William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Open Thread: Effect Of Pope’s Visit?

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Now the real excuse for this post is that yesterday, it being a sort of holiday, I made rather merry and neglected to cause a post to be written. Since I cannot rely on randomness, chance, or whatever else is supposed to be the modern, sophisticated replacement for hard chance, nothing got done. From nothing came nothing.

The New York Post became the New York Pope. The lachrymose speaker of the house was near to blubbering, and the wet stuff glistened the cheeks of several other other Congresspeoples. Great masses made pilgrimages to DC, NYC, or Philly. The sworn secular were lost in admiration, even, I am guessing, to the point of doubting their doubts. Even the die-finally atheists on Twitter were respectful, more or less.

Ross Douthat, of the secular Cathedral’s press organ, said Pope Francis bolstered progressives.

It’s a gift the religious left sorely needed, because the last few decades have made a marriage of Christian faith and liberal politics seem doomed to eventual divorce. Since the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations associated with progressive politics have experienced a steep decline in membership and influence, while American liberalism has become more secular and anti-clerical, culminating in the Obama White House’s battles with Francis’ own church. In the intellectual arena, religiously-inclined liberals have pined for a Reinhold Niebuhr without producing one, and the conservative fear that liberal theology inevitably empties religion of real power has found all-too-frequent vindication.

Pope Francis has not solved any of these problems. But his pontificate has nonetheless given the religious left a new lease on life. He has offered encouragement to Catholic progressives by modestly soft-pedaling the issues dividing his church from today’s liberalism — abortion and same-sex marriage — while elevating other causes and concerns. His personnel decisions have confirmed that encouragement; his rhetoric has reinvigorated left-leaning Catholic punditry and thought. And his media stardom has offered provisional evidence for a proposition dear to liberal-Christian hearts — namely, that a public Christianity free from entanglements with right-wing politics could tug the disaffected back toward faith.

His analysis is surely right, at least for many. But only because of two things. The Holy Father did not on this trip talk say, what he has said before and surely still believes, that for instance gmarriage is of the devil. That means Satan-caused, dear reader. A harsh and frightening proposition. The second thing is the left’s euphoric eagerness to mold any statement made by the Pope into their image.

But not all on the left are buying it. One headline: “Pope Francis is not a progressive–he just has terrific PR“. The writer of that piece noticed that Francis said this:

Gay adoption is discrimination against children: “What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother.”…

“Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you. No child should be deprived.”

These kind of “hidden secrets” so unnerved the writer that he used the “P”-word—-propaganda—to describe the Pope’s efforts.

And here at home I noted that the Pope has spoken deeply and eloquently on, for instance, the Eucharist and its necessity, as well on other matters of Catholic dogma. These statements were not buried, but where right there, plain to see, in his so-called environmental encyclical. It’s just that everybody pretended not to see, or somehow ignored, those words.

Lastly, given the weakening, perhaps only temporary, of the secular of the renewed, again perhaps temporary, faith of the lapsed, the visit at least shows that traditional religion is far from dead. Secular religion—democracy, scientism, etc.—is still with us. But has it been softened?

What do you think?

Update On lefty reporting: “Thus saith The New York Times: Compassion is the opposite of Catholic doctrine“.

37 Comments

  1. terrific analysis is what I think!

  2. I like:
    “Pope Francis is not a progressive–he just has terrific PR“.

    But the PR is coming from the progressives themselves.
    Almost from his selection, progressives have glommed onto any little item that appeared progressive. I believe the progressives intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood everything he’s said.

    The fact that his closest advisors or conclaves set up on matters important to progressives are progressive to a fault helps that PR as well. The fact that Francis has had the courage to eschew SOME of what has come out from those circles is notable and of complaint to that writer; however, the presence and numbers of those advisors is a crack that could well split Mother Church in a way not previously experienced.

  3. “The sworn secular were lost in admiration, even, I am guessing, to the point of doubting their doubts. Even the die-finally atheists on Twitter were respectful, more or less.”

