The Pope on “adolescent progressivism”

In his daily, off-the-cuff, non-magisterial fervorino, Pope Francis quoted Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World.

Let’s enter in medias res:

“If someone found the Book of the Covenant and if anyone obeyed the Law, the sentence of the king condemned him to death: and this is what we have read in newspapers in recent months” noted the Pope, observing that “these people have negotiated fidelity to the Lord.”

“These people, moved by the spirit of the world, have negotiated their own identity, have negotiated the belonging to a people, a people that God loves so much, that God wants as His people.”

Calling attention to the 20th century novel “Lord of the World” which focuses on this spirit of worldliness which leads to apostasy, Pope Francis cautioned against the attitude of wanting “be like everyone else,” which he referred to as an “adolescent progressivism.”

“What do you think?” he pressed, “that today human sacrifices are not made? Many, many people make human sacrifices and there are laws that protect them.”


Consider those who want to the Church to be governed by popular opinion.  Consider those who think the Church’s teachings should change just because lots of people disagree, that the Church should conform to the world.  Can you think of anyone who thinks along those lines?

Read the rest there and then come back and comment.

What is the Pope talking about?  About whom is the Pope digressing?

He eviscerated “progressives“.

Not much on this yet from the Fishwrap.  I’m just saying.  I guess they have lots of other groooovy things to write about.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. majuscule says:

    Consider those who want to the Church to be governed by popular opinion. Consider those who think the Church’s teachings should change just because lots of people disagree, that the Church should conform to the world. Can you think of anyone who thinks along those lines?

    Nancy Pelosi?

  2. mamajen says:

    I like that he used the term adolescent progressivism, because it makes it clear that he is not talking about adolescents at all, but the so-called adults and probably, in particular, the older adults who really ought to know better.

    I do think there is something for all of us to take away from this, though–it’s not a time for schadenfreude. Too many people are constantly looking for the next hero, or the next movement that will solve all of our problems if they just jump on the bandwagon. They check out their brains and let others do the thinking for them. It’s a real problem, and not limited to any one “side”.

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    When you say it I know you’re t-i-c, of course, but the line (even from some Romans) that these papal comments are “non-magisterial” needs to be cautioned against. It can lead to some pretty bad conclusions down the road. Just saying…

  4. JamestheOlder says:

    Father Benson’s book may be one of the most important descriptions of “creeping materialism” or “accommodating progressivism”. Just one small step at a time, just one small idea at a time. Pretty soon we have what seems to be in the American Church: alibi’s for real evil.

  5. cough cough Lonergan theologists cough cough

  6. lsclerkin says:

    He quoted THAT???

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Wow! Excellent!

    Anyone wanting to read The Lord of the World without waiting to order a paper copy, can find three separate scans at the Internet Archive, plus a link to the Project Gutenberg typed transcription and another to the audibook version.

  8. majuscule says:

    MSW of The Fishwrap had two sentences about it. One of which is: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    But there are many comments! So how many of you are involved? ;)

  9. stephen c says:

    Good speech, and I am not surprised that Pope Francis is turning out to be a more inspiring pope than many might have expected, but it really needs to be said that abortion is an easy word to pronounce. It is only six letters in Italian.
    While I am in no position to judge a pope’s performance, I was, or so I have been told, a lot closer than the majority of humans to having been aborted, and while I could care less if people mention my own close brush with human sacrifice and a quick end to my mortal life, I cannot help but feel a companionship with the millions of others who go so often unmentioned, even by those who have been blessed with the ability to follow Jesus’s gentle request to be pastors.

  10. Bruce Wayne says:

    I listened to the audiobook version of Lord of the World from Librivox. It is a good book.

    Love that line Father put in bold about “spirit of worldliness which leads to apostasy.”

  11. Priam1184 says:

    It is beyond belief to me that this so called most liberal and fluffiest pope ever quote from ‘Lord of the World”. Deo gratias! Deo gratias! Deo gratias! Thank you Holy Spirit for sending us Pope Francis!

  12. Heather F says:

    The comments in the Fishwrap article linked by majuscule are hilariously sad. They mostly boil down to “Well my progressivism isn’t adolescent, it’s mature and well-considered, so he couldn’t have been talking about me!”

  13. JonPatrick says:

    By the way if you have a Kindle, you can download “Lord of the World” from Amazon for free!

