Francis on priests in private Jesuit meeting: psych problems = rigidity = fixation on sex = clericalism = demonic

The ubiquitous Jesuit Antonio Spadaro is perhaps Francis’ closest adviser and gopher.  He is, among other, editor of La Civilta Cattolica and the administrator on his personal website,, of a page dedicated to the homoerotic writer Pier Vittorio Tondelli.

Spadaro gave to historically anti-Catholic La Repubblica an excerpt of a transcript of a private, closed door meeting that Francis had with Jesuits during his trip to Maputo, Mozambique.   HERE

Since Spadaro chose to include this section in the brief excerpt given to the Communist founded La Repubblica, it must be so important that Spadaro thinks no one should miss it.

Since it is so very important, I feel the need to share it with you, especially, my brother priests who read here.  My translation and emphases and comments.

Q: How can we avoid falling into clericalism during the formation of priestly ministry?

Francis: “Clericalism is a true perversion in the Church. It demands that the pastor be always at the fore, establish a course, and punish with excommunication those who move away from the flock. In sum: it is precisely opposed to what Jesus did. Clericalism condemns , separates, beats, despises the people of God. Clericalism confuses priestly [presbiterale] ‘service’ with the priestly ‘power’. Clericalism is climbing and supremacy. In Italian it is called ‘arrampicamento’ [that’s not standard Italian, but it is clearly from arrampicare, which pertains to climbing, like in mountain climbing or cycling]. Clericalism is a direct consequence rigidity. [!] Have you ever seen young priests all rigid in a black cassock and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? [One nickname for the Roman clerical hat in Rome is “il saturno”, along with “padella… frying pan”] There are serious problems behind all this rigid clericalism. One of the dimensions of clericalism is the exclusive [?] moral fixation on the Sixth Commandment. A Jesuit once told me to be careful in giving absolution, [?] because the most serious sins are those that have a greater ‘angelic’ character: pride, arrogance, dominion. [actually fallen angel, hence, demonic!]  Those which are less angelic, such as gluttony and lust. We focus on sex and then we don’t give weight to social injustice, to slander, to gossip, to lies .”

A few comments.

First, since angels have no bodies, they do not have appetites as we do and their fall didn’t result from carnal sins.  The sins of the fallen angels would have been of a higher (and therefore graver) order, such as pride.  Among the sins that humans can commit, there are grave sins which are more of the lower, fleshy, order and those of a higher, spiritual, order.  Pride, vicious thoughts about others, lying, are in general worse than gluttony or lust.  However, whether they are more spiritual or more carnal, both can be MORTAL.  There isn’t partly or sort of mortal sin.   A lesser grave sin is, by definition, still a grave sin.

Also, as any priest knows who has heard confessions for a long time, true sins of that higher order, such as true pride and true malice, deeply rooted propensity to deceive, are by comparison rarer.  Sure, people can commit sins of the graver spiritual order occasionally.  Sins of the flesh are more common.  And they are dangerous.  While sins of the more angelic/demonic character are graver, those of the lower order, provided that they are of full consent, etc., are nevertheless enough to merit separation from God.  They are still mortal sins.

Moreover, as spiritual writers are consistent in warning, one sin leads to another, one kind of sin can weaken one so that it is easier to sin more gravely.  For example, there is a classic connection leading from gluttony to lust, not just acts of lust with the body, but objectifying people in the mind and imagination.  If you don’t say no to one basic appetite, you won’t say no to another. Those carnal sins can lead to dire spiritual sins, such despair, presumption, deceit, etc.

Above, we read: “We focus on sex and then we don’t give weight to social injustice, to slander, to gossip, to lies.” And earlier: “…exclusive moral fixation on the Sixth Commandment.”

Exclusive? I don’t know where he has been spending his time, but that’s not anything I’ve seen.

Still, of course we focus on sex!  We don’t focus only on sex. We focus on sexual sins because they are a) common, b) gateway sins, and c) enough to get you damned.

People tend to die the way they lived.  If we strongly habituate ourselves in this life to goods that are less than God, goods which take us away from the ultimate and highest good which is God (which is what we do in a mortal sin), then we will lock on to those goods.  That will result in separation from God and hell.

