Following up on yesterday’s post about saturnos and rigidity, especially after reviewing the comments, I’d like to address a narrative that’s been advanced through much of his papacy: that he likes to “insult” priests, especially those who embrace orthodoxy, tradition, and Latin liturgy.

One critic of Francis has received widespread publicity for publishing “The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults.” The well-known American priest, Msgr. Charles Pope wrote an open letter to Pope Francis on Facebook that was subsequently shared and publicized by numerous media outlets. In his letter, Msgr. Pope wrote, “Santo Padre, I’m not feeling the love here, I don’t feel accompanied by you.” He concluded by saying:

In all this I am still your son and share the priesthood of Jesus with you. I await the solicitude and gentle care from you that you say I, and others like me, lack. Meanwhile I must honestly and painfully say that I am wearied from being scorned and demonized by you.

I believe Msgr. Pope’s pain is genuine. I think he’s a good priest and he’s truly trying to be the best pastor and spiritual father he can. He’s known as a traditionalist from his writings, and he clearly has an affinity for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but he’s also the pastor of an urban, African American parish in Washington, DC, and he faithfully and enthusiastically celebrates Mass according to the cultural and musical traditions of the community. I honestly don’t think Pope Francis’s words about rigid and uncaring priests apply to Msgr. Pope at all.

It’s clear that this narrative–that Pope Francis is insulting to faithful priests and only likes heterodox clergy–has become entrenched in the minds of some people. And for those who are absolutely convinced that this is the case, arguing–yet again–that Francis has been taken out of context and trying to explain these statements properly is fruitless.

Instead, I will try to highlight some of the words and actions that Francis has used to affirm and encourage priests. Let’s not forget that in August, Francis wrote a Letter to Priests in honor of the 160th anniversary of the death of the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney.

In his opening remarks, Pope Francis writes (emphasis mine):

“Like the Curé of Ars, you serve ‘in the trenches,’ bearing the burden of the day and the heat (cf. Mt 20:12), confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people. I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life.

Some time ago, I shared with the Italian bishops my worry that, in more than a few places, our priests feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit. I mentioned that priests need to find in their bishop an older brother and a father who reassures them in these difficult times, encouraging and supporting them along the way.

As an older brother and a father, I too would like in this letter to thank you in the name of the holy and faithful People of God for all that you do for them, and to encourage you never to forget the words that the Lord spoke with great love to us on the day of our ordination. Those words are the source of our joy: ‘I no longer call you servants… I call you friends’ (Jn 15:15).”

In the letter he speaks on four themes related to the priesthood: Pain, Gratitude, Encouragement, and Praise.

On Pain, he writes,

“Countless priests make of their lives a work of mercy in areas or situations that are often hostile, isolated or ignored, even at the risk of their lives. I acknowledge and appreciate your courageous and steadfast example; in these times of turbulence, shame and pain, you demonstrate that you have joyfully put your lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel.”

In Gratitude:

Thank you for the joy with which you have offered your lives, revealing a heart that over the years has refused to become closed and bitter, but has grown daily in love for God and his people. A heart that, like good wine, has not turned sour but become richer with age. ‘For his mercy endures forever.’”

Words of Encouragement:

“Dear brothers, Jesus, more than anyone, is aware of our efforts and our accomplishments, our failures and our mistakes. He is the first to tell us: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Mt 11:28-29).

In this prayer, we know that we are never alone. The prayer of a pastor embraces both the Spirit who cries out ‘Abba, Father!’ (cf. Gal 4:6), and the people who have been entrusted to his care. Our mission and identity can be defined by this dialectic.”

Giving praise to our Blessed Mother:

“To contemplate Mary is ‘to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves.’

Perhaps at times our gaze can begin to harden, or we can feel that the seductive power of apathy or self-pity is about to take root in our heart. Or our sense of being a living and integral part of God’s People begins to weary us, and we feel tempted to a certain elitism. At those times, let us not be afraid to turn to Mary and to take up her song of praise.

Let us also not neglect what he said about priests in his 2018 Chrism Mass Homily:

“A priest who is close to his people walks among them with the closeness and tenderness of a good shepherd; in shepherding them, he goes at times before them, at times remains in their midst and at other times walks behind them. Not only do people greatly appreciate such a priest; even more, they feel that there is something special about him: something they only feel in the presence of Jesus. That is why discerning our closeness to them is not simply one more thing to do. In it, we either make Jesus present in the life of humanity or let him remain on the level of ideas, letters on a page, incarnate at most in some good habit gradually becoming routine.”

Or in his Chrism Mass homily this year:

“We priests are the poor man and we would like to have the heart of the poor widow whenever we give alms, touching the hand of the beggar and looking him or her in the eye. We priests are Bartimaeus, and each morning we get up and pray: ‘Lord, that I may see.’ We priests are, in some point of our sinfulness, the man beaten by the robbers. And we want first to be in the compassionate hands of the good Samaritan, in order then to be able to show compassion to others with our own hands.

I confess to you that whenever I confirm and ordain, I like to smear with chrism the foreheads and the hands of those I anoint. In that generous anointing, we can sense that our own anointing is being renewed. I would say this: We are not distributors of bottled oil. We have been anointed to anoint. We anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart. When we anoint others, we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and the affection of our people. We anoint by dirtying our hands in touching the wounds, the sins and the worries of the people. We anoint by perfuming our hands in touching their faith, their hopes, their fidelity and the unconditional generosity of their self-giving, which many significant figures describe as superstition.”

Are these the words of a man who holds priests in contempt? Does Francis fail to empathize with the struggles and burdens that Catholic priests carry each and every day? Yes, he has words of advice and even sharp criticism at times. But he clearly is a man who professes a great love of the priesthood and gratitude for the priests who pick up their crosses and serve Christ’s Church every day.

That said, words are one thing; actions are what truly demonstrate someone’s values and priorities. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how Pope Francis treated his priests when he was an archbishop. In an interview with John Allen of Crux, Fr. Pedro Brunori, an Opus Dei priest serving in Buenos Aires, related this:

“More than once, someone would call him up and say, ‘I’m sick, I need a priest to say Mass for me.’ He’d tell them not to worry, I’ll take care of it, and he’d go to say the Mass himself. Sometimes he’d bring another priest, while he heard confessions. For him, confession is about the mercy of God. There are a lot of parishes in Buenos Aires, and they sometimes don’t have enough priests to hear confessions. Quite often, he would go and do it himself, while a priest celebrated the Mass.  He would also go to hear confessions in the slums.”

