“What then to say of Pope Francis?”


Many people are confused by this Pope.  Some are angry.  Some are elated. Some are nearly unhinged in spittle-flecked nutties.

My friend Fr. Eduard Perrone of Assumption Grotto in Detroit delivered a thoughful sermon about Pope Francis.

Thus… Fr. Perrone.  We begin well into his sermon…  HERE


What then to say of Pope Francis? First of all, he is a true, legitimate successor of Saint Peter and visible head of the Church, the vicar of Christ, whose essential duty is to preserve the deposit of faith, the apostolic inheritance: a conservating not a creative function. One need not like all that a pope does–history providing many, many examples of popes imprudent in their doings. The fact remains that the pope is the Holy Father, and like the father of a human family, deserves the respect of his God-appointed position. Should dads err, or even sin, they do not cease thereby to be fathers, nor lose their claim to respect and love. Similarly (as I’ve said before in sermons), the Church as our mother suffering (note the relational words, ‘father’ and ‘mother’) is no warrant for disowning or abandoning her. Pope and clergy–and Mother Church generally–demand our love and our prayers, now more than ever, even if we cannot as a matter of conscience agree with everything they do. Realize however that there is no alternative Church, nor Pope, nor legitimate hierarchy apart from what we are given.

My constant advice is to remain calm, prudent, prayerful, charitable–and unyieldingly in the orthodox profession of our faith. This is no easy accomplishment: it is a suffering from the conflicting inner tension of a reverent forbearance with the unrelenting imperative of orthodoxy in faith.

We are not living in ordinary times and cannot pretend to live in a time past when a greater observance of God’s moral laws and a more strict observance of the Catholic faith were prevalent. You are obligated to be faithful to Christ and to His Church in this age. God, for reasons of His own, made us to live not in some idyllic past but in this time of crisis and confusion.

Be true and valiant Catholics! Love the pope, practice the faith with exactitude, and join to your prayers the sacrifice of your sorrows and your daily works, so that the glory of Christ may be made manifest in the suffering members of His mystical body. Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

Good thoughts from Fr. Perrone.  Read the whole thing there.

I, for one, have taken the Long View Approach™

Every pontificate of every pope in the whole history of the Church is but a “parenthesis”.

Some parentheses are long and some are short. Some parentheses are important and some are not.  One of these days God will hit the SHIFT+0 key and close this parenthesis.  Time will tell what this pontificate will have been and it is not fruitful right now to worry about that too much. Every pontificate has its benefits and its disadvantages.  (BTW… if God is using an Italian keyboard that day it’s SHIFT+9.)

As a commentator mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Christ promised us the help of the Holy Spirit because He knew that we were going to have a rough time of it!  I add, “even with our Popes!”

We must keep close to hand our Rosary, our schedules for confession and Holy Mass (hopefully TLM), our copies of the Holy Writ, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Catechism, good spiritual reading, our To Do Lists for spiritual and corporal works of mercy, etc.

Please consider paying less attention to ephemera until the decks stop pitching.

Dear readers… stick closely and fervently to what your state in life calls you to do and you’ll fret less about what’s going on, even as you are aware that not everything is beer and skittles right now.

Remember that Pope Francis has the office of Peter.  God offers him graces so that he can carry out his role.

There may well come a day when he surprises everyone, a kind of “Paul VI – Humanae vitae Moment”.  As St. Yogi might put it: “Imperfectum usque dum perfectum!”

That said, I humbly admit to having had to breathe into a paper bag now and then.

It is easy to get worked up about things that are going on in our day, because current events distract us from the larger picture, past and future.

Again, not every pontificate (parenthesis) or event, such as a synod or council, are equally important in the large scheme that God has for the Church.  Without a historical perspective, it’s easy to get drunk on the ephemera of current events, the stuff that seems so very important because it’s close to us.