So, of course the diligent priest is going to focus on the Sixth Commandment.  It is, after all, not a Commandment with an asterisk… as if God said, “Here are 10 Commandments, but … wink wink … this one… well, you know.”

I don’t want to go to Hell for not attending also to preaching on sins against the Sixth Commandment.  False mercy will get you to Hell just as efficiently as true mercy, founded in charity.

Also, I want to underscore the line of thought.

Francis went from judging an outward appearance, cassock and hats, to an assertion that, someone who looks unusual to him, must be psychologically ill.  But then he brings in demons and their sin.  People like this are crazy and maybe like demons.

Does that seem right to you? That’s strike me as smacking of the very things that Francis mentions negatively at the end of the excerpt: it is unjust, calumnious, and – since it was in a small private meeting and not in front of microphones and camera – it smacks of gossip.

And this is what Jesuit Antonio (2+2=5) Spadaro urgently wanted everyone to know, via the historically anti-Catholic La Repubblica.

I am sure that my brother priests have been deeply moved by these remarks. I trust they will take action.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. James C says:

    Father, don’t forget his uncharitable gossip about a woman who presented him with two new converts:

    Today I felt a certain bitterness after a meeting with young people. A woman approached me with a young man and a young woman. I was told they were part of a slightly fundamentalist movement. She said to me in perfect Spanish: “Your Holiness, I am from South Africa. This boy was a Hindu and converted to Catholicism. This girl was Anglican and converted to Catholicism.” But she told me in a triumphant way, as though she was showing off a hunting trophy. I felt uncomfortable and said to her, “Madam, evangelization yes, proselytism no.”

    Can you imagine how that young woman and her two convert friends must feel today, to have their spiritual father gossip about them this way?

    I feel orphaned too. I pray that the pope realises the harm he does by speaking this way.

  2. Gab says:

    Have you ever seen young priests all rigid in a black cassock and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? There are serious problems behind all this rigid clericalism.

    Great pep talk to your young priests, Your Holiness. Amazing.

    Really though, what was the point of releasing this to the press? It seems malicious, but I may be wrong.

  3. acardnal says:

    “If anyone divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery.”
    – Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Was He “rigid” and a practitioner of “clericalism”? I think not.

    I’m with Christ.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, clerics who have a fixation on permissiveness about sex, and about themselves having lots of illicit sex in unnatural ways, do tend to be quite rigid and brittle, and clericalist, and demonically angry if anyone challenges them. And they have plenty of psychological problems, too.

    I mean, look at McCarrick’s record, now that we know. Constantly pushing his nose into everything, constantly trying to get a hold on everyone.

    Heck, look at even the people who were supposed to be stopping bad priests and didn’t, and knew perfectly well that they were allowing evil, in the name of sex with kids or seminarians being somehow “harmless.” The more complicit, the more rigid and brittle.

    So yes, this kind of talk, or this kind of story about a talk, is a sign of a guilty conscience by somebody or somebodies. We should pray for everyone involved to get a spine, which is the only thing that allows true flexibility and strength.

  5. ArthurH says:

    At the root of society is the family.

    At the foundation of making a family is sex.

    Offhand I’d say that sex is worth a serious focus, esp for how easily it is acted upon today with seemingly (at least intentionally) no consequence, which PF has further affirmed is the case.

    But EVEN IF it were minor, Christ reminds us about our behavior in small things projecting to bigger ones.

    I am sickened by this latest.

  6. Amerikaner says:

    Just this afternoon as I was walking home from work I was thinking of the difference in speech between St. John Paul II and Pope Francis. The former was so inspiring and spoke of such great heavenly things so as to encourage.

  7. Beltway Catholic says:

    I’d say PF has a medieval understanding of mental illness as demonic activity, but that would be unfair to the medievals.

    Maybe it is more accurately a Soviet understanding. If you dissent from comrade Stalin, you must have a psychiatric illness.

  8. Beltway Catholic says:

    My fear is that he knows exactly what he is doing.

  9. Philmont237 says:

    Our Lady of Fatima said that more people go to hell for sins of the flesh than every other sin. Is Our Lady also fixated on the sixth commandment?

    Also, I think Pope Francis just created a huge demand for saturnos. It’s like how Beto is the gun salesman of the year.

