Whatever Else Francis Is, He Is The Pope



With the ecological slideshow on the side of the Vatican, detractors of the Pope added another perceived offense to the now-long list of Francis’ supposed errors, gaffes, and outright heresies as the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

Why a slideshow with endangered species? Why, when the unborn are slaughtered in such higher numbers? 

The drumbeats in the Catholic press and blogosphere comboxes continue, decrying him as a liberal, a socialist, and atheist, or a deceived fool. At their worst, they engage in tasteless meme-bashing, photoshopping his face over that of a cruel Roman soldier scourging Christ. Francis’ defenders, shrinking in number either out of exhaustion or acquiescence to the other side, have begun fielding the Francis-haters’ talking points on social media, the comboxes, and over after-Mass donuts more than in traditional media.

I saw a meme where they took a picture of the pope, and he was wearing a rainbow bracelet! He’s in favor of gay marriage!

But something is getting lost here that I would suggest needs to be looked at amidst the frenzy of yea-and-nay-sayers:

He’s the Pope, folks.

Respect for Office

As a teacher and a parent and a United States citizen, I teach my children that even if they don’t like the decisions made by their teachers, parents, or president, there are ways to criticize a person while still respecting his office.

Christ Himself criticized the Pharisees, yes. They were the religious leaders of the people who should have known better, yes. But (and this is very, very important):

You are not Christ.

Peter himself, when filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, did not use harsh invective on the religious leaders when brought before them (Acts 4:1-22); it is Christ alone who has the authority to call people a brood of vipers, or use similar levels of criticism. Unless we find ourselves vested with more authority than Peter, we’d do best not to try and assume we have more leeway than Peter himself did.

More to the point: Even if you were somehow divinely authorized to use harsh criticism of Francis, it’s worth remembering that he lives in Rome. You won’t, in simple terms, effect anything positive with screams, shrieks or the unfriending of those who disagree with you, anymore than a high school gossip queen can affect the actions of the school principal through a carping session with her friends at the lunch table.

In fact, such actions do more to hurt the gossiper herself and poison the atmosphere of the school than to change the principal. Likewise, cruel and uncharitable actions towards Pope Francis do more to hurt your soul and those around you than to actually change the way the Holy Father does things.

But when asked about gay men, he said ‘who am I to judge?’ He’s in favor of homosexual activity! And didn’t Francis banish a faithful priest official to Malta, or something?

Even if Pope Francis were guilty of doing bad things for bad reasons, it is still true that he heads the Church. And as God backs Her, Holy Mother Church can take care of herself just fine, thank you, without our collective invective. By definition, Pope Francis is the visible head of Christ’s Church on earth, and the leader of the Bride of Christ. The Church was founded by Christ Himself, as chronicled in Matthew 16:18. He named Peter as head of the Church on earth, not because of his own abilities or his orthodoxy, but because of his public declaration of what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him. Peter’s leadership role is quite obvious to those who read the Gospel with honest eyes, as Peter is always named first in a list of the Apostles (Matt. 10:14; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:14-1 5; Acts 1:13), speaks for the Apostles when he is present (Mt. 18:21; Mk. 8:28; Lk. 12:41; Jn. 6:69), and announces that lying to him is the same as lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).

Even if we think Francis is unsuited to the papacy because of ideology, was Peter ideal for the position? Hardly. Though he is today known as greatest of the popes, he started out as the worst.

The Errors of Peter


The penalty for an offense increases with the authority of the person you offend against. Punching the nose of a random stranger versus the nose of a president ought to illustrate this principle. Punching a stranger may get you probation. Punching the president might get you shot or locked away in a little room with no windows sewing parachutes for the rest of your life.

How much, then, would be the penalty for punching out God?

Peter denied three times that he knew Christ. Beyond the obvious betrayal of his friend and Lord, Peter is using the same term Pharaoh used when he would not recognize the authority of the Hebrew’s God: “I do not know him.”

Thus, not only is Peter betraying Christ on a personal level; he is also (perhaps unknowingly) echoing the blasphemy of Pharaoh, typologically denying not only Christ Himself, but His divine authority as well.

Peter thus failed on the spiritual, personal and professional levels of his vocation- an unholy trinity of full-blown fiascos. An offense leveled at more than just a Church office, cleric, curia or Mrs. Basie Weddell of Saint Wolfgang’s parish in Bethesda, Maryland. It was an offense against God. An offense the magnitude of which saw Adam and all his descendants banned from the Garden of Eden forever.

And yet, despite all this, Peter went on to be the greatest of all Popes.

