Is a Period of Papal Reserve Now Overdue?

About a year ago, and thus in the early months of Pope Francis’s pontificate, Damian Thompson wrote a Daily Telegraph blogpost headlined “Meet Francis, the Chatterbox Pope.” “This new pontiff,” he noted, “is a media-savvy charmer in a way that none of his predecessors have been. Seriously, he could give Bill Clinton lessons in how to work a crowd.” He was by no means unsympathetic to this; but already there are signs of uncertainty. “His morning sermons are often extemporized,” he went on [are they still? We haven’t heard about them lately] “accompanied by shrugs worthy of a harassed maître d’ and “huh?” noises that the Vatican press office has given up trying to render into English. All very sweet—but what do we really know about Francis’s views? Well, he’s not a traditionalist like his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Indeed, he’s positively anti-traditionalist, not aggressively so, but in an I-can’t-be-doing-with-all-that-fussy-nonsense kind of way.”

Was “Francis the Chatterbox Pope” a recipe for disaster? Damian didn’t think so. “He won’t undo the work of the great Benedict: it would create too much ill-feeling and, at 76, he doesn’t have time. Yes, there will be gaffes, possibly so many that we stop worrying about them. But if you listen to the Pope’s improvised talks, you quickly realize that his central focus never shifts. Follow Jesus by helping the poor. Beware of the Devil, who wants you to spend all day distracting yourself with little treats. … Jorge Bergoglio has a gift that eludes the boring, risk-averse platitude merchants who have captured the machinery of most Catholic and Anglican dioceses. He relaxes you with his smiles and shrugging, and then tweaks your conscience so hard that you wince in pain.”

So far, so good. And I think that most of us agreed with that assessment then and still do. But not everyone: too many don’t. I have written blog after blog explaining that there is nothing to be worried about, that the liberals who were so pleased because they thought his relaxed manner showed he was a liberal like them were deluded, that actually he was as concerned as Benedict to defend the teachings of the Church, but he wasn’t going to do the job of the cardinal prefect of the CDF for him: his focus would be pastoral not dogmatic, but he would not be weakening the Magisterium he inherited.

I still think so. All the same, I note that Fr Z’s blog, which he renamed “Reading Francis through Benedict,” has now been once more renamed; now it’s simply “Fr Z’s blog”: is that because he no longer thinks that you can read Francis through Benedict, that this Pope can no longer be perceived as believing mainstream Ratzingerian Catholicism, though propagating it in his own relaxed way? Well, no it doesn’t actually. Fr Z, of the Pope’s latest airborne Press conference, notes that when Francis was asked what the forthcoming synod on the family would say about communion for the divorced and remarried, he was displeased, and made it clear that “I don’t like [it] that many people—even in the Church—priests—have said: “Ah, the Synod for giving Communion to the divorced,” and they’ve gone right there, to that point…. No, the matter is more than this, it is wider. Today, everyone knows it, the family is in crisis: it is in a global crisis.”

That’s what the synod is about: the crisis of the family. And no radical changes over who may receive Holy Communion, I predict, will emerge from it. The Pope made it clear that his own thinking on giving Communion to the divorced had been guided by Benedict XVI, that what “Pope Benedict said three times about the divorced has helped me a lot. Once, in the Valle d’Aosta, another time in Milan, and the last time in the public consistory which he held for the creation of cardinals: to study the procedures for matrimonial nullity; to study the faith with which a person comes to matrimony and to clarify that the divorced are not excommunicated, and so many times they are treated as excommunicated. And this is a serious thing.” As Fr Z points out, “he was clearly prepared for this question, because he worked in that his (still living) predecessor treated the issue three times and even said where. He was telling the newsies to look up what Benedict XVI said.”

All the same, I have a growing feeling that those Press conferences, and much else that looks on the face of it like inspired communication with the modern world, may be beginning to cause problems. Pope Francis conducts his press conferences in what is (according to Fr Z) not very good Italian; and secular journalists are not in any case good at understanding theologically based answers: this is not necessarily good communication. I note that another orthodox priest who admires Pope Francis, Fr Dwight Longenecker, is beginning to ask uneasy questions about Pope Francis’s grasp of the papal office:

In almost every impromptu press conference, personal phone call, informal conversation, and unscheduled event the Pope’s candid and relaxed style has caused confusion, consternation, and bewilderment among the faithful. … such an informal and often ambiguous method of communication cannot help but erode the more solemn teaching authority of the papacy….

I am a supporter of Pope Francis and admire his sacrificial life, his prophetic example, and his desire to bring the gospel to all. His popularity and presence is a great gift to the church. However, his informal style needs to be checked in order not to erode the authority of his office.

I think that Fr Dwight is right, and that a period of reserve would now be a good thing. There needs to be less, not more, spontaneous papal activity. Especially on the phone. In the words of a recent headline from Damian Thompson, “Should chatterbox Pope Francis think twice before ringing Catholics out of the blue?” He was referring to the case of a woman from Argentina living in a civil union with a divorced man. The couple have two children. The woman is, for obvious reasons, refused Holy Communion in her parish. She wrote to pope Francis to ask if she could be readmitted to the sacraments. The couple claim that the Pope rang, introducing himself as “Father Bergoglio,” and after a 10-minute chat said she could “safely” receive Communion. Her partner then leaked these details on Facebook.

The fact is that we don’t actually know what the Pope said: we only have the couple’s word for it that he said what they wanted to hear. But the fact that he made the call at all, privately and unmonitored, was bound to put him and his office in danger.