I would like to also provide an excerpt from an article from the National Catholic Register, written by Alejandro Bermudez in May 2013, which describes the relationship and dynamic between then-Cardinal Bergoglio and his priests when he served as archbishop of Buenos Aires. I believe that this gets to the heart of what he is trying to say as pope:

“Cardinal Bergoglio’s efforts for reform in Buenos Aires were not exclusively aimed at the liturgy. He sought to change priestly and sacramental life in general.

One of the most important and successful transformations in the archdiocese, with a significant impact on liturgy, was the cardinal’s approach to the ‘villero’ priests.

In an interview for a book I recently finished about Pope Francis and his fellow Argentinian Jesuits, Jesuit Father Ignacio Perez del Viso, who taught Jorge Bergoglio as a seminarian, explained that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he completely changed the dynamics of the priests and the shanty towns they served.

Father Ignacio explained, ‘In the ’70s, most bishops would be in constant tension with the villero priests, and, every now and then, one of them would be suddenly transferred or removed altogether.’

‘By the ’90s, bishops would tolerate them … but Bergoglio, from the moment he became auxiliary [bishop] in Buenos Aires, changed all that,’ he said.

The difference was that Cardinal Bergoglio embraced the priests and their ministry. He would visit them in the shanty towns, send them to rest if they were tired and replace them himself at their parish for a few days. He would personally take care of them if they were in bed sick — essentially, he looked after their particular needs.

The only time he removed a villero priest from a shanty town was to protect him from a local drug lord who sent death threats.

And with the same fatherly solicitude that he used to care for his priests, the archbishop requested that they return to wearing clerics; refrain from using “batata” (an Argentinean sweet potato) instead of unleavened bread to celebrate Mass; and use songs from Catholic songbooks rather than political or secular songs.

Most often, he used persuasion with his pastors to transform the liturgical abuses in Buenos Aires, but also, in the words of a fellow Jesuit, ‘he never flinched when tough measures were required.’

With the process of secularization and stiffer selection criteria applied to priestly vocations, the number of seminarians dropped during Cardinal Bergoglio’s years as archbishop. But friends and foes agree that the quality of the celebration and preaching dramatically improved in the archdiocese.”

Read it all.

In light of all this–and this just begins to scrape the surface–is it really fair to say that Francis holds priests in contempt or “demonizes” them? If we take a step back, are his statements about rigid priests really “insults” that he directs at specific priests, or are they tendencies that priests (and all of us, for that matter) should avoid?

If you are a priest who believes that Pope Francis looks upon you and your priesthood with scorn, I ask that you take a step back and try to understand what the Holy Father is really saying. Perhaps he has something important to say to you.



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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 the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

Pope Francis’s true message to priests

56 Responses

  1. Michael Eberl says:

    You describe the Pope perfectly. One day he praises a specific subject, yet the next he disparages the same subject. For the past 6 years I have been trying to understand this Pope, without any luck. He clearly despises rigid Diocesan Traditional priests, yet tries to bring the SSPX back into the fold. He states we should all read one of his favorite books “The Lord of the World” to warn us of the future, yet in the same breath promotes the very ideals he is warning us against. The Amazonian Synod may finally clear up his actual views and goals, which may just push us in the direction of his aforementioned favorite book.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      That’s an unfair and inaccurate assessment of the Holy Father.

      • Michael Eberl says:

        Pope Francis stated we must obey the UN. He suggested we create a new humanism and has written a Document on Human Fraternity. He has stated God willed ALL religions, even those that refuse to acknowledge our Savior as divine. He sounds more like Albert Pike than the Vicar of Christ.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Now your comments are getting downright abusive, in addition to false. If you can’t add anything constructive, I suggest that you move along.

    • George Palantine says:

      Mike Lewis’s argument is basically this – “Hey, the Pope says some good things – look at what he said here, here, and here. This proves that the Pope is actually FOR all the things you think he is AGAINST”

      Yes, that is the impression that the casual observer of Francis will get. Hey, I heard the pope say something nice, and obviously the pope is against X, Y, or Z. Or for A, B and C.

      But if you follow the pope over time, you find that he will condemn something one day, then praise the same thing a month later. His record of making contradictory statements is quite extensive. The net result of all this is that no one can tell what the pope really thinks, if they focus on his words. In fact, focusing on his words will lead you astray, because you may pick up one comment, then miss the contrary statement that he makes. It is all very confusing. And this is why so many use the word “confusing” when they talk about the Pope.

      For a couple of years, people tried to figure him out based on his statements. One day he would say he was against gay marriage (address to the Schoenstatt movement) then a while later he would apparently do something that indicated he had no problem at all with it. So people got confused.

      The only explanation that people have come up for this constant tendency to say contradictory things was that he might be following the political tactics of Juan Peron, the leader of Argentina while Francis was growing up. This is plausible. Peron would meet with the communists one day, and announce he was in complete agreement with them. He would meet the next day with the fascists, and announce he was in complete agreement with them. When questioned on this, Peron simply said this was the way to govern.

      So after a couple years of trying to figure him out, people decided they could never pay attention to what he said – they could only look at what he did. And they began assuming that the Pope was really playing all groups off against each other, and would never be pinned down as to what he really thought. Therefore, people started focusing on his actions.

      His actions, sorry to say, seem to have been all in one direction. We now have a synod coming up, where liberation theology seems to be playing a primary role. We see an Instrumentum Laboris written by German intellectuals and Liberation theologians, that has a too small focus on Christ and a weird obsession with paganistic sounding themes.

      In short, what Pope Francis says cannot be taken for what he means. What he means may be the exact opposite of what he says. This is why a lot of people have ceased trusting him altogether.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I am presenting a fuller view of Francis’s understanding of the priesthood. Yes, he doesn’t like rigid priests in saturnos who act like little monsters. Who does? Do you? Are you a rigid little monster in a saturno? If not, the criticism doesn’t apply to you. Don’t take it personally! If you are, you deserve the criticism and should heed it.

  2. Christopher Lake says:

    I’m not a priest, but as a Catholic layman, and a convert/revert, who loves to study the faith and explain and defend it, I will admit that, at times, some of the Pope’s words about “rigidity” and such– well, they do sting me a bit. Sometimes more than a bit.

    I’ve alluded, in previous comments here at WPI, that, even as I love the Pope and believe him to be a likely future canonized Saint, his tenure as Pope has not always been easy or pleasant for me. I do struggle, sometimes, with his comments about “rigidity,” and about his being concerned for Catholics who exclusively attend the Latin Mass, and more as well.

    When I find myself struggling though, I try to look beyond the sting that I feel from his words, and ask myself, “Are these words from the Pope, even just possibly, telling me about something in myself that I don’t want to see/hear but may *actually need* to see/hear?” This has turned out to be a good and chastening spiritual exercise for me.

