Introduction: The Reformation of Pope Francis – Part I
by David L. Gray – 09/20/2013
You know it’s gotten substantially worrisome when you get an email blast from the heretical and dissenting Catholic organization Call to Action stating how encouraged they are “by Pope Francis’s remarks in his interview with Rev. Antonio Sporado, S. J.” Actually, it was a very insightful interview (download PDF here), and very well done by Father Sporado. It provides a great depth of insight and clarity into the beautiful charism of Pope Francis. If you read some of his answers to a number of very good questions asked of him, you can finally come away with the answer to ‘why’ does Pope Francis operate as he does as the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.
On the right hand, there is the empirical man – the total life experiences of Jorge Mario Bergoglio – all that he has learned over the course of being a religious man in the world – the total sum of all of his successes and failures and what he did and did not learn from them. On the left hand is the Catholic Church his heart has watched from afar, even if physically close, for his entire life.
So, what happens when a man takes his total life experience into a new job? What happens when his worldview and beliefs of how a thing should be (based upon those life experiences) come into direct conflict with how a thing has been – been, based upon the expressed worldview and beliefs of his predecessors that shaped the current Catholic ethos? The answer to these questions is what has created the impetus of Pope Francis’s Reformation. This is not a theological reformation. Pope Francis believes all that the Church teaches. On the contrary, Francis wants to reform and reformulate the praxis of our faith in how we weigh, measure, and dispense the preaching of the word, the performance of the Sacraments, and the exercise of charity.
The Papacy and Reformation of Pope Francis will be exercised through three windows. I call them windows because we generally know what we are throwing out of windows, but we don’t always know what comes in through them when we aren’t looking. The first window is called Rejectionism, the second is Indifferentism, and the last is Inclusivism. Indeed, the Church may be long overdue for a healthy dose of Pope Francis’ rejection of luxury, excessive comfort, and unnecessary spending. We will also benefit greatly from the inclusive nature of our Holy Father. Perhaps we haven’t had a better big-net fisherman in the Petrine Ministry since Saint Peter himself. Yet, where the people of Christ may suffer greatly from the Reformation of Francis is in regard to his indifference towards the evil of moral relativism.
The following are three paragraphs that the mainstream media are rightly focusing on from the Pope’s interview with Father Sporado. I say rightly because they are actually doing their job to talk about today’s important issues. This stands in contrast to the Pope being indifferent towards directly confronting the important issues of today:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the timeThe dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.
The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heartburn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognise the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent.
The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.
Much like the whole interview, these three paragraphs are a beautiful perspective of how the faith should be transmitted. The only problem is that the leader of the Universal Church not only said it but is practicing it. Again, when a person takes their total life experience as being universally true for all and imposes it, you get the Reformation of Pope Francis.
Is it universally true that it is not necessary to talk about the intrinsic evils of abortion, abortifacient drugs, and gay marriage as often as possible? Absolutely not. I don’t know about Argentina, but I do know the world I encounter daily that is on the precipice of losing countless generations to moral relativism. It is a world in which absolute truth does not exist. Indeed, it is a world that needs to hear salvation proclaimed and the faith catechized, but it is also a world that needs to be repeatedly told that life has value, that sex is marriage, and marriage is for opposite genders. They need to be repeatedly told these things because the enemy is repeatedly telling them that life does not have value, that sex is for recreation, and that marriage is not gender-specific. It is to the point now that whether we can first reach them through the Gospel, natural law, or reason, we must help save them by any moral means from destroying themselves.
As we have always believed, it all begins with the sacredness and dignity of human life. That is the cornerstone of every truth that has ever been revealed to man. The sacredness and dignity of human life are included in the sacredness and dignity of holy matrimony. Yet, we are living in a world, perhaps not the world of Pope Francis, where nothing is getting attacked by the wickedness and snares of the devil more than our children and our institution of marriage.