    That’s not what I saw. For my part, I was galled to see this apologist for Islamic terrorism allowed to participate in a service at Ground Zero in New York.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/16/pope-francis-free-speech-charlie-hebdo

  4. I posted this comment yesterday in regard to Ross Douthat’s column:

    Yes, a springtime for Liberal Christianity but winter for the Conservative/Traditional/Orthodox variety.

    Liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all; it is godless secular humanism. To those of us who believe that Catholic doctrine can never and should never change, either in fact or in practice, Pope Francis is a huge disappointment in what he has done (weaken Catholic moral teaching, get involved in irrelevant issues like climate change) and what he hasn’t done (speak out strongly about moral issues and attainment of eternal life). Pope Francis is highly political, telling non-Catholics and the left wing Catholic world exactly what they want to hear., i.e., cheap grace available here. One could never imagine Jesus Christ engaged in such crowd pleasing behavior. Let us all pray for Pope Francis.

  5. I wish he would just stick to preaching Christ’s message.

    Any leftwingers he attracts, sticking to his political message like flies to flypaper, twitch and struggle to free themselves at any mention of Jesus, abortion or gay marriage…

    But John Boehner is resigning, so that alone made the entire Papal visit worth it. I just wish the Pope’s proximity could have similarly touched Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama…

  6. Soon-to-be-gone blubbering speaker of the House (there may be evidence of a god after all).

    Sadly, atheists elsewhere besides Twitter were still commenting on why we waste our time worrying about beheading people because of their imaginary friends. I was left wondering if being an atheist somehow takes one’s humanity or the lack of humanity breeds atheists. They are not all like this of course. Just like all Popes are not fame oriented and God-ignoring. (I actually heard the Pope say God yesterday!)

    Everything bolsters progressives as long the spin in right. Still, one should not be using atheist activist to help write a religious document, so there appears to be some deliberate bolstering of the progressive agenda on the part of the Pope (Does no one see the irony in the Pope using atheists and humanity hating-activists to help write his documents? Did he not read the Bible which clearly admonishes against such things? Or does he simply not care about the Bible?)

    Tugging the “disaffected back toward faith” is irrelevant if the faith is in mankind and a church lacking in morals. Tugging the disaffected back into putting money into the collection plate is what is really meant. This is about MONEY. I’m not sure traditional religion isn’t well on it’s way to death.

    John B(): I noticed the same thing. The progressives have been loving on this guy since he became Pope. They should not complain about his “PR” machine which they participate in.

    Lee: Very disturbing indeed. Making a deal with the Devil has never worked out well for anyone but the Devil.

  7. The ‘progressive’ Catholic wing is not buying it. Head on over to the NCR and read the comments on Pope Francis’ visit. They are uniformly NOT happy with him.

    I think the media is trying to make it appear that the Catholic dissenters are more happy than they actually are.

  8. Michael Dowd:

    I share your concerns, but in the Pope’s defense, he has not changed any teachings.

    His choice of language has been most unfortunate, and he is attracting a grubby leftwing rabble that doesn’t give two figs about any of his moral teachings.

    I am also disappointed that he mentioned nothing about the plight of Christians being persecuted by Islamic butchers and rapists. I would like to hear from him a full-throated and respectful call to Muslims of good will to snuff this evil element within their ranks.

  9. “… the visit at least shows that traditional religion is far from dead … What do you think?”

    Papal visits to the U.S. –

    1965, Pope Paul VI
    1979, 1993, 1999, Pope John Paul II
    2008, Pope Benedict XVI
    2015, Pope Francis

    Over the past 50 years papal visits have consistently been associated with a “rock star”-like turnout by the general population – and are associated with [not saying there’s a causal relationship with] comparable social effects:

    Catholics steadily increasingly embrace divorce, birth control, tolerance for gays, support for gay rights and so & so forth even as church membership and attendance steadily dwindles from laity to those entering seminaries & the sisterhood. The gap between official Church doctrines and the values & beliefs held by Catholics continues to widen – Catholics disagree with their Church regarding what is sinful, with Catholic youth showing not only increasingly tolerance for sinful behaviors, but determining these are not actually sinful. The Church has & continues to lose its influence on its members.