    I still love to study, explain, and defend the faith. To be clear, I see Pope Francis having the same love for evangelization and apologetics. He doesn’t always do these things in the exact same way, using the exact same words and tone, that I do. That’s fine though. He is the Pope, and I am not. I have real things to learn from his approach. I also have things to learn, about myself, from his comments about rigidity which sometimes sting me. It is a sting that I need. I strongly believe that it’s the sting of the Holy Spirit, asking me to grow as a Catholic.

    It’s good to be an orthodox Catholic. It’s good to want to study, explain, and defend the faith. It’s *not* good to be rigid (and self-righteous?) in ways that are not helpful, and which have nothing to do, truly, with Catholic orthodoxy. It’s also *seriously* not good to have such unshakeable confidence in one’s own grasp of the faith that one actually begins to suspect, or believe, that one is “more Catholic than the Pope.” I see this attitude now among too many of my friends, and among some of the clergy, and honestly, this creeping anti-Pope Francis attitude does concern me for the future of the Church here in the U.S.A.

    • Yaya says:

      I agree with everything you say, Mr. Lake. If I do not understand something Papa Francis is saying I pray always to give him the benefit of doubt and for the gift of understanding him more. I also always pray for the grace to pray for those who oppose him.
      I support him and remain grateful to God for all the good he has done especially for those who in many parts of the world are suffering from war, famine, persecution.
      The suffering many who do not have the luxury of sitting behind a computer screen to either support or to bash the current pontiff.

      Thanks Mr. Lewis for another fine article. I found it uplifting and hope many who read it do too.

      • Christopher Lake says:


        Thank you so much for all of your encouraging replies to my comments. I really, seriously appreciate them, especially given that I sometimes feel *almost* alone, among my in-person Catholic friends, for still supporting and defending Pope Francis.

        I am very grateful to Mike and to all of the WPI contributors. Their work has helped me immensely, in numerous ways, over the past year. I thank God, profoundly, for them.

    • jong says:

      Note: @Fiat I hope this is not too long this time. Peace be with you.
      Pope Francis is living a life of humility, simplicity, and transparency and preaching the Mercy of God not just by words but esp. thru deeds.
      I’ve seen St.JP2 and Pope BXVI spoke but never did I admire a Pope whose wisdom are profound when it comes to dealing with church critics and enemies. Pope Francis always beat the church critics and enemies and he is always one step ahead of their game plan. Only a pious soul can discern the evil plot of his enemies ahead of time. “Sanctity is stronger than scandal”, this is the foundation and the great wall of Pope Francis defense that’s very hard to overcome by his enemies.Pope Francis is in a war with the Rad Trads since Day1 of his papacy. The moment he sits on the Chair of Peter the “wolves & pack of wild dogs” begins to unleash again their relentless attacks. They are quite successful with Pope BXVI in trying to drive him out and exhausting his physical strength. But sorry for them, they had met their match, they are fighting an “expanded Petrine ministry” today, with a weapon of combined strong discernment and and bond of united prayer of a “two pious popes” to advance the Mission of the New Evangelization and for the full transformation of a New Church to unfold. The Rad Trads are opposing the transformation of a New Church having the Face of God, the Mercy of God unfold, but why? Because satan hates the Face of God, the Mercy of God as it reminds again satan and his demons of Jesus Christ victory over them At the Foot of the Cross, “no one is beyond redemption”. This is the big picture that we all must ponder, the saturninos hat is just one of Pope Francis wise strategy to expose the true character of the Rad Trads for all of us to be enlighten on their true nature because for over 50 years they are hidden from us. Mike Lewis for sure know the True Character of the separated Trads founders & leaders. Remember in a war knowing & exposing the identity of the enemies is half the battle won.
      The difference why it’s so hard to fathom the ways of Pope Francis in dealing with the rigid schismatic Trads is, the Vicar of Christ was anointed by God and bestowed with numerous gifts way above each of us combined. Pope Francis being the Chief Shepherd is guided and more enlighten by the Holy Spirit on what direction the Church must take in these Time of Mercy. The only way to grasp fully the mind of Pope Francis is we must live a pious life docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and herein lies the difference, it is very difficult esp. to a “rigid” soul.
      Lastly, let us always try to see & ponder the words of Pope Francis in light of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit “convict” and not “accuse” as evident Pope Francis back it up pointing to three dioceses that he had to intervened.
      On the other hand, the Rad Trads only accuse,accuse and accuse but cannot offer a single credible proof…the proven false testimony & numerous false accusations of Ab.Vigano comes to my mind. That’s why Ab.Vigano immediately cried out when he heard the homily on the Great Accuser Unchain, and accused again Pope Francis of “subtle slander”. The Holy Spirit will never inspire a good much more a pious soul to accuse his brethren, because “accusing” is the works of the devil. (Revelation12:10)
      “Charges against the Pope: former Nuncio Viganò lied, here the proofs”
      My simple question to all the Rad Trads who comes to WPI site is, who are guiding Cardinal Burke et,al in their continuous opposition & resistance to Pope Francis Magisterium? Remember the Dogmatic Tradition holds the Pope is guided by the charism of the Holy Spirit and protected by Jesus powerful protection not to err. If the Holy Spirit is dogmatically guiding Pope Francis, don’t tell me the same Holy Spirit is guiding Cardinal Burke et,al too, to oppose & resist Pope Francis…hmmm it must be the opposite spirit that hates the Mercy of God to unfold. My Jesus mercy. S&IHMMP4us.Amen

      • Michael Eberl says:

        How does one explain the very small number of less than perfect Popes in the past 2000 years? Do you remember St. Athanasius? Why was he made a Saint? Lastly Pope Francis was elected by fellow Cardinals, not God. The Holy Spirit does influence, yet the Cardinals still have free will.

