Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pope Francis and The Ideologues

In the past few days there has been a story circulating around the Internet that Pope Francis called a divorced-and-remarried Argentinian woman to let her know that she could receive communion despite her marital status.  This story started in "The Telegraph" under the title, "Pope Francis 'phones divorced woman' to say she can receive Communion. This is potentially a huge story."

From the story:
The woman's husband, writing on Facebook, claims that the Pope – introducing himself as "Father Bergoglio" – spoke to his wife, who'd been divorced before marrying him and told her that men or women who were divorced and received Communion weren't doing anything wrong. He apparently added that this matter is under discussion at the Vatican.
The author of the blog is very skeptical and writes in parentheses:
"Quick health warning: given the complexity of this subject, we need much more clarity on what Francis reportedly said. I find it hard to believe that he would make such an unqualified statement."
A lot of other people had problems with the credibility of this story as well, but that didn't stop other Catholic bloggers from running with it in order to showcase the heretical Pope Francis.

From A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics:
Yikes?  I know Fr. Z and others are trying to caution, and rightly so, that this is an unconfirmed story (parts are confirmed, see below), that even if true, this is a private conversation and not a doctrinal statement, and that we don’t know all the details.
All Mostly true, but nonetheless, this story fits a pattern of established behavior and also seems to align with public sentiments expressed by Francis elsewhere, so that discounting it as totally implausible seems a bit rash:
Dallas Area Catholic quotes from another Catotholic blog: thatthebonesyouhavecrushedmaythrill, or "Bones" as he calls it:
Clearly, whatever the truth of the matter, someone is doing this undermining of the Magisterium and the Papacy on purpose. The question remains whether that person is one of the Pope’s enemies, or one of his friends, or the Pope himself.
Another "Catholic" blog, run by a guy who identifies himself only as "Mundabor", wrote this:
All this happens because we have a disgraceful Pope in love with his own popularity, with no idea of sound Catholicism, prone to stunts of all sorts, with a sovereign contempt for decency, and not very intelligent. A halfway decent Pope would never make such calls in the first place; even if he were able to put three phrases in a row that make some sense.
If you really want to subject yourself to it, you can read his full post HERE.  

These are just a couple of examples of the rash reactions you will find on some Catholic blogs.  In this day of instant communication, no one can ever let a story sit.  No one seems able to say, I really don't know enough about this to even comment on it, so why don't I just shut up so I won't be guilty of slandering or judging anyone.

The Vatican Office's response to this story was wholly unsatisfactory to most of those making the accusations against Pope Francis. Father Lombardi of the Holy See Press Office released this statement:
“Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships. Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope's public activities, no information is to be expected from the Holy See Press Office. That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion. Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences”
This obviously does not resolve the veracity or lack thereof in this story at all.  Anyone who was accused of making such a potentially heretical statement as Pope Francis would certainly seek to be exonerated if he was innocent, wouldn't he?  Since he refuses to do so, it can only be assumed that the Pope actually made this phone call and told this divorced-and-remarried woman that she could receive communion.

This is from a popular Catholic blogger, Steve Skojec, who wrote in answer to the Holy See's Press Release:
This doesn’t mean anything. It also makes no sense.
Why would this woman lie if she got the answer she wanted? Why make something up?
And if she didn’t get the answer she wanted and did lie about it, only the Pope himself can say, “Yes, I spoke to her, but this is not what was said.” Since he knows this is becoming a big story, it behooves him to do this if he cares about preserving doctrinal clarity and avoiding unnecessarily scandalizing the faithful. If he doesn’t want to speak to it directly, the statement that needs to be made by the press office, with his authorization, is astonishingly simple:
“The Holy Father cannot comment on the contents of a personal phone call, but suffice to say that in his discussion he did, in fact, reaffirm the Church’s longstanding teaching on divorce and remarriage, and the conditions for the reception of communion.”
That kills the noise. Instead, this continues to get bigger and spread and affect people’s perceptions of what is really going on. The pope understands by now how fast the media machine works. He should be pretty used to creating controversy at this point, and a man in his position with his obligation to safeguard the sensus fidei would, one would assume, care a great deal about setting the record straight.
And yet…nothing.
This is EXACTLY what someone trying to change Church teaching through public perception rather than doctrinal alteration would want. If this isn’t planned, it’s the most unbelievably devilish luck.
I am forced to conclude that his silence is a form of consent. Which leads to other conclusions:
(If you want to read his other conclusions, you can go HERE.)

Oh, really?  Maybe we should slow down just a little bit.

There is a story that came out today from entitled, "Pope Francis Preaches 'Indissolubility of Christian Matrimony'".  Huh?  How can this be after the scandalous phone call he made?  According to the article, in a meeting with bishops from southern Africa, Pope Francis made the following statements:
“The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples,” Pope Francis said.
“Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity.”
The article continues:
Pope Francis noted the pastoral challenges presented by marital separation and divorce, even in Christian families, and the lack of a stable home for many children.
. . .

