Some Catholics disagree with much of what Pope Francis says and does — this is undeniable. Believe it or not, I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with criticizing a pope on prudential matters, at least when done thoughtfully and when consideration is given to the context and circumstances around the pope’s decision or action. In recent months, however, I have noticed that some papal critics appear to respond immediately to anything he says or does with exasperation and dismissal. Where once there might have been charity and an effort to understand all sides of the story, there now seems to be great contempt for the Holy Father. This is unhealthy and it’s dividing the Church.

My fear (and this is nothing new to regular readers) is that certain groups within the Church have developed such cynical and dismissive feelings towards the Holy Father that they no longer have any respect for him, they refuse to ever give him benefit of the doubt, and they become angry at the mere thought of him. This type of reaction has become commonplace on social media. Some Catholics (and non-Catholics) seem to be so dead-set against his vision and teachings that they will use anything, even out-of-context quotes or misinterpretations of his words to try and tear him down. They seem determined to convince every other Catholic that Pope Francis is terrible, and will exploit any opportunity to do so.

The reactions to three recent incidents involving Pope Francis show how ingrained and reflexive the antipathy towards him has become these days:


The first example is the response to this quote that was pulled from a recent homily given by Pope Francis at a daily Mass in the chapel in the Casa Santa Marta:

“In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.”

Papal critics lined up to excoriate him – instantly associating these words with the sex abuse scandal – and argued that Francis had claimed that the devil was the one behind unmasking cover-ups and bringing the truth to light.

For example, “American Papist” blogger Thomas Peters tweeted:

“Uncovering sins is NOT the biggest scandal we face as a Church. It’s the scandal of the COVERUP, of being lied to by our shepherds.
SO revealing that Francis thinks his job is to “cover” the sins of bishops so they don’t “scandalize” the laity.
All this said *in a homily*!

Oh, and probably should add: most of these accusers are lay people. So, the logic is, the laity is Satan for accusing bishops and the pope is Jesus for covering up their sinfulness so our weak faith isn’t shaken.
Talk about clericalism on steroids.


A second example of this type of response was in response to a quip Francis made during his pilgrimage to Sicily. There, Francis met with the local bishops, priests, and seminarians. During his address to them, he said,

“How many times have I heard, ‘Oh, father, I pray, but I don’t go to Mass’ … ‘Why not?’ ‘Because the homily is boring; it lasts 40 minutes.’

No, the whole Mass should last 40 minutes … But the homily must not go more than eight minutes.”

Many reacted on Twitter to this anecdote with scorn or mockery; others protested, suggesting that the pope had essentially advocated for less reverent and rushed liturgies. Some took his words literally, insisting that an 8-minute homily or a 40-minute Sunday Mass was too short, or that Francis didn’t know what he was talking about, as they had never seen a homily last for a full 40 minutes.

Others suggested that it was a lack of orthodoxy that prompted these remarks. For example, noted apologist and author Patrick Madrid wrote on Twitter, “For some priests (and popes), the shorter the homily the better. But for those whose theology is orthodox and who can preach well, more is better.”


Finally, much was said over the impromptu blessing that Pope Francis gave at the conclusion of a meeting with journalists in Palermo, aghast at his “refusal” to give a formal apostolic blessing out of deference to the large number of non-Catholics and non-Christians in attendance.

A Twitter user under the handle @CatholicSat posted the following on Saturday, and it was shared by over 1,000 users:

You can read the comments for yourself to see how angry and self-righteous many were about this incident.

 


Each of these examples I highlight comes with a reasonable explanation that unfortunately has been drowned out by the criticism.

First, regarding the recent homily, context is important. The Gospel for the day (September 11) was from Luke 6, the calling of the twelve apostles, and Francis’s homily that day was specifically addressed to their successors, the bishops. At the daily Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, there are always a number of bishops in attendance. If one looks at his daily schedule, he met with a great number of bishops that day (the bishops of Venezuela were in town for their ad limina visits), and he had just concluded his meetings with the Council of Cardinals the day before. It seems natural that in this context, the pope should address his message to the bishops.

The central points were: bishops should be men of prayer, that they should remember and be conscious of their calling, and that they be close to their people. Francis’ detractors are missing the point. They are presenting the homily as if the main point was to blame those accusing them of covering up sexual assault. He said nothing of the sort. The point of the homily was to encourage bishops to be holy and humble in their service.