The Duty to Charity

Much later, the Church faced even more widespread problems, yet managed to survive the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, the heresy of Arias, and the scandalous lives of corrupt leaders like Alexander VI.

Maybe…but I saw where he called Adam and Eve just a story! The Church believes it was true! Francis is a heretic!

Does this mean we cannot ever criticize the actions of a Pope? Hardly. Saint Paul notes that even he opposed Peter to his face over a matter of personal conduct, unrelated to the doctrine of the Church (Galatians 2:11). However, there is a grave difference between telling a parent that they have erred versus making a cruel and evil meme about it and cutting off anyone who supports that parent.

But he’s a liberal! How can you defend someone who brings the Modernist heresy into the Vatican? 

Let’s say Francis was a liberal. And not a classical Liberal, but a liberal in the modern sense. A pro-abortion choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-traditionalist, Modernist, Jansenist, Ultramontinist, and ten other kinds of heretical ‘ists.’ Making or spreading sacrilegious memes is not part of the solution. Screeching that the Pope is something akin to an antipope over a slideshow or comments twisted by overzealous translators on an airplane is not the solution. It is in fact a sin, and serves only to spread gossip against Christ’s own representative on Earth.

It’s normal to be frustrated if you see something you love going in a direction you don’t like. Does this mean we ought not ever say anything against the actions of a pope?

Not at all.

But any good parent knows the difference between constructive criticism of a child and abusive polemics.

Speak the truth, but in love. Pray and fast for the Pope. He has literally the toughest job in the world that any man can have. Continue to obey the Church, and the Pope in the areas of faith and morals.

But he said that using air-conditioners in the summer is a mortal sin!

No, he didn’t. He used the growing use of AC as an example of potential over-consumption, which is very different. Speak the truth in love, and please be certain you have your facts straight, first.

But (and this is very, very important) even if Francis is a liberal, even if he were the kind of liberal that would have a clown mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the end the Church will survive and continue its mission. Francis will be judged by how he did his job, and you and I will be judged based upon how well we did ours.

But what if we are worried about the Church? It is worth remembering that a Church that survived the impulsiveness of Peter, the worldliness of Alexander VI, and the deformation of the so-called Reformation can survive the worst that Pope Francis can do. It’s also worth noting that a medieval layperson named Francis was able to singlehandedly reform the entire Church in medieval Italy, and did so without harsh criticism or the internet, but by reforming himself so well that all of Christendom follows his example today.

Pray, hope, don’t worry…and stop reposting those memes.  A rosary for the Holy Father, or a Friday spent silently fasting for him will do far more than reposting a meme ever will.

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37 thoughts on “Whatever Else Francis Is, He Is The Pope”

  1. He’s a weak man, has been very allowing in regards to the widespread pedophilia and corruption in the church and if he is not a heretic, is certainly toeing the line. The church will survive his ineptitude (or malicious sabotage), but that does not mean we should shy away from clearly explaining church doctrine when Francis does his best to obfuscate it.

  2. Great article. It needed to be said well done.

    The thing I find tedious about all the Pope bashing is people who harsh on Pope Francis & posthumously praise to the high Heavens Pope St John Paul II where about a decade ago first in line to rag on JP2 the Great.

    All the whining over this nonsense over an animal slide show & I’ve heard worst said about the Saint and his hosting of the Assisi ecumenical gathering.

    Enough of the Pope Bashing. If I want to read Pope Bashing I’ll read a Fundamentalist Protestant website.

  3. I’m unqualified to call the bishop of Rome a heretic. I’m unqualified to call him anti-pope.
    He probably is not either of these things.
    The bishop of Rome is, very clearly, loved by historical enemies of the Church. The bishop of Rome has a propensity to cast dispersions on tradition and traditionalists. That is, also, quite clear.
    I pray I control my emotions regarding him. His actions and vagueness in speech make it increasingly difficult to do so. So be it, my cross to bear.
    Who am I to judge, of course.

  4. Thank you for writing about something that has been bothering me. The level of uncivil and disrespectful discourse directed at the Pope is shameful and embarrassing. But then again, it seems to be the malaise of the times. There’s a certain other Catholic site, whose owner and too many of it’s posters believe they are more Catholic than the pope. The sickening part is non Catholics see this and see the down right nastiness towards the pope and anyone trying to speak reasonably and they come away wondering what’s the difference between Catholics and those screeching anti-Catholic fundamentalists.

    1. You may want to google the author’s name, and/or see what else he’s written. From what I’ve seen, he’s got no affinity with those folks at all.