    And that’s with those that stay in the faith …and the raw numbers conceal an unsettling issue: Native born [U.S.] Catholics are leaving the faith in startling numbers, but are being replaced by [mostly Hispanic] immigrants. Drop the influx of immigrants and one finds that the number of native Catholics is declining at a startling rate. A similar trend is similarly observed in Protestant denominations (see http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/14/a-closer-look-at-catholic-america/ ).

    Traditional religion might not be dead, but it is clearly dying in, at least, the U.S. This pope’s policy approach of politics over proselytizing the formal doctrine is making matters worse.

    Prediction: These trends will continue to continue & the Catholic Church as an institution characterized by its members will continue to decline steadily by any & all standard measures.

    Ref PEW Research:

    Widening Gap between Catholics & official Church doctrine: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/25/whats-a-sin-catholics-dont-always-agree-with-their-church/

    Overall Trends in religion: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/12/5-key-findings-u-s-religious-landscape/ )

  10. What you say is sort of true in a technical sense. Doctrine has not formally changed but praxis, as they call it, has. Pope Francis’ loose talk compromises doctrine, e.g., divorced and remarried w/o annulment. My guess is many people in this situation will just barge ahead if they haven’t already. Another point is the ultra-lefties he has appointed to the Synod. Catholic doctrine becomes irrelevant when permission is given to make certain ‘allowances/compromises’ in confessional practice. Prime example : contraception. Doctrine says NO; Praxis says YES. What we have here is a heavily Protestantized Catholic religion which was the, possibly unintended, consequence of Vatican II..

  11. I am not religious, but the public messages of this pope leave me with only one impression: he missed his true calling and should have become a politician. I can see how this may eventually diminish his own stature and that of his vocation and faith. And people will get tired, soon.

  12. Ken: Churches are to preach the truth, not drag as many people in as possible and claim success. If the truth is not appealing to people, then it’s not. So be it. Why do people think churches are here to fill the pews by lying and watering down doctrine? Oh, wait, because it’s about MONEY.

    Catholics who deny well over 50% of the doctrine are not Catholics. They only use the name. You know, like Republicans do now in politics. Using a title or label does not make one what the label or title says. Many people claim to be what they are not.

    Again, church is NOT a popularity contest. It is to preach the truth and that’s it. Not rewrite doctrine to get new members. That is Satan’s church, not God’s. Satan wants to be popular, God is simply right and if not popular, that’s okay. Churchs believing it is better to be liked than right are not God’s churches.

    silverfiddle: I so agree. I loved Popes that spent much time in prayer and spoke of God every where they went. I admired them for their dedication and love of God.

  13. How long before the conservative wing of the Church assassinate this pope?

  14. This Pope really hurt conservatism in America. For that, I hope he is sainted. (Just his influence on the American Latin community alone is a huge political boost for the left.)

    The subject of abortion never appears anywhere in any form in the Bible. Homosexuality is another matter, though it comes from the Old Testament, and Jewish people have for the most part seen through it’s context and understand it is not at all the same subject today, while Christians still bark like Paul at a culture that died long ago with the old Greeks of yore. Meanwhile, the messages of lifting people from poverty and pestilence, justice and good stewardship, are the arms and legs of the body of the faith – the doing part. This Pope is exercising those arms and legs after they got flabby and weak, spoiled by modernity and whatever it’s status quo. That bothers the religious right, the lucky adopted Annies of modernity and the status quo. They would rather distract the flock from real matters in need of attention that require good doing, with irreconcilable “hot-button issues” with “dog whistle” rhetoric, because they stand to lose a buck or two, a golfing trip, a private jet or two, if things don’t go their way. Because for you conservatives, vanity is grace. For this Pope, it is a disgrace. Whether you are Catholic or not, if you have a developed sense of ethics, you see he’s right.

