October 18, 2017

Is the Pope a Catholic? (part 1)

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This March is the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, the former Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.  Reactions have, in the main, been of two kinds:

  • He’s the greatest thing that ever happened to the Catholic Church!
  • He’s the worst thing that ever happened to the Catholic Church!

We’ve heard very few moderate opinions along the line of “He’s the pope, true, but he’s only one pope in the line.  He won’t damn the Church (if we believe the words of Christ) and the same way he won’t save the Church.”

For someone who was fairly obscure before the Conclave, elected as a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI, he has gained a lot of favorable attention from unexpected sources, such as being named “Time Magazine Man of the Year” and being put on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Mainly, this is based on things he has done which appeal to the media which can be easily characterised, to take a line from the Rolling Stone article, as “conservatives who have gone liberal”.  Things such as choosing to reside in the St. Martha guesthouse rather than the papal apartments, the vestments he wears, and even the pectoral cross and ring he wears, as well as the stories about taking the bus, paying his own bills, and the like, make for a very easy presentation of him as being a contrast to his immediate predecessor.  Simplicity versus old-fashioned grandeur; extrovert versus introvert; live-and-let-live versus insistence on rules and regulations – it’s a constant refrain of “Francis this vs. Benedict that”.  Whether this is his true intention or not, he’s seen as a pope who is in tune with the modern, secular world, one palatable to its tastes.

I can’t help but be reminded of the adulation about Blessed Pope John XXIII and how, in the years since Vatican II, there has been a refrain of “If only he had lived to see it through!” and wistful listing of all the changes we would have seen “if only”.  It seems, at times, as if Pope Francis is perceived as a second John XXIII, that finally the liberal or progressive wing of the Church has the pope it has been waiting for so long, and now all its long-cherished dreams will come to fruition.

It’s not only on the left (though I hate using politically-derived terms such as “left” or “right” wing in the context of religion) that this view is promulgated.  If some hail these possibilities with delight, others touch on them with horror and despair.

Literally within minutes of the announcement of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, one particular Traditionalist website (and I’m mentioning no names in the spirit of charity) was prognosticating all manner of doom from the very way he walked out on the balcony – including a breathless live-blogging of how he had to be “forced” to wear the stole before giving the papal blessing (something I can say had no basis in reality as I was watching the same live broadcast they were).

Reports from Argentina alleging that he had, putting it at its kindest, foot-dragged on implementing the moto proprio, and at worst, that he was actively hostile to Traditionalism, were being plastered all over.  Here was a pope, it was as good as said, who would destroy all the hard-won progress made undoing the excesses of Vatican II.  Here was the long-awaited Antichrist!

RS Pope coverThere was also what looked like a very interesting potential mini-scandal brewing, although it has since quietened down and I’ve seen no mention of it.  The Wikipedia page about the former Archbishop Bergoglio, on the night of Pope Francis’ election, went through a spate of editing and re-editing, with accusations and counter-accusations flying from all sides.  Basically, it was an accusation that during the so-called “Dirty War” in Argentina, he had been complicit with the régime, to the point where he allegedly permitted church property to be used to hold opponents of the dictatorship and that he was complicit in the kidnapping, by Navy forces, of two Jesuit priests who had been active in missionary work in the slums and engaged in political activism.

These accusations have since been rescinded, or at least softened immensely.  It reminded me of nothing so much as how, when reporting on what Pope Benedict XVI had said or written or done, the media commonly made a point of referring to his former position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which they helpfully reminded us was formerly known as the Inquisition) and his “Hitler Youth” past.  I have to wonder, if Pope Francis was not currently a media darling for a perceived liberal or progressive slant, would they be equally helpful in reminding us of the collaboration with the military dictatorship allegations?

Anyway, to quote from the current Wikipedia article now that everything has settled down:

Bergoglio was the subject of allegations regarding the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests during Argentina’s “Dirty War”.  He feared for the priests’ safety and had tried to change their work prior to their arrest; however, contrary to reports, he never tried to throw them out of the Jesuit order.  In 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the Navy’s kidnapping of the two priests in May 1976.  The lawyer’s complaint did not specify the nature of Bergoglio’s alleged involvement, and Bergoglio’s spokesman flatly denied the allegations.  The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.  The priests, Orlando Yorio and Franz Jalics, had been tortured, but found alive five months later, drugged and semi-naked.  Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work.  Yorio (who died in 2000) said in a 1999 interview that he believed that Bergoglio did nothing “to free us, in fact just the opposite”.  Jalics initially refused to discuss the complaint after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.  However, two days after the election of Pope Francis, Jalics issued a statement confirming the kidnapping and attributing the cause to a former lay colleague who became a guerrilla, was captured, and named Yorio and Jalics when interrogated.  The following week, Jalics issued a second, clarifying statement: “It is wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio … the fact is, Orlando Yorio and I were not denounced by Father Bergoglio.”

Turning from this type of accusation of collusion and involvement, if not active sympathy, with a right-wing military dictatorship to the current view of Francis as something new and wonderful that has never been seen in the Church before, someone who is a “man of the people” doing away with the luxury and pomp of the past and dragging the Catholic Church into the 21st century, there’s much to be said for opinions on both sides of this image.