The trouble with all these spontaneous initiatives is that they foster the idea that the Pope is getting ready not just for much-needed reform but also for substantial changes in papal teaching. And that, it has to be faced, is one reason he is so popular with the secular world. This is not good. In Fr Dwight’s words, such initiatives “cannot help but erode the more solemn teaching authority of the papacy.”

“He won’t undo the work of the great Benedict: it would create too much ill-feeling,” said Damian a year ago. But would it actually create ill feeling now? The secular media’s build-up of Pope’s Francis’s popularity has been partly based on his real qualities of human warmth and responsiveness but partly also on media denigration of his predecessor, with its suggestion that Francis is tacitly rejecting Benedict’s allegedly cold and inhumane legacy.

One effect all this is having on me, I fear, is that I am beginning to feel increasingly nostalgic for the pontificate of Pope Benedict. I know I’ve said this before, but things aren’t getting any better: when someone refers to “the Pope,” that’s who I still think of. Ah, me; happy days.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared June 5, 2014 in the Catholic Herald of London and is reprinted with permission. (Photo credit: Paul Haring / Catholic News Service)

Dr. William Oddie


Dr. William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

  • Andrew

    I’m a full Ratzingerian follower; not sure if that is how it is spelt about those who follow Pope Benedict and learn from him and his writings. I think it is way past time for a meeting between the two Popes and allow Pope Benedict to help instruct Pope Francis on what to do; especially about these off the cuff answers and press conferences and so forth, I do love that Pope Francis has enforced even stronger at all the Papal Masses that Communion is to be only received on the tongue and kneeling; on the tongue in all those crowds and how he celebrates Mass.

    • Vinnie

      I’d like the communion rail back.

      • FernieV

        The communion rail never left in Nigeria! We also kneel throughout the canon until communion. And the church is always full in weekday masses.

        • hombre111

          We don’t have a communion rail, thank God. But, as per instructions, we faithfully kneel throughout the Canon.

          • ForChristAlone

            try reading Deus Est

      • Art Deco

        Well, Bp. Moynihan in Syracuse has retired. Mayble Bp. Cunningham will let you install one without coming down on you like a ton of bricks.

      • Andrew

        I wish in our Diocese that the Ordinary Form was actually celebrated than this create your own Mass daily and I wish they would allow and offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as well. I belong to the Diocese of Salina Kansas; it’s horrible and we use what Pope Benedict XVI teaches and calls “fill in music” for everything.

  • Don

    I agree with you Mr. Oddie. The messaging of Pope Francis is either very, very clever or reckless. Whether clever or reckless, it has created confusion and concern among the most faithful. The failure to address the resulting confusion and correct the messaging methodology supports the view that Pope Francis simply doesn’t appreciate the sweeping influence of the papal office. If he does understand it, then the liberals may be correct in their assessment of his theological bent . . . and this is deeply troubling.

    • hombre111

      In other words, Pope Francis, please shut up. Signed, your faithful servant Oddie.

  • J.T. Lebherz

    Whether it’s connected, or not, I can tell you that during the Year of Faith, our Pastor rarely, if ever, even brought it (YOF) up when he was giving homilies (Sunday and daily). Since Francis has become Pope, that is all we hear. Pope Francis said this and Pope Francis said that. I agree with Dr. Oddie that Pope Francis’s message concerning the poor of the world are of the highest value and one that we all need to take to heart. But, there are confusing messages emanating from Pope Francis that leave many scratching their heads. Again, I guess I blame some of it on translation problems. But I sure do miss Pope Benedict XVI!

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    We are inclined to attach too much importance to any pope’s personal opinions.

    Following the proclamation of Papal infallibility, the Swiss bishops issued a pastoral letter in which they declared that “”The Pope is not infallible as a man, or a theologian, or a priest, or a bishop, or a temporal prince, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in his government of the Church.”

    In particular, they reminded the faithful that “he [the Pope] is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

    Nothing Vatican I taught affects Charles-René Billuart’s famous caution, “”Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible.”

    • Dick Prudlo

      I don’t think, in my particular fallible way, most Catholics would buy on too what you say. Some call them Neo while others call them conservative. Regardless of what term one chooses they did not exist much before the 60’s. This group is the least knowledgeable about doctrine, and because they don’t know it, they do not consider it of import. What they do consider important is what the pope says, and what he says is everything we all need to know, period.

      The current resident of the chair of Peter has even this group a bit nervous, and as you point out, is often confusing and muddled with His extemporaneous homilies and sound bites. I’m thinking that this group will not gain much on doctrine with Pope Frank, frankly.

  • NormChouinard

    In short, no. Francis is no more at fault for misstatements by the MSM than B16 was when the media announced that the Church had changed its position on condoms. . None of this will change if Francis curtails his Petrine ministry. Trust in the Holy Spirit and respect the teaching authority of the magisterium.

    • Guest

      To equate what is going on now with the minor condom issue is intellectually dishonest. The issues are very different in magnitude and depth.

      • Marcelus

        well how about kissing the qran or apologizing to the muslim sound like?

  • george

    I disagree with Mr. Oddie’s opinion. Frank’s ad libitums are wonderful, even if his Italiian is not. We’ve been hearing too much ex cathedra and a little ex iphone is long over due. The Pope has a right to interpersonal communication. This opinion is nothing more than a “chilling effect”. Go read some encyclicals if you want some horrible Latin. Much of Jesus’ reported interactions were spontaneous. Let Frank be himself. He’s close enough to Jesus for me.

    • Guest

      Nonsense. Perhaps you dislike certainty because confusion allows you to believe what we ought not believe?

    • Kathy

      I’m afraid that george has made Dr. Oddie’s point for him. To show so little respect for the Holy Father and the office of the Pope as to call His Holiness “Frank” is simply appalling. And the suspicion that Pope Francis wouldn’t mind in the least is an indication that Dr. Oddie is right in saying that he holds his office in too little esteem.