His response to the Great Accuser?

“A bishop’s strength against the ‘Great Accuser’ is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”


Second, with regard to Mass and homily length, the common wisdom is to use the time wisely. If a priest can make 2-3 points that resonate with the congregation, that brings them closer to Christ and inspires them on their journey, he is doing the Lord’s work. Obviously there are cultural and circumstantial factors in play, and priests and bishops must be responsive to the needs and expectations of the communities they serve.

Some are treating Francis’s 8-minute homily/40 minute Mass statement as if he’s laid down a strict edict on liturgical discipline. Let’s try a more charitable interpretation of the Pope’s comments. In context, he was criticizing 40-minute homilies. His point was, basically: a homily shouldn’t be forty minutes, the entire Mass should be (closer to) 40 minutes. And if we’re using 50-60 minutes as a baseline, he’s right.

He has spoken and written on this before. Anyone who is interested in the truth about what Pope Francis thinks about the homily and preaching would be well-served by reading his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, paragraphs 135-159.

Excerpt:

135. Let us now look at preaching within the liturgy, which calls for serious consideration by pastors. I will dwell in particular, and even somewhat meticulously, on the homily and its preparation, since so many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry, and we cannot simply ignore them. The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case. The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.

And…

137. It is worthy remembering that “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated”. The homily has special importance due to its eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion.The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people.The preacher must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent, as well as where that dialogue, once loving, has been thwarted and is now barren.

It’s worth reading the two entire sections, totaling 25 paragraphs, that he devotes to the importance of the homily in the Mass. Those who attack him for this brief, off-the-cuff anecdote really have very little about what Pope Francis really thinks about the value of preparing and preaching a great homily. Those who attacked him because they believe eight minutes is too short should know that they are also criticizing the Vatican under Benedict XVI as well.


Finally, we come to the issue of the Pontifical blessing. Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs at Patheos here, wrote the following on Facebook (posted with permission):

Some reports indicate that Pope Francis declined to give his usual Pontifical Blessing when he was in Palermo Saturday. Some have expressed outrage over this.

Here’s what happened, from rough transcripts available at the Vatican website.

The pope evidently had three non-liturgical public events in Palermo.

1) After meeting with clergy, religious and seminarians, he concluded his talk with these words:

“I thank you and I bless you, and excuse me if I was a bit ‘strong, but I like to talk like that! I wish you the joy of celebrating, accompanying and witnessing the great gift that God has placed in your hearts. Thank you, and pray for me!”

2) Meeting with large numbers of the faithful in the Piazza, he concluded:

“Now I will give you the blessing, but let’s prepare the heart to receive it. Everyone thinks about his loved ones, because this blessing falls on loved ones. Think of his friends. And you also think about the enemies, the people I do not love, and who do not love me. Open everyone’s heart, for this blessing descends on everyone.”

[Blessing]

3) Finally, he met with the young people and finished his remarks with these words:

“Now I would like to give you the blessing. I know that among you there are young Catholics, Christians, other religious traditions, and even some agnostics. For this I will bless everyone, and I will ask God to bless that seed of restlessness that is in your heart.

Lord, Lord God, look at these young people. You know each of them, You know what they think, You know that they want to move on, to make a better world. Lord, make them seekers of good and of happiness; make them active in their journey and in their encounter with others; make them bold in serving; make them humble in seeking the roots and carrying them forward to bear fruit, to have identity, to have belonging. May the Lord, the Lord God, accompany all these young people on the journey and bless everyone. Amen.”

He appears to have given at least one Pontifical Blessing, at the large public gathering, and two others that were less formal. We can presume he also offered the Pontifical Blessing at the conclusion of what was probably the largest assembly of all, the Mass on the memorial of Blessed Pino.

 

In context, each of these incidents seems much less scandalous and much more reasonable than they have been presented by the talking heads on Twitter. As I said above, it’s not wrong to criticize the Pope when in prudential matters he takes the wrong course of action, provided it is informed, charitable, and respectful. But these attacks betray a lack of charity and respect toward the Pope. Taking these incidents and Twisting them amounts to nothing more than “Fake News.” It’s unhelpful and, ultimately, reflects poorly on any Catholic who utters these calumnies against him.

