It’s time. I’ve put off writing this for a while, but the time has come. In the past few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of attacks on our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. No big deal, right? After all, our culture isn’t exactly supportive of Catholic teaching. We live in a world where the pursuit of pleasure is generally regarded as a one of life’s priorities. What the Church considers good is often viewed by the world as evil. Is it any surprise that the world is going to reject and vilify the Holy Father, who is the visible head of the Church on earth? Of course not, but that’s not the reason why I’m writing this article. Sadly, the majority of the attacks that I’m seeing are coming from those within the Church. Oh, it’s those “Cafeteria Catholics” again, right? Not this time. The vast majority of attacks are coming from individuals who love Christ and His Church. What’s unusual is that their love is being expressed in anger, disrespect and language that is dangerously close to heresy.
Before the attacks start coming, let’s set the record straight. I love Christ and I love His Church. Please don’t call me a “modernist”, “liberal”, or “conservative”. I am a Catholic…period. I am also not smarter than Jesus, who founded a Church on the leadership of the Holy Father (Cf. Matthew 16:18-19).
As a Catholic, I not only love Christ and His Church, but I love the Holy Father. Therefore, it only follows that I love and respect our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. In fact, that love is so real that it hurts me to see him treated with such disrespect (Catholics condescendingly calling him “Jorge”, “Bergoglio” or even “a heretic”). It hurts because these words are directed at my “Papa”, the individual that Christ placed in charge to help me get to Heaven.
On a personal level, I can’t express enough gratitude to Jesus for leaving me a series of “Papas”, all with unique and different charisms. Each of them has drawn me closer to Jesus, by helping me to concentrate on different aspects of my spiritual life. Is Pope Francis’ style different than Pope Benedict’s? You bet. Was Pope Benedict’s style different than Blessed Pope John Paul II’s? Absolutely, and that diversity can be extremely beneficial. I have learned a great deal from each of them and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be stretched spiritually.
So, why do I feel the need to write this? Do I feel that any minds will be changed? Honestly, I don’t know. While I hope that it has a positive effect, I can’t control how other people think or behave. Whether it has an effect or not, I do feel that I need to try. In addition to being hurt by the disrespect shown to Pope Francis, I am also concerned for those Catholics who feel justified in propagating such attacks. In an attempt to promote reverence for Our Lord and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which is a very commendable undertaking), some of these individuals are skating on some thin spiritual ice. The Second Vatican Council Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, is clear about the loyalty due to our Holy Father:
“This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking” (Lumen Gentium No. 25).
I am grateful for the Lord’s gift of the papacy. When the Holy Father speaks, I listen attentively. When Pope Francis tells me that I need to pay greater attention to the poor and be more charitable to others, I obey him. Why?
Because I love Jesus and that’s what He wants me to do.