  10. Grant M says:

    It’s true that in Dante, the violent, fraudulent and treacherous lie deeper in hell than the lustful, greedy and gluttonous. However in his funnel-shaped hell, the upper regions are wider and more capacious than the lower regions.

  11. Stepheno says:

    This line of thought is very disturbing and indicative of such a closed mind. I’ve always said if PF was a Jesuit at the local well know college near me, we’d never seek him out for confession or spiritual direction.

  12. teomatteo says:

    “Have you ever seen young priests all rigid in a black cassock and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads?”
    Why does ‘young’ enter into his mockery? and he can judge anothers love for God by what they wear?!? Kinda like, “if you’re rigid then you are fake”
    That disturbs me because I cant help but think that he doesnt understand piety. I think he has a juvenile (arrested maybe) development regarding giving honor to God. Disturbing comment from the Holy Father.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    Is there no end to the exhibition of classic psychological projection?
    It is at once astonishing and deeply disquieting. It bespeaks a degree of pathological nefariousness and disengagement with reality that is unfathomable.
    What is most telling is its display not only in the Church, but by secular materialists in the civil sphere as well. Does it not appear as a symphonic attack on cognitive coherence itself? For what purpose? From what drive does such behavior emerge?
    There are deep personal problems on center stage. The act is collapsing. One hopes the best for the patient but when he presents a hazard to others palliative deference no longer remains an option. Can it continue to be thought reasonable that the one charging up the stairs believing it to be San Juan Hill is dealing with a full deck out of good will?
    Time for reasonable, integrated, well intentioned men to intervene.

  14. William says:

    It’s almost as if Francis said: “Here is what clericalism is, now allow me to act it out.”

  15. dplentini says:


    I find this all quite disturbing. The jibe about “2+2=5” also very aptly describes the Modernist mentality, which denies any sort of eternal truth. As Orwell concludes “1984”, even the most basic mathematical statements are what those who are in power say they are at any moment.

    Here, it looks like Fr. Spadaro is setting up the Tradionalists to take the fall for the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. “Rigidity” (strange choice of words, eh?) and sexual “fixation” are the root of the problem, not the homosexuals. Ergo, we must eliminate Tradtionalism.

    This is the usual Alinsky-type strategy: Project your evils on others with such ferocity that the public can’t see the truth. The real “rigidity” is with the homosexualists; the real abuse crisis is at their door (given all the years Tradition was truly suppressed in the Church will the crisis raged on); given all of the objective data. This is Satanic hatred.

    And consider how our Blessed Virgin Mother at Fatima, and so many Saints, like Saint Catherine of Sienna, told us that the vast majority of souls will be damned precisely for sexual sins. But homosexuality is a sexual sin, and the rigid homosexualists (pardon) can’t let that cat out of the bag; so they have to find any way possible to pin this on some one else; so why not put it on the Traddies to kill two birds with one stone? With the Traddies gone, who will stop them?

  16. Grant M says:

    Yes, what is it with these young priests who look as if they’re making a movie about Don Camillo or Father Brown? Well, with more priests like DC and FB (and offering the Mass they offered) we might be in better shape now…

  17. ajf1984 says:

    Hmm…”fixation” on the Sixth Commandment? There is a line of thought that posits that Lucifer’s Non serviam was prompted, at least in part, by the Creator’s insistence on allowing His mere mortal human creatures to procreate, and thus to participate in their finite way in the work of the Infinite. Whereas, of course, the angelic creatures cannot procreate. Wisdom 2:24-25-“For by the envy of the devil, death came into the world: and they follow him that are of his side.”

    The Devil hates humanity, the Devil hates the family and most especially, he hates children. The Devil, by tempting Man to pervert the great good that the Father has given us in our sexuality, sneers at God and, by the same action, lures us down to Hell.

    And priests who take seriously the Incarnation, take seriously the fact that Man co-operates with the Creator precisely in the proper use of the sexual faculties, are accused of being “rigid,” “fixated,” etc.? Is there a joke I’m just not getting here?

  18. Semper Gumby says:

    Solid post and comments. acardnal: “I’m with Christ” Amen. Amerikaner: Good point. The difference between John Paul II and Francis is like day and night.

