This blog has defended Pope Francis
. He told us to go out into the Church and the world to make a mess. His pontificate has certainly achieved that objective. The Vatican’s moral abdication on China is disconcerting. Over a million ethic Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in concentration camps, and the Vatican said nothing. The Chinese Communist Party’s insistence on Sinicization of religion and even the accord allowing the CCP to co-appoint bishops adds to the concern. In addition to issues on the world stage, Pope Francis has regularly minimized the primary troubles of our day to include marriage, family life, and abortion.
To be fair, Pope Pius XII was publicly silent during the atrocities of World War II while privately coordinating resistance to the regime. It is at least possible that Francis has chosen to follow in this mold.
Pope Francis is right to highlight other issues of our faith, such as the plight of migrants. His emphasis on the theological virtue of charity is evident and a timely reminder.
The problem with highlighting these new areas is that they are of lesser moral weight than the core teachings of the Church. Further, his confusing and nuanced statements sow confusion, even among the well catechized faithful. How do we reconcile the Catholic intellectual tradition with off the cuff remarks that so clearly contradict 2,000 years of established teaching from the most brilliant minds in the Church?
It’s clear that these aren’t little slips of the tongue, loose words, or errors. When Pope Francis speaks, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it on purpose. Unfortunately, it’s the definition of scandal: speaking to cause confusions. How are we to respond?
We must start with humility. While he does not offer these remarks under the principle of Papal Infallibility, Francis was elected pontiff for a reason. It may not be clear to us now, but there is some message that the Holy Spirit is trying to send to us. Perhaps the message is that we should not be so narrowly focused in our own spiritual lives, but to embrace the wholeness of loving each other. Perhaps we’ve become too comfortable and spiritually selfish, caring more about our salvation than the salvation of others.
Next, we must resist the urge to cancel Pope Francis. I don’t subscribe to a cancel culture. I understand people to be complex, so I take their good and set aside their bad. He is still the supreme pontiff, entrusted with the care of the Church.
In our lives, we must stand up for truth. The most damaging part of all of this scandal is that it’s a weak attempt to sugar coat the truth. Truth is always hard to hear, but it's the most loving word to share. The family is vital to the survival of society and humanity writ large. To recast the family is to weaken and denigrate it. Our world widely accepts immorality in the vain attempt to make everyone feel good about themselves. Only this acceptance comes with reducing the dignity of the very people it aims to support. Our world needs to continue to hear with absolute clarity the saving message of the Church and an unequivocal advocacy for the absolute dignity of the human person.
Finally, don’t give up. Not even the gates of Hell will prevail against the Church, so we shouldn’t fret about a few poor comments to the media. The wedge of schism drives people away from grace, and that’s why it is so effective. If a media quote is enough to get a person or a family to leave their faith behind forever, that’s a victory for darkness.
Be patient, be humble, and stand in truth.