The interventions, two of them now, of Fr Pio Pinto against
The Four Cardinals i Quattro Cardinali have probably been a little exaggerated in their reporting. However reading excerpts of his answers is enough to realise that Fr Pinto was verging on the hysterical in his support-of-the-pope-by-attacking-the-cardinals. In a second interview he has stepped back from any suggestion that the pope could strip the cardinals of their scarlet. He extols the pope’s mercifulness, twists the two synods on the family into conclusion they did not make, and makes a nasty ad hominem attack against Cardinal Meisner. The tone of Fr Pinto stands in stark contrast to the measured and respectful tone of the cardinals’ letter. Fr Pinto is getting on and some may be wondering if he is hoping for a little sacred purple to cushion his retirement. Chi sa?
The real danger in this affair is not that the pope will teach heresy. I very much doubt he will make any such outright teaching. His strategy is more a divide and conquer one, it seems. To leave the prelates to fight it out while he looks on, while discreetly encouraging some—that appears to be his strategy. Monarchs have often used this tactic to keep their courts from plotting against them. But of course, we are told that there is no papal court any more.
The real danger lies, rather, in the pope’s apparent refusal to take up his petrine obligations and confirm the brethren in right teaching. If he is deliberately abnegating his papal duty in this regard, he is setting himself a dangerous precedent. Having abnegated it in one, extremely important, area he will have to justify it to the Church and to the thinking public if he takes it up again with any gusto in another area. Cafeteria theology has blighted the Church for decades; a cafeteria papacy would be harmful indeed both for the pope and the Church. One cannot be plain old Bishop of Rome one minute, and then wield the stick of the Supreme Pontificate another without justifying one’s actions. If he cannot, and how could he, he would effectively neuter his papacy in most forums, except the mainstream media.
But the point is he is not Bishop of Rome as he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. They are qualitatively different offices with markedly different responsibilities. As John XXII found out, popes must be very cautious in expressing their personal opinions. The pope’s job is to teach and guard the Truth of the Christian faith, whether he likes it or not. He can play court politics as much as he wants, and history gives him ample precedent. Doctrinal politics is another thing entirely, all the more sensitive in the context of post-conciliar confusion and decline.
Pope Francis is keen that the Church does not proselytise (sorry St Francis Xavier, another Jesuit, whose feast we kept yesterday), but rather win people by our witness and example. Fair enough. So it behoves all in the Church, from top to bottom, to ensure that we act as we should, and not merely as we would like. In the face of the world the Church is a monstrance for the Body of Christ, but all too often it is not Christ that is revealed for the world to behold and believe, but the old Adam of fallen humanity. Having been given the Truth from the Tree of Life, we find ourselves being obsessed instead with futile manipulations of the knowledge of good and evil. How on earth, and in heaven, will this win people to Christ?
Fr Pinto is quoted as saying that the pope “indirectly told them (the four cardinals) that they only see white or black, when there are shades of color in the Church.” Black and white are so rigid when compared to the fluid transitions of one shade of colour to another. Yet Fr Pinto, if this is his own personal spin on things, has missed the obvious. White is the sum of all colours, black is the absence of any of them. White is, to pursue the metaphor, the congregation of all truth, and black is its absence. However much grey some may try to introduce into things, ultimately debates on morality and doctrine find their end in either truth or error. There can be no grey without the white of truth and the black of error in the first place.
Fr Pinto, if we do not accept that we must see white and black, we will have nothing to offer the world for its salvation other than each individual’s unique cypto-magisterium of personal opinion. When we each have our own “truth” there is no Truth to be had at all. It’s either the white of the garment of salvation, or the impenetrable darkness of the tomb. The choice is real, because Hell is too.