      • george

        Dear Katherine (or is it “Kathy”)
        I find it appalling that you use such a disrespectful form of your name! Since when has Mr. Oddie or you been appointed the protocol officer of the Bishop of Rome?

        • DE-173

          One need not be a farmer to recognize…

        • Sign

          Yea right. Uh huh.

    • Marcelus

      Still, the artiicle is bordering “personal schism” so to speak. No matter how we go about it, there is always a way to hit on Francis, Sad. Advise: come out of the shell and see catholicism elsewhere , you will find things might just be a little different that whe you bound yourself to the CM community . The “Oh I miss Benedict so,” that appears in each and most articles is somehow sad. The POpe is Francis. Peter is Francis. Benedict is no longer Pope. please do yourself a favour .

      • Guest

        Such nonsense. The article points out the obvious. To deny that our Holt Father has said awkward things that are mostly misinterpreted is simply disingenuous.

        • Marcelus

          Who is denying or not? Just that the worn out line, much used in CM, stating ” oh how we miss Benedict” and not coming out clear with what it takes to plainly say “I do not support or like Francis”, Simple as that. Thank God this does not happen elsewhere in the Catholic world. Just here and quite limited.

          • Sign

            I do not see that is fair. It is not that these folks do not support the Pope. It is that his words are so easily misunderstood that is confounds too many and are used as fu by the dissenters. I do not see large numbers affirming Church teaching at all. In fact, it is the opposite. People embrace error and claim the Pope supports them. This is no small matter.

            • slainte

              Is it Pope Francis’ fault that his statements are misinterpreted by a theologically unsophisticated media and misunderstood by a largely uncatechized laity?

              Francis, as pope, is guided by the Holy Spirit. He is a man of great warmth who displays Christ’s welcoming embrace to all who would freely accept Him into their lives. Francis’ witness to the world is messy in its approach…just as life and love and heartache constitute the messy imperfection of our own lives in this very imperfect vale of tears through which we must pass to reach the Beatific Vision.

              Francis is not better or worse than Emeritus Pope Benedict; just different. There are many ways to come to Christ and Francis draw souls through his unorthodox spontaneity, his kindness, and his compassion, just as Benedict drew souls through his awe-inspiring intellectual gravitas. Both are brilliant and blessed men each different from the other but each pleasing in God’s eyes.

              I think Francis would be an amazing person with whom to have a chat and a glass of red wine. I have no doubt he would inspire laughter and fun while emanating a sense of the most profound holiness as one chosen to lead souls to God. We shouldn’t be afraid of an unconventional pope.

              • DE-173

                “Is it Pope Francis’ fault that his statements are misinterpreted by a theologically unsophisticated media and misunderstood by a largely uncatechized laity?”

                When you talk to children, you stress principle, you are clear and brief. You skip complications and exceptions. You are concrete and avoid hypotheticals. You measure every word to avoid misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

                • Sign

                  Of course. Common sense.

                  The libs like the Pope not because he preaches the Gospel. They like him because they may easily impute their left ideology onto his words and claim it is Christian.

                  • slainte

                    I am not a lib.

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  But, if you want to make people actually think, you do the opposite.

                  Wittgenstein said, ““What I give is the morphology of the use of an expression. I show that it has kinds of uses of which you had not dreamed. In philosophy one feels forced to look at a concept in a certain way. What I do is suggest, or even invent, other ways of looking at it. I suggest possibilities of which you had not previously thought. You thought that there was one possibility, or only two at most. But I made you think of others. Furthermore, I made you see that it was absurd to expect the concept to conform to those narrow possibilities. Thus your mental cramp is relieved, and you are free to look around the field of use of the expression and to describe the different kinds of uses of it.”

                  • DE-173

                    “theologically unsophisticated media and misunderstood by a largely uncatechized laity?”

                    What part of this did you miss in your rush to quote Wittgenstein?

                    The point is, know your audience. I agree with Slainte, and too often the Pope seems like he’s at a Jesuit debating society, exploring hypotheticals and fine gradations or teaching differential equations to adolescents still struggling with algebra.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      But a deceptive appearance of certitude is bound to be less “confusing,” perhaps, but certainly misleading

                      As Bl John Henry Newman never tired of pointing out, “Our notions of things are never simply commensurate with the things themselves; they are aspects of them, more or less exact, and sometimes a mistake ab initio.”

                      As he explains, “Notions are but aspects of things; the free deductions from one of these necessarily contradicts the free deductions from another. After proceeding in our investigations a certain way, suddenly a blank or a maze presents itself before the mental vision, as when the eye is confused by the varying slides of a telescope.”

                      Of theology, he observes, “Hence in science we sometimes use a definition or a formula, not as exact, but as being sufficient for our purpose, for working out certain conclusions, for a practical approximation, the error being small, till a certain point is reached. This is what in theological investigations I should call an economy.”

                    • slainte

                      MPS, sometimes you remind me a little of the brilliant Mr. Spock from Star Trek.

                      I truly believe that you could write an Encyclopedia all by yourself and get it all right.

                      I am glad we have you on our side as a fellow Catholic. : )

                  • michael susce

                    “But, if you want to make people actually think, you do the opposite”. This may be true but what the assertion of this essay is that the results of the Pope’s pronouncements are confusion by the faithful and an assertion of certainty by the Media that this Pope is a modernist. So the opposite is actually occurring i.e. people are not thinking. Therefore, this technique of Wittgenstein should be avoided. My statement is similar to De-173’s below.

