Issues With Pope Francis

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By now, a lot has been written about the recent controversial interviews of Pope Francis – what the media think he said, what he actually said, what he should or should not have said.

I have seen people suffer because of the confusion the interviews caused. These people are Catholics who, because of their knowledge of and love for their faith, understand what Pope Francis really meant. Out of their loyalty to him, their concern for others, and their love for truth, they patiently explain things to the clueless and defend the pope and orthodoxy against extremes of both liberalism and conservatism. These people would risk their lives or their reputations for the pope and for what he stands for.

These people suffer precisely because of this. While they know that the pope will never change centuries-old truths, and while they see the merits of Pope Francis’ approach, they may find his comments less-than-appreciative of the battles they fight against abortion, divorce, same-sex “marriages”, moral relativism, religious indifferentism, and other ills of the times. Not a few people I know claimed that his remarks in the interviews put their faith on trial. I, too, found myself asking whether one can try to be a saint while having issues with the pope.

Then, I remembered St. Catherine of Siena, who advised, chided, and corrected the pope of her time, yet tenderly called him “sweet Christ on earth.” An Internet search led me to a write-up about this awesome woman’s life and a translation of letter she wrote to Pope Gregory XI. The letter is too long to reproduce in full in this post, but can be read here (scroll down to after the biography). Reading it, I was impressed at how she combined filial criticism with reverence. Her words to the pope may have been strong, but so was her loyalty and affection for him. She taught me that one can, indeed, become a saint while having issues with the pope, provided one resolves those issues the right way.

While popes are chosen by God, they remain human. One’s commitment to the faith may be tested by a particular pope’s idiosyncrasies, but those who find themselves in this situation can take heart, for saints are produced even in such situations. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of a particular pope may be, the faithful remain called to holiness, and holiness will always be possible.

As for how to relate with the pope, I realize that while he may have his weaknesses, he also has his strengths which God, in His infinite wisdom, foresaw that the Church may need at this point in history. I decide to take the cue from St. Catherine of Siena and consider him not only “sweet Christ on earth” but also “holiest sweet father.” A child may not agree with some ways a father does things, and sometimes the child may be right. But a good child recognizes the father as God’s representative, treasures the father’s teachings, defers to the father’s authority, and treats the father with love and respect. So must it be with me and Pope Francis.

Cristina Montes

Cristina Montes

Cristina Montes, from the Philippines, is a lawyer, writer, amateur astronomer, a gardening enthusiast, a voracious reader, a karate brown belter, an avid traveler, and a lover of birds, fish, rabbits, and horses. She is a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan who reads the entire trilogy once a year. She is the eldest daughter in a large, happy Catholic family.

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9 thoughts on “Issues With Pope Francis”

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    Sister, I know St. Catherine of Siena. St. Catherine of Siena is a Doctor of the Church. Sister, you’re no St. Catherine of Siena.

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    You don’t know that Carlos 🙂

    Cristina, I too was a bit bothered at times. Let me give you a hint to better understand the Pope: when he gives an interview to an atheist journalist, he is speaking to the world. If Catholics want to hear what the Pope has for them, they should heed at his homilies, which promptly dismiss any suspicion of lack of zeal or relativism.

    That is not to say there are any inconsistencies. One can be all things to all people without contradiction.

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    “These people are Catholics who, because of their knowledge of and love for their faith, understand what Pope Francis really meant….” Precisely what in “the knowledge of their faith” — or even their Faith, which is different than their faith — could let them know that? Precisely where in the Teachings of the Church is it written that every thought and utterance of a Pope is infallible and free from error? Someone with a knowledge of the Faith would be able to tell you: NOWHERE. Only certain proclamations of a Pope are given that guarantee, and interviews with newspapers are not among them. As a result, we cannot be sure that the orthodox “spin” is what Francis really meant, only that if it is not what he meant, he was wrong.

    “While they know that the pope will never change centuries-old truths” — because he can’t. It is not necessary to assume good will.

    “… and while they see the merits of Pope Francis’ approach….” Yet they have not been able to make a convincing case that these merits even exist. The “merit” of praise from Obama and becoming a darling of the anti-Catholic media is a doubtful honor at best. ***Maybe*** in a few years we will hear about people who were drawn back to a faithful relationship with the Church, but so far he seems to be reassuring people that they are fine wherever they are. Much has been written about the meaning of the word “proselytization”, but that does not remove the problem from this part of the exchange:

    Scalfari: “Your Holiness, you said that you have no intention of trying to convert me and I do not think you would succeed.”

    Pope Francis: “We cannot know that, but I don’t have any such intention.”

    It is one thing to hope that Francis will turn out to be a wise and holy Pope, or that he made no errors in any of his interviews and that the orthodox spin accurately captures what he really meant, or that his differences in style will prove effective and fruitful. It is another thing to present these hopes as certain knowledge. Nothing in the Catholic Faith (with a big “F”) gives us that certainty.

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    Cristina, thank you for this! It resonated with me deeply although I don’t identify as a suffering Catholic but rather a hopeful one, since God has been revealing things to me in a way that makes me less concerned about the way people interpret things and more confident in God’s timing and how people will all understand the Truth in different ways, on His time. 🙂

    “A child may not agree with some ways a father does things, and sometimes the child may be right. But a good child recognizes the father as God’s representative, treasures the father’s teachings, defers to the father’s authority, and treats the father with love and respect.” (I loved that!)

    So must it be for all Catholics and our loving Pope.

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    I think that those who are suffering need to take a close look. Cardinal Dolan has expressed it best I think when commenting that the Pope is not changing the church message but challenging each of us, calling on us, to a re-examination of our priorities. I also see these moments of “confusion” in the popular press to be wonderful opportunities to engage in discussions around our faith in ways not previously afforded. Carefully sanitized and focused papers and pronouncements result in messaging to the faithful that stays in the echo chamber of our faith relations. I have been seeing a lot of this reaction within my own circles and ended up sharing my own thoughts on it, using Cardinal Dolan and Blessed Mother Theresa as examples http://catholicfamilyman.com/2013/10/11/pope-francis-speaks-people-freak-chill/

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    I can relate. Sometimes in my superficial understanding of the Pope’s words I feel frustrated; yet on deeper reflection I find it helpful in the long run. Since in seeking the deeper meaning of the Pope’s words, I am closely bound to and therefore can’t lose sight of Jesus’ love for me, (I guess). Thanks for articulating what I’ve felt! God bless!

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