Monday, February 22, 2016

Troubling and confusing condemnations of Pope Francis

The Chair of Peter
The gift of the Papacy.

Online pundits react.

I find it very troubling that people online who insist they are devout Catholics and defenders of orthodoxy call the pope an imbecile, a malignant thug idiot, an addle-headed Argentine, not to mention that in their humble opinion he is a heretic, anti-pope and so on.

I'm not trying to defend the pope and his personal comments responding to journalists - he has made statements I don't always understand from the get go, but I don't hang onto every word he says either.  I like him and his style because he is down to earth and understands ordinary men and women - he understands ordinary life.  To be sure, I certainly do not support those who publicly and scornfully attack him.  Neither can I be supportive of those who say The Holy Father and Fr. Lombardi. are telling lies, spreading false information, or are duped into accepting lies as truth.

I tried to see something humorous in some of the many over the top responses online, until I realized something is very wrong with these people.  They are seriously disturbed by this pope and what he says to journalists - many of whom seem to be asking practical questions about serious threats to the well being of ordinary people.  Some of their responses, albeit, verging on hysteria, indicate a serious crisis in faith.  That can't be mocked or made fun of, much less dismissed.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike can reasonably disagree with off-the-cathedra statements made by a pope or a bishop, but to launch into a smear campaign and going far beyond ad hominem remarks is completely off the rails - as John of the Cross said about those who grumble and complainer - they're not even good Christians. (Minor Works, Other Counsels, #4).  I can't judge their souls.  They certainly appear to be good Christians.

That said, there may be disagreements on what the pope said, what he meant, and so on - especially when he goes off-cathedra.  Inappropriate reactionary responses are as bad as my inappropriate humor lampooning the less stable online.  I apologize for that.  It seems to me, a more tempered objection can be expressed by those confused by what the pope says in interviews, conversations and personal letters.  Humility and patience seems to be what is needed - and giving others the benefit of the doubt would help maintain their peace as well.

This may help.

Amy Welborn has an elegant, well written essay on these issues, aptly titled, "Against Popesplaining" - she begins:

Guess what.
You don’t have to defend every word the Pope says.
Even if you consider yourself an enthusiastic and faithful Catholic of any stripe you are not obligated to defend every utterance in every papal interview or even every papal homily or declaration.
Popes – all popes – can say things that are wrong, incorrect, ill-informed, narrow, short-sighted and more reflective of their personal biases, interests and limitations than the broader, deeper tradition of Catholicism.
Which is why, traditionally, popes didn’t do a lot of public talking. - Welborn

I'm not sure that's why 'popes didn't do a lot of public talking', they, like the royals were simply removed from casual contact and/or interviews - and they didn't have social media.  The papacy was very much held to protocols associated with monarchy, which prevented them from personally entering into discussion on popular culture or trending social issues.  Likewise, audiences were always formal, allocutions prepared and checked by attendants, and so on.  Francis has changed all of that - which is why he lives in a hotel - fewer handlers to keep people away.

That said, Amy never impressed me as being a huge fan of this pope, and that is just fine, no one has to like a pope, you don't even have to pay him any attention - unless you want to gain a plenary indulgence.  Amy definitely has her head on straight and makes a fine presentation in her current essay.  I highly recommend it.

As for me, I have yet to find anything Pope Francis has said to be disturbing - if I don't understand it immediately, I ponder it and reflect upon it, and sooner or later, I understand.  But I love the Jesuits and I think this helps me to get it whenever he says something uber-Catholics get upset about.  The Holy Father's example - his devotion and charity - is evidence for me of his fidelity as a Son of the Church, the successor of Peter.   Of course, I'm just an ordinary Novus Ordo, Vatican II loving, Catholic old man who will soon be dead - so I know my opinions don't count.  Besides, as my confessor told me a few weeks ago, the pope doesn't need me to defend him.

So true.

Happy feast of the Chair of Peter.

NB: I want to call your attention to this post from Monday Vatican - I especially like the following observation:

Pope Francis’ press conferences on the plane are becoming a good occasion to understand his thought more deeply. Some things are clear, others must be read between the lines. However, there is a whole world behind Pope Francis that must be understood, and there are at least four issues that must be highlighted. - Source

Works for me.

h/t Ray for Amy's link


  1. As flippant as it sounds, I think ignoring Pope Francis is the prudent approach here. I completely understand the outraged reactions of so many people when these interviews come out. Quite frankly, I find the Holy Father to be very confusing and reckless. However, there is simply no benefit, spiritually nor evangelically, to flying off the handle every time these new interviews come out. The Holy Spirit doesn't protect the Pope from imprudence, so when the Pope continues to display a tendency towards imprudence, simply stop paying attention to him and work on your own holiness.


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