Editor’s note: The following essay by Professor Kengor is considerably longer than the typical Crisis article. We try to be mindful of the reading habits of our Internet audience which tends to favor shorter pieces. However, Professor Kengor’s essay is original, timely, well-documented, and very readable. Crisis welcomes the lively discussion and debate it will invariably generate because we value the thoughtfulness of our readers.
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Let’s be honest. Actually, let’s state the obvious. Many orthodox Catholics have had it with Pope Francis, as have non-Catholic conservatives who liked previous popes. It’s no stretch to say that a good number detest him. At the very least, many faithful Catholics are frustrated by the current pope. What with the ongoing confusion from Rome, atop the 2018 abuse report from Pennsylvania (with many more states to follow), plus the Cardinal McCarrick fiasco, and the Viganò letters—their patience is exhausted.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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I understand. Francis frustrates me, too, though I don’t hate him and often defend him, particularly with the very points I’ll make throughout this article.
Liberal Catholics, on the other hand, praise Francis—as do non-Catholic and non-Christian secularists, atheists, agnostics, progressives, modernists, relativists, pagans, and any other band hailing the man as the long-awaited ideological messiah they’ve wanted in the Chair of St. Peter. At long last, here’s a pope who is a kind of cross between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and between Nancy Pelosi and Harvey Milk, that they can support—though not enough, of course, to deign to darken the door of a Catholic parish. They like Francis so long as they believe he’s remaking the Roman Catholic Church in their image. The more liberal the Francis, the better. This is not so they can rush to his side at St. Peter’s, mind you, or dash to the nearest parish to enroll in RCIA, but because they hope the old man rejects the traditional teachings of the Church as vigorously and contemptuously as they do.
Here’s a pope like them, and that’s good. He’s the good pope.
Again, to repeat, there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hades that they’ll become Catholic, but they are cheering the Francis train—so long as it surges leftward.
Well, I’d like to derail the celebration. In fact, I’m going to make both sides uncomfortable with this particular list of Francis statements. I’m not exactly sure what to best call the list. The statements are definitely politically incorrect to the eyes and ears of Francis’s leftist admirers. I’ve been filing these statements since 2013. I started this article last year with a top 10 that quickly spread to 20 before I attempted to crunch it down to this current number. And I know I’ll be further adding to this list. In the last couple months, I’ve added still more material.
These statements represent a side of Francis that conservatives generally will applaud. Moreover, these are only the statements. I haven’t included moments, such as Francis’s superb response to the Alfie Evans situation last spring, or his crucially important work for the Year of Mercy, which was a fulfillment of the vision of Saint Faustina, or his unappreciated work leading the world in prayer to stop near-war in Syria early in his papacy in the fall of 2013, which is so forgotten that readers right now are scratching their heads at the mere mention of it.
Anyway, on with my top 14. For liberals who love Francis, read it and weep:
14. Gender ideology is demonic and Hitlerian.
Gender theory is all the rage at our crazy universities, but it flatly enrages Pope Francis. He is an unrelenting adversary, comparing gender theory to “the educational policies of Hitler.” And of Satan. “Gender ideology is demonic!” he thundered in the summer of 2015. It militates against “the order of creation.”
Francis has said this again and again, so much so that Italians fighting the incorporation of gender theory into their government schools have gratefully followed Francis’s lead. In the fall of 2017, he sat down for a series of 20 conversations with a prominent French journalist for a book titled Politics and Society. There again, Francis—in a shot at transgenderism—denounced gender ideology, especially as taught in public schools.
“Behind all this we find gender ideology,” Francis complained. “In books, kids learn that it’s possible to change one’s sex. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature? This leads to … error.”
This begs a question to liberals, progressives, and silly academic departments of feminist studies and queer studies and critical theory and “intersectionality”: are you okay with Pope Francis saying this? One seething, searing statement like this against an academic-progressive sacred cow like “gender theory” would typically place the person on a permanent enemies list for liberals.
And so, I ask, are you giving Francis a pass on this one? Well, hold on. Brace yourselves for no. 13.
