Blasphemous sermon about the Lord and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15 by Francis’ close aide, Jesuit

As a preamble, Fr. Antonio (“2+2=5”) Spadaro, SJ … more HERE.  Scroll down a little.  Read about his interest in Pier Vittorio Tondelli.

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the semi-official publication La Civiltà Cattolica, has been, at times, nearly sewed to the shoulder of Francis and at other times seemingly shelved.  He got some attention from a sermon he gave last week about the Gospel from Matthew 15 about Christ and the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was possessed.  At first the Lord doesn’t respond to her pleas, then he used the imagery of a dog (actually more like “puppy”) to describe the Canaanites (inveterate enemies of the Chosen People).  Christ eventually exorcizes the woman’s daughter and then heals many more in that Gentile region.

How did Spadaro describe the Lord?

Indifferent to suffering, peevish and insensitive, unbreakably harsh, an unmerciful theologian, mocking and disrespectful towards his poor mother, lacking humanity, blinded by nationalism and theological rigor, rigid, confused, sick and a prisoner the dominant theological, political and cultural elements of his time.

That’s most of it.   And, in case you are wondering, he didn’t end with, “But, Jesus only seemed that way.  What he was really doing was…”.  Nope.

Read it for yourselves.

What Spadaro published (Il Fatto Quotidiano has a paywall) which I found at Messa in Latino (these guys are great!):

Jesus is in Gennesaret, on the right bank of Lake Tiberias. The locals had recognized him and word of his presence had spread throughout the region, by word of mouth. Many brought him sick, who were healed. It was a land where people had to welcome and understand him. His actions were effective. But the Master does not stop. Matthew (15:21-28) – who writes for the Jews – tells us that he goes towards the northwest, the area of Tyre and Sidon, that is, in the Phoenician and therefore pagan area.
But behold, screams are heard. They are from a woman. She is Canaanite, that is, from that region inhabited by an idolatrous people that Israel looked upon with contempt and enmity. So, the story presumes that Jesus and the woman were enemies. The woman shouts: “Have mercy on me, Lord, son of David! My daughter is very tormented by a demon.” The body of this woman, her voice impose themselves erupting as if at the scene of a tragedy. Impossible for Jesus not to react to the chaos that abruptly interrupted the journey.

But no. “But he did not speak to her even a word”, writes Matthew laconically. Jesus remains indifferent. His disciples approach him and implore him, amazed. That woman was moving those who also ill judged her! Her screams had broken the barrier of hatred. But Jesus does not care. “Hear her, because she comes after us shouting!”, His companions beg him, trying to discreetly use the card of her insistence and the annoyance that her presence would have caused to the fireplace [sic!] of the Master.  [That sic is because the text says “camino… fireplace, chimney” rather than “cammino… journey”.  There’s plenty that’s horrid in this rant that supersedes typos.]

[This is where the train wreck starts.] The silence is followed by Jesus’ angry and insensitive response: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The Master’s hardness is unshakeable. Now even Jesus is a theologian: [A “theologian”??!? That’s really bad.  Now make a connection with the new head of Doctrine of Faith, where a new kind of Prefect was needed, instead of one of those rigid theologians who used “immoral means”.] the mission received from God is limited to the children of Israel. So, nothing can be done. Mercy is not for her. She is excluded. There is no discussion.

But the woman is stubborn. Her hope for her is desperate, and she overcomes not only any supposed tribal enmity, but also appropriateness, her very dignity. She throws herself in front of him and begs him: “Lord, help me!”. [My Italian text has “Signora” rather than “Signore”.  Trans is everywhere, I guess.] She calls him “Lord”, that is, she recognizes his authority and her mission. What else can Jesus demand in order to act? Yet he replies in a mocking and disrespectful way towards that poor woman: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”, that is to domestic dogs. A downfall in tone, style, humanity. Jesus appears as if he were blinded by nationalism and theological rigor[Remember: theologians are bad!]

Anyone would have given up. But not the woman. She is determined: she wants her daughter healed. And she immediately grasps the only crack left open by Jesus’ words, where he had referred to domestic dogs (and therefore not stray ones). They share their masters’ house, in fact. And so with a move that desperation makes astute she says: “It is true, Lord, and yet the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”. Few words, but well posed and such as to upset the rigidity of Jesus, to conform him, to “convert” him to himself. [It’s hard to believe that this guy thinks this much less published it.] Indeed, without hesitation, [Which could be a clue that maybe S’s interpretation is somewhat lacking…] Jesus replies: “Woman, great is your faith! May it happen for you as you wish ”. And from that instant her daughter was healed. And Jesus also appears healed, and in the end shows himself free, from the rigidity of the dominant theological, political and cultural elements of his time.
So what happened? Outside the land of Israel, Jesus healed the daughter of a pagan woman, despised for being Canaanite. Not only that: he agrees with her and praises her great faith.

