On the Incident Involving Pope Francis

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Guest post by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko (Diocese of London, Ontario, Canada).

I really would hate to fall down the rabbit’s hole of absurdity, but I’d like to add my comments on this whole ordeal in regard to Pope Francis slapping the hand of a woman who assaulted him by clearly pulling an elderly man in an intrusive way. Had Benedict been treated in this way, I ponder how others might react. That’s the point of this post; to demonstrate a lack of principled discernment.

The Pope chose to apologize for a lack of patience. This must indicate that his own conscience accused him of not choosing an alternative act that might have demonstrated patience. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one, but knowing that people have tried to kill the Pope, being taken off-guard can cause life-saving impulses to arise. My own niece slugged my dad when he playfully scared her. While she regretted the action almost immediately, he told her she had nothing to apologize for.

Let’s be frank. People don’t like Pope Francis in the more “conservative vein” of the Church. Many see him as unorthodox, others as ambiguous, others as confusing, and then circling around the rabbits hole, others think it’s the end of the world and he is the “anti-prophet” trying to create a one-world government that will bring in the anti-Christ.

So the same people who post memes in December about St. Nicholas punching a heretic or brag about St. Pio slapping a man who encouraged disobedience to a local bishop, are also the ones who seem to imply Pope Francis assaulted this woman and proclaim him a fraud. Even when the Pope apologizes, it’s because he was “caught” and forced to. These are the comments and views I’ve read on my newsfeed.

I think it’s embarrassing to watch, most especially from priests. There is an inability to discern (which means distinguish). Every issue that plagues these Catholics is rolled up in one confusing ball of emotional vexation and then attributed to every act of the Pope’s actions. It’s an invincible narrative rooted in prejudice, and an absence to discern.

I call you, as a Spiritual Father, not because your acts vex me, though they do; but rather, and most assuredly because I see an absence of internal self-control, and prudential judgment. It is ultimately a lack of beatitude, and one of meekness. It’s plainly obvious, and yet it’s established and reinforced by tribalism, memes and conflating some legitimate areas of concern with a disproportionate narrative that is unjust for our Holy Father. You lose credibility.

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16 thoughts on “On the Incident Involving Pope Francis”

  1. Avatar

    This is unfortunate, but it is not appropriate to have a woman engage the Holy Father in such fashion. I understand the ardent desire to demonstrate affection for His Holiness; however, Asia is rife with a culture of “comfort workers,” and this may not be an innocent approach since I have been subjected to some things in a much different manner and in a similar way in my youth. St. Clement authors boundaries in His writings as Bishop of Rome. While extreme in measure the times required utmost care since civil order was not established as today. I think the quote “glad-handing” for the Pope needs greater care and decorum: family audiences, restricted reception lines, and communicants in communion. Blessings, Holy Son of Peter.

  2. Avatar

    I notice that the verb “discern” is now often used without an object. I find this annoying. Discern what? St. Ignatius Loyola spoke of “discerning spirits.” Today’s writers don’t specify. You offer the verb “distinguish” as a synonym, but that is not quite correct. We distinguish between and among things — between the right way or the wrong way, for example, or among the best cars available in my price range; “distinguish” is closer to “choose.” The word “discern” by itself just sits out there and floats away. Like I said, annoying.

    1. Avatar

      I understand you are annoyed, since discernment of spirits is a good. But technically there is more to it than that. Etymologically discernment means to separate or distinguish. Separating one thing from another, can help us define things, as we see in Adam naming the animals. I’m talking about the capacity to even do this is lost on us, which is fundamental to spiritual discernment.

      1. Avatar

        I’m only annoyed by the grammar, not by the underlying point. As you say, “separating” one THING from another. Same for “discerning.” They are transitive verbs. I think you mean that commentators should discern one interpretation of the pope’s action from other possible interpretations, or something like that, but you didn’t say so.

  3. Avatar

    The Pope’s advisors ought to consider the possibility that he is overexposed in public and travels too much. A man half of the pope’s age would find the current pontiff’s travels and public appearance an occasion of fatigue and frazzled nerves, leading to incidents such as the one under review. Overwork leads to shorter amounts of patience.

  4. Avatar

    She was neither a heretic to be punched, nor a person encouraging disobedience to a Bishop, to be slapped. She was not a man but a woman, a member of that sex who suffer violence at the hands of the opposite sex which the Holy Father denounced shortly after his rather “uncontrolled” hand slapping incident. The Pope seems to be a temperamental man; perhaps the reason, or so it is reported in the book, “The Dictator Pope”, that the then superior of the Jesuits, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, decidedly recommended that Father Jorge Bergoglio not be made a bishop: because of his unstable personality…

    1. Avatar

      Fortunately, Pope Francis did not instinctively use the Papal Death Slap.

      P.S. Avoid gynolatry. Recognize that men too “suffer violence at the hands of the opposite sex” even if Pope Francis chose not to mention that.

  5. Avatar

    I wonder if Pope Francis has arthritis in his arm and hands. He is over 80 and does walk with a limp. She grabbed his hand and pulled him off balance and then wouldn’t let go. If you watch the tape his face looks like he’s in pain. When you have arthritis you can shake hands when you have some control of your hand and shoulder, but when someone else grabs you or applies too much pressure, even less than this woman did, it can be very painful. It seemed to me that he was slapping her hand to make her let go because she was hurting him.
    Same with kissing his ring, if you have arthritis it can hurt.
    We’re very quick to judge.

  6. Avatar

    While I think everyone has a right to “Freedom of Speech” I find some of these comments to be very angry and supported by feelings. None of us were there. None of us have been Pope and yanked unexpectedly. Most of us aren’t 83 years old. At the age of 71 if I were to be yanked like that I might fall and break something. The woman may have thought she had a good reason for wanting to speak to the Pope. I’m sure thousands of people believe that regularly. This is still no excuse to yank on an 83-year-old man, whether he is the Pope or a homeless person or a guy on the golf-course. Let’s just admit that none of us were there and to blame the Pope or attack this woman is certainly unfair. We see the news. This is a short clip of what happened. I think none of us has the right to judge either of these two people. Those who hate the Pope will continue to do so. Whether I agree with him or not I am not his judge or her judge.

  7. Avatar

    In itself, this incident is much ado about nothing. She was not attempting to assault him, which would have led to a latae sententiae excommunication (which surprisingly never seems to be mentioned); and his reaction, while unfortunate, was completely understandable.

    However, one thing about this incident actually IS interesting, and that is how it has been covered in the secular press. Perhaps the love affair of the world with the Pope is ending. Let us hope so. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

  8. Avatar

    To term what was done to the Pope an “assault” is a stretch. He was walking along a long line of people shaking hands. He had a hand outreached towards the woman, then at the last second turned to walk away. She reached for him when he wished to move in a different direction. That’s it. That hardly constitutes an an “assault” with the connotations of criminality that go along with it.

    Some have suggested she should have been tackled or knocked down. Nonsense. She was overexuberant, understandably so. She was presented with what was no doubt, the thrill of a lifetime; a chance to greet and shake hands with the Pope. She blessed herself before reaching for him. The Pope’s conduct towards her was ungracious and he did well to apologize for it.

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