I can only conclude that those who spread these stories are motivated by a poisonous hatred and seething contempt for Pope Francis. They would rather see a scorched and demolished Church than one that is built up by the Joy of the Gospel. Rather than looking for good in Francis, they are hell-bent on convincing the world that he is evil. The Great Accuser must be loving this.

In response to all this, remember to pray for our Holy Father, as he is bombarded with these sorts of attacks ever more frequently. And always try to show charity toward him.

 

Image: Screen grab from video of Pope’s blessing on young people in Sicily.

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.

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17 Responses

  1. Dennis says:

    Thank you Mike for providing some context. Unfortunately social media seems toploaded by sites which are anti-Francis and too many people are influenced by this negativity. I appreciate wherepeteris for providing a greater understanding of the Holy Father’s teaching.

    • Yaya says:

      Amen!

      As time goes on, I understand our Holy Father’s constant request for prayers too. I doubt I would be able to survive the constant onslaught like he has and he is so much older than I. He is close to our Lady so I am sure she watches over him day and night together with Saint Joseph.

      May they keep watch over the rest of us as well.

  2. carn says:

    Even if it is a side point of the homily of the Pope, how can:

    “In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.”

    be understood so that it isn’t also a reference to the current discussions regarding abuse of children and questionable conduct towards adults by some priests and bishops?

    These are sins which are to some extent uncovered right at this moment in time, so at least it is the first that comes to many people’s mind when reading those lines; for that one does not need any twitter; with me, i first read the excerpts of the homily in the wording published as at vatican news and only after identifying this interpretation as the only one i could think up, i saw that the “usual suspects” also pounced at that.

    How is one Simcha Fischer, who from what i read is no fan of any anti-Francis people, and she just understands these words also in that way:

    https://www.simchafisher.com/2018/09/11/francis-has-a-lot-of-buffers/

    So how are these words to be understood the most charitable way?

  3. Michael says:

    Quite honestly I am scandalized by the tone and literal hatred of many people toward Pope Francis and those bishops, such as Cardinal Tobin and others. Tobin, for example, quoted scripture on Twitter and people responded by calling on him to resign and calling him a Sodomite etc. Disagreeing is one thing, but this hatred is the work of the devil! Sites like “LifeSite” say Tobin and Cupich have been “implicated” is the sex abuse cover-up.
    I am no theologian, but I believe that the Holy Father is elected through the working of the Holy Spirit. I did not care much for Benedict XVI, but he was elected Pope and I respected that. If these “Pharisees” and haters question the Pope’s election, could it be said that they are blaspheming against that same Holy Spirit? I am utterly shocked and dismayed at the hatred and disrespect of the Holy Father and many of our bishops by people who claim to be Catholic Christians.

  4. Anne Lastman says:

    Hello Mike I have been defending and writing in defence of the Holy Father since the beginning of his pontificate.
    I’m sorry if you do not agree but this became possible when BXVI resigned and changed papacy into a job.
    If papacy is simply another job it becomes possible to hire and fire the Pope
    Whatever his reasons BXVI opened the doorway to this disrespect for the Pope.
    The sexual abuse issue is being used as the flaggelant to beat HH.
    Yes the Church needs cleaning of the abuse but the blame game makes it look like its ALL his fault that abusers abuse instead of helping him clean out the mess.
    These attacks against the Holy Father reminds of the words of Jesus about sins against the Holy Spirit.
    These abusers if the Holy Father are openingly saying thst the Holy Spirit got the selection of the next Vicar of Christ wrong. He made a mistake.
    At the moment there is a great opening so that the accuser can do his work. This because of the willing co workers he has acquired to assist him
    In these days when the voice if the church is needed to be heard it’s silenced because the accuser through willing workers has removed focus from HH towards an attack against the authoritative voice of Jesus via medium of Peter.

    • jong says:

      Anne Lastman;
      Pope Benedict XVI is very close to St.JP2 and he knows the signs of times as Pope Benedict XVI had a precise prediction on the end times too.
      When a priest became a Bishop And then to Cardinal their Wisdom on the Church grew, their understanding of the forces of the enemies also grows.
      When a Cardinal is Anointed by God to Lead His Flock, God generous provision will not be lacking to the Pope, as God will give the Pope a clarity of vision where does the Holy Spirit wanted to lead the Church.

