Catholic Twitter is all atwit over Pope Francis’ recent inflight press conference he granted on his way back home to Rome from Canada.
Some of the Church’s most Brilliant Minds, notably those in the United States, are flooding Catholic media with commentary to remind the Vicar of Christ that he cannot change Church teaching just in case he may have forgotten. Sometimes a brilliant mind is the first sign of a weak faith. What the Brilliant Minds, perhaps, may have forgotten themselves is Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell (nor even Pope Francis) shall not prevail against His Church.
But is Pope Francis really suggesting that Church teaching be changed as some have implied?
I think sometimes the Brilliant Minds are so intent on finding the ‘wrong’ in everything the Holy Father says and does that they project into the pontiff’s words and deeds what they choose to believe he is thinking. What is amazing is that the Brilliant Minds have still not figured out Pope Francis’ modus operandi even though he’s been Pope since 2013.
The Brilliant Minds tried to warn us in 2015 that Pope Francis was going to change Church teaching on abortion because the ‘word from the Vatican grapevine’ said the ‘change’ was already in the works – Pope Francis, supposedly, had indicated as much in his own words. Then 2016 came and so did the ‘change’. After strongly, and beautifully, reaffirming the Church’s teaching on the sanctify of human life in the womb Pope Francis granted to all Priests (previously only Bishops) the power to forgive the sin of abortion. The ‘change’ was an act of mercy culminating the Year of Mercy.
Again, in 2017, the Brilliant Minds in the United States put us on high alert over the ‘impending’ change in Church teaching allowing the ordination of women. Pope Francis had indicated as much in his own words is what the ‘Vatican grapevine’ was saying. Then on June 22, 2018 Pope Francis definitively affirmed John Paul II’s definitive teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:
“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious. It cannot be done.”
The Brilliant Minds, first of all, need to be reminded that Pope Francis is a Jesuit. And the Jesuits are known for a particular method of teaching. “Don’t answer my question, question my answer”. The question is ‘put out there’ for discussion. Once the discussion gets going and various ‘opinions’ are being expressed more participants become involved in the pursuit of knowledge and eventually truth.
Going back over Pope Francis’ pontificate with this ‘modus operandi’ in focus, we discover that Pope Francis is not only a good Jesuit teacher, Pope Francis is a brilliant Jesuit teacher, which may be life-altering information for the Brilliant Minds in the United States who tell us now that Pope Francis intends to change the Church’s teaching on contraception.
If the Brilliant Minds in the United States would expend even half the time and energy on learning to understand Pope Francis as they do thinking they know what he is thinking before he even thinks of thinking it himself, what a beautiful, healthy, and peaceful Church in America we would be.
The Cathedra Petri is Pope Francis’ podium and the world is his ckassroom. I will close with these words from the brilliant Jesuit teacher, Pope Francis, written in a letter to his former students in Argentina dated December 1, 2020:
“In general, it’s not known what I usually say … people know what it’s said I say, and that thanks to the media which, as we know well, respond to partial, specific, or political interests. In this regard, I think that Catholics – from the bishops down to the faithful in the parish – have a right to know what the pope really says … and not what the media say he says. Here the telephone game applies. Johnny told me that Janie said that … and so on goes the chain.“