Ross Douthat of the New York Times seems to be getting into a bit of a state about his Pope.

According to Douthat Pope Francis

In his public words and gestures, through the men he’s elevated and the debates he’s encouraged… has repeatedly signaled a desire to rethink issues where Catholic teaching is in clear tension with Western social life — sex and marriage, divorce and homosexuality.

Indeed, Douthat suggests all the Pope’s “moves point in a pro-change direction” which has, in Douthat’s opinion, led to a “a kind of chaos,” a chaos he believes which has brought the church “to the brink” and has the potential to “break the church.”

Douthat worries that

if he seems to be choosing the more dangerous path — if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy, if he seems to be stacking the next synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change — then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation.

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

It seems enormously disingenuous of Mr. Douthat to worry that a pro-change Pope may jeopardize the life of the church by “reassigning potential critics in the hierarchy” and “stacking the next synod’s with supporters,” as if conservative Popes for decades have not been using even more draconian measures to silence anyone who did not follow the party line in the life of the church.

Perhaps Mr. Douthat needs to get used to the idea that we live in a messy complicated complex world. The church can only take shelter from the realities of peoples’ lives hiding behind its tidy little dogmatic formulations for so long. Eventually, someone is going to come along whose heart is open to the pain and struggle that people face. Such a person is going to seek to help the church encounter more deeply the struggles that real families face in the world. It appears Pope Francis may be this person.

Douthat is eager to protect his “church from self-contradiction”. But, how is it not a “self-contradiction” for a church that claims to follow the Lord who said the greatest commandment is love, to refuse its faithful members full participation in the mass simply because they have remarried after divorce without traversing the marital charade of annulment? How is it not a “self-contradiction” for a church that claims to follow the “Prince of Peace” to cast some of its members into a life of painful turmoil and internal conflict because in their deepest being they find themselves drawn into a faithful loving monogamous same-sex relationship while still longing to practice the faith they cherish?

Sorry Mr. Douthat “self-contradiction” is a part of life. It is a part of the human community. It is a reality we must deal with on a daily basis if we want to have any hope of avoiding doing more violence to people whose lives are often torn by the complexities and conflicts of life.

Pope Francis seems to prefer the depths of compassion and mercy to the superficial consolation of an artificial consistency based on abstract theological principles. In this the Pope comes dangerously close to the brink of love that the Lord of the church walked by daring to be incarnated in the messy reality of this world.