This is a topic that weighs heavily on my mind and my thoughts on the matter have developed over the past year and even over the past month. This is a discussion I have been having with my self even as others have been loudly having it on the internet.
At the center of that discussion is my friend Michael Voris. As most of you probably know by now, Michael has a blanket policy for himself and his apostolate not to publicly criticize the Pope. He has also taken the additional step of criticizing some others that don’t share his point of view.
There are other people on the internet, who I also respect, that think that papal statements and actions are fair game for public commentary and critique.
For my part, I have been criticized by friend and foe alike for giving air to some of my frustrations and concerns. I take (some of) these criticisms seriously.
I truly appreciate and take to heart Michael’s motivations in implementing his ‘zero tolerance’ policy about public papal criticism. He does not want division in the Church. Division is my main concern as well. (More on that in a moment.)
So I share Michael’s concern and my phone conversation with him on the matter made me further evaluate my own policy on such commentary. I am not a big fan of ‘zero tolerance’ policies and I do think it is possible to respectfully and faithfully critique papal statements and actions, and I have tried to do just that. With that said, I also must admit that some of my own commentary and others’ has likely fallen outside of the respectfully descriptor. That has been giving voice to my frustration rather than faithful and respectful critique.
So is it possible to offer respectful and faithful critique of the Pope? I think so. Is very easy to cross over the line to unfair criticism that cause unnecessary concern and division among the faithful? Yes again, particularly for someone like me who thinks in snark. It is because of this self-understanding that I understand Michael Voris’ policy even if I don’t agree with all his stated reasoning behind it.
So this brings me back to my concern about division. Division, particularly schism, is of paramount concern to me and has been the focus of much of my writing lately. Schism is a most horrible wound on the body of Christ and must be avoided if at all possible. This concern is both about past and the future. It is why I wrote about the reintegration of the SSPX, a post that was widely misunderstood and not just by those who habitually and willfully make a habit of misunderstanding me.
This concern is also why I wrote my recent post about why it is sometimes necessary to speak out (criticize) if only to avoid division that can harden into schism. I firmly believe that sometimes vocalizing criticism is necessary to bring to light excesses that can cause serious and permanent division. Because of this genuine and deep concern, the last thing I ever want to be is a source of division.
So where does this leave me with regard to Papal commentary?
On the one hand, such criticism can easily fall outside the bounds of constructiveness and respectfulness. On the other hand, I firmly believe that sometimes reasonable and vocal public critique is sometimes necessary to preserve unity and orthodoxy. History is replete with instances where the Church would have greatly benefited from greater outcry from the faithful.
While I reject the notion that all papal critique is divisive, I must acknowledge that its fire can be both illuminating and destructive and thus used with appropriate caution. As a result, I have already re-evaluated the nature of what I will comment upon and the speed in which I will do it, saving any criticism for those times it is truly necessary, reasoned, and respectful. I will try not to publicly air any general frustration I feel in my writing.
So while I do not entirely agree with Michael, I thank him for raising these important and real concerns.