READ: NRO piece by Daniel J. Mahoney, “Pope Francis, Wayward Shepherd”

First, an image to set the scene.

Let’s now move along.

In the wake of posting about Robert Royal’s roundup of books on Francis, I read today at NRO a piece by Daniel J. Mahoney, “Pope Francis, Wayward Shepherd”.

The article is more than about ways in which Francis seems to be leading the Church into a secular NGO mode of action, obsessed with climate change, and through it, even population control (what the hell is Jeffrey Sachs doing at the Vatican all the time?) and the glossing over of perennial teachings.

It is about a wider element.


Political correctness — and hostility to the West as the West — pervades a good deal of what this papacy says and does.


Royal refers to these juvenile ideological clichés, and predictable policies, as manifestations of “simplistic progressivism.” This is a Vatican that conflates the truth of Christ with a “religion of humanity” that has become a substitute for a religion that affirms transcendence. Sober political thinking is not much in evidence, nor even a modicum of realism and moderation in human affairs. Love and charity have been hopelessly politicized, confused with a sentimentality that excuses every excess carried out in the name of a perfected “humanity.” When one sides with an atheistic and totalitarian regime that endangers the children of God, one has entered into morally and theologically troubled territory, indeed.

What is responsible for this steady evacuation of, this open assault on, classical Christian orthodoxy and moral-political good sense? To begin with, Francis and his cohort are partisans of a “new Christianity” that pays insufficient attention to the horizon that Christians call “eternity.


“The silence of most of the bishops in the Catholic Church on this embarrassing but destructive mixture of progressivism, reflexive activism, and casual dismissal of the deepest wisdom of the Church is disconcerting.”


Instead of kneeling before the world and succumbing to the allure of a late modernity that has no place for elevating conscience and binding truth, Cardinal Sarah calls on the Church to fearlessly witness to the truth about man. It must witness, with evangelical zeal and fidelity to the natural moral law, against the terrible perversions that are gender theory and transhumanism. They are the “pernicious face” of totalitarianism in the 21st century since they, too, “hope to mutilate and control [human] nature.” The Church now should have one paramount mission: to defend human nature, moral responsibility, and a conscience informed by natural and divine truth (not pernicious self-will) as precious gifts that come from the Lord of Hosts. Sarah puts it so well: Men and women of good will would respond with enthusiasm and gratitude to a “splendid act of courage by the Church” to recover the true sources of human liberty, dignity, and responsibility. Without such an act of courage, the progressives will lead the Church of Christ down a path of gradual renunciation of everything that defines the Christian Church as a vehicle of divine truth, of the moral law, and of liturgical fidelity to the worship of the Most High. And as he argues in a new book, Des profondeurs de nos coeurs (From the Depths of Our Hearts), written with a contribution by Benedict XVI, the new Christianity undermines an authentic and faithful understanding of celibate priesthood, of priesthood truly sanctified by God. [US Pre-Order Soon HERE for 12 March 2020 release! – FRENCH HERE]

By becoming shrill, dogmatic, and moralistic practitioners of a politically correct religion of humanity, the Church follows the path of perdition. The political philosopher Leo Strauss, speaking in 1964 at the University of Detroit, a Jesuit institution, said that the Roman Catholic Church was the last remaining spiritual body or institution to truly appreciate all the pitfalls of a modern project that openly and self-consciously rejected natural right in the classical and Christian senses of the term. Strauss made that remark at the very moment when important elements within the Church were succumbing to modernity at its least wise, least sober, least admirable. This is what the political philosopher Eric Voegelin so aptly called “modernity without restraint.”

For generations to come, the Catholic Church will bear the shame of its capitulation before a totalitarian regime in Beijing, a regime that demands loyalty to state power and Communist ideology before fidelity to the saving grace of Christ.


It’s a sobering assessment.

On a macro level there is not a lot must of us can do, even though we know that prayer and charity have no borders.

On the micro level, the sphere we reach each day, there is a lot we can do in word and in deed, dicta et facta.