Here is the seed of a revolution.


Interesting way to end that, no?

BTW… it is interesting that Spadaro blathers here about Christ being bad (“theologian”) and Francis also just ranted about theology being “ideology”, aiming it at these United States.  When he was in Portugal, as usual Francis On-The-Road has a “private” meeting with Jesuits, after which everything he said is published (with how much editing, we don’t know).  In 2021 in Slovakia, he denigrated EWTN.  This time, he talked about “backwardists” in America.  To a Jesuit who had visited these USA… (btw the Epitome was an orderly compilation, a summary of the less orderly Constitutions, made by a General of the Jesuits which came to be used for Jesuit formation in the 20th century):

You, the younger ones, have not experienced these tensions, but what you say about some sectors in the United States reminds me of what we have already experienced with the Epitome, which has generated a totally rigid and boxed mentality. Those American groups you speak of, so closed, are isolating themselves. And instead of living on doctrine, on true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live on ideologies. But when in life you abandon doctrine to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war.

Problem: Francis tosses the word “ideology” around for views he doesn’t like, but he hasn’t, to my knowledge, defined what he means by “ideology”.  It’s just… “out there opposed to him” and it’s “bad” because it is “against the spirit”.

Francis rails against the Epitome.  A footnote in the Civilità account says:

The formation of the Jesuits on the Society for a certain time was shaped by [the Epitome], to such an extent that some never read the Constitutions, which instead are the founding text. For the Pope, during this period in the Society the rules risked overwhelming the spirit, and he overcame the temptation to make the charism explicit and over-declared.

In the Civilità text Francis says that he was in the novitiate when the Epitome had “fossilized” the Jesuits.  Then Arrupe changed all that.  One sometimes could have the impression that Francis is treating the Church as a whole as if he were working out the internal problems of the Society.

I digress.  The Civilità piece is revelatory.  I can’t help but think that it presages something dire for a certain bishop of Texas.  I hope I’m wrong.

Archbp. Viganò responded in stark terms to Spadaro’s commentary on last week’s Novus Ordo Gospel from Matthew 15. Viganò’s vigorous reaction is at the blog of Aldo Maria Valli.  Whew.

In Spadaro’s words, the scum of the worst Modernism that has been plaguing the Church for more than a century emerges as if stirring in a puddle of sewage. That Modernism never definitively eradicated from seminaries and self-styled Catholic universities, to which a sect of heretics and misguided has erected the totem of the Council, replacing it with two thousand years of Tradition.

Until some time ago this “synthesis of all heresies” tried to make itself presentable by failing to manifest its anti-Christic nature, which was nonetheless consubstantial to it: there was still the risk that some vaguely conservative Prelate and not yet fully committed to the cause could realize its intrinsic danger. Of course, the divinity of Christ was considered a wishful thinking flowing from the need for the sacred of the “primitive community”, his miracles were exaggerations, his words were metaphors; on the other hand, “there were no recorders”, as said Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Company of Satan.


That’s a “no” vote from Viganò, I guess.

Some common sense suggests that the Lord was not indifferent or cruel or irritated with this afflicted non-Jew.  He was teaching patience, testing her faith, underscoring persistence.  We all have had the experience of wondering if God cares about us at all, if He ever hears our prayers, which sometimes are not answered in a way we recognize.    We have to keep going to Him, even in seeming silence, even in worsening conditions.  God knows what is truly our good, our best good.  Discerning the true good for another is the foundation of charity, love of neighbor in its most authentic sense.  One gives another what is truly the other’s good, even though it can pain us or cost us, compel us into a choice of self-sacrifice.   Does anyone with faith in Christ as truly God and truly man really think that a) the Lord didn’t know what He was doing with the Syrophoenician woman, or b) that in His humanity He enjoyed putting her off and hearing her plaintive cries?  He chose what was the true good for her and for those who were looking on, taking it in.  They were in pagan territory.  It was the Lord’s primary mission in this period of His earthly life to gather the lost tribes.  He was not unmindful of the Gentiles.  He had a divinely informed mission which had order to it.  It was not an order that absolutely excluded classes of people, hence His treatment of, say, Samaritans.  St. John Chrysostom says of this moment, that Christ, “withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us” (Homily on Phil 1:18)  Augustine said, “She was ignored, not that mercy might be denied but that desire might be enkindled; not only that desire might be enkindled but… that humility might be praised” (s. 77.1)  St. Ambrose says of the parallel in Mark 7:24, “If God invariably listened to every supplicant equally, he might appear to us to act from some necessity rather than from his own free will” (De mysteriis, 1.3)  God is not a Pez-dispenser.    Furthermore, you can see from the exchange between Christ and the Canaanite woman the benefit one’s personal efforts can be for others.  From helping one woman who was desperate, He then healed many of the afflicted in that area before the second miraculous feeding of a multitude.  He foreshadowed the gathering of the Gentiles.  Her intercession wound up being for more than her own daughter.  God’s mercy flows and overflows.  Moreover, we are all in this together.