  14. Mike says:

    People who selectively quote from the CCC to justify continuing to outsource the works of mercy to the most corrupt, most debt-ridden, and most insidiously anti-Catholic and anti-human Federal government in the history of the Republic?

    More broadly, people who, like 15-year-olds, think that history regarding things like religious oppression and economic and national failures are just a bunch of dates to memorize and not events from whose human impacts we are obliged in charity to learn?

  15. Legisperitus says:

    For anyone reading Lord of the World, please let me again point out the place where the text is faulty in all the modern editions I’m aware of:

    Book 3, Chapter Five, Section III, second paragraph:

    The erroneous text reads like this (repeated line shown in italics):

    “…there was nothing to show that she was yet in Eng-
    land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were
    bent on such an act she would go abroad for it, where
    laxer conditions prevailed. In short, it seemed that he
    could do no good by remaining in England, and the temptation
    to be present at the final act of justice in the East by which
    land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were
    to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them…”

    The text should read:

    “…there was nothing to show that she was yet in Eng-
    land, and, in fact, it was more than likely that if she were
    bent on such an act she would go abroad for it, where
    laxer conditions prevailed. In short, it seemed that he
    could do no good by remaining in England, and the temptation
    to be present at the final act of justice in the East by which
    those who had indirectly been the cause of his tragedy were
    to be wiped out, and Franklin, too, among them…”

    You can see where the printer’s error originated (back in the movable-type era), with two lines of text ending in “were.”

  16. Legisperitus says:

    Oh, and thanks for the star, Fr. Z! :)

  17. Sonshine135 says:

    I took some time yesterday to consider some of the Pope’s (Robert Hugh Benson’s) words. I have often thought that a large percentage of Catholics are stuck in some form of atheism or deism. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that adolescent progressivism isn’t abating after college, but that a lot of people, mainly Catholic Men, are continuing down a path where God is never mentioned, brought up, or even considered. The societal influences are undeniable. Men are often remaining adolescent, and staying home, playing video games all day, every day and abdicating their responsibilities. Addictions are no longer largely around drugs, rather temporary joy and escapism is found in small electronic devices. When people can escape the world around them so easily, why would many want to practice true Catholicism? Catholicism requires discipline. Catholicism means ruffling a lot of feathers when your other “Catholic” friends begin advocating redefined marriage, abortion, and birth control. Incidents like this have led me to really reevaluate who I hang around and who I let my children hang around with.
    Whether responsibility is abdicated or not, men have to realize that they are the spiritual head of the household. Wives will look to their husbands for spiritual direction. If men don’t put their foot down, speak, and teach their family with authority, and take the family to church, that leads to an indifferent family. Even if Mom goes to church, the kids typically grow up resenting the fact that they had to go, but “Dad got to stay home”. Men- take your children to church. Teach them the right ways. Read the Catechism. Discuss it around the dinner table. Stop “negotiating your fidelity.”
    To the educated family, the Bible provides lessons from God from which a person can profit and lead a blessed life with real love and happiness. The church is the gentle but firm guide to help us on the path. The Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption, to be praised, adored, and honored. To the uneducated, the Bible is a book of ancient restrictions from some magic person that existed 2000 years ago, and doesn’t apply today. God barely exists, and even if he does, he doesn’t care what I do. He has bigger things to worry about. The church is oppressive of my feelings and my ideas. The Mass is an interruption of sleep on an otherwise lazy Sunday morning where I need to rest, because I am staying up late to watch football. Isn’t that what Christmas and Easter are for any way?
    Human sacrifices indeed! People need to pause and reflect on how their actions are sacrificing many to the darkness.

  18. ejcmartin says:

    I wonder, just like “only Nixon could go to China”, if only Francis could take on the “progressives”.

  19. mamajen says:

    Just downloaded the Kindle version of Lord of the World to my iPad. It sounds interesting. Now I just have to find some time to read it!

  20. wmeyer says:

    mamajen, when you do find the time, I will be curious to know what you think of the Kindle version. When I read it, I reformatted the text from to Word, and printed it. I’m getting ready to do my own version for the Kindle, as I have found many of the free Kindle books leave much to be desired in formatting and proofreading.