One thing we must do is assess where we are and where we want to go.   The piece above describes: “partisans of a ‘new Christianity’ that pays insufficient attention to the horizon that Christians call ‘eternity.’”

In geometry, when two lines diverge from the same point, the farther they extend, the farther apart they get.

In a journey, if you take a road leading the opposite direction of your destination, the farther you go from it.  If you are smart, and you really want to get to your goal, you have to turn around and find the correct road.  If you are smart.  Or … if you are not perverse.

I think that a false road was purposely created for our naive feet by the City of Man’s diabolical civil engineers and we were lead astray.

But we’ve now had time to study the map.

Heaven.  Not heaven.

On the path of the Church?  On the path of the world?

Do you like the direction we are going?

Friends, stay close to the sacraments.

Find good reading sources.

Form small “base communities”, to study good sources.

Participate well in your sacred liturgical worship.

Fathers, get serious about catechesis and get those altars turned back the right way.  Preach about the Blessed Sacrament in such a way that people of their own accord will never want to receive in the hand again.  Put rails back in.  Learn more about who you really are by learning the Traditional Latin Mass.  I virtually guarantee a knock on effect in your parish.

And hear confessions.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


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  2. teomatteo says:

    “Pope Francis, Wayward Sheperd”. That is being too polite.

  3. Spinmamma says:

    Many sobering(as though we need to be sobered) gems in that piece, e.g., “By becoming shrill, dogmatic, and moralistic practitioners of a politically correct religion of humanity, the Church follows the path of perdition.” and “For generations to come, the Catholic Church will bear the shame of its capitulation before a totalitarian regime in Beijing, a regime that demands loyalty to state power and Communist ideology before fidelity to the saving grace of Christ.” Thank you again, Father Z, for offering encouragement and realistic ways of maintaining the Faith, that we might all finish our race without succumbing to anger or despair.

  4. grateful says:

    A “sobering assessment” is an understatement.
    The should be read by all.
    “As Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong once noted, Francis could see Communists as merely the victims of Latin American military dictatorship and lovers of the poor and thus more Christian than Christians in decisive respects.”
    … “The head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Argentine bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, a close friend and acolyte of the pope, has surrealistically declared the People’s Republic of China the country that best embodies Catholic social teaching in action. “

  5. Alexander says:

    Good article overall. I suppose due to the NRO audience Mahoney focused more on politics and avoided the lavender elephant in the room. Being a leftist is bad but it is just one aspect of this pontificate. One could also mention financial corruption and the promotion of perverts and cover-up artists.

    A “new Christianity” is a vague or perhaps erroneous term. Modernism, apostasy, heresy, secularism, anthropocentrism, materialism or Freemasonry are much more accurate ones.

    “I do not doubt the integrity of the Holy Pontiff.“ Unless he is talking about the office in general, I am not sure what that means other than “I am a faithful Catholic so I have to say one or two nice things in this article.” How many more exhortations, synods, promotions, demotions, insults, contradictions, interviews, sacrileges, orgies, cover-ups and deceptions will it take to change Mahoney’s mind?

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Insightful article by Daniel J. Mahoney.

    “What is responsible for this steady evacuation of, this open assault on, classical Christian orthodoxy and moral-political good sense? To begin with, Francis and his cohort are partisans of a “new Christianity” that pays insufficient attention to the horizon that Christians call “eternity.” The Church is literally becoming secular, obsessed with political and social matters far beyond its competence.”

    “As the estimable Father Raymond J. de Souza pointed out in the November 28, 2019, issue of the Catholic Herald, Pope Francis has a soft spot for leftist leaders who oppress civil society in the name of social justice and solidarity with the poor…Carlos Eire, the great Reformation scholar at Yale University, has described this pattern as Francis’s “preferential option for dictatorship.” Brutally honest but not hyperbolic, Eire was himself a “Pedro Pan” baby (a child refugee from Castro’s Cuba). This pattern of favoring dictatorial regimes is not limited to Francis himself but includes many of his closest associates.”