So, if you are getting upset all the time with this Pope, if this pontificate is undermining your spiritual life for whatever reason, if you are inclined to crawl out onto the ledge every time this Pope opens his mouth, come back inside, examine your conscience, review your vocational duties, and get busy with something that will bring spiritual benefits to you and to the whole Church through you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. anilwang says:

    I do think that Pope Francis was put in place to protect the Church from an extreme high view of the Papacy. With Pope Benedict XVI, we were already seeing signs that anything he said and wrote, even while still a cardinal, was treated with an air of infallibility, both within and outside the Church. We generally accepted those words since their informal talks almost always in line with Catholic teaching. The panic and confusion behind Pope Francis’s plane interviews, was only possible because of past papacies. If we had a few more good Popes along the lines of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI that impression would be so solidly ingrained that when a wicked or megalomaniac Pope eventually gets elected, Catholicism would suffer a crisis similar to the Great Western Schism or worse.

    We may have some hardship now, but thanks to Pope John Paul II for his voluminous teaching on Bioethics, the Theology of the Body, etc as well as the new Catholic Catechism, and Pope Benedict XVI’s works on the liturgy and the Anglican Ordinariate, the Church will endure and thrive despite the challenges of this Papacy. Without these great works, I’d be in a panic right now.

  2. Packrraat says:

    I find it helps to remember that not too long ago, we would have had very little knowledge of what the Pope was saying or doing. And, what he was saying or doing would have had very little impact on our immediate lives. Now, as soon as he says or does ANYTHING, no matter how inconsequential, we have instant access to it. I try to not pay much attention. I have more important things to do. Like, be obedient to the duties of my state in life.

  3. Eugene says:

    BUT Father…he has said, he has done things that are not acceptable, do not true pastors of souls have a duty to call him out, to say no this is wrong, this will lead to more loss of faith, to more souls being in peril..are we called just to focus on our own state, do we not all have an obligation to point out error and injustice within our church. [I don’t think that everyone is qualified publicly to judge or “call out” a Pope.] I am very afraid that there has been too much of a “me” focus and because of this the faith/church is really suffering. [Perhaps the “too much ‘me'” is what is bringing on some of the Francis Frenzy.]
    I as a lay person feel totally helpless and powerless at this point, after having tried to stand up for the faith at both my parish and diocesan level, basically being ignored by those who should be my spiritual fathers and shepherds, it has turned into a feeling of abandonment, something akin to being orphaned by the leadership of our Church. [Our Lord was the mightiest when He was nailed to His Cross. He fulfilled His vocation in that state of helplessness. Is there any moment in His life when His prayer “Father, forgive them…” was more important and more effective?]
    The only good thing that has come out of this is a feeling of greater closeness to our Saviour and His Blessed Mother. [That’s not nothing, friend.] BUT my fear is if these feelings continue to increase and I see less and less value in the hierarchy of the Church will I turn into a Protestant or will my relationship with Our Blessed Mother prevent me from completely turning away. [You stumbled there at the end. C’MON! You are tougher than that. Fall away from the Church simply because some Pope says some goofy things? Does that even sound reasonable? That sounds rather like a variation on “I left the Church because old Fr. Fatty Mc’Butterpants was mean to me!”]

  4. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Z,

    How often you have given this sage advice–and how often it falls on deaf ears. I pray that this time it receives spiritually fruitful consideration!

  5. Phil_NL says:

    Francis is the Pope. In a sense that’s the end of it.

    And for the rest, well,…. interpret it how you will, see it as consolation or damning with faint praise, but looking at the last 2000 years, Francis is clearly an above average Pope. [That isn’t clear to me yet. Once we get the Acta of his pontificate, at least more than we have now, then we will have a better idea.]

  6. Bosco says:

    Dear Father Z.,

    I cannot help but believe that to subscribe to the view that:

    “Every pontificate of every pope in the whole history of the Church is but a “parenthesis” is nothing more than a variation of “Nothing to see here folks. Move along.” [Whe wrote that? I didn’t.]

    The poison of ‘cantarella’ courses through the victims’ system long after Borgia has departed the banquet.

    [This is incoherent.]