It is as if our Pope is detached from the real world, as if he doesn’t recognize the hour. His indifference towards moral relativism and what the world needs to hear right now is very troubling to me. He is like a man whose child is about to touch the hot stove, and he doesn’t yell “STOP! HOT!” to the child. Rather, while the child is just inches away from touching the hot stove, he calmly tells the child what the stove is and how it works; after the child has burnt his hand on the stove, he comforts the child and bandages their hand. Maybe the Jesuit in him gives him the presupposition that all people are rational beings who don’t need to hear the truth until it sticks repetitively.
While in his new job, the Holy Father doesn’t yet seem to care to distinguish between what the world needs to hear and what the world needs to see from the Holy Father. The sustained success of his reformation will always hinge on his ability to transition from being a big vision leader to someone who can offer clarity of what he believes, build a system around it, and create disciples of his vision (trust and success are required for this last part).
Will the Catholic Church Survive the Reformation of Pope Francis? The answer is that the Catholic Church will survive the Reformation of Pope Francis, even if he continues this either-or approach, rather than an and-both approach. Still, if his indifference towards moral relativism is embraced in the West, the West may not survive.
A Church in His Image: The Reformation of Pope Francis – Part II
by David L. Gray – 12/19/2013
Back in September 2013, I wrote an article initially entitled, Will the Catholic Church Survive the Reformation of Pope Francis?, in which I began taking a look at what shape Pope Francis’ Reformation of the Catholic Church was taking on. I said that Pope Francis’ reform of the Catholic Church will be exercised through three windows that I delineated to be (1) Rejectionism, (2) Indifferentism, and (3) Inclusivism.
Now, with Pope Francis’ recent decision to replace the conservative favorite Cardinal Burke with the liberal darling Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation of Bishops, which recommends what clerics become bishops of the Catholic Church throughout the world, and his ‘seemingly’ disinterest in the apparent ongoing persecution of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (read about here and here), it is a great time to add more shape and color to the Reformation of Pope Francis.
In the previous article, I also began painting my portrait of our Pope, who is a very kind man who has a very deep and sincere attachment to the poor and marginalized of the world but who also is imbued with a disturbing detachment from the greatest dangers that are facing Western civilization at this hour. Pope Francis seems to be a classic romantic religious who is filled with great pastoral care and charisms. He is a man who is standing very close to a mural to which his eyes are lovingly drawn to a weeping infant whose mother is holding. Naturally, his pastoral heart longs to care for the child, but if he stepped back from the mural far enough, he would see that Satan has just snapped the neck of the mother with his left hand, and she is now dead and falling to the ground. He would also see that the right hand is being outstretched to snatch up the child. Yes, the child weeps, and now we know why.
Pope Francis truly believes in his personal life experience. He trusts in it because he knows it is how he has drawn closer to Christ Jesus. He seems to believe that they would be better off if everyone could imitate him. He sees his duty as Pope is to take his personal life experience and path of holiness and foist it upon the universal church. The Reformation of Francis means to remake the Catholic Church in his image, a feat no previous Pope has dared to exercise to this extent. More than that, he is now working to solidify his makeover of the Church by appointing Bishops who share his vision.
To be sure, Pope Francis is apparently a faithful Catholic. His apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium only demonstrated what I have already said, that this is a religious who believes in his life experience and worldview and wants the world to sense things how he senses them. Although Pope Benedict XVI said much of what was found in Evangelii Gaudium over the course of his own pontificate, the call of Benedict was not to draw the world into this life experience but, rather, to draw the world into the life experience of Christ Jesus. That is the distinguishing mark and difference up to this point between Francis and Benedict XVI.
This series I am writing begins with a preposterous question! Of course, the Catholic Church will survive the Reformation of Francis. Yet, whenever someone comes along and exercises an unbalanced interest in one group to bring them out of the margins, several other groups will inevitably replace them and fall into the recently vacated margins. Based upon the new makeup of the Congregation of Bishops and what is going on with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, we now know who that new marginalized group will be.