13. No homosexuals in seminaries—or among active priests.
“If there’s a doubt about homosexuality, it’s better not to have them enter the seminary,” Francis told Italian bishops last May. “If you think that the guy is homosexual, don’t put him in the seminary.” If there’s any suggestion of an inkling of homosexual inclination, said the first supposed “gay pope,” the who-am-I-to-judge pope, then keep his carcass out of seminary.
Didn’t see that one at CNN or MSNBC? Elton John called for the immediate canonization of Francis in 2013. Does this slow the rush to sainthood, Elton?
In more recent reports, published in December 2018, Francis spoke equally adamantly regarding current priests. In a long interview for a book by Spanish priest Father Fernando Prado, a theology professor at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, Francis said he had a conversation with a bishop who didn’t think it was a problem that several priests in his diocese were “openly gay” because it was just an “expression of affection.” The pontiff emphatically disagreed, correcting him: “This is a mistake. It is not just an expression of affection.” Francis insisted: “In the consecrated life and in the priestly life, there is no place for that kind of affection.”
Francis seemed to cast those living such a double life as hypocrites—something that conservative Catholics thought he only applies to traditionalists.
“I say to the priests, gay religious men and women,” said Francis, “we must urge you to live fully celibate and, above all, to be exquisitely responsible, trying not to scandalize your communities or the holy faithful people of God by living a double life. It is better that you leave the ministry or consecrated life rather than live a double life.”
“For this reason,” said Francis, “the Church urges that persons with this rooted tendency not be accepted into ministry or consecrated life.” He lamented: “In our societies, it even seems homosexuality is fashionable. And this mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church.”
Here again, Francis reiterated his call to keep homosexuals out of seminaries: “Homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates. The Church recommends that people with this ingrained tendency not be accepted into the ministry or the consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.” He said it “worries me” that these candidates “at the moment they are accepted they don’t exhibit that tendency, but later they come out.”
And so, keep them out. That’s what this pope demands.
Throughout 2018, Francis seemed to grow increasingly scandalized, frustrated, and agitated with the avalanche of revelations of the abuse crisis and of priestly infidelity, culminating in a striking condemnation in his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia on December 21. With his hands visibly trembling as he read from a prepared text, he referred to abuses as “abominations,” vowing that the Church “will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes.” In a 40-minute address to the cardinals and members of the Curia, he blasted the “scourges of abuse and infidelity.” He zeroed in on “consecrated men, ‘the Lord’s anointed,’” who today “abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position.” He told them to face justice before earthly authorities and God: “To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.”
He invoked what I believe is the most appropriate New Testament exhortation for this priestly abomination: “Remember the words of Christ: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes!’”
Going to the Old Testament, the Holy Father invoked King David as an example of abuses of power, of corruption, of men with “angelic faces” who “shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.” They need to “rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life.”
Here was the famous Pope of Mercy lashing out as a Pope of Justice—at Christmas time, no less. It truly does seem that Pope Francis has been taken aback upon learning just how vile the stench of sin is that has pervaded so many sick men in his Church, far more than he imagined.
As for conservatives protesting that this doesn’t seem to fit with the Pope Francis as described in the Viganò letter, the one who appears to have been a possible protector of Cardinal McCarrick, well, I agree that the larger picture with Francis is so often puzzling (more on that later). And speaking of the Viganò letter, this brings me to number 12.
12. Left-wing equals homosexual.
In one of the most overlooked passages of the first Viganò letter, the papal nuncio said that Francis told him that bishops “must not be left-wing,” adding that “when I say left-wing I mean homosexual.”
Hmm. This statement surely baffles conservative and liberal Catholics alike. It doesn’t baffle me. If you look at a long line of Francis statements, you see that, on the whole, this man seems plainly alarmed by homosexual activity, even allowing for the early statement in his papacy about not judging “gay” people (more on that later, too).
11. “The idea of conquest is inherent to the soul of Islam.”
Yes, Francis leveled that gem back in May 2016. I might place it higher on this list if not for how Francis attempted to soften it with an outrageous caveat. In immediately sensing his gravely politically incorrect offense, Francis tried to offset the comment with an utterly shameful criticism of Christianity from Matthew’s Gospel: “One could also interpret the end of Saint Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus sends out his disciples to all nations, as the same idea of conquest.”
