Facepalming Pope Francis

Facepalming Pope Francis

Perhaps you are aware of Pope Francis’ ‘controversial’ interview, published a few days ago. It has elicited some sensational headlines in the mainstream press. Here’s a few examples:

  • The New York Times: Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control
  • The Independent: Pope Francis: Church’s ‘obsession’ with gays, abortion and contraception means it risks ‘falling like a house of cards’
  • The Age: Pope bluntly faults church’s focus on gays and abortion

This coverage, which is widespread and typical, is not only misleading, but also flat out wrong. If you want to know what Pope Francis really said, America Magazine has the complete and official translation. Next best (and faster to read) are good commentaries: if you don’t mind polemics, you can’t go past Father Zuhlsdorf; if thoughtful exposition is more your thing, I recommend Robert Moynihan.

But, quite apart from correcting the record, I think there were lots of faithful Catholics, all over the world, facepalming Pope Francis last week.

There are other times too, when Pope Francis could be facepalmed. Remember when he said that gay priests are a-okay?

But Francis has nothing on his predecessor, who was the king of facepalms. Remember when Pope Benedict said that gay marriage is a greater threat to mankind than global warming?

Remember when he said that female ordination is a crime in the same realm as clergy abuse? And when he said that Mohammed was evil and inhuman?

Of course, neither pope said any of these things — it’s just the way the press reported it. But come on popes! Can’t you get media savvy? Someone in your press office should see these things coming!

Actually, I think Pope Francis is media savvy. He knows his words will be twisted, in the same way that Pope Benedict’s words were twisted. But he’s crafting his words so that they get twisted in a more constructive way. In a way that at least has some semblance with the Gospel.

The Anchoress has a great post illustrating this point: Francis confounds the Associated Press.

And Egregious Twaddle has crafted a parable demonstrating the same:

Hear this!

A pope went out to give an interview. And as he talked, some of his words fell to the media, and those birds gobbled them up before they could even be heard.

Others of his words fell to those who didn’t understand his context. They received his message with joy, but the first time it occurred to them how difficult it would be to live by those words, their enthusiasm withered like seedlings in a drought.

Have faith in Pope Francis. He knows what he is about.

  • matercula

    “Have faith in Pope Francis. He knows what he is about.”

    Do you really believe this ?

    When I come up from my facepalm, I am praying to St Joseph Pignatelli SJ that Pope Francis will gain the virtue of silence !

  • Fr Mick Mac Andrew

    Now I think I am beginning to understand Pope Francis a lot clearer. I had just got used to Pope Benedict and accepted his great challenges for my own personal life and public ministry as a priest and then in March I had to start responding to a new Pope with the same level of respect and commitment. The change in style was abrupt but not really disturbing. One journalist summed up the style thing as Pope Francis being the Parish Priest of the World. I could accept that. But with the style came the substance and I’m finding myself shocked by the media in the way they are styling the substance of our Pope, sowing very many seeds in many cases, of division and disunity among Catholics. Thanks Fr John for opening up this discussion – really enjoyed Robert Moynahan’s take as well as your own on this crucial time.

  • MuMu

    “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 time.” —Pope Francis.

    Some of the time would do, Your Holiness.

    When did anyone here ever hear catechesis about contraception if not via the internet by a layperson?

    I think the pope should stop giving interviews.

    • How can you be so unfair MuMu? Just this week, the Pope has been accused of a “bizzare u-turn” for speaking against abortion. Criticise him, by all means, but don’t falsely accuse him of silence.

      Granted, I don’t recall him speaking against contraception.

      • MuMu

        If only the pope could have said something to the effect that the arms of Christ and His Church are waiting to embrace and heal the millions on the planet whose lives, souls and relationships have been devastated by the effects of contraception and its ideology and it’s poisonous fruit, abortion. He could have welcomed Catholics suffering from these sins to the sacrament of mercy and the world to turn to the Redeemer Who has taken their suffering on Himself and who longs to forgive and bind up their wounds, rather than condemn.
        I never thought I would criticise the pope, even this pope. The great majority of catholics and clergy backpedal from the anti-life issues because they’d get abused and pilloried. It’s easy to bang on about the poor, but try talking about the evil the Pill and abortion wreaks on people and you’re toast.

