To the Editor:
fter reading Sohrab Ahmari’s review of Ross Douthat’s book, I’m compelled to say that the pope has brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to the problem of a divided Church (“The Catholic Crisis,” May). The conflicts brought about from Vatican II do in fact represent a duality (rigidity versus relativism), and the papacy of Francis is an opportunity to bring in a new era of reconciliation.
To the Editor:
here are two points to make regarding Sohrab Ahmari’s review of To Change the Church. First, anyone who supports Pope Francis must look at the poor job he’s doing concerning the abuse crisis in the Church, something that has done immense harm to so many. He’s offered his mea culpa over the Chilean problem, but this sheds no light on the situation concerning Cardinal Maradiaga and Bishop Juan José Pineda of Honduras. Both Maradiaga and Pineda are under serious scrutiny by the Honduran government and the Church regarding accusations of sexual misconduct. What’s more, Maradiaga is one of the nine advisers from the College of Cardinals and one of Francis’s closest confidants.
Second, the whole left/center/conservative issue will remain in flux. I have a prediction: Francis will find a way to nullify Humane Vitae. Francis has already declared that the Church must listen to the young—because the young Catholics support Francis. Prepare for a further blows to tradition. Ross Douthat is an able journalist and obviously is trying to urge the Church to muddle through. I fear, however, that Pope Francis poses a much more serious threat to 2,000 years of Catholicism than the many “cautious optimists” want to believe.
Sohrab Ahmari writes:
disagree with how Eric Cadow frames the Church’s post–Vatican II debates: “rigidity versus relativism,” with “reconciliation” offered as the middle way—or solution—that would move the Church beyond this opposition. The Catholic Church can never compromise with relativism or accept a little of it in order to avoid the counter-pole of rigidity. But if it came down to it, I would take holy rigidity over relativism any day. Having said that, post-conciliar reconciliation in the Church is a worthy goal, indeed essential. But reconciliation shouldn’t be opposed to moral truth. Indeed, truth is the condition of genuine reconciliation, insofar as reconciliation is an act of love or charity. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, “Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived” (emphasis in original).
Pope Francis himself has admitted to having made missteps in the Chilean case, so Eric Bergerud will meet no resistance from me on that front. As for Humanae Vitae, however, I don’t share Mr. Bergerud’s bleak view. The “Francis effect” has yet to extend to the dignity-of-life questions implicated in Humanae Vitae (Pope Paul VI’s encyclical reaffirming the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception). On the contrary, the pope offered a powerful counter-witness to the culture of death during the recent Alfie Evans controversy in Britain. Even on the divorce-and-remarriage question, Pope Francis has yet to make explicitly, as an exercise of his teaching authority, any of the claims his liberal admirers ascribe to him. I hope Mr. Bergerud will join me in praying that the pope goes no further than this troubling ambiguity.