More can be said, of course.  And perhaps the less said about Spadaro, the better.

Again, that Civilità piece bears attention.  I don’t have the energy to put it into English, but someone will.

And –  in that informal meeting with Jesuits – Francis went off the rails again concerning Vincent of Lérin.  Again.  According to Francis, the principles Vincent lays down for doctrine eventually result in doctrine evolving into something contrary to what it was before.    But this is already too long.

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  1. Gaby Carmel says:

    I had a thought about that episode of the Syro-Phoenician woman the other day: I think also it talks about Obedience. Stage one: Jesus answers nothing. Stage two: he explains that he is constrained by the terms of his mission, which is to Israel (and hence the reaction of stage one); stage 3: he refers to the woman as being one of the house dogs, that is, not the person meant AT THAT MOMENT to receive his teaching and miracle, since he is limited in his mission; it would be interesting to know if the word used in the Greek refers to house ‘pets’, which is less harsh. Final stage: the woman demonstrates the obedience of faith: she makes this act of faith by talking about God’s abundant Providence even to the animals, and demands the same mercy from the Son of God. And so he cannot refuse either her act of faith, which goes further than that of so many in Israel, nor the request that he acts just as the Father does when he is merciful to animals…

    Does this make sense to you?

  2. summorumpontificum777 says:

    You see, our new and improved FrancisChurch™ is not only more merciful than the Catholic Church A.D 33- 2013 but also out-mercies Jesus Christ himself. This is why the Synod on Synodality is so important. FrancisChurch™ is a glorious triumph, but, aside from a few pockets of Deutschland and the Low Countries, it hasn’t really been implemented. In most of the world, Catholics couldn’t be more thrilled and enthusiastic about the concept of nonjudgmental, non-rules-based FrancisChurch™. The only problem is that when they show up at their local parish in Genova or Gainesville or Guatemala City, they’re met by a rigid “little monster” priests hellbent on haranguing them with antediluvian views on sexual morality. Talk about buzzkill. Who needs that? But no worries, the Synod is on its way to end the rigid old Catholic Church once and for all.

  3. Maximillian says:

    I think that this homily – which is pretty dreadful – could be just about accepted had Fr Spadaro not written:

    “And Jesus also appears healed, and in the end shows himself free, from the rigidity of the dominant theological, political and cultural elements of his time.”

    My feeling is that the homily, and in particular the sentence above, was presented just to shock.

  4. So, then, this guy doesn’t believe Jesus is God.

  5. Philliesgirl says:

    What I don’t get is why anyone who thinks that way about Our Blessed Lord would want to self identity as a Christian. Presumably Fr Spadaro SJ would call himself a Christian, although I’m not sure how many others would. He is a man desperately in need of prayer.

  6. BrianWalsh says:

    Are the bishops and cardinals of the Church really just shrugging this off? Do you ever hear, Fr. Z, that the hierarchy and lots of priests are sick of this?


  8. James C says:

    Boy, that meeting of the pope with the Jesuits was a dilly. Not only did he attack Catholicism and affirm
    Modernism, he again refused to state the truth about homosexual behavior, even going to the point of saying that we can’t expect chastity from homosexuals.

    We are in deep, deep trouble.

  9. InFormationDiakonia says:

    Heretics in the Vatican? Blasphemers there as well? Say it isn’t so! I can’t believe that we haven’t heard ANYONE in authority, aside from Archbishop Vigano, who isn’t in “authority” in the official Vatican but is still a lone dissenting voice speaking for many of us. Of course there are other faithful prelates like Bishop Strickland and a few others here in the States. My sense is that many are too timid to push back against this sort of claptrap.