  7. FL_Catholic says:

    It seems to me that Francis was sent by God to punish the Church for the heresy of Papalotry that has seeped into the Church since the end of Vatican I. Prior to Vatican I there were forces and heresies doubting the charism of infallibility of the Holy Father. So Vatican I clearly spelled out the dogma. After that pronouncement the heresy formally made itself known by the splitting off of the Old Catholics. But then the new heresy of Papalotry began to make itself known as a repackaged form of Ultramontanism, a “Hypermontanism” if you will. Now to correct His Church and get Catholics back to understanding the true role of the Pope and the correct interpretation of Vatican I, the Lord sent us Francis as punishment. Francis shows us what happens when a Pope, the media, and Hypermontanism goes off the rails and loses the Catholic focus on saving souls and passing on the Faith whole and entire. May the Church make amends and reparations for its past flirtations with Papalotry so that the Lord will make this punishment on His Church pass quickly from our midst.

  8. Dspauldi says:

    His Holiness drives me deeper and deeper into the faith because my initial response is so often “What?!” Since I just know it doesn’t sound right, I end up finding out what IS right.

    Pope Francis has been, for me, an irritating blessing.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    I think I get it. I think Bosco is saying that the bad effects shall continue long after the time the pope is moldering in his grave. Is that it Bosco?

    I give Fr. Perrone snaps for taking it on. It isn’t a bad argument, that the pope is bringing in hordes of Catholics with his Mercy Train. If that is so, the churches must be filled to overflowing.

    If it were just me, I’d suffer along waiting for better things. It grows insufferable when children are treated thus, and encouraged to mock Christ and our faith. I won’t say more because I’ll say too much.
    It’s not easy to be a Catholic right now, and it certainly can’t always be easy to be a priest, bound to poverty, chastity, and obedience. Ah, obedience.

  10. Jackie L says:

    From the earliest days I suspected the great contribution of this papacy may be to move Catholics away from “Popedolatry”.

    It is difficult to read these words from Fr. Perrone: “Yet it is evident that Pope Francis erred”, but I do agree.

  11. CharlesG says:

    Sage advice that I find difficult to follow. I am spending Lent in dread of the Apostolic Exhortation that is supposed to come out St. Joseph’s day, right before Holy Week. I hope that it will be one of the possible Humanae Vitae moments that you mention, or at least is silent on and does not explicitly or implicitly overturn the Church’s magisterium (including that of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio) with regard to marriage, divorce and Holy Communion, etc.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    It is not apparent that Pope Benedict’s words and writings were “… treated with an air of infallibility, both within and outside the Church.” Quite the contrary, I would say. With few exceptions I found the crowd grievously contemptuous of him and his wisdom. As for the current pontificate being some sort of restorative corrective, a more realistic perspective, that too appears quite contrary to reality.
    “Make a mess.”
    How soon we forget.
    Nevertheless, Father’s admonition is well taken. It recognizes the reality with which we are – engaged – for what it is – and suggests a healthy response.
    As for me, those who hold me in any regard keep all manner of plastic bags away from me, taking note of the warnings often found printed upon them.

  13. Gerard Plourde says:

    Excellent advice from Fr. Perrone which indeed echoes much of what Fr. Z has written here. The truth is that Our Lord established a Church to guide the faithful. By definition that church is made up of sinners, since the Fall has deprived all of us who are children of Adam of the supernatural gifts that would make us impervious to the temptations offered by Satan. Knowing and acknowledging our weakness should allow us to surrender ourselves to the Divine Will which sustains us and strengthens us through grace (most readily available in the sacraments). This knowledge and acknowledgement of our failings is very much at the heart of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The theme he stresses most of all is our need to repent and go to confession (an essential message that also is dear to the heart of Fr. Z).

  14. organistjason says:

    “Some are nearly unhinged in spittle-flecked nuttier.” I’ll place myself in this category. I myself am “wandering in the desert” of these past three years. How much more, Lord? How much? I will continue to pray for Holy Mother Church, the Cardinal Electors and Pope Benedict. I’m just done. [Then you are a quitter, abandoning your post in the Church Militant?]

  15. Charliebird says:

    Thank you Father for your guidance, as always.

    What are the faithful to do, though, particularly if they assist in the handing on of the Faith in schools (lay theologians), when they see that the words of the Pope cause a great deal of confusion? What are these to do who worry of damage being done, the severity of which is not yet determined? Could you possibly lay out a “scaled response,” helping the consciences of those who teach the Faith know what they should do? More and more (though still not in large numbers), students are hearing of the Pope’s statements (such as on Zika/contraception) and become confused on top of already being confused. Thank you Father.