  21. majuscule says:

    This link to a Wahington Post article about the pope’s homily illustrates the depths to which today’s news reporting has sunk:

    The reporter writes “…the pontif said, The Blaze reported… and “The Blaze reported…” and “…he also said, The Blaze reported…” (That’s three times!)

    So it’s come down to a elementary school report on an article from another source.

  22. mamajen says:


    At a glance the formatting looks good on my iPad. I have experienced many proofreading issues with free books, though.

  23. wmeyer says:

    mamajen, one thing I have seen is that in a book where verses are inserted occasionally, the conversion software Amazon uses apparently can’t comprehend that, and simply removes the verse text. Apart from that, Gutenberg seems to miss a high percentage of OCR errors. And as far as I can tell, Amazon takes the text for the free Kindle books from Gutenberg.

  24. Johnno says:


    – One of the many reasons why men are retreating from responsibility is because modern women won’t let them. Anyone who dares to is called intolerant, a bigot, a ‘patriarch’ (omigosh)! As modern women grow more consumerist, they demand more of their ‘partner’ (we use genderless references now). There is an interesting trend, most notably in Japan, that men are becoming increasingly uninterested in sex or relationships at all. They’ve become completely impotent, and would rather live alone and retreat to fantasy worlds away from reality and militant feminist philosophy wants it that way. Having good men, means having good women too who will encourage them and allow them to lead, and vice verse, its takes good men to have good women. It’s a vicious circle. Otherwise for the past few decades, young men have heard it loud and clear that they are not necessary, they can only have children if the woman decides she doesn’t want to abort, and when things turn bad, the courts are there to severe their family and make them income slaves to the now-single woman and her chosen offspring for the rest of his life, and he has to grovel and bargain for visitation rights. Increasing divorce rates only help drive the point home that marriage isn’t worth it. Women just love the well dressed, successful, sociable homosexual men they see in the media who are so savvy, and the traditional man is a troglodyte who doesn’t obsess about his body and looks and is probably happy with simpler things. Men are told they can’t be masculine anymore. So it’s no wonder they are increasingly turning to videogames that appeal to masculinity from being warriors, soldiers and explorers to save the world, the galaxy, and the princess. Nice good old archetypes that boys like as they ought to, and the only place they can do that is in fantasy video games because the real world looks down on that sort of thing because it offends women and gays and offends diversity or something-something…

    Apparently even that won’t last, as we have liberals now trying to take those things away from videogames too. Young boys can’t play with toy guns outdoors for fear some Obama supporting neighbor might call the police to their front yard, taze them, possibly shoot the pet dog and definitely tell the local principal who shall suspend them from school; so I guess it’s safer they go inside and shoot and hurl verbal abuse in stunning high definition graphic violence on the game console.

    If young men are increasingly abandoning the world, it’s because the world told them to stop being what they were and that the brave new Aquarian Age has no need for their services.

  25. Toan says:

    Pope Francis is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, if you ask me.

  26. Menagerie says:

    Johnno all that sounds correct, except real men don’t await permission or approval from women, they simply go out and live well. In doing so, they may find a woman to build a life with. Or not. They will not retreat to Mama’s basement and fantasy if they fail to find feminine approbation.

  27. Torpedo1 says:

    My Fiance read me Lord Of This World and we both loved it. I’ve always liked Pope Francis, and even though I got concerned sometimes, I trusted Fr. Z when he advised us to wait and let Pope Francis figure out how to be pope. I believe this is at last happening.

  28. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Johnno, I hear you. And real men, not being machines or robots, are very much attuned to what women seem to want and need, and are responsive to their cues.

    Only an insensate brute would be as immune to feminine importunings as some would pretend real men are.

    Smart women know that there are plenty of good men out there who need only a little assistance and encouragement to become the real-life knight-in-shining-armor that many young girls dream of. Women assist and encourage these men by asking their opinion, inviting them to decide certain details, agreeing with them, affirming their ideas and suggestions, being sympathetic and kind, acting interested in what they have to say . . . and if she feels that it’s important for her to oppose or resist some statement or suggestion, that she do so in a forthright but courteous way, letting the man know that she is not afraid to be herself, but that she likes him nevertheless. If he’s the decent fellow that she believes him to be, he’ll appreciate and respect her all the more.

    Women build their own happiness by making our men happy, and vice versa.

    There are still smart women out there, I believe.

Comments are closed.