How To Handle Those Mixed Feelings about the Pope’s Remarks

Photography: Kelli Ann

It pains me to read rabid criticism from Catholics towards a real human being, who happens to be our Supreme Pontiff. At the same time, I feel sorry for the sting that large families (who selflessly welcome children and witness to our faith in their vocation) felt from that twisted now infamous rabbit interview.

My feelings are mixed, without rhyme or reason, and they are what they are. However, no one in the throes of passionate emotion firing slingshots of disparagement at anyone has my sympathy. Vitriol is unpleasant, risks a permanent breakdown in relationships, and becomes counterproductive to getting a point across to the intended audience. There is more productive way of expressing oneself clearly without going overboard.

From a licensed family therapist, I’ve learned a perfectly reasonable method for communication. It’s this: I must own my feelings instead of blaming my emotions on the other and attacking him for causing it. It sounds pretty simple, and I thought I was the last adult to mature into this realization, but maybe its time to preach it loud as a reminder to some pockets of the Catholic comment boxes and the blogosphere.

Consider these examples of backlash speech hurled in retaliation, which resounded from the camp of the offended party:

“The Pope’s interviews are all terrible and simply out for publicity stunts. He should put a muzzle on his mouth.”

“I can’t believe the Pope said that! He was out of line.”

“Of course, he’d take pot shots at his faithful flock. He’s the anti-Christ.”

“The Pope is waxing imprudent again. If I had a dime for every doozy that came out of his mouth, I’d buy out Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg.”

“Mayday, mayday. Will someone check the Pope’s brains? There’s a missing link.”

“Who does the Pope think he is to butt in on my family’s business?”

*Wah* “I want Pope Benedict! Pope Francis doesn’t care for my needs at all.”

Inflammatory statements like those put the other party on the defensive, casts a shadow on our Holy Father’s good intentions, strips him of respect and dignity due his authority over his flock, and slanders his reputation. Not only that, the tone is  arrogant. It doesn’t matter who the communicator is and what his credentials are, the implied intent is to usurp power to reproach the Pontiff, and make him do things the way he wants them done if the job was his.

With the therapist’s advice above, communication easily could have been done this way:

“When I heard comments that I thought meant that I was being compared to a rabbit, I felt…”

“….frustrated.”

“…surprised.”

“…disappointed.”

“…upset.”

“…hurt and confused.”

“…worried and offended.”

“…sad and neglected.”

Owning our feelings takes courage and humility, virtues we as Catholics are encouraged to acquire. We may think no one wants to hear our whining. We can be suspicious that our own feelings are insufficient by themselves and we need further validation when we emphasize the offense done by the evil “offensive” party.  But our feelings are ours, they are neutral, and its perfectly normal and acceptable to have them. They make us vulnerable, human and expressing them can do a lot of good if others in the same boat share and affirm them. We don’t have to be afraid to state them. There may be power in unleashing them, so long as they are completely about us and not followed by personal attacks against the one we blame to have caused them.

As the dust settles over the controversy, we’re learning the actual translation of the Pope’s comment was not accurate, was said in the context of the Pope’s overall visit and addressed at the tail end of his Philippine visit (responsible parenthood goes hand in hand with openness to life), and that it wasn’t at all contrary to Church teaching. Feelings spiked up and down as the news gathered more moss, and that’s fine. What’s destructive is when we react at the height of stimuli instead of responding with responsibility, as calm, rational and prayerful Catholics.

So, here are three things we know from this experience: we can’t control what headlines the secular media will grab from any interview (The National Inquirer is still out there); we don’t have power to control the Pope or the Church (that’s reserved for the Holy Spirit); and the only control we have is how we respond to our emotions.