You’ve all seen and heard by now the (in)famous remark of his about “Who am I to judge?”  It’s been plastered everywhere from the newspapers to social media to protest placards.  It’s been on Facebook, Tumblr and become an Internet meme.  It’s been waved about as “See, even the Pope is in favor of gay rights!” as a bludgeon in the “culture wars” about same-sex marriage and more.  It has heartened some and depressed others as somehow the Pope has gone soft on Church teaching, even those who should or do know better.  The more charitable disheartened ones wish fervently that someone would put a muzzle on him, or at least not let him make off-the-cuff, unscripted remarks which are going to be snapped up and cut to size for a headline without all the accompanying qualification of “Yes, but…” being gone into.  The less charitable take it as yet another sign that he’s the Anti-Christ.

As for me, I’m sufficiently cynical about modern media everywhere, whether in Italy, America, Ireland or where you will, to imagine that even a carefully-scripted, uncontroversial, all the doctrinal “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed statement would stop them from, if they couldn’t find anything else, “Pope slams!” or “Vatican condemns!” headlines.

What very few have done is examine the context in which this remark was made.  It was on a flight back from the World Youth Day in Brazil in July 2013.  The Pope was conducting a question-and-answer session with the journalists on board.  One journalist asked a specific question about a particular case. What looked like a “gay priest shock” scandal was brewing in the Vatican — rumors that the cleric appointed by the Pope to report to him on reforms in the Vatican Bank had a history of homosexual activity, including:

“a homosexual affair with a captain in the Swiss army. …The monsignor allegedly met the officer during an earlier posting to Berne in Switzerland and took him with him when he was sent to Uruguay.  …On one occasion in 2001 he allegedly got stuck in a lift.  When firemen rescued him, they found a young man trapped in the elevator with him.  On another occasion in the same year the priest was reportedly beaten up in a gay bar and had to call for help, arriving back at the nunciature, the Vatican embassy, with bruises to his face.”

Look, if you need a scorecard at this point to keep track of the sexual and financial scandals brewing, allegedly brewing, or allegedly having brewed, in the Vatican, I can’t blame you.  Sex, money, power and religion – we’ve got it all!

3MHT_Time_Person_Of_The_Ye_CopyCMYKThe point is, this was the context of Francis’ statement, and it was tied to one particular, specific case and generalizing from that, the forgiveness of sins and how we should treat the repentant sinner.  It wasn’t “What do you think about same-sex marriage?” “I think it’s perfectly fine!” (though we’ll get to that latest storm in a teacup later on).

Here’s the full encounter:

Ilze Scamparini:
I would like to ask permission to ask a somewhat delicate question: another image has also gone around the world, which is that of Monsignor Ricca and news about your privacy.  I would like to know, Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question.  How to address this question and how Your Holiness intends to address the whole question of the gay lobby?

Pope Francis:
In regard to Monsignor Ricca, I’ve done what Canon Law orders to do, which is the investigatio previa.  And from this investigatio there is nothing of which they accuse him, we haven’t found anything of that.  This is the answer.  But I would like to add something else on this:  I see that so many times in the Church, outside of this case and also in this case, they go to look for the “sins of youth,” for instance, and this is published.  Not the crimes, alas.  Crimes are something else: the abuse of minors is a crime.  No, the sins.  But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life.  When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk  that the Lord won’t forget our [sins].  That’s a danger.  This is important: a theology of sin.  I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope.  We must give it much thought.  But, returning to your more concrete question: in this case, I’ve done the investigatio previa and we found nothing.  This is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby.  Goodness knows!  So much is written of the gay lobby.  I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay” .  They say that they exist.  I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish  the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good.  That’s bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said and says: “these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society.”  The problem isn’t having this tendency, no.  We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others.  The problem is the lobbying of this tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies.  This, for me, is the more serious problem.  And I thank you.

So who is this liberal, progressive, modernizing pope with no hang-ups about sex and contraception and divorce and abortion, who constantly preaches on the value and necessity of the Sacrament of Confession and the reality of the Devil, who came back from studying in Germany in the 80s with, not the latest in theological progressivism, but the 18th century devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, which he introduced to great success in Buenos Aires and which has since spread throughout Argentina and Brazil, who has obvious Marian devotion in how he welcomed the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, went on pilgrimage to the shrine of Aparecida in Brazil during the World Youth Day, and is always popping in to visit the icon of Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore?

More on that in part two.

Comments

  1. “Lobby of Masons…?”

    • Wexel, the history of Continental Freemasonry is a different kettle of fish from the organisation as known in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. In Britain, it’s been mainly the focus of jokes about ‘if you want a promotion in the police, join the Masons’. In the U.S., it’s mostly a charitable and fraternal society.

      On the Continent (and, to an extent taking its lead from Italian and Spanish Masonry, in South America as well), since the 18th century Freemasonry was entangled with all the paraphernalia of a Dan Brown novel plot and the favourite conspiracy theories about the Illuminati and the likes.

      Starting in the 18th century occult revival craze and side-by-side, if not actively involved, in revolutionary (including anti-clerical) movements, Freemasonry was (is, for all I know, for I know nothing of it apart from a general reading of Gothic novels such as “Melmoth the Wanderer”) festooned with faux-Orientalism (the same system that led de Gébelin to ascribe secret esoteric Egyptian symbolism to the Tarot) and ‘magic’, not to mention being an oath-bound secret society.

      The Western Esoteric Tradition links, the secret oaths, and the involvement with movements aiming to overthrow monarchy and church meant the Church took a very dim view of Masonry. Catholics may not be members of Masonic lodges (though there is argument that since the U.S./U.K. version is so different, this should be relaxed for these types of organisations).