    JMJ

  15. It is only because Europeans fought off Muslim invaders for 1,000 years – from 732 at the Battle of Poitiers to 1683 at the gates of Vienna – that Europe as we know it even exists.

    But instead of urging Europeans to fight off the hordes of Muslims invading Europe (the majority of them fighting age males), Pope Francis has urged Europeans to take in as many “refugees” as possible.

    The Pontiff called on Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries to take in at least one Muslim family each.

    Yes, offer them free room and board, let Paki gangs abuse your children, as happened in Rotherham, England to over 1,500 British schoolchildren between 1999 and 2013. And let them rape your women, as in Sweden, which has become the rape capital of the West, thanks to bringing in thousands of Muslim immigrants.

  16. The effect of the Pope’s visit? It distracted people from understanding the Gospel. Here in the most Roman Catholic of the states, the local news couldn’t help devoting half its air time to chronicling a “pilgrimage” of hundreds of people to catch a glimpse of their idol. All their rapturous comments only expressed the thrill of seeing this man for a few seconds as he rode by. I can understand the appeal of celebrity. But celebrity is frivolity. That it should capture such devotion to the exclusion of a better understanding of God and His purposes is sad.

  17. JMJ, Catholicism should be what it has largely been in the past, essentially a call to follow the Lord. Yes, yes, evil has been perpetrated by the Church. This is now recognized and acknowledged. But it cannot be denied that much good has been done as well.

    One reason I’ve always felt a kinship with Catholics is their (until recently) broad, unwavering support of the unborn. Which is the one reason why I could never be a Democrat/progressive/liberal. It just disgusts me that a “choice” could result in the deaths of truly innocent persons. Some would call me pro-choice however. For I hold that abortions should be allowed in the cases of rape, incest, or for the life of the mother.

  18. Yawrate:

    I don’t understand. Are the lives conceived of rape and incest somehow less innocent, more deserving of death?

  19. Diane Taylor (Mrs) (M.Phil)

    September 28, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I agree with you Briggs – there is so much to be ‘mined’ from what the Pope actually says but I do pray he would say put out an encyclical on the importance of Mass, to re-enforce Pope Benedict on Summorum Pontificum. “What does it profit a man…”

  20. JMJ: Hold your breath hoping the Pope damaged conservatism, please.

    Again, why is it that people cannot understand religion is not about being like and loved, it’s about God and the truth. Are you people really that unthinking? Oh, but you think being liked is more important than being right (except when you want something in which case gettng your way is the only thing that is important), so probably you are.

    Class envy is becoming a new worshipped ideology in America. Usually by those who are really rich (like the Democrats, for example) and by those who are failures and want to take money away from those who succeeded. Stealing because you failed is still stealing. Stealing when you’re rich is just flat out immoral.

    Gary: Well said.

    Lee: Agreed, except perhaps in the in case of the life of the mother. Rape and incest do not allow you to kill an innocent victim. In the case of the life of the mother versus the baby, you are choosing who lives knowing the other will die. Or you just stand back, let both die, and blame God. I’ve seen that one too. Same thing is true of conjoined twins being separated, so do we try separating them or not? It’s a difficult area. (Women do not always abort babies conceived due to rape or incest. That’s a myth. Some are given up for adoption, some are raised by the mother.)

  21. Lee: Sometimes the psyche matters yes. That is a compromise I’d make.
    Sheri: Good points all.

  22. “Sometimes the psyche matters yes. That is a compromise I’d make.”

    I don’t understand what this is supposed to mean.

  23. On the topic of chance and the powers thereof, I have a lovely quote for you from an Introduction to Epidemiology textbook that identifies “chance” as an actual force, rather like the force of gravity but more capricious, I guess.

    I don’t have the text with me at the moment but I’ll post the full quote once I do.

  24. “These are bitter times, unquestionably the worst of times for European Christians. The nations of Europe have raised the Islamic Crescent over Europe, and the United States has made the Negroid race, which is very compatible with Islam, the supreme ruling race of the nation. And the only opposition to the deification of the negro and the Islamization of Europe has come from white neopagans who hate all white Christian Europeans.