Some suggestions are in order when we encounter strong feelings in the future:

  1. Communicate our feelings maturely. There’s no benefit or necessity to dragging out our family issues with the Holy Father by open rebellion, disrespect, and slander to the gawking online community. We do the Church a great disservice when we do that.
  1. Keep silence, pray, forgive and offer up our feelings and persecutions in reparation for sins against the family, for conversion of sinners, and for guidance for the Holy Father.
  1. Stay calm. Pause. Ask God to console us and the Holy Spirit for what our role is in this situation. Fallen away Catholics, atheists and other people are responding to this Pope positively. Our Holy Father needs us, He’s not out to get us, and He loves us. How can we help build up the Catholic Church to a hostile world that is ready to tear us down and divide us? If we’re on social media or encounter comments in the workplace, its a great opportunity to  channel our feelings to evangelize, explain apologetics, offer suggestions or console the faithful and bring good out of our struggles. That’s how the saints rolled.
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63 thoughts on “How To Handle Those Mixed Feelings about the Pope’s Remarks”

  1. I don’t love Pope Francis. Being that he isn’t the Vicar of Christ, to publicly
    insult him isn’t harmful and goes with Charity. If people aren’t having a
    hard time with him, whatever the reason, it would be worse to pray for
    him.

  2. SnowCherryBlossoms

    I love Pope Francis. Being that he is the Vicar of Christ, to publicly insult him is harmful and goes against Charity. If people are having a hard time with him, whatever the reason, it would be better to pray for him.

  3. Cardinal George re Pope Francis:
    QUOTE: ” The question is raised, why doesn’t he himself clarify these things?
    Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear that burden of trying to put the best possible face on it?
    Does he not realize the consequences of some of his statements, or even some of his actions?
    Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t. I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise these doubts in people’s minds.” UNQUOTE.
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/static/cardinal-george-on-pope-francis-why-doesnt-he-clarify.html
    It is very important that there be no confusion or scandal regarding our Faith.

    1. Ahh… “who am I to judge?”

      “Why doesn’t he clarify”? Given the context, I suppose Pope Francis thought he was being clear (having seen that particular interview on Rome Reports.com, it was pretty darn clear to me what he meant when he said that the Catechism laid it all out so beautifully and clearly). It’s not his fault that even despite this, some people have selective hearing, and then others go and whine thereafter that if the Pope isn’t beating people over the head with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, then it logically follows that he must approve.

      As for a lot of the burden falling on the apologists, then perhaps this is an opportunity. We keep hearing that “the time for comfortable Catholicism is over.” Well, perhaps that’s part of what that means.

      What Francis and Benedict both knew is that Catholicism is about Jesus Christ: this is what Ratzinger’s theology makes clear, what the Latin Mass makes clear, and what Francis makes clear. If Catholics don’t communicate that much or know what that means, then
      no amount of quoting the Catechism or Scripture will matter, and neither
      will have the impact that it ought to. We’re missing an opportunity to join the dots here: the point isn’t jettisoning doctrine and dogma, it’s knowing how to gently confront the culture knowing that the doctrine and dogma is there to back you. It’s knowing how everything is interconnected and coherent, and what part of the network of significance and explanation we’re dealing with.

    2. Of course. I never said we should be silent when we should speak up. That time isn’t always, however, even though the time to speak up comes frequently enough.

      All I ever said is that we should not behave as if our charism is to build up the Body of Christ by constantly complaining at every opportunity. To say that the Pope’s brain has become disconnected from his mouth isn’t Christlike– it lacks charity, and is arrogant, and as far as I’m aware, the laity has no such “duty” to be saying things like that, regardless of our concerns. A far better way to address one’s own perplexity is to ask, very humbly, what he means by what he says, if we’re confused, and not blather incessantly about how the Pope is purposefully out to get us or insult us. The latter actually wastes time and loses the Church’s message in the shuffle.

      What I am aware of is that the rest of the world doesn’t speak Catholic-ese. Some people adamantly want to believe that Catholics have as many children as possible, willy nilly, just as others adamantly want to believe that Catholics worship Mary. What I am also aware of is that people have certain set ideas about the Catholic Church and Catholic orthodoxy that are narrow, relying as they do on a number of false dichotomies. Pitting faith and reason and matter and spirit against each other are two of the big ones. No Catholic, therefore, should unthinkingly pick up what the culture throws down, and Catholics should question their assumptions and presumptions– a lot of the “rabbits” kerfuffle would resolve itself if we did more of this kind of self-examination. What’s far more fun is knowing that Catholic orthodoxy thinks bigger and therefore messes with people’s heads. It seems to me that Catholics would do better messing with people’s heads– Francis calls this “making a mess”– as only an authentic orthodoxy will allow them to, instead of wasting time complaining or looking for opportunities to be offended.

