Review of Pope Francis’ “Paradigm Shift”: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? An Assessment of His Pontificate’s First Five Years.
November 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Looking at the Catholic horizon, confusion reigns. An endless succession of scandals and controversies surround the Francis pontificate. Things change so quickly that is hard to keep them straight.
The details of these events and scandals are important yet passing. When all is said and done, the Church’s doctrinal teachings are what will determine Her future. While the turmoil of controversy dominates the headlines, Catholic orthodoxy needs to be discerned so that the faithful may properly act.
This urgently-needed discernment is the subject of José Antonio Ureta’s book, Pope Francis’ “Paradigm Shift”: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? An Assessment of His Pontificate’s First Five Years. He cuts through the political and media maelstrom and reports on the most important thing: the state of Church teaching and what the faithful can do in the face of disastrous radical change.
A calamitous state
The state of present Church teaching is nothing short of calamitous. There is no other way to describe it. A radical shift in orientation threatens to undermine the Church’s doctrine. It is not the haphazard product of misunderstandings or media distortion. This shift is deliberate and consistent. It must be exposed.
However, it needs to be denounced in a manner that does not shake, but rather strengthens the faith of the flock. It must be calm and respectful. It must be conclusive and logical. There must be no subversive agenda or uncontrolled rage behind the words.
José Antonio Ureta’s prose succeeds in its task of presenting “a straightforward account with some commentary.” He does this clearly and dispassionately taking both a position of resistance to Pope Francis and veneration for the papal office. He considers it a sorrowful task as he invites “the reader to undertake this painful way of the cross, that is, to consider the events described and documented herein.”
An inventory of statement and actions
The Chilean-born author, José Antonio Ureta, is an influential pro-life and pro-family activist, writer and speaker who resides in France. His writings on Church and modern society have appeared worldwide. He presently serves as a senior researcher for the French Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). He has followed Church and world events for over fifty years.
Thus, this is no shoddy report on isolated incidents misinterpreted by the press. It is “an inventory as it were, of Pope Francis’ statements and actions that have most seriously wounded the sensus fidei (sense of the Faith) of his flock.”
This inventory is massive, exhaustive and compelling. The author traces the positions of Francis and those around him and shows them to be of such coherence that they represent a paradigm shift with regard to Church’s unchangeable teachings.
The presentation goes much beyond a mere collection of quotes. The author supplements his citations with explanations of traditional Church teachings, commentaries and comparisons. He puts them in the context of Pope Francis’s associations with those who openly hold anti-Catholic positions. He scrutinizes institutional changes, gestures and actions to give a complete vision of the radical changes taking place.
Non-negotiable issues have suddenly become negotiable
It is not just one liberal topic that causes pain to the faithful, but a wide gamut of all the liberal issues against which many Catholics have fought tooth and nail over the last decades. Issues once thought non-negotiable (especially those associated with life and the family) suddenly seem to be negotiable in the Francis pontificate.
Francis’ sympathetic positions on Marxism, liberation theology, communism and the Patriotic Church in China are disconcerting. The author chronicles his stands on ecology, immigration and Islam. A special section covers the debate on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which highlights the confusion about communion for the divorced and remarried.
The fast pace of this paradigm shift has made it difficult for the faithful to have an overview of all that has happened over the past five years. The sheer number of actions and speeches leave people dizzy. One great benefit of the book is that it puts everything in order and perspective, providing that panoramic view that is so necessary to see, judge and then to act.
Resolving a dilemma
Knowing about what is happening is not enough. Such a dire and urgent situation requires judicious action. However, action also creates a dilemma for those who wish to fight back. The faithful must resist the actions of shepherds that endanger the flock yet at the same time preserve that essential link of fidelity to the Church, its hierarchy and the papacy. The laity cannot usurp the teaching, and governing functions of the clergy yet must challenge unorthodox actions by clergy that are self-destroying the Church.
The book resolves the dilemma by asserting the legitimate right of the faithful to resist (not revolt against) those teachings contrary to the Supreme Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Mr. Ureta affirms that Catholic teaching has always supported and even now supports the right of Catholics to “enter a state of resistance and remain so until the true Catholic paradigm becomes again the compass that guides, inspires, and vivifies the whole life of the Church.”
Toward those who promote radical change, he proposes a policy of “separation with the bond remaining.” Such a relationship would be similar to that of an abusive marriage, in which the spouses still live under the same roof, but there is a “simple suspension of the ordinary interaction.” So also a flock that “feels psychologically abused” should act in this manner toward those particular shepherds that try “to impose an unacceptable paradigm shift in the Church’s teaching, discipline, and life.”
This well-balanced resistance “preserves intact the bond of fidelity that unites the faithful to their legitimate shepherds.” However, it also takes “the needed prudential measures to safeguard the integrity of one’s faith” with those who jeopardize the Faith. Finally, it preserves intact the functions and structures of laity and clergy instituted by Our Lord Himself.
In the face of the present scandals in the Church, José Antonio Ureta's book elevates the tone of the debate to where it needs to be – calm and respectful analysis within the realm of orthodoxy. Indeed, orthodoxy brings clarity to things. For those who want to make sense out of what is going on in the Church, this book is a must, especially for those who are confused about how to react.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.