      I will encourage you to ponder the inspiration of Pope Benedict XVI resignation comes from the Holy Spirit, why?
      Pope Benedict XVI experiencing the peak of the force of his enemies inside & outside the Vatican in 2012, he realize the Papacy in the end times cannot efficiently combat & fight the enemies spiritually while attending to the administrative needs of the Church.
      The church enemies were exposed to Pope Benedict XVI, he sees it clearly who they are but not certain how vast is their network inside & out.
      This is where, the contemplation of Pope Benedict XVI begins, He wants to defend & serve the Church but combating this growing forces is unimaginable for a one Pope to defeat.
      When a Pope is elected they must choose a name, the name carries a mission & a purpose…he had chosen a name of a monk.Holy Father St.Benedict is known to be a Great Warrior of Prayer…
      The answer is in his chosen name, that is the full calling of Pope Benedict XVI to be a Great Prayer Warrior for Pope Francis and for the Church because he can intercede powerfully knowing who the enemies are. And biblically “the power of the rigtheous person avail much”.
      We are now blessed with the TWO GREAT POPES both are Masters in the Art of Spiritual War, one offering a life of prayer and sacrifices and Pope Francis fighting the growing forces of enemies upfront.
      The Vatican II Church will win the Victory not because it can, but because Mama Mary already prophesied the ending of our battle.
      God is on our side and will handed down the victory to all the obedient & faithful to the Pope & Church Magisterium.

      “IN THE END MY IMMACULATE HEART WILL TRIUMPH”

      GODBLESS

      • Anne Lastman says:

        Jong There were never two Peters. Just ONE. And if having two Peters is the Hoky Spirits work then he is not speaking the words of Jesus. The HS made a mistake either when BXVI or Francis were elected NO two popes at same time.
        As for BXVI being close to JPII ? So?
        BXVI resigned left the position empty and anorher was found to take his place.

        • jong says:

          Anne Lastman
          We have Two Great Popes, Pope Francis & Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI both living together and serving actively.
          Pope Emeritus BXVI is offering a life of prayer & sacrifice to the Church, his petition and intercession avail much graces because he is a pious man.
          Pope Emeritus BXVI closeness to St.JP2 means a lot, Why?
          St.Jp2 openly told that the Final Confrontation is about to happen and he said in his reflection that we are now living in the Time of Mercy.The signs of times are showing..
          When Pope Emeritus BXVI became Pope, he carried the vision of St.JP2 and continued the Mercy path started by St.JP2.
          As Pope Emeritus BXVI said beautifully;
          “The Heart of the Gospel is Divine Mercy”
          and guided all the faithful by saying;
          “Do not lose the vision, God always guide His Church.”

          And now, Pope Francis is continuing too, the path of Divine Mercy declaring the Year of Mercy and this phrase;
          “The Divine Mercy is Infinite but the Time of Mercy is Not”.

          Al this three Popes in unison are guided by the Holy Spirit in one continouos direction.
          To proclaim the Divine Mercy.
          Pope Francis acknowledge the vision of his predecessors, by saying the signs of times are in our midst.
          The prophecies are unfolding in our times, the clear one is Akita and LaSalette…this are twin apparition Akitan bearing the image originating from Our Lady of All Nation.

          You must view, the Two Popes from “spiritual warfare” point of view, if not you won’t grasp its meaning.
          As for me, in 1884 satan was granted more power to destroy the Church and Pope Francis sees it now by saying the Great Accuser is somehow unchained. That speaks a lot. if satan was granted more power…the Church must countered it with great power too..this is where the Two Popes tandem becomes relevant.

          If you don’t elevate your vision to spiritual nature of battle you will miss the important elements why were experiencing the Great Tribulation.

          Godbless

  5. Ralph says:

    I wonder how many of Pope Francis’ detractors are from the United States. I would imagine that at least most of the ones with a heavy social media/Internet presence are Americans. We need to confront the fact that American Catholicism is now heavily polarized along political lines with different sides taking their cues on Catholicism from secular politics. For a long time this was seen as only a problem on the left where all of the Cafeteria Catholics supposedly were. But now with Pope Francis it is clear that there is a big cafeteria on the right as well, and they have a lot of money and a big presence in the media, especially online.

