“I Know Not the Man”
Pope Francis: The Natural Child of Pope Benedict XVI
~ Part III ~
The Natural Child of the New Epistemology
It was possible from the beginning of his Pontificate to know well the mind of Benedict XVI. One can look at virtually the entire intellectual output of Joseph Ratzinger over the past 60 years as an attempt by a divided heart to justify infidelity to Catholic Tradition. This necessitated voluminous (and indeed his writings are “voluminous”) efforts on his part to “essentialize” the Deposit of Faith in order to be able to embrace a love affair with the modern world, especially the world of reductive science. He was always a man with one lung in the past, the other avidly breathing in the poisonous fumes of modernity – a man divided within.
On the other hand, after his election, those who attempted to get to “know” Francis through things that he might have written were stymied. There simply seemed nothing out there, at least not in English. Reading biographies and interviews that appeared shortly after his election also yielded virtually nothing. I remember reading Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti’s book titled Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio (conducted over a two-year period while he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires). The book can aptly be described as “doctrine-free.”
There is, however, one piece of his pre-Papacy writing available in English, and it basically “says it all.” Jorge Mario Bergoglio has long been an admirer of the founder of Communion and Liberation, Luigi Giussani (as had been all the Popes since Vatican II – John Paul II sent Cardinal Ratzinger to give his funeral oration, and Paul VI repeatedly and enthusiastically embraced Giussani’s movement as being the way out of the present crisis). A Generative Thought: An Introduction to the Works of Luigi Giussani (a work edited by Elisa Buzzi), contains a chapter written by Cardinal Bergoglio titled "For Man," based on a lecture delivered on the publication of the Spanish edition of Giussani’s book The Religious Sense.
Pope Francis’ epistemology, as to where we are to meet God, is profoundly encapsulated in one sentence of his chapter in Buzzi’s work:
I dare say that today the primary question we must face is not so much the problem of God – the existence, the knowledge of God – but the problem of the human, of human knowledge and finding in humans themselves the mark that God has made, so as to be able to meet with Him.
No man who believes that the Word (the Life and Truth of Christ) is the light of man – who believes in a “vertical”, as opposed to evolutionary (from the bottom-up), view of Revelation – could propose such a thing as this. The “primacy” which Pope Francis establishes of meeting God in man, rather than through the Revelation of God which is received through the Deposit of Faith, is therefore in profound accord with the evolutionary view of Revelation as proposed by Joseph Ratzinger.
This “encounter with man” then becomes the entire content of Francis’ concept of “missionary discipleship.” In his video message to the Church in Argentina on the Feast of St. Cajetan
He [St. Cajetan] only asks one thing of you: that you come together! That you go out and seek and find one in greater need! But not alone – with Jesus, with St. Cajetan! Am I going to go out to convince someone to become a Catholic? No, no, no. You are going to meet with him, he is your brother! That’s enough! And you are going to help him, the rest Jesus does, the Holy Spirit does it.
To “convince someone to become a Catholic” is, of course, to convince someone to accept all the truths of the Catholic Faith. Pope Francis’ response to such missionary activity is “No, no, no.”
For Pope Francis, truth is purely a matter of relationship.
In the second place, you ask me if the thought, according to which no absolute exists and therefore, not even an absolute truth but only a series of relative or subjective truths, is an error or a sin. [Note that in what follows the Pope never answers the question as to whether this is an error or a sin] To begin with, I will not speak, not even to one who believes, of 'absolute' truth, in the sense that absolute is what is inconsistent, what is deprived of any relationship. Now truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, truth is a relationship!
This is, of course, absurd. The notion that defining absolute truths about God or man deprives them of “relationship” is only true if “relationship” is a euphemism for evolution. Anything in the “process” of evolution of course cannot possess any “absoluteness.” The employment of the term relationship here is therefore a subterfuge masking an evolutionary agenda for Catholic Truth and Revelation.
The primary consequence of this evolutionary view of God, Truth, and man is that everything must be set in motion if it is to reflect the Love of Christ. The following is from Francis’ September 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor-in-chief of Civiltà Cattolica:
God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space [which apparently is to be identified with “rigid” doctrine and morality] crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes. We must initiate processes, rather than occupy spaces [another euphemism, apparently employed here for such things as the Deposit of Faith].
And since everything else has been dissolved of substantiality, there remains only one absolute: the Love of Jesus Christ:
But the saving Love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. (Ibid.)
This is equivalent to saying that Love comes before Truth. This explains why Pope Francis could proclaim the “saving Love of God” to Brazilian youth while purposefully being silent about the fact that 82% of them apparently believe that God smiles on “morning after” abortions (see my article "Descent Into Darkness," Feb., 2014). The fact is that love without truth simply confirms sin.
Pope Francis’ epistemology would thus seem to be in full accord with Giussani’s position in The Religious Sense:that the only way of bringing a person to faith in God is through encounter (an often repeated word during the fledgling papacy of Francis) which seeks to uncover an original or elementary experience – a spark of the divine, an original need (all these italicised terms are from The Religious Sense). This experience constitutes the source from which faith is to be generated.
