“A faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith. A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow.”
-Pope Francis on Twitter
February 1, 2018
Coinciding with the launch this week of Where Peter Is, these words of Francis could not be more providential. This message perfectly encapsulates the challenge that the gift of his papacy presents to Catholics around the world.
In my introductory post for this blog, I would like to share some of my faith background, how Pope Francis has inspired me, and what motivates me to speak out in his defense against those who seek to undermine him.
I want to make clear that I love St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict, and am eternally grateful for the solid and intelligent leadership and wisdom that they provided as they led the Church. Their teaching and example formed, solidified, and grounded my faith and love for the Church. I would not be surprised if both of them were someday to be named doctors of the Church.
When Pope Francis was elected, however, the real fun began. In the first few months of his papacy, it was as if Francis was trying to figure out how many tables he could overturn in the temple before the Sadducees tossed him out: ditching the red shoes for brown orthopedics; moving out of the papal apartments and into the Vatican guest house; offering a chair and a snack to the Swiss guardsman standing outside his doorway; moving the Holy Thursday liturgy to a youth prison and washing the feet of women; delivering daily off-the-cuff homilies; admonishing priests who drove fancy cars and then surveying the vehicles in the Vatican parking lot; “Make a mess”; “Who am I to judge?”… Largely symbolic, yes, but these gestures spoke to a greater truth about the faith. Pope Francis demonstrated a shocking disregard for any rituals or luxuries that obstruct or impede the encounter with Christ.
True, not everyone saw it the same way. Of course, the fuddy-duddies and stuffed shirts grumbled and complained, but that only served to reinforce his message: do you want to be grumpy and miserable about both your faith and the future of the Church, or do you want to share the mercy of Jesus Christ with joy?
Not a difficult choice.
It was an exhilarating time to be Catholic. The first year of Francis’s papacy lit a fire in my heart. His first exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), laid out a brilliant and beautiful vision for the Church and sharing the Word of God that captured much of what Francis had illustrated through words and gestures. It remains, for me, the seminal work of this papacy and the key to understanding this papacy.
As the years passed, Francis kept going, teaching, reforming. He remains a popular and beloved figure for Catholics and non-Catholics around the world. But sadly, it has became clear that since the first day of this pontificate, an organized, determined, and resourceful group within the Church has decided that they’ve had enough. Since the beginning of the papacy, they have done everything in their power to disrupt this papacy and thwart the Francis revolution.
Within months of his election, they set their sights on catching him in what they could claim was a heresy or a serious doctrinal error. They needed a smoking gun, because their previous attempts at twisting his words into unorthodox interpretations had fallen flat.
Eventually, they settled on the issue of the traditional ban on communion for Catholics who had divorced and civilly remarried. They built up anxiety and tension about what might be approved at the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family. Finally, when the exhortation Amoris Laetitia was released on April 8, 2016, they declared they had found their smoking gun in the form of a footnote.
More on that later.
In the weeks and months ahead, the contributors to Where Peter Is will work to lay out the case that Francis is entirely orthodox and in line with Tradition. We will refute the false claims that he is spreading error and has set the Church on path of destruction. We will correct misconceptions about the doctrine of Petrine Primacy and the indefectibility of the Church.
Most importantly, we will do everything we can to assist Pope Francis in his mission to bring the Good News to all the nations.
We look forward to you joining us in this journey.
Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.