Selective Outrage

Considerable shock is being expressed by Catholics over that demonic little wretch who disrupted Christmas Mass at the Cologne Cathedral by jumping on the altar topless. Contributing in no small measure to the disgust of believers of every stripe are the words she had written on her body, “I AM GOD.”

It occurs to me, however, just how selective Catholic outrage can be in such matters.

Have you ever shared some personal concern with a non-believing friend or acquaintance, you know… an agnostic, atheist, humanist, “I’m a good person” type?  The conversation often goes something like this:

Believer: “My grandmother had a stroke and she may not recover full use of her lower extremities.”

Good Person: “I’m so sorry. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for her,” or perhaps, “I’m thinking positive thoughts!”

In any event, what the “good person” is really saying in this case is essentially the same outrageous thing that tramp back in Cologne had written on her torso, “I AM GOD.”

Think about it, this particular brand of “good person” can’t quite get their hands around this far fetched God thing, and yet has somehow managed to convince themselves that the sheer force of their thoughts is enough to effect another person’s healing. Talk about high self esteem!

Upon examination, some may attribute the efficaciousness of their brainwaves to some amorphous Universal Energy, but in the end, it’s really just another I AM GOD moment with a dash of subtlety; one that yields precious little outrage on the part of those who should see it for what it is.

This brings me to another recent news item.

In his Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day, Pope Francis stirred angst among some Catholics, albeit far fewer, while delighting many an agnostic, atheist, humanist, “I’m a good person” types when he said:

“I also invite non-believers to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace.”

OK, I get it… a sincere desire for peace may, by God’s grace, serve as a stepping stone that eventually leads to Christ, the Prince of Peace apart from Whom no real peace can exist. To be fair, the Holy Father also said:

True peace – we know this well – is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, but making peace is an art, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Even so, when the Roman Pontiff gives humanists a reason to believe that seeking peace “either by prayer or by desire” are simply different paths that lead to the same destination, he is only confirming them in their error, an error that ultimately amounts to asserting I AM GOD.

This is classic Pope Francis, speak the truth in one breath, undermine it in the next; all things to all people, the world’s, and the worldly’s, darling. One thing it is not, however, is a departure from Pope Benedict (much less his predecessor) as some would have it.

On January 1, 2011, the Holy Father, engendering far too little outrage, said:

Therefore next October I shall go as a pilgrim to the town of St Francis, inviting my Christian brethren of various denominations, the exponents of the world’s religious traditions to join this Pilgrimage and ideally all men and women of good will. It will aim to commemorate the historical action desired by my Predecessor and to solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.

Imagine, the Vicar of Christ encouraging followers of false religions (and as the event took place, atheists and humanists too) to persist in their error as if their “good thoughts” and pagan practices could possibly render a service to the cause of peace.

As Pope Francis gives sober-minded Catholics more and more causes for concern, Pope Benedict’s legacy seems to be taking on a quasi-mythological dimension.

Understandable perhaps, but for all of the papal gifts that left the Vatican in a helicopter on February 28th not to be seen again since, we must resist any temptation to glorify the Benedictine pontificate such that it becomes the new baseline for what one reasonably considers “normal” Catholic life, as such would be… well, outrageous.

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