      • jong says:

        Michael Eberl
        Have you noticed starting from St.Pius V year 1566, all the succeeding Popes are already are of saintly character. The Church was guided by the Holy Spirit in preparation for it’s Final Battle with satan forces of darkness. This is a strong testament that the Church coming to an age wherein God Wisdom will now handed the Church the Mystical Body of Christ to satan power like Jesus the Head of the Church was handed over for it’s persecutions,passions, crucifixion and death for it’s glorious resurrection.
        The Church must painfully embraced it’s own Way of the Cross for it’s glorious resurrection. CCC675.
        Focus on St.Pius V as the Sedevacatist started the reference point in here, while the SSPX, let’s presume they are true to their words that they really recognized all the Vatican II Popes.
        So, from St.Pius V, do we have a Pope who do not possess a pious or saintly character? I guess there is none. So, it debunks all the accusations of the Rad Trads like Dr.Marshall that the Church is now infiltrated by Satan and Pope Francis is the Antichrist.
        Have you notice the motto of Rad Trads in fighting is in direct opposition to Jesus Christ commands in the gospel?
        Jesus commanded all his followers to submit, obey and trust the Church Authority.
        While the Dubia Cardinals et,al are telling all their followers to “RESIST” the Church Authority up to the Pope.
        Jesus did commanded us “to resist”, but it is directed towards the devil and not to His Vicar the Holy Father Pope Francis.
        ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you”.(James4:7), but the Rad Trads are embracing the opposite of the commandment of Jesus Christ, they are imitating the works of the devil as “accuser & slanderer” and they are openly resisting the Vicar of Christ.
        Where are the Rad Trads leaders & followers heading to according to St.Paul in their embraced resistance? They are heading towards their own eternal damnation. (Romans13:1-2)

    • M. says:

      @Christopher Lake, your comment hits the nail on the head. When we find ourselves unable to take correction, we are not being docile to the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of my kids, when I point out some fault they need to work on, and they get angry and defensive about it. It’s human nature, but hopefully it doesn’t turn into rebellion. All it takes is a few other kids to confirm to them how unfairly they are being treated, and then all bets are off, and I’ve completely lost my ability to influence them anymore. I feel this is what is happening with a lot of these priests and bloggers. Their ears are being closed. For so many years I labored under the delusion that these rigid priests were the *only* “good, holy” priests. Finally I saw how much harm they had wreaked on my soul, by making me despair of God’s mercy, and feel that I had to earn His love by being perfect. Thank the Lord my eyes were opened by Pope Francis, for, if he hadn’t made the harsh comments about rigid priests, I would have continued down that road, and also taught my children to try to earn the forgiveness of God. Thank you Mike Lewis! Christopher Lake should write an article. (I’m his fan girl, lol!)

    • George Palantine says:

      This was the attitude most Catholics had at the beginning of this pontificate. They felt the sting, thought that maybe they were wrong an the Pope was actually right – and that the pope had the wisdom to tell us hard truths. But after many years of this, it is clear that in fact, it is the harshness of this pope that is at fault. After searching our souls many times, and after watching Pope Francis and the way he operates, it gradually became clear that Pope Francis was not actually leading us to a purer life, he was denouncing things that he seemed to have irrational ideas about. From what we can tell, the small group around the pope has convinced themselves, and him, that all criticism of the pope is invalid, that it comes from “rich americans” or something equally silly.

      The pope has surrounded himself with left leaning, very politically minded people who seem to use Christianity as a springboard for pushing certain secular policies, rather than the other way around. At every synod, the constant complaint is that the Instrumentum Laboris reads like a secular document, which gives very little emphasis on Christ or Christianity. These complaints are well founded.

    • terry says:

      A canonized saint; based upon what? I don’t understand where the thinking comes along that, now, every Pope is a saint. I don’t see a push for Pius XII

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Pius XII is already “venerable.” He’s 2 steps away, and his cause is progressing.

      • Terry says:

        I knew of the ‘venerable’ status but my point is that it seems as if post VCII popes appear to be on a faster track, so to speak. I admire your defense of the man and am sorry that I cannot be of the same mindset, although I wish that weren’t the case.

  3. terry says:

    He certainly baffles me and leaves me a bit wary for any number of reasons. But this too, shall pass.

  4. Ralph says:

    I think even the seemingly harsh things Pope Francis says are necessary. Catholics are not immune to the problems that Pope Francis discusses and it is good to be challenged. Pope Francis has helped me to realize how I have failed as a Christian and what I should do to try to change. For example, the kind of Catholic triumphalism that I engaged in probably made the people around me less likely to want to explore Catholicism. Specifically, I had a friend in college who converted from atheism to the Baptist church. I know he was also exploring Catholicism but I think my Catholic friends and I turned him away from Rome with our arrogant and often unloving attitudes. I now deeply regret how I behaved at the time and think my behavior is exactly what Pope Francis is trying to warn us about.

    As far as priests are concerned, it does seem like Pope Francis has a good handle on how to help priests in their ministry and he has a very realistic and grounded attitude when it comes to pastoral work which is exactly what we need today. I am a layman but I find so much of what Pope Francis discusses to be extremely relatable to my everyday life. I am sure the same is even more true for priests who have to deal with these issues day in and day out.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      All I can say is, “What you wrote,” brother! Amen and amen again!

      • Yaya says:

        “I sometimes feel *almost* alone, among my in-person Catholic friends, for still supporting and defending Pope Francis”

        It is easy to feel alone in defense of Papa but when I do, I just remember the many who beam when he is near them. I think of the joy and the tears that many say they experience when they see him in Saint Peter’s Square or when he travels abroad. I am consoled that we are not alone despite the many who only have negative things to say about those of us who support him.

        Remember Christopher, ”Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia!”

  5. Sean says:

    It takes a certain kind of pride to assume that a sitting Pontiff a world away is targeting you, specifically, usually in an offhand remark.

    It takes a certain kind of humility to realize that, even though he isn’t targeting you, in all likelihood, in you — as in all people — the tendencies he criticizes exist, at least in germ, and that you should pray for the grace to correct them.

    Learning this has, no understatement, *revolutionized* my view of His Holiness. He is an incredible Pope, and I thank God for him.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      What you wrote, too, brother! Amen to every word!

    • Uniangulo says:

      Well said, Sean.

    • Yaya says:

      Thank you Sean.

      Earlier today I was thinking the same thing especially after reading Christopher’s comments. I wondered if Papa Francis had encountered “rigid” priests in his youth or along the way in his priestly ministry aside from the example he gave. Perhaps it was them he was thinking of at the moment and not any priests in particular in any given country.

      Not sure if that makes sense but it’s the sense I was getting that I am not to presume nor speculate nor assume I know the mind of our Holy Father when he speaks.
      I am going to pray for him and for the rest of us instead.

      Gracias a Dios y a la Madre de Dios!

    • L Daily says:

      I also thank God for Pope Francis every day. Thank you.

    • Bejoy says:

      Well said Sean! Exactly my thoughts! God Bless!

  6. Marie says:

    I agree that the behaviours and attitudes that the pope highlights are aimed at all of us to correct. I view things from a completely different lens now, even though my beliefs have not changed. He is an incredible pope.

    • yaya says:

      Amen. Papa Panchito is much loved at my parish to be sure. ^^)

      Our Pastor met him personally on a recent trip to Rome and he has shared his good impressions of him and asks that we all support him with our prayers and affection. IDK but many of his mannerisms remind me of my relatives especially the elders in my family. The expressions, the hand gestures, his love of our Virgencita, the way he speaks when he speaks in Spanish … I so relate.

