Is Pope Francis of sound mind? The dementia hypothesis.

Epiphany Is Celebrated At Vatican City
What kind of a pope hath the Catholic Church today? A liberal? A modernist? A Lutheran? A charismatic? A liberation theologian? A socialist? A Catholic? A phenomenologist? We see all of these strains and more in the writings, homilies, interviews, and actions of Pope Francis. The only consistency is a nasty impatience with Catholic doctrine, and the absolute priority of human experience over any other consideration. The rest is, quite frankly, an incomprehensible mess.

This baffling incoherence is leading some to question whether Pope Francis is actually of sound mind. Open speculation about the Holy Father possibly suffering the early stages of dementia arose within several months of his election. He seems not to be aware that he contradicts himself (and the Church) continually, and embarrassingly.

For my part, I am aware that Pope Francis has been educated under Modernist influences from his earliest years in seminary; that Modernism is a flight from reality; and that a mental habit of fleeing from reality eventually destroys one’s rational faculties. So, I’m not yet convinced that Pope Francis is suffering from a biologically-induced mental decline along the lines of dementia. It seems more likely that his intelligence has suffered because of the contradictions in his theological worldview, and his habitual avoidance of difficult or painful truths.

Nevertheless, the dementia hypothesis is gaining traction and may one day be vindicated. The prospect should move every good Catholic to a sentiment of compassion for the Holy Father. Blogger Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill gives expression to this concern:

“Is Pope Francis okay? I mean, is he okay? I know that we can all quite happily overlook our own sins and bothersome personality traits. We can all be a bit hypocritical and recognise in others more quickly those faults that are our own, but I agree with Veneremur Cernui that there is something about Pope Francis’s homilies and speeches that almost demands some call for a papal ‘reality check’ …

The way in which papal homilies are going nowadays indicate a Pope who does not have a healthy relationship with reality and I say that as someone who enjoys escaping reality a great deal.”

“I am so confused by this Papacy I don’t have a clue what is going on, where the Pope really stands on anything. I’m still left a little confused. In fact, every day I find his comments and the lack of transparency in Rome confusing. I’m confused at the ‘de-Ratzingerisation’ of the Vatican. There is nothing terribly clear about this papacy. It’s like driving in a dense fog. Even when his opinion is made clear on something, you still have a nagging feeling that that is simply the opinion (life imprisonment, the death penalty, the Big Bang, evolution etc) of Jorge Bergoglio, the man, rather than that of the more hitherto carefully constructed and balanced positions of the Catholic Church.”

19 thoughts on “Is Pope Francis of sound mind? The dementia hypothesis.

  1. More and more Blogs are arriving at similar points. Here is an example from the Sensible Bond:

    The Catholic Faith requires us to pray for the pope and love him as our shepherd in Christ. I don’t mind saying for the record here that his complicity in the dark side of the Synod has destroyed the tiny sliver-like vestiges of human faith I had left in him. I consider this a good thing, for it means that if I hope for something from him now, it is solely by virtue of his office, solely by virtue of his ministry as Vicar of Christ. Whatever we think of him, we cannot simply rationalise what he might do; he is a man but he is also a mystery, as a man and as the Successor of Peter. God’s promises reside in men, and the Church is not a machine that runs without free human cooperation. All that said, quite simply I expect nothing from Jorge Bergoglio. But I expect everything from our Lord Jesus Christ whose instrument Pope Francis is. Spare me, please, your accusations of impiety.

    O, and it is good to remind our own selves that the See of Peter will never – NEVER – fail; that is an infallible teaching of Vatican 1


  2. …the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter
    not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine,
    but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
    Indeed, their apostolic teaching was
    embraced by all the venerable fathers and
    reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors,
    for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [60] .
    This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see
    so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

    No matter what Our Pope and Our Cross has as an agenda, it will not be accomplished if implementing it meant anything concretely contrary to this infallible teaching.

    What, you think this man can defeat Jesus who is Head of His Church?


  3. Sigh, while roving Europe I was visiting the Shroud on exhibition in Turin when the first Pope John Paul died after a short papacy. I saw the newspaper headlines announcing his death as I waited in line. Since then, as an Evangelical I’ve envied Catholics for having two popes who were so brave, smart and articulate, particularly in contrast to the many self-promoting Evangelical mega-church pastors.

    Alas, that is true no longer. My envy has been replaced by pity and even sorrow. I’d not considered the possibility that Pope Francis mind was failing. I’ve assumed that he was always like this. Instead, I’ve wandered between two points of views.

    Sometimes, I regard him as having the muddled, my-emotions-are-everything mindset you sometimes find in older women and that the apostle Paul referred to as the believers of “old wives tales.” His remarks, like that about good communists, seem to be of that sort. He only sees particulars and can’t develop good generalizations, such as John Paul II did, about the inherent evil of communism.

    At other times, I regard him as what I, in my limited understanding, regard as a typical Latin American cleric. Given the enormous influence of the Catholic church in the region, Catholicism has to bear its share of the responsibility for the region’s woes.