I am almost certain that someone will jump into the com-box below and write something about how the Holy Spirit chose Pope Francis and that we should not question him. First off, I completely disagree that the Holy Spirit is a bully. Secondly, if you’ve read my blog long enough, you’d know I distrusted all celebrities. All those people whom the world loves, fawns over, celebrates, and honors, I even have a side-eye glare when that person is a cleric. If the dark world hated Pope Francis right now, I would probably drool every time I see him, but they don’t, and for that reason, I’m squinting at our Holy Father. In other words, it’s not him, it’s me.
Indifference: The Reformation of Pope Francis – Part III
by David L. Gray – 08/05/2014
This ongoing series on the Reformation of Pope Francis began in September 2013 with a thesis and a prophecy. The thesis was that Pope Francis meant to remake the Catholic Church in his image, a feat no previous Pope dared to exercise to this extent. The prophecy was that the Papacy and Reformation of Pope Francis would be exercised through three personal ideologies of his that I called ‘windows’; those three being: (1) Rejectionism, (2) Indifferentism, and (3) Inclusivism.
Those new to this series should know that these are not slam pieces. While it is true that I am often vexed by the lack of precision in Pope Francis’ non-magisterial statements that have to do with theology or Church history, I greatly admire him as a pastor of the Catholic Church. If God had blessed me with the degree of empathy that Pope Francis seems to have, I’d be a better person.
Nevertheless, I am not ashamed to say that I’ve been correct from the beginning about the Reformation of Pope Francis. I told you exactly what was going to happen and why it was going to happen. I gave you specific details back in 2013; all I’m doing now for the rest of this series is highlighting examples of the three windows. These are my ‘I told you so’ pieces. In this installment, I’m going to highlight the second window, which concerns his (non-heretical) indifferentism.
Does Pope Francis Tend Towards Indifferentism or Not?
In a recent article by staunch Francis defender Fr. Dwight Longenecker, entitled, ‘Is Proselytism Solemn Nonsense?’ he defends Pope Francis against charges of indifferentism for his comments about proselytism being solemn nonsense and the worst thing you can do if you want to be happy. Fr. Longenecker’s overall defense was tendering Pope Benedict XVI’s comments against proselytism (as to say that Francis isn’t saying anything that the great theologian of our time didn’t also say), and suggesting that what Pope Francis meant by the word ‘proselytize’ was ‘forced conversion.’
A couple of things can be said about Fr. Longenecker’s apologia. The first is that he raises an argument of indifferentism between Francis and Benedict to prove that Francis doesn’t tend towards indifferentism, when it was Pope Francis himself who, since at least 2013, has repeated (sometimes paraphrasing) a 2007 Easter Sunday statement from Pope Benedict XVI at the Shrine of Aparecida in which he said:
“The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfills her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.”
While defending Pope Francis against indifferentism by saying that he is not any different from Pope Benedict by using a quote that Francis himself attributes to Benedict is a bit loopy, it is fine to concede to the fact that Pope Francis would rather attract people to the Church, rather than proselytize them into the Church. What we cannot concede to is Fr. Longenecker’s second argument that what Pope Francis means by ‘proselytism’ is forcing the faith on people because all the evidence we have, from his time as Cardinal in Argentina to now, suggests that what the Pope means by ‘proselytism’ is evangelization to non-Catholics.
For Francis, any form of evangelization/preaching/apologetics that is offered directly to non-Catholics with the intent to proclaim to them the wholeness and fullness of the Catholic faith for the purpose of inviting them to consider the validity of our claim against theirs is what he calls ‘proselytism.’ The irony is that it is because Catholics in Argentina and elsewhere in South America failed to boldly and loudly proclaim the wholeness and fullness of the Catholic faith that millions of Catholics there have been lost to the dim-light of Protestantism, even during the watch of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio.
It may very well be the case that what we have to look forward to from the current Papacy is more of what we got from him in Argentina, which was absolutely no reason why Protestants should become Catholic. That lack of reason had nothing to do with Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio not being a great pastor who reached out to them. Still, it had everything to do with his affirming them in their beliefs and a lack of evangelizing to them the clear and distinct light of Catholicism.
