Acolytes of Pope Francis apparently do not believe that the church is in crisis. Like the Pope himself they apparently believe that further accommodations to fallen humankind and the world are in order all in the name of mercy, inclusion and understanding. The acolytes of Pope Francis tend to be better Christians than the opponents of Pope Francis at least in one respect: they are more forgiving of anyone who is accorded the sacred status of “victim”. If on the other hand a group or individual is given the label rigid” or conservative or reactionary, well then no quarter is given, nor mercy, nor understanding, nor inclusion. The opponents of Pope Francis, however, are little better. They at least see that the church is in severe crisis but they erroneously attribute the crisis to the legacy of Vatican II or to the long term effects of the reformation and the gradual adoption of the modernist heresy by western elites and then by most of the laity in the church.
Just as the French revolution ushered in the political vocabulary of progressive and reactionary, liberal vs conservative, right and left so too factions in the church battle it out interminably over all kinds of issues but always within the terms of the debate set originally at the French revolution….and thus the opposing sides never settle anything and never get anywhere.
To truly understand the seriousness of the crisis the church finds itself in at the present moment one needs to let go of seeing the world in terms of right and left, liberal and conservative, progressive and reactionary etc and instead see the world and the church as it really is.
If we turn our backs on the interminable and petty name calling between the liberals and the conservatives in the church we can then engage seriously with the theology of the church. Due to the nature of their calling theologians can sometimes see history and the church in a clearer light than can the clergy and laity who are trapped in a historical moment. Real theologians are however few and far between especially in the modern era. They tend to want to follow the herd of academics to curry favor with the zeitgest and the state and other idols. Nevertheless, they have to contend with the eternal truths of the creed and that tend to force them to keep one foot in reality whenever considering the church in the world and the present historical moment.
When we look at the theological work in ecclesiology or the theory of the church in the world we of course find a lot of garbage and nonsense but we also find true gems that allow us to gauge the current crisis of the church and what to do about it.
The church is composed of several pillars: the Petrine pillar composes the papacy and magisterium and is suppose to safeguard basic dogmatic residua of the tradition. The Pauline pillar safeguards and promotes the work of spirit in upbuilding of the body of Christ. The Jamesian pillar safeguards the dogma of the sacrifice of Christ and builds up the priesthood, the clergy and bishops. The Johannine pillar safeguards mystical and dogmatic traditions around christology, the Eucharist and the mystical marriage of Christ and Church. The Thomasian tradition safeguards the secret christian gnosis and the marriage of reason and faith that is the essence of christianity. The Lazarus tradition safeguards traditions around easter and the resurrection. And finally the Marian tradition safeguards the purity of the church and works against heresy –the giving birth of monsters.
In the past history of the church you might have one or tow of these pillars not given due attention. For example while the era of the church fathers gave due weight to the petrine, pauline, jamesian, johannine and marian pillars the thomasian and lazaran traditions were not given due weight. In the middle ages the pauline, johannine and lazaran pillars were neglected. During the reformation the pauline tradition was emphasized by the protestant sects to the neglect of all other traditions/pillars. In the modern era ALL pillars are under severe attack.