Thursday, September 19, 2013

7 Reasons Why Pope Francis Worries Some Catholics & Why They Shouldn't Worry


It seems our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, rubs a number of Catholics the wrong way. He certainly isn't the first Pope to do so, but the difference is he troubles a much different group of Catholics than our previous Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI did.

Some said Benedict was a "conservative" and that he wasn't open-minded, caring, loving, or other accusations. These are not accurate descriptions and he doesn't deserve to be accused of such things. Rather, he (like Francis) is CATHOLIC. That means he doesn't fit into the neat political framework of being either liberal, conservative, progressive, traditionalist, moderate, etc.

Take these quotes from BXVI for example - most would call them "liberal":
**"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs."
**“It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”
**"the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism"
**"If we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, we make of our possessions a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god."
So, what label should we put on Benedict? How about Catholic. Just as Benedict shouldn't be reduced to political labels, neither should Francis. It isn't fair to either of them.

Why is it that Francis gets some people upset? I think there could be several reasons and here are 7 of them.

  1. Many Catholics are stuck in a model of catechetical formation. This means they see the work of the Catholic Church is to hand over doctrines and teachings. While this is one important role, this isn't the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to make followers of Jesus. This is done by evangelization. Evangelization must be centered on relationships. Our relationship with another (through word and witness) helps someone form a relationship with Jesus. If some get the mission of the Church wrong, then they won't understand the focus Francis has on making disciples as one that is in the heart of the Church. Doctrinal formation necessarily must follow the proclamation of the Gospel. NOT the other way around.
  2. Francis is frequently speaking to those on the fringes of the Church and outside the Church - not those who are already faithfully Catholic. If he doesn't focus on what many Catholics find are the most important issues (culture war topics (e.g. abortion, sex, etc.) then he must not care about them. This is false. He has said he is a child of the Church and accepts all the Church teaches. If he doesn't focus on them, it is because he knows that he will drive more away than he will attract if he starts with those topics.
  3. Francis is a very simple man. He connects with the poor like few of us in the Western world do. Personally, it would be tough for me to give up the luxuries and pomp of the Pontificate. That is because I would want others to focus on me. But, Francis seems to want to constantly draw attention to the poor, the simple, and to the one who loves them best - Jesus. So, he lives humbly and simply. This is why so many non-Catholics are attracted to him. We should take notice if we want to reach out to them.
  4. His off-the-cuff speaking style is easy to misinterpret. We should have seen this one coming. He is a preacher and pastor by nature, so he speaks naturally from the heart. This is getting him into some trouble by having ambiguous statements twisted to sound like they are agenda-driven by the media and his opponents. What a shame. If there is any agenda, it is one of spreading the name of Jesus.
  5. Catholics don't like change. Heck, nobody does. When was the last time someone really pricked our conscience or challenged our preconceived notions about faith and we thanked them for it??!! Francis is a radical departure from the norm when it comes to style. He isn't what we expected in a Pope and he is challenging us to look at the role of Peter in a different way. This may hurt a bit.
  6. He is reminding us the being a Christian isn't "safe". We have to shuck off the idea that being a Catholic looks like being a Republican or Democrat. It isn't about having the perfect way of explaining doctrine. Nor is it about a policy, rule, or document. It is about Jesus. All about Jesus. In some ways, we have forgotten this and it is going to take a lot of work to get back to it.
  7. If Francis choose to emphasize different aspects of Catholic teaching that disturbs us, maybe we are the ones out of balance. I see this in myself all the time. It is easy for me to be pro-life, pro-family, etc. But, I have a harder time being pro-poor, pro-immigrant, etc. So, when I am especially challenged by such teachings it is because I am out of balance, not the teaching itself. I need to take these to prayer and let God work on my heart - not throw the Pope under the bus for proclaiming the teachings of Jesus!

Our communities, our Church, and our world needed a Pope like Francis. Someone to shake us up out of our comfort zones.

As Catholics, we have to be careful about criticizing our Holy Father, as if he is just another one of the many Catholics in the world. He is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the guardian of right doctrine and practice. We are not.