      In Italy, Masonry is still associated with freethinking/atheist/anti-clericalism, and there are still rumours and gossip about Masonry being a quasi-political movement with much behind the scenes influence in all spheres of government; one enduring allegation about Roberto Calvi (chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, a large private Italian bank, with close ties to the Vatican when it came to managing the finances of the Holy See, who was first thought to have committed suicide and then it was ruled a murder in London, in 1982) was killed by the Mafia to prevent him revealing secrets – or blackmailing – members of the Italian government, members of Masonic lodges, and the Vatican Bank.

      Calvi was a member of the illegal Masonic Lodge “Propaganda Due” or P2, and to quote Wikipedia:

      “During the years that the lodge was headed by Licio Gelli, P2 was implicated in numerous Italian crimes and mysteries, including the collapse of the Vatican-affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, the murders of journalist Mino Pecorelli and banker Roberto Calvi, and corruption cases within the nationwide bribe scandal Tangentopoli. P2 came to light through the investigations into the collapse of Michele Sindona’s financial empire”

      So “Masonic lobbying” in the affairs of the Italian secular government, and even within the Vatican due to the entanglement of “X belongs to this group and has a post where he comes into contact with Bishop Y and there is a relationship formed which means Group Z is looking for influence” is not along the lines of “What, they might as well be talking about the Secret Conspiracy Lobbying of Ronald McDonald and Hamburglar”.

      • Robert F says:

        Martha,

        Are you saying that Freemasonry in continental Europe, unlike Britain and the US, really is a pernicious secret society manipulating power behind the scenes, even engaging in crimes, to consolidate and exercise control over world affairs? If such an idea is not ridiculous in the context of European history, why should it be viewed as ridiculous in the US? Perhaps the conspiracy is just more subtle and successful, and hidden, here than there.

        I don’t buy it.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Mostly aren’t the Masons just a historical anachronism? There are old [and often beautiful] Masonic temples all over america. The vast majority of which are now office space, retails space, apartment buildinds, and [sadly] even warehouses.

          We have a huge Masonic building in my neighborhood. There is a small Masonic museum in a room in the basement. Otherwise the building is full of other things.

          I have toured the *awesome* Masonic temple in D.C., the national temple. I recommend it. And it is a bit cultic – but cultic like a fraternity of bored rich guys. It is hard to believe any calculating evil conspiracy has not moved on the be head-quartered elsewhere.

        • Robert F, as a conspiracy theory – no. As one of the “old boys’ networks”, where membership of such-and-such an organisation is helpful in networking (for instance, the infamous Bullingdon Club of Oxford Universtiy, formed by the jeuness doré in 1730, and noted for previous members going on to present-day high political office such as David Cameron – Prime Minster, Boris Johnson – Mayor of London, and George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer, all having been members at the same time).

          A club for like-minded individuals, where you will get on faster if you know who’s in the know and string-pulling can be done on your behalf – that’s not confined to Italian lobbyists, or to the Masons.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > A club for like-minded individuals, where you will get on faster if you know who’s
            > in the know and string-pulling can be done on your behalf

            That pretty much describes just about every organization ever. Of course it works that way.

            The smart thing to do is either (a) join a club or (b) create a club.

            Poverty research shows that one of the most damaging aspects of poverty is falling out of ‘networks’ and becoming isolated – which closes of access to information [and power]. This is especially disturbing for the [current] younger generation of poor or unemployed – they express highly individualistic ideals that work against the kind of cooperating an collaborative networking that would help them. This in contrast to more successful young people who tend to express positive views of collaboration and cooperation. An ugly feed-back loop comes into being.

            The justifiable reticence against old-boys-clubs needs to be dealt with with some caution. Often those old-boys-clubs represent what were once historically marginalized groups – who succeed by creating those clubs. And those clubs may be the groups that could theoretically actually help people today if virtuously coopted.

          • Robert F says:

            Martha,

            But your initial reply to Wexel suggests that Freemasonry is far more than “A club for like-minded individuals, where you will get on faster if you know who’s in the know and string-pulling can be done on your behalf….”. You said “On the Continent (and, to an extent taking its lead from Italian and Spanish Masonry, in South America as well), since the 18th century Freemasonry was entangled with all the paraphernalia of a Dan Brown novel plot and the favourite conspiracy theories about the Illuminati and the likes…” and “The Western Esoteric Tradition links, the secret oaths, and the involvement with movements aiming to overthrow monarchy and church meant the Church took a very dim view of Masonry.” You said Freemasonry on the Continent was unlike that in Great Britain and the US, which actually fit your description of “A club for like-minded individuals, where you will get on faster if you know who’s in the know and string-pulling can be done on your behalf..” that maybe gets you a “a promotion in the police.”

            Are you saying that, although the Masons on the Continent used to be a secretive and powerful organization pulling strings behind the scenes, they are no longer? If so, then why should the Pope be concerned about them, since they merely represent legitimate interests? And why do you say “In Italy, Masonry is still associated with freethinking/atheist/anti-clericalism, and there are still rumours and gossip about Masonry being a quasi-political movement with much behind the scenes influence in all spheres of government; one enduring allegation about Roberto Calvi (chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, a large private Italian bank, with close ties to the Vatican when it came to managing the finances of the Holy See, who was first thought to have committed suicide and then it was ruled a murder in London, in 1982) was killed by the Mafia to prevent him revealing secrets – or blackmailing – members of the Italian government, members of Masonic lodges, and the Vatican Bank…”?

