Friday, January 12, 2018

Stephen (Against All Comers) Walford - Just a Piano Man?

I just finished listening to Mark Shea on Connecting the Dots with his guests Stephen Walford and Peter Vere. They engage in a "wide-ranging discussion of Francis, Amoris Laetitia, and the fake “crisis” that has been ginned up about him. " I enjoyed the discussion but that's not why I decided to write this piece. As often happens for me, I become more interested in writing about the reaction to something, than the thing itself. The thing that brought out the blog in me was one of the comments.

"Just FYI, Stephen Walford is a piano teacher, not a theologian.'

It's not the first time I've seen a comment of that nature concerning Mr. Walford. But more on that later.

I "met" Stephen Walford  over 4 years ago. Tim Haines and Wilson Orihuela had him on Vericast to interview him about his book "Heralds of the Second Coming". I was one of the call-in commenters. I very much doubt that he remembers our conversation. A few months ago I read his Open Letter to the Four Dubia Cardinals and thought "hey, I know that guy" remembering his interview with Vericast. So, by "met" and "know" I mean, well, internet and not a personal relationship, unless I just be name dropping.  I like his style and much of what he has to say, though. His articles are intelligent, intelligible and well researched. I have added the parenthetical "against all comers" to his name in a nod to a quote from a sermon by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

"Our duty is, - not indeed to mix up Christ's Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties, - but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God."

Walford has certainly taken the words of Cardinal Newman to heart as he has entered into the fray of discussion, debate and controversy with his defense of Pope Francis. He has definitely taken on all comers with the article I previously mentioned, as well as a more recent article The Amoris Laetitia Dissenters.

I have not read every article out there that disagrees with Stephen Walford's arguments. I'm sure some of them have been written in a true spirit of discourse. At least I hope so, anyway. What I am seeing, however, are comments that are meant to dismiss Walford, to diminish him rather than truly debate him. It makes me wonder what the value of their arguments actually are if they have to resort to throwing shade. He's got nothing to contribute, he's just a piano teacher, not a theologian. Just an amateur, a dilettante. My favorite is the headline "Wherein faithful canonist Ed Peters guts papolatrous dilettante Stephen Walford". Well, we have no need to read any further do we? Nor do we need to examine both arguments. We already know who has cred and who doesn't now don't we?

For a Piano Man, Walford is no slouch. Not too long ago he was granted a private audience with the Pope. (Maybe when you publically have the Pope's back he might want to shake your hand. "Thanks for being like Aaron and Hur for me") He has published 2 books and is working on a third. He has written for various publications. Which elicited another combox gem about how he was just a journalist. So says the combox authorities of what is worthy. 

What is that? Elitism? Just plain bougie, pretentious idolatry of the intellect, academia or the titles of men? Who says that a regular Catholic can't know and defend the faith? Who says they can't defend the Pope? Who says they can't make a solid and well formed argument, enter a debate or speak to error or controversy? Who says that a regular Catholic can't grasp theological concepts and nuances? Quite frankly, if that is so than most of the bloggers on the internet might just as well pack up and go home. How many saints, as well, who are now called theologian, not because of credential but because of their love of Christ and his Church and their openness to and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit of that Church, would then be disqualified and dismissed?

Our Lord, himself, entrusted his Church to twelve ordinary men, not theologians. He did that, in the words of St. Paul, that "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" and "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God". This indeed has been the way of the Church from the beginning.

I began blogging nearly 5 years ago. I was quite aware that I had no cred and no rep. Quite frankly, I am just a grandma. It was by reading the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, that I became inspired and encouraged to give my faith a voice. I hadn't even read the whole thing but it was this line that was the impetus for me to "go public", as it were. "Those who have opened their hearts to God's love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light." So I took the small talent I had for expressing myself in the written word and stepped outside of my own little life. I began writing a blog, then added a second with a separate theme. I have written about theology, I have written about catechesis and apologetics though I am no formal theologian, catechist or apologists. I have written opinions about situations in the Church. I have researched and studied in order to share the teachings of the Church and I have seen the need to defend the Pope in the current climate. One day I stepped out of my comfort zone and called in to a show on the Vericast Network. The hand holding the phone literally shook the whole time from nervousness and I felt like I stuttered through the whole thing. Speaking in front of people is not my strong point and how am I qualified anyway? I soon became a regular contributor to the conversations on the shows, was asked to write blogs for Vericast and eventually was given my own show on their network. I was given the nickname of Miss Magisterium not because I was an expert on the magisterium but because of my stanch loyalty to, defense of and unwavering confidence in the authority of the Pope and the magisterium.

I guess the Piano Man and I have something in common. We both have taken to heart the words of Cardinal Newman to defend the Pope against all comers. We do it because we know that in defending his cause we defend the cause of Jesus Christ. I know that I trust Jesus and his promises to protect his Church and his Vicar. I believe in the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that when the rains fall and the floods come, when the wind blows and beats against the Church, the rock on which the Church is built is the one thing that will not fall.

As far as qualifications go? We are Catholics baptized and confirmed in the faith. We are members of the Body of Christ. We are essential links in the chain of witnesses that makes it possible for others to see the face of Jesus in every age.

Pope Francis tells us in Lumen Fidei: The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit. The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. Because faith is born of an encounter which takes place in history and lights up our journey through time, it must be passed on in every age. It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus...As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus so that all may be one. The boundless love of our Father also comes to us, in Jesus, through our brothers and sisters. Faith teaches us to see that every man an woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God's face shines on me through the faces of my brother and sisters...Finally, faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, which is one body and one Spirit. In the communion of the subject which is the Church, we receive a common gaze. By professing the same faith, we stand firm on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have a single insight into reality.

I am just a grandma and Stephen Walford is just a piano man. Abraham was just a nomad. Moses was just a guy with a stutter. Gideon's family was the lowest in the family of Manasseh and Gideon was the most insignificant in his father's house. David was just a shepherd. The apostles were just 12 ordinary men. St. Peter was just a fisherman. And our Lord himself? Many saw him as just a carpenter's son.

God will furnish us with all that is good that we might do his will and will carry out what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ. It is God, as well, who works in each one of us for his good purpose and his grace is sufficient.

It's ok Piano Man. You can come sit by me. If you don't mind sitting by a nobody. We will be joined by all the apologist and Pope defenders out there that are just ordinary Catholics. All the people who have entered into public discourse whose background of study was just literature, or music or art  or journalism and not theology. Just moms, just dads, just brothers and sisters in Christ. Knowing that we are blessings to each other. The others, they can throw shade if they want to. Funny thing, but many of those who are so strongly against Pope Francis, who call those who defend him popalators? Who try to diminish and dismiss by throwing shade? Not long ago when they thought there was something in it for them, when they thought they had a Pope who would champion their idea of what the church should be, when they thought they had a Pope that was worthy they sang a different tune. They told us to love the Pope no ifs, ands or buts and quoted the words of Pope Pius X on loving the Pope. Funny thing that.

And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth - 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, "si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit," [if any one love me, he will keep my word - Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope. -Pope Pius X

For what it's worth.

By the way, everybody who sits with me has to put up with that free association thing I have with music. So we're going to enjoy some Billy Joel. It's that quirky thing I got going on. Nobody says that Catholics can't be a little bit quirky.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Vickie, Thank you so much! What you have written means a lot to me. I as a nobody also (see here ) am honoured to sit next to you! I will share this on my facebook page if you dont mind. Thanks again for your support Vickie. May god bless you for your great kindness!!