                    • slainte

                      The Catholic laity, while uncatechized, are not uneducated or under-educated; many are lazy and lack the initiative to learn the Faith as they believe religion does not fill their pockets with money.

                      Any reasonably educated person can inform him or herself about the Faith by reading the catechism which would lend greater clarity to Pope Francis’ messages.

                      Where’s there’s a will (to understand one’s faith), there’s a way.

                • slainte

                  And when you love children A-B, you take them into your arms and remind them that they are beautiful and that you love them very much just because they are who they are (naughtiness and all)…small reflections of an awesome God; manifestations of a profound grace and beauty.

                  I am at my core a traditionalist in the faith. But how many times when we try really hard and we fail, do we need someone just to say I love you and really mean it. This, I think, is what Pope Francis does for a lot of people and he does it extraordinarily well in a messy sort of way (and Benedict did this also albeit in a slightly more formal style). I think Jesus, who is Love, would do the same.

                  So Pope Francis, who is an unconventional, pastoral oriented pope is just fine with me; so too is the very gracious, kind, and brilliant Emeritus Pope Benedict to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.

                  • DE-173

                    The question isn’t the Pope, but the audience. It is clear that when he speaks extemporaneously, there’s a bit of precision missing. I’ll stipulate the flock is wayward and there are other voices calling them. In such an environment, one must be sure that there’s no ambiguity.

                    • slainte

                      To learn our theology with precision in this age of modernism, perhaps we the uncatechized Catholic laity should revert to studying stained glass windows in old cathedrals.

                      The Catholic remnants of the middle ages may once again produce fruit.

                    • DE-173

                      I always like stained glass. I like your idea.

              • Sign

                You overlook the obvious. Many of his words, spoken and written, cause confusion. To deny that is not genuine at all.

                If his words confuse how is that good?

                • slainte

                  Perhaps his words will cause people to think…and maybe even read the bible and the catechism.

                  Both endeavors would be very good things.

                • Marcelus

                  Heard there was once a man named Jesus who spoke in simple paraboles so people would understand.Do you know how many catholics in the world have never set foot on a school in their lives?I do not think they are confused by PF’s comments .

  • Michael Francis James Lee

    This is why popes should remain in office until removed by death. That’s the only way this inordinate nostalgia for Pope Benedict XVI (whom I dearly love and respect) will ever meet its own death. Habemus Papam; and his name is FRANCIS!

    • Guest

      I do not think it is nostalgia. That would be to mischaracterize the issue altogether.

  • Were it up to me [it isn’t either], Vatican II would never have happened. The pope is allowed to have all kinds of opinions and I don’t have to agree with them. There is moment when I am asked to obey. The time spent looking for everything we do not like creates a life of upset, unhappiness and despair for ourselves and everyone near us. Perhaps spending that same time and I recommend more than that, looking for what you like, what to be grateful for and ignoring everyones opinions. What if Francis is the last pope? Then what?

    • FernieV

      I recommend you read the texts of Vat II documents, which are solemn Magisterium. The pope can have his personal opinions on anything. We are bound to follow what he teaches as Supreme Pastor in matters of Faith and Customs for the entire Church for he then enjoys the gift of Infallibility (Vat I).

      • Living inside clueless produces nothing but righteous indignation. Good luck with that.

  • GaudeteMan

    A good reading of 14th Century Church history might give some hopeful perspective to contrast with the dismal state of the Church today. While I feel like a Roman who longs for the Pope to return from Avignon I must remind myself that the Holy Spirit is in the driver’s seat. If God is faithful (and of course He is) one wonders where the St. Catherines of Siena might be lurking in 2014. Holiness is the only antidote for the evil which assails us.

    • hombre111

      I remind myself that the Holy Spirit is in the driver’s seat every time I count the handful of faithful celibate priests in my diocese. Is the Spirit telling us something? As for a dismal state, take another good reading of the state of the Church in the 14th. century.

      • GaudeteMan

        So what is a handful? A dozen? A hundred? Its not hard to read between the lines with you. To qualify the priesthood with the term celibate gives you away. You mock Mr. Oddie for his honest assessment of Pope Fancis and pretend to be the pontiff’s supporter but what will you say when he definitively squashes your silly dream of married clergy or when he says altar rails are a testament to reverance for the True Presence?

        • hombre111

          :>) Not bad. I don’t think I have concealed anything. Again and again, I have said that the insistence on celibate clergy only is an ongoing disaster. For instance, despite the heroic efforts of a really fine young vocation director, the number of seminarians in our diocese has dropped from twelve to six. Even to maintain the present low number of priests, we need more like twenty. Four of the six who left said they had decided to have a family. So, they probably felt a vocation to the priesthood. It is their non-vocation to celibacy that caused them to abandon a call from the Spirit.

          I don’t think I was mocking Mr. Oddie as much as explaining what underlies his essay. Of course altar rails are a testament of reverence to the True Presence. Can’t deny that. But are they more important than the theological reality accomplished by their absence, that we are one people of God united in worship, with the priest serving as the servant of his people, and not the lord and master of a space where laymen dare not tread?

          • GaudeteMan

            You never let the facts get in the way of a good story do you? Take a look at the Diocese of Lincoln. They have SEVEN TIMES more seminarians per capita than their neighboring diocese of Omaha. What stands out about Lincoln? No ALTAR GIRLS and as a rule no EMEs and Holy Communion reverently on the tongue is the norm.
            “A space where layman dare not tread…” So you and your cronies would leave the sandals on if you were approaching the burning bush? Do you know what a mill stone is?

