A Call to Understand and Support Pope Francis

pope francis, pope, papacy, seat of peter,

pope francis, pope, papacy, seat of peter,Pope Francis has my admiration because I hear the voice of love speaking through him. He always stresses God’s infinite mercy.

People Accuse Pope Francis

Recently, a ninety-three-year-old atheist accused him of denying the existence of hell. This man who has nothing but contempt for Christianity delighted in causing an uproar. The Pope denied his claim as a bogus reconstruction of what he misheard. The Pope’s denial is good enough for me.

One thing is certain from what the Pope said was this: anyone who commits a mortal sin and dies unrepentant does not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Purgatory exists for those who receive mercy because of some excusing causes like ignorance and/or human weakness. Nevertheless, until their sins are washed away by their repentance they cannot enter heaven.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3: 16-17)  

Mercy seems like laxity to those who became alarmed when Pope Francis urged Catholics to rely more on their conscience in resolving personal moral issues.

Affirming freedom of conscience is an act of intellectual honesty and a way of being both merciful and understanding. These are God-like qualities.

In 2016, 2016 Episcopal Commission for Doctrine Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote The Beauty of Mercy: Pope Francis and Confession, explaining that Pope Francis’s sense of mercy does not imply an attitude of leniency towards sin:

being merciful is not the same as being lenient as a confessor – nor is being rigid a way to offer mercy, Pope Francis says that neither the lax nor the rigid confessor “treats the penitent as a brother, taking him by the hand and accompanying him in his conversion!” Rather, the truly merciful confessor listens, accompanies, and encourages.

Pope Francis states:

“Mercy means carrying the burden of a brother or sister and helping them walk… The confessor who prays, the confessor who weeps, the confessor who knows that he is more a sinner than the penitent, and if he himself has never done the bad thing that the penitent speaks of, it is but for the grace of God. Merciful is be Merciful is being close and accompanying the process of conversion,”

About Annulments

Very few annulments were granted in the 1960’s and 70’s, because of canonical rigidity. When Pope Francis was elected, it wasn’t long before he began urging Catholics to rely more on their consciences, and that was music to my ears. Reliance on conscience is a long-established principle of Moral Theology.  

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson at the time, reported that Pope Francis was saying that in grave situations a well-formed conscience can be relied upon. The responsibility and gravity of the situation were to be determined by the parties themselves.

On July 29, 2013, Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay, and sincerely searches for the Lord, and has good will, who am I to judge?” He immediately received a flood of criticism for that quote, but the parents of gay children felt genuine solace. While he did not endorse same-sex marriage, he did say there could be some sort of civil union to protect their civil rights. He opposes promiscuity in general.

Conservative Catholics Are Fearful

Conservative Catholics are usually fearful that any relaxation of the laws pertaining to marriage and divorce and contraception, would threaten the Church’s broader stance on medical ethics and sexual issues. This is an understandable concern, but not an insurmountable one. Freedom of conscience is a human right. Granted it can be abused, but it must be protected. Every right can be abused.

Pope Paul VI affirmed the immoral nature of artificial contraception in his Encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” Pope Francis is preparing for the canonization of Pope Paul, and he has remained firm in his opposition to those who refuse to have children because it interferes with their lifestyle. Nevertheless, he respects the consciences of those who are struggling to find the strength to raise children in today’s world.

Pope Francis agrees with the various National Hierarchies who have instructed the laity that they may use of private conscience in resolving these matters. He also highlighted Paul VI’s instruction to priests, urging them to show compassion in the confessional in matters involving human weakness.

What I admire most about Pope Francis are his Christ-like qualities, humility, compassion, and kindness.

May the Lord be your strength and your joy.

By Father John Catoir JCD


Father John Catoir, the former president of the Catholic Press Association, received the St. Francis de Sales Award in 1993 for outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism. 




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21 thoughts on “A Call to Understand and Support Pope Francis”

  1. Edouard Belaga

    I’m very sad to read yesterday a new report of the sexual abuse in the USA, carried for many decades and involved many, many kids and many priests and brothers (National Catholic Register 9 mai). This shows a terrible contrast with the aggressiveness toward the Pope. The Church IS his Church, and our sonly intention is to respect his infallibility — the Lord will judge afterwards.

  2. The bishop of Rome is not a defender of the Faith.
    The bishop of Rome is embarrassed by many things Catholic.
    His pejoratives describing those with whom he is displeased are legion.
    Mercy? Don’t make me laugh.
    Let’s begin with his use of “coprophilia” and “coprophagia”.
    Your thoughts, Fr. Catoir?

