Does Pope Francis sound like a 1925 agnostic philosopher?

I refer the reader to: Fulton Sheen’s 1925 book, God And Intelligence In Modern Philosophy A Critical Study In The Light Of The Philosophy Of Saint Thomas, p. 166, explaining an agnostic’s position, calling on Aquinas’ De Veritate, “On Truth,” Part I. chap. IV:

There is a double presupposition at the basis of the modern contention that we cannot designate God properly as object, but merely symbolically or metaphorically.

The first is that we do not know reality. Hence God is taken to be a symbol for reality.

“If that’s all it is, the hell with it,Flannery O’Connor told Mary McCarthy after the latter had observed breezily that the mass was very good symbolism.

The second is that mind is the measure of reality, and hence God is to be measured in terms of the needs of the individual, the needs of the age, of values for our lives and in function of evolution.

God is “measured in terms of the needs of the age, of values for our lives and in function of evolution.” And that’s it, my friend.

Sounds like Francis’ approach as change agent  almost 100 years later.

Not quite, but it gets tricky, He emphasizes the activist and pastoral at times, evincing at least suspicion of the cloistered contemplative in his “Gaudete Et Exsultate” — “26. It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service” — and for that matter has issued new rules and regulations for them.

Tempted as I am to call it another case of men telling women what to do, I won’t.

He shoots down the doctrinal, sounding like Obama famously telling donors about citizens who “cling to their guns or their religion.”

For Francis it was “Clinging To The Written Word,” his title for a homily he gave in the chapel of the house he lives in on April 11, 2016. In it he begins:

What matters to Jesus is a person’s life, not a framework of laws and words . . .

But people have died for laws and words. What does he have in mind, winging it on a daily basis, making principles up as they go along? Why does he talk that way? Why oppose a person’s life to laws and words? I think a lot of words and tend to take it personally.

Another puzzler, from the same homily, makes sense in a way but turns Scripture on its head:

“It saddens me”, Francis shared, “when I read that passage in the Gospel of Matthew, when Judas repented and went to the priests and said ‘I have sinned’, and wanted to give back the silver pieces”.

They responded to him: “What is that to us? See to it yourself!”. They had “a closed heart in regard to this poor, penitent man who didn’t know what to do”. They told him: “See to it yourself”. Thus Judas “went and hanged himself”.

Too bad. But in the midst of reading the passion story, he sheds a tear for “this poor, penitent man”? Apparently.

For Francis it’s dogma vs. pastoral care. Natl Catholic Reporter’s Josh McElwee explained to National Public Radio — accurately, I’d say — what Francis said in Amoris Laetitia about the role of conscience:

“That’s something that the church talked about 50 years ago, but the last couple of popes did not expand upon.

“And what Pope Francis is saying is that conscience means that people can be hearing something from God, kind of in the depths of their heart, that may even be not quite in accord with what the church teaches generally, as a general norm, but can still be true and can still be discerned to be God’s will in their life.

“So he’s allowing for a little bit of discord between individual cases and the general church teaching.”

Hearing it from God in the depths of one’s heart. Not quite in accord with what the church teaches. A little bit of discord. Rome has spoken, the issue is decided.

Again not quite. With Francis it’s a nudging process: nudge a little here, nudge a little there. Give a homily, issue an exhortation, talk to newsies off the cuff. Before you know it, the real magisterial stuff.

And the beat goes on . . .

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