      Viva il Papa!

      • Jessica says:

        Papa Panchito? That’s the cutest! 😀

        Another nickname I’ve heard is Papa Paco, from a patient.

  7. Pete Vickery says:

    I remember listening to “Morning Glory” on EWTN radio right after the Vigano screed hit the news. Gloria Purvis (in love with the Republicans and Trump but always “concerned” about Pope Francis – which is also a good description of Msgr Charles Pope) asked poor monsignor why he seemed “so down this morning”. Msgr Pope replied that he was down because the Vigano accusations had been verified. I no longer listen to Morning Glory or Teresa Tomeo or Al Kresta or others on EWTN because it becomes too nauseating. They are adherents to the imagisterium and Msgr Pope is no exception. I’ve not heard him apologize for jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst wrt Pope Francis at a time when caution to not jump to conclusions would have been obvious. Sorry, my impression of the monsignor is that he is a phony, not as bad as Vigano but false humility nonetheless.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I’ve met him a few times (prior to Francis’s papacy), and I liked him a lot, personally. Honestly, it’s the exception among conservative Catholics who hasn’t bought into the anti-Francis narrative.

    • George Palantine says:

      The fact of the matter is that the bulk of what Vigano has said has been proven by subsequent revelations. So there is absolutely nothing to apologize for. Monsignor Pope is a very good priest, one of the best in my estimation. He would never utter a false or unnecessary word of reproach to any pope, if it was not warranted. Pope has always stayed within the bounds and has never been one to say a loose word. It really is a measure of how bad things have gotten that even a very careful and measured man like Pope felt the need to speak up.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        He has been saying similar things for years. I remember him writing about the “Little Monsters” line way back when. I remember him taking offense about Francis’s new rules regarding the title “Monsignor.” This is just the latest manifestation of it. I respect Msgr. Pope, but I think he’s totally got the wrong idea about pope Francis. And we can’t pretend that he was on the Francis train until just now. The problem is that Catholics who only read the Holy Father’s words through certain blogs and media outlets get a lopsided version of who he is and what he has to say. This piece was not hard to put together. I had many other examples to choose from. But only the negative statements or criticisms get reported. And for some reason people take them personally.

  8. Monsignor Eric Barr says:

    What an incredibly perceptive and helpful article. Thank you Mike for writing this and setting forth the Holy Father’s clear love for priests for all to see.

  9. M. says:

    @Christopher Lake, your comment hits the nail on the head. When we find ourselves unable to take correction, we are not being docile to the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of my kids, when I point out some fault they need to work on, and they get angry and defensive about it. It’s human nature, but hopefully it doesn’t turn into rebellion. All it takes is a few other kids to confirm to them how unfairly they are being treated, and then all bets are off, and I’ve completely lost my ability to influence them anymore. I feel this is what is happening with a lot of these priests and bloggers. Their ears are being closed. For so many years I labored under the delusion that these rigid priests were the *only* “good, holy” priests. Finally I saw how much harm they had wreaked on my soul, by making me despair of God’s mercy, and feel that I had to earn His love by being perfect. Thank the Lord my eyes were opened by Pope Francis, for, if he hadn’t made the harsh comments about rigid priests, I would have continued down that road, and also taught my children to try to earn the forgiveness of God. Thank you Mike Lewis! Christopher Lake should write an article. (I’m his fan girl, lol!)

    • Christopher Lake says:


      Thank you so much for your encouragement to me and for your thoughtful words about your learning process, so to speak, under Pope Francis. Your thoughts very much resonate with me and my own experiences of learning from him.

      Thanks, also, for the encouragement to write for WPI. For various reasons, at this time, I sense that I am, perhaps, “called” to the comments section here (I know it sounds funny to put it that way, hehe), but not necessarily called to write articles for the site. That sense of discernment may change in the future, but for now, I am just happy to be writing comments here. Thanks, again, for the encouragement!

  10. Jim the Scott says:


    Basically many petty criticisms of the Holy Father are over the top or lack charity(like reading your goofy criticisms of Cardinal Burke). I made this political analogy before but I will make it again. There is a moral and practical difference between the sober and fair criticism of POTUS by a Mark Levin or Ben Shapiro vs the wacko conspiracy theories of a Rachel Madcow. Ironically Rachel Madcow(Maddow) does her cause a disservice. It is in essence crying wolf all the time & then when a real wolf finally shows up nobody believes them. It is the same with Pope Franics. If you keep bagging on the petty then any legitimate problem that comes about that requires a sober criticial analysis will be ignored. I try in vain to tell the anti-Francis extremists “If he really is the devil you image him to be then why help him with these flawed attacks?”.

    BTW this applies to you Mike. Your fantasy that Cardinal Burke doesn’t believe Pope Francis is the legitimate Pope is on the level of these attacks on the Holy Father. Quoting out of context remarks and or reading the worst possible reading into somebody’s words well….I can get that by reading the REMNANT.

    I expect better from you.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      How are the quotes taken out of context?

      BTW – My piece asks the question, hopes that I’m wrong, and asks for clarification.

      What do you make of the fact that Cardinal Burke has openly and publicly denied the magisterial nature of FIVE official teaching documents of the pope? Is that something that should be ignored? It doesn’t signify anything important?

      Francis, upon promulgating the BA guidelines and his accompanying letter (which was designated an apostolic letter), explicitly ordered that it be published as “Authentic Magisterium” and Burke denies that they are. And he told Patrick Coffin that they are heretical.

      What am I missing? How is this a wacko conspiracy theory? What would you say about these statements by Cardinal Burke that would be “sober and fair”?

      Also, is Mark Levin still saying “shut up you big dope!” to people on his show? He’s your example of “sober and fair criticism”?

      • Jim the Scott says:

        Mike yer essay attacking Burke was weak. There is no polite way to put it. It is Marshall in reverse. But Marshall won’t hear his critics. I hope you are the better man than he and post mine.

        >How are the quotes taken out of context?

        Not one quote has Cardinal Burke literally saying what you claim he means. Not even one. I can get that from Adam Shiff. You give other’s opinions of what they think Burke means and you provide not a single clear unambiguous citation to back it up or you give a counter interpretation (& yer theological expertise is in question compared to Cardinal Burke). In short you provide absolutely no evidence just 100% pure argument from innuendo. Steve Skojec will likely produce evidence of a secret Pope Francis Ex Cathedra decree allowing gay marriage before you produce the goods on Burke(& since Steve is never gonna produce that you are up the duff laddie). Also I have no footnotes or links to check yer work or citations(auto recording are tedious to hunt threw and I have given up. Professionals use transcripts) Yeh I can get that from Christopher Hitchens written slanders of Mother Theresa. I expect and demand better from a fellow Catholic.