Indifferentism Towards the Dim-Light of Protestantism
Pope Francis has said more than enough publicly to leave us secure with the fact that he believes in a unified Christian faith. In fact, in Paragraphs 244 through 246 of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium represents a beautiful expression of that eventuality that the Holy Spirit is leading us towards. He has also said more than enough publicly and privately to leave us insecure with the impression that he doesn’t believe that the eventual unity of all Christians will be in the Catholic Church. He has sometimes sounded quite indifferent, and that indifference has affirmed and validated Protestants in their dim light.
For example, when a Pope apologizes to Protestants for “obstructing the growth of their communities,” what they actually hear from him is an affirmation of their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism – that’s indifferentism. When Protestants hear reports of the Pope telling someone they do not need to physically be in the Church because they are a part of God’s family, what Protestants hear is an affirmation of their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism – that’s indifferentism. When his comments resurface from when he was a Cardinal talking about how the Church needs Anglicans and how the Ordinate that Pope Benedict XVI established was unnecessary, what Anglicans hear is an affirmation of their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism – that’s indifferentism. When Protestants hear the Pope say, “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community. There are so many doctrines we will never agree on,” what they ingest from that is that the Pope has affirmed them in their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism- that’s indifferentism. It doesn’t stop them from trying to convert Catholics. When Protestants read the Pope’s 10 Secrets to Happiness and see Him say NOTHING about Jesus, Prayer, or the Bible, they are instantly affirmed in their prejudices against Catholics and affirmed in their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism – that’s indifferentism. When Protestants hear the Pope misspeak and say that priestly celibacy is just a modern innovation, what they actually hear is a validation of their false claims against Catholic teaching – that’s indifferentism. When Protestants read that Tony Palmer told his close friend Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio that he wanted to become a Catholic, but Bergoglio told him to remain a Protestant, what they take from that is an affirmation of their beliefs that run contrary to Catholicism – that’s indifferentism. After Tony Palmer tragically died a Protestant (intentionally/by the Pope’s advice) and Pope Francis compelled the priests of St. John the Evangelist Church to give his intentional Protestant friend a Catholic funeral rite, the case was closed. Code of Canon Law 1184 §1 is explicitly clear that only faithful Catholics can receive Church funeral rites. What we are talking about here is an exercise in indifferentism!
This list goes on and on. The point here is not to be exhaustive but to merely debunk the claim that Pope Francis isn’t indifferent towards the Divine uniqueness of Catholicism. Now, that doesn’t make him bad, or a heretic, or evil, or a reason for someone to become a Sedevacantist. It only means what I said about Pope Francis from the beginning. Due to his life experience, he has come to have a slight disdain for the old-fashioned recipe he saw being cooked in the Vatican decade after decade after decade. He believes that the Church has been too exclusive for far too long and wants to tear down many pillars that kept many things in place for a very long time. His tearing down and rebuilding of the temple goes far beyond the Roman Curia! Pope Francis is a man who is completely dominated by his personal life experience and thinks we would all be better off living according to his worldview.
Like Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis also has come to love a number of Protestants and people of other religions. His love for them as human persons has weakened his concern for the lies that they believe. Now, don’t go off and judge him for that. Almost all of us have people we love but fail to give the hard medicine. Pope Francis is just like the rest of us – weak and suspect to disordered love; that is, love that doesn’t always tell the truth to those we claim to love – those we claim to desire the best for.
As interesting as the reforms of Francis will be, the thing to remember is that they are only a blip on the screen of what the Holy Spirit is doing. We must continue distinguishing between reforms of substance (i.e., suppression of the Latin Mass and assignment of like-minded Bishops) versus reforms of style (big tent ecumenism and no red shoes). The style reforms won’t last past his papacy, but the reforms of substance may.
Consequences of the Failed Synod: The Reformation of Pope Francis – Part IV
by David L. Gray – 10/12/2015
On September 20, 2013, I began a series of articles to explain to my audience what the Reformation of Pope Francis would entail. The thesis of my series is that Pope Francis means to remake the Catholic Church in his image, a feat that no previous Pope has dared to exercise to this extent. To be precise, the Papacy and Reformation of Pope Francis will be exercised through three personal ideologies of his that I called ‘windows’; those three being (1) Rejectionism, (2) Indifferentism, and (3) Inclusivism.