Balderdash. That was bunkum and Francis surely knew it from the moment it fell off his lips. He surely regretted it, and will need to answer to Jesus himself for that one. Nonetheless, he said what he said about Islam: conquest is inherent to its very soul.
10. Abortion is Nazi eugenics with white gloves.
Pope Francis has been absolutely solid in numerous times denouncing the “throwaway culture” of abortion and urging Catholics to say “no” to the “culture of death.” “Each life is sacred,” he has insisted. “Let’s pray together for those children who are in danger of interruption of pregnancy and for those who are nearing the end of life.” A long chronology of such remarks could be provided, but here are some that stand out:
In several statements in the summer of 2014, Pope Francis warned of a culture in which “children are thrown away” and the family disregarded. The Devil, said Francis, wants to attack the family.
In November 2014, speaking to no less than the European Parliament, the Holy Father condemned “dictatorships of relativism” (invoking his predecessor’s phrase), as well as what Francis called “ahistorical fundamentalisms, ethical systems without goodness, and intellectualism bereft of wisdom,” which, among other things, disregard and discard human life. “Whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.”
To make that statement to the European Parliament required real courage. It was a great moment. As John Allen put it, Pope Francis issued a “strong call to Europe to get both its social and its spiritual house in order.”
Later that year, in December 2014, Francis continued: “The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and woman. And this new beginning happens within a family, in Nazareth. Jesus was born in a family…. God chose to come into the world in a human family, which He himself formed.”
I could give numerous examples along these lines from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Amoris Laetitia offered a principled rejection of not only abortion but also contraception and sterilization, while upholding the transmission of life, the sacramental nature of marriage, and the role of parents in properly educating their children, with the family being “the first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom.”
And, as my primary exhibit here, recall that this past summer Francis horrified his liberal “pro-choice” admirers when he equated abortion with Nazi eugenics and those who do abortions to Nazis with “white gloves.” What Francis said was widely reported in the mainstream media: CNN, Fox News, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek. “Pope Francis spoke out strongly on abortion and ‘natural family’ Sunday,” reported one source, “telling Italy’s Family Association that he believes abortion for birth defects is akin to Nazi-style efforts to create a perfect master race.” In that same statement, he said there was “only one” true family—a family of a man and a woman.
“It pains me to say this,” said Francis. “In the last century the entire world was scandalized over what the Nazis were doing to maintain the purity of the race. Today we do the same thing, but with white gloves.”
Importantly, the actual context here was a June 16, 2018, extemporaneous speech by the Holy Father to an Italian group, the delegation of the Forum of Family Associations, in which he was so moved by the preceding words of the president of his host group that he went off script and delivered a stemwinder. The full passage is worth reading for what it says about biological gender, marriage, family, reproduction, and openness to, as well as refusal of, new human life.
I ask liberals: Do you agree with this? Of course, you don’t. This statement makes your skin crawl. And I ask pro-life Catholics: Why isn’t this Francis quote laminated with a magnet on your refrigerator?
9. Abortion is “like hiring a hit man.”
Along these same lines, Francis recently compared abortion to hiring a hit man to contract a murder. “Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” asked Francis in October 2018. “You cannot; it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. It is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem.”
Francis said this to a huge crowd of tens of thousands at a Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking off-the-cuff, he denounced the contradiction of allowing “the suppression of human life in the mother’s womb in the name of safeguarding other rights.” He asked: “But how can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life that is germinating be therapeutic, civilized or even simply human? I ask you: ‘Is it right to “take out” a human life to solve a problem? What do you think? Is it right? Is it right or not?’”
The left-wing Irish Times, giddy over its nation’s legalization of abortion last year, a move greeted by ecstatic Irish millennials in sickening scenes of jubilation akin to a pagan festival, seemed perplexed by Francis’s remarks, calling them “some of his toughest to date” for a pope who had “appeared to downplay the importance of ‘cultural war’ issues such as abortion.”
Really? Toughest to date? Is a hit man with a gun worse than a Nazi with white gloves? The Irish Times hasn’t been paying close enough attention to Francis’s statements on abortion. Of course, the Times isn’t alone.