      I rather thought that Francis did us a favor by actually saying what so many Catholics ought to have picked up on: having a big family is not necessarily “irresponsible,” the Church doesn’t mandate big families for everyone, it’s all right if a woman wants to stay home full time, and balancing work and family is possible for a woman, if that’s what God is calling her to– and you know what? We don’t need no steenkin’ pill to succeed at any of this, and we don’t do Quiverfull. Because His grace is sufficient, and a grace-aided reason allows us to fire on all cylinders, as self-sacrificial love– and Caritas, period– demands, and anyone who has any experience with NFP soon learns, whether they have a big family or a smaller one. That’s what the Catholic Church teaches: orthodoxy is not relative, but it is capacious, because it’s a matter of range.

    3. Why do you keep disregarding what I have printed at least twice?

      Can you not read?

      I will print the last part of CCC 907 again which includes REVERENCE toward their PASTORS.
      “….with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons’.

      You are trying to pick an argument with the wrong person.

      The CCC also covers responsible parenthood. Look it up yourself.

    4. I’m not trying to pick an argument at all, in fact I was in agreement; just trying to have a discussion with you.

      I’m not deaf, I’m not blind, and you needn’t be insulting.

      Moreover, I was simply expressing how beautiful Church teaching is, and isn’t it a pity that we miss such an opportunity to explain it. If my enthusiasm comes off in the wrong way, then I’m sorry.

      Good grief.

  4. At the end of your article, your suggestion on communicating maturely (which requires a respectful manner) is correct.
    And we must always respect the Office of the Pope, our Bishops and Priests as instituted by Christ or it is sinful.

    However your #2 to keep silent – is not in accord with Church teaching.

    CCC: ” 907 In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a DUTY to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church,
    and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful,
    with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons. ”

    Also see Code of Canon Law under ” OBLIGATIONS and Rights of ALL the CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL” – # 212 #3.

    1. All Clergy regardless of rank must take full responsibility for their own public statements and their own actions.
      Of course this includes the Laity as well.

      Let us not forget that Christ’s own chosen Apostles were sinful and repented (with the exception of Judas Iscariot).
      Other than the Blessed Mother, none of us is without sin.

      In the history of the Church, of the 267 Popes, 12 were evil and morally corrupt.
      These included Pope Alexander VI who fathered Lucrezia Borgia and others, and playboy Benedict IX.

      Stick to Sacred Scripture in conjunction with the Magisterium’s “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (“revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II” of 1997) and you won’t go wrong.

      We all have an obligation/duty to speak the TRUTH, as stated in and in accord with CCC 907, and Code of Canon Law #212 #3.

    2. Mike, clergy should take full responsibility for their own public statements.

      But they’re not responsible for other people’s reactions, even when those reactions pertain to stubbornness and stupidity. Clergy are human, and can’t control what’s beyond their control: they can’t fix stupid, and they can’t fix stubborn. God can, however. Pope Benedict XVI has always been very, very precise, and STILL, enough people want to believe that he approved the use of condoms. People will take what any Pope says, and do whatever they want to his words. People even do the same to Jesus Christ in the way that they read or misread Scripture. Why, then, should any of this surprise us?

      Moreover, are you suggesting that keeping silent out of prudence, depending on the situation, is necessarily contrary to speaking the Truth? It isn’t. Silence isn’t contrary to communication or even to the Truth, seeing as how God speaks loudest in silence, and seeing as how “self-expression” is important, but so is having a self that’s actually worth expressing. There is a time to speak up, and a time to be silent, and prudence and wisdom demand that we know that the two go together. Because it all comes down to actually having something to say that’s worth listening to.