I began the series with an Introduction to the Reformation of Pope Francis, which I followed up in December of that year with details of how the Pope hopes to permanently preserve the Church Remade in his Image by appointing people as Bishops and Cardinals who are like himself and by marginalizing people who are not like him. Then, in August of 2014, I outlined the ‘window’ of Indifferentism in the Ideology of Pope Francis.
Another piece that helps us better understand the psychology of Pope Francis is my article entitled ‘Pope Francis, Barack Obama and the Rise of the Beta Male.’ In that article, I outlined the five things that Beta Males like Pope Francis can’t hide: (1) The fact that they’d sell their own mother’s soul to be liked and accepted; (2) Their hatred towards Alpha Males; (3) Their insecurity and cliquish nature; (4) Their inability to lead; and (5) Their Machiavellian plots to get their way.
Where Are We Now with the Reformation of Francis?
Pope Francis hasn’t budged one iota on believing that he has received a mandate from God to rebuild His Church, and he’s not going to budge! The Holy Father is not going to stop believing in everything that his life experience as an Argentinian Jesuit religious, priest, bishop, and cardinal has informed him. He will always believe that prior to his election as the Bishop of Rome, the Catholic Church was completely incapable of meeting the needs of those who needed it most because those who occupied the highest offices of the Church were slaves to tradition and the status quo.
The great irony of the Reform of Francis is that inasmuch as he believes that all the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, and Monsignors prior to him were slaves to tradition and the status quo, Francis himself is a slave to his own life experience and will not move from believing that not only is it universally true, but that the Catholic Church will be better off if it is rebuilt according to his vision.
Everything that Pope Francis has said, done, and directly inspired up to this point has been done to pastorally and theologically express his rejection and indifference towards traditional Catholicism, which he believes has prevented the Catholic Church from being inclusive of the people who need the Church the most; that is, the poor, the marginalized, and the rejected. He seems to believe that if he ignores the middle class and the wealthy if he marginalizes traditional Catholics, and if he rejects those who once felt welcomed in the Church in favor of those whom his eyes have always been set on, he will make the Catholic Church a better place.
Essential to the Reformation of Pope Francis is receiving from his appointees to the Synod on the Family a clear affirmation of his claimed mandate to tear down all of the pastoral and theological infrastructure that has kept the Church away from those who need it the most.
The Tragic Consequences of the Failed Synod on the Family
Therefore, it is direly important for Pope Francis to reach a consensus with the Fathers of the Synod on the matters that he has repeatedly directed them to dialogue about. Suppose the Synod Fathers do not deliver to the Pope a final report of the Synod in which a consensus has been reached. In that case, he knows very well that the Apostolic Exhortation (to the Universal Family) that he will write and publish in the months following (in response to the Synod) will be ignored, trashed, and forever labeled disparagingly by whatever caucus of the Church that feels most slighted by it – perhaps both.
To be sure, Pope Francis is a desperate man who is acting very desperate. Even ignoring the wise counsel of his peers. The mandate that he believes that he has received from God to rebuild His Church is in jeopardy. He’s facing a lame-duck Papacy for the rest of his tenure if no consensus is reached at the Synod.
It’s clear to most of the faithful at this point of the Synod that Satan is alive and well and that he has his own clergy working at the highest levels of the Catholic Church, attempting to destroy it. I honestly don’t know whether it is the the greatest display of faith or the greatest show of pride I have ever seen on Pope Francis that prevents him from tabling the Synod or calling it completely off and sending the Fathers home.
We must believe that the Holy Spirit will prevail in His Catholic Church – He always does! As for the Reformation of Pope Francis, this failed Synod on the Family may have weakened his Papacy forever. It all depends on how his upcoming Apostolic Exhortation will be received, having found no consensus on the issues he wanted to discuss.