I am appalled by commentators and writers who quickly denounce Pope Francis, often misinterpreting or twisting the meaning of his comments by taking them out of context. These critics are acting like the ‘ the accuser of our brethren… which accused them before our God day and night’. [Revelation 12:7-12] They seem poised, ready to pounce on any hint of his supposed sin against tradition. Pope Francis’ detractors condemn him as a modernist heretic who is selling out to secular opinion by refusing to stand up for traditional Roman Catholic Church teachings. The pope’s critics seem determined to over throw this Spirit-filled man of God. I am truly baffled.
What are these self-proclaimed champions of religious purity doing?
The most important point in this whole issue is that Jesus never commanded his followers to go around pointing out sin, faults, shortcomings or failures of others, never mind tearing down the pope. The only role that pointing out sin plays is to point to Christ’s redemptive act, because sin no longer has any power over us. God’s chosen ones had 5,000 years of pointing out sin under the law of Moses and it didn’t save anyone. It’s awareness of God’s love and salvation for all that saves man. If Pope Francis is in error or sin, the attitude of his critics is completely contrary to basic, Christian values. In contrast to his detractors, Pope Francis humbly lives out the gospel values of mercy and forgiveness, reaching out to those who have been marginalized, just like Jesus did when He lived on earth. Yet, it is these very gestures of reconciliation and bridge building that infuriates those with a self-righteous spirit.
I want to shout from the roof tops to all rigid purists who think Pope Francis is destroying the Roman Catholic Church:
John 8: 6-8
…They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.…
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
As we observe this new pope, I find that it is best to discern what is in the Lord with an open heart, and not with a critical eye that actively strives to unearth any sign of sin. It is interesting to note that Jesus constantly upset the religious experts of His day by seeming to break the letter of the law when in fact, as Love Incarnate, He was the fulfillment of the law. Jesus appeared to contradict Himself for those who judged His words only by their surface meaning. Many of Christ’s words seem difficult to reconcile if they are not read spiritually. I find the same holds true with Pope Francis; many critics point out statements that on the surface seem to contradict each other or go against tradition, but when we delve further, in a spirit of Love, we discover that he is simply restating orthodox Catholic teaching using the language of the average person on the street.
In addition, his open, compassionate, inclusive attitude to “outsiders” does not mean that the pope is rejecting the reality of the Body of Christ, or that he does not believe that the Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth. He is building bridges. No one ever saved a non-believer by throwing stones of condemnation with a self-righteous attitude. Jesus was also accused of rejecting the holy, chosen people of God, who obeyed God’s rules, when he hung out with outsiders and sinners.
To those who judge the pope for looking as if he is neglecting certain issues or concerns, I would remind them that not all the pope’s prayers, thoughts, intentions, actions, words or letters make it to the news. We are not privy to his heart’s intent. We are not privy to what God is telling him to do. We cannot judge; it is impossible to assume that the pope is doing nothing behind the scenes, demanding that the public be informed of all complicated negotiations or correspondence. You can’t assume the worst.
Finally, I would suggest that instead of complaining or pointing out the sins of our pope, it would be more efficacious to pray that he hears, obeys and carries the Will of God for the Church. These accusers of the brethren are acting more like servants of the evil one than servants of God by destroying the Church with their slander.