      Speaking the Truth isn’t the same as incessantly indulging in hysteria because one insists on taking as Gospel truth any and every load of garbage that all Catholics should know that the secular media will throw down, wringing one’s hands about the Church being misunderstood (when the same happened to Christ, ergo, this sort of thing is par for the course), and blithering one’s anxieties on every possible internet forum, as some people seem to enjoy doing. If one feels upset about Pope Francis, prayer and taking one’s concerns to Adoration would be far more profitable and productive– both to individual souls and to the Church’s mission–than constantly spinning anxiety.

      Ms. Hazard wasn’t talking about not speaking the Truth or neglecting one’s obligation to do so. She was talking about the hysterical Catholics who seem to insist on finding something to complain about or get offended at every time Pope Francis opens his mouth. How does complaining when the Pope rightly reassures people about what the Church does not teach— indeed, the Church does not teach that all Catholics are obligated to have big families, just as she welcomes big families, and condemns contraception– qualify as speaking the Truth and serving the Truth, exactly? Or are some people just ticked off at him for not telling them what they want to hear? Anyone and everyone who has ever discussed NFP in a public Catholic forum is well aware of any number of Combox Popes, some of them with blogs, who will all too eagerly mandate what the Church does not. Mandating what the Church does not does not serve the Truth, either.

      So yes: Catholics who seem to prefer to believe the worst every time any Pope– and not just Pope Francis– says something would do the Truth an inestimable service by being silent. The point here isn’t that Catholics shouldn’t speak up or speak at all, but rather, we should learn to control our tongues, lest we become guilty of bad faith. Pax Christi.

    3. Read CAREFULLY –
      I am stating (again) that ALL Clergy regardless of rank, and ALL Laity must take full responsibility for their own public statements and actions.

      And that Catholic Laity have a “DUTY to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church,
      and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful,
      with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons. ” – CCC 907.

    4. It seems that you should read carefully what I have written: The point here isn’t that Catholics shouldn’t speak up or speak at all,
      but rather, we should learn to control our tongues, lest we become
      guilty of bad faith.”

    5. This is the 4th time I have printed directly from the CCC 907;
      are you blind?

      The last part states: “…..with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals
      and reverence toward their pastors,
      and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.”

      Now repeat that 10 times out loud before posting again.

      What do you object to this portion of CCC 907 ?

    6. Sorry I mistook what you were trying to get at. I got thrown by your objection to point no. 2 of Ms. Hazard’s post, and didn’t see what the heck you were objecting to at all, since I did not read her talking about “silence” the way you did.

      There’s no need to be rude.

    7. WSquared, as always you get what I’m trying to write. No, we cannot be silent when truth must be said. And that’s why I set option no. 3 Use the opportunity to evangelize. I admire how you debate in the combox. Classy, intelligent and never rude.

    8. Thanks, Annabelle. I do my best. 🙂

      And besides, some of what makes the media rounds about the Catholic Church is just so routinely and predictably silly. It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t come all at once– but why not learn to laugh? Also, either Christ can work through imperfect people, or He can’t. Not too shabby, huh?

      I also remember having to explain the thing about how Pope Benedict had “finally” approved condom use. But explain, I did– it helped that I knew what B16 had actually written (which likely only happened because I got ticked off enough to go do some reading). A misconstruing of Pope Benedict’s words introduced me to Pope Benedict at all, and helped bring me back to the Church. How is that bad? 😉

  5. The pope met with a transgendered woman in the Vatican. (A woman who is planing on getting a sex chang operation). Should we pretend that never happened?

    1. The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’-Luke 7:36

      What is wrong with meeting such a person in private? I actually knew of a gay couple who had a private audience with St John Paul II himself.

    2. Come on, JoAnna: we all know Jesus ate with sinners…

      …He just doesn’t eat with the sinners that we “don’t like.”

