Helen Weir
An eleventh thing
By Helen Weir
January 20, 2016

I, like countless others throughout the Catholic (and non-Catholic) world, have been reeling with philosophical/theological vertigo since the recent release of the "OmniReligions" video featuring Pope Francis et al. If you haven't seen it yet, you still can; it is fairly easy to find. Locating Louie Verrecchio's incisively "translated" version has gotten a little bit harder, however, because the intellectual propertyholders at the Vatican have challenged his, and Vimeo's, right to post it. Let us say, for the sake of the argument (which I, for one, do not concede), that my fellow RenewAmerica columnist did go beyond the reach of Fair Use. Frankly, lots of things floating around in cyberspace probably do. What is it about Mr. Verrecchio's parody that merits the honor of getting taken down? His subtitles have the participants not so much affirming their own convictions as denying Jesus Christ. In the immortal words of the not-so-immortal Han Solo, "Musta hit pretty close to the mark to get 'em all riled up like that, huh, Kid?"

The official version, of course, features representatives of major religious groups reciting particular statements of "belief," along with the acknowledgment that we are all "children of God." Careful distinctions already need to be pointed out (such as the – shall we say – inconvenient truth that the deity to whom the Saracens look claims no one as a "child"), but many alert commentators promptly dealt with things like this. The sticking points are still the semantic and theological contortions implicit in the forced chorus: "I believe in love."

A Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, and a Catholic are all quite free to say so, of course, but no marginally rational person could imagine that any two of them can mean by this even approximately the same thing. Or, can they? Is the existence of this type of essential though theologically impossible agreement exactly what the video itself is intended to imply? Is the Love of the one, true, only, and Living God poured out for all of mankind definitively on the wood of the (not pictured, if not censored) Cross, or isn't it? In the signature scene of the "OmniReligions" video, four hands proffer four irrefutably non-identical symbols, showcasing either irenic interreligious dialogue or modernistic Indifferentism of the most vilely anathematizable sort. The ultimate message cannot be both of these at the same time.

Is it possible that the Pope is merely promoting rapproachment of the non-compromising kind that no one of good will would hesitate to encourage? Well, yes – theoretically and stretching credulity to the breaking point, yes. But is it also possible that an entirely objectionable moral equation is being struck among various belief systems – an equation which amounts, as Mr. Verrecchio has tried to point out, to denial of Jesus Christ? Yes, this is possible as well; and from Rome, by way of refutation, we have heard thus far only the distant chirpings of the ever-more-predictable Bergoglian crickets. By releasing the "OmniReligious" snippet in the absence of further clarification, then, the Holy Father and his representatives have adopted a Vatican variation of the Fox News approach: "We report; you decide." They have produced, and we are left to wonder. Everybody except Louie Verrecchio, evidently, gets to do the deciding.

The trail from here to Jimmy Akin's door already wears the pawprints of St. Corbinian's inimitable "Bear." It was our brown and furry friend who pointed out, in his delightfully ursine way, that Mr. Akin goes on serving as Johnny-on-the-Spot where defending the dubious orthodoxy of the current occupant of the Throne of Peter is concerned. (For those of you who haven't the faintest idea what I am talking about, there is a noted Catholic columnist called Jimmy Akin who tends to frame his published observations with the trademark if somewhat condescending title, "Ten Things to Know and Share." Mr. Akin has recently published certain exonerating reflections concerning the "OmniReligions" video in this format. There is also a rising-star blogger writing pseudonymously as "St. Corbinian's Bear" who regularly lampoons Mr. Akin, among other commentators; a post at the "Bear's" blog casts playful aspersions on the "Ten Things" approach to this latest Francis-related flap.) (One hates to specify a time frame where the "hades-raising" of the current pontiff is concerned. In the hours it takes you to proofread an article and get it posted, he is liable to do something that makes a liar of you for saying, "latest.") In perusing Jimmy Akin's reflections about the "OmniReligions" video over at the Register, I find I actually agree with many of the careful distinctions drawn, wishing only to point out that Mr. Akin was obliged to draw them out of suffocatingly thin air. Touching on the" Bear's" take on this particular set of "Ten Things," I wish only to point out that – in tones of Master Yoda – "there is an Eleventh."

"Let your yes be yes and your no be no; anything beyond that is from the Evil One" (Mt. 5:37). These words come not from a column or a blog post, a Vatican video or anyone's opinion, including my own. They constitute the admonishment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. According to Him, then, an assertion with just one quality can merit our wholehearted condemnation. It doesn't necessarily have to be heretical, unecumenical, modernistic, or anything else (though it may be all of these things and then some); it need only be morally unclear in a significant way. It doesn't have to promote evil or deny good; it just has to go "beyond" positive identification thereof. For that assessment, if nothing else, the Vatican's "OmniReligions" video certainly qualifies. In point of fact, so does the entire pontificate of the "elderly gentleman from Argentina" (the "Bear's" favorite sobriquet) who is so prominently featured therein.

Is there anyone of any religious conviction, or lack thereof, to dispute that reality? They say that, in the "OmniReligions" video, the Pope was merely reaching for the "lowest common denominator" from which we all might find ourselves able to unite. Well, then, let us ask: what is the "lowest common denominator" of the Francis Effect itself? Is it not radical confusion, on virtually every front?

Some hold that Jorge Bergoglio teaches heresy; others hold that he does not. Some regard him as a liberation theologian; others do not. Some say his statements, documents, and gestures conform to the previous two thousand years of Catholic doctrine and practice; others say they do not. But where, whatever one's determination, in all of this palpable privation of the "yes" and the "no," is the one and only person who could, should, and must settle these and countless other crucial questions definitively?

Where in God's name is Pope Francis himself?

There are only two "places" he could be – AWOL, or worse. It is not disrespectful to the person and position of the Pope, but in fact required by our very reverence for him and for it, to point out the responsibility of Mt. 5:37 – a responsibility he shares with all the rest of us, only more so. (And speaking of God's Most Holy Name, it is not "Mercy." God Himself, in Majesty beyond compare and sending the confirmation of supernatural signs, once revealed what it is, a long time before there was even a country called Argentina. God is surely merciful; still, one gives a name to that over which one is in authority, not the other way around. Perhaps the title of the Holy Father's just-released book points to the nature of the trouble with this pontificate more precisely than any other single factor thus far. In a pattern that is becoming all too familiar, Pope Francis has once again stated something that may, in some way, be construed correctly, but then again, may not.) But back to the question at hand.

Is Jimmy Akin right about the ultimate "OmniReligious" message, or is Louie Verrecchio? From the content of the Vatican video itself, there is simply no way to tell. Relying on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, however, we can conclude this: any production equally capable of bearing either interpretation is to be forcefully rejected for that very reason alone.

© Helen Weir


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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