            • hombre111

              Last time I checked, it was a self-selected group, conservatives coming from all over the U.S. to this paradise. Could be wrong. Any idea how many of these young men are natives to the diocese? That is one of the reason our numbers are down. The previous vocation director invaded Africa and Colombia and took a lot of seminarians captive. Don’t know if they have a vocation to the priesthood or to the U.S.. What I do know is that we have a lot of young priests preaching sermons people cannot understand because of the accents. The youth, turned off already by adolescent rebellion, see this and head for the door.

              • Art Deco

                Last time I checked, it was a self-selected group, conservatives coming from all over the U.S. to Lincoln paradise.

                Last time I checked, 38 of 46 seminarians in Lincoln were local. At that time, ample vocations were to be found in a number of Great Plains-Rocky Mountain dioceses, not just Lincoln. Always fictions and excuses with you.

                • hombre111

                  Give me your resource, so I can check for myself. Thank you.

              • GaudeteMan

                If your southern boys did pine for a life of celibacy they would not be boys now would they? I think this touches on the crux of your misled views. Celibacy is not natural it is SUPERnatural. Just like the sanctuary, which you so whimsically want to dismiss as a come-one-call-all kumbaya zone. Is the Greek Orthodox Church raking in vocations to the married priesthood as compared to the Catholic Church? (Crickets)

                • hombre111

                  Amen. It is supernatural. In other words, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But the Church says you cannot be a priest without accepting the celibate life, whether or not you have received the call. In my day, many of us did, saying it “comes with the territory.” That is not exactly the way you discern a charism. And if you don’t have the call, but choose celibacy so you can be a priest, you will have trouble. You and the Church might be presuming on the Holy Spirit.

                  According to my spiritual director, who knows such things, the Greek Orthodox have priests even in small towns. In my diocese, we are going to small towns once or twice a month.

  • fredx2

    The Pope can be relevant, or he can be irrelevant.

    The quickest way to irrelevancy is for him to stop speaking.

    This Pope gets people thinking, arguing, talking about things. That is not a bad thing, and in the end millions of people are starting to understand Catholic positions – people that never cared one way or the other about the church.

    He is probably the most popular public figure in the world. You might consider this aspect – he might just be using the media. He knows they thrive on the unusual comment, and so he supplies them regularly. But by doing so, they give him a platform to spread the ideas of Catholicism.

    The media was the implacable enemy of Pope Benedict. They twisted virtually everything the man said, when they weren’t ignoring it. Pope Francis has established a sort of credibility with billions of people. We know he might say something a little unusual, but we always know we are getting his unvarnished, true feelings about things.

    As to creating confusion among the faithful? Not really. He has upset some of those who are very into the internet and live and breathe by every syllable the guy speaks. The vast bulk of the faithful go about their daily business, hearing a phrase or two occasionally on the news, and just realize that the Pope is being effective for once. Not much has changed, except there are a few lively discussions going on at the parish level.

    • Sign

      What you seem to be saying proves the point of the article. Most do not know their faith and take little trouble to learn it. Some of the Pope’s words are easily used to confirm people in their relativism. Instead of learning their faith they think hey this is great. I am a good person and I can keep doing what I am doing. How is that good?

  • Samuel Dominguez

    Of course, you’re nostalgic for the papacy of Benedict. I have been since early 2013. This pope is a rock star adored by the secular world. That’s not a good thing. His destruction of The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Marcelus

      The “destruction” began before Francis. Look it up.

  • windjammer

    You can’t have it both ways. You say PF is more media savvy than Bill Clinton but then proceed to provide a litany of excuses why he acts like he is not. How about the primary one. He has a liberal/modernist philosophy and admits that he is not a disciplined person. Put his actions, speeches etc through that filter and what he is/has been doing makes sense. The divorce/communion flap is just the latest example. He has surrounded himself with modernist Cardinals like Kasper an Maradiaga, He turns them loose spouting pure heresy and when people react negatively, its a surprise…Not!

    • hombre111

      A good reply from anybody with the name windjammer. Somebody with the handle Spacestation might beg to differ.

      • windjammer

        or hombre111

    • Marcelus

      You are missing Crdl Muller. The most powerful man in the Church after PF. Just got granted by PF 4 offices, additional to CDF.. all the rest of the Crdls just one.

  • clintoncps

    Please pray for Pope Francis, as he struggles with the wave of spiritual forces of wickedness in a world that increasingly rejects the very nature of Man created in the image and likeness of God — the anti-human and anti-Christ spirit swamping the world today.

    • Art Deco

      I recently was listening to a relation, the eldest of a set of four sisters who’ve been brainstorming adjustments to the eldercare issues presented by their nonagenarian mother. The sisters cannot agree on whether her rehabilitation stay in a nursing home should be extended so the facility is her permanent home. Sister #2, “what if mother gets a bad roommate?”. Sister #3 to sister #1: “she doesn’t realize that mother is the bad roommate”.

      We can pray for Francis, but please realize that we face a situation that we faced during the council and around about 1970: the fuel of the trouble is now in Rome. Our bishops here in the United States are happy to act as motors once they’re gassed up, of course. (See Steven Skojec on Cdl. Dolan’s latest nasty little misdemeanor).

  • Jo the Hiusewife

    Seems our house is not well ordered. The pope is “over there” saying things, the bishops are scattered and say what they want, the usccb holds little sway (vote of no cofidence), blog priests produce better communication but short on real power… Thank God the Holy Spirit does lead us! This is no way to win a battle against darkness!! I prefer clear truth to pom poms.

  • droolbritannia

    This article and the discussion below about infallibility make me think of the schizophrenic and absurd notion of papal infallibility that the non-Catholic world has. On the one hand, they ridicule it, as if we believe that if the Pope says, ‘Tomorrow it will rain’ we believe it must be raining even in the sunshine, because the Pope said so (i.e., we have no ability to judge reality independently, but are programmed Pope-bots blindly believing any wild thing the pope may say).