  6. I believe there is Godly purpose in most forms of expression. some people need “to be hit on the head” with piercing words to understand. Like, “Abortion is murder!” Others may do better with,”Abortion stops a beating heart.” It often take many people, expressing the truth in different styles, for the truth to finally be seen. Half the world seems to die without ever believing. It saddens me. St. Dismas pray for Dumachus.

  7. We should pray that the Pope is being led by the Holy Spirit,God is in charge,but we as Catholics can voice our opinion.Pope Francis is a socilist that’s his political bent,that’s the way he is leading the church,I will not follow that path,I’m a Catholic not a socilist ,man can only follow 1God

  8. You realize, of course, that Pope Francis is one of the worst offenders when it comes to snarky comments, put-downs, and labeling of others? He’s leading by example.

    1. Wow. Just… wow.

      The picture at the end, where it looked like Pope Francis was using a rather rude gesture, was just nasty.

    2. Um, since when did citing the pope become an insult to the pope? Oh, right… ULTRAMONTANISM + FIDEISM + KEWL

      Are you a convert? You sound shaky. Hold onto the Faith; it’s bigger than any occupant of the see of Peter. 🙂

    3. Are not you the guy who claimed the Pope taught heresy in regards to the Church’s teaching on conscience?

      I spanked you openly on that one & you have yet to rebut me dude.

    4. Yes, BenYachov, I still hold that the pope’s words, as presented in that letter, are erroneous. In response, you brought your usual bluster, and apparently got some spanking in, but you didn’t touch my argument. I have been busy with other things, but rest assured that the post will go up when the time is right.

    5. I refuted you in 20 minutes because I recognized the concepts Francis was using in that now infamous interview with the Italian Atheist (the accuracy of content is also in dispute) where also used in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Encyclopedia. Given the context of the interview the Pope was talking about conscience and the salvation of non-believers not conscience as determining ultimate truth. Much like the Catholic Encyclopedia.

      Your failure to deal with this and dodge the argument has been most entertaining.

      If you(a relatively recent convert from Lutheranism) have such a deep knowledge of moral theology it exceeds that of Pope Francis (that you can accuse him of heresy) then I wonder why is it taking a whole year to respond to little old me?

      How long did it take you to “figure out” Francis was “wrong”?

      Yet it is taking you forever to answer me?

      I suspect you are running from the argument because you want time to re-invent it, hoping I will forget the argument and you can make the Pope say what he clearly did not say. In fact as I recall you backed off a little in saying “Well he was not clear”(or something to that effect) which kind of dooms your original claim. Since heresy leaves little room for ambiguity. Heresy is a clearly defined moral and or doctrinal proposition that is un-true because it contradicts the known defined truth.

      How you will get a clear doctrinal proposition out of a Pope(in this case on conscience) you have bagged on for a year as “unclear” is a mystery to me?

      > I have been busy with other things, but rest assured that the post will go up when the time is right.

      Like Protestant predictions of the Rapture this promise is always in the not too distant future.

      I won’t hold my breath.

    6. MOAR NOISE.

      Jim, you need to accept a simple fact: you’re not nearly as important as you think you are.

      In any case, I already replied to you, but since you don’t even know when you’ve been rebutted, you just kept upping the volume of your repetitious non sequiturs, and basically being an ass until I told you to scram. Answering you is not the goal, nor the reason for any delays. What has taken me this long is polishing the post into a real essay, since it is one among dozens I have in the hopper, and actually pretty low on the priority list.

      Toodles.

    7. You replied and yet you are still working on a rebuttal?

      ?????????????????????????

      Here is the blast from the past.

      [Elliot] you claimed a statement made by Francis on conscious was in error.

      BTW here is Francis quote in context.

      http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/letters/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130911_eugenio-scalfari_en.html

      “I now wish to address the three questions from your article of 7 August. I believe that in the first two questions, what interests you is to understand the attitude of the Church towards those who do not share faith in Jesus. Above all, you ask if the God of Christians forgives those who do not believe and who do not seek faith. Given the premise, and this is fundamental, that the mercy of God is
      limitless for those who turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart, the issue for the unbeliever lies in obeying his or her conscience.
      There is sin, even for those who have no faith, when conscience is not followed. Listening to and obeying conscience means deciding in the face of what is understood to be good or evil. It is on the basis of this choice that the goodness or evil of our actions is determined.”

