In today's National Catholic Review, Michael Sean Williams reacts to an article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker in Patheos on how to survive the current papacy. Longenecker's piece is at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2014/07/ten-things-to-reme... MSW's response is at http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-francis-haters . May reaction follows. Read MSW first and if you dare, read Patheos.
The picture with the article says it all, with Mr. 1950s in his suit nursing a headache. The Church does not look like that any more. That according to Longenecker, some conservative prelates think that Francis is the false prophet of the end times demonstrates how widely St. Malachy is read in Rome. They certainly don't see him as Peter the Roman, who is that false prophet - but Peter will lead a rump pontificate in counter-revolution and be killed as Rome crumbles (according to our Lady of Fatima's 3rd Secret). Some are disturbed over Francis saying "who am I to judge?" while forgetting that the person he is not judging according the to reporters question, is a gay member of the Curia - who are legion at the Vatican. So deep is their self loathing that they want aboslution, not understanding.
Longenecker would have the anti-Francis faction remember that the Pope cannot change doctrine or moral teaching. We liberals would disagree. We rather hope he would, in response to the moral sense of the faithful on certain issues. Indeed, moral teaching is always for the moment - it is never exactly the same one generation to the next as the culture is always changing - even in Rome. The current generation of educated Catholics do not concede that natural law is curial monopoly - indeed, it cannot be if it is the product of reason - which must change with new evidence - and the one thing that has changed the most is our understanding of ourselves. Canon law must respond - as MSW notes that it has with time without admitting that change should probably be in the offing soon.
Longenecker's second point is to essentially insult Francis by saying he is not the equal to Benedict and John Paul. Many of us on the left actually think Francis is superior. It took a bullett and tumors to bring John Paul into the kind of personal holiness that is already apparent in Francis. I suspect many conservatives gave Benedict a pass for his economic encyclical (or blamed it on staff) because of his remarks on gays being disordered while at CDF. I suspect that many on the right, including in the Curia, really miss the time under both popes where they were infirm so that they had free reign to do things like move the goal posts on aid to the dying to try to back Jeb Bush's play to keep poor Terri Schaivo alive. I don't think this Pope will stand for such nonsense - indeed, his group of nine (he counts himself as a member) is going to profoundly change curial authority.
Longenecker's thrid point is that Pope's come and go. True, but changes to the Curia are permanent and the Curia will be changed by this Pope.
Longenecker's fourth point is that our faith is in Jesus, not the Pope. I think Francis would agree. Which is what makes him truly dangerous to the egotists of the Curia.
Longenecker's fifth point is about the times - not the moral times but the Internet age. He says that while some hide behind formal statements only, Francis does not. A good thing.
Six, Longenecker reminds us of the media culture for our views on Francis to an extent. Yes and no. He needs to remember that he is part of the media too. Luckily, much of the media speaks pretty acurately of Francis - which I suspect is why the right wing is going crazy.
Seven, he blames the Pope's origins in Argentia for his economics (I say that its about time) and about the Devil. Yes and no on both - as his family of origin is from Turin, Italy. This Pope is as Italian as most Popes in our history. He also compares this pope's roiling of the hierarchy to Jesus. Interesting point in contrast to suggest number four.
Eight, Longenecker says we need not worry about everything Francis says. This is true and applies to the other Popes as well - although the whole disorded thing about gays by Ratzinger is going to be hard to shake, but shake it we will.
Nine, Longenecker reminds us of the univerality of the Church - that it is a big place and the true Church. Yes, but some will certainly feel the pressure when the Group of Nine concludes its deliberations and begins action.
Ten, Longeneecker asks conservatives where they are going to go. Ironically, I know some liberal Catholics worshiping in living room Churches using the Norvus Ordo Mass in the old translation. Egalitarian organizations are great at making sects and some likely will go elsewhere if we grow closer to Constantinople and adopt a more Orthodox governance structure. There will be a rump Pontificate and that anti-Pope's name, again, will be Peter and that will be it for the Roman Church. But not because of Francis.