    I am not surprised at reading this. There are only a few Jesuits I’d actually want to listen to and this guy clearly isn’t one of them. The Church is indeed in the hands of lunatics there in Rome. And their lackeys in the world, such as Cupich, rain down havoc on us faithful “backwardists”.

    If Francis ever comes to my locale, I wonder how backward I’d be while I wear my lace covered alb and “fancy” dalmatic? I’m stuck in the 50s I guess, even though I wasn’t born then!

    I’ve already decided since my ordination that I will not be silent when this sort of stuff comes out. If I hear folks in my parish or diocese talking this rubbish, I will stand up and fight back for the Truth that us “backwardists” cling to!

    JMJ protect us!

  10. B says:

    They are trying to dismantle the foundation and tear down the edifice.

    They may appear to win… but Christ is the cornerstone and He shall not be vanquished.

  11. monstrance says:

    In the spirit of the season…
    After further review, the call on the field stands – First Down !
    Now, if the Modernists could just get rid of those pesky writings of the Church Fathers and Saints.
    Imagine if Our Lord had responded less “rigid”.
    We would have been robbed of the beautiful “dialogue”of the dog and crumbs.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    Good God…

    Sometimes the pontificates of St John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI feel like a century ago.

  13. missalecta says:

    I found the Holy Father’s words about St. Vincent of Lerins disconcerting:

    This attitude, [of American “closure”] he noted, “is useless, and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals as long as we follow the three criteria that Vincent of Lérins already indicated in the fifth century: Doctrine evolves ‘ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate.’” “In other words, doctrine also progresses, expands, and consolidates with time and becomes firmer but is always progressing,” he explained. This, followed by more words against “indietrismo”.

    Having studied St. John Henry Newman a bit, I’ve always been uncomfortable with clergy/theologians who use the phrase “evolution of doctrine” rather than “development of doctrine”. Evolution implies a change of species, a change in kind; development, on the other hand, refers to a growth or filling-out of what already is. I tend to write off the conflation of terms as sloppiness. Now, I fear that the idea that “acorns becoming oak trees” of Cardinal Newman (and St. Vincent, by extension) is completely jettisoned for the idea that “acorns can become apple trees or even animals” by a critical mass of the hierarchy. I don’t understand how clerics and theologians can be so cavalier with the Deposit of Faith. Erit enim tempus, cum sanam doctrínam non sustinébunt…


  14. Francisco12 says:

    I would also make Brian Walsh’s questions my own. I mean, how much more will the hierarchy take of this? Our average priests? Why does it seem that only Bishop Strickland is speaking out loud and clear?

    What bothers me most about this homily is that he insults our Blessed Lord by lambasting “the rigidity of Jesus”, using that term as an insult as the Holy Father does. And then to say that Jesus has “to conform [‘convert’]… to himself? What does that even mean? To suggest that Jesus has to undergo any kind of spiritual conversion sounds to me like soft Arianism, since that means the God without change must, well… change! And then finally, he says that Jesus “shows himself free” from all the bad prejudices of the first century. To say that someone has become free, means that they must have been in bondage first. Otherwise what are you setting yourself free from?

    The implication here is that Jesus was in some type of bondage; He was a slave to something that did not allow Him to be truly “free”. Does Fr. Spadaro not realize the implication of these words?! That he calls Jesus a slave to sinful attitudes?! This is the worst I have ever heard, and I didn’t think it could get worse from Fr. Spadaro. To say that Jesus needed healing, and that he did appear to be “healed” is straight up bonkers. The Divine Physician came to heal, not to BE healed Himself! As God, he does not need to be healed. I’m just some schmuck on a computer. How is it that I understand this and men like Fr. Spadaro don’t? But then again, he very well may understand, and says these things anyway beuase he doesn’t care.

    I won’t even get into the truly sad comments by Pope Francis on American “backwardists”, but I will say that it is a tragedy that Pope Francis wastes his time condemning American prelates and laity for upholding orthodoxy, while letting Fr. Spadaro, Archbishop Fernandes and others that spew the garbage as found in this homily continue on their merry way without saying “this is unacceptable”. God have mercy on us

  15. Ariseyedead says:

    So according to this twisted exegesis, Jesus was a trad. But if a representative of the right victim group is stubborn and persistent enough, then the trad can be healed of his rigidity and perform healing miracles. My reply is, “Flattery will get you nowhere, sir!”

