Pope Francis raised eyebrows earlier this month by concelebrating Mass with and kissing the hand of a leading homosexual activist priest campaigning for changes in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. On May 6, Francis received the 93 year-old priest who has cofounded the homosexualist activist organization, Agedo Foggia, that is opposed to Catholic Church teaching.
Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Martha and then presented the pontiff with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten and a copy of his most recent book, “Dear Don Michele - questions to an inconvenient priest”.
In a previous book, Don Michele wrote, “homosexual love is a gift from (God) no less than heterosexual.” He also disparaged the idea of homosexual couples not having sex.
Neo-Caths believe that shocking papal acts of this magnitude can only be spun reported on correctly by responsible and experienced propagandists apologists. Poor Ms. White apparently did not get the memo that these stories need to be treated delicately, much like bombs.
How to Write Like a Neo-Cath Objectively
First, the Neo-Catholic apologist reporter must deconstruct the story itself into isolated parts. Focus must be placed on each specific act separately, as if they each took place in a vacuum. Thus, the “reporter” should present three separate unrelated acts. Francis concelebrated Mass with Fr. Paolis, Fr. Paolis gave Francis gifts, and Francis kissed the hand of Fr. Paolis.
Second, the event must be isolated and insulated from everything else we know about Francis. For instance, Francis’ famous line “Who Am I to Judge?” must be made a completely separate and irrelevant event with its own isolated explanation.
Third, the fact that Fr. Paolis is “a well-known figure in Italy as a leading clerical apologist for the homosexualist ideology” should never even be mentioned much less brought to anyone’s attention. It helps to destroy the plausible deniability argument (Neo-Catholic favorite) that will be used later.
Fourth, time to tie this all together by performing a clever sleight of mind. The trick is to get the reader so focused on the minutiae so as to miss the big picture. Thus, a good Neo-Catholic apologist reporter should discuss each dismembered part of the story one at a time being careful to focus on every possible alternate explanation of that specific out of context act, no matter how tortured it is.
In the end, if the Neo-Catholic apologist reporter does his job well, he will end up with a masterpiece of misdirection propaganda journalism. The following is an example of what such a piece of Neo-Catholic journalism might look like in this case. I’ve read a few Neo-Catholic whoppers trying to explain away this incident, but none “better” than the following which I saw quoted in a Neo-Catholic blog’s combox. Although this piece is unintentionally hilarious, I assure you it is not from the Remnant’s satire page:
You people need to chill out or you're going to get anxiety over things that are not important or are being misunderstood.
First: every Catholic priest who is not suspended has the RIGHT TO CONCELEBRATE at any public mass, even if it's the pope celebrating it. This priest is not suspended. Therefore, he has a canonical right to concelebrate.
Second: the fact that someone espouses a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Church does not take away his rights. The person may be in error, but his rights remain in place. This is true even in the civil sphere. You folks seem to want to strip this man of his right to concelebrate, because of his position on homosexuality. Canon law does not allow that. Priests have duties, but they also have rights. Violating their rights is not the way to bring them around to fidelity to duty.
Third: He gave the pope a gift of his book. There is nothing wrong with that. It's a gift. For all we know, the pope may have never read the man's work and he may find it interesting to read. Popes read many books and other works, be they orthodox Catholic or at the other end of the spectrum. It's call academic scholarship. A pope would be a very poor academician if he only read the Fathers of the Church and never read the opposing arguments. This does not change anything. It just means that he's well informed.
Fourth: the priest gave him a wooden chalice. Big deal. It does not mean that the pope is going to use it. Why is there a presumption that the pope is going to use it? Why can't it be seen for what it is, a gift of a piece of craftsmanship. The gift of a wooden chalice is not a sin. Stop making it what it's not. It does not help you or others. For what it's worth, the pope can change that rule or dispense himself from the rule, if he so wishes to do. We need to stop imposing laws on the pope when such laws are not applicable and we need not to assume, just because he accepted a gift. It would have been a violation of charity to turn the gift away.
Fifth: the pope kissed the man's hand. The man is 93 years old. Whatever his position is on homosexuality, he is a senior citizen compared to the pope and a priest in good standing with the Church unless he is suspended. Do we assume that the man has never done any good for the Church during his 93-years on this earth, because of his position on homosexuality? That's a very narrow way of seeing another human being, certainly not the way that Christ views us. Maybe we should be thankful that Christ does not judge us by our standards or we'd all be in hell.
Indeed, poor Ms. White needs to get with the program. Couldn’t she have at least peppered in a few of these creative excuses or at least sewn some existential doubt into her report to make it more objective? At least one prominent Neo-Catholic writer thinks so.
The Curious World of the Patheosites
After two of her Patheos bloggers went after Ms. White personally (and viciously) on their Facebook pages, Elizabeth Scalia publicly defended them on her blog. In addition, she lectured LifeSite News and Ms. White for good measure:
The issue is this: On May 23, Life Site News (LSN) published a piece by Hilary White that — when taken in its entirety — amounted to, “Oh-my-gawd-the-pope-concelebrated-mass-and-kissed-the-hand-of-a-93-year-old-dissenting-priest-who-defends-homosexual-love-and-homosexual-and-isn’t-this-horrible-about-the-dissenting-homosexual-and-awful-Francis-and-homosexualists-and-homosexual!”