      Ad hominem much? Or do you play the ‘Liberal’ card with any who won’t bash Francis?

  5. Thank you… I find all the Francis-bashing very disturbing and very uncharitable. I am keeping my eyes on Jesus: He is the only person who really matters to me.

    Excerpt from story-
    H.E. Schneider: For several past generations until our days there reigns in the life of the Church a kind of “pope-centrism” or a kind of “papolatria” which is undoubtedly excessive compared with the moderate and supernatural vision of the person of the Pope and his due veneration in the past times. Such an excessive attitude towards the person of the Pope generates in the practice an excessive and wrong theological meaning regarding the dogma of the Papal infallibility.

    If the Pope would tell the entire church to do something, which would directly damage an unchangeable Divine truth or a Divine commandment, every Catholic would have the right to correct him in a due respectful form, moved out of reverence and love for the sacred office, and person of the Pope. The Church is not the private property of the Pope. The Pope can’t say “I am the Church,” as it did the French king Louis XIV, who said: “L’État c’est moi.” The Pope is only the Vicar, not the successor of Christ.

    The concerns about the purity of the faith is ultimately a matter of all members of the Church, which is one, and a unique living body. In the ancient times before entrusting to someone the office of a priest and of a bishop, the faithful were asked if they can guarantee that the candidate had the right faith, and a high moral conduct. The old Pontificale Romanum says: “The captain of a ship and its passengers alike have reason to feel safe or else in danger on a voyage, therefore they ought to be of one mind in their common interests.” It was the Second Vatican Council, which very much encouraged the lay faithful to contribute to the authentic good of the Church, in strengthening the faith.

    I think in a time in which a great part of the holders of the office of the Magisterium are negligent in their sacred duty, the Holy Spirit calls today, namely the faithful, to step into the breach and defend courageously with an authentic “sentire cum ecclesia” the Catholic faith.

    1. Yes. The key point here is “correct him in a due respectful form, moved out of reverence and love for the sacred office, and person of the Pope.”

      Too many, it would seem, think being ‘right’ also gives one the right to be abusive. And that’s not right at all.

    1. …you mean you *haven’t* seen harsh invective used against the Pope?
      Then you need to get out more, my friend…or perhaps get a Facebook account. 🙂

    2. One needs Facebook like one needs a hole in the head.
      Sample any Jesuit publication at the time of Humanae Vitae and you will read the most condescending, vicious scorn of Paul VI than one can imagine. My instructors at Boston College in the ’70s were masters of this propaganda. Hmmm, imagine that.

    3. This could be quite true of many American Jesuits. No argument there.
      However, the author’s point appears to be: Even if Pope Francis *is* one of *those* kinds of Jesuits, he’s still the pope and we need to show respect for the office, even if we don’t respect all the actions of the man himself.

    1. Unfortunately, it looks like this is exactly the kind of thing that the author is talking about.
      Before you begin slinging various council pronouncements and other sundries at me, please tell me how a piece like this brings anyone closer to Sainthood?

      Here’s a better Idea: Post a piece on youtube in which you,Bernie Duggan, lead the viewer in a rosary for Pope Francis?

      If you are truly Catholic, which do you believe will ultimately be truly effective?

    2. Exposing the Errors of Pope Francis by warning others, will bring everyone closer to Sainthood .Pray for the Pope,but also stand up like a real Saint and defend the souls that are being misled by him.It is false obedience to stand by when a superior is leading people into error, and not say anything.

    3. There is a difference, I’d suggest, between what you’d suggest, and what the columnist is discussing.

      From another poster below:

      “…correct him in a due respectful form, moved out of reverence and love for the sacred office, and person of the Pope….”

      and I don’t see that here, or in a great deal of the criticism of the pope these days.

    4. …Moreover, Bernie, there are a number of folks who seem to seriously believe that “Standing up like a real Saint” mean’s photoshopping the Pope’s face over the soldier flailing Jesus in The Passion.

      A real Saint of the stripe I think we’d both agree upon would be St. Catharine of Sienna…though she made her case to the Pope directly.

      What examples from Saints would you suggest?

    5. In truth,when the Vicar of Christ tries to change and innovate what has been handed down to him from Christ and the Apostles;not only is he the soldier whipping Christ,he is also Judas giving Christ a Kiss in the Garden.He becomes the Betrayer,Destroyer and a Traitor.My pick for Saints to judge the situation we are in under Pope Francis would be ,Pope Saint Pius X.

    6. If this is indeed the case, Bernie, please show me where Pius X referred to his brother Popes as a) Judas b) Betrayers c) Destroyers d) Traitors.