        But here is one example of yer rhetorical malfeasance.

        Burke said(As cited by you):
        “The only key to the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching. Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium.”

        But you claim it is in contradiction or denial to what the Holy Father says here:

        “Over the course of the Exhortation, current and concrete problems are dealt with: the family in today’s world, the education of children, marriage preparation, families in difficulty, and so on; these are treated with a hermeneutic that comes from the whole document which is the magisterial hermeneutic of the Church, always in continuity (without ruptures), yet always maturing.”

        A couple of points. There is no such thing as a “Magisterial nature” here. Those are yer weasel words to create a contradiction where none exists. Saying the Pope’s specific teaching on a particular issue at a certain time or place is not part of his Ordinary Magisterium or Ordinary and Universal or Extra Ordinary Magisterium or whatever is not the same as claiming the Pope isn’t teaching anything. From the context Burke is denying Amoris is an exercise of the Ordinary and Universal or Extra Ordinary Magisterium. It is an Apostolic Exhortation not an Encyclical or Motu Proprio or Papal decree.

        Also I note a plain reading of both citations tells me the Pope and the Cardinal are in agreement that Amoris must and should be interpreted in continuity(Francis) & constant teaching of the Church(Burke). I should also note the phrase “magisterial hermeneutic of the Church” simply means the teaching interpretation of the church. It is not a statement from Pope Francis clarifying what level of magisterial teaching he is using. The default is ordinary unless certain clear conditions exist to indicate otherwise.

        Anyway it appears the “contradiction” is in yer imagination. Clearly Burke is not at odds with the Holy Father. There is more but it is tedious trying to untangle this gordian knot.

        >BTW – My piece asks the question, hopes that I’m wrong, and asks for clarification.

        Then this is an admission on yer part nothing he said was clearly a denial that Pope Francis is the true Pope.

        >What do you make of the fact that Cardinal Burke has openly and publicly denied the magisterial nature of FIVE official teaching documents of the pope? Is that something that should be ignored? It doesn’t signify anything important?

        This is called begging the question. Giving his opinions on the nature of a papal document or level of authority is not the same as a denial of those document’s actual authority. Also I turn that right back at you. What specific doctrine is taught by Pope Francis or clarification of doctrine given by him that Cardinal Burke denies?’


        >Francis, upon promulgating the BA guidelines and his accompanying letter (which was designated an apostolic letter), explicitly ordered that it be published as “Authentic Magisterium” and Burke denies that they are. And he told Patrick Coffin that they are heretical.

        I see no reason to re-invent the wheel here when Dr. Jeff Miras has already done the heavy lifting.

        You also may want to check his earlier essay on the matter.

        Quote”The Acta Apostolicae Sedis is the official publication of the governing acts of the Holy See, but it is not a guide to Magisterial teaching. It is simply the current canonical means, established in 1908 by Pope St. Pius X, of determining whether something is an official act of governance or merely an unofficial statement that has not been implemented, or just a proposal, a draft, an idea, a piece of advice, or even a rumor.”

        Ah well then.

        >What am I missing? How is this a wacko conspiracy theory? What would you say about these statements by Cardinal Burke that would be “sober and fair”?

        That they are above board unlike those idiots who produced the document explicitly accusing the Pope of Heresy. Mirus and PPl critics like Feser and others called it a bridge too didn’t make the case anymore than you did with Burke. If it is a comfort for you theirs was worst. They have PhD’s in theology they have no excuse & not one expert in Canon Law among them.

        >Also, is Mark Levin still saying “shut up you big dope!” to people on his show? He’s your example of “sober and fair criticism”?

        In case I wasn’t clear I was talking about Levin’s criticisms of POTUS. Donald Trump. He criticizes Trump on Trade and a few other points. He doesn’t hold back but he is fair and gives Trump credit where Credit is due. Maddow OTOH is one long conspiracy theory. That Mark is rude to callers is immaterial. Note Ben Shapiro is way more polite to those who disagree with him.

        Anyway yer criticism of Burke are more Madcow or if you prefer Taylor Marshall and less Feser or Levin or Mirus etc….

        Straight up and fly right buddy.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        “Not one quote has quote has Cardinal Burke literally saying what you claim he means.”

        I gave you links to transcripts. I am talking about the five examples where he denied the magisterial nature of the five documents.

        I made my own transcript of the death penalty comments where none existed. For the Evangelii Gaudium quote, I linked to the PrayTell blog’s transcript of the program. On Amoris Laetitia, I didn’t just rely on (and link to) a transcript (his interview with CWR) – I relied (and linked to) an essay written by Burke himself in the NC Register. Regarding Episcopalis Communio, I linked to the transcript in the interview in the Wanderer. On the Buenos Aires guidelines, admittedly, I put up a link to the audio (queued up to the exact spot I was referencing) but then I linked to the transcript of the Remnant interview where he said the exact same thing.

        You are a liar. I can’t remember the last time I have called someone that. I put HOURS into meticulously transcribing and making sure EVERYTHING was linked to transcripts or original sources.

        This is honestly the first time I have been personally offended by a comment on this website.

        You may not comment on this blog again until you apologize and correct your lie.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Jim The Scott,

        Your response (not published), doubled down on your lies. As I said, this was the first time I have EVER been personally offended by a comment on this site because you accuse me of a falsehood and of not providing sources. If you think being angry that someone is posting lies about them and their professionalism is “thin skinned,” then find somewhere else to post your nonsense.

        I am giving you one more chance. The only excuse that I can imagine, in charity, is that perhaps you are colorblind. The links are embedded in the blue text on the piece. I did not use footnotes because I used the links as reference. This is a standard, accepted practice on the internet. This is not your 7th grade history project using MLA footnotes.

        The original sources are all documented and referenced.

        Let me give you a very clear example:
        Navigate to the post by clicking here:

        1. Navigate to the following text (you can use ctrl-F, if you like):
        “Cardinal Burke has rejected the official teaching of Pope Francis in the new Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio”

        The first four words, “Cardinal Burke has rejected” are highlighted in blue. If you click on them, they provide a DIRECT link to the full interview transcript in the Wanderer, which I quote, VERBATIM, below. You can read the full context for yourself.