            I’m a little confused about what exactly you are saying about the Masons on the Continent, and why you think it should not be a little disconcerting to hear of the Pope’s concern to curb their influence, especially given the fact that conspiracy theories often link the supposedly secret activity of the Masons with pernicious and hateful anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about “the Jews” controlling world events from behind the scenes.

      • The version I have heard is that the guild of masons provided a way for “radicals” to talk about insurrection without loosing their heads. Private membership and dedicated buildings and all that. It makes sense – the founding fathers of the US were free masons; George Washington was a 32nd degree and wore his apron to lay the cornerstone of the capitol building (I think. Maybe it was another building. I saw the apron in the Smithsonian). In the US, Freemasonry is basically a charitable society; most of the men in my family have been masons. And no, we don’t have a lobby 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          There are two of the “For Dummies” books about the Freemasons:
          * Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies (great read!)
          * Freemasonry for Dummies (which I haven’t read)
          Both should give a decent overview.

      • If the Masons are so powerful, then why do they have so much trouble getting new members?

    • Robert F says:

      Well, doesn’t the Catholic Church discourage, if not prohibit, membership in the Masons for its faithful members? Roman Catholic authorities have long been critical of Freemasonry as an alternative religion to Christianity, and it wouldn’t surprise me that there is a degree of paranoid conspiracy theory regarding the workings of the Masons wafting through the air of the Vatican and its environs. Fundegelicals are not the only ones subject to paranoid narratives about Satan working behind the scenes to consolidate power and authority in service of a worldwide apostasy; there are fundamentalist Catholics who for a long time now have been entertaining such musings quite apart from the Evangelical Circus. In fact, anything of eye-brow raising significance done by the Evangelical Circus was first done, in one form or another, in the world of undivided Catholicism before the Evangelical Circus ever existed. The Evangelical Circus is a pale imitator of and johnny-come-lately to everything of significance that it is excoriated for.

      • Not anymore; it depends on your bishop. JP2 ended the old policy.

      • The prohibition is still in force, although some confusion arose because the 1983 Code of Canon Law no longer mentions freemasonry by name.
        http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19831126_declaration-masonic_en.html

        Not to deny that some traditionalist Catholics have bees in their bonnets about freemasonry, but Masonic principles “have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church.” Masonry embodies a naturalistic religion incompatible with the unique salvific role of Jesus Christ.

        • The Masons take no position on religion, other than to bar atheists from joining. They admit men from any religion. Unsurprisingly, most Masons are Christians. Masonic traditions are not considered to be on the same order as religious beliefs and rituals. To the extent that they have any identifiable content, it is rarely taken literally.

  2. A year into his papacy, and there is no reason to think he will be any more open about the church’s crimes than his predecessors.

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    A point on the media and a perceived “liberal” slant. It is an article of faith in some circles that “the media” is “liberal.” This at best is grossly oversimplified, even absent any discussion of the Overton window. A better approach to understanding the media is that it establishes narratives, and then forces events into those narratives. These narratives might favor the more liberal political party, but then again it might favor the more conservative party. (Examples within recentish memory include “Al Gore, compulsive liar” and “John Kerry: what was he really doing in Vietnam?” A more current, and more subtle, example includes “of course it takes sixty votes to pass something in the US Senate; this is perfectly normal.”) This is why political operatives work so hard to establish a narrative quickly after events. A crude example is immediately after a political debate, when operatives from both sides will rush to tell the press what the press just saw.

    So what has happened with Francis is that the narrative got established very early in his papacy–within hours–and since then everything he does or says is forced into that narrative. Collaboration with the authorities during the Dirty War doesn’t fit that narrative, so it is ignored. (I do not mean to suggest that I have any personal opinion on whether or not he actually did this. I have no particular information, and I assume that any information makes its way to me is heavily filtered by someone or other with an agenda.) There is neither need nor cause in this to ascribe this to the media being “liberal.”

    • I agree about the established narrative, and that’s an excellent way of describing the slant of the coverage.

      When I used “liberal” (and I hate these terms, because they’re blunt instruments, but we seem to lack any better nuance than “right/left”, “progressive/conservative”, “liberal/reactionary”, “orthodox/querying”, particularly when it comes to religion), I was using it in the broad sense that Bill Keller, former editor of “The New York Times” did in an interview in 2011 (and I must acknowledge the “GetReligion” website for posting on this):

      “We are liberal in the sense that we are open-minded, tolerant, urban. Our wedding page includes — and did even before New York had a gay marriage law — included gay unions. So we’re liberal in that sense. Socially liberal. …”

      And he referred back to a column by a predecessor of his, about “We’re liberal in the sense that liberal arts schools are liberal. We’re an urban newspaper. We write about evolution as a fact, we don’t give equal time to creationism.”

      So I’m not ascribing a deliberate politically motivated campaign to push an agenda; I mean more that anything which can be seen (to take one example) to be “pro-choice” rather than “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion” is regarded favourably as being a sign of being humane, reflective, compassionate, modern – in short, what is desirable in a human being living in our time and circumstances, whereas anything critical is seen as rigid dogmatism and being behind the times, not to mention smacking of a denial of scientific knowledge.

      It’s an attitude which is a reflection of the Zeitgeist, rather than a concerted push to indoctrinate.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > There is neither need nor cause in this to ascribe this to the media being “liberal.”