    On the other hand, if they think it matches up with their agenda, they are very eager to grant the Pope infallibility when they say that he has approved the use of condoms or condoned homosexuality or will grant admission to communion to divorced and ‘remarried’ Catholics. Those things will be reported in the news as binding and infallible new teachings of the Church.

  • Faithful Catholics needn’t “worry” about the multifarious strengths and weaknesses of any Pope, good or bad:

    When one says, “I follow Benedict,” and another, “I follow Francis,” are you not being worldly? What, after all, is Francis? And what is Benedict? Only servants, through whom you believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. Benedict planted the seed, Francis watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given him, Benedict laid a foundation as a wise builder, and Francis is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 3)

    St. Peter, pray for us.

    • R. K. Ich

      As the shepherd goes, so go the sheep. And if the current of criticism by the faithful traditional Catholics is nothing more than an issue of personalities, then you are right. But if there is a deep worry over fidelity to apostolic teaching, then your application of I Corinthians is not appropriate.

    • Marcelus

      Funny thing is there is but one Pope, and stilll..people keep at it.

  • John O’Neill

    When Francis was first named pope the reaction of the American Catholic Church was disconcerting. Most Vatican II Libs gloated that Benedict was gone and came close to singing “the wicked witch is dead”. Many projected their Leftwing philosophy on the new pope and tried to demean Benedict XVI as much as they could. A priest friend of mine gave a sermon on how remarkable Francis was because he refused to wear the red shoes that Benedict XVI had worn. Of course the red shoes like the papacy are symbolic; the shoes represent the blood of martyrs and the papacy represents the Church. He even made much of the fact that the secularist Time magazine named Francis man of the year and that he was very highly rated in the American gallup pole. At this point I had to leave ; I could not tolerate anymore inane attempts at spiritualty. Recently I had purchased a small book of talks given by Benedict XVI on the early Church fathers; it was excellently done and was a record of short weekly talks the pope had given. I have tremendous respect and admiration of Benedict’s

    • angie

      Thank you John O’Neil, I am too, I love Pope Benedict, I don’t understand Pope Francis, he refused everything not only the red shoes but all vestment.

      • R. K. Ich

        Pope Benedict has brought me to the precipice of conversion to the Roman Church – under Francis I couldn’t get a sense he cares what I am, so long as I am “a good person”. Thankfully there is a wonderful Latin Mass church in Milwaukee (St. Stanislaus) I and the family are eyeing to join in a couple of years as we discern our call to the Roman Communion.

        • ForChristAlone

          Please do come. I will pray for this. Converts make the best Catholics since you have occasion to discern the faith. And do think about the EF or better yet an Anglican Ordinariate parish if there is one in your area. You’re bound to get decent preaching at the latter.

          • R. K. Ich

            You are right. We have tried out an Anglican Ordinariate in San Antonio (Our Lady of the Atonement) – preaching and teaching is head and shoulders above almost any regular RC church I’ve visited. Plus they do the EF Mass better than any church other church we have visited. Without the Anglican Ordinariate I doubt we would be this far along in our journey. It’s frightful and exciting all at once.

        • John O’Neill

          I teach RCIA at my parish and found Benedict XVI’s influence greatly inspiring, he brought back the majesty of the mass with his new translation; the post Vatican II translation was horrid and I am a retired Latin teacher so I do know and understand the Latin liturgy and find it extremely beautiful; the ICEL translations was an abomination. It was poor and uninspiring English. Benedict’s reforms along with John Paul II’s wonderful Catechism were true marvels of the Faith. I feel with Francis we are back in the horrible decades, 1960s and 1970s when everything was thrown at us without any attempt to find the deep beauty and truth of Catholicism; my worst memory of those days was the Liturgical Dancers at the mass. I was ready to leave the Church and a very good friend of mine who taught Theology in a Catholics school switched over to the Byzantine Rite so that he could bring his children up in the true Faith. Francis disappoints, there is little clarity, little inspiration and much confusion. I also found that Francis was so overwhelmingly praised and adulated by the American Establishment that something must be wrong, we do realize that the focus of the anti Catholic nexus in the world today is found in the Neo American culture. Servate Fidem.

        • R. K. Ich: I hope and pray that you do decide to come home to the Church.

          I converted under Pope Benedict in 2009, but I had read enough to know that the Church didn’t want me to worry about the personal sanctity or the individual faith of any Catholic minister–not even the Pope.

          All Popes are infallible, but not one of them is impeccable. If you rest your hopes in any creature you are bound to be disappointed. Judging the thoughts, words, and deeds of any man is a dangerous and difficult business:

          “Yet the very difficulty of this business is useful in this respect: it shows that no man should rest his hopes in himself, nor one man in another, but all who are God’s should cast their hopes on him.” (St. Augustine; Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love; Ch. 16)

          Please pray for me and the Pope and all other sinners, but for perfection look to Christ, and to Christ alone.

          • R. K. Ich

            Give me a whoremongerimg, licentious, debauched Pope any day. I can recognize such man as pastor of the universal church, fallen though he may be. It is the pious heretic I fear more than all the legions of hell, for the everlasting Gospel is veiled to the world, and his upright demeanor legitimizes the falsehood.

            • “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)

              “Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.” (CCC 2479)

              I appreciate and share your concern for the salvation of souls but, strictly speaking, the only potential-heretic anyone need ever fear is the one in the mirror.