    But let’s make one thing crystal clear: The whites are being exterminated because they once were Christian. And they have no will to resist their own extermination because they are no longer Christian. You can’t become a believing Christian for practical, utilitarian reasons, but the naked truth is part of our racial history – whites did not worship negroes nor permit Muslims to invade Europe when they believed in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. When they ceased to believe in the European Christ and shifted their allegiance to the Jewish Christ, the negro-worshipping, social worker Christ, the ecumenical Christ, etc., they lost their will to defend their racial hearth fire. “If our God condemns our racial hearth fire, why should we fight for it,” became the firm belief of the new and enlightened Europeans.

    The demon Pope first visited the atheist Fidel Castro before coming to the United States to condemn all white European Christians, all white men and women who still love the Savior in and through their people. This new anti-Christian narrative coming out of the Christian churches is a tale told by a moral idiot, signifying the death knell of Christian Europe.

    https://cambriawillnotyield.wordpress.com/

  25. I’ve read all the comments, none of which do I agree with entirely, and some disagree entirely. So there’s no response, as I’ve said in a previous post about his Encyclical, this Pope is very much like the curate’s egg–there are to be sure some excellent parts in him.
    To a related topic: there’s an interesting article by Steven Hayward on Powerline:
    “The Mystery of Pope Francis: Was There a Vatican Coup?” See
    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/09/the-mystery-of-pope-francis-was-there-a-vatican-coup.php
    Probably not so much a Vatican coup as timeless Vatican politics….and so much for the Holy Spirit guiding Papal elections.

  26. “response,” —> “response;” ….Proofread, proofread, proofread!!

  27. Gee, Bob, do you think the Pope may have been born in Kenya?

    JMJ

  28. to anonymous:
    “This new anti-Christian narrative coming out of the Christian churches is a tale told by a moral idiot, signifying the death knell of Christian Europe.”

    Well put anonymous. What you are saying, in effect, is that Christians, lead by their pastors, are committing spiritual suicide because they no longer believe that Christ was God. This is the fruit of Modernism and the historical/critical approach to understanding the bible both of which are essentially atheist and of the devil. Only God can intervene to change this situation. Let us pray that He does, and soon.

  29. Ah, here we are.

    “Precision is the lack of random error, which leads to a false association between the exposure and the disease just by ‘chance,’ an uncontrollable force that seems to have no assignable cause.” — Ashengrau, Essentials of Epidemiology in Public Health 3rd. edition, pg. 145.

    They cite the American Heritage Dictionary for this definition.

  30. JMJ: I think that may have been your best non sequitur to date. Congrats.

    Bob: The Holy Spirit may indeed be guiding Papal elections, but human beings are doing the voting and human beings are easily swayed by a different spirit. It does call into question the idea of electing someone to be next to God, yes. Humans are fallible. (This actually happens in most religions where one individual is the speaker for God. Again, human fallibility. God can speak for himself.)
    I’ve heard the Vatican coup idea and others. I don’t believe in conspiracies and don’t link events together looking for one. Look at what the SCOTUS has done. No one could have imagined what Republican appointees would do to the constitution of the US. People change. People see themselves losing whatever they value most (fame, money, whatever) and drop their values and beliefs to hopefully recover what they see being lost. Selling one’s soul to the Devil to get what one wants is as old as the first two humans. It is depressing and has disastrous outcomes at time, but it’s always been there.

    Michael: God does not have to directly intervene as he had done in the Old Testament. The natural consequence of following evil is to live under evil like those in North Korea and elsewhere do. This serves to remind people they are not as powerful and all-knowing as they believed and they turn back toward God. The world was designed to remind people that God exists when they try to ignore that reality.

  31. Sheri–

    I believe God intervenes all the time to help us. If not, why pray? He mostly does His intervening via people. You hear all these folks go around saying thank God for stuff. Are they wrong? Anyway, have a good day I will pray that He intervenes in your life in a good way.