  19. AveMariaGratiaPlena says:

    The Soviets used to ship dissidents off to “mental institutions” (ie gulags) for correcting “psychological problems.” With all the Marxists scurrying around the Vatican the mental-illness accusation makes sense.

  20. TRW says:

    Only people who are completely out of touch with society and aren’t actually in contact with any families could fail to see the immense damage that sexual sins inflict on families, individuals and society as a whole. Clearly, people who believe that sexual sins are not such a big deal are living in a bubble; they certainly aren’t hearing confessions in parishes. If these folks are this out of touch with our brokenness, how could we possibly trust their vision for the church? No one quite so rigid as a supposedly open-minded, progressive, elitist ideologue.

  21. TonyO says:

    I would like to point out a mistaken notion that, I think, fuels the common understanding of sex as a “carnal” and therefore a “low” act, i.e an act that we engage in “like the animals”, and so it is understood as something animal-like, though tolerated in us because, after all, we have bodies.

    St. John Paul II recalled us to a higher notion of sex, a notion pointed at in Genesis and reaffirmed in the Gospels and Epistles, and at least implicitly indicated by the Scholastics. While it is true that the animals have purely animal appetites like the appetite for food, and for sex, and it is true that we have bodies, what is not true is that we have animalian appetites for food and for sex that are just like the animals’ appetites. What we have, rather, are human appetites for food and sex that are analogous to the appetites of the animals, but not “the same” simply speaking. This is because, by creating us with an intellect, God reconstituted our entire physical aspect to be ordered by the rational. Thus, our appetite for food is not merely an appetite for good taste and a full belly: in a fully engaged human being doing a fully human act of setting forth a meal “worthy of man”, he takes rational thought for not only taste, but nutrition as well. And he arranges the parts of the meal so that it harmonizes as a whole this course alternating with that course, a bitter following a salty taste, a sweet taste capping an acidic flavor, a wine that embellishes that chunk of steak, etc. But far more importantly, he arranges it in service to friendship and social order, inviting those who will enjoy a good conversation and enable all to be uplifted in praise of God and re-invigorated to continue in charity with others. That, then is the “appetite” in full and complete display, but it is an appetite ordered under a rational standard which the man engages by his willing and intending all of the goods served by the meal, not just the “purely physical” goods. A man who desires only the purely physical goods from food is a beast of a man.

    The same can be said of the sexual appetite: the full and proper act of sex is between a husband and a wife who willingly and intentionally make room for any child to be conceived (by God’s direct action) as a promise of permanent, unconditional love for that child, as the flower and blessing of the permanent and unconditional love for each other, as the foundation and extension of the growth of the social order (i.e. the family and society), and taking delight in the physical manifestations of those goods by pleasing each other. Sex in the fully rational human is ordered to the highest goods of the temporal order, e.g. the intimate and profound friendship of spouses joining their love of each other with love of God.

    Adam and Eve, by the gift of original justice, had their loves and appetites rightly ordered easily and habitually. We, with the effects of original sin, can achieve the proper ordering of all of the goods of sex only by great effort. The man who engages in sex desiring only the most physical goods is a beast of a man. Contrary-wise, the man who engages in the sexual act in a fully upright way, fully engaged in the rational ordering of ALL of the goods so served, is doing the highest of human earthly acts (except, of course, that of the worship of God in the Mass, which is a supernatural act anyway.) It is a “low” act only in comparison to the supernatural. The beastly act of the brute who rapes a woman is not even in the same species of act, even though it is called “a sexual act” commonly. It is a beast-like act, but that means that it is not a properly speaking “human sexual act” which takes its species from charity and love.

    And perversion of the better things is the greater evil. Satan, desiring to pervert us greatly, greatly urges us to pervert our sexual faculty, to use it as the beasts use their sexual faculty – in a purely instinctual manner devoid of reason. Doing that does indeed make the act low, but it is low both by being made “more like the beasts” but (more so) by being a perversion away from its higher calling as attached and associated with reason and ordered by reason.

  22. GregB says:

    Based on the Pope’s statements, I guess that he must regard Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and all the virgin saints as being too sexually rigid. By his non-standards their chastity must be completely unacceptable to the modernist wing of the Church.

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