Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants, because he is "free from disordered attachments." Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.For Lutherans, the idea that church leaders find themselves constrained by Scripture or the catholic tradition should be shocking and abhorrent. Yet, the sad reality is that for all our posturing and gloating against this Pope, this is a serious issue for us as well. We say that we stand upon Scripture and we claim in our Confessions that we have not departed from catholic doctrine and practice. Yet we wrestle with Scripture and we depart from our Confessions when we find Scripture's truths too difficult for our reason to accept or our catholic doctrine and practice out of step with modernity. We may not have a pope but the great temptation is to be popes -- each one of us -- in the same way we find this claim about Pope Francis to be terrible.
Scripture is not given to us as a puzzle to solve but as the living voice of God speaking salvation and life to us. The catholic tradition is not some straight jacket for us from which we are to wriggle out but the sacred deposit which is our duty to preserve and our privilege to pass on whole and undefiled to our children. Truth is not the judgment of the individual but the revelation of God. Our reason is a precious gift and it finds its blessed fulfillment in the fear of God -- not as judge and jury over what it says or what it means or whether it is real or myth. Reason is God's gift indeed but it is utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit or it will lead us astray. The individual is created by God in His image and though sin has distorted that image beyond recognition, the individual is not without worth or value or dignity as God's creation. Yet the individual is not sovereign, not over God nor over the community of His Church and manifold nations of those whom He has also created. To pit the individual and his reason against Scripture and the living tradition is foolishness and will lead to failure, to be sure.
If we will condemn the Pope for finding Scripture and tradition a difficult burden, one to be cast off in pursuit of freedom, then we must also condemn ourselves when we do exactly the same thing. Whether we wear the name Lutheran or any other confession, when we are guilty casting aside Scripture because we find its words implausible to us or because we are inflated without own inestimable wisdom, we should also be called to repentance. When we surrender the faithful worship of God's Word and Sacrament for what we find meaningful or relevant, should we not also be called to repentance? When we abandon the morality of God's Word and exchange His created order with one of our own fabrication, should we be exempt from the call to repentance? Survey the landscape of Christianity and of each tradition and you will hear the voices of those who believe they are wiser than the Spirit when it comes to truth, morality, and life. Stick your finger in the air and sense the winds of change who find Scripture at most a starting point and Christ merely the means to greater self-fulfillment.
Christianity will never be wounded by those hear and heed His Word and who follow in His way but it will bleed in every generation from the wounds of those who think His Word and His ways need to be adjusted to fit the moment. Pope or not, it is the most common malady of all Christendom. Cast off the disordered attachments of Scripture and tradition and the real disorder rules us to death for sure.