When we start to rely more on our own opinions vs the Pope's teachings, we put ourselves in a danger zone. I challenge you to see Francis as an earthly spiritual father. Sometimes he is going to ask us to grow in ways we don't want to. But, it may be good for us anyway.

Lastly, pray for him. He needs your prayers.

NOTE - Comments are welcome, but discussion MUST remain charitable at all times. Comments are strictly monitored.

14 comments:

Susan WD said...

Beautiful and true. Thanks for writing this.

Eric said...

I keep seeing time and time again headlines sensationalizing and insinuating that the Holy Father is attacking this or that. Again and again i read his comments and find that he doesn't strike me as changing the church's stances, but rather challenging us to be more full as Catholics.

Billy Kangas said...

Wonderful! Thanks!

Angelo Cardinal Fratelli said...

I think that the love of God which stems from liturgy, sacraments and doctrines must be balanced with love of neighbor in charity, warmth and openness. I think the problem some Catholics have is that our good Holy Father Francis seems at times to be more focused on the "horizontal" than the "vertical" (ie. earthly more than spiritual) which is the direction that the modern Church is already going. So therefore, this direction, perhaps mistakenly, is linked to lack of reverence in liturgy, lack of sound teaching and lack of vocations. Surely, I believe "diagonal" is the answer.
I am not sure about this pope yet...yet I do know he is trustworthy and orthodox. Maybe more balance is to come? It may be too quick to judge him, indeed no one should judge him.

Franco Neus said...

Not so much a breath of fresh air as an opening of the windows.
Thank you Pope Francis.

tomperna.org said...

Bravo Marcel!

Great line: "When we start to rely more on our own opinions vs the Pope's teachings, we put ourselves in a danger zone. "

Building relationships are so important when evangelizing the faith. St. John Bosco was a master at this form of evangelization. Francis is throwing down the gauntlet with many Catholics. It's good for all of us!

Adam Rasmussen said...

#7 is the most important, I think. When I read these comments on the internet saying the Bishop of Rome is a heretic or whatever, I just think: "Maybe instead of trying to teach the pope, he has something to teach you!"

Julia said...

Beautiful Marcel, thank you.

Leticia said...

I have been forced by Pope Francis' comments to re-examine my approach to those outside the faith, re-read the Gospel, and re-align my approach to conform with the mercy of Christ. See, he's making converts already!

Mr. Two Cents said...

The transition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI & Pope Francis is an example of the beauty and truth of the Catholic Church and the workings of the Holy Spirit upon her.

This is perfect balance that B16 steered our focus to liturgy and doctrine while Francis opens the front doors to shepherd those whom are lost. Francis always emphasizes that we, the people, are the Body of Christ. While our Holy Father sweeps them through the front, we (the Church of people) are to utilize what B16 has taught us in order to save them.

jenny said...

well written article .....

Christine Dalessio said...

NIcely done. If we could be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in a real way, grateful for the generous humility of Benedict XVI who stepped aside, and embrace the way the world IS LISTENING again to the heart of Catholicism, maybe we'd be less bent out of shape even over the media misunderstandings, and more excited that this all opens dialog in places where it once was closed, and prepares our world for the beauty of Christ in places that have been guarded and shut.

Christine Rizzo said...

Thank you and well done!

John Fisher said...

"Many Catholics are stuck in a model of catechetical formation. This means they see the work of the Catholic Church is to hand over doctrines and teachings. While this is one important role, this isn't the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to make followers of Jesus. This is done by evangelization. Evangelization must be centered on relationships. Our relationship with another (through word and witness) helps someone form a relationship with Jesus." (I would ask evangelising to what?) "If some get the mission of the Church wrong, then they won't understand the focus Francis has on making disciples as one that is in the heart of the Church. Doctrinal formation necessarily must follow the proclamation of the Gospel. NOT the other way around.

You are way off the point... Aggie without a correct doctrine and teachings it is not possible to be a good Christian because in order to "find" Christ you have to know who is and what he asks. It is called defining who he is. Liberals in the Church talk of Christ but what they mean by the word can mean anything that fits in with their inner gnosis. So if you love Jeeeeeesus... is it the real Jesus or a mirage?