      I agree completely, there is no Liberal Media. But this fight is over, so just roll with it. In America “Liberal” means either-or-both not Tea Party and/or not Fundamentalist; including on this site. As that pole is so far out that all *others* appear extreme.

      Using the principals of Liberalism to supply information to an [assumed] enlightened and educated public is not the mode of American media; rather then providing 10 data points and a historical perspective over time they provide one data point and two or three talking heads to explain it to the poor baffled masses. American media is Conservative with a capital C – they espouse and defend the establishment and the status-quo.

      • The USofA was established on the principles of Modern Liberalism as understood in the mid to late 1700’s. From the perspective of the Crown and his government the American revolution was “un-Godly Radicalism”.

        As a country we’ve ALWAYS been “Liberal”. Fundies and David Barton just don’t know their history.

        • BTW, one side of my family that lived in N.Y. at the onset of the Rebellion against the King moved north into British controlled Ontario. They were the conservatives of the time. Though being an American citizen I have much family in Canada and am a registered U.E.L..

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Support for the “Revolution”, or more accurately, the Final Revolution [as there was a long chain of regional revolts], was far far from unanimous. Nor was it regionally supported [or not] for homogenous reasons. By historical happenstance it seems the Yankee / New England narrative has become ‘The Narrative’ of the Revolution. So there is kind of an overlap with the theme of this post – the *prominent* narrative is indeed *selected* from a menu of possible/available narratives, either by motive or mere convenience. Washington is often portrayed as a Good Yankee, when he was not one at all and expressed contemptuous views of northern colonists.

            I doubt I have any ancestors who were this side of the pond during the colonial period. The Finnish community of colonists was very small and generally are lucky to make it into the foot notes.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “I agree completely, there is no Liberal Media. But this fight is over, so just roll with it.”

        I intend to keep tilting at that windmill. The point of the “Liberal Media” meme is to provide cover for ignoring the real world. (This happens on both sides of the political divide, but the far left currently has little or no influence with anyone, while the far right holds significant power. I would not be surprised to find this reversed ten or twenty years down the road.) Nearly any inconvenient reality can be dismissed as the product of the “Liberal Media.” This occasionally comes back to bite, as we saw with the slack-jawed incomprehension as the 2012 vote returns came in. But all too often it successfully insulates the faithful from the real world. This is destructive of a democratic society.

        In a similar vein, I intend to keep correcting people–including on this site–who use “Christian” to mean American White Evangelical Protestantism.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          In a similar vein, I intend to keep correcting people–including on this site–who use “Christian” to mean American White Evangelical Protestantism.

          Thing is, American White Evangelical Protestantism were the ones who hijacked the name “Christian” without any modifiers to mean THEIR brand of Christianity alone. Fundagelical has become the default for Christian in this country; it was years before I knew Christian didn’t automatically mean non-liturgical YEC Fundagelical Dispensationalist Rapture Any Minute Now Don’t Be Left Behind. Oh, and total restructuring of personality just like the “snapping” phenomenon in cult brainwashing.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            It is absolutely true that American White Evangelical Protestantism is the culprit. But that doesn’t mean it should go unchallenged. This is particularly true when this usage is made by outside third parties, such as the allegedly “Liberal Media.” I have often been told that this is a lost cause and I should just go with it. I hold the contrary position, that it must be pushed back. So long as “Christian” means American White Evangelical Protestantism, it follows that any person or group not among American White Evangelical Protestantism is not “Christian.” This is a grossly false witness.

            As for American White Evangelical Protestantism being the default, this is certainly the case in terms of cultural visibility. In terms of actual numbers, American White Evangelical Protestantism accounts for about a third of American Christianity. This is as high as it has ever been, and appears to have peaked.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            So long as “Christian” means American White Evangelical Protestantism, it follows that any person or group not among American White Evangelical Protestantism is not “Christian.”

            American White Evangelical Protestants would agree 1000%.

            In terms of actual numbers, American White Evangelical Protestantism accounts for about a third of American Christianity.

            Listen to the guy with twenty years in-country in Furry Fandom: The Extreme types who scream the loudest and longest ALWAYS become the public face of any group. Because they keep such a constant high profile before the media and before outsiders. Their entire life is wrapped up in their obsession for The Cause/Movement, so they can always put more time and energy into keeping that high profile than those of us with jobs or lives.

          • I didn’t know unicorns had fur. Or does just putting on a horn and a dash of Cuir de Russie count?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > I intend to keep tilting at that windmill.

          Part of me admires your stalwart stance. The pragmatist in me has learned that trying to police language is like trying to wrestle with a hippopotamus.

          > The point of the “Liberal Media” meme is to provide cover for ignoring the real world.

          I agree to a point. I believe, however, it is more accurately just about fueling a sense of animosity, contempt, and distrust – thereby disabling civil discourse. We see this in the stupid pointless meaningless “big government” vs “less government” kind of talk – none of which means a darn *&@^&&@ thing.

          > the far left currently has little or no influence with anyone

          To the extent it even exists in the United States. Most people in the United States have no idea what Far Left even is; they accuse the strangest people of being Socialists.

          > I would not be surprised to find this reversed ten or twenty years down the road.

          I would be *STUNNED* to see it reversed in ten to twenty years. 40 years, maybe. America’s internal nations are polarizing via self-sort and the bulk of country, geographically, is conservative in the Republican sense of the word. It is going to be an interesting future with the bulk of the nation geographically going one way while the majority of the nation by population going the opposite direction. Interesting and noisy.