8. The insidious “ideological colonization of the family”—by progressives.
This distinctly Francis phrase, “ideological colonization,” is a fascinating formulation for which he doesn’t get enough credit. It’s a unique catchphrase that captures many of his most trenchant cultural warnings.
“You mentioned a great enemy of marriage today: gender theory,” said Francis on October 1, 2016, speaking in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. “Today the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage.” This war isn’t being fought with arms “but with ideas.” Among these, there are “certain ideologies that destroy marriage.” They do this in pursuit of destroying “matrimony,” which is “the most beautiful thing God created,” having made man and woman in his image. “So we need to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.”
These ideological colonies certainly aren’t right-wing ones.
That was hardly Francis’s first such formulation. In January 2015, in the Philippines, he warned of same-sex “marriage” as one of the “forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family” and “redefine the very institution of marriage.” Francis stated unequivocally that the family is being threatened by relativistic “powerful forces,” “by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life” working to “disfigure God’s plan for creation.”
7. “Matrimony … is a man and a woman” and “it’s not possible to change it.”
Despite leftist attempts to remold the pope into some sort of same-sex-marriage advocate, he has been solid on the Church’s position on natural, traditional, and biblical marriage. Beyond what is already noted in this list, here’s another example from the interviews he gave for the book Politics and Society.
“What can we think of marriage between people of the same sex?” asked Francis, who then answered his own question: “Matrimony is a historical word. Always, in humanity, and not just in the Church, it was a man and a woman. It’s not possible to change it.” He repeated for emphasis: “It’s not possible to change it. It is part of nature. That’s how it is…. Let us not play with truths.” The pope insisted: “Let us call things by their names! Matrimony is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term.”
Call a same-sex union a “civil union,” if you will, said Francis. But it’s not marriage. Let us not play with truths.
6. Same-sex “marriage” “is not a marriage!”
This Francis statement means the same thing as him saying that matrimony is restricted to a man and a woman. Nonetheless, I’m singling it out separately to make it doubly clear to liberals, especially liberal Catholics, who are in denial about this pope.
Before an audience of 7,500 people at Pope Paul VI Hall on October 25, 2014, Francis remonstrated against same-sex “marriage,” practically shouting: “What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!”
He has said it very clearly and frequently. “The family is hit!” yelled Francis. “The family is knocked and the family is debased.… Can everything be called a family? How … much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage!” The Holy Father condemned the “new forms, totally destructive” of marriage.
He was equally strong the next month in his address to the “Humanum” conference, where he affirmed that “family is a family”—an “anthropological fact” that “can’t be qualified by ideological notions.”
5. “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”
In an explicit repudiation of the adoption of children by same-sex couples, Francis stated in November 2017 that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” At the Vatican’s three-day international, interfaith colloquium on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman,” Francis made a number of powerful observations, including this one. He insisted that children have this “right” because a mom and a dad are most hospitable to “creating a suitable environment for the child’s growth and emotional development.” Two “gay” dads, or lesbian moms, are not as conducive, period.
Francis continued: “This is why, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I stressed the ‘indispensable’ contribution of marriage to society, a contribution which ‘transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.’ And this is why I am grateful to you for the emphasis that your colloquium has placed on the benefits that marriage can provide children, the spouses themselves, and society.” Indeed, in Evangelii Gaudium, he stated: “Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”
Marriage between a man and a woman benefits children, and this, in turn, benefits society.
4. Gay marriage and gay adoption are a product of Satan.
This scathing denunciation would be higher on the list if not for the fact that the exact quote was made prior to Francis’s papacy, though I’ve retained it here because it clearly represents his thinking, and it ought to mortify liberals hailing him as pro-“LGBTQ.”
When he was a cardinal in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio declared same-sex “marriage” a diabolical effort of “the Father of Lies” to “destroy God’s plan … and deceive the children of God.” He was responding to an effort by Argentinian leftist lawmakers: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” This completely novel form of marital arrangement targets “the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
What prompted these words was a 2010 bill in Argentina that proposed giving same-sex couples the opportunity to marry and adopt children. Cardinal Bergoglio saw this as reprehensible. It was nothing less than Satan at work.
