On Monday I wrote a short piece on Pope Francis’s trip to Loreto, where he visited the Holy House that is believed to have been Mary’s home when she was visited by the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. My piece focused on his address (in which he defended the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family), and the fact that he officially signed his new apostolic exhortation on young people, entitled Christus vivit (“Christ lives” in English). I speculated on what we might expect from the exhortation and why Francis wrote it, as well as potential controversies that might erupt after its release.

Other details of the trip that I didn’t know about at the time but were also notable include the fact that he celebrated Mass ad orientum (facing East) and that he spent approximately a half an hour among the sick and elderly, as well as greeting pilgrims and blessing them.

When I wrote the piece, I was blissfully unaware of the “controversy” that the pope’s detractors would fixate upon. A video, which ran for less than a minute and a half, showed the pope repeatedly pulling his right hand away from a number of pilgrims who attempted to kiss his ring.

Immediately, this video galvanized the Holy Father’s detractors. LifeSite News has issued multiple stories on the “disturbing” video. A popular traditionalist podcaster uploaded a “special” 15-minute podcast devoted to this “scandal.” Many prominent conservative Catholic commentators and journalists weighed in with negative responses, with their contempt for Pope Francis on full display. I won’t link to them here, but if you spend any amount of time on these blogs and websites, you’ve seen the attacks.

Never mind that Pope Francis’s spokesman explained that Francis pulled his hand back for reasons of hygiene (If you watch the full video, the greetings in the short, viral video took place minutes before he went to greet a group of sick, elderly, and disabled). Never mind that it is well-known that he and his two most recent predecessors have all discouraged people from kissing their papal rings. Never mind that many people kissed his ring in Loreto, as can be seen from the full video, outside of the one-minute period caught on video. It’s not important. Even if his reason had been simply that he was in a bad mood and didn’t want people kissing his hand that day, it’s still not important.

The problem is, the pope’s detractors used this incident to attack and undermine him. They used their media platforms, which appear to be gaining influence, to reinforce the idea that Francis is a terrible pope, a heretic, and should be resisted by “faithful Catholics.” They understand the power of imagery, and they capitalized on an image that can be seen as portraying Francis in a negative light.

Pedro Gabriel stole some of my thunder on Tuesday by describing these people as engaging in “papolatry.” (I came to the same conclusion on Monday and expressed this on Twitter). Pedro wrote about how instead of following Church teaching and accepting the actual pope, they’ve created some kind of abstract papal ideal, where instead of Pope Francis or Pope Benedict, they follow “Pope Office.” Their thinking goes, “I’m not following the man seated in Peter’s Chair, I’m following the Office of the papacy.” He goes on to write:

“It’s no wonder they want to keep the tradition of kissing Pope Office’s ring. And it’s no wonder they hate Pope Francis for not allowing them to do that. It is very convenient to place Pope Office on an untouchable pedestal, where those real life human popes can never reach and pervert. But isn’t this turning the papacy itself into an idol? Isn’t this the kind of papolatry those critics are always decrying? No, it is worse. This papolatry does not idolize the Pope, but rather an idea of the Pope built in their own image and likeness. They are not engaging in papolatry, but in egopapolatry, an even worst kind of idolatry. They are idolizing a Vicar of Christ on their own terms and calling him “office,“ so that he can never pull his ring away from them.”

This sort of thing is getting more and more brazen. It seems that this attitude of contempt for the pope has become cemented into the minds of many influential media personalities, and they have used their influence to plant seeds in the minds of everyday Catholics. It is truly pernicious.

In 2017, in his “Open Letter to the Four Dubia Cardinals,” my friend Stephen Walford wrote of these bloggers and journalists:

“The abuse from many, including those who run websites and Traditionalist blogs aimed at the Holy Father and those who are loyal to him, is nothing short of satanic.”

At the time, I challenged him on his use of the word “satanic.” I thought something a little less preternatural, such as “malicious” or “destructive” would be more appropriate or constructive. He didn’t back down, and insisted that he meant every word. It’s difficult to argue with him now. I’ve seen the evil of this work firsthand, and witnessed its infiltration of our Catholic culture.