              To fear a good Pope like Francis more than a bad Pope like John XII is absurd: Such inverted logic would oblige us to fear Benedict XVI more than Francis, to the extent that the latter’s perceived shortcomings are more evident. Otherwise, how could we be sure that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s upright demeanour wasn’t legitimizing even more pernicious falsehoods than Francis’? In other words, there is no way of knowing, in the case of upright Benedict, we have merely been deceived by a more subtle application of the very deception under consideration.

              Such fears evaporate in the living light of Catholic charity and obedience:

              “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

              “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the priest as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8)

              “May the Lord preserve our Holy Father, Pope Francis; give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Traditional Prayer for the Pope)

              Holy Pope Francis, pray for us.

    • hombre111

      I am as liberal as they get, but I kind of liked Benedict. I especially liked his writing, which, unlike the writing of his predecessor, was easy to follow. I use some of his stuff for my daily meditations. As for the red shoes and the blood of martyrs, I kind of like the brown shoes which represent the poor Jesus came to serve. Seeing symbols in clothes and etc. sometimes involves a stretch. The maniple started out as a handkerchief for the priestly nose. The cincture had been a simple belt. The fiddle-back vestment received that incarnation so that the priest’s chasuble, which had been the garment of a Roman gentleman, could be turned into a stiff, portable billboard containing art work. The pall was placed over the chalice to keep out the flies. And etc..

  • Bill Russell

    Romantic papalists accustomed themselves to think that the latest pope is the
    greatest pope, whoever he may be, and that the Holy Spirit chooses each
    pope (an odd trifling with reality which Cardinal Ratzinger himself
    refuted: the Holy Spirit prevents popes from teaching
    errors in essential matters of faith and morals after they have been
    elected but He does not necessarily choose any particular pope.) The romantics
    are now forced to acknowledge that the succession of popes is not an
    inevitable progress, and there will be occasional inadequacies and
    lapses in the Petrine line. Pope Francis, a man of conspicuously
    generous heart, has two misfortunes. First, he follows Pope Benedict
    who has one of the greatest intellects in Church history and may well be declared a Doctor of the Church. Benedict invited people to think,
    which made him disliked by those who do not think. Secondly, Pope Francis is
    encumbered by a cultural tendency to vulgarity, as evidenced in his
    recourse to insults and mockery, which is virtually unprecedented in the
    history of the papacy. Our Lord humbled people but he did not
    humiliate them. This is why Pope Francis should especially be
    circumspect in his vernacular asides. The media lack the subtlety to
    distinguish authentic magisterium from coarse comments. But perhaps I am wrong and am just a Self-absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagian Fomenter of Coprophragia and Promoter of the Poison of Immanence. .

    • Marcelus

      The other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…”Benedict XVI

      • Marcelus

        Beautiful line: What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love.”

  • Art Deco

    I have been reading Steven Skojec’s commentary on Francis. His worry is that Francis is a kamikaze-like figure, determined to make full use of papal authority in pursuing his agenda while acting ultimately to destroy that authority. See his remarks here:

    • hombre111

      Oh, the horror! The horror!

      • DE-173

        Oh shut up, chatterbox. Time for a new Exelon patch.

    • Guest

      Thanks for that link!

  • hombre111

    You can sigh in relief. The Pope seems to be taking a month off. Maybe he is ill, or simply exhausted. Almost 76 myself, I cannot imagine keeping his schedule. Of course, he is going to guard the faith. He is pope, isn’t he. But, unlike his predecessors, he is not a scold.

    • Art Deco

      he is not a scold.

      You mean he declines to articulate the moral teaching our vapid parish clergy also decline to articulate.

      • hombre111

        Hey, Art! Long time, no hear. “Keep my commandments,” the Lord said. What were those commands? “Love one another as I have loved you.” A bigger challenge than most of us can meet.

        • DE-173

          Your approval tells me he is misinterpreted or weak.

        • Guest

          Of course, Veritas Splendour explained the true meaning of that verse. The libs hate it though.

      • Guest

        In fact he has scolded. Just not the liberals.

    • JP

      Christ was a scold too.

      • hombre111

        Good point.

  • Daniel P

    “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

    “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

    “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

    Pope Francis is a person. Surely his personality will stand in the way of his effectiveness, in many ways — Benedict’s personality stood in the way of his effectiveness, too. As for claims that he does not uphold doctrine, this seems to be merely a picking and choosing of doctrine. A doctrine, properly understood, is a “thing taught”, and extending mercy to sinners is surely a teaching of the Church. Francis’s way of extending such mercy can create good and bad consequences, yes, but last time I checked Catholics were not consequentialists.

    If Francis is humble and obedient, and if he maintains his integrity, he will be a good shepherd for the Church — even if he makes mistakes. God knows all previous popes made mistakes!

    • JP

      Pope Francis, as one observer wrote, is ostentatious with his humility. What is the old saying, “A beautiful woman knows she is beautiful and doesn’t have to announce it.”

      • Daniel P

        Suppose, for a moment, that the Vatican is genuinely encouraging unnecessary luxury, for popes. If this situation is ever to change, some pope must be the first one to refuse such luxury. And he will be called “humble” for doing so. But, to paraphrase A Man For All Seasons, “Perhaps we must stand fast a little, even at the risk of being called humble.”

  • ForChristAlone

    The thing with which we Catholics must concern ourselves is contracting a case of terminal FFS – Francis Fatigue Syndrome.

  • conservativenick

    I disagree. I think Pope Francis is doing an amazing job at bringing Jesus to the world. He loves so deeply and you can just see it in his smile when he stops the pope mobile and hugs people whom society deems not worthwhile. I know his stile is different from Pope Benedict and I deeply loved him as pope and still do but that doesn’t mean that Francis is bad. He is just bringing his personality. I know perception shouldn’t really matter but this pope because of how he is perceived is having an impact on the culture at large. People I know who are not religious or are even anti-Christian see the love that Pope Francis has and it speaks to them. Sometimes it bothers me how they take him out of context but at least they are listening. Jesus transformed hearts through love and that is how we are called to continue his mission to save souls. I’m so sick of people pitting our popes against each other.