  16. LarryW2LJ says:

    Sage words to calm an uneasy soul.

    Thanks to you both, Fr. Perrone and Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

  17. Ellen says:

    His Holiness drives me deeper and deeper into the faith because my initial response is so often “What?!” Since I just know it doesn’t sound right, I end up finding out what IS right.

    Pope Francis has been, for me, an irritating blessing.

    That hits the nail right on the head for me. I read something in the news, my first reaction is “Say WHAT!!”, then read what the Pope really said, and find myself nodding in agreement more often than not.

  18. chantgirl says:

    I am not convinced yet of the legitimacy of Francis’ election because of the plotting of the St. Gallen mafia. I am not sure we are not dealing with an antipope. However, that question is leagues above my pay grade, and Fr. Perrone’s advice to tend to our own vocation is really the only thing we can do. Let Our Lady Undoer of Knots settle the rest.

  19. Bosco says:


    You remarked “I think Bosco is saying that the bad effects shall continue long after the time the pope is moldering in his grave. Is that it Bosco?”

    Precisely, Kathleen. Precisely.

    My apologies to you Father Z. for indulging in such obscurities. Sometimes…”… if I really say it, the radio wont play it, unless I lay it between the lines.”

  20. Te_Deum says:

    Thanks for drawing attention to this Fr. Z.

    Shameless Plug Alert: Perhaps you could let readers know in some future post about http://GrottoCast.com where people can listen to Fr. Perrone’s weekly homilies. Pointing people to them is good, but mentioning it’s availability in a post quoting Fr. Perrone would be even better. He has much to offer. GrottoCast can be found on SoundCloud too and the app is on most smart devices. It’s free so if you have, or open a SoundCloud account, just search for GrottoCast and subscribe.

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  22. Supertradmum says:

    Most trad Catholics understand the sins of slander and calumny, which include gossip spreading things which are false about people. But, the great sins of too many trads, including entire TLM communities, newspapers and speakers on the circuit, are the sins of defamation and vilification Defamation is destroying purposefully out of malice the reputation of another person. Vilification is a twofold sin–first, showing a person’s character in the worst possible light, interpreting speech according to one’s agenda; and second, using abusive and disparaging words in speech or in writing.

    Examples abound and some so-called Catholic conservatives who write for some popular trad newspapers and blogs misrepresent by analogy the words of not only Pope Francis, but Benedict and St. John Paul II. Those men who refuse to call St. John Paul II saint are some examples of sinning by vilification.

    I have distanced myself from two TLM communities in the recent past because of what I call the Adversarial Spirit. This is a demonic influence which constantly divides, tears down loyalty to Holy Mother Church, and falsely categorizes Catholics as neo-cons or conservatives, etc. Love is the answer and love means forbearance with one another’s faults, including that of bishops and popes.

    Now, we must be aware of true heresy. But, to be constantly on the watch for errors is a sickening and destructive habit of mind. Malicious is contagious and a very serious sin of the intellect. Some authors and speakers have fallen into this sin regarding this pope and the last three or four popes. Analogical speaking creates false impressions, and I have recently heard a talk by a very prominent Catholic author who made three logical errors in one sentence regarding Modernism and the last three popes. Those people not trained in logic would miss the fallacy of false analogy.

    Years ago, as a very young person, I fell away from the Church as I wanted Her to seem perfect in every way. Well, I had to look at myself first of all. When I came back to the Catholic Church, I had the grace to separate the sins of men in the hierarchy from doctrine, and began to see the importance of the strictures on the teaching of Papal Infallibility

    We have had very bad popes. This present pope is not the worst one, in a long stretch and if the laity are confused, I would suggest they get down on their knees and pray to be rid of the obstacles to discernment and to study, study, study the beautiful and truth teachings of the Church.