          The key tidbit of knowledge: The top 100 metropolitan areas consume ~13% of land mass, contain 66% of population, and provide 75% of GDP. They also contain 75-90% of nations equity in built infrastructure. And at least the current trend is mobile [usually younger] population and commerce moving back into denser urban areas.

          What roles the churches will choose, or be boxed into, – if any role at all – is anyone’s guess [IMO]. I have no idea. Currently, aside from the Evangelical noise machine, religion seems entirely sidelined.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Collaboration with the authorities during the Dirty War doesn’t fit that narrative

      I have no first-hand knowledge or event second hand knowledge on this issue. But the way it is talked about bugs me.

      If you’ve read/studies much at all about what goes on in a totalitarian regime or military occupation you know that people are faced with horrible choices, with limited access to information, limited power, limited communication…. it is so easy to castigate them after the fact for the choices that made in that dark twilight.

      If a group of armed soldiers arrives at a church with the intention of housing some prisoners there… what does it *mean* for the pastor/priest to “permit” them to do so? Should he insist on being shot? And then leave any others without what [possibly] little aid he can provide – even if that aid is ‘merely’ humanitarian? Should he actively speak out against some injustice and possibly incur military wrath on his community [which, invariable, includes women and children – both of whom are most at risk in unstable circumstances?]. Much of this type of criticism seems wholly without understanding or charity.

      I have never faced such choices; for which I am grateful.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        My congregation had, until he recently passed away, a tremendously respected retired seminary professor as a member. He would freely talk about his days in Hitler Youth, in much these terms. I completely agree with you on this. I would love to see a long-form deeply researched story on Francis and the Dirty War that puts events in perspective. But in the meantime, the Francis Narrative explains why we aren’t hearing much about it.

      • I had exactly the same thought! My own people were part of the Great Crime of 1915, and many were forced to make the best of a bad situation. Thanks for voicing this.

    • No right-thinking person would ever say “the media” is “liberal.” A right-thinking person would say “the media” are “liberal.”

      What I’m saying, kiddies, is that a plural subject requires a plural predicate.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Language pedantry! I can do that!

        The Latin word “media” is indeed plural, the singular form being “medium.” However, words borrowed from one language to another frequently change the number. So the Latin grammar is not normative for its use in English. (Consider the word “agenda.” No one complains that it should be plural.)

        The medium/media usage is used in present-day English when “medium” is used as a count noun: Oil is one art medium. Acrylic is another art medium. Oil and acrylic are art media. Newspapers are one communication medium. Telegrams are another. Together they are communication media.

        “Media” is grammatically singular when it is used as a mass noun. This is because mass nouns in English are always singular:

        The air is cold.
        *The air are cold.
        ?The airs are cold.

        Charity is a virtue.
        *Charity are a virtue.
        ?Charities are virtues?

        (The two sentences with question marks are possible, but the subjects in those sentences are count nouns, not mass nouns.)

        So taking the original sentence:

        The media is liberal.

        This is a grammatically correct sentence, taking “media” as a mass noun denominating treating the practitioners of mass media as a collective body. Compare with:

        The media are liberal.

        This too is a grammatically correct sentence, but it requires that “media” be a count noun. If the intended meaning as that the various media (i.e. the medium of newspapers, the medium of television, the medium of radio, etc.) are liberal, then this the way to go.

        What we have here is not a problem with grammatical number. Everyone uses it correctly, unless they have thought themselves into silliness. What is really going on is the semantically extended usage of “media” to mean collectively the practitioners of communications mass media. Complain about this extended usage if you will, but prepared for me to point and laugh if you don’t accompany it with a principled explanation of why this extended usage is bad while all the twenty gazillion extended usages you use every day are good.

        • In related news, hedgehogs now dominate the Big Datum field.

          Regarding plurals, it’s more interesting to entertain why there are differences between American and British usage when it comes to, say, sports. E.g.,

          US:
          – The Braves are winning!
          – Atlanta is winning!

          UK:
          – The Braves are winning!
          – Atlanta are winning!
          – And where the deuce is the silly mid-off?

        • I went to school so long ago that I never heard of count nouns and mass nouns. However, I have heard the term collective nouns.

          Americans are coming around to saying “the data are” although they resisted for decades, the lone exception being IBM, whose manuals continue to say “the data is”….

          So why do Americans and Brits treat collectives differently? In the U.K. people say things like “Her Majesty’s government are…” or “The United States are…” when we on this side of the pond would never do that.

          Please explain, as this subject is ever so much more interesting than what anyone here has written so far about Pope Francis, except, of course, the great Martha of Ireland herself.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “I went to school so long ago that I never heard of count nouns and mass nouns. However, I have heard the term collective nouns.”

            That isn’t a function of when you went to school. Grammar is largely an undiscovered country in modern schools. Back in the day, they taught grammar, but self-consciously insisted on teaching outdated grammar. Schoolbook grammar gelled around 1890. Anything linguists have learned since–and it is a lot–never got in, though the 1950s at which point they mostly stopped teaching grammar at all. Modern grammar is only known by people with formal college training in linguistics and by the occasional eccentric autodidact. (In case you are wondering, I haven’t taken a linguistics course in my life.)

