will survive if his papacy is long and it continues on this course? What we do know is the cause of life and the voice of truth in marriage and family have been muddled by Frank to the disappointment of many outside of Rome and, sadly, not nearly enough within Rome's umbrella.