How Far Can We Stretch Excuses and Explanations for Pope Francis Before They Break?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, far right, speaks as Pope Francis stands with Jewish and Muslim leaders as he visits the museum to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, on September 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-INTERFAITH, originally transmitted on Sept. 25, 2015.

-29 September 2015 –

Janus:

Janus-smallLate in 2012, I—a Pentecostal Protestant—stumbled across EWTN’s Roman Catholic radio. I had previously listened fervently to conservative talk radio all through the nasty election cycle, and I had grown thoroughly disgusted with it after Obama’s unexpected victory. In contrast, Catholic radio arrived like a breath of fresh air.  It offered a nurturing peace, mental stimulation, and it challenged my beliefs in a constructive way. Over several months I began to accept many of the tenets of the Catholic Christian faith, and since that time I have seriously entertained the notion of converting to Roman Catholicism.

During this period (on 28 February 2013), Pope Benedict stepped down as pope and Pope Francis took his place. One thing struck me at the time about Benedict’s resignation: Catholic radio offered no speculations as to why Benedict had stepped down, its personalities only offered excuses and acceptance. Catholic radio, of course, can be expected to tow the party line of Roman Catholicism and to act as an apologist for the Church, or even its propaganda arm if I want to get cynical about it. Nevertheless, this situation did nothing to sway my consideration about conversion.

This new Pope Francis, who refused to let others carry his luggage, who regularly appeared among the people and shunned worldly trappings along with the pope-mobile, seemed like a new type of pope with the heart of Christ. I was impressed and hopeful.

But then Pope Francis began to say and do things that didn’t seem quite right.

When I read the secular headlines, Francis definitely started to sound like a humanist, globalist pope that wanted to push the Church towards the liberal, anti-biblical direction that the Anglicans have taken. But Catholic radio offered plenty of explanations and excuses for him, always saying—with justification—that the media was misrepresenting what he had really said and done—which is a situation that we see all of the time—and the Catholic media always followed up with an account of what the pope had really meant.

I wanted to understand Pope Francis, and I wanted to believe that he has the heart of Christ. Christ challenged the religious establishment of his day, especially the conservative Pharisees, and he embraced the unwanted members of society as lost sheep. If Francis was challenging my beliefs, maybe my beliefs could use some challenging. I know that I tend to become harsh and legalistic in my views, and I often show a lack of grace towards my enemies.

So I watched Pope Francis and tried to understand him.

Pope_Francis2

I watched while he kissed the feet of prisoners and homosexual AIDS victims. Disgusting to watch, certainly, but Jesus did such things.

I watched while he took a softer tone on homosexuals, saying “Who am I to judge?” Apologists said that his words were misconstrued and that he upholds Catholic teachings on homosexuality. After reading the whole context of this statement, I accepted this argument.  Homosexuals who are seeking the Lord should be encouraged to do so, just as any other sinner should.  We are all sinners, after all.

I watched while he condemned free market capitalism with his “Evangelii Gaudium” (Joy of the Gospel). Fair enough, there is much that is wrong with the current global capitalist system that exploits people. And Jesus spoke many times against greed and materialism as well (though Jesus left this up to the individual rather than to governments).

I watched while Pope Francis met with a “trans-gender” man and his/her fiance. Christ’s message should be open to all, for none of us is without sin. Jesus met in the street with harlots and others of low character. I could accept this.

In June of 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical, Laudato Si, that beseeches humanity to address pollution and climate change, again criticizing capitalism and inequality, among some other issues.  Global warming caused by humanity’s carbon emissions is ridiculous, but in general serious environmental problems are growing across the world.  It is a Christian duty to take care of the natural environment. I could accept much of this work while recognizing that outside of the spiritual realm and into the political realm, the pope has no authority and is certainly fallible.

In August of 2015, Pope Francis wrote a very polite letter to a lesbian couple who writes children’s books promoting homosexuality, with the pope reportedly blessing them and their work. Once again, is the pope expressing grace and courtesy to the enemies of Christ out of mercy? These are people who seemingly believe that the pope and Church should adapt to their beliefs rather than the opposite.

Throughout the summer of 2015, Pope Francis berated Europe to accept the millions of refugees who want to flee there, saying that rejecting them is criminal, an act of war, and murder. Jesus no doubt cared for the plight of the homeless and poor, including refugees, and I agree that true refugees ought to be cared for temporarily, but the key words are “true refugees” and “temporarily”. Francis’ heart may be in the right place, or he may simply believe that all of humanity is the same and should be mixed up. Regardless, these migrants are arriving to stay permanently, most of them aren’t fleeing war or hunger, and it is evident that Europe lacks the will to remove them at a later time. If Francis is right, then I must give up my nation and my race. Perhaps this is God’s will, however hard to swallow. But I’m not convinced.