    “This pope proclaims mercy without a concomitant emphasis on the need for repentance, or a fundamental reorientation of the soul. Compare this with the first of the Gospels, that of Mark, in which Jesus repeatedly cries out for repentance. There is no Kingdom of God without the penitential turn of the soul to the grace and goodness of God. Nor does Francis seem to believe in punishment, temporal or eternal, for grave crimes and sins. After unilaterally changing the Catholic catechism to declare capital punishment barbaric and illicit, he now suggests that life imprisonment is also unacceptable from the Church’s point of view. He has a seemingly utopian confidence in rehabilitation and no real sense of radical evil. His tendency is to identify the “magisterium of the Church,” its settled and unchanging teaching going back to apostolic times, with his own whims and ideological preferences.”

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    “…a sobering assessment” by Daniel J. Mahoney. ‘Tis true.

    Not a sobering assessment is a curious article at the Register on Feb. 11 titled: “Diplomat of the Word, Diplomat to the World: Pope Francis’ Role on the Global Stage.”

    The Register has published many good articles, this is not one of them. It’s apparently not parody or satire, but is presented as “News Analysis” by one Solene Tadie- a “Rome-based Europe correspondent” for the Register.

    It contains many duds, such as a quote from “Victor Buonomo the first lay rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, where he teaches international law…”:

    “Vatican diplomacy, he said, “is not about conquering power or privileged economic relations, but to guarantee that churches in the different countries can be free…”


    Anyway, the article, which praises Laudato Si, “interreligious dialogue with Islam,” etc. is not worth one’s time.

    The Register is allowed their occasional late-night-at-the-college-dorm moment. For insightful reading on this pontificate and Francis’ “preferential option for dictatorship” see Daniel J. Mahoney’s article linked above, and the review by Robert Royal in Claremont Review of Books titled “Is the Pope Catholic?”

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    There was an attempted rebuke of Daniel J. Mahoney’s article by Michael Warren Davis two days ago at Crisis Magazine.

    Davis begins with a rosy-eyed, even an over-enthusiastic, look at Querida Amazonia. Ok, but then he goes off the rails with this regarding Mahoney’s article:

    “In fact [as an example of “right-wing media relentlessly trashing the Vicar of Christ”], just last week, National Review’s March edition appeared on the NR website. Its cover is adorned with a cartoon of a dour-looking Francis; the lead article, “Wayward Shepherd,” was written by Assumption College professor Daniel Mahoney. After describing the Pope’s worldview as “a modish and unthinking progressivism,” Professor Mahoney goes on to say: “Let us hope that Pope Francis comes to see the need to uphold authentic continuity in the Church—fidelity to her old wisdom—and not a frenzied chasing after change for change’s sake. This is a hope that is fully in accord with the filial respect that faithful Catholics owe the Holy Father.”

    “I wonder if National Review and Professor Mahoney will publish a follow-up article praising Francis’s handling of the synod. Somehow, I doubt it.”

    Well, Francis, compared to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is far more dour (the photo above shows Francis smiling with…Jeffrey Sachs). The cover illustration is fair.

    As for “relentlessly trashing” it is obvious that Davis did not fully read the article he is attacking.

    As for Davis “wondering” if Mahoney will now write an article “praising Francis’s handling of the Synod” Davis is: 1) unaware of the content and scope of Mahoney’s article; 2) overly enthusiastic and naive about a single dubious event in the multi-year span of this seriously problematic pontificate; and 3) trivializes the pagan ritual in the Vatican Gardens presided over by Francis, the carrying of the idol by high-ranking clergy as if they were in a Cecil B. DeMille movie, and Francis’ placing of a pagan bowl on the altar of St. Peter at the Synod’s conclusion.

    On the bright side over at Crisis Magazine, yesterday they published a helpful article by Francis Lee (Naval Academy 2017) about Catholic chaplains in the Navy and “holy helos.”

    So, with Crisis Magazine at bat there was a foul ball followed by a home run. That’s another day of baseball in the vineyards of the Lord.

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