Green Room

Why the next Pope won’t change Catholic doctrine

posted at 2:36 pm on February 13, 2013 by

I’ve addressed this in a few posts in an attempt to push back against some erroneous assumptions in the American media about the nature of the Pontificate.  The Pope does not create or change doctrine; he defends doctrine, refines practice, leads the Catholic Church’s evanglization process, and rules the Vatican state.  While teaching on prudential judgment relating to temporal matters may shift in emphasis and direction, the Pope will not change on doctrine or the fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith.

In other words, anyone expecting the next Pope to become less Catholic or to change the teachings of the Church simply don’t understand the office at all. Ashley McGuire gives a better explanation in today’s Washington Post for why those expectations are even less valid for this transition:

What the church’s critics, especially those now giddily wondering if Pope Benedict’s successor will shake things up, just don’t seem to understand, is that church teachings on these issues are unchangeable.

Even if we entertain the human possibility of a rogue pope, the reality is such a thing is currently sociologically impossible. About half of the current College of Cardinals (the men who will select the next pope) were appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The other half were put there by Pope Benedict XVI. As you can imagine, they are all orthodox, or faithful to church teaching. On everything.

While most editorial pages have spent the last eight years harping on Catholic social teaching and running hit pieces on bishops and the pope, Benedict has been filling the ranks with shepherds who will continue the church’s 2,000-plus year tradition of holding firm on the most important social issues.

And not only will the church remain orthodox with Pope Benedict’s successor, it should.

Our call to live counter-culturally is as old as the church itself. We believe in a God who lived among us, died for us, and showed us the way to live lives of courage and conviction–whatever our culture. Catholics are called, yes, to engage with the society around them, but not to adapt ourselves to the popular sentiments of our time. Instead, Catholics are called to live in radical service to our God. This includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. This also includes letting go of pleasure as the path to happiness (spoiler: it’s not). There’s nothing modern –or moderate –about that.

The most exciting part of this transition is what it might mean for Catholic evangelization and organization.  The Catholic faith will remain exactly as it has been, regardless of the expectations of temporal powers.

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Comments

It amazing how liberals think that the Pope can change what is written in the Bible, simply because he leads the Church. It’s like their understanding of the Constitution.

nobar on February 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

So what you’re saying is that the Catholic Church isn’t going to turn into the Episcopalian Church?

gwelf on February 13, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Why should he change it?

Oh, right, because Pelosi/Biden/Kennedy Catholics don’t want to feel out of place.

CurtZHP on February 13, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Ed, I suspect the “change” that most reasonable people might expect isn’t so much a change of doctrine, but rather a change of emphasis in certain areas.

E.g. this site over the past few years advised Republican candidates to focus on economic and fiscal issues and de-emphasize the culture wars. That doesn’t mean that you thought the GOP should become pro-choice by any means, simply shift its focus to what is important to the masses.

LukeinNE on February 13, 2013 at 2:41 PM

It amazing how liberals think that the Pope can change what is written in the Bible, simply because he leads the Church. It’s like their understanding of the Constitution.

nobar on February 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Liberals have hollowed out the Episcopalian Church, as well as numerous other institutions. It’s what they do. Hope springs eternal for them (in the mean time they’ll just unleash armies of bureaucrats and lawyers at them).

gwelf on February 13, 2013 at 2:42 PM

LukeinNE on February 13, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Fair point, and respectfully stated. I tend to think that emphasis is more an impression of the audience in the case of the Church, though. People who don’t want to hear about our obligation to the poor will insist that the Church is talking too much about that and needs more emphasis on the sanctity of life, and vice versa. As Catholics like to say, the Church is “both — and”.

Ed Morrissey on February 13, 2013 at 2:47 PM

About half of the current College of Cardinals (the men who will select the next pope) were appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The other half were put there by Pope Benedict XVI. As you can imagine, they are all orthodox, or faithful to church teaching. On everything.

As much as I wish this were true, it is not.

Remember, John Paul II appointed people like former L.A. Cardinal Mahoney. Mahoney is pretty far to the left on a lot of the progressives’ favorite issues. Benedict has done a lot to clean a lot of that up (Gomez who has replaced Mahoney has been a breath of fresh air), but Mahoney, and others like him, still get a vote for the next Pope.

Nessuno on February 13, 2013 at 2:48 PM

I don’t know if it is as much ignorance, from the media, as it is their constant attempt to create an alternate reality and confusion for the uninformed. They manage to lead quite a few poor souls astray that way.

neuquenguy on February 13, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Name one topic associated with people and their relationship with each other and with God upon which the Church has not written volumes.

We’ve had 2000 years of considering what Jesus told us and no matter what new technology appears, the answers have been the same — for, from age to age, the basic problems are the same. There is no new human condition which did not exist when Jesus walked the earth. We know from DNA, not just Scripture, that an unborn child is not merely an organ of its mother’s body, and we know that all acts of charity must be private in nature…

We don’t need a bunch of pedophile priests confessing their sins to know that the practice of homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.