      Here is again the Quote from the 1910 Catholic Encylopedia in the entry under Idolatry..

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07636a.htm

      QUOTE”
      Considered in itself, idolatry is the greatest of mortal sins………………………….No sin is mortal — i.e. debars man from attaining the end for which he was created — that is not committed with clear knowledge and free determination. But how many, or how few, of the countless millions of idolaters are, or have been,
      able to distinguish between the one Creator of all things and His creatures?
      and, having made the distinction, how many have been perverse enough to worship the creature in preference to the Creator? — It
      is reasonable, Christian, and charitable to suppose that the “false
      gods” of the heathen were, in their conscience, the
      only true God they knew, and that their worship being right in its intention, went up to the one true God
      with that of Jews and Christians to whom He had revealed Himself. “In the day
      when God shall judgethe secrets of men by Jesus Christ . . . . . the gentiles who have not the law, shall be judged by their conscience” (Romans 2:14-16). God, who wishes all men to be saved, and Christ, who died for all who sinned in Adam, would be frustrated in their merciful designs if the prince of this world
      were to carry off all idolaters.END

      What is the
      difference? I see none.

      > you just kept upping the volume of your repetitious non sequiturs, and basically being an ass until I told you to scram.

      You kept viciously insulting and disrespecting the Pope & refused to interact with my argument as if the Infallible Elliot Bougis is never to be questioned? I may have gone way over board with the cursing & I regret that & I apologize.

      But you started it. I finished it.

      Cheers.

    8. additional:

      > What has taken me this long is polishing the post into a real essay,

      You accused the Pope of heresy based on one paragraph in the letter I linked too. Sum total of what he says about conscience is cited in the paragraph I quoted. That’s it.

      What is in such a short serving that is demands an essay or that a rational & just charge of heresy can be sustained? If the Pope is clearly teaching an error then a rebuttal of my rebuttal is in order.

      >Jim, you need to accept a simple fact: you’re not nearly as important as you think you are.

      But publically claiming the Vicar of Christ taught heresy is important. It’s like if some boob claimed one of your close female relatives was a woman of loose morals. Such an accusation must be proven. If you are a man you would not accept as an excuse from the accuser “Well it’s not important right now I sustain that charge. I’ll wait a year I am busy.”.

      Claiming the Vicar of Christ is teaching heresy like John XXII did is important.

      Yet you run?

      Amazing.

    9. Um, since when did citing the pope out of context and leaping to rash judgment and calumny become acceptable? When did taking a picture at a weird time and claiming that he was making a “rude gesture” become logical?

    10. What have I cited out of context? The fact that Francis berated a woman for carrying through an eighth pregnancy (“tempting God”)? I don’t have a problem with the points he managed to make about responsible parenthood, by the way.

      In any case, give it a few days. We’re sure to have some new fiasco to debate. Keep enjoying the awesome, though!

  9. I think that we can learn something useful about this from the Bible. If the Bible were written like a catechism, there would be no Protestants because everything would have been crystal clear. Instead, it takes considerable effort to show Protestants that they have misunderstood the Bible by showing them other quotes that they had never paid attention to. It’s the same with the Pope. He makes brief statements that if taken out of the context of his many public utterances can lead to misunderstandings. I might add that people whose faith in the Papacy is so fragile that they think one Pope is going to destroy what has withstood 2,000 years merit the words of Christ: “Oh you of little faith.”

  10. Yes you are correct about the mistranslation, what the pope actually said was that he “reproached” the woman for having 7 children by c-section, not that he simply met with her. Funny how we’ll never hear about this mistranslation from the “Pope Francis is God” crowd.

    1. Indeed, precisely BECAUSE the pope is not God in se, we have every right to object to the obiter dicta of a rabble-rouser like Bergoglio.