  • bill b

    Benedict was traditional on sex and liturgy….but, on the Old Testament, he was off the wall liberal…seeing the herem or massacres of the OT as sins when in fact Scripture repeatedly sources them in God. See Verbum Domini sect.42. No conservative protested this because Benedict helped them in liturgy.

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    What does the author mean by saying that Benedict XVI is “traditionalist”. This is an ambigous term and any Pope has to carry out his mission in continuation with the the whole Tradition of the Church. When then Cardenal Bergoglio Archbishop of Buenos Aires he kept a low profile and avoided giving interviews to the pras aonly on the occasion of the National Holiday he gave a hard hitting homily for the politicians,
    It seems to me that they Petrine Ministry is obvously fundamental in the Church, but it should dedicate itself to its principal mission which is to be at the service of the unity of the Church and to make sure that the Univesal Church is fully present in each Particular Church, be an instrument of communion of all the churches. It would be a good idea to reduce coverage of what the Pope does and says and avoid publishing his off the cuff remarks or his daily homillies.
    Regarding Pope Francis making calls to people who write to him and supposedly resolving their personal problems, it seems to be that he should resepct the role of the local Pastor and the local bishop. Popes are not superhuman and they they are limited and they should do their best in the first place so that their own diocese of Rome be will organized and be exemplary, plus the other work in favor of communion, like meeting with the bishops who mkae their ad limina visits, plus the appointing of bishops As for this last aspect, it seems to be that in the recent psst there have been major problems in this area with to many of them being involved in sexual and adminstrative scandals, plus the whole problem of sexual abuse, for which they have to carry a large part of the burden of blame.
    If the Pope, fulfulls the real priorities of his mission, the Church will be in a better situation. In this way he will also give good exammple to bishops, preists, bishops and lay people, so that each group can be helped to fulfill its partiuclar mission in the Church.
    It seems to be that Pope Benedict took steps in this direction and hopefully this wil continue.

  • Alphonsus_Jr

    Most, it seems, are unaware that Pope Francis the Groovy is a revolutionary, a revolutionary fully processed by the Hippie Council Revolution, aka the Judas Council Revolution, aka the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

    Consciously or not, he practices and preaches a new religion. The novelties of this new religion include, but are not limited to, a new council (one of a predominantly pastoral character, designed to place the Church in tune with the world rather than to
    convert the world), a new ecumenism (an ecumenism of convergence, jettisoning
    the old ecumenism of return), a new ecumenical worship service (fabricated by a
    Freemason in consultation with six Protestant ministers), a correspondingly new
    conception of the priesthood (the priest as mere presider), a new ecclesiology
    (democratized, rule from the bottom up), a new kind of incense (“the smoke
    of Satan having penetrated through some fissure in the sanctuary” as Pope Paul VI admitted), new pan-religious events (as at the scandals of Assisi, placing the Pope on the same level as voodoo con-artists and affirming every kind of heathen and heretic in their errors), a new cult of youth (as shown at the ridiculous World Youth Days and the absurd YOUCAT), a new brand of papacy (the celebrity papacy, about winning the applause of the world and spreading the new gospel of universal salvation), a new code of canon law, new standards of canonization (low, loose, inclusive), a new catechism (fully in line with
    the new “Spirit of the Council” and its “New Springtime,” and animated by the “New Pentecost” of the new council), yet another new kind of papacy (that of the militantly miserablist and hip Pope Francis the Groovy himself, he of the self-described “emancipated formation,” contrasted with the traditional formation of clerics of old).

    Because of the confusion engendered by The Judas Council and the post-conciliar popes, I offer the following short reading program:

    1) The Errors of Vatican II – Si Si No No – Catholic Family News

    2) The Inside Story of Vatican II [formerly titled: The Rhine Flows into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II], by Rev. Fr. Ralph Wiltgen

    3) The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, by Rev. Matthias Gaudron


    4) Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century, by Romano Amerio

    5) The Second Vatican Council – An Unwritten Story, by Professor Roberto de Mattei

  • mad2002mad

    Why all the grumbling about Pope Francis?? I don’t miss Benedict at all. He was just a cold, uncaring, nasty person who would gladly burn heretics. For the first time since JP-I, we have a Pope who actually cares more about people than all the rules and regulations. We have too many “R&R” Catholics who know everything about Catholicism and nothing about Christianity. Same goes for the so-called JP-II priests. These guys have the human compassion of a stone. Time to welcome back the divorced and remarried Catholics, we should even welcome back the priests who left to marry. Who better to counsel married couples than a married priest. We need to open the doors and windows to let in not only fresh air but light.
    Time for those of us who supported Vatican II to see it fully implemented. For those “holier than thou” Catholics, I’m sure there is some parish that will keep women off the altar, make you kneel and receive communion on your tongue, have 40 hours devotions every week and a Latin mass. I was altar boy and thought it was cool to respond in Latin but hadn’t the faintest idea of what I was saying–truth be told, I still remember the responses. I will agree, think we got carried away with the guitar mass; however, at the time it seemed like a good idea! Give me a Pope Like Alexander VI and I’d be happy. In the final analysis, Pope Francis will disappoint and irritate conservative and liberal alike and that’s probably the best type of Pope.

    • Guest

      You want to actually learn the faith.

    • ForChristAlone

      Silly, silly boy

  • If a Pope seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?

  • steve5656546346

    Good article that admittedly understates the problem.