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On September 24, speaking to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis addressed the plight of workers, and he rejected fundamentalism.  He also spoke on racial matters, the acceptance of even more immigrants, and he criticized the United States over our treatment of the Indians while advocating environmentalism and the family (without mentioning abortion). He also praised Dorothy Day, who advocated a form of Catholic communism, and this was just about the last straw for me. But I researched Dorothy Day and distributism, and I see little fault with her per se, nor can I outright condemn distributism as a theory in general, as I am not a fan of the excesses of capitalism either. Once again I wonder if Francis is right and I am misguided.

But then the following Friday, September 25, Pope Francis held an interfaith 9/11 memorial service with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Protestant and Orthodox Christians. This I struggle with very much.

One can go too far with tolerance and outreach, so far as to offer validation to the other side at the expense of one’s own. While Jesus never wantonly attacked other religions, and he commanded that we love our enemies as ourselves, he never considered the faiths of others as equivalent to that of our Lord’s. In the Old Testament, God was very harsh about holding other Gods before him, and the first commandment states that we shall have no other Gods before our God. (And I take that to also mean that we shall hold no other gods equal to Him as well.)

This interfaith service, however superficially solemn, smells of one-world religion, that all beliefs are equally valid. Such a service is wrong, and the egalitarian treatment of all the major religions is gravely out of line! If all religions are equally valid, then none of them represents absolute truth. I have given Francis the benefit of many, many doubts, but he has crossed the line here!

Pope Francis paid his respects to the victims of the September 11 attacks, participating in an interfaith service and praying with their families at the ground zero memorial.

Jesus Christ challenged his followers to have mercy on the poor and one’s enemies. He instructed people to give up their worldly wealth. He dealt with people whom the religious leaders of His day considered to be foul and unclean. Pope Francis seems to emulate these characteristics.  But there are some major differences.

Jesus stayed out of politics, for one thing, rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God that which is God’s. Francis is meddling in worldly politics all of the time. I can justify this, however, when he is speaking on spiritual matters.  But Jesus never gave equal authority to other religions, which Francis has just done. While the first difference is tolerable, the second violates the fundamentals of Christianity.

If Francis advocates the equal acceptance of all religions, which this interfaith service seems to do, and if he is pushing for more international governmental cooperation under the U.N., which he has in Laudato Si, and if he accepts sinners to such an extent that he doesn’t try to lead them to the right path, which is admittedly debatable, what does this say?  What is the big picture here?  How many blinders can I put on?

And what is the proper response to this?

If I were already a Roman Catholic, I should remain loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, for the Church is greater than any pope, and I would have previously sworn allegiance to the Church. The Catholic Church has endured bad popes before, and potentially this pope might cause great harm to Christendom if he pushes this one-world evil, which he has done with Laudato Si and with this interfaith service.

However, I’m not a Catholic.  If I do convert to Roman Catholicism, I will do so in spite of this pope. I will always resist the globalist one-world religion or any watered-down interfaith ecumenicism.

Right now, having never sworn allegiance to an established Church but recognizing that there is authority in Church tradition in addition to the Word of God, I lean more strongly to investigate the Orthodox Church in America.  Possessing many minds on this subject, it might take a while to make a final decision, but time is getting short.  I pray for God’s mercy and guidance on this issue.

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10 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Brittius.

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  2. I am a big fan of Eastern orthodox theology, I think they have the best grasp of the whole. However, while the Orthodox Church is a fairly conservative Church it is full of liberals who’s desire for communion with Rome may override their conservatism. If it does, there will be massive schism not seen since the 11th century when Rome and the East originally split!

    Here’s some links from pravmir about that same 9/11 interfaith thingy:

    http://www.pravmir.com/archbishop-demetrios-participates-in-multi-religious-gathering-with-pope-francis-at-9-11-memorial/

    http://www.pravmir.com/oca-to-be-represented-at-friday-s-papal-visit-to-ground-zero/

    And also this:
    http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/09/28/un-ecumenism/

    Its a schizophrenic organisation!

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    • I’d noticed that the Greek Orthodox were represented, but I had missed the fact that the OCA had involved itself in this interfaith service, as well as all of the other branches of Orthodoxy. It seems the the leadership of just about any sizable denomination is either naive or co-opted.

      I’m not completely opposed to interfaith services among various Christian denominations, though in the military I never appreciated the watered-down non-denominational services. Common services with other faiths, however, is a violation of the sacred and holy.

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      • The Church is made up of people from the society they live in; in our case that means steeped in liberal modernity. That Ancient faith blog I linked to speaks to it.

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    • Also, Roger, I’m going to send a few questions to your private email concerning the OCA. In light of the Pope’s deep connections to the United Religions Initiative, I’ve finally made up my mind after over two years of consideration.

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  3. My comment is in moderation, is three links over the limit?

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  1. Pope Francis’ and the United Religions Initiative’s Fight Against True Believers | FINES ET INITIA

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