  3. Edouard Belaga

    Sorry to provoke these almost violent expressions of disagreements between good Catholics. I’m sincere to say “good Catholics”, even if at the very beginning I “protested” the very popular ways to accuse the Pope Francis to educate him. The present Magazine is not so much “guilty” of all this, but I am reading other American magazines as well …
    The dispute I provoked here obliges me to clarify my reasons.
    (1) I’m surprised to hear so much rebukes to the Pope from American Catholics who suffered so much during the few last decades — and probably more than any other National Church — from the sexual abuses of the American clergy, with some high Church authorities obviously guilty of silence, if not connivance. With such a strong perseverance in “perfect understanding” of the Catholic “truth”, where your were some twenty years ago?
    (2) Still, for me this catastrophe of American abuse is just a sign of a more deep problem to correct: the material glory of your country and (some time ago, before Trump) strict laws of American “business”, from political to clerical, are not the Catholic ideal.
    (3) We live in the world still very poor and very amoral, with many, many people and nations deprived of Jesus’ charity, education and glory.
    Francis is a good Priest and Pope for this.
    [My first comment was signed “Shlomo”, my Jewish name, just by the difficulty to enter as Dr. etc.]

    1. (1) This is pure ad hominem, directed at people who had nothing to do with, and had no knowledge of, the sex abuse. It is also a complete nonsequitur.
      (2) The sex abuse problem is/was not an American one. It is/was worldwide. It spans from the U.S to Canada, Ireland, Belgium, Australia, Central America (see: Honduras, S. America (see: Chile), even Guam for goodness sakes. The problem is/was one of homosexual priests preying on pre-teen and teenage boys on a worldwide scale. You also completely misconstrue the tenor of American culture during the years when sex abuse was rampant. The culture was one of extreme permissiveness and moral laxity in both business and personal matters – not of “strict laws.”
      (3) I agree with this point.

    2. Edouard Belaga

      Do not agree with you.
      Your American “extreme permissiveness and moral laxity in both business and personal matters” are only another, American way to say what tries to express a foreigner by “material glory of your country”. On the other hand, I do not “misconstrue the tenor of American culture”: clear arguments are more important in the USA than truth not very clear expressed.
      Do your really think that people “had no knowledge of the sex abuse”? In the way it went to American courts, with big money donated before by good Catholics spent on victims and especially their lawyers — it’s true, but in the way one treats today the Pope Francis as an heretic — no, many were aware, but what to do?
      And it is not enough to “be agreed”, it’s now all this went too far and became too dangerous.
      Today the Cardinal Eijk of the Netherlands published his rebuke of the Pope Francis, under the title “Cardinal Eijk: Pope Francis Needed to Give Clarity on Intercommunion. COMMENTARY: Failure to give German bishops proper directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church, points to a drift towards apostasy from the truth”, at the site http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal-eijk-pope-needed-to-give-clarity-to-german-bishops-on-intercommuni.
      This is a good exemple of the misunderstanding of Francis’ humble methodology, contrary to the high-toned clerical school of yesterday (how many Catholics remain in the Netherlands’ church?).
      Francis insist that the German Catholicism cannot advance a practical idea without unity, is this idea good or bad. It’s just impossible to start to think about the topic otherwise.
      Because of this — insists the Cardinal — Francis erred, he should condemn it from the beginning.
      Our Church risks a terrible and nonsensical division.

  4. Sorry Father John, I cannot agree with you. Pope Francis has sown confusion and division within the Church in ways too numerous to point out in this short response. He has grossly insulted those who take the magisterium seriously and encouraged those who take it lightly. Your reference to “conscience” is also worrying. Catholics should know that their consciences need to be informed by what the Church teaches and not what they might decide is in their own best interests.
    I pray every day that the confusion, division and, at times, even heresy being promoted by various Church leaders across the globe, will soon come to an end and we can again feel that the Church is a rock that we safely stand upon, not the dangerous quicksand it appears to be at the moment. I am heartened by the incident described in the New Testament where Christ calms the storm. He will, I am sure, restore His Church to unity. I can hardly wait!

  5. I think it’s plain from the comments that what the Holy Father says, however well meant, does sow division within the Church. One didn’t see the wealth of such comments for encyclicals and pronouncements given by Pope Benedict XVI or Pope St. John Paul II. One can say that Pope Francis is just following the dictum given by our Lord in Luke 12:49-56, “I have come to set the world on fire…set brother against brother,” but I don’t believe that is the case. Pope Francis’s comments and encyclicals are full of ambiguous statements, which is why they are criticized–one group takes an orthodox interpretation, another that of denying Catholic teaching. For more critical commentary on this Pope, you might visit the blog, “The American Catholic.” As for myself, I am very much confused and confounded by what Pope Francis says. I appreciate his apparently sincere and good motives, but I don’t understand how he can seem to depart from what I have learned the faith teaches.

  6. While there are some things in the article that aren’t stated as well as they should (it’s a well-formed conscience, not just a conscience and a well formed one is one that has been/is being brought in line with what Jesus and His Church teach), I agree with the sentiment.

    Even here in some comments, I see the pulling quotes out of context. Too many don’t seem to actually read the entire interview;homily;exhortation;etc but simply pass on rumors and innuendo. Those who do that, do they ever stop to think that that’s exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees did to Jesus?

    And unfortunately, by the time Catholics do get around to reading what the Pope actually said OR the full context of what he said (by, you know, reading all of AL rather than just a couple sentences and a footnote from Ch 8), they’ve already been poisoned by the MSM’s twist or the twists of the various left and right leaning factions of the Church that they don’t actually read what’s there…just what their preconceived notions think is there.