The reader will hopefully notice the extent to which all of this corresponds to Pope Pius X’s analysis of the Modernist mentality in Pascendi. The “Religious Sense” is of course precisely the term he uses to designate the “place” where Modernists retreat from the consequences of their agnosticism. The notion that this religious sense originates in a “spark” or “original experience” which expresses itself in an original need, as well as the consequences which this entails for our understanding of God’s Revelation, is brilliantly examined in the following passage from Pascendi:
However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernists: the positive part consists in what they call vital immanence. Thus they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when natural theology has been destroyed, and the road to revelation closed by the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside of man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. In this way is formulated the principle of religious immanence. Moreover, the first actuation, so to speak, of every vital phenomenon – and religion, as noted above, belongs to this category – is due to a certain need or impulsion; but speaking more particularly of life, it has its origin in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sense. Therefore, as God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine.
Thus, the entire definition of faith of Vatican Council I is inverted. Faith is no longer to be seen by such men as Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, and Giussani as an act, “whereby inspired and assisted by the grace of God,” we “yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will” – “not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived or deceive.” Rather, faith, like any other phenomenon, is something which, as Giussani writes, must come forth from human experience and from “understanding the meaning of things.” (The Religious Sense, pp. 6-7). It is no wonder then that Jorge Mario Bergoglio (with approbation) rightly concludes that, in Giussani's The Religious Sense, “Little is said about God and much is said about human beings.”
Root cause of hostility to Tradition
It has not escaped the notice of many commentators, both on the right and the left, that, other than the rich who defraud the poor, and the “careerism” of the curia and other clergy (both categories certainly deserving condemnation), Pope Francis’ vehement condemnations are clearly reserved for those who would consider themselves Traditional Catholics. I believe there is an explanation for this phenomenon:
I have employed the image of Pope Francis as being the “natural child” of Benedict XVI. The word “natural” is here used to indicate the theological and philosophical (especially epistemological) continuity between the two men. From a Catholic perspective, of course, there is nothing natural about this epistemology or its consequent view of human psychology. It is not “natural” for any Catholic, explicitly or implicitly, to deny that the Life of Christ is the light of the human mind, and that the human intelligence is therefore created “by Him and in Him” with the natural disposition to respond to Revealed Truth. Pope Francis’ obvious hostility towards the Traditional Catholic position is therefore almost surely generated by his own self-betrayal of this Light. His “naturalness” is therefore of the world, and not of God.
The commonly held view that there is a radical difference between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis is symptomatic of the general failure to understand the immensity and depth of the problem with which we are faced. Such superficiality prevents Traditional Catholics from understanding that the present crisis (including such diverse things as false ecumenism, the New Mass, the New Theology and Philosophy, and even right down to music, art, and architecture) has been generated from the epistemological agnosticism which Pius X recognises as the foundation of Modernism, and that this agnosticism is generated from one source: the subjection of the Faith to the epistemological errors of reductive science.
This materialistic reductionism is something that has been increasingly penetrating the Church for centuries, and it has dominated the thinking of recent Popes. The anti-Traditionalism of Pope Francis is therefore the fully logical and “natural” development of the scientific reductionism, and consequent evolutionary view of truth and revelation, which is the foundation of the philosophy and theology of Pope Benedict XVI.
Taking off the liturgical blinkers
On the intellectual level, therefore, the single thing most necessary for the survival of the Church is that war be conducted against reductive science, something easily “done and won” with the aid of Thomistic metaphysics. The epistemological “gut” of reductive atomic and quantum physics is only waiting for the sword of truth to expose its absurdities.
This enemy has never been comprehensively engaged by any Pope. I know of no encyclical ever dedicated to fully exploring and condemning the metaphysical, cosmological, and epistemological errors of modern science.
Nor will the enemy be recognized, or effectively engaged, by Traditional Catholics while they continue to suffer the delusion that Pope Benedict was somehow a different species from Pope Francis, or as long as they pursue an agenda which effectively views “having the Old Mass” as possessing a primacy of place over defending the Sacred Deposit of Faith. It is not the New Mass which has produced the “new faith,” but rather the opposite. It is their myopic love-affair with Summorum Pontificum which has blinded them to the truth about Benedict XVI, and this in turn has prevented them from “seeing” the real depths of evil now threatening to completely darken the visage of the Bride of Christ.
Conclusion: A Note of Mercy
Recently, a friend sent to me the following quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations:
If they only knew what terrible thoughts obsess me! Pray for me that I may not hear the demon who wants to convince me of so many lies. The arguments of the worst materialists are forcing themselves on my mind: science is progressing all the time and will end by giving us natural explanations for everything; we shall have mastered everything and solved all problems we have today, for many discoveries still lie ahead…. (8/1897).
If the simple and profoundly holy soul of St. Thérèse could be “obsessed” with thoughts generated by reductive science (in the 19th Century!), and the threat which such science represented to her faith, then it is no wonder that virtually every intellectual in the world has now fallen victim to this engine of Satan’s war against both God and man. It could be looked upon as a miracle of God’s grace that intellectuals such as Joseph Ratzinger or Jorge Mario Bergoglio possess any faith whatsoever.
I have little doubt that all of this is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima that the Holy Father “will have much to suffer.” The truth most difficult for us to absorb and accept, however, is that this “suffering” of recent Popes is the punishment for our not having lived the requests of Our Lady which require amendment of our lives, prayer, penance, and reparation. In other words, the darkness which has descended upon the Papacy is of such a nature as to make these Popes the victims of our infidelities, as much, or more, as we are of theirs.