  32. Michael: Thank you for your annoying statement that you will pray He intervenes in my life in a good way. I guess I should be happy you didn’t actually tell God what to do in this case. I find it extremely annoying when people give it the old “I’ll pray for you” because a person disagreed with a comment made. It’s using God to “fix” someone who may or may not think like you do. It’s actually very mean in many cases.

    I do not believe God sits around intervening in life all the time. Please note that people can pray for two completely opposite things and only one is going to get what they asked for, if either gets what they ask for. God made the world for us and we are supposed to follow the rules and life will work out. If we do so, only periodic intervention is needed.

    Thanking God for something is acknowledging God gave us intellect and abilities to live well in the world He made us. Sincerity may not even be present in the statement. Even atheists have been known to “Thank God”. I often hear people thanking God for things God obviously had no part in, like the SCOTUS decision on gmarriage.

    I see nothing wrong with prayer as a way to keep in touch with God and acknowledge his presence , ask for guidance (though that is what your brain and the Bible are for in most cases), and pray for a miracle if one is needed. Asking God to help your sports team win, not so much. I guess I don’t believe we should ask God to make the world the way we personally want it, but should be more asking for the ability to deal with the world whatever direction it goes.

    Honestly, praying for world peace is a waste of time. God made it clear we were not getting that here on Earth. Praying for God to fix the mess we made of the governments is kind of abdicting responsibility. After all, all the signs were there. Just because we refused to see them doesn’t get us off the hook. It didn’t in the Bible either. One can pray for these things, but the answer is very often a resounding “no”. We made the mess, we live with the consequences.

    (Note: I said God does not have to intervene, not that he never does.)

  33. Sheri–

    Sorry, I meant no offense. Please forgive me.

  34. Michael: It’s okay. I just don’t think people realize how annoying some things that seem nice can be.

  35. I am fortunate to be able to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. Quite a humbling experience. I met some members of the Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, nuns from all over the world, and people from all parts of the US. How they are inspired by Pope’s visit! What these people do for others is admirable. The world is better with them in it.

    It seems, to those people, helping others is part of what it means to be God’s children. Imo, it is religions and human spirit in its noblest form.

    All the negative opinions about other believers, nonbelievers and the Pope are so insignificant and, perhaps, small-minded. They have a way of gobbling up some people’s positive spiritual attitude and indirectly affecting one’s life quality.

  36. Not buying it JH. This Pope is a rock star, more interested in public appearances than God, going by his actions. Helping other people is VOLUNTARY. When you advocate using the government to steal money and redistribute it, this has nothing whatsoever to do with God. The world is really not better with a rock star pope and government theft.

    The negative opinions are a reaction to a Pope that appears to care far more about mankind and his image than God. Every instance of this type of behaviour in the Bible did not turn out well. Turning from God to worshipping the earth and stealing from those who work is not opposed due to “small-minded” people. It’s because it’s wrong.

    As for how excited and happy these people are, celebrities of any kind have that effect. People are easily impressed. In fact, this is one of the ways Obama became King.

  37. How easily is it forgotten, especially in the Democracies of the West, that the Church is neither Left nor Right, that a Pope is not a politician, and that attempting to fit everything through the lens of this week’s quasi-political scuffle will always cause a distorted view.
    Millions form an opinion of an encyclical before it is translated, never read its 100 pages (nor, of course, refer to any of the sources from the 3 pages of footnotes) and are then shocked and offended when they are told they have an incomplete understanding of the meaning of the encyclical.
    The Pope issued a public warning 2 weeks ago to be wary since terrorists and criminals could, and almost certainly are, attempting to hide amongst the refugees. He urged nations to protect their people and exclude these dangerous men. Yet since that day hundreds, perhaps thousands, have claimed the Pope is oblivious to the threat of terrorists or criminals among the refugees.
    As time goes on I believe that there are two major threats to civilization:
    People do not understand or obey legitimate authority
    People do not pay attention yet are certain in their beliefs

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