This is a painful thing to admit for any Catholic, but denial is no use: Pope Francis is creating enormous difficulties for the Church. His problematic statements are too numerous for me to document or even to remember. Barring a miracle (for which we should all pray), it’s only going to get worse in the coming months and years. The members of a largely modernist hierarchy, along with leaders of Catholic institutions, have been emboldened by this pope in their liberalism and dissent. Already Pope Francis is being invoked to justify heterodoxy. Note the recent comments by Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of the University of St. Thomas, in her convocation address at 24:15 in the video:
We can certainly expect more of the same in the parishes, seminaries, and other institutions as this pontificate progresses.
Many Catholics with good intentions think all of this confusion is the fault of the media. I beg to differ. It’s not the media, it’s the pope himself. He gives a certain impression with his words, and he’s been around the media long enough to know how to do that. We’re only six months into this papacy: orthodox Catholic commentators are eventually going to get tired of scrambling to do damage control, and indeed this is already happening.
The fact is that Pope Francis is enamored with novelty. He believes we need “new ways” of doing practically everything. He has dismissed the efficacy of contemplation and mortification in the spiritual life. He derides “outdated manners and forms which …. are no longer meaningful.” He speaks as though Christ is found only in performing corporal works of mercy. In short, the pope doesn’t like the Church he has inherited, or her traditional piety and discipline, or even, one suspects, some of her doctrines. His many not-so-subtle jabs at “restorationists”, “Pelagians”, “triumphalists”, “legalists”, those “obsessed” with “doctrinal security” and “rule keeping”, etc., are obviously directed at traditional Catholics for whom he apparently has much contempt.
If there were any doubts about his deep hostility to the Church’s venerable Latin liturgy, his abrogation of Summorum Pontificum within the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – the first serious disciplinary act of his papacy – should put those doubts to rest. I think we can safely assume that the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” is not going to enforce Summorum under this pontificate.
I must admit to feeling orphaned by this pope in other ways. Pope Francis seems unaware that those of us who do not suffer material poverty need the Church just as much as the poor need the Church – perhaps moreso. Most of us in the prosperous developed world are on the “existential periphery” when it comes to the salvation of our immortal souls. Can we have a little love too? That is not to say that he doesn’t call the non-poor to repentance, but he seems only to call us to repentance for treating our neighbors unkindly, and never for our faithlessness and unbelief, our immorality and licentiousness, our sins against God, our infidelity to Christ and His Church. As for the poor, it almost seems they cannot sin at all in the eyes of Pope Francis.
And yet, there is much to admire in this pope. His simple style of preaching inspires and convicts. He is a man of decision and authority by temperament. His personal austerity – while occasionally misapplied to things proper to his office – sets a good example for those of us soaked in the consumer-driven materialistic West. The car he drives, his place of residence, his impulsive personality, even his irrepressible loquacity do not bother me at all. These things have been criticized, but the problem with Pope Francis lies elsewhere.
Since I cannot possibly address the crisis adequately on this blog, below are just a few links detailing the growing unrest and confusion this papacy is creating among the faithful. Please pray for the Holy Father, the Holy Catholic Church, and all Catholics in this difficult time.