The complicated reign of Pope Francis

The papacy of Pope Francis is complicated, turbulent and radical. As baptised Catholics we are children of the Church, and that makes the Pope our Father. We love and support the Pope. If there was ever a schism, (please no God), we'd be found next to the seat of Peter.

The analogy of the alcoholic father

Regardless of whether one is a Catholic traditionalist, liberal, conservative, charismatic, Franciscan, or Jesuit etc. We think it is objectively true that Pope Francis' public statements have been all over the place, inconsistent, confusing, and conflicting. In many ways, as children of the Holy Father, we are like children of an Alcoholic. Any expert in addiction will say that Alcoholics are some of the most gifted individuals, but their unpredictability, lack of consitency, irratic behaviour often drives the children into compensation behaviours.

In these situations the children take different roles they cope with an impossible situation.

  • The loyal one: Some want loyalty at all cost, lest the family become embarrased to the outside world.
  • The angry accuser: Some want to publicly condemn him and take out all their anger over the situation out on him in public.
  • The one in denial: Says there's nothing wrong with father. And he ridicules brothers and sisters for thinking there is.
  • The abandoner: This is the one that leaves the family system and disowns their father. In our analogy it would be those who leave the Church.
  • The wild one: The irresponsible teenager who is happy about dad's alcoholism because then they can get away anything. In our analogy this might be those who are hoping that the Pope will follow the Anglicans into sexual permissiveness.
  • The opportunist: Takes advantage of the situation to draw attention to themselves. In our analogy this might apply some bloggers who have become minor celebrities with huge followings because of their sensationalist coverage of Vatican politics during these times. They often are reactionaries who advance theories that the Church made a wrong turn at Vatican II and the popes since then have been severely flawed.

Experts who work with alcoholic families agree that the family needs to admit that there is a problem and not keep it a secret any longer. We don't want to defend or condemn the Pope. We do not consider ourselves qualified to judge. History will do that. However we feel a responsibility to share the things we like and don't like about our Holy father's actions while in office. For our evangelical friends who sometimes come to this site looking for answers about the Catholic Church, this is a perfect example that infallibility of the magisterium as a very narrow definition and does not prevent the church from having a pope with problems.

First, here's some things he's said and done that we think were Good.

As one would hope from the Roman Pontiff, there are many things that Magisterial Catholics can hang on to, as well as many things that all Christians should respond well to.

Show a list of good things Pope Francis has done
  • The Pope has shown deep love for the poor, and has challenged the status quo in many interesting and good ways.
  • Pope Francis called on the world’s priests to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
  • He said "... he is the God of surprises” and at the same time he rejected "rigidity". We know from history that God is full of surprizes and that rigidity can stiffle the movement of the Holy Spirit.
  • He told bishops “God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books ... one cannot communicate the closeness of God without ... letting himself be infected by his tenderness.”
  • He said "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else."
  • He impressed many when he turned down the papal apartment to live in a more humble room, and adopted an inexpensive papal ring and cross, paid his hotel bill the morning after his election, etc.
  • Removed a lot of unnecessary formality and 16th century royal protocol from papal affairs.
  • Has made himself understood and accessible to the outside world and the press, with a clever sense of humour, and a humble and approachable public demeanor.
  • Has shown deference to the poor in tangible and important ways.
  • Made some modest reforms to the Vatican Bank including adding an external audit mechanism and appointing laity to be involved.
  • Coined the phrase "Idealogical Colonialism" to describe the west's imposing of its philosophies on the 3rd world attached to financial aid, and spoke about the "killing of children" which was widely interpreted as a denunciation of the exportation of the abortion industry to third world countries.
  • We appreciate his pastoral approach to those in sin, when he is speaking about those willing and wanting to follow God, rather than trying to make the Church follow them into their sin.
  • Made conciliatory statements during a meeting with Evangelical leaders, which were well received by Evangelical Christians. The video went viral.
  • He's been pastoral and loving to those involved in deep seated sin which is sign of Christ's love.