    I used to wonder on Palm Sunday how people could go from singing Jesus’s praises and only 5 days later calling for His crucifixion. I no longer wonder. The Pharisees and Sadducees did a bang up job of maligning the Lord and making sure their fake news and fake narrative is what the people heard.

    I see the same maligning being done to Pope Francis…and for the same reasons. Those doing it DON’T want to hear what the Lord is trying to say thru Him.

  7. Edouard Belaga


    These outrages accusations remind me the cries of Pharisees against Jesus, with demands of precision when washing hands and etc. We are living in a more difficult and confused world than the generations before us, and the next generations will have their enormous challenges. The Pope wants to address the weak “unreligious” but yesterday Catholic and very numerous today part of humanity.

  8. “a well-formed conscience can be relied upon,” The issue is, what if their conscience isn’t well formed? What are we doing to help form it? People in grave sin often don’t have well formed consciences. It is our job to help form it by teaching them of the love of Christ which is shown in the laws he left us. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”; Jesus tells us. Otherwise you are just falling into what Pope Saint John Paul II called, “the gradualness of the law.” It’s a lowering of the bar, which denies a person can become a Saint and is actually an affront to their dignity.

  9. Kevin Aldrich

    “Nevertheless, he respects the consciences of those who are struggling to find the strength to raise children in today’s world.”

    What in the world can that mean? Does Catoir mean a Catholic can fully understand what the Church teaches about this question of morality and can licitly reject it?

    1. Exactly. I agree with the Pope that we are to accompany people on their journey. The question becomes, where do we accompany them to? They must be accompanied to truth, full truth, and though this walk can take time for those who were never formed, it is not an excuse then to not teach them truth along the way. It’s like the walk to Emmaus. Listen to them, Dialogue with them, reveal the truth to them. Once one fully understands, and yet still rejects, they put their soul in jeopardy. In this case what is so baffling is it appears to be Bishops who reject, like the German Bishops. This idea that human suffering is the worst evil is not what the church teaches. Sin is the worst evil.

  10. Kevin Aldrich

    I think there is a lot to question about this opinion piece, beginning with the very first paragraph.

    In regard to the no eternal hell allegation, “The Pope denied his claim as a bogus reconstruction of what he misheard.” I have seen no evidence that this is factual.

    Another, more serious problem, involves conscience. “Pope Francis urged Catholics to rely more on their conscience in resolving personal moral issues.” Nowhere does Catoir help us understand what conscience is and when and how it is legitimate to follow it when our judgment is in contradiction with the objective moral order or the law of Christ.

    1. There is no eternal hell “allegation.” His saying hell is not eternal is a fact. These are Jorge Bergoglio’s proclaimed and printed words from his Amoris Laetitia:

      “296. . . . … The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever

      297. . . . No one can be condemned for ever, be cause that is not the logic of the Gospel!”

      Guy McClung, Texas

  11. This is one Heresy of the man wearing papal white, his own words, contrary to Jesus’s words, and to Church teaching: “No one is condemned forever” – from Jorge Bergoglio’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia. And in some ways worse: he refuses to respond to cries from the faithful – and even from Cardinals – to explain, retract, or clarirfy this. Anyone who accepts this heresy or who ignores it lets his Yes be Yes and his No be No, saying “Yes” to Jorge, and “No” to Jesus. And woe to that man if he is Christ’s watchman or one of His ordained shepherds, and spreads the heresies or fails to teach the truth to Jesus’s sheep. If they, in doing so, commit mortal sin, and it is unforgiven without repentance and a firm purpose of amendment, they will find out who is wrong, and WHO is right about the everlasting fire of Hell. Guy McClung, J.D., Ph.D., Texas

  12. +

    I agree with all my heart to Father’s John Catoir appreciation of the Pope Francis. Here is my message to National Catholic Register concerning a typically anti-Francis article of Father Raymond J. de Souza, published today:

    I protest the systematically anti-Francis, anti-current-Pope comments of Father Raymond J. de Souza. I do not want to enter into details, but a beautiful today article of Father John Catoir JCD,
    can be a good answer to Raymond J. de Souza inventions.

    1. You can protest all you want. This pope deliberately confuses – as he has admitted – on doctrine – the Deposit of Faith.

      Cardinal Marx and his fellow travelers have seen an opening – provided by this pope in his exclamations and the exhortation, AL – to go around doctrine through pastoral means provided by Pope Francis.

      Marx is in Rome at the moment to finalize his attempt to give the Eucharist regularly to Protestant spouses.

      The pope’s statement on Capital Punishment, if followed through, will immediately launch a crisis on the charism of Infallibility.

      Later this year we will hear on the ‘reexamination’ of Humanae Vitae.

      A very important synod next year.

      Let’s see how much you protest with continuing developments on doctrinal issues with the full support of a pope who delights in “messing things up” without stating – at the same time -the clear and eternal teachings of the Catholic Church as promised infallibly by Jesus Christ.

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