We can’t ignore it anymore. Spending too much time in the weeds with these enemies of the Faith is stressful, but the destruction they are doing to the Church must be addressed. We must defend the pope and the Magisterium.

 

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris dorf says:

    Thank you Mike you are spot on with observing the damage that these people are doing to the faith of Christians. They are scandalizing Christians and causing many to lose faith because of their vendetta whatever that is against the Pope Francis.

  2. Avatar Jane says:

    Yes absolutely! And I agree wholeheartedly that this is all very satanic. I realized back in 2013 that the Evil One makes a mockery of the person Almighty God has chosen to be Pope, while they are in office. He seeks to discredit them while they are in office to make folks say, ” I like Pope so-and-so, I’m going to listen to him and not the current Pope.” I realized that when I saw a bumper-sticker on a truck sometime in 2014 that said, “Re-elect Benedict.” I remember thinking, “Huh, how funny! But they didn’t like him WHEN he was Pope!”

    What can we do? I was just thinking about that this morning in church before Mass. Then I came up with the idea that we who love and desire to obey the Vicar of Christ on earth, should quote him as much as possible: in our Christmas cards, as our email signature, to our email groups whenever he says something that people are purposefully not quoting, to lead a study group for one of his documents. . .

    Then I also thought that we should try to organize one or two “WherePeterIs” conventions per year. At those conventions, we could invite speakers to talk on the documents, and have a room that sells Pope Francis’ works. The entire convention could/would be very holy, very peaceful, with daily Mass, Adoration, and places for the children to go and run around while the speakers gave talks. I was thinking the speakers could be the authors from this blog?

    I was heartbroken when I called up the local homeschooling convention to ask if I could have a table or part of a table to sell Pope Francis documents and other of his writings to the families, and they said “no.” I said, “It is a tragedy to have no room in a Catholic homeschooling convention to sell the writings to families of the Vicar of Christ on earth.”
    And then I noticed in a Catholic book-publishing catalog, any book by or about Pope Francis is being sold for a steep discount while the dissenting books are being put on the front page of the catalog and being sold for full-price.
    YES I agree, something MUST be done before this goes too far. Well, before it goes even further! !

    God Bless you

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      Hi Jane, thank you for the kind words. I doubt that we have the resources or connections to put together a conference at this point, but we are thinking about starting a podcast! That might be the next thing for you to pray for.

      • Avatar Janecc says:

        Yes, definitely, I will pray very much for great success for a podcast. God bless you and THANK YOU to you and all the writers here at Where Peter Is. What a consolation for my soul, and I’m sure many others’, and a strong boost of confidence for me, to have this oasis of peace, obedience and humility.

      • Avatar Jane says:

        I’m sorry, can you please fix my name to be ‘Jane’ rather than ‘Janecc’ Thank you 🙂

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Jane- Some great ideas. What an absolute tragedy this is, but in reality it is all about ego, nothing more. Some people love being part of a ‘special’ group, believing they are holier than others, and while they may say they want us all on board, it appears to me they love their ‘special status’. Nothing else explains this madness. Their contempt for their fellow man, and their ‘seek and destroy’ mission is anything but holy.
      Mike- another great article.

    • Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

      @Jane
      I actually really like your idea of a “WherePeterIs” convention. Maybe we can have one in the Philippines?

    • Avatar carn says:

      “And then I noticed in a Catholic book-publishing catalog, any book by or about Pope Francis is being sold for a steep discount while the dissenting books are being put on the front page of the catalog and being sold for full-price.”

      You are correct to note that this is indication of serious problems.

      I am just surprised at your suggested solution:
      “Then I came up with the idea that we who love and desire to obey the Vicar of Christ on earth, should quote him as much as possible: in our Christmas cards, as our email signature, to our email groups whenever he says something that people are purposefully not quoting, to lead a study group for one of his documents. . .”

