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"Spirit of Vatican II" and "I'm a Pope Francis Catholic"

Basilica of St. Peter, Engraving by Giovanni Piranesi  18th Century

I ran across this article that proposed five phrases that should be banished from the Catholic lexicon. Among the collection was  "Spirit of Vatican II". I am old enough to have lived through the liturgical turmoil that followed Vatican II so I do remember this phrase being used to justify all sorts of innovations that had no grounding whatsoever in the documents of Vatican II. However, I think currently when the phrase is used, it is done so in a pejorative way to condemn actions or ideology that are contrary to Catholic teaching. It now refers to an inappropriate twisting or erroneous interpretation of the work and documents of Vatican II. So, when it is used in that context, I am not so sure it needs to go away.

For many years I thought that if Vatican II had occurred in the internet age, all of the ridiculous liturgical and catechetical initiatives that were wrongly attributed to Vatican II could not have occurred. I was certain that all the incorrect assertions would be rapidly called out because the truth would be so readily available.  However, after the election of Pope Francis I have revised my opinion. Currently all sorts of incorrect statements about Church teaching are being attributed to Pope Francis and are flying around the internet at lightning speed. Since far too many people blindly read the latest 140-character twitter post or Facebook meme and accept it as Gospel truth, we are hearing that Pope Francis is changing the Church teachings on homosexuality, marriage, Communion, and abortion. Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine claims he can support legalized abortion because he is a "Pope Francis" Catholic.

The truth is, Pope Francis has not changed a single Church teaching. He has not lessened the severity of a single sin. He has been steadfast in his support for marriage as the unique union of one man and one woman. However, he is more of a pastor than a teacher. His language is imprecise and lends itself to cherry picking phrases that when taken out of context can be construed incorrectly.

For example, take his "Who am I to judge" phrase that is quoted all over the place as a call to accept homosexual behavior. The phrase in context is:

That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Mah! So much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find anyone who can give me a Vatican identity card with “gay” [written on it]. They say they are there. I think that when you encounter a person like this, you must make a distinction between the fact of a person being gay from the fact of being a lobby, because lobbies, all are not good. That is bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very beautiful way, but says, wait a moment, how do you say... it says, [that] these persons must not be marginalized for this, they must be integrated into society.”

He refers to the Catechism as giving the correct response to homosexuality. In other words, someone who suffers from same-sex attraction but seeks to live according to God's will must be supported and loved. All sinners must be welcomed into the field hospital of the Church. The Catholic Church does not shun anyone.  Nowhere has Pope Francis supported homosexual behavior or minimized its sinfulness.

As long as we have a large number of people willing to swallow anything agenda driven media outlets propose without questioning its authenticity and accuracy, we will have claims that the Church is changing and there is a new "spirit" leading the way.  There is no such thing as a "Vatican II" Catholic or a "Pope Francis" Catholic or even a "Pope John Paul II" or "Pope Benedict XVI" Catholic for that matter. There is only one, holy catholic, apostolic Church founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter. If you want to know what that means, do as Pope Francis suggests and pick up the Catechism.


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