3. Transgenders and nuclear weapons.
Transgenderism is now a cause célèbre among Western liberals, but it’s an atrocity to Pope Francis. He sees transgenderism as a destructive violation of God’s plan and image.
“Pope Francis Compares Transgender People to Nuclear Weapons,” screamed one headline from February 2015, which reported the pope’s remarks this way:
Recently published remarks by Pope Francis comparing arguments for trans rights to nuclear weapons are the latest in a series of mixed messages the pontiff appears to be sending to LGBT rights supporters.
“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” Francis is quoted as saying in a book first published in Italy in January but that caught the attention of the English-language media over the last week. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation … With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator.”
LGBT rights supporters regard such comments as a betrayal of the pope’s statements suggesting he wants the church to reconcile with LGBT people.
Yes, I bet they do. This is not the Francis they’ve been told about. And yet, it’s consistent with the Francis who reviles gender manipulators and ideologues. He wants to be merciful, yes, but he also wants to be truthful—a simple logical nuance that seems to confound liberals who can’t wrap their minds around such an overwhelming intellectual complexity.
Francis has doggedly denounced the transgender push to erase the image of God in man. From the opening of Scripture, in Genesis, it is proclaimed that God “made them male and female,” in “His own image,” which is twice reaffirmed by Jesus in the New Testament (Mark 10:6 and Matthew 19:4). “We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God,” Francis told Polish bishops in Krakow. And even worse, he said: “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children—to children!—that everyone can choose their gender.” “This is terrible,” said the pontiff.
“God created man and woman,” Francis repeated. “God created the world this way, this way, THIS WAY, and we are doing the opposite.”
He has decried this gender confusion many times, from off-the-cuff remarks to official Vatican letters. He addressed it in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, where he wrote the following (twice citing his own previous statements, including his encyclical letter Laudato Sí):
The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created…. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension “to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.” (Catechesis, April 15, 2015)
Pope Francis understands this. Perhaps his progressive admirers could take heed. Someone needs to send a memo to his cheerleaders at the New York Times.
2. The Devil, the Devil, the Devil.
Last April, giant headlines at the Drudge Report and Breitbart blared “Good Friday 2018: Pope Sez No Hell.” Well, for a guy who doesn’t purportedly believe in hell, Francis sure talks a lot about Satan, and I doubt he thinks this ever-lurking Prince of Darkness is governing Heaven or Purgatory.
This pope is obsessed with the Devil, surely more than any pope in modern memory. Everyone reading this knows that. Pope Francis constantly warns of and blames all sorts of ills on the Devil. “The Devil wants infertility,” the pontiff declared, in another assessment sure to thrill the contraception crowd and population controllers. “He does not want us to give life.” The Devil, Francis said, in 2014, wants to “destroy” the family.
“Does the demon exist, or does he not exist?” Francis rallied a crowd in Pietrelcina, Italy, home of Padre Pio, in March 2018. Pio, said Francis, long felt “assaulted by the Devil.” He said the Devil “torments us, deceives us.” The Christian life is a “battle” against evil.
1. “The Church has spoken.”
Amid all these Francis bombshells to liberal sympathizers and conservative detractors alike, my top choice might seem anticlimactic, but it really ought to be the most significant to progressives and conservatives. It is, flatly, a firm repudiation by Francis of the very essence and core of progressive thinking.
Specifically, Francis has repeatedly, since the start of his papacy, and sometimes in the context of politically and ideologically charged progressive concepts (as well as sacramental issues, like baptism), retreated to a fallback position that a true progressive would never accept. Namely, Francis regularly instructs his interlocutors that “the Church has spoken.” When he says this, he means it is a settled issue. This is his go-to position, and it is a fixed position loyal to the Magisterium. Here are notable examples from merely the first year of Francis’s papacy:
On his flight to Rio for World Youth Day on July 28, 2013, Francis said this in regard to a question about women being priests: “As far as women’s ordination is concerned, the Church has spoken and said: ‘No.’ John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That door is closed.”
On that same flight, he said likewise regarding a question on a Brazilian law that “widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex.” The reporter asked Francis why he hadn’t spoken on the subject. Francis again affirmed: “The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!”
