Has The Line Been Crossed or has Nothing Changed?

The “don’t cross this line” skit is a standard comedy routine. Two men decide to square off for a fight. One of them (usually the smaller of the two) draws a line in the sand and warns the other, “I dare you to cross this line.” When the second man steps across the line, the first man draws a new line and says, “okay, you’re really asking for it. If you cross this line, you’re gonna regret it.” Realizing that the lines are meaningless the second man again crosses the line, and so on, until the conflict is resolved—usually in the favor of the bigger man.

A real-life, but not so funny version of the skit has been playing out in the Church ever since Francis was elected pope. Francis, or one of his proxies, issues a statement or document that seems to contradict Church teachings. In response, traditional Catholics warn that the new teaching is possibly heretical or, at any rate, very close to the line. They seem to imply that if Francis crosses the line, grave consequences will follow.

Other Catholics, who wish to be seen as more moderate, argue that nothing has really changed. They explain away each new radical innovation as simply a logical but minor development of doctrine. Nothing to worry about, they say: “What we are seeing is merely a shift from a doctrinal emphasis to a pastoral emphasis.”

The latest installment in the “don’t cross this line” series is the release of Fiducia Supplicans, a document approved by Francis which gives priests permission to impart a blessing to same-sex couples.

This is one of the “do not cross” lines that many Catholics were sure the pope would respect. But he stepped over it without a look backwards.

Anyone who has been paying attention over the last decade understands that after the couples blessings, the next step in the progression will be same-sex “marriage” blessings, and after that Church officiated same-sex weddings.

Nevertheless, many if not most Catholic prelates in America sought to downplay the significance of the document. According to a CNA headline, “U.S. bishops: Vatican declaration does not change Church teaching on marriage.” Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said that “the change is widening the scope of our consciousness of who can receive blessings.” Meanwhile, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston, said he had “no problems” with the document because it distinguished between pastoral blessings and formal liturgical blessings such as the blessing of a marriage. “I don’t think anything really has changed,” said DiNardo, “except we want to be merciful, always merciful.”

It’s not surprising that the bishops would go along with the “blessings” document because Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez who was largely responsible for writing it, anticipated the objections to it—particularly the objection that same-sex blessings serve to undermine the Church’s teaching on marriage and sex. In several places, Fernandez assures his audience that the blessing in no way contradicts “the perennial Catholic doctrine of marriage.”

Except that it does. Fernandez states that couples who ask for a blessing” do not claim a legitimization of their own status.” But as Eric Sammons points out in Crisis, “Of course that’s what they are claiming.” He asks, “Does Fernandez really think that we are dumb enough to believe that a same-sex couple who comes to a priest to bless their relationship doesn’t claim a certain legitimization?”

Apparently, however, a number of American bishops are dumb enough to believe it—or crafty enough to pretend to believe it.

Yet, despite the “nothing has changed” mantra, it seems that something significant has changed. Writing in Catholic World Report, theologian Larry Chapp contends that the document “does indeed represent an important shift in magisterial teaching.” Coming at the issue from a different point of view, LGBT activist Fr. James Martin, S.J arrives at the same conclusion. He writes “Be wary of the ‘Nothing has changed’ response to today’s news. It’s a significant change. In short, yesterday, as a priest, I was forbidden to bless same-sex couples at all. Today with some limitations I can.”

But both Chapp and Martin are mistaken to think that the change was set in motion by the new document. In fact, almost the whole aim and mission of the Francis papacy has been to radically change the Church.

What the release of the document accomplished was not a shift or a change of direction. It merely expanded on changes that had already been set in motion. What it may have accomplished, however, is a change in understanding.

From this point on it will be increasingly difficult for Catholics to fool themselves regarding the true intentions of Francis and his accomplices in the hierarchy. Assurances that “nothing has changed” and that “this has all happened before” will ring hollow as the multi-front attack on Catholic doctrine expands. What is becoming clear is that Francis is not dissatisfied with one or two items of the faith but with the whole package. He sees himself above all not as a Christian but as a humanist.

This may seem like a radical claim, but what is now happening in the Church is best explained not by the “we’ve-seen-all-this-before” crowd, but by the radical thesis that the Church is now governed by apostates.

Some critics of Francis have been attacked as alarmists for using over-the-top language such as “heretic,” “antipope,” “false prophet,” and “apostate.” But when you’re faced with a bizarre over-the-top situation what other kind of language would be appropriate? “Let’s wait this out and see what happens next”?

We live in unprecedented times. For one thing, we have witnessed the strange spectacle of Pope Benedict XVI’s partial resignation followed by his continuation in the role of pope and the acceptance of this odd situation by Francis. For another thing, there are now dozens, if not hundreds of instances of Francis’ disregard for Catholic tradition and teaching.

