In his trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis once again defended marriage, and he again edged closer to a firm, unequivocal papal statement against same-sex “marriage.” As Francis clearly continues to carefully move in that direction, liberals, both secular and non-secular, non-Catholic and Catholic, are going to feel a severe sense of betrayal and grave disappointment, contrary to the most optimistic expectations they’ve eagerly imposed upon their first “gay-marriage” pope.
Before considering what Francis said last week, I want to back up and reiterate related points I made in a piece posted here a few weeks ago, which created a backlash among some readers who thought me at best naïve and at worst a complete fool.
My piece was on liberals’ love of Pope Francis on gay issues. Being driven as they are by emotion, they easily construed his kind and tolerant words toward gays as a certain coming embrace of gay marriage. For a liberal, A must always lead to B and then to Z, with nothing in between. I argued that they are deceiving themselves, a duping of their own doing. I laid out various Francis’ statements affirming traditional-Biblical-natural marriage, as well as his extremely strong remarks back in Argentina, where he declared same-sex “marriage” a diabolical effort of “the Father of Lies” to “destroy God’s plan … and deceive the children of God.” He said then—only four years ago—that gay “marriage” discriminates against children “in advance,” depriving them of “their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.” At stake, said Cardinal Bergoglio, was “the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts” and the very survival of the human family, with Satan at work.
I noted that if one actually pauses and does a little research, examining each of Pope Francis’ many comments on marriage, one finds an obvious consistency that has never wavered from Church teaching. It’s only his language and tone that has changed.
I further noted the increasing number of statements from Francis in recent months, including widely unreported remarks just after the synod, when he remonstrated “that the family is hit, that the family is knocked and that the family is debased.… Can everything be called a family? How … much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage!” He complained: “What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!” The Holy Father condemned the “new forms, totally destructive” of marriage.
He was equally strong in his address to the “Humanum” conference, where he affirmed that “family is a family,” and that such is an “anthropological fact” that “can’t be qualified by ideological notions.”
I concluded by noting that “gay-marriage” liberals are setting up themselves for a major letdown as Francis inevitably further affirms his opposition to same-sex “marriage.” I added that when it becomes painfully clear to them that Francis isn’t what they expected, the Holy Father shouldn’t expect any charity from them. All hell could break loose.
As noted, some fellow orthodox Catholic readers of that piece were shocked at my alleged naïveté. They disputed my thinking on Francis from all sorts of angles. I would urge them to keep their eye on the ball that I tossed out. My focus was and is same-sex “marriage.” And that brings me back to the pope’s remarks in the Philippines.
In the Philippines last week, Francis stated unequivocally that the family is being threatened by relativistic “powerful forces” that are looking to “disfigure God’s plan for creation” and to “redefine the very institution of marriage.” He denounced what he called the “ideological colonization of the family.” To cite the larger quotation reported by Catholic News Agency, the pope warned against increasing efforts “to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” and against “powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
Bear in mind, when this particular pope speaks of “powerful forces,” he is very likely including what he considers satanic ones.
In short, Francis was clearly referring to the most obvious attempt to redefine marriage: same-sex “marriage.” This was understood even by the liberal, secular, mainstream media. Here are just a few examples:
MSNBC ran the headline, “Pope Francis suggests gay marriage threatens traditional families.” Its opening line stated: “In a reference to gay marriage, Pope Francis on Friday warned against an ideological colonization of the family.”
Reuters opened with this: “Pope Francis on Friday warned against an ‘ideological colonization of the family,’ a reference to gay marriage around the world.”
The UK’s left-leaning Independent likewise had no trouble interpreting the pontiff’s words, running the headline, “Pope Francis warns that same-sex marriage ‘threatens the family’ and ‘disfigures God’s plan for creation.’” Of course, Francis never used the words “same-sex marriage,” but there’s no question what he meant, and the Independent knew it.
Reporter Ben Smith at The Daily Signal wrote that “the pope reaffirmed his commitment to traditional marriage, speaking to the crowd about his concern for the ‘ideological colonization of the family,’ which many took as a swipe at gay marriage. The Vatican later confirmed that marriage was on the pope’s mind.” Smith concluded his piece: “Last October, during the Synod of bishops, many progressive church-watchers were hopeful for a more liberal church. They believed Francis would support friendlier language toward gays.”
Of course, it’s typical of liberalism that one cannot be seen as “friendly” toward gays unless accepting the entire gay agenda on marriage, and thereby rejecting one’s Church’s sacred teachings. Such is the binary, simple universe of the liberal mind, never as nuanced and sophisticated as prideful liberals insist.
I believe we can expect more of this from Pope Francis, especially with the synod on the family in Philadelphia this fall. And when we do, there will be hell to pay from “same-sex-marriage” fanatics who had fully convinced themselves that he is one of them, and will thus convince themselves (remember, they are driven by emotion) that he has lied to them.
Francis’ statements on marriage seem to be following a preconceived plan. On that, one of the most insightful assessments comes from Austen Ivereigh, who has written a book on Francis called The Great Reformer. He points to the role of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises in forming Jorge Bergoglio’s thinking and unlocking the mystery of Francis’ papacy. He states of Francis:
He absorbed at a very deep level St. Ignatius’ rules for distinguishing the action of the Holy Spirit from spiritual motions that come from the devil, which often come disguised in angelic form.
He discerned, in the move to create same-sex “marriage” in Argentina in 2010, precisely that kind of temptation: In the name of “good” things, such as dignity and equality, what the government was doing was destroying a child-centered institution based on an anthropological reality.
The Exercises are also key to understanding Francis’ reform of the Church.
St. Ignatius’ retreat is a four-week cycle. In Week I, you discover yourself to be a sinner, yet at the same time unconditionally loved and forgiven by God; in Week II, you choose to follow Christ, renouncing distractions and temptations, and commit to the truth taught by the Church. You’re able to get to Week II because of Week I; it’s the pattern of conversion. Yet, too often, we focus on the saving truth of the Church’s teaching while making it hard for people actually to experience that healing love.
What Francis is trying to do is get the Church to focus less on a Week II-type proclamation and more on Week I. It’s not an attempt to soften or dilute the Church’s teaching, but to fill it out—to show the part that too often gets skipped. Hence, his vision of the Church as a healer and a mother, not just a teacher. That’s the program of his pontificate.
I think that program may be exactly what we’re witnessing with the steady divulging of Francis’ position against same-sex “marriage.” It looks like he’s now moving through phase two of the program.
Unfortunately for this merciful pope, I fear we’ll also be witnessing some serious vituperation from his soon-to-be ex-friends on the liberal/progressive side of the aisle. I doubt they will give him the conversion to the faith and the truths of the Church that he was hoping for. Get ready for not only some further clarification from Francis on same-sex “marriage,” but for some real nastiness from the apostles of “tolerance.”
Editor’s note: In the image above is pictured Pope Francis and President Benigno Aquino III at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on January 16, 2015. (CNS Photo / Paul Haring)