A piece I wrote was published today in America. It was very difficult to write, but as Sam Rocha mentioned in our most recent podcast, it’s important that we share our stories.

I’m telling my story because I know I am not alone, and I want to give a voice to those of us whose families, friendships, and communities have been damaged by the backlash from within the Church against Pope Francis. Many of our Catholic leaders are unaware of the reality of this situation in the parishes or in the pews. This is not merely a fringe phenomenon, nor does it only exist on the internet.

Many Catholics across the country hear prelates like Archbishop Vigano or Cardinal Burke praised from the pulpit. Viganò’s open letters are shared and discussed in bible study groups and posted on parish websites. Well-known Catholic apologists who openly encourage opposition to Pope Francis and the bishops have wildly popular multimedia platforms.

It has been happening under our noses, and very few bishops or other prominent Catholic leaders realize the severity of the problem. Nor do some of his less-extreme critics:

Francis’ less reactionary critics have done little to stem the rise of their much more vicious counterparts. Nor has this story received significant public attention from U.S. bishops or Catholics who support the pope. Quite often, they will actively discourage others from speaking out publicly against these reactionary leaders, arguing that to do so would give them the attention they crave. But as we have witnessed in the United States and international politics, the “establishment” can no longer afford to ignore these powerful populist movements.

Whatever motivates those who have been leading this assault on Francis’ reputation—money, politics, ideology or, in the best case, deeply held convictions—the whole thing has become a grand distraction from Christ’s mandate to spread the Gospel to all creatures and to build the kingdom of God here on Earth. The focus has drifted very far from what Jesus implored us to do. And things are not improving.

•••

My mother, who never read anything Pope Francis actually wrote, became convinced he was a heretic by her friends at church, members of her Catholic book club and through watching “The World Over Live,” a weekly talk show on EWTN hosted by Raymond Arroyo, which often features outspoken papal critics.

Read it all at the America website.

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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.

The real harm caused by papal critics
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