Then came the “who am I to judge” comment, also made on that Rio flight, and likewise invoking Church teaching: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying … wait a moment, how does it say it … it says: no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society.’” The Catechism has spoken.
He later added this in his August 19, 2013, interview with Antonio Spadaro: “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am not one to judge. By saying this, I said what the Catechism says.”
Granted, I understand fully that we can argue the details and context of this particular assertion by Francis. I get it, believe me. I know. But note this pope’s consistent fallback position: the matter is settled because the Church says so.
On other occasions Francis has invoked the Magisterium to end his need to say more. “The recognition of the fundamental right of religious freedom in all of its dimensions is unavoidable,” he said in November 2013. “The Magisterium of the Church has spoken about this with great commitment.”
Again, the pope ultimately appeals to the Catechism, the Magisterium, and the Church. This is something that a secular progressive would absolutely never do—that is, go to the Church as the source of truth, authority, and guidance and as the final arbiter.
Listen to the Church, Francis has consistently admonished, while also thereby rejecting not merely progressive thinking but what he disparagingly calls “adolescent progressivism,” which, he noted in November 2013, always suggests that when faced with any decision, it is right to swim along with the tide rather than remain faithful to traditional teaching. And, really, progressivism is inherently adolescent because it is always new, young, growing, evolving, and progressing. The Holy Father cautioned against this “spirit of worldliness” to “be like everyone else.”
In fact, this is a decidedly conservative (and Catholic) stance.
Even while Pope Francis obviously holds to certain positions on policy issues (e.g., climate change, immigration, and wealth redistribution) that we might label as “progressive,” it’s hard to describe Francis as an ideological progressive because of his unflagging belief in eternal absolutes, the primacy of Scripture, and the authority of the Church and its magisterial teaching.
Remember his admonition: “Let us not play with truths.” Progressives play with truth daily, if not hourly. Progressivism rejects the notion of absolute truth. Progressives believe that truth is always in flux, evolving, progressing. Francis does not.
“We do not joke around with truth,” said Francis (once again in regard to the fundamental matter of marriage between a man and a woman). “We cannot change it. This is the nature of things.”
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So, in sum, looking at these 14, where does this leave us? What are we to make of this?
As for traditional Catholics who don’t like Francis, what do you do with this list? As for liberals who love Francis, surely you’re asking the same question for different reasons. Is this still your long-anticipated “reformer” gloriously “gaying” the Church?
Maybe the better question for orthodox Catholics would be: What does this say about Francis and the mess going on around him? I stick to what I’ve been saying: I don’t think Pope Francis is a willful deceiver. When he speaks of the Devil’s deception, he wants no part of the deceit. He is a genuine man of mercy—and a man of loose lips. He’s also a product of the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s Jesuits, of the Latin American Church, and of Argentina, and harbors mistaken perceptions and prejudices regarding Church traditionalists, conservatives, “ideologues,” and “right-wingers.” Thus, he has chosen to surround himself with left-leaning clergy he feels more comfortable with, and it is they, I submit, who help lead him into chaos (maybe with some assistance from that Devil that Francis astutely warns about). He’s more along the lines of a Pope Paul VI, in this respect; he has made himself susceptible to being duped.
I could say more, but I’ll leave a fuller analysis for another time. This article doesn’t seek to answer this, nor do I think I have the complete answer.
Of course, I certainly don’t think all’s well in Francis-land. These past six years of his papacy have constituted a period of great turmoil, and I’m sure the Church is losing rather than gaining numbers as a result. If the Holy Spirit led this choice of Francis, it’s terribly hard at this moment to see where to and why. This has been a bad time, and it seems to be only getting worse. In fact, I could easily write up a separate top 14 list of politically correct statements from Francis that liberals would adore and conservatives would revile.
This has been an unsettling, challenging time. Five more years of Benedict XVI would have been preferable at least to spare us the vast confusion under Francis. Above all, it’s difficult to trust Pope Francis right now, whether this is his fault or not, and if his fault, then whether fully or not.
For now, however, forward this list to your favorite Francis-bashing conservative and Francis-loving liberal and see how they respond. Enjoy—it will surely add to the controversy surrounding this often-perplexing pontiff.
(Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez / CNA)