    Politics explains the vast majority of the opposition to Pope Francis. It all stems from this pope’s emphasis on issues where the Catholic Church breaks with American conservative orthodoxy, especially economics and the environment. That is where all of this started and the opportunistic and vile weaponization of the sex abuse scandal to attack Pope Francis is an outgrowth of that. Many of these people and institutions (like EWTN) used to be strong defenders of the papacy under previous popes even though their records on issues like sex abuse were no better than Pope Francis’ and arguably worse. What changed?

    This is all about politics and not principle.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I believe it’s partly the case, although I think deep down there is a battle for the heart of the Church, and it’s theological and spiritual. They can’t win that fight against Francis, so they try to attack him in other areas, like politics or exploring the sex abuse crisis.

  6. jong says:

    Pope Francis will be the Greatest Pope in 2000 History of the Church, why?

    No Popes have fought Satan UNCHAINED and with more power granted by God to infiltrate & destroy the Church from within.
    Not to mentioned the church critics & enemies who daily attacks & persecutes Pope Francis and shout “CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM,CRUCIFY HIM”.

    Pope Francis fighting all the enemies upfront. The Great Accuser UNCHAINED plus his demons & human cohorts not to mentioned the growing forces & activity of Rad Trads, Sedes, Fake Christians, Non-Religious,Agnostics, Atheist etc. name it.
    All of this enemies combined to destroy the Church and daily attack the dignity of Pope Francis.

    Wow! No Pope have ever lived to fight Satan and his armies in this Final Confrontation in this magnitude.

    But, Pope Francis is a Master in the Art of Spiritual War.
    Look how he respond to packed of wild dogs, people acting with no goodwill and only want to scandalize.
    Pope Francis respond with a LOUD SILENCE, Silence and silence….
    The fruit of SILENCE is PRAYER, and only a “prayerful silence” can defeat the forces of darkness, we are not fighting flesh & blood here, Pope Francis will never stoop down on worldly fight. Pope Francis will only engage and fight the spiritual forces behind every wicked persons who are like a packed of wild dogs.

    Can Pope Francis defeat Satan UNCHAINED united with his demons & human cohorts combined?YES!

    Pope Francis is a Luminous Pope living a life of humility,simplicity & transparency.
    The LIGHT of Christ will be his refuge and strength to defeat all the enemies but Satan’s ugly proud head is reserved for Mama Mary (Genesis3:15)

    Let’s offer a Luminous Mystery for Pope Francis and always include him in our prayers.

    The LIGHT shines in darkness but darkness did not overcome it.(John1:5)

    Thank you Pope Francis, may God strengthen you in these end times to lead the Church to Victory.

    S&IHMMP4us.Amen

  7. L. Daily says:

    I maintain this is wave of political attack and unholy disrespect is a direct result of the influx of online evangelical converts who never quite assimilated into the faith. They live as Protestants in the Catholic Church and profit off their conversion stories like spiritual carpetbaggers. Their conversions seem primarily ego based and there is a great need to justify their embrace of Catholicism as morally superior. The current chaos strips away their online cred and income source. Scapegoating others, including the Pope, allows them to maintain the pretense of moral superiority and continue to make a buck off the church in the process. I truly hope they keep moving on and find another denomination to profit off of (sorry Orthodox, they’re headed your way like locusts)

    • Ralph says:

      I agree that some Protestant coverts came to Catholicism with a mindset that was going to inevitably lead to disappointment. I used to watch EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi and it seemed like some of the converts from Protestantism converted to Catholicism because they thought it was the more “solid” and ancient faith. They saw Catholicism as providing the moral certainty that their Protestant churches didn’t and you also had the ancient apostolic tradition that gave the church a certain legitimacy that maybe their more recently-established Protestant denominations didn’t have.

      But now some of these folks are seeing that Catholicism is more nuanced than they thought. I also think some of these converts were dismayed by what they saw as the lax behavior of many cradle Catholics and perhaps to them Pope Francis is giving these “pew-warmers” more excuses to be lazy about their faith. I agree that Orthodoxy will likely be the next denomination to see this phenomenon and you will likely see similar results as some converts realize that the communion they joined wasn’t as “hardcore” as they thought and that your average Orthodox believer is as sinful and weak as your average Catholic or Protestant.