        2. Navigate down to the next item on the list: “In late 2013, Cardinal Burke openly denied the magisterial status of Francis’s first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. He said in an interview”

        The words “Cardinal Burke openly denied” are highlighted in blue. They link directly to a piece about his statement at the PrayTell blog. Then the words “He said in an interview” are also highlighted in blue. They link to a time-stamped transcript of the interview on the PrayTell website. Admittedly, I did not provide a link to the actual video (of course you said you don’t want a video), but I will update the piece and link to it. Here is the url, for your convenience:

        That’s a start. I am not going to teach you how to use the internet. Please stay away from this blog until you apologize and retract your statement. ALl off your future comments will be deleted until that time.

      • Bejoy says:

        Cardinal Burke in my opinion is in the position of archbp Marcelle Lefebvre during St. JP2’s papacy. He is slowly being led by Rad Trad Catholics who are anti Pope Francis to declare Schism… it’s pretty evident when they call on Catholics to stop funding their parishes and dioceses and “only” support TLM parishes. Their agenda is to shut down Pauline Mass parishes.

      • jong says:

        Do you have a link that Cardinal Burke supports Ab.Lefevbre back then? The way I see it discerning Bella Dodds admission that their group had already gain 4 bishops in the 1950’s not to mention numerous priest who will eventually rise to episcopate plus host of thousands of seminarians being recruited to form a significant numbers to infiltrate the Church from within. I think the “wolves in sheep clothing” that was written in scriptures will come out from Bella Dodd recruits starting in the 1920’s. That’s why I think the schismatic priest, Bishops and Cardinals plus numerous bible scholars and theologians belong to this hidden force and now being expose by Pope Francis.
        Pope Benedict just named Council of Media back then operating in the 1960’s to paint an evil picture of Vatican II and mentioned the “wolves” in 2005 but did not identify them . Pope Francis had already removed a lot of priest, bishops and cardinals plus bible scholars and theologians and this removed personalities now are the noisy church critics & enemies undermining the papacy of Pope Francis.
        I believe the Oct.4, 2019 Round Table Discussion are aim to further unite the Clan of Trads to join forces in launching a series of future “revolt” to forcibly oust Pope Francis.
        If you can provide a link that Cardinal Burke is associated with Ab.Lefebvre then it will bring light to why he is now the main force in the Media expressing open resistance to Pope Francis papacy.

  11. Michael Eberl says:

    Mike Lewis, Nice to see you removed my comments since they provide a different view. Nice way to have dialog with others. The truth will eventually reveal itself.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      You’ve already said plenty. This website isn’t a forum to attack the pope. You obviously dislike him very strongly. We’ve already let 4 of your comments through in the last couple days. We get it. We allow a large number of critical comments through, but we’re not going to allow you to dominate the comments section.

      • L Daily says:

        I also thank God for wise moderators.

      • Michael Eberl says:

        Fair enough. I was simply looking for you to address some of my concerns, which you failed to do. I see a lot of negative comments about traditional minded Catholics and was trying to provide a reason why many are validly concerned.

    • BJoy says:

      Jong, I did not say that Burke supports Abp. Lefebvre, but is in a similar position as Lefebvre. As for him personally liking Lefebvre, it’s possible as many Rad Trads Love Lefebvre and want to see him canonized. I put Crdl Burke in the camp of the Rad Trads.

  12. jong says:

    Jim the Scott
    One simple question to your chaotic rhetoric.
    Is Cardinal Burke infected by the spirit of Antichrist?
    Let’s check what is an Antichrist is according to scriptures?
    1.) “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (1John2:22)
    Did Cardinal Burke denies that Jesus is the “CHRIST”? What is the meaning of the word “Christ” it means “Redeemer or Saviour”.
    Did Cardinal Burke denies the Father and the Son? YES!, the Will of the Father in sending Jesus Christ is to “redeem & save ALL mankind” and they are denying the lost and wounded souls by opposing the Salvific Mission of the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit to all souls. (John3:17 and 1Timothy2:4)
    2,) “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, refusing to confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2John1:7)
    Did Cardinal Burke denies Jesus Christ “in the flesh”? YES!, how? Jesus is Divine Mercy “made flesh” and whoever denies the Mercy of God to sinners even to great sinners denies the Divine Mercy of God in those souls who are definitely most in need of the Mercy of God. As Jesus revealed to St.Faustina, “the greater the sinners the greater it has the right to His Divine Mercy”. No one is beyond redemption.

    So, I asked you again, is Cardinal Burke infected by the “spirit of Antichrist” by denying the Mercy of God in couples in irregular union?

    Is Cardinal Burke denying the Mercy of God to a convicted criminals sentenced to death penalty by saying the State had the right to “execute the death sentence” and denying the hope that the Mercy of God can still redeem the convicted criminals by giving him time to seek the Mercy of God and do penance for the grievious sins he committed?

    Is Cardinal Burke denying the Mercy of God to LGBTQ and now to indegenous people of Amazon who needed the Pastoral care of the Church by allowing them to participate in the life of the Church to help them know the Truth and experience the Mercy of God?

    Cardinal Burke et,al is closing the Door of Mercy undermining the inspired mission of the Church in the New Evangelization in the Third Millenium. Who inspired the mission of the Vatican II? Pope Benedict XVI said “the LIGHT of the Holy Spirit guided the Vatican II” in his addressed to the Clergy in Feb.2013 narrating his experienced and testifying to the TRUTH that Vatican II is the work of the Holy Spirit.
    Read this official Vatican document for you to know the TRUTH!;

    Cardinal Burke et,al are already in schism (Canon751), committing apostasy by opposing the heart of the gospel which is Divine Mercy(Misericordiae Vultus paragraph#12), and their followers are embracing the “spirit of Antichrist” or hatred & opposing the Mercy of God. Their schismatics group perfectly fit the description of Ab.Fulton Sheen on “the mystical body of the Antichrist” preaching the “anti-gospel” based on St.JP2 warnings. In short they are the perfect description of the “counterfeit church” who resembles catholic faith but with No Pope and Living Church Magisterium…oh wait, they will politically appoint their own pope which will become the Antipope and since they are infected by the spirit of Antichrist it will be the prophesied ANTICHRIST.

    Cardinal Burke et,al are completing the three recipe in CCC675 schism,apostasy and now they are conducting a test-run of their “revolt” that will develop as a “grand revolt” when they already grown the numbers of the supporters called “Crusaders”. Schism, apostasy and revolt and the “Antichrist” will not appear on their group, who is the “Antichrist” in the midst of their that is still hiding and just waiting for the “grand revolt” to happen?
    I will give you a clue, Pope Francis incedentally gave a homily on the Great Accuser Unchain, and this Bishop who was proven a LIAR in his numerous accusations cried-out immediately as if he was the one being identified by Pope Francis.
    The group of Antichrist according to St.John belong to the Church but they separated themselves in a form of schism, how true?
    Let’s read the scriptures;
    Warnings Against Denying the Son
    18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1John2:18-19)

  13. Anthony Fisher says:

    To give another way of looking at Pope Francis criticisms of certain clergy, I have also had the experience of reading Francis’s words, and feeling personally attacked/like he was talking about me. Two big ones stick out in my mind.