    However, one of the memes on my blog and in my conversations of late has been paying attention to only what are the duties of one’s vocation. Too many people are what I wrote about years ago, “uppity laypeople” who think they are holier and know better than Rome on a lot of issues. One must stay within the vocation to which one is called. Anything else could be the sin of curiosity. One blog I wrote years ago had to do with the great American sin of sloth–being lax about one’s own vocation by peering into the faults of others.

    Humility is key.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    sorry should be maliciousness above, not malicious–got kicked out of the Net mid-stream; such is the trial of being online in public places…

  24. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “That said, I humbly admit to having had to breathe into a paper bag now and then.”
    Now and then, bro, now and then.

  25. chantgirl says:

    Supertradmum- One of the difficulties of concentrating just on our own vocations as mothers is that children ask questions. To date, my children are young and do not see the constant internet news of the Pope’s utterances. If they were young adults and were to ask me about the Pope’s ideas, I am honestly not sure what I would say to them, other than that he needs our prayers.
    Part of being a parent is guiding our children down the right paths and helping them to avoid danger. This pontificate has made it quite challenging. I can only imagine what high school teachers, college professors, and priests in the confessional are going through right now.

    So many uninformed Catholics or Catholics with weak faith, the bruised reeds, are being damaged by this pontificate because loyalty to the Church and love for the Holy Father is seen as absolute obedience to whatever the Pope says (although that didn’t seem to apply to Benedict XVI or JPII), even if it is an offhand comment. You are right to caution us to look at our motives and face the ways that we fail in our own vocations, but there is also the very real problem that this pontificate is causing collateral damage to souls. Someone with the competence to do it (maybe the Cardinals?) should address the problem. All most of us can do is pray and learn and tend to our vocations.

  26. Mike says:

    Thank you for the helpful perspective, Father. Whether regarding pope-related distractions or anything else in my life, more and more frequently of late I am blessedly obliged to ask myself these questions with respect to my response or action:

    Does it give glory to God?
    Does it render the service I have promised to the Blessed Mother?
    Does it advance the social reign of Christ the King?

    If the answer to all three is “yes” then I can move ahead without worry. If the answer to any is “no” then it is (or was) time to put on the brakes.

    The only side of the street I can keep clean is my own.

  27. Ferde Rombola says:

    I don’t know. There is enough on the Pope’s resume to justify the most serious charges against him. If contradictory and confusing remarks were his only fault we could just say a prayer for him and move on, but that’s not the case. The Pope has given every indication his intention is to change the Church from what she has always been to what he wants her to be. He has said as much directly. He has released the stalking horse of distributing authority over doctrine to every local ordinary on the planet. That is a direct assault on the universal authority of the Chair of Peter and is an unacceptable heresy. Okay, he hasn’t done it yet, but he wants to do it. We know, from his words and actions, in his heart of hearts he wants to order the acceptance of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried with no requirement of an annulment. Did he not scold the Fathers of the Synod, Part II, for rejecting the proposition calling for the recognition of the good in homosexuality, calling them Pharisees and Pelagians and any number of epithets he regularly levels at faithful Catholics?

    Is it not settled doctrine that Catholics are not to worship with Protestants? He’s already bought his ticket to Sweden to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s assault on the Catholic Church, the most egregious wound to the Body of Christ since the crucifixion. The world loves him for that and the rest of his antics. What did Our Lord say about the love of the world?

    I’m sorry, but I cannot brush aside what is coming from this Pope. He is not merely sowing confusion, he’s creating doctrinal chaos in the Church. My daily prayer is that God will empower the 13 Cardinals and their brothers to find a way to remove him and call a consistory to elect a new pope. My prayer there is for the elevation of Cardinal Sarah.

    I have spoken.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    chantgirl, I am not sure I understand what you are saying. Of course, children ask questions. I am a mum and I taught for years. It is the duty of parents to know the faith well enough to answer questions, and to teach children how to find out good, truthful answers. Teaching a child how to learn on his own is key to helping the child become an adult.

    We are not let off the hook by either media hype or papal sound bites. Sorry, but it is your duty to train your children in the one, true, faith. That is the primary duty of every Catholic parent.