  16. The Vicar says:

    One of your most interesting posts.

    I would agree with those who suggest that this person’s interpretation of the Gospel reading for Sunday August 20th is, to put it mildly, lamentable. The reflection is disrespectful of the person of Jesus, and wrongly attributes uncharitable thoughts to the Son of God.

    Let us pray for this misguided soul’s conversion.

  17. Kathy T says:

    I am struck with the shallow interpretation of such men. They seem able to view words only from a 2020s perspective. It’s the same interpretation a non Catholic would make if you asked him while he stood on a street corner. It’s a hard read but reading it only with a 2024 view of those words seems babyish. Do they just not understand words unlike doctrine take on new meanings over time? So if one is going to talk about a Bible passage shouldn’t one understand what the words meant at the time they were written? And criticizing Our Lord gives me the willies. I wouldn’t want to be near him when lightning strikes

  18. Johann says:

    I actually asked Spadaro on Twitter why he maintains a website dedicated to a gay poet who died of AIDS. He immediately blocked me without answering.

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    Two churches. Two Jesus’s. They have to bring him down, this is what they do. They want a human Jesus alone, nothing divine. A material Jesus, because this world is all we have. Their human Jesus has all the faults of the people we don’t like.
    I don’t particularly like their Jesus. I’m glad we have ours instead. Theirs sounds mean and arrogant, uncaring, like them. Ours is not like that, He is love, even if we can’t always comprehend His ways.
    People who listen to these horrible men will lose their faith.

  20. JonPatrick says:

    To follow on from what Kathy T says above, they are viewing everything through a Liberation Theology lens. The purpose of the homily is to use the reading to promote an ideology. It is almost as if they have reversed St. John the Baptist’s (whose beheading is remembered today) words so that they now read “he must decrease; I must increase”.

  21. Barnacle says:

    Fr. Z, you are the best.

  22. DeeEmm says:

    It’s pretty clear these type of Jesuits hate Our Lord. The writer is holding some kind of grudge against or resentment of Jesus. Seems like maybe nobody ever explained to the Jesuits that Jesus IS GOD so everything he says and does is perfect, without stain or error. Instead of criticizing Jesus, thank God unlike these credentialed theologians I have the good sense to criticize myself instead.
    As for me, I love being a rigid backwardist. I’m sorry it bothers Pope Francis so much. Actually, I’m not sorry.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

  23. Father Spadaro’s interpretation is utterly incompetent, but it is an amplified version of lesser incompetence, namely: the idea that Jesus didn’t like Gentiles, or was talked into helping her.

    Consider this: if any of that were remotely true, then why did he go out of his way to visit a Gentile region? It’s almost cruel.

    Here’s what I think, based on the text and the insights of my Scripture instructor in the seminary.

    This whole episode is at least as much about the Apostles as it is about the woman. Note: Jesus does not answer her at first; he waits till the Apostles speak. What will they say?

    They go with their default answer: “send her away”; they said the same about children and hungry people.

    Jesus’ replies are not obviously directed to the woman; note, the text says twice, “Jesus replied…” but on the third time — when he praises her “great faith,” it says, “Jesus replied to her.”

    So, to whom was he replying with the first two comments? The Apostles!

    Jesus is saying out loud what the Apostles think: “I wasn’t sent to the Gentiles…” and “don’t give food to the dogs.” The woman’s responses serve as a rebuke to the Apostles’ narrowness.

    Note: Jesus only a bit earlier lamented Peter’s “little faith”; but here, he praises her “great faith.”

  24. Kathleen10 says:

    Like a dog returning to vomit I looked at this Spadaro commentary again. Your word fits it best, Fr. Z, it is blasphemous. So we have a pope, supposedly, who insults us relentlessly and calls us “backwardists” for wanting what Catholics always had, the TLM. That’s all this is about, insults for Catholics who love the TLM, but most of all who love Jesus Christ, Whom these men insult, mock, and seek to dishonor day and night. So many times we hear God will not be mocked, God will not be mocked. Right now God is mocked, and from the highest earthly seats. Someday soon he will answer.

  25. dallenl says:

    I suppose Spadaro could start his own church. The dictum of Groucho Marx about joining an organization that would have him certainly seems to apply.

  26. aiello01 says:

    I think that vows or promises of obedience keep people from speaking out who would ordinarily speak out.

  27. Pingback: Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, leaves La Civiltà Cattolica to become “Under-Secretary” at Dicastery for Culture and Education | Fr. Z's Blog

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