    In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis writes about two different new “reincarnations” of ancient heresies: Contemporary Gnosticism and Neo-Pelagianism. People often make a big deal about the Neo-Pelagianism, but when I read the stuff on Contemporary Gnosticism, it cut like a knife:

    “Thanks be to God, throughout the history of the Church it has always been clear that a person’s perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity. “Gnostics” do not understand this, because they judge others based on their ability to understand the complexity of certain doctrines…Gnostics think that their explanations can make the entirety of the faith and the Gospel perfectly comprehensible. They absolutize their own theories and force others to submit to their way of thinking. A healthy and humble use of reason in order to reflect on the theological and moral teaching of the Gospel is one thing. It is another to reduce Jesus’ teaching to a cold and harsh logic that seeks to dominate everything…
    “When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence…
    “A dangerous confusion can arise. We can think that because we know something, or are able to explain it in certain terms, we are already saints, perfect and better than the “ignorant masses”. Saint John Paul II warned of the temptation on the part of those in the Church who are more highly educated “to feel somehow superior to other members of the faithful”. In point of fact, what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love. Indeed, “you learn so as to live: theology and holiness are inseparable.”
    “When Saint Francis of Assisi saw that some of his disciples were engaged in teaching, he wanted to avoid the temptation to gnosticism. He wrote to Saint Anthony of Padua: “I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, provided that… you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion during study of this kind”. Francis recognized the temptation to turn the Christian experience into a set of intellectual exercises that distance us from the freshness of the Gospel. Saint Bonaventure, on the other hand, pointed out that true Christian wisdom can never be separated from mercy towards our neighbour: “The greatest possible wisdom is to share fruitfully what we have to give… Even as mercy is the companion of wisdom, avarice is its enemy”. “There are activities that, united to contemplation, do not prevent the latter, but rather facilitate it, such as works of mercy and devotion”. (GEE, 37,39,41,45-46)

    I love to read. I love to know theology, and languages, and philosophy. I read people like Sts. Teresa de Avila, Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian, and Bl. Franz Jägerstätter for fun, on my free time. I am known in the young adult community in my hometown as the “theological genius;” people think of theological questions, and they think to ask me about it later. And I can easily let it get to my head–that meme of Ron Swanson in Home Depot, going to a priest or a coworker, and just thinking “I know more than you.” Or thinking of people from my Protestant roots, “How can you be that dense? The truth is there, clear as day!” Or even thinking about Catholics turning against the Pope–“Catholic theology is just so damn clear, what are you not getting about this?” It is so easy for me to turn my actual gift for knowledge into a club to whomp people over the head with, to let it be the thing that defines me as a saint (I am holier than XYZ person, because I actually listen to the bishops).

    So when I read those words from Francis–I knew he was directly talking about me. And so, I had/have a choice. Get angry or get repentant. Say I know better than him, or learn that “theology and holiness are inseparable,” that I have to let this stuff change me, or it is all for naught.

    Or the other very clear moment of the Pope “talking to me” as a youth minister, in Christus Vivit, he is writing about catechetics/youth groups: “As for growth [with youth who have already encountered Christ], I would make one important point. In some places, it happens that young people are helped to have a powerful experience of God, an encounter with Jesus that touched their hearts. But the only follow-up to this is a series of “formation” meetings featuring talks about doctrinal and moral issues, the evils of today’s world, the Church, her social doctrine, chastity, marriage, birth control and so on. As a result, many young people get bored, they lose the fire of their encounter with Christ and the joy of following him; many give up and others become downcast or negative. Rather than being too concerned with communicating a great deal of doctrine, let us first try to awaken and consolidate the great experiences that sustain the Christian life. In the words of Romano Guardini, “when we experience a great love… everything else becomes part of it”. (CV212)

    He got me down 100%. Last year, I had meetings about CST, about Marriage, about other parts of doctrine. This isn’t a bad thing in itself (people should know that there’s more to the Social Teaching than “Vote for the less abortion supporting party” or that they should know that marriage is a real vocation to be discerned), but the way I was presenting it, the way I only very ever briefly referenced the Kerygma, the way I had essentially forgotten to help them experience the great love of God/turning it into a lecture–that section of CV is written to me.

    I could have gotten mad. I could have said, “Who else is going to teach them this stuff?” Or, like I am trying to do this year, I could try to listen, try to be open to what he is saying, and try to apply it humbly.

    If something is making you uncomfortable in a Pope’s Writing/if something is resonating and “It sounds like he’s talking about me,” try to do that: listen humbly, try to change so the criticism doesn’t fit.

    -my convoluted $0.02

    • Jessica says:

      If I can ask, in practical terms, how do you do this?

      “let us first try to awaken and consolidate the great experiences that sustain the Christian life. In the words of Romano Guardini, “when we experience a great love… everything else becomes part of it”. (CV212)”

      • Maria says:

        Perhaps, talk about the love of God, the beauty of the world, the saints and mystics, people who are doing amazing things for God in the world, be there for them, listen carefully to what they are saying, pray together… all of these seems like good ways, to me, to encourage a person in their faith.

      • Anthony F. says:

        Hey Jessica,
        To start, I have taken up as the theme for youth group/religious ed for this year this Gospel summary from Francis: “Jesus Christ loves [me]; he gave his life to save [me]; and now he is living at [my] side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free [me].” (Evangelii Gaudium, 164) Everytime we meet, at some point we say that together and connect the theme of the day somehow with it.

        Secondly, I am actively trying to give more opportunities for “encounter” (to use the buzz word)–giving opportunities for us to go upstairs and visit Christ in the Eucharist, trying to change the prayer habits we have (less going around the circle pressuring the next person in the circle to go, more “popcorn” style prayer.)

        Then trying my best not to “over do it” with too much info/sections from Church documents–encouraging more personal sharing/discussion (encouraging them to try applying what we learn to their own relationship with Christ)

        And then, remembering more clearly my own role–yes, it is important for them to know doctrine (it is important that I keep doing what I am doing), but if they don’t meet Christ when I could have done something and I didn’t? Remembering to pray for my students (and for myself), that God may reach us in someway.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you! I’ll remember this 🙂

  14. hogtowner says:

    Looks as though the sea lions have arrived at this blog. (A semi-obscure meme, but it’s apt!

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