      And, maybe Francis is all those things. You know what? Because of his office, because of who backs him, because of our love for the Church Christ founded, we ought not speak of him in that way, nor ought we disrespect him in that way either.

      Perhaps you ought to look at someone who actually did influence a Pope to do the right thing, like Catharine of Sienna?

      God bless,

    7. JDM85 there is no need to quote any Saint or Pope.We are the ones living through it.Common sense.I can only judge his actions and what he says.We must assess the situation squarely.This Pope is a Mess! If you can’t admit that ,then you either have not read much of what he has said or written,or you are under some false notion that there cannot be a bad Pope.It is false obedience to stay quiet while this man continues to ravage and destroy the house of God.We are all Saints of the Household of Jesus Christ,and part of the Royal Priesthood.Although,not canonized,nor part of the Ordained Ministry,truly we are to defend Catholic Truth.God will allow Frances to go as far as HE wills! In the meantime,God does not expect us to follow error or stick our head in the sand.I could live with his own personal sins,but when he attacks Catholic Truth,and the Flock,that is where the line in the sand must be drawn.

    8. “…..there is no need to quote any Saint or Pope….”

      Oh, really? You mean, you know better than an actual, capital-S saints, so much so that you don;t have to look to their guidance? And none of the good popes in the Church twenty-century history, either?
      Bernie Duggan.
      You know better than all of them how this should be handled.
      Tell you what: not to be too sarcastic, but perhaps you should make certain you are, indeed, both holy and wise and humble enough before you make a statement of that nature in the future.
      Perhaps, once you have the stigmata, like Francis or Catharine of Sienna, then you’ll be in a position to tell the pope what to do.

      Meantime, Bernie, we both need to pray more, bark less, and speak the truth in respect rather than the kind of bile reserved for Planned Parenthood baby-part seller types.

    9. Again, who is he again?
      Oh. Not a Saint.
      No stigmata.
      So…yeah. Refuting a pope’s sermon?
      He’d be better suited taking on Planned Parenthood, like the kids with REAL courage, like Lila Rose, The Center for Medical progress, or James O’Keefe.

      Taking on an old man 3,000 miles away, whose office is exponentially holier than your own?
      Not interested, unless I know you’re holy and humble enough to where I’ll actually learn something, rather than just get angry and froth bile uselessly into a combox somewhere.

    10. So Popes sermons are infallible now? Yes,a Simple Holy Priest can trump a bad Pope.If a Pope is in error,then he is in error! End of story.This Priests orthodoxy towers above Pope Francis.Sorry,just the facts.I can give no more time to this debate than I already have.I have other things to do.I made my point.You made yours.We disagree.God bless you.

      You can read what the Website says about the priests who give these Sermons.

      Regina Prophetarum:

      Who are the priests we hear preaching these sermons?


    11. and, to conclude,

      Regardless of what any council says, Bernie: if you read the article, the issue is not one of never criticizing the Pope; infallibility doesn’t extend that far.

      Certainly, the document does detail the response of Pius X against the Modernists, and he is justifiably a hero of the Church for doing so.

      However, even Pius X does not use the terms “Judas,” ‘betrayer,” “traitor” throughout the document, all of which you claimed the Pope becomes when he “tries to change or innovate what has been handed down to him from Christ and the Apostles.” I suspect that this term means, ultimately, when he does something you don’t think he ought do. After all, no pope fishes from fishing boats, as Peter did.

      Or are you going to act as if washing a woman’s foot is akin to denying the divinity of Christ?

      Pius X does use the term ‘destroyer,” at the very end of the document, but this is something the blessed mother does to heresies, not Bernie Duggan or those who agree with you.

      So, Bernie, maybe Francis is doing things wrong. The good news is that:

      a) As Pope, a Catholic (like you or I) believes that the Holy Spirit will preserve/keep him from teaching error in the area of Faith and Morals.

      b) The Church still thrived under Peter, who denied Christ three times (compared to Judas, who only denied him once….but perhaps that’s another point for a different day). It can and still will thrive even if Francis decides to say mass dressed as Bozo the Clown.

      c) If you are worried about others being dragged to Hell, consider how many Saints became Saints, even with sinful parents raising them. If Thomas Aquinas became a Saint with a father willing to use a prostitute to demolish his son’s vocation, I think your soul and mine are safe from a pope who washes women’s feet and puts a silly slideshow on St Peter’s.

      Just as the earth is far stronger than the environmental wackos claim, the Church is far stronger than the RadTrads and their ilk believe it to be.