      You noticed that his words and positive words about him, do not sell well; that means that for some reason people are not interested in hearing/reading them.

      And you try to counter that, by repeating his words.

      That is bound to fail, if the problem is with the content of his words and/or with an incompatibility of the listeners with the content of his words; then by constantly repeating him, you might make the problem even worse.

      So you would have to understand first, why his books or those positive about him tank in the first place.

      For me personally:
      One of the things that definitely increased my dislike for Pope Francis was reading his homilies; i hope i can refrain from reading his new Apostolic Exhortation; i expect it will do little good in that regard.

      So at least with me, your approach would likely fail.

      • Avatar Jane says:

        Is Pope Francis leading us astray or are we becoming more and more proud, arrogant and disobedient?

  3. Avatar Peter Aiello says:

    I think that the pope should imitate Peter’s reaction when Cornelius knelt before him to greet him. Peter said: “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (Act 10:26).

    • Avatar chris dorf says:

      That Pope Francis does that is what tics off the triumphalist Catholics so much… that they say that he ‘fakes’ humility! ‘Fake news’ – “Fake humility’…seems like theses folks are drinking from the same well.

  4. Avatar Bridget says:

    Very much agree with your comments. Also lovely to note how simple the Mass was in the small House of Loreto, rather like the Santa Marta Masses- no pomp and ceremony, very moving.

  5. Avatar Ralph says:

    I thought the anger over the ring kissing incident was silly. It made me think about the time Pope John Paul II kissed the Koran as a sign of respect and friendship toward Muslims. I don’t recall much anger at Pope John Paul II over the Koran incident outside of traditionalist and sedevacantist circles. Maybe I am wrong but that is how I recall it.

    The reason I brought up the Koran incident is that it seems like even mainstream Catholics are jumping on the anti-Francis bandwagon which strikes me as a big departure from the attacks other post-Vatican II popes received. It used to be that such attacks were mostly relegated to traditionalist and sedevacantist circles or at least that is what it seemed like to me.

    My guess is that this change is due to the influence of social media. I have noticed that anti-Francis opinions are more common on the internet compared to the offline, “meatspace” world but I have also started to notice anti-Francis opinions starting to seep into the offline world too. In recent months I have had a number of arguments with family members on the subject of Pope Francis.

    • Avatar chris dorf says:

      I tend to agree with your observations…I recall the furor over the Koran incident and JPII creating the world day of prayer in Assisi…

  6. Avatar Pete Vickery says:

    Really interesting. I think you and Stephen Walford are right Mike in concurring that this is satanic. It appears to root itself in pride which is the sin which I believe brought Lucifer down along with his followers. The same kind of pride which apparently blinded Christ’s religious detractors two thousand years ago. Great insight by you and Pedro wrt “Pope Office” as well. Too bad Pope Francis has to deal with all this.

  7. Avatar carn says:

    “At the time, I challenged him on his use of the word “satanic.” I thought something a little less preternatural, such as “malicious” or “destructive” would be more appropriate or constructive.”

    You managed to criticize one of the few sentences in the letter which probably is factually correct and missed all the rest?

    Interesting.

    But the important thing to be aware of:

    Satan will always attempt to play both sides of any conflict.

    “Spending too much time in the weeds with these enemies of the Faith is stressful, but the destruction they are doing to the Church must be addressed.”

    What can go wrong with declaring an undefined group, whose members are identified on the fly by knowing without doubt what they are “thinking”, to be enemies of the Faith?

    Note on why the sentence is and was probably factually correct: In the context, it is rather undefined about whom Walford is talking; it only have to be “many”, so a few hundred persons are sufficient, some of them have to run what might be classified as traditionalists blogs and websites; they have to self identify as Catholics from the context of the previous sentences; and they must aim at Pope Francis and that in a satanic way; when Walford wrote that, such people existed, as there were enough small blogs and websites which acted in a rather unchristian way to meet the criteria of “many”.

    That is the nice thing about statements with lax definitions, they are seldom not true.

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