The Best We Can Hope for is Paul VI

The best advice I can give my fellow Catholics as we move through the final weeks of Lent toward Easter is this: focus on your own spiritual preparations, on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and not the goings on in Rome.

Monday’s surprising affirmation of orthodoxy in the matter of same-sex unions has produced little defense among conservative Catholics, because Francis has done everything he could up until this point to demonstrate his contempt for us. It has produced little defense among liberal Catholics, because their allegiance to Francis has been entirely transactional. Francis has engendered virtually no personal loyalty in his eight years as pope.

Some orthodox Catholics, embittered after eight years of a pope who told young people at the beginning of his pontificate that he wanted them to make a mess in the Church, look at the many messes Francis has made and expect him to somehow walk back Monday’s pronouncement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Some even suggest that was the plan all along.

I don’t think that’s the case. I remain grateful for Monday’s reaffirmation of what Christians have believed since our faith began, and even allow myself to hope that it may be an instance of Jesus’ assurance to the first pope, the assurance that is proudly emblazoned around the dome of St. Peter’s, being fulfilled.

But it’s depressing to realize that the best we can hope for is that Francis is another Paul VI, a pope who desperately courted the secular left, profoundly alienated many conservative Catholics, and who, at the end of his pontificate, found himself virtually friendless after he refused to cross lines he didn’t think he could cross.

Friday, we Catholics, conservatives and liberals alike, observe the feast of St. Joseph, named the patron of the universal Church in the 19th century. The successor of Peter is desperately in need of St. Joseph’s prayers. As are all of us who sail in the Barque of Peter, including those who find themselves thinking of jumping ship. Kyrie eleison.

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