Things we don't like about this papacy

Every pope and every human being makes mistakes. However, this papacy is has been the one of the most jarring and turbulent in the entire Church's history. The long term effects are unknown at the current time. Canon Law 212.3 gives the laity permission and the responsibility to point out errors by our leaders to the faithful, as long as it is done with respect. Many faithful Catholics started to worry, when Pope Francis did the following:

Show a list of harmful and or confusing things Pope Francis has done
  • Fired trusted servants who served under the previous popes and surrounded himself with assistants who want to legitimize same sex relations.
  • Promoted James Martin, a same sex advocate, to communications consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications.
  • Appointed many Cardinals who have publicly made statements that are broadly interpreted as an attempt to move towards the legitimization of same sex relations and a host of other agendas that are foreign to the faith, and who will continue to vote for popes and advocate for this direction he has taken long after he is gone.
  • Trusted the now disgraced Cardinal McCarrick, to negotiate a deal with China which marginalized and isolated the faithful underground Catholic Church in China from the Vatican.
  • He has called synods, not to explore open questions, but to legitimize foregone conclusions, pushed by the German bishops, which are contrary to the teachings of preceding popes and the deposit of faith.
  • Introduced changes through ambiguities such as the famous footnote in AMORIS LÆTITIA, which opened the door for communion for divorced and remarried Catholics who had not received an annulment, which John Paul II clearly determined to be inadmissible.
  • Allowed the firing of all the professors at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family, and replaced them with those who have an agenda that is almost 180 degrees in the other direction, including contraception. The new person in charge has a history of gay friendly incidents.
  • Has held papal audiences and has bestowed honours upon advocates of abortion, same sex marriage, couples living together before marriage, trans couples, without encouraging them to return to the truths of the Church, and with no sign to the faithful that these choices are inconsistent with the Catholic faith.
  • He characterized traditionally minded Catholics as rigid, impractical, stiff and unloving. He has leveled particular criticism against young traditionally minded Catholics.
  • Pope Francis said weird things on plane trips, such as
    • "Who am I to judge?" regarding his appointment of a Vatican Bank official who was reported as acting out sexually with other men
    • Condescending comments about large Catholic families, "Catholics shouldn't breed like rabbits"
    • The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis was approving use of “the contraceptive or condom” in certain cases during an in flight press conference when discussing the Zika virus
    • Said he's not afraid of schism, which is particularly weird because the terrible Vatican deal with the Chinese government which delegitimized the faithful underground Church was justified to "prevent a schism"
  • Francis welcomed dialogue with those who don't agree with tenets of the Catholic faith but ignored or ridiculed those who believe and adhere to the Catholic faith in ways that differ from his ideas. He has pushed them out of his circle of influence.
  • Signed Abu Dhabi declaration that "God wills other religions" without clarifying the difference between God's active and passive will.
  • Francis espoused a tired old liberal interpretation of the story of the loaves and fishes which proposes that Jesus encouraged people to share what they had, rather than multiply the food.
  • Granted ongoing interviews to an atheist friend journalist who continues to quote the Pope in ways that are a scandal to the Church. These quotes include the denial of the Trinity, and the denial that hell exists.
  • Participated in worship service in the Vatican Gardens where participants bowed down before two statues that appear to be fertility goddesses in the Amazonian native cultures. No explanation was made and a transcript of the service was not provided to the public.
  • Francis changed the Catechism to say the death penalty was "inadmissible". Previously, it said Capital Punishment was usually unnecessary, but legitimate if it protected society. Francis condemned life imprisonment which runs counter to John Paul II's reasoning for avoiding the death penalty.
  • Questioned Israel's decision to build a wall which reduced the bombing of its citizens significantly, by stopping his entourage on the Palestinian side and putting his hand on the wall and praying as if to ask God to knock it down.
  • Got into climate change science in an encyclical without acknowledging in the same document, that it is being used as a tool to promote contraception and abortion on the 3rd world. We would have rathered that he stick to general statements about caring for creation.
  • He spoke about neglect for old people as the greatest social ill, and said the Church has to find a new balance and not talk so much about abortion, gay marriage and contraception. We're wondering what Church he's been attending because we'd love to hear more pastors preaching to the flock about the problems with abortion, contraception and same sex activity.

The Lord is Faithful

The Lord promised us the following.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (Mat 16:18)
The legacy of Pope Francis will largely be determined by the popes who follow. He has pressed the Church just about as far as it can go into dialog with the world without directly accepting sin as legitimate. We trust our Lord's promise to Peter, and that we'll be OK in the long run. The curent confusion will serve the Church in some way known to God. In the meantime, God is calling us to remain faithful Catholics, children of our Father in Heaven and obedient to the Magistieral Teachings of the Church and the deposit of faith.

Related Articles