Casualties of Confusion

for January 24th, 2014
Memorial of St. Francis de Sales

Liturgical texts here



WHAT the Church needs most today, said Pope Francis, “is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful… I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” [1]cf., Sept. 30th, 2013 Ironically, some of the first wounded rolling in since his pontificate began are casualties of confusion, mostly “conservative” Catholics bewildered by statements and actions of the Holy Father himself. [2]cf. Misunderstanding Francis

The truth is that Pope Francis has done and said certain things that require clarification or has left the hearer wondering, “Who was he just referring to?” [3]cf. “Michael O’Brien on Pope Francis and the New Phariseeism” The important question is how can and should one respond to such concerns? The answer is twofold, revealed in today’s readings: first on the level of an emotional response, and second, on the level of a faith response.

Even though Saul was hunting David down, when David had a chance to attack him, he refused. In fact, David felt badly for even cutting off the hem of Saul’s mantle while he was sleeping.

The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him, for he is the LORD’s anointed. (First reading)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus chose His twelve Apostles—and one of them was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. To all of them, Jesus said:

Whoever listens to you listens to me… (Luke 10:16)

These men, and their successors, are likewise the Lord’s “anointed.”

…the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 862; cf. Acts 1:20, 26; 2 Tim 2:2; Heb 13:17

No one in the Church is beyond reproach if he is leading others into sin. Neither is the Holy Father immune to just criticism. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Even among his companions, David refused to disparage the king. And when David did have to something to say, he waited until he could say it to the king himself—and in the most respectful manner. His honor was ultimately directed toward God, because it was the Lord who appointed Saul as king.

Let’s face it, the central concern among Catholics is that, like Saul, Pope Francis may “kill” some part of Sacred Tradition thereby throwing the Church into a crisis and souls into apostasy. This notion is being reinforced today by widespread anti-papal evangelical prophecies and one Catholic “seer” in particular who goes by the name of “Maria Divine Mercy.” Of the latter, theologian Dr. Mark Miravalle has done a careful review of her grave claims, [4]cf. “Maria Divine Mercy: a Theological Evaluation” which do more than cut off an end of the Pope’s mantle, but completely tear away the dignity, honor, and promises attached to the office of Peter, “the rock.” It is this alleged “prophet”—not the Pope—who is creating real division within the Body of Christ. [5]See my analysis on “Maria Divine Mercy’s” anti-papal prophecies in Possible… or Not? and Prophecy, Popes, and Picarretta

But could it happen? Could a legitimately elected pope—which Francis is—change Sacred Tradition? [6]cf. Possible… or Not? In 2000 years, with some rather evil popes at times, not one of them has ever done so, or rather, been able to. Why? Because it is Christ who is building His Church, not the Pope (Matt 16:18). It is the Holy Spirit who is leading her into all truth, not the Pope (Jn 16:13). It is the charism of infallibility belonging to the whole Church [7]cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 92 that protects the truth, not the Pope per se. Because if the truth can be altered at any point along the timeline of the Church, then all of the above promises of Christ are empty words, and no one can be certain to know the truth after the Ascension of Christ.

That said, there have been popes and Church Fathers who have fallen into personal error on matters of doctrine. Take Pope Honorius, for instance:

Pope Honorius was condemned for monothelitism by a Council, but he was not speaking ex cathedra, i.e., infallibly. Popes have made and make mistakes and this is no surprise. Infallibility is reserved ex cathedra. No popes in the history of the Church have ever made ex cathedra errors. —Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, Theologian, in a personal letter

So Pope Francis is not immune to making mistakes—whether in casual remarks, personal books, or interviews. Hence, the reason we need to pray assiduously for the priesthood all the way to the top.

Perhaps Fr. Tim Finigan can remove some of the verbal shrapnel and “heal wounds” in a few casualties by putting our fiesty Latin American Pope’s comments into their proper perspective…

…if you are troubled by some statements that Pope Francis has made in his recent interviews, it is not disloyalty, or a lack of Romanita to disagree with the details of some of the interviews which were given off-the-cuff. Naturally, if we disagree with the Holy Father, we do so with the deepest respect and humility, conscious that we may need to be corrected. However, papal interviews do not require either the assent of faith that is given to ex cathedra statements or that internal submission of mind and will that is given to those statements that are part of his non-infallible but authentic magisterium. —tutor in Sacramental Theology at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh; from The Hermeneutic of Community, “Assent and Papal Magisterium”, October 6th, 2013;

Statements like this:

…faith is not negotiable. Among the People of God this temptation has always existed: to downsize faith, and not even by “much”… so we must must get the  better of the temptation to behave more or less ‘like everyone else’, not to be too, too rigid… it is from this that a path which ends in apostasy unfolds… when we begin to cut faith down, to negotiate faith and more or less to sell it to the one who makes the best offer, we are setting out on the road of apostasy, of no fidelity to the Lord. —POPE FRANCIS, Mass at Sanctae Marthae, April 7th, 2013; L’osservatore Romano, April 13th, 2013

Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)





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1. cf., Sept. 30th, 2013
2. cf. Misunderstanding Francis
3. cf. “Michael O’Brien on Pope Francis and the New Phariseeism”
4. cf. “Maria Divine Mercy: a Theological Evaluation”
5. See my analysis on “Maria Divine Mercy’s” anti-papal prophecies in Possible… or Not? and Prophecy, Popes, and Picarretta
6. cf. Possible… or Not?
7. cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 92