I like and respect LSN Managing Editor John Jalsevac and Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen, and as an editor I completely understand wanting to go to bat for one of your writers, but the White piece was nothing more than willful alarmism. It was fodder for the daily-outrage disguised as news; a heady fix for those who — since the resignation of the Pope Emeritus and the election of Francis — have become needful addicts of Catholic Angst and Agita.
Although not worthy of a Neo-Cath gold medal like the fanciful combox explanation of Francis’ actions, Ms. Scalia’s own explanation deserves at least the silver:
Here’s what I think: that Francis concelebrated mass with the priest because the Pontifex is a “bridge-builder”, that he kissed the guy’s hand because it is, fundamentally, the most expedient pro-life, pro-human-dignity-declaring public action a pope can make in such circumstances.
In fact, it’s ironic that a pro-life advocacy journal should have missed that point. A hand-kiss — whether it is bestowed upon a combative 93 year-old priest, or a Holocaust survivor, or a sickly baby, or a comatose woman sends this most life-affirming message: “before you are anything else you are a human being, beloved of God and made in his image. My expression of love and respect for you is therefore nothing more or less than an expression of love and respect for God and his creation. As Pope Benedict XVI has written, every person needs to understand that he is seen and heard and valued at this very basic level, must first hear and believe ‘it is good that you exist’. Any further dialogue, any further interaction we have must build from this essential premise: ‘it is good that you exist’.”
This seems to me to be a very good public message: engage everyone — not just the ‘deserving’ but everyone — by first affirming, “it is good that you exist.”
A “bridge-builder” indeed! Unfortunately for us, this bridge leads nowhere. Furthermore, where are “Pontifex’s” bridge-building skills when it comes to the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate? Why doesn’t Pope Francis concelebrate a Mass with their founder, Father Stefano Maria Manelli, who is instead under house-arrest for being a “crypto-Lefebvrian?” Who knows, it might make Fr. Manelli think it is “good that he exists” since it is all but obvious the Vatican wishes he didn’t.
Cracks in the Facade
In the final analysis Ms. Scalia and the Neo-Catholic media are right to be alarmed. The reason for the disproportionately vicious backlash against LifeSite News and Ms. White (and apparently anyone who defends her) is the same reason Michael Matt and Chris Ferrara praised the duo in the latest episode of The Remnant Forum.
The reason is that LifeSite News, a mainstream pro-life Catholic website with a large following, had the courage to tell the truth about the latest scandalous act committed by the current Pontiff. For Neo-Catholic bloggers who make their living off of the “New Springtime” the truth about “Pontifex” is indeed reason to panic.
Until now, the Neo-Catholic media complex has successfully acted as a dam to block unfiltered information about the Church crisis and Francis from the average Catholic. If LifeSite News begins to report uncensored information regarding Francis’ actions relevant to life-issues and moral teaching, it may just be the beginning of the end of their place in the sun.
How else does one explain the vicious attempts to discredit a great pro-life organization like LifeSite and to demonize Ms. White personally? It seems if the Neo-Caths can’t persuade on the merits, the next step is to isolate, discredit, and attack any opposing organization until they capitulate. LifeSite News did later issue an unnecessary and confusing “clarification” to their original article under relentless pressure from Neo-Cath bloggers. However, the fact remains that they had the courage and honesty to publish the piece in the first place and it still remains online.
The Real Story
The great irony here is that the Pope of the Catholic Church can concelebrate Mass with a well-known homosexual-activist priest, accept his gift of a blasphemous book and then kiss his hands, and all the Neo-Catholic bloggers can focus on is ripping apart anyone in their milieu who actually reports these facts without spin. The effort is obviously meant to make the narrative in the conservative Catholic world about Hilary White and LifeSite News and not about the unprecedented tragic papacy unfolding before our eyes.
Think about it. Would any conservative Novus Ordo priest in their right mind concelebrate Holy Mass with a known dissenter on infallible moral teaching? Would any conservative Catholic in their right mind attend the Mass of such a notoriously heretical priest? Obviously not.
But when Pope Francis is put in the equation, otherwise bright, intelligent, and orthodox Catholics start to become unable to think. It is as if they have, in that moment, flown down the rabbit hole where only the trance-like smile of the Neo-Catholic Cheshire Cat can try to make sense of what they are experiencing.
But Francis went even further than concelebrating Mass. Instead of suspending the dissident priest, Francis treated him as some sort of honored guest, even kissing the very hands which wrote the poisonous book of demonic error offered to him as a “gift.” As for kissing the hands of heretics, St. Pius X had a slightly different view as to the most prudent approach for dealing with them:
Yet in our day the Roman Pontiff doesn’t condemn heretics, he concelebrates with them. He doesn’t ban a book which promotes a deadly vice, he accepts it as a gift. He doesn’t forbid the hands of a heretic priest from daring to touch Our Lord, instead he kisses them.
As for the Neo-Catholic argument that the Pope had no idea who this priest was, it is beneath even them to posit this absurdity. For even if Francis truly had no idea who this priest was, he surely knows by now. And if he does know, and if he truly detested the shameless way this priest flaunts the very moral law of the Church, he would be aghast at what he did. He would have long since issued a public apology for the scandal he caused and he would have sanctioned the priest in question.
For these actions would be consistent behavior for a man who detested what the priest stood for. Instead there has been not one denial to my knowledge from official sources that Pope Francis knew exactly who he was meeting, concelebrating with, and kissing. What do these actions tell us about our current Pope and the current state of the Church? Far more than the Neo-Catholics are willing to admit.