    A God moment. My son almost died at birth. He had great birth trauma. I was thrilled he came through and the next morning, sitting on a bed in a ward, as England had wards at that time, I could hear all the noises around me, as only curtains separated the mums and babies. Suddenly, my little baby and I were wrapped in silence. I recognized a God moment. Then, clearly, I heard this, “When you die, I shall ask you one question. Did you pass your faith on to your son?”

    I got it. Said yes, and the silence ended.

    That is our primary role as a parent. Primary.

  29. Praynfast says:

    Perhaps you are ignoring the gravity of Pope Francis’ actions. [Unless you are psychic, you don’t know what I ignore.] Your parentheses approach is similar to what some Germans likely took to Hitler. [Okay, I’ll now invoke Godwin’s Law and ignore this.] They probably wanted to ignore the evils he was doing, thinking Hitler was doing “good” things like increasing employment, but that his actions would only last for a brief time. Watch the movie “Judgment at Nuremberg.” It is fictional, but it might put some things in perspective for you. (The “ignore-and-wait-maybe-there-will-be-a-Humanae-Vitae-moment” approach is also taken by many women who marry horrible males; they ignore the male’s party lifestyle and wait for him to change…)

    It is true that some people uncharitably lash out at the Pope, but when Pope Francis is not offended by a communist “crucifix”, how can you blame the people who lash out? Or when the Pope promotes an anti-Catholic understanding of “conscience,” as he has done multiple times in the last year? Laity have children, real children that they really love, and they do not want them to be led into hell or misery on earth, and the Pope’s statements on conscience will cause temporal and possibly eternal suffering.

    “One of these days God will hit the SHIFT+0 key and close this parenthesis.” Rejoicing in another’s SHIFT+0 moment (death) is sinful, too, right? Perhaps it is more sinful than those who uncharitably correct Pope Francis’ (and Assistant-Pope Kasper’s) many errors?

    And that brings up a final point – Pope Francis is old, and he apparently suffers from “sciatica.” Sciatica is a form of neuropathy, and many of the prescription chemicals used to treat neuopathies can cause a significant change in thoughts and behavior, and therefore, changes in decision-making (reasoning) abilities. Many of those chemicals cause significant sedation, too. Is the Pope is taking prescription chemicals that alter his reasoning abilities and/or sedate him to the point where other Cardinals/prelates/priests are basically “running the show [papacy]”? During one Mass it appeared as though he was extremely sedated – he could barely move, he wasn’t really opening his mouth or eyes during consecration. Maybe he was just tired.

    What if the Pope is taking powerful chemicals (“medications”) that alter his reasoning abilities? Waiting for shift+0 is kind of a sinfully negligent approach, it seems. It is very evident that other prelates are running the papacy (Cardinal Kasper’s theology is evident in Pope Francis’ communications) – which means that extra criticism is warranted, especially since many of those prelates were already criticized by previous popes.

  30. chantgirl says:

    Supertradmum- I’m sorry; let me clarify. I am trying to hand on the faith to my children, but many of the Pope’s statements and actions appear to contradict what I am trying to teach my children. Right now they are too young to be allowed free internet use, but I can see them asking me why the Pope taught this or that in the next couple years. I’m trying to figure out how to respond to them. I don’t want them to lose respect for the papacy, but at the same time I can’t ignore real problems if I am asked. I am merely asking for advice on how to discuss this papacy with my children when it comes up in discussion. For now, my children know who the Pope is but I have been pretty quiet about him, and haven’t discussed most of his ideas with them yet. We’ve pretty much just stuck to the catechism these last couple years.

  31. The ostrich theorists can make excuses for anything. I recall St Peter, we obey God rather than men, unless a particular man is speaking infallibly. Haven’t you noticed that Francis has promoted invalid – silent – confessions to his missionaries of mercy?

  32. The Cobbler says:

    Father, you make it sound as though the Papal Mainframe were a Lisp machine. ;^) *runs*

  33. AVL says:

    In other words, ignore the Pope’s many off the cuff remarks, keep your head down and just do what God is asking you to do! If he says something official and infallible you’ll hear about it at Mass or from friends. Other than that, I’m shutting my eyes, sticking my fingers in my ears, and loudly singing LA LA LA!

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