He stressed the need to continue “indispensable” marriage preparation programs that give “new hope” to young people for their futures as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.
So what gives here? How could the Pope say one thing to the Argentinian woman and another thing to the bishops? Because he didn't!! Anyone who is willing to look at this situation without prejudice and downright hate for the Holy Father can easily see what happened. The Argentinian story was made up. But the Holy Father, out of love and compassion for the woman and her family, refused to call her on it and instead took the hit for her. 

Sure, it would have been easy for Pope Francis to have protested his innocence. But Our Holy Father truly is a man of God, and he is much more concerned about the woman and her spiritual state than how he looks in public. To have called her a liar in public could have irreparably driven her away from God and the Church. Most people without an agenda saw through this story, but the idealogues saw this as red meat and went for it. Do you think any of them will apologize? Hardly.

And for the faithful who, as Steve Skojec says, need "doctrinal clarity," then they need only look to the public on-the-record statements of Pope Francis, and not some unsubstantiated gossip.

It should also be noted that Pope Francis also spoke about abortion in this meeting with the southern African bishops:
In his comments to the southern African bishops, Pope Francis also noted the damage caused by abortion and an attitude of disrespect for life.
“Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn,” he said.
I am personally struck by the deep compassion shown in this statement as well.  I have prayed in front of abortion clinics for a few years, and I see the young women going in there to destroy their babies.  I see the look of pain on their faces, and I know that it will only get worse as time goes on.  Pope Francis shows that he understands this pain as well, and he is reaching out to these young women and rightly telling them that they, in many ways, are victims of a culture of death, as so aptly named by St. John Paul II, just as much as their babies are.  With his words of mercy, Pope Francis is inviting them to the loving forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who is the only One who can truly heal them.  

Pope Francis has so much to teach us, but as long as we keep our own prejudices so firmly in place, we will never learn these valuable lessons.  We have been given a wonderful Holy Father in Pope Francis, and it pains me that so many Catholics reject him as a "modernist" and "heretic", ready to believe the very worst about him.

May God Bless Pope Francis and guide him in all his actions and words, and keep him safe from the wolves.


  1. So, how could anyone possibly object to the pope clarifying that what is being reported in that phone call is not, in fact, what he said?

    What would be lost by his making that effort - surely no greater than the effort to make the phone call itself?

    Instead, I'm hearing from people in parish situations who think this is a green light for the divorced and remarried to receive communion. If not now, then in the immediate future.

    You OK with that? Because considering that there are saints who put their lives on the line to defend the Eucharist, I think the expenditure of a little papal effort is warranted here.

    1. Steve, I think you need to re-read my post. It is quite obvious from the Pope's statements to the African bishops that he believes very strongly in the sanctity of marriage and in defending church teaching on this subject. The fact that he did not try to defend himself against the woman and her husband who reported his alleged statement on Facebook tells me that Pope Francis' doesn't want to take a chance on pushing them even further away from God than they already are.
      This couple has already separated themselves from the Church. Pope Francis is showing deep concern for their souls by not publicly engaging them in any way.

      If people are taking this unsubstantiated statement as a reason to reject the sanctity of marriage, then they are merely looking for an excuse to reject Church teaching. As others have said, church doctrine does not come from private conversations, most especially those which are extremely suspect.

    2. Steve
      I agree that nobody would object to the Pope clarifying that what is being reported in that phone call is not, in fact, what he said. I for one would be glad to listen if his Holiness felt the need to set the record straight.
      However, that is signifying different from calling on him to clarifying himself. The Pope is unlike other earthly leaders, he answers only to God. If the Holy Father does clarify what was said, it should be because he felt it should be, not because we think it should be. We are not talking about the man Jorge Mario Bergoglio; we are talking about the Vicar of Christ.
      I also agree with Catholic in Brooklyn. In the hundreds of statements, speeches and Homilies Pope Francis has made since becoming Pope, he has substantiated shown his fidelity to Church Teaching. I agree that we should have more confidence in Pope Francis and not give undo credence to this unsubstantiated story.
      I also would however take this a step further; I believe that we should have more confidence in the provincial protection of God. When the Risen Christ founded the Church with Peter as the head he also said, "...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
      His Holiness is incapable of teaching error, not because of whom he is, but because of whom he represents. The Pope represents Christ. Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Church. In our history we have seen this even with bad Popes, like Alexander VI. He was a very sinful man and clearly abused Papal authority. However, he never taught error.

    3. Thank you so much, Mr. Clark. All of this wringing of hands and declaring that the pope is a heretic shows our complete lack of trust in the promises of Jesus Christ. Our Lord promised us that His Vicar and the Church can never lead us astray. All we need do is take the advice given by Moses to the Israelites, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."

  2. I know I am late to this party.

    What likely happened is simplicity itself. The Pope called this woman & He told her one thing but she heard another. I know about this I work in the Queens Library. I am forever telling people one thing(about library rules and Policy) & having them hear another thing.

    OTOH worst case scenario he told this woman something imprecise & she has come to a bad conclusion because of his imprudence.
    But even St John Paul II was imprudent in the way the didn’t deal with Fr. Marcel & I can point to a host of Saint who dropped the ball.

    Still if Francis is what passes for a “bad Pope” I won’t loose sleep over it. Wake me when the Pope is openly living with his girlfriend at the Vatican (or God forbid his boyfriend) then I will get upset.


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