20. September, 2013Blog Post 17 comments

The pope’s nearly 11,000 word interview with America Magazine will be debated for months. My contribution to that discussion begins with the following ten takeaways.

May I first beg your forgiveness for my failure to hold up for applause every expression offered by the pope that resembles solid Catholic teaching? Nothing personal; that’s just me. I’m not in the habit of alerting my mechanic every time my truck starts either.

1. Pope Francis is very uncomfortable wielding authority.

“I found myself provincial (in a position of authority in the Jesuit order) when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.”

“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative … I have never been a right-winger [but] it was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

Clearly, this is a man who took accusations of “conservatism” from the poster boys of liberalism, his brother Jesuits, as if it were a dagger to the heart.

All indications are he isn’t about to make the “mistake” of ruling with authority again.

2. As a result, this is a pope who is determined to seek refuge in the conciliar invention known as “collegiality.”

“The consistories [of cardinals], the synods [of bishops] are, for example, important places to make real and active this consultation. We must, however, give them a less rigid form. I do not want token consultations, but real consultations. The consultation group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ advisory group, is not only my decision, but it is the result of the will of the cardinals, as it was expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. And I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”

His Holiness even went so far as to say of the Orthodox Churches, which are defined by their rejection of papal primacy, “From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.”

Pope Francis can insist that matters of Church governance are “not only my decision” all he wants, but the simple fact remains, while consulting with his cardinals and other bishops is wise, the Church that Jesus gave us is monarchical in structure, and the pope alone possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church.

3. Pope Francis’ unwillingness to take up the mantle of Christ’s authority as vested in the Roman Pontiff has a profound, adverse, effect on his ecclesiology.

“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use … the people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together.”

The “people” may constitute a subject, but certainly this image does not exhaust the objective reality of what the Church is.

What is conspicuously missing, not just from this interview, but from the witness of the past six months, is any evidence that Pope Francis sees himself as anything more than simply a shepherd who walks among his people, as if this body moves about en masse apart from the leadership provided by the occupant of the Throne of St. Peter whom the Lord appointed to serve as the visible head of the whole Church.

4. Perhaps this is why Pope Francis seems to imagine a certain dichotomy, or at the very least, a noteworthy tension, exists between orthodoxy and orthopraxy; belief and practice; doctrine and spirituality.

“If you want to know who Mary is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people.”

The threefold office of Christ – teaching, governing and sanctifying – exist, of course, in perfect harmony such that, using the pope’s example, the people could not possibly know how to properly love Mary apart from any one of them.

Furthermore, while a share in these offices is proper in some degree to all the baptized, they are all the more profoundly expressed in the sacred hierarchy, and uniquely so in the Roman Pontiff. While Pope Francis may not explicitly disagree with this statement, his discomfort embracing it is palpable.

5. Pope Francis apparently sees a Church that the overwhelming majority of the faithful have never experienced.

On the heels of last week’s breathtaking comment, “I dare say that the Church has never been so well as it is today,” the pope described a situation that most Catholics can barely even imagine in their wildest dreams:

“A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing.”

Rare indeed is the parish that puts “moral and religious imperatives” before the generic Christian warm and fuzzies.

The disconnect between the Holy Father’s idea of what’s it’s like to dwell in the Church today, and the bitter reality of the obstacles faced by those who wish to live a fully Catholic life, is nothing short of stunning.

6. This pope, like his immediate predecessors, is utterly determined not to allow “the facts on the ground” to interfere with his view of the Second Vatican Council.

“Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.”

Pope Francis obviously dwells in the same parallel universe from whence John Paul II said, “The vast majority of the pastors and the Christian people have accepted the liturgical reform in a spirit of obedience and indeed joyful fervor,” even as the real fruits of the post-conciliar liturgical reform were such that desolate parishes were being boarded up at an alarming rate in dioceses all over the world as he spoke.

7. Pope Francis’ determination to praise Vatican II, and to treat it as if it alone constitutes the fullness of sure doctrine, has engendered in him an open hostility toward those who dare to embrace the doctrine of the faith as it was taught and lived prior to the confusion that was ushered in by the conciliar innovations, firstly, with regard to liturgy.

“Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”

Apparently, His Holiness simply dismissed the letter of explanation that accompanied Summorum Pontificum, as well as the Instruction for its application that followed some four years later. If not, he would realize that the effort to make the traditional liturgy, which has never been abrogated, readily available has nothing whatsoever to do with some condescending notion of placating “people who have this sensitivity;” rather, it is motivated by the reality that “the Usus Antiquior, [is] considered as a precious treasure to be preserved … for the good of the faithful” (Instruction on the Application of Summorum Pontificum).

8. Pope Francis’ hostility toward traditional Catholics also has roots in his compromised ecclesiology.

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”

Imagine, here is a pope openly criticizing as “legalists” those who expect the Church to provide precisely what should be expected of every Holy Mother; steadfast assurance, clarity, and safety.

If that’s not preposterous enough, he states that those who seek in the Church what are ultimately characteristics of God Himself (clarity and safety), ends up with “nothing!” It’s as if he imagines that doctrinal fluidity, ambiguity and exposure to the lies of the Devil are gifts from on high.

It is interesting to note how in this context the pope falls back on what he calls a “dogmatic certainty” that “God is in every person’s life.”

Does the Catholic Church have anything to offer beyond this?

“Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person,” the Holy Father says.

It’s not immediately clear whether or not the pope intended to include “Catholicism” in this generic reference to “religion,” but this certainly seems to be the case. This begs the obvious question: Does the Vicar of Christ really believe that the doctrine of the faith is but an “opinion” that