Pope Francis recently explained that Catholics don’t need to breed reproduce like rabbits in order to be good Catholics. I don’t ever weigh in on Pope Francis debates, but today I’ll dip my toe.
Whenever the Pope has one of these zingers, I receive emails, comments, texts, and Facebook messages asking me to comment on this-or-that latest comment by Pope Francis. I like to remain silent. But today I thought I’d share my personal thoughts (not judgment).
The latest excitement is over Pope Francis’ comment that Catholics don’t have to breed “like rabbits” in order to be faithful.
To celebrate on Valentines Day this year, I’m going to get this really attractive date outfit for my wife Joy (beautiful mother of seven). Shhh. Don’t tell her. It’s a secret:
But seriously, I know that many families have been hurt or discouraged by this rascally rabbits comment:
- They are strong Catholics with a love for Jesus and the Church.
- They are open to life with all the joys and crosses that come along with it.
- They struggle with raising a large family.
- Finances are tight.
- School tuition is expensive.
- Mom gets ridiculed at the supermarket for “all those kids”
- Neighbors say stuff like “Don’t you know how that happens?”
- Grandparents murmur about responsibility.
- Husband and wife exchange worried glances as they go over budgets and college funds.
The one place that “understands them” is supposed to be the Catholic Church. However, when they hear themselves compared to “rabbits” by the Holy Father (whatever the context), they feel hurt.
Here’s my take on this episode and most of the other papal soundbites that get filtered through the media:
A Pope can take an external or internal approach to his role as the Vicar of Christ.
1) An internal approach would direct papal teaching and speaking energies to the faithful within the Catholic Church. He would primarily encourage and edify those who are in the fold, as Christ said to Peter: “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32).
2) An external approach would be to direct his teaching and speaking energies to the secular world which is either skeptical about the Church or downright opposed to it. The goal is bring about conversions from an unsuspecting society. An external approach crafts communicative missives to the skeptics, world leaders, and enemies of Christianity.
Pope Francis is clearly of the second approach: external. He’s sending out zingers and being provocative in order to get the attention of those who have dismissed Christ, Christianity, and the Catholic Church.
The good news is that his soundbites get turned into widely publicized headlines in secular news outlets. His voice resounds through the electric echo chamber of global communications…free press. The bad news is that there seems to be a lot of confusion over controversial positions facing the Church.
So here’s my layman’s take on it:
Let me lay down a caveat before I say something controversial here. I am a layman. I have zero magisterial authority. I’m just a guy tapping on a keyboard in Texas…
But my personal opinion (which might not be worth two cents) is that the Holy Father, in our time, should be focused on an internal approach to the papacy. Why fly around with a airplane full of journalists recording soundbites only so that they can warp them and confuse the faithful globally. It is true that the secular world happily repeats the provocative messages – but they do so unfaithfully. First confusion about homosexuality, then atheism, then remarriage, then Catholic rabbits, and so on.
My personal opinion (probably not worth two cents) is that the Church needs a papacy focused internally on feeding the sheep in the fold and less attention on distracting the wolves externally.
I think Pope Francis is a good man. He’s committed to trying to resurrect the “external papacy” of Pope Saint John Paul II rather than the “internal papacy” of Pope Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, I think the strategy, at this point, isn’t working out.