But rather than attempting to count all the trees in the forest, let’s try to draw a picture of the forest itself. In a recent piece, John Zmirak, a senior editor at The Stream, says that Francis’s ultimate goal is the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church. He writes:

“There’s a consistent pattern to his behavior. It is that of a vandal, a foreign agent whose task is to salt the fields and poison the water at an institution he hates.  Nothing else could adequately explain Francis’ ongoing persecution of the Church.”

But why would Francis want to do such a thing? Zmirak explains, “He sees his historic role as completing the destruction of Christianity that Marx barely began.”

Historic role? Is Francis concerned with his role in history? But isn’t Francis a model of modesty and humility—a man of the people who, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, walked to work rather than ride in a chauffeured limousine?

Well, no. Francis may be unconcerned with the trappings of power, but he covets power itself. And, above all, he suffers from intellectual pride. He sees himself as one set apart—as one with a great mission to accomplish. But that mission is not to build up the Church he now rules, but to tear it down. As historian and close observer of Francis, Henry Sire puts it: “Pope Francis is an old man in a hurry. He’s desperate to institutionalize his revolution before he dies…”

What Sire says seems to coincide with what St. Paul said in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

“For that day [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (Thess 2: 3-4).

Francis is obviously a man of lawlessness. Just as President Biden refuses to enforce U.S. immigration laws, Francis refuses to enforce the laws of the Church. Coincidentally, he also disregards the immigration laws of every nation on earth.

Of course, Francis has not yet proclaimed himself to be God. However, he has given indications that he may think of himself as equal to Jesus or possibly even superior to him. One sometimes gets the impression that he looks upon himself as the one who has come to correct the errors of Jesus.

 At this point, he can’t afford to be too upfront about this condescending attitude toward Jesus, but he can let others convey the message. In August, Francis’ close adviser, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, delivered and then published a sermon in which he describes Jesus as rigid, harsh, and narrow-minded—a man who shared the prejudices of his time and place.

Spadaro’s sermon was tantamount to denying the divinity of Christ, yet Francis, as far as I know, did nothing to correct or penalize him. In fact, shortly after the publication of Spadaro’s reflections, Francis appointed him to an important position in the Dicastery for Culture and Education, leaving suspicious folk like myself to conclude that Francis probably shares the same views.

While not as forthright as Spadaro, Francis often takes a cavalier attitude toward Church teachings that originate with Christ. Although he avoids direct criticism of Christ, he frequently contradicts the teachings of Christ. Jesus told us to repent our sins, but Francis tells us that no repentance is necessary. Jesus told his disciples to “make disciples of all nations” but Francis tells us that conversion is unnecessary since all religions share the same values.

The latter attitude is known as religious indifferentism—the belief that it does not matter to which religion one belongs. It’s exceedingly strange that the head of the Catholic Church subscribes to the belief. Christ was certainly not indifferent to the matter. He came to found a Church and the Church he founded was not based on the principal of indifferentism.

Religious indifferentism, however, is a basic tenet of Freemasonry. So, it’s no surprise that when Bergoglio was elected pope, Freemason leaders from all over the world celebrated.

As well they should. I doubt that Francis himself is a Mason, but he has given many signs that he places more faith in the religion of humanism than in Christianity. The Document on Human Fraternity which he co-signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University is mainly about—no surprise—the power of human fraternity to overcome all evils.

With its assertion that Christianity and Islam are humanist religions that share the same values, the Document on Human Fraternity definitely crossed the line that separates truth from fiction. The implicit message of the document is that it doesn’t matter which religion you choose.

But, of course, there is nothing in the Gospel to support this kumbaya vision of religion. Quite the opposite, the New Testament insists that faith in Christ is the one true faith.

However, most Christians didn’t pay much attention. Most saw the document as nothing more than a simple statement of solidarity and common purpose between the two faiths.

Fiducia Supplicans, by contrast, is receiving a great deal of attention.  Because it deals with intimate relations it hits closer to home than the Abu Dhabi statement. Moreover, many Catholics are vaguely aware that its purpose is to open the door to acceptance of what were previously considered sinful relationships.

But it’s difficult for many to say why because the document is, as Louis Knuffke writes in LifeSite News, “a masterful work of deceit.” It claims to uphold Catholic teaching on marriage and on sexual activity outside of marriage, while cleverly undermining that teaching. As Knuffke puts it, “it is a lie and an insidious snare designed cleverly to disarm those who faithfully adhere to the Church’s universal teaching on marriage, while giving those who have long dissented from that teaching a green light to demand openly the acceptance and approval of relationships and activities that God himself condemns…”

Fiducia Supplicans is one more proof that Francis and his allies have no respect for Catholic teaching. Expect them to cross more lines in the future. But, as the careful construction of the document suggests, expect them to put even more effort into blurring those lines and confusing the faithful. In short, don’t fall for the claim that nothing has changed. Radical change is what they seek. 

Picture credit: Pixabay