    That’s how I explained Pope Francis’s silly remarks someone making poverty a mark of spirituality. No so. Often, a Latin family is poor because a pitiful excuse of a father is neglecting his wife and kids, and spending what money he has on a mistress. From what I’ve read, that’s not only extremely common, it’s not something the Latin church of Pope Francis does much about. Instead of good sense like keeping husbands faithful, Latin Catholicism panders to the region’s privileged to get donations or some go to the other extreme, meaning the liberation theologians who’d like the rich to be shot. Both are bad solutions that fail to see the real roots of problems. Trying to fit, perhaps a bit too amiably, into that contradictory madness is enough to make anyone wooly headed, including this pope.

    And finally, I’ve heard that those who select popes often like to alternate between three types of individuals: 1. A shepherd like Pope John Paul II, 2. A theologian like Ratziinger, and 3. A good administrator who’ll get the finances back in order.

    Pope Francis isn’t a good shepherd. His conflicting statements leave people feeling confused. He’s also not a theologian, indeed he doesn’t even seemed to have gotten a very good education. (I speak as an outsider.)

    Did those who selected this pope think that he was a good administrator? In his former roles, was he great and keeping the books balanced? Sometimes a person whose words and ideas seemed muddled has, at the same time, an ability to please all sorts of factions and keep money flowing in. Everyone hears what they want to hear and thinks he is one of them. Politicians (i.e. LBJ) are often able to do that when their less visible but fail badly when they move into a highly visible position like president (or pope).

    Perhaps that’s what led to the choice of Francis. At any rate, it does look like a mistake. While it may make sense to rotate between various types of popes, it isn’t good to pick one too lopsided. A good administrator must still be an adequate pastor and theologian. And that’s where this pope seems to fall short. He doesn’t guide and reassure like a pastor and he doesn’t explain the truth like a theologian. He merely wanders about, here and there, in his mind thinking that he is keeping everyone happy.

    Whether accurate or not, that’s my assessment as an outsider. In our troubled world, even a non-Catholic can wish Catholicism well and worry that this pope is not up to his job.

    –Michael W. Perry, editor of Theism and Humanism: The Book that Influenced C. S. Lewis.

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  4. I have said from the beginning that he’s a flake and also that he’s not all that bright. This is pretty much your “modernist education” hypothesis. The fact is that one runs across self-contradictions all the time in young people who undeniably aren’t suffering from dementia but are just not especially bright and have fried their minds with silly ideas. Francis is actually more eloquent in his own way than most of them, but the pattern is pretty familiar.

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  5. Wow. This is where you’re at now, Jeff? Publicly questioning the Pope’s mental health, if not his sanity? Even if you were right—which you have absolutely no evidence for accept that you disagree with Pope Francis—how exactly does it build up the body of Christ to say so? And how would you react if someone publicly questioned your natural father’s mental stability because that person disagreed with your father? If you would defend your own natural father against defamation, perhaps you ought to give serious thought to what you owe your spiritual father in Christ. Unless, of course, you don’t consider Pope Francis to be your spiritual father in Christ and are already a sedevacantist in practice, if not in fact.

    I don’t often say this to anyone, but I hope and pray that you will consider going to confession for this post.


    • I have to agree with Michelle somewhat. I seriously doubt he is suffering from a mental health issue. He simply is a typical modernist type (which I know, facetiously, many refer to as a mental disorder).


  6. It does indeed seem possible that the Pope is of unsound mind. I agree that Modernism can produce that effect maybe, in that one is forced to discount spiritual reality which has its consequences. It isn’t proven, as of yet. But if this is true, then it will get progressively worse, and it will be difficult to hide. In a way, I would feel a little better knowing that he is of unsound mind, in that he’s not completely culpable for all the contradictory, and even at times nonsensical things he’s said and done. Remember his address to the Pentacostals? It made very little sense, as if he were of unsound mind, or medicated, or something like that. And remember the beachball that he placed on the altar? That was seriously bizarre, really. Maybe it’s just me, but he also doesn’t seem to have any love for the Church or the Catholic Faith. I’d like to see evidence of it, but have not seen any so far. He seems quite detached, somehow. It would be good to pray for him.


  7. Well, there is always the possibility of a top leader going into dementia. And it is inherently difficult to know what to do about it, precisely because he is at the top, so there is nobody with definitive authority over him.

    Has it happened to any earlier popes? What about the nasty corrupt ones in the late middle ages / renaissance?

    As I understand it, there are definite, specific signs of dementia that (eventually) can make the issue clear. But some of those reflect new types of behavior. So, one must ask the question: did Cardinal Bergoglio act this way in years past? DId he always run his mouth off? Did he frequently contradict obvious Scripture passages? Did he always brush off devout, rule-obeying Catholics as being in the wrong? Did he ever try to convert non-Catholics? Did he always make self-contradictory comments about things?

    To the extent of what little I know of his former life, he hasn’t changed much.

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  8. As a life long Catholic I find our pope to be the FIRST pope to be accepting of ALL of God’s creatures as they are. He is the first on my 50 years to want to be inclusive of everyone. This is more Jesus like than Cardinal Burke who wants to exclude some because he doesn’t like them. I think the Pope’s detractors are scared of progress and the only ammunition they have is to question his sanity. What a shame!


