A Papal Clarification

A recent exchange on another’s Facebook page made me think. The exchange, centring on an article on the Patheos site, saw both the author and the some commenters admonishing those who took umbrage at the recent papal pronouncements on the Lord’s Prayer (and others), to quite whingeing and just get on with being good Catholics.

Of course, we should always be good Catholics, but must we really be content to sit in silence in the face of the most alarming papal phenomena for a long time?

Pope Francis is not evil. He is the pope. His papal court is the most disedifying in recent history. But that is another story. Our purpose at present is the person of the pope.It is a laudable thing that Catholics feel an instinctive loyalty to the pope, and long may it last. But an instinctive loyalty need not be, and should not be, an unthinking one. Blind, unthinking loyalty is the trait of the concentration camp guard. By Baptism we are, with and in Christ whose Body together we form, prophets, priests and kings. We have a dignity that should not make us proud but should not make us servile.

Vatican II has some interesting words:

The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments. They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church. When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ…

Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity. However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city

A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfil its mission for the life of the world.
Lumen Gentium 37

It seems to me that there are many issues of significance on which the faithful, laity and clergy, should exercise their freedom to make known to their pastors their adherence and understanding of the consistent and irreformable teaching of Christ and his Church, be those pastors priests, bishops, cardinals or popes. It should be done with respect and even humility, but it should be done.

St Catherine of Siena, St Bridget of Sweden, St Peter Damian all offer examples of Catholics who spoke the truth to power, even papal power. They did so with full respect for the the apostolic office. I have heard some argue that they were saints, so to cite them as exemplars is an act of hubris: “Do you think you are a St Catherine!?”


Well, one fact should be noted: they were not saints when they spoke. They were Catholics like us—religious, lay (originally) and clerical respectively. Part of what made them saints was their love of the Church and their humble devotion to the truth of Christ. We are all called, says the Vatican Council, to holiness no less than they. In part, the aim of the Church in canonising saints is to offer us exemplars and models of faithful Christian witness and holiness.

In this period of crisis in the Church it behoves us all to speak the truth in love. Without it the Church risks becoming what Pope Francis explicitly abhors—a NGO. So it is, in fact, the best service we can render the pope at this time.


Join the Conversation

  1. Noted that myself father 😉
    as several folks have told me as much….

    My post today actually made mention of my three favorite men of the cloth and one person got tickled thinking I was going to tell a joke because of my choice of wording–as if I was going to say something about three clerics walked into a bar….
    He’s that section:

    “And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
    of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

    And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

    A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

    And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
    from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
    when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
    peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

    And I for one delight in that.”

    And you Father are that monk.
    The renegade Anglican is Bishop Gavin Ashenden and the Presbyterian is David Robertson–
    Funny how all three of you are on that island across the pond.
    But great teaching none the less.

    I will venture into the murky waters stirred by the Pope, but I am having to wait until I have time to do justice to his latest “observation”

    I personally think all of Christendom needs to pay attention when our ears are piqued—which the Holy Father’s words have done—not to ignore it, hoping it will just go away…but I do think it deserves a second look….

    As always thank you for your clear focus always with Christ as your center focus….

    1. You’re too kind! But I guess we are all this side of the pond because, well, we do breed eccentrics and misfits over here. 😉 Blessings.

  2. How do you know that this pope is not evil? Obviously he is not pure evil, even Satan isn’t (since existence is good). But that’s not what we mean when we say that someone is evil. Judgement requires context, and the primary context for judging a pope as a Catholic is his office. There certainly have been evil popes in history, and I personally don’t think that Pope Francis is “good” in the context of being a pope, and whether he scrapes in as “neutral” overall is at least debatable. How do you even know that Pope Francis is still the pope? I would agree that he was duly elected and hence once was the pope. However, St Bellarmine teaches – in my opinion convincingly and in tune with the Fathers – that a manifest heretic is not in any way a member of the Church, and hence that a pope whose heresies are manifest thereby ceases to be the pope. Does Pope Francis’ recent endorsement of the Argentinian interpretation as “authentic magisterium” make an occult heresy sufficiently manifest? That is at least debatable, and hence there is a real question to be asked whether he still remains the pope now.

    The one thing that I find rather amusing about the whole situation is that the usual escape path to Eastern Orthodoxy is blocked for those who think that Rome has fallen into heresy. For the specific heresy one could accuse Rome of in this case is one Constantinople succumbed to long ago.

  3. Exactly! Moreover, St Catherine was convinced she was NOT a saint (because if she thought she was, she wouldn’t be one, would she, if you follow my drift…). She could easily have told herself: “Just keep quiet, Kate, you are not a St Paul, holy enough to oppose St Peter to his face”!

  4. But, does Pope Francis truly abhor the Church becoming a NGO when he has encouraged his papacy (to give place ) to engage the culture (the near sect) of NGOism, as none before him.

    At times it seems George Soros (via his innumerable proxies) has leased apartments in Vatican City. These NGOs, their function or ideology, are never honestly challenged.

    True, some Vatican. rep. will enter a gloss of “respecting the dignity of every person” during a confab with these fellows, but it has the feel of an invitee’s “price of a thicket”. Such interventions have little (no, no effect) upon the agenda and ideology of these (Deep State accountable) organizations.The ideology (the near religion) of environmentalism, multi-culturalism, totalitarian world governance, progress onward disregarding, crushing, the “dignity of every person”, born and unborn.

    I have learned to pay little heed to Pope Francis’ words, but to watch his (direct & symbolic) deeds, especially his reconstructions, and, above all, his companions and appointments.That is how one gets a grip on the mind and motivation of a Dictator Pope.

  5. I’m reading a wonderful commentary on 2 Samuel by Bishop Robert Barron. A constant theme is the importance of good fathering in a large sense–Adam was the father of the human race, but he didn’t watch what was happening in the Garden. He let the serpent slip in, and disaster followed. Similarly, David was supposed to watch the “garden” of Israel and at first he did a good job of it. Then he saw Bathsheba, and that was a turning point as he fell into sin. Israel fell into violence, disorder, and rebellion and eventually exile.
    This parallels what is happening in the Church. If our shepherds, including the highest one, the pope, lets the serpent in the garden of the Church, what can the faithful do? Just sit idly by? The priest abuse crisis is an extreme example of bad shepherding by the bishops, who let predators roam the garden unchecked.
    I don’t know the answer, but we can’t just sit idly by. We at least must voice our concerns.

  6. Read The Dictator Pope. Francis is doing harm to the Church. History shows that Popes can and have been wicked men. Just being Pope is no guarantee of wisdom or sanctity. One also has to be open to God.

  7. Ever since VII the laity have been patronised and disdained by the clergy. They foisted on us liturgical changes we didn’t want with precious little convincing explanation. It is for your good was the mantra. Ancient devotions were ridiculed, churches ( which we had paid for) were vandalised, for our good, of course. Changes in seminary policy deprived us of good priests and gave us bad ones. They saw nothing odd in preaching in one era the opposite of what they had in the previous. The last 50 years have been a massive, sustained, trahison des clercs.


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