            Count nouns are ordinary nouns that you can count: one shoe, two shoes, three shoes, etc. A mass noun is something that is perceived as an undifferentiated continuum. This can be a physical substance like water: you wouldn’t take of one water, two waters (except in certain limited contexts: your party of four at dinner might order two waters, a Coke, and an iced tea; but you wouldn’t stare at the ocean and say “There are a lot of waters!”) It can also be an abstract concept, like virtue. These typically can also be used in slightly different ways as count nouns. You should be able to figure out the difference by contemplating the difference between “He has much virtue” and “He has many virtues.”

            Fun fact: in Middle English “pea,: as in the legume, was a mass noun, just like “wheat” is today. But the word wasn’t “pea,” it was “pease.” This form survives today in the nursery rhyme “Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold…” What is pease porridge? Simply pea soup. But the word “pease” was reanalyzed not as a mass noun, but as the plural of a count noun “pea.”

            A collective noun is something different. It is something perceived as, well, a collection of stuff of some sort or another. “Water” is not perceived as a collection of stuff. It is, of course: a collection of water molecules. But that isn’t how it is perceived. A “committee,” on the other hand, can plausibly be perceived as a collection of committee members.

            “So why do Americans and Brits treat collectives differently? In the U.K. people say things like “Her Majesty’s government are…” or “The United States are…” when we on this side of the pond would never do that.”

            Since you ask… What we have here are conflicting concepts of notional number and grammatical number. Notional number has been defined (I use that weasel phrase for a reason that will soon become apparent) as “the numerosity of the subject’s referent in the speaker’s mental model” (yes: I am ducking responsibility of “numerosity of the subject’s referent”). Grammatical number is “the conventional linguistic number of the subject…noun.” Got that? OK, in other words when we talk about “the committee” this is grammatically singular, but can be notionally plural. It depends on whether you think of “the committee” as a single entity or as a collection of committee members.

            School grammar presents number agreement in a very simplified way. In the kiddie version every noun, every pronoun, and every verb have a number. You simply match the nouns, pronouns, and verbs together correctly and make sure that each matched word has the same number, and you are done. In the real world it is far more messy. Consider a sentence like this:

            There is a large number of possible solutions to this problem.

            The agreement is exemplary. “Number” and “is” are both singular, while “There” can go either way. So the sentence is hunky-dory, right? Well, except that it is an open invitation to be wedgied. In the real world, everyone (even self-professed sticklers, if they aren’t paying close attention at that particular moment) says

            There are a large number of possible solutions to this problem.

            Why? Because “a large number” is notionally plural. Indeed, it is as expressly notionally plural as it is possible to be: it says right there that the number is large!

            So what we have with the US/UK split is a tendency (and it is merely a tendency: not a consistent rule) for the Brits to treat collective nouns by notional number, while Yanks tend to treat them by grammatical number. Read American newspapers from a century and a half ago (and I frequently do: early baseball history is my hobby) and you will find notional number agreement more often than today. One might speculate that this relates to differing approaches to grammar education, but I can’t even begin to back that up.

          • Robert F says:

            “Modern grammar is only known by people with formal college training in linguistics and by the occasional eccentric autodidact. (In case you are wondering, I haven’t taken a linguistics course in my life.)”

            Eccentric autodidact in da house!!

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            I’m pretty sure that if all the eccentric autodidacts in the IMonk community got together in one room, we could throw a pretty big party.

          • Robert F says:

            True enough, but your comments above are a true virtuoso performance. Bravo!!

            Modern grammar, and baseball? Where’s your hat trick?

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Heraldry. Seriously.

          • Robert F says:

            I knew there was a hat trick.

  4. kerokline says:

    I agree with you that the pope is much more “conservative” than the media portrays him (again, wishing there was a better descriptor than liberal/ conservative), but from what I’ve read, the main reaction from gay Christians has been to the change in tone. People like Andrew Sullivan have blogged repeatedly on how it -feels- like a tonal shift, even if theologically it is not, to say things like “who am I to judge”.

    To them, merely talking about “liberal” issues in a more compassionate way is a huge step up from Benedict, who was often portrayed (wrongly or no) as being harsh or hardline on every issue that came his way.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > been to the change in tone

      Tone matters. The tone of a message is part of the message.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Part of the problem is that a lot of people think that any religious leader is either an Al Mohler or a Bishop Spong. Anyone who seems to be anywhere in between those two is condemned as wishy-washy at best or at worst disingenuously hiding their inner Mohler or inner Spong. I see this a lot from both sides. Many people are also confused when, for example, the various positions of an Argentine cleric don’t align with the various positions of a North American conservative or a North American liberal.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    I have read, I think, the majority of what Pope Francis has published. He seems very Catholic to me.

    He certainly sounds much too Catholic for the Evangelicals I’ve known to be comfortable with what he writes. There is no shortage of references to Mary, Catholic history, and Catholic orders.

    I am surprised by how comfortable with him some Progressives appear to be. I can only imagine that will fade with time. Francis seems to take *sin* very seriously [although in a different way than Evangelicals would recognize]. Whereas many Progressives [at least that I know] find the entire concept of sin to be anathema [pun intended] and retrograde.

  6. I read somewhere that the lyrics remain the same, but that Pope Francis changed the tune. I like that . I also like that he wants Catholics to focus on what we are FOR and not focus as much on what we are AGAINST.

    I do think we may see some “minor” changes. In regard to divorced and then remarried Catholics being able to receive Communion, we may see the Catholic Church handle it more like they do in the Eastern Orthodox church. It’s more the decision of the local clerical people in the EO instead of the Vatican having to get involved like it is now in Catholicism.