We don’t need Judge Judy to tell us that cheating on your spouse, no matter how modern and open your marriage might be, is not good…

We as Catholics are lucky to have such a foundation upon which to rest our interpretation of scripture and our practice of tradition.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Well — even better than “lucky” — we are blessed.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 2:56 PM

We as Catholics are lucky to have such a foundation upon which to rest our interpretation of scripture and our practice of tradition.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Indeed, I often wonder at the level of arrogance in some friends who consider themselves wiser and smarter than 2000 years of the collective intellect of the greatest thinkers and theologians in the history of the world, not to mention Holy Tradition.

neuquenguy on February 13, 2013 at 3:24 PM

Indeed, I often wonder at the level of arrogance in some friends who consider themselves wiser and smarter than 2000 years of the collective intellect of the greatest thinkers and theologians in the history of the world, not to mention Holy Tradition.

neuquenguy on February 13, 2013 at 3:24 PM

If your nose were any further in the air, you’d fall over backwards.

Which church was it again that got caught buggering altar boys?

MelonCollie on February 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Why do we need 15 articles a day about Catholicism?

Armin Tamzarian on February 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Why do we need 15 articles a day about Catholicism?

Armin Tamzarian on February 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Why do you feel the need to post on anything that discusses morality or faith?

nobar on February 13, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Xcellent Post Ed…If folks can’t understand that it’s because they simply refuse to.

workingclass artist on February 13, 2013 at 4:56 PM

The Church is one of the few constants in an ever changing world. Its funny seeing how libs just can’t get this simple fact.

Iblis on February 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

but Mahoney, and others like him, still get a vote for the next Pope.

Nessuno on February 13, 2013 at 2:48 PM

That is really a serious issue and kind of waters down respect for the system.

arnold ziffel on February 13, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Yes. I agree good post.
Many catholics that have Leftist religious values, feel right to divide the church, i.e. the Lutheran Church. However, there are other denominations that have values in accorandance with their own.
I am glad to see that the Cardinal from Ghana looks and sounds motivated to evangelize by the guidance for the Gospel for the world. And, not turning to the world for what the Gospel is supposed to say.

Mike from SoCal on February 13, 2013 at 5:48 PM

About half of the current College of Cardinals (the men who will select the next pope) were appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

I agree Blessed Pope John Paul II selected many fine conservative Cardinals…with at least one notable exception.
Sometimes I think JPII ended up wishing he could get that red beanie back from Roger Cardinal Mahony.

marybel on February 13, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Well — even better than “lucky” — we are blessed.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Amen Uncle

Today is Ash Wednesday, an in an hour I’m going to services to pray for our country, our families, and our faith.

May Benedict given the dignity he deserves during his time left on earth, and the Cardinals are guided by God as they seek the shepard to guide the Church.

itsspideyman on February 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Why do we need 15 articles a day about Catholicism?

Armin Tamzarian on February 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Given the choice, I’d rather 15 articles about faith than Nanci Pelosi.

Having said that, I understand it might seem a bit much, but this is an extraordinary event; a Pope resigning. It will be fascinating to watch a new Pope guide the Church while another one still lives.

itsspideyman on February 13, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Indeed, I often wonder at the level of arrogance in some friends who consider themselves wiser and smarter than 2000 years of the collective intellect of the greatest thinkers and theologians in the history of the world, not to mention Holy Tradition.
neuquenguy on February 13, 2013 at 3:24 PM

Well said and factual.

Don’t be cowed by MelonCollie.

marybel on February 13, 2013 at 7:14 PM

If your nose were any further in the air, you’d fall over backwards.

Which church was it again that got caught buggering altar boys?

MelonCollie on February 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM

A Church which has the truth. Its body might be composed of imperfect humans — but the whole is perfect — as Jesus said it would be.

And he did tell us how to deal with it — he said that we should follow every jot and tittle of what our leaders tell us — but, by golly, we should not follow their every example!

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Given the choice, I’d rather 15 articles about faith than Nanci Pelosi.

Having said that, I understand it might seem a bit much, but this is an extraordinary event; a Pope resigning. It will be fascinating to watch a new Pope guide the Church while another one still lives.

itsspideyman on February 13, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Even an article about Pelosi is a teaching opportunity — a chance to understand how someone can pick and choose their tenets of faith from something that must be practised as a unified whole — and somehow feel that they can truly claim that they are faithful to the whole.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 8:15 PM

still get a vote for the next Pope.

Nessuno on February 13, 2013 at 2:48 PM

They are badly outnumbered. There will be 80 cardinals in the convocation. Mahoney’s only chance of introducing any liberality would be to vote for a candidate who feels that Caesar can be made to do good with respect to social justice — and given the governments in the rest of the world, that will be a very hard sell.

As for Mahoney himself, he has zero chance of becoming Pope, especially given what Bishop Gomez did to him a week ago.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 8:19 PM

Excuse me. Not 80 — 120 voting Cardinals.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 8:21 PM

Thank God no mere human can just change the Faith. Non-Catholics and those who are but really want to be something else, especially in the media, don’t understand that we believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church, especially her leaders in matters of faith and morals. Truth is immutable, and they hate that.

BillyWilly on February 13, 2013 at 9:13 PM

Why do we need 15 articles a day about Catholicism?

Armin Tamzarian on February 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Because it annoys you.

SagebrushPuppet on February 14, 2013 at 8:19 AM

Even an article about Pelosi is a teaching opportunity — a chance to understand how someone can pick and choose their tenets of faith from something that must be practised as a unified whole — and somehow feel that they can truly claim that they are faithful to the whole.

unclesmrgol on February 13, 2013 at 8:15 PM

Well said Unc.

itsspideyman on February 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM