Pope Francis: Reform in the Footsteps of St. Pius V

Unknowingly, my family had a sneak preview of the results of the recent Conclave. During the week prior, my one year old son, Austin, kept going up to our bookshelf and pulling off a particular book, no matter where it was shelved. My wife, Anne, beginning to wonder why this was happening, decided to look more carefully at the book. It was Robin Anderson’s short biography of Pope St. Pius V. Inspired to read it, she was even more inspired by Pius, the great Dominican Pope who led a reform that successfully implemented the Council of Trent. His reform began in Rome by his own humility, simplicity, and holiness.

Anne began praying for a Pope that would follow in the footsteps of Pius V, who would help us in our pivotal time, primarily through heroic personal witness. When Pope Francis stepped out on the balcony, the commentator immediately remarked that wearing a simple white cassock was reminiscent of Pius V (and John Paul I as well, of course). Anne turned and looked at me at that moment and we knew that Austin had been on to something. Francis announced, during his brief remarks on the balcony, that he would entrust the city of Rome to Our Lady the next day. He went to Santa Maria Maggiore to venerate one of the most cherished icons in Rome, Salus Populi Romani. After this moving veneration he then went to venerate the tomb of one of his predecessors in the Papacy, none other than Pius V. Then I knew that Austin had really been on to something.

Since the beginning of Francis’s Pontificate, I have thought more and more of his connection with Pius. We are in many ways still in need of a full implementation of Vatican II. Walter Cardinal Kasper pointed this out in the April 11th edition of L’Osservatore Romano, stating that Pope Francis was beginning a new phase of the implementation of Vatican II. Francis himself confirmed this during a homily on April 16th. After 50 years, he asked, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council?” He answered “no.” The beginning of his reform can already be seen in his appointment of eight Cardinals to make recommendations for the reform of the Curia. Thus, Francis’s Pontificate is poised at a similar juncture as was seen under Pius after the Council of Trent. The Church of the sixteenth century was racked not only by heresy, but also great corruption within the Church itself.

St Pius V by El Greco 1605Pius certainly left many tangible legacies from his implementation of Trent, especially a new Breviary, Catechism, and Missal. Nonetheless, his reform movement really began with himself, eschewing the pomp of the Papacy, such as the sedia gestatoria (the chair on which the Pope was carried), and pushing apostolic simplicity and penance to the dismay of the Curia. His reform was a moral and spiritual reform that shook Rome, not just the Curia, but also the city itself. This moral reform ordered toward Rome can already be seen in Francis, who speaks of himself regularly as the Bishop of Rome and is showing much pastoral solicitude for his Roman flock, speaking of the need to evangelize the city. Francis has also received much attention, especially from the secular world, for his break with Papal protocol and his demand for simplicity, epitomized by his refusal to move into the Papal apartments. Pius himself fought to keep silk linens out of the papal apartments.

Both Popes, at the beginning of their Pontificates, demonstrated a more collegial approach with their collaborators. Pius’s first address to the Cardinals after his election made clear that he considered them brothers and that they could approach him individually rather than in public audiences, as was the custom. Francis greeted the Cardinals the day after his election standing to show the same brotherhood. Pius also vigorously opposed abuse and corruption of ecclesial power, especially for political purposes, initiating Curial reforms and choosing his collaborators with great scrutiny. Francis has already spoken out against careerism in the Church and refused to reconfirm immediately the heads of Curial departments, keeping them on, rather, in a provisional state.

Pius’s spirituality was rooted in his Dominican background (hence the Papal white which he initiated, keeping his own religious habit). The Church has not had a Pope from a religious order in over a hundred and fifty years and never a Jesuit one. A Jesuit Pope itself harkens back to the time of Pius, as the Jesuits were at the center of the Counter-Reformation. Francis, in taking his name from St. Francis of Assisi, also wants to be seen as continuing the legacy of the mendicant reform, of which Pius himself received. Both Pius and Francis approached the Papacy with a strong spirituality rooted in their faithful observance of religious life.

Finally, we see in both Popes a great care for the poor. As already mentioned, they have both embodied this pastoral care first in their own practice of poverty and simplicity. Moreover, they both saw the need for an evangelical poverty, a spiritual focus ordered toward the mission of the Church, which can be seen in the Church’s own embrace of poverty in service of the poor. Pius did so by abolishing papal banquets and giving the money instead to the poor. Francis’s hallmark moment with the poor, thus far, can be seen in his choice to wash the feet of juvenile prisoners, who embody Christ in all of the poor, even the non-Christian.

Pope Francis has received an especially warm welcome from the secular world. Some Catholics, however, look at his papacy with trepidation, fearing a break with tradition. I would argue, however, that looking back to Pius V gives us the perfect image of how to view Francis’s papacy. Like Pius, he is a Pope that seems to embody reform first in himself. His reflection on why Vatican II has not been fully implemented centers on the need for holiness: “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” Rather, we need to “Submit to the Holy Spirit, “which comes from within us and makes us go forward along the path of holiness.” Francis’s own response to the Holy Spirit, found in his simplicity and poverty, cannot be confined to the normal operations of papal protocol. This breaking of the mold may be just the way that the Holy Spirit will lead us to another watershed moment of reform in the life of the Church. Francis is willing to be bold in following Christ. He leads in his own life first and already we are beginning to see how this boldness is flowing out into the rest of the Church.

Editor’s note: The image above of St. Pius V was painted by El Greco in 1605.

R. Jared Staudt


R. Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He earned his BA and MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and his PhD in Systematic Theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Staudt served previously as a director of religious education in two parishes, taught at the Augustine Institute and the University of Mary, and served as co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

  • edwardswyco

    I agree that, despite the secular media insisting that Francis is a “flock-feeder” and will keep the status quo, Francis is indeed a reform-minded pope. I think the trepidation from some involves concern over the liturgy, which of course Pius V reformed and protected from the various deviations that were starting to creep in at the time. Both the SSPX and the Orthodox view the care and celebration of the liturgy as a high priority – may Pius V pray for Francis so that this much-needed reform begins, but not at the expense of the hermeneutic of continuity that Benedixt XVI reminded us to observe. Jesus, I trust in you!

    • exactly.

    • A. Hicks

      “Both the SSPX and the Orthodox view the care and celebration of the liturgy as a high priority”? Shouldn’t all Catholics?

  • Clement XIV

    Have you people all lost your minds? Or have you been replaced by pod people look alikes who grew under your beds? Am I living in some bizzaro counter universe where up is suddenly down and down is up?

    Francis is a LIBERAL. The Novus Ordo and the Traditional Mass are not simply matters of “liturgical taste.” READ FRANCIS THROUGH KASPER – the man who made him pope.

    Pius V? Good grief.

    • Joe

      Have to agree with Clement supra. Apparently 50 years in the devastated vineyard has not allowed the scales to drop from our eyes nor for us to put aside false concepts of “holy obedience.” At Mass of Christian burial last Saturday, my pastor, supporter of gay marriage, women priests, etc, effeminate in bearing, now says a mass more traditional than the Pope. He genuflects at the consecration (twice- such needless repetition) and also intoned the Per Ipsum (even though he is tone deaf). If reports are true, and they seem to be, we know that the Bishop of Rome (as he insists) is an implicit heretic personally- for example, he proposed that the Church support civil unions for homosexuals (or at least signal acquiescence and was opposed to Anglican Coetibus since “the Church needs Anglicans.” This bodes ill for this papacy- even if the Holy Father never approaches formal heresy. I think it is good to be informed about this and not to be a Pollyanna.

      • Joe, if you knowingly choose to continue to frequent and support a pastor who has lost the plot on human sexuality and the male priesthood, then you have an altogether bigger problem of judgment going on.

    • Alphonsus

      The sooner we are honest with ourselves the easier it will be to come to acceptance with what’s been done. The progressivist (neo-modernist) cardinals won this round. In 2005, they put up Martini as the alternative to Ratzinger, and when that failed they switched to Bergoglio. Still Ratzinger won, and the Church dodged a bullet. In 2013, they knew that Bergoglio would be their go-to man for election. Regardless of what Bergoglio said publicly about gay marriage, we know beyond a reasonable doubt that he supported same-sex civil unions, which begs the question: where he stands on sodomy generally? If you accept the ancient axiom Lex orandi, lex credendi–which we all must–then you know that Francis’s liturgical “style” and exclusive embrace of the Missal of Paul VI are not peripheral matters. They are quite central to the question of his orthodoxy. I suppose we can continue to wait and see, but we must be honest in the mean time.

      • What rubbish. Firstly, cardinals do not elect pontiffs, the Holy Spirit does. Second, the way to protect the legal definition of marriage in a hostile secular parliament can indeed be to allow gay couples to register their domestic arrangement as a legal fiction, which many good churchmen in other jurisdictions have achieved. Let us indeed be honest.

        • Alphonsus

          Wow, I thought that we were all clear by now on how popes are elected and what role the Holy Spirit has in it. I guess not everyone is. It’s somewhat heretical to maintain that man’s free will is withdrawn when electing a pope. Francis Young, I guess you buy Cardinal Mahony’s account of how the Holy Spirit moved his pen to write Bergoglio’s name on the ballot. It’s a political process. What part of the pre-conclave speeches and politicking and the conclave voting process do you not understand? Yes, they call on the Holy Spirit (Veni Creator Spiritus), but the Holy Spirit can be ignored, as even Pope Francis stated the other day. As for civil unions: aren’t you aware of the Holy See’s statement (CDF document) saying that even civil unions are not acceptable?

          • The Holy See can state all they want that civil unions are not acceptable but the movement in secular governments is already past that and has moved towards marriage. Part of the reason for that is the realization that civil unions don’t do enough to protect the rights of the same-sex couples. The Church is going to eventually have to confront the reality that same-sex couples do sometimes form romantic relationships and to exclude them from societal benefits causes hardships to those couples. I don’t think it would be contrary to the Church’s message to support secular recognition of same-sex relationships (whether called civil unions or marriage) because in the end getting the Church to recognize those marriages is a fight for another day. [For clarity, I don’t mean to suggest that anyone should use the legal system to force the Church to recognize same-sex marriage but I do hope and pray that it comes eventually.]

  • Better late than Never

    Well lets see if Francis reforms the abject Protestant disaster of the Novus Ordo and the loss of a universal liturgical language that connects all in time… Latin. To reform all the other externals without reforming the Liturgical Revolution will to be to miss the forest for the trees.

    • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

      Absolutely. And this pope will NEVER go back to the Tridentine mass. He is doubling down on VC II and he will take the church to the left even more than it has been (remember, he is a Jesuit, in spite of taking the name of Francis).

  • cestusdei

    Another take on this is that Pope Francis is moving beyond the intra-church disputes. They have been resolved in favor of orthodoxy. I think he believes it is time to put them behind and focus on mission. In other words the liberals lost and let’s now move on.

  • tom

    Francis needs all our prayers, and time to adjust to his new job. Hopefully, he’ll deny the requests of the “Hitler’s Pope” crowd who want to play around in the Vatican Library to find anything to undermine what’s left of our Church. The odious goal is to place the late, and saintly, Pius XII’s head on a stick and then dance around it chanting the lie, “Jew Killer”.

    • fredx2

      The interesting thing is that the secret Vatican files are not secret at all. It is just an odd name the Vatican has given them. Instead, they are like the Presidential papers of our presidents, generally open, but some stuff is kept out of the public because it would violate confidences. For example, if a document is the record of a meeting between the Pope and someone, you have to protect the confidence of that meeting, rather than blast it out all over the internet a couple years later. It is important that those meeting with the Pope know they can speak the whole truth, without having to shade it in case the info is leaked. So the Vatican has a 75 year rule on some things. But it is basically the same thing our presidents do. Except they don’t call it the Presidential secret archives. I was told the Vatican uses the term secret as in secret service. Obviously, the secret service is not secret. It means the Presidents private guard.

      • tom

        Thanks, Fred. Why are they so vitriolic in their demands to prove he secretly goose-stepped? It’s amazing when a smear can go on for decades with no proof of anything. “If you don’t provide the proof that doesn’t exist, you are hiding something, comrade!”

        • Bono95

          They’re vitriolic because their proof doesn’t exist either and they don’t want to give up their agenda, so all they have left is shouting because they think intimidation will make up for lack of fact.

          • tom

            It’s going to get nasty. They insist on a rummage sale of the Vatican archives.

            • Bono95

              I suppose they’ll also insist that any and all money the Church makes out of the sale be immediately given to the poor, too?

  • Marcelus

    Joe Sorry to say you are mistaken on the issue of Crdl Bergoglio promoting gay marriage? I am from Argentina,,live here and believe me, when this issue was came up in Argentina, “he called it : the work of the father of lies” , look it up , and it’s only a so called “civil Union” which brings about the same rights for gay people that heterosexual legaly enjoy before the law. Its a total civil issue, does not come even close to the church. FInally the mayor of Buenos AIres, also collided with Francis on the same issue. Buenos Aires also approved this bill.

    He is a man TOTALLY TOtALLY oriented to the poor and the needy. And Not in speech. He is is also a shepperd who cares for ALL his sheep NO matter where they come from or their orentation. He is though a man who will encourage priests to go out an spread the word of the Lord. A “Street Church” he called t. On Traditonal vs Modern? lithurgy He has never been against any form of Catholicism. Try to find a book called “THe Jesuit” by Sergio RUbin, his official biographer. NOt sure if it has been translated into englsh.. Those are hs toughts on mostlly everything. good luck

    • John Fisher

      In a Catholic country laws MUSt harmonise with the Cathoilic Faith. In a mixed country all the Church asks for is freedom to exercise its mission in freedom. Tolerance of error is a prudential reality.

      • Marcelus

        Indeed, Argentina is mostly Catholic, but the times when church and state went hand in hand in LA are long gone .THe Church in LA is facing another battle: the loss of members to the evangelical churches particularly the one from Brazil

    • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

      “ONLY” called “civil unions”? May the Holy Spirit help us all!!!!

  • Matthew

    Kudos Jared! A revealing comparison that I am sure will be confirmed repeatedly throughout his pontificate.

  • John Hissong

    “Pius’s spirituality was rooted in his Dominican background (hence the Papal white which he initiated, keeping his own religious habit).” This is a common falsehood which I’m sure Dr. Staudt, who teaches at an Institute named for another Dominican famous for his passionate pursuit of truth, would like to put to rest. Despite multiple attestations on the web Pius V did not originate the white papal habit. We have multiple examples of papal portraits generations before Pius V which show popes dressed in an identical manner. Compare El Greco’s portrait of Pius V, pictured above (dated sometime between 1600 and 1610), with Melozzo da Forlì’s famous 1477 portrait of Sixtus IV bestowing the prefecture of the Vatican library on Platina, or Raphael’s portraits of Julius II (1511-12) and Leo X (1518-19). All of these portraits, as well as others by other artists of other popes before Pius V, are readily available on Wikipedia, making this an easy bit of research for even the most amateur of historians.

    We don’t know exactly when or why the popes started wearing white but it was certainly long before PIus V.

  • Blake Helgoth

    Wow, these messages are revealing. There will be no satisfying some people. They will just continue the hermeneutic of complaint. The faith is not merely an intellectual pursuit and the liturgy is not merely about beauty and reverence, although those thing should be employed. No, the faith is much more. It is about radical spiritual conversion that comes from meeting Christ Jesus in the depths of prayer. This is what Pope Francis is proposing and he is leading by example, just as Pius V did.

    • Joaco

      “HERMENEUTIC OF COMPLAINT” – You should get the price for the comment of the year! Loved it!

  • jake

    On the day that Pope Francis was elected, around 1030am to 11am, ( EST in Georgia USA) I prayed feverently that the pope that was to be elected pick the name as Francis…as God asked Francis to reform ihis Church, let this new pope take the name Francis, that Francis needs to be represented in the line of Popes….when I heard the name Papa Francis chose I got “Jesus” Bumps…Boy that Holy Spirit is amazing that he would have me pray for the name of Francis..Papa Francis will be a great reformer and evangelizer of the Church. The Charisms of the Holy Spirit will burn with great fervor to be used by all to bring those to Christ

    • Bono95


  • Alecto

    I think so little of this phony Jesuit redistributionist, I could not care less about him except to bind him so that he cannot proffer more worldwide corruption in the name of Jesus. Lenin lived in simplicity and poverty, too, and was responsible for misery and carnage. I do not put my faith in popes and cardinals.

    I care more what Dolan and the US bishops are doing in Washington, DC with his blessing. And where might we find any condemnation of that on Crisis? I just discovered these poor, persecuted bishops are spending $4 million to lobby the U.S. Senate for Hispamnesty? What business is it of these corrupt princes of the Church for this? Instead of evangelizing, they are destroying my sovereignty, any hope of a future without the crushing burdens of debt imposed by these suicidal policies, and drooling after federal contracts, grants and other poverty pimping activities. If there is a good God anywhere in this universe, I pray he hears my cry for justice. These bishops are my enemies as surely as any member of Al Quaeda.

    Somewhere there is a Church that isn’t stabbing its adherents in the back, and by God Almighty, I’m going to find it if it takes me the rest of my life.

    • tom

      Immigration “reform” will only add 3 to 5 TRILLION dollars to our national debt. It’s fun spending other people’s money.

    • Bono95

      I’m normally leery of Jesuits too, Alecto, but Pope Francis really sounds like a great guy. The government of Argentina hated him for supporting traditional marriage, after all. And recall what a mess the Carmelites were when St. Theresa of Avila joined them. Perhaps Pope Francis will heal the gravely ill Jesuit order like St. Theresa did the Carmelites.

      • Alecto

        He is supporting open borders nonsense like all the Catholic clergy do. I sincerely hope the American ATM machine dries up faster than a West Texas river in the summer. Why should any American give ANY money to this church? There is another article about Mormons on Crisis. At least THEY take CARE of their OWN. These people are so removed from the struggle for existence faced by most Americans. I have family members filing for bankruptcy, losing homes, businesses. They can’t find jobs, but these bishops are shelling out money to import more people at a time when real unemployment and underemployment is 14%-17%, and we are paying more taxes than ever? They lecture us on Sundays about giving up this or that in our lives so we can donate more to “Catholic Charities” and “Bishops Lenten Drive”? Organizations that are responsible for importing massive poverty, destroying our culture, our way of life and impoverishing us. Damn them to hell.

        When Catholic Charities derives 62% of its revenues from the GOVERNMENT, (can we say “HYPOCRITES”) it’s time to organize a march on the USCCB and the corrupt clergy who run it! I’m getting out my torch and pitchfork. Who’s with me?

        • Bono95

          None of the clergy I know support open borders, and Jesus wants us to love and pray those who hurt us and support such policies, not damn them to hell.

          • Alecto

            Whoopee! How many members of the USCCB do you know? That institution does support open borders, and it backs a policy of allowing everyone and anyone to come from anywhere for any reason to sponge off taxpayers. It funds open border political policies that hurt American citizens, dilutes citizenship and our representative republic, but puts lots of money in the Catholic coffers. I can no longer reconcile my belief in a just and good God with Catholic treachery. People should throw them out of the country. Everywhere they go, they spread misery, poverty, divisiveness, tyranny and oppression. That’s why there are no Catholic republics anywhere.

            I don’t know where you live, but where I live, Spanish masses abound. Catholic Charities funds myriad “Justice for Immigrants” and illegal immigration advocacy groups. The Catholic Establishment protects them from deportation – even criminals, drug dealers, murderers, wife beaters, drunks. Oh yes, they’re fine, upstanding Catholics alright! The Alabama Diocese sued the people of that state for passing an immigration law that put a damper on the massive inflow of burdens from Mexico. Better ask yourself who these clergy represent? It’s isn’t Jesus, it’s themselves and their lust for money and power. As far as I’m concerned, the USCCB is an anti-American terrorist group. Damn them to hell.

    • Dfg

      MY PRAYER FOR YOU IS TO EXPLORE THE SSPX(THEY FOLLOW THE TRUE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH) and NOT the modern, progressive freemasonary church of Vatican II. They are not in full communion, of course, with Rome, but Benedict tried to get them back before he quit his job as pope; Fatima tells us that Rome will lose the faith. Rome recognizes the SS:PX masses, but don’t have jurisdiction over marriages, baptisms, so they will not recognize the priests in that way. SSPX is the Church that follows preVatican II dogma and doctrine, not like the Vatican II Church. Remember, if the prevat church was right before, its right now.Fruits of VatII are rotten. Can’t deny that

  • Kid Charlemagne

    Too much discussion of the servants and not enough of the Master IMHO

  • Gabriel

    Pope Benedict has been kidnapped for announcing Christ has returned. No joke. Worldwide media blackout, including Crisis Magazine. Details: http://www.YahwehAirlines.com

  • John Fisher

    Sorry not a new Breviary, Missal . He reissued the existing books and removed additions of less than 200 years old. All the various rites such as Dominican , carmelite, Milan, Nobertine etc survived. If only after Vatican II (not as instructed by it) did Bugnini and invent so much which pretending it was old! Scholarship has proven much of it to be fake and actually detroyed the ancient diverity that existed!

  • Pingback: Tuesday Update on Pope Francis - Big Pulpit()

  • Deacon Peter

    The story of your son’s “foresight” is amazing, as my wife and I say there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. One other thought: I’m not sure that Pope Francis’ idea of completing the work of V-II and Cardinal Kasper’s is the same. Many people from the “spirit of the council” movement are now stepping up (again) hoping that the time of orthodoxy (not what they would call it) is over and any new Pope who espouses “reform” must (in their minds) be “on their side.” That “side” has heard the rhetoric of Benedict XVI but they haven’t been listening. He has said time and time again, that the Council was a council of reform in continuity with Tradition. The talk of “reform” is a dialogue of “talking past each other.” The school of thought that has emerged from the crisis of the post counciliar misappropriation is the thought and voice of the (real) council, rather than the “para-council” to use the lterm that Cardinal De Lubac coined. Cardinal Kasper and Hans Kung are both heralding the new Pope with (false) hope. I put Cardinal Kasper and Hans Kung in the same sentence, but at different points on the scale (of course.) Different but on the same side of the center.

    By the way, Dr. Staudt, I had you as professor of Intro to Grad Theo and Fundamental Theology at the A.I. DE, loved both classes and hope to take another course with you soon.

    • R. Jared Staudt

      Thanks, Deacon Peter. Good to hear from you.

  • Pingback: What does a 1-year old have to do with two popes?! | Catholic Discipleship()