      • Babs

        Have you seen this latest interview that is following on the heel of the America interview. It appears in the La Repubblica? Apparently it is now all the talk and I certainly can see why. Pope Francis is all over the place theologically in this interview. The intellectually honest people are going to have a difficult time with this one. His theology seems a mix of humanism, orthodoxy, liberation theology and maybe some Telhard d’Chardin in regards to his eschatology views. Where to begin? Here are just a few highlights. Francis list humanistic & temporal evils as the most serious evils today, such as youth unemployment etc.. At the end of the interview he goes New Age and talks about how at the end of human existence all souls will be invaded by the light of God. Confusing. No mention of Hell or Heaven and seems to indicate everyone ends up with the same situation? He evades answering the question of if he agreed to the opposition to Liberation Theology under Pope JPII. In this interview, Francis seems to emphasize that ecumenism was more of a priority than proselytizing which he referred to as solemn nonsense. Huh? He also says people have to follow their own conscious and decide for themselves what is good and evil. This is moral relativism from the very person who is suppose to be upholding the moral laws of God! I also found it disconcerting that Francis gave communism as the reason he became a priest. Most priest say that it was God that led them to the priesthood or they heard Jesus call them. Some even give credit to a priest family member or friend. Francis credits communism which ironically always has been considered an ideology that is destructive to the Church. Certainly millions of Christians have been put to death and are imprisoned under Communist regimes even today. Apparently I am not alone in my views of this article. There are a lot of Catholics who are sharing their dismay in the comment section of the National Catholic Register who is covering this interview.
        Jesus asked in Luke 18:8 if there will be anyone with faith by the time he returns? Makes me wonder what happened to his Church if most of the world is faithless at the time of Jesus return. Here is the actual interview http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_with_scalfari_english-67643118/

  • Jake Byrne

    The latest comments from Pope Francis that “it is not necessary we talk about these issues [abortion, contraception, gay marriage] all the time” have certainly been divisive. I know a lot of good Catholics who felt very concerned by it. However when read in context with the whole interview I really loved what the Pope had to say. There’s certainly a tendency among some Catholics to reduce the Church’s message down to a socially conservative agenda and I think that’s what the Pope was criticising.

    I can only speak for myself but in my own conversion the encounter with Jesus happened first and then, as the Pope said, the rules followed as a natural consequence. I think that Pope Francis is a very, very good evangeliser and knows what he’s doing.

  • Dom Meese

    I love this Pope. We have been blessed to have had two extremely theologically rich Popes before him who have given us generations worth of readings and teachings that can be used to rebuild the Church. Now we have a more simplistic Pope who, in my opinion, relates to the general person more so than his predecessors. This is timely when we need to evangelise and rebuild.
    How far do you think we’d get in a predominantly secular world if we are continuously jumping down people’s throats with arguments against abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage? This constant crusading, for lack of a better word, is not a charitable way to act. In fact I believe it’s a complete turn off and does more harm than good. We need to be including everyone and spreading the good news of the Gospel and the love of Christ. That should precede continuous arguments on rules. Don’t get me wrong, these issues are big issues and must be talked about, just not constantly. As the Pope said, “it is not necessary to talk about these things all the time”.
    This is a great article that expands on this issue.

  • Monica

    I think maybe the Church did need to talk about contraception, abortion, gay marriage etc in the later part of the 20th century – the 70s left everything up for grabs. Also, other Christian denominations said that contraception was okay, and more recently, some have suggested gay marriage/gay clergy might be acceptable and some also turn a blind eye to things like IVF.

    All of this caused confusion, and so the Church needed to be clear about where she stood on these important topics.

