Thursday, April 21, 2016

John Allen Ponders: Is Franno making it harder for heretics to stay on the payroll?

I always find it interesting when enemies of the Church call the Holy Father "Francis", as if the moral bankruptcy they see happening in Rome unites them in a familial brotherhood. It's noteworthy that they never take that liberty from respecting the office with Barack.

Here is a fun story: Is Francis making it harder for liberals to stay on the payroll?

Some Catholics cheered last week, while others were either depressed or outraged, when news broke that Tony Spence, editor of the Catholic News Service (CNS) since 2004, had resigned unexpectedly. The move followed a controversy over three Tweets he posted about religious freedom bills, which critics saw as promoting a pro-LGBT agenda.

Kudos to Michael Hichborn, Voris and John Henry Weston for exposing this wolf among sheep.

To begin, an observation: Despite impressions that the laid-back ethos of the Pope Francis era means anything now goes – or, perhaps, precisely because of those impressions – there’s a strong element in the Church determined not to let that happen.

That would be us!

In a similar vein, the diagnosis of some Catholic leaders today may be that Francis does not want to upend Church teaching or tradition, since he’s said so repeatedly, but that some of his words and deeds may inadvertently seed confusion. They may feel an extra responsibility to make sure the Church doesn’t toss the doctrinal baby out with the pastoral bathwater.

What this thought suggests is a potentially grand irony: At least in some circumstances, it may actually become harder for liberals – even of the moderate, color-within-the-lines variety – to survive on the Church’s payroll in the Pope Francis era.

Under Pope Benedict XVI, there was relatively little burning concern within officialdom about “reform” getting out of control. Today those fears may seem more real, potentially inducing greater vigilance.

That spirit of “vigilance,” by the way, is less pronounced among the bishops themselves than in the broader Catholic universe.

Among some of the blogs and media platforms that went after Spence, there’s a heightened “hermeneutic of suspicion” today for anything that might smack of dissent. It seems unlikely they’ll desist patrolling for heterodoxy out of a sense that they can rely on this pope to do the job for them.

And that's the way it is.

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