    2. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent”422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

    3. ^ Of this I am aware, thank you. The problem, however, is twofold. First, if all his obiter dicta demand religious assent, then why does he (or his hapless media handlers) retract or deflect some of them? Second, if all his obiter dicta demand religious assent, why has Pope Francis himself thanked his critics for calling him out on some things? Perhaps because he has a more realistic view of the limits of papal authority than the magical thinking of some Catholics who see him as a kind of guru.

    4. Interesting Elliot, so you can’t prove your assertion that people claim Pope Francis is God incarnate. Will you retract your assertion since you can’t prove it to be true?

    5. No, I cited Catholic precedents of the very same assertion. Even Francis has gone on record saying people need to tone down their adulation of him (à la the photos here http://www.revistaecclesia.com/en-espanol-integra-la-entrevista-de-la-repubblica-al-papa-francisco/ and here http://www.latercera.com/noticia/mundo/2014/01/678-562946-9-vaticano-tuitea-graffiti-del-papa-francisco-convertido-en-superheroe.shtml).

      In any case, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The person who referred to the “Pope Francis is God” crowd was making a hyperbolic characterization in order to match the hyperbolic fawning that is given this bumptious pontiff. The fundamental confusion in the minds of most Catholics these days, it seems, is that a vicar can in fact be a bad representative. To hear most people in this thread, and elsewhere, tell it, though, all popes are either awesome or totally awesome, and everything Francis says is either great or wonderful.

      Again, one benefit of this papacy is showing us why ultramontanism really is a problem, and that Catholics are no more immune to the cult of personality than any other humans. Happily, in the order of Providence, this too shall pass.

  11. I think there are two extremes to consider with this issue. Your essay lists one extreme where folks may come off as uncharitable due to self love or arrogance. But, there is the other extreme that constantly excuses imprudence by claiming it is the media, or translations, or such.

    Prayerful Catholics need to exercise prudence and charity when talking about the Pope, but not overlook serious problems that honest people are seeing.

    1. The problem is, the controversies don’t come from the full statement of the Pope in context. They come from major news sources which have created the soundbites and misquotes in the first place.

      If it turns out that every time there was a controversy, the source of the outrage was not the Pope, but how the media chose to interpret it, then that says something about the people who are continually blaming the Pope, doesn’t it?

    2. Not true at all. That is the spin that professional Catholic use too often. The notion it is just the media is insulting to people’s intelligence.

  12. Pingback: Cardinal O'Malley, Pro-Life & Cognitive Dissonance - Big Pulpit

  13. Thank you for this, Annabelle! Spot on, all of it.

    What I find puzzling– and yes, frustrating to some degree– is why anyone with a big family who felt offended should’ve felt the need to get offended: they already know, or should know, that the Church welcomes their big families. Pope John Paul II also told us that having a big family can be responsible and prudently generous. They already have a Magisterial green light; what more do they want?

    Also, I did read the Pope’s remarks on Catholic News Services, and I’m aware of several things, but this in particular: enough secularists and Catholics seem to keep repeating ad nauseum what the Church does not teach–i.e. that all Catholics are morally obligated to have as many children as humanly possible– so it’s good to hear the Pope remind and reassure people that this is not what the Church teaches.

    Why is it that so many Catholics seem utterly incapable of understanding both sides of that equation– i.e. that the Church both encourages/welcomes big families, seeing them as a gift, and not mandating them for everyone? What’s wise about the Church’s approach is that it truly does free Catholics up to accept whatever children God means for them, however He wants them to have them as per what He sees fit for their salvation: be they one child, two children, three or more children, or even no children, or be they biological or adopted, or some of each.

  14. Your suggestions are spot on, thank you. Near the end of my sixth decade I am finally getting the message of the Book of Job: “I’m God; you’re not.” Perhaps we would do well to realize “he’s the Pope, and we’re not.” And re certain media, Wm Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, has it right
    “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
    An evil soul producing holy witness
    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
    A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
    O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
    Guy McClung, San Antonio

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Guy McClung! incidentally, I quoted your family/village comment on a post I wrote for Catholic 365. I guess that makes it double thank you.

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