      Ultimately, though, the problem is this search for the most “hardcore” Christian faith. There seems to be a desire to find the hardest version of Christianity so that you can feel morally superior to all of the lax pew-warmers and therapeutic believers out there. The whole project strikes me as very Pelagian. You can see this in the recent Christian obsession with heroism, crusader symbolism and anxiety over whether the denomination is masculine enough. The whole thing reeks of a refusal to face the reality of profound human weakness, something that Pope Francis demands that we face.

      I suspect that some of this has to do with recent political losses in the Culture War and the statistics on the decline of Christianity among younger Americans. Many American Christians want a faith that they think will provide a fortress of strength in this secular age, which is understandable but seems to be producing a strange siege mentality and a kind of contempt for the weak, for people who constantly fail to live a Christian life. But instead of going out among the lost sheep to bring them back into the fold some want to separate from them and cast them off as a waste of time and energy.

  8. John Smith says:

    Hi, Mike,

    I am a regular reader at Where Peter is who has commented here before, but I am writing this comment under a pseudonym, for unfortunate reasons of anonymity which will become clear, as you (and, possibly, others) read my conflicted and personally burdened words.

    First, I want to say, thanks so much for writing this piece to address what I am seeing as an increasingly vexing problem even in my own circle of committed Catholic friends… and honestly, other than with prayer, I’m just not sure how to deal with it. I’m finding it to be a source of real, personal, sadness and suffering.

    As a Catholic, it is so strange and disorienting to know that, even among one’s own committed Catholic friends, there is tremendous disagreement and division over whether Pope Francis is A.) the current Vicar of Christ who is, imperfectly but genuinely, attempting to lead the Church closer to the radical path of discipleship to Jesus, or B.) an extremely poor leader, a serious burden to the Church, or, even, a possible heretic and anti-Pope.

    A case in point: I’m in a Catholic study group which seems to be equally split between Pope Francis supporters and defenders on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Pope Francis skeptics/sometimes-opposers who send out, to the group, links to organizations and articles which openly bash the Pope (Life Site News, Church Militant, the usual suspects). More than once, the question has been raised in the group as to whether Francis might be an anti-Pope or some kind of “imposter Pope,” whatever that is.

    I am one of the Francis supporters and defenders in this Catholic study group. However, the struggle that I continue to face, in attempting to participate in this group, is, how can there consistently *be* healthy, productive, faith-building discussions in a Catholic study group, when the thinking of at least half of said group is deeply influenced by reflexively anti-Francis Catholic organizations, articles, and videos? I feel that I have to be so careful, in this group, even bringing up *anything* that Pope Francis says or does, because fellow participants are so deeply skeptical of him. If I try to defend him or talk about how I believe that he is a gift to the Church, it becomes *extremely* uncomfortable, because half of the group is so “Francis-skeptical,” or even, at times, “Francis-opposed.”

    How have we gotten to a place in the Church where Catholics who support and defend Pope Francis are reticent to even say much about him, among many of their Catholic friends, because those friends are deeply suspicious of, or outright opposed to, him?? I am at a loss as to how to deal with this situation among my Catholic friends, other than with prayer.

    Even with these struggles, I do want to sincerely say, to you, and to all of the other writers at Where Peter Is, thank you for helping me and other Catholics who support the Pope to feel a little less alone among (many of) our “not-so-warm-to-Pope-Francis” Catholic friends. What you are doing here is important. It makes a real and positive difference in peoples’ lives.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      This speaks very much to my own experience. I have begun to think a great deal about what it would take to heal this rift. A while back, I wrote a post asking Francis’s critics what they saw as their “end game.” I think I have finally figured it out, but my conclusion isn’t pretty.

      The problem seems to be that the opponents of Pope Francis are playing for keeps, and seem dead set on convincing as many as possible that 1) he is a bad person, let alone pope; 2) he is unorthodox and teaching doctrinal error; 3) this papacy must be obstructed until it ends; and 4) the end of this papacy can’t come soon enough.

      This is extremely short-sighted. It’s been suggested to me by several people that a future Pope Burke or Sarah will certainly repudiate the teachings of Francis and even declare his papacy invalid. Honestly, with my understanding of the papacy and what is promised by the Church, I expect his successors to speak warmly about him and build on his legacy. There might be some reversals in some areas, but no blatant repeals of Francis’s Magisterium.

      I know the tension you feel. Especially when you feel “on guard” around people you were once freely able to share your faith with.

      So much more to say, perhaps I will put it in a post soon. Thanks for your insights.

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