    And the Church did a good job. It seems that there is not a person on the planet who is ignorant (unless they are wilfully ignorant) of the Church’s teaching on these things now. But the world is also of the impression that this is the total sum of the Church’s teaching.

    I think the Holy Father, being mindful of this, is calling us all to remind the world that the main teaching of the Church is the love and mercy of God. To take us back to sharing the Gospel. What a joy !

    • Bab

      This is a world that no longer fears God or the consequences of sin; perhaps it is because a good deal of people are ignorant in these matters. The Church is the moral authority on Earth and it must not only preach God’s mercy but also God’s justice. The world, including those in the Catholic Church, have become complacent about mortal sin. This situation worsens by the fact that there is now a mainstream consensus among people to call evil good and good evil. These are the people who think mortal sins are some kind of “natural” rights and people are entitled to them. We need more “John the Baptist” not less. For a priest not to preach the consequences of sin (God’s justice), but only God’s Mercy is doing his flock a terrible injustice that might cost them their eternal lives. This is an excellent article on the subject. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/why-are-we-so-afraid1?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-09-27%2016:00:01

  • MuMu

    A very good and balanced article on the interview from the editor of First Things – and the comments are revealing, too.


  • Cathy

    Ah the media twisting the Popes words to cause confusion. AGAIN!
    Personally I believe it is the Devils last ditch effort to try to cause further confusion and division within the Church, as well as a false message to the public that Christs Church has failed. Faith Hope and Love the greatest of these is Love.

  • PM

    It’sworth noting, by the way, that Pope Francis’ comments about not needing to talk about these issues all the time isn’t all that different from what Pope Benedict said after his visit to Valencia – that we have to situate moral teaching in the context of a positive attraction of the good, the true and the beautiful. They are undoubtedly different in style, but have a lot in common – to name just two, a formative influence of Romano Guardini, and a fondness for Ignatius’ dictum that God’s greatness is best seen in small things.

    Francis, by the way, is no simpleton intellectually. The interview shows a rich theological intelligence – and he prays the breviary in Latin!

  • MuMu

    I’m starting to wonder if the Pope has the gift of tongues. Perhaps he is speaking to non-believers in the language which will draw them towards Christ. To Catholics, it’s quite different. The report you’ll find about his most recent general audience spoke deeply to my heart. You’ll notice he starts off with a paper prompt, but soon abandons it to speak from his heart.
    Who said the Church existed to convert the world, not to make Catholics comfortable?
    It would make sense that a dynamic pontiff would be all things to all men and almost risk damnation in the attempt to pull someone to safety.


  • MuMu

    As a penitent for criticising the pope, I’d like to quote from a current LifeSite News interview (link below) with a reformed, now Catholic gay porn actor, in respect to what the Holy Father has said in interviews, particularly about homosexuuality:

    “LSN: Good Christians speaking out against homosexuality are accused of bigotry and homophobia. Such Christians will respond that they are not speaking against persons who identify themselves as gay per se, but against their actions which are harmful to everyone involved. Many Christians are simply motivated by love of neighbour to speak this way. (But of course, unfortunately, some are not.) As someone who has descended to the very depths of the homosexual lifestyle, what message do you think Christians should give to homosexuals that would help them the most? How should Christians deliver the message so that it’s effective and so that they avoid coming across as bigots?

    Sciambra: I have seen many unhappy and searching gay men and women turned off to Christianity because of an over-zealous Christian who showed them condemnation, but no love. As I discovered, when a gay person is contemplating leaving the lifestyle, they often just want a disinterested friend; i.e. someone that doesn’t want or demand something from them. This may be a matter of just listening, not really offering a lot of catechesis or dogma, but simply letting them know that you care. Once a relationship is established, you have to decide when and how the Truth of Jesus Christ’s plan for each one of us is to be delivered. Again, one must always remember that these are deeply wounded and suffering people: they need your sympathy, compassion, and prayers.”

    Kinda jells with what the pope is saying, don’t you think?


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