I Hope the Pope Will Provide Some Much-Needed Clarity

Many Catholics are sincerely confused and virtually begging for guidance.

Pope Francis greets the crowd at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2017.
Pope Francis greets the crowd at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 20, 2017. (photo: Marina Testino/CNA)

Nehemiah 8:8 (RSV) And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they [the Levites] gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; . . .

Mark 6:34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Here are some random thoughts of mine, mostly culled from dialogues:

I continue to believe that the pope should clarify things, in light of the present growing confusion, for the good of the Church. People (whether they’re wrong in asking or in substance or not) have questions. Divisions multiply. He’s the shepherd.

It’s always better to clarify than not to, in instances of confusion (a well-known phenomenon that I’ve noted as an author and apologist). Probably good would result from answering, and probably only bad from not answering.

We need answers for the sake of unity. What good comes out of what we have now in the Church? If the pope answered, I think it would do a great deal of good. This is a big reason why we have the pope in the Church: to give the “final say” at times, when it is sorely needed. “The buck stops here” . . .

He doesn’t have to in some strict canonical sense. But in my humble opinion, he should voluntarily do so, so as to provide answers in a crisis situation. Only he can do it; it’s better that he does, therefore, he should do it. What do we have to lose, in other words, if the pope clarifies?

I believe that Amoris Laetitia is orthodox. It’s the contradictory implementation that is causing problems. And that is exactly what only the pope can definitively settle. So the question is: why in the world doesn’t he do so?

Theological liberals / dissidents / modernists / heterodox [choose your term] are already exploiting confusion and (rightly or wrongly) perceived “loopholes” as a license to depart from true Catholic practice, just as they did with Vatican II and the reform of the Mass.

The pope (or at least a high-ranking Cardinal in effect speaking “for” him) needs to clarify, and the sooner the better. The longer the current confusion continues on, the worse it gets. It’s now scandalous. Soon it will be outright disastrous, leading to defections into quasi-schismatic radical reactionary Catholicism or out of Catholicism altogether (similar to an early 1970s scenario of mass defection).

I’m quite willing to give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt, and wait and see until more “certain” statements are made. I’m not in any sort of personal or faith crisis. Many others, I think unfortunately, are not so unassuming or untroubled, and therein lies the widening troublesome situation that we now face, until this is definitively resolved.

The more uncertainty we have, the more we will have undue and unedifying speculation, detraction, gossip, calumny, and slander taking place in our beloved social media. And that is not good at all. Confusion within the Church doesn’t help in the slightest, our witness to the world.

Pope Francis is the servant of the servants of God, and so he is our servant. This includes being a shepherd and answering sincere, well-meaning questions: just as Jesus did when He explained the parables (difficult to understand) to His disciples, but not to the more skeptical masses.

There is nothing wrong with seeking clarification from the pope. It’s the cynical judgments that folks too often make while doing that, that are excessive and wrong. I have not judged him. I’m simply calling for clarification from the supreme teacher of the Church.

I think that the pope’s utter refusal to answer is troublesome. Many Catholics (including many bishops and priests) are clearly confused and virtually begging for guidance. Why would the shepherd of the sheep resolutely refuse to try to help them: even on a private basis, if he prefers that? It’s baffling to me.

Whether it is from irresponsible lack of knowledge, rebelliousness, or genuine sincere uncertainty, many are confused, so there is a need to correct the bishops who have been implementing the teaching wrongly, in contradiction to others who have correctly done so. I think there is confusion now just like there was chaos after Vatican II. People weren't sure what the documents taught -- even though the contents seem perfectly clear to me.

Pope St. Leo the Great spoke of the shepherding duties of the pope in the 5th century:

. . . being placed, as it were, on a watch-tower, according to the will of the LORD, we should both lend our approval to things when they run in accordance with our wishes, and correct, by applying the remedies of compulsion, what we observe gone wrong through any aggression: hoping that abundant fruit will be the result of our sowing the seed, if we do not allow those things to increase which have begun to spring up to the spoiling of the harvest. (Letter 6, section 1; from Jan. 12, 444)

The devout faith of our most clement prince, knowing that it especially concerns his glory to prevent any seed of error from springing up within the Catholic Church, has paid such deference to the Divine institutions as to apply to the authority of the Apostolic See for a proper settlement: as if he wished it to be declared by the most blessed Peter himself . . . (Letter 33, section 1; from June 13, 449)

. . . the most blessed Apostle Peter; . . . watches unceasingly like a shepherd over the sheep entrusted to him by the Lord, and who will prevail in his entreaties that the Church of God, which was founded by his preaching, may be free from all error, . . . (Sermon 16, section 6)