  7. The oddity for me is that St. JPII and Benedict were extremely liberal as to biblical scholarship ( EV sect. 40/VD sect.42) and their admirers never noticed that because St. JPII was conservative on sexual issues and Benedict helped the Latin Mass people. They were then seen as consistent conservatives via gratitude which was not true at all. The result was that both men brought about a campaign against the death penalty ( the absence of which gets poor people killed in the two largest Catholic countries yearly…Brazil and Mexico…in unusual numbers/ compare murder rates of East Asia which are twenty times lower while having more poor people).
    Yet their admirers still saw them as consistent conservatives which is daffy. Pope Francis thus does not surprise me and his cards are always on the table whereas his predecessors were able to image an identity that was more conservative than they really were. While Francis may have called Adam a story figure out in the open, Benedict states cryptically way in the back of Verbum Domini sect.42 that the massacre of the Canaanites was never ordered by God as scripture definitely says they were but rather Benedict says they were just sins which means Benedict can ignore some first Person commands of God….but how many? If I don’t like the 9th commandment, can I deduct it as Benedict deducted several “the Lord says”. In section 40 of EV, St. JPII implies that the Levitcal death penalties also were not from God as scripture attributes them because the sense of life was as yet unrefined…meaning God didn’t give them…man did …just like Benedict on the massacres.
    In short you know where Francis stands because he didn’t insinuate in remote sections of encyclicals. Francis is not diplomatic or on the down low like his predecessors.

  8. Seems the holy rollers and rigid holier-than-thous of history who practice the Faith without charity ironically always end up contradicting orthodoxy or falling away from it anyway. Most of the Protestant “Reformers” were the joyless types too. Francis is misread by folks from all extremes. It has more to do with the loud, soundbite culture we live in that gives half-headed and half-hearted attention to detail in the delivery and the reception of information. “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord deliver us” – St. Teresa of Avila

    1. You notice that too? Yes, I’ve found if a person doesn’t have a sense of humor or joy in them, it spells trouble, no matter if that person is Catholic, Protestant or atheist. They all end up being the same kind of nasty to people.

  9. Amen, John. I love the line “Screeching that the Pope is something akin to an antipope over a slideshow or comments twisted by overzealous translators on an airplane is not the solution. It is in fact a sin, and serves only to spread gossip against Christ’s own representative on Earth.” The fact that so many would disagree with you there, and instead insist that being publicly “more Catholic than the Pope” is somehow their right and duty, I think reveals a deeper sin of pride driving the whole conversation that we all need to grapple with, and soon. Anyone who considers “attacking the Pope” to be OK within the definition of being “a faithful Catholic” is following the Culture, and not the Tradition or teaching of the Church. Here in America, we gleefully divide ourselves into political and social liberals and conservatives, and spare no President or politician we disagree with our public venom. And that’s OK, because we are free citizens of a democratic republic arguing over our mutual governance. But the Church is not a political system, and the Pope is not a President. In John 17:11 Jesus prayed “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” (http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/17). Catholic leaders and laity who foster division by pairing off into warring liberal and conservative camps betray Christ and the Church.

  10. I don’t find the pope to be much of a Catholic. I do not see that he had any great success in his own diocese. He has a litany of aspersions and complaints he has made against orthodox Catholics. The Synod Against the Family was disgraceful.I pray for the pope to be struck from his high horse as St. Paul. All faithful Catholics have the duty to stand against error as Cardinals Burke, Sarah, Muller and a few others have done. I think Fr. Malachi Martin was very correct about the Jesuits in his book about them. They, as an order, were extremely disobedient to three Popes in a row.

    1. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

      I’m afraid that you don’t seem to be part of the solution.

    2. Who made you the judge?
      It seems to reflect the opinion of a cretin in Germany who had the final solution.
      Keep your illogical retorts private please.

    3. Well, let’s see if we can take this position of yours step by step.

      Why was the “Synod Against the Family” (sic) disgraceful?

      Please be specific. Maybe start with your understanding of Cardinal Erdö ‘s keynote speech onthe opening day and what you believe was wrong with it.

      Your own words and analysis, if you would be so kind. And if you feel you must quote someone else, avoid Rorate Caeli; it won’t enhance your reputation. Rather the opposite, if anything.

      You might also like to expand on why you appear to feel that pulling you up on your insults and abuse against the Pope is somehow analogous to Hitlerian genocide. Seems a bit OTT to me but I’m sure you will have an explanation that won’t make you look like a complete fruitcake.

      Anyway – over to you.

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