  9. History has taught us that when you go against a very strong individual or group you are extinguished. The writing is on the wall for this Pope. He is carrying out the true word of the commandment “Love One Another As I have loved you”. Certain members of the Roman Catholic Church must have not been present during Theology Lessons for that course. Their ideology and sneakiness leads me to believe their is more than meets the eye with the wicked ways that have come to light in the recent decade.


  10. Pope Francis is not demented or heretical. He is shepherding the church with Gospel truth, simplicity and challenge– as Jesus exemplified. What is demented and heretical is the reaction of frightened Church “leaders” who are clinging to myopic conservatism which is not consistent with the tradition of the Catholic Church. Trust in the stirrings of the Holy Spirit people. Pope Francis was elected to fan the embers of the spirit of Vatican II. Don’t you get it? The light of the Holy Spirit will NOT be extinguished!


  11. As a life long Catholic I find our pope to be the FIRST pope to be accepting of ALL of God’s creatures as they are. He is the first on my 50 years to want to be inclusive of everyone.

    Theresa, may I point out that Pope Francis disagrees with you? Pope Francis just canonized 2 prior popes, John 23rd and JPII. Now, a pope cannot be a saint unless he acts with Jesus-like charity, so either these other popes were not saints or they did have charity for all. Pope Francis tells us they are saints, so your theory is wrong.

    He is carrying out the true word of the commandment “Love One Another As I have loved you”.

    Lisa, he seems to be carrying out the commandment to “Love one another” by choosing to not be very loving toward Catholics who love the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, something Benedict did quite well (love such Catholics). Now, I am glad that the current Pope loves divorced and remarried Catholics, and gays, but isn’t he supposed to love everyone, not just those who had trouble being accepted? Jesus didn’t reject John as his disciple merely because John was beloved by many people!

    What is demented and heretical is the reaction of frightened Church “leaders” who are clinging to myopic conservatism which is not consistent with the tradition of the Catholic Church.

    John, Vatican II did not suggest that we invite divorced and remarried Catholics to communion. I’ve read the documents – it isn’t there. Furthermore, I challenge you to locate ONE SINGLE source in Tradition that favored communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Just find us one to back up your “traditional” theory. Because I think you will find that it cannot be done: Tradition, going all the way back to the time of the Apostles, says that they did NOT approve divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion. You can bandy words like “conservative” about as much as you want because they have no definite meaning in the Church, but Tradition does mean something and you cannot get away with using it any way you feel like.

    Of course the light of the Holy Spirit will not be extinguished. But – just as in the times when we had adulterers and murderers in the Papacy – that guarantee does NOT depend on the character of the current pope. It depends rather on the power of God to overcome even the defects of any pope.

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  12. Catholics the world over are rightly distressed with the behaviour of Pope Francis. His capacity to destroy good clergy- from young orthodox priests to the most eminent of our cardinals, from faithful traditional friars and nuns by removing them from their places of responsibility, their friary, their convent, and then elevating others to higher ranks where they proceed to shut down traditional communities of the faithful. His publication last year, Amoris Laetitia, goes against Church teachings but makes certain radical cardinals happy. Divorced and ‘remarried’ can receive the Holy Eucharist they say. Homosexual lifestyle is to be accepted… When the Pope flew to Lesbos he brought numbers of displaced families back to Rome with him….ALL moslem, not one Christian. It appears that Martin Luther is now a favored character at the Vatican, statue and all. That heretic priest who caused the deaths of hundreds of people and himself ‘married’ a nun. The recent climax of course is the placing of the Vatican Academy of Science in the hands of a feminist from the U.N. – who has recently invited the infamous Paul Erlich writer of the Population Bomb in 1968, to conference in the Vatican. A man famous for his promotion of reducing the population… and don’t forget how Francis has criticised young active Catholics, especially should they like to wear a mantilla for Mass (!!) calling them Rigid ! Four Cardinals have requested clarity of the document, Amoris Laetitia, yet months later he has not replied. He has now interfered in the independent Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta which he has no right to do, and, he has used it to reinstate the former head who was removed for financing contraception and abortion in developing countries. Yes, he is not too find of tradition. He chooses to live in Santa Marta hotel instead of the Papal apartment which was home to all the preceding Popes. He just pops up in the window of that apartment to pray the Angelus or to give a blessing to the people below. His humility seems to be just skin deep and the casual actions endear him to public who do not know that we expect a high Catholic standard from our Pope who is after all Christ’s Vicar on Earth.


  13. The Catholic Church needs to be less literal and more humanistic. It is not surprising that archaic thinkers – the ones who drive the vast majority of people out of churches – would consider the Pope demented for not following the rigid doctrine. This is the same doctrine that fails to meet the needs of people in the 21st Century. If the Pope is inconsistent he is reflecting the discomfort that most people feel about the fixed rules and fossilized culture verses the modern world and the blocked opportunities to make the religion truly caring and inclusive.


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