    And we may see priests being advised to not dally in the reproductive decisions of married couples, other than to say abortion is still not an alternative.

    Some more priests may be allowed to marry, but it likely won’t become an across the board thing.

    I don’t think we will see women becoming priests.

    I am not sure how gay and lesbian Catholics will be treated. I know the Church will say we treat them with love, the same as anyone else. But will the Church ever say it is OK for an openly gay man to become a priest? They may say he become a priest but cannot ever act upon his sexual impulses toward men. Henri Nouwen was gay and said he never acted upon his sexual impulses his entire life. I think many people will say that “forcing” gay and lesbian people to never have a sexual act with another person is unhealthy, inhumane and unrealistic. I think we will find a number of local parishes who will fully welcome committed/married gay and lesbian couples even against the teachings of their Bishop. I don’t know how long they will be able to last, though, if they are going againt their Bishop.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > They may say he become a priest but cannot ever act upon his sexual impulses toward men.

      Isn’t this a strange statement to need to point out? As this is what they say to heterosexual priests.

      Francis has said the issue of priestly marriage is a tradition and not a sacrament – meaning it *could* be changed.

      I know I am in the minority – but I believe this is a valuable tradition and has worked out extremely well for the Catholic church. I very much hope they choose to keep it.

      IMO – the overworked, often effectively impoverished, usually poorly education, semi-professionalized family-man-preacher has been an unmitigated disaster for Protestantism [as well as for its clergy].

      • Radagast says:

        Adam,

        Whenever a Catholic (or indeed anyone) comes up with the argument that maybe Priests should marry I point out a couple of things:

        – Hasn’t seemed to help the Episcopal or Lutheran Church with their clergy shortage

        – Governance of the local Parish would have to change since now a possible family is involved (what happens to them when the priest dies or retires).

        – If Governance does change then we run into the same issue of underpaid clergy not being able to sustain a family and thereby going into another profession where those same skillsets can be used for better pay.

        – Married clergy will not deter sexual abuse in the church. There will always be those who will find a profession, or situation, that will get them closer to children. Process, procedures, background checks, and vigilance will deter it.

        • Those are all good points, Radagast. I guess we could look toward the Eastern Orthodox to see how they handle things like priests having families and then they die or retire. Plus, like you said, the priests are not paid much. Likely, their wives would have to work.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I also like that he wants Catholics to focus on what we are FOR and not focus as much on what we are AGAINST.

      I’ve heard it said “You can tell a preacher’s in trouble when he stops preaching about what he’s For and only preaches on what he’s Against.”

      And by that standard, Pope Francis isn’t in trouble and a lot of Culture War preachers are.

  7. With respect to how Bergoglio reacted to the Dirty War, the truth seems to be that not only he was far from being a collaborator, but he was a thorn in the side of the military Junta. This is told by Italian journalist Nello Scavo in a book, “La Lista di Bergoglio” (“Bergoglio’s list”), which appeared last year. An English translation isn’t available (yet), but some stories from the book have appeared in the press:

    http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/bergoglio-papa-el-papa-pope-28098/
    http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350611?eng=y

    As for his performance as Pope Francis, I guess his experience pastoring the poor and downtrodden in the slums of Buenos Aires made him deeply aware of their economic, social and spiritual struggles. I bet that Argentinean slums are very much alike their Braziliian counterparts, which face all sorts of difficult issues: poverty, social and racial prejudice, violent crime, broken homes, families of all shapes and sizes. This probably gives you a much different perspective than that of a German theology professor, hence the change in tone. But make no mistake, the underlying messages are the same.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      One of the jobs Pope Francis held before he entered seminary was a nightclub bouncer.

      He started out as blue-collar as they come (while Benedict was always more the white-collar academic type).

  8. So, I write a post on Church size and it devolves into a discussion on the evils of power point.
    Martha writes a post on the Pope and it devolves into a discussion on count nouns, mass nouns, and collective nouns.

    What has Internet Monk become???!!!???

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      When did disparaging its readers and commentators become a regular practice on Internet Monk? It seems to be approaching that.

      (1) of the 44 comments the grammar thread is 8 comments; so 18%. Meaning 82% of comments did not pertain to grammar.
      (1.1.) 5 of the comments are in response to a comment by *the author* – 11%
      (1.2.) 8 of the comments appear to be involved in a direct response to the authors question – 18%
      (1.3.) 11 of the comments relate to the venue or influence of the venue upon the narrative being discussed – 25%
      (1.4.) 2 of the comments represent a clear dissenting perspective from the author’s position – ~5%
      (1.5) By my reading ~60-65% of comments do substantially relate to the topic of the narrative of Pope Francis.
      (2) you need to foray out onto more of the Internet. If grammar and syntax and posting style works are confined to less than 20% of your traffic – that is an accomplishment. Be grateful you do not have commentators who feel the need to Spell Check the comments of others.

      • Daniel Jepsen says:

        I’m assuming Michael was being tongue-in-cheek (but I could be wrong). I tend to love the rabbit trails, since the companions are such fun.

    • As Winston Churchill said, this kind of tedious nonsense about grammar is something up with which we will not put!

  9. I think the folks discussing the grammar issue were just having some fun. I am amazed that people know so much about this! But yes, Michael Bell, sometimes we do go off on tangents, but I don’t mind, since I am one of those who can easily get us out on that tangent.

    And Ted, I wish there was a “Like” button. I would click it on your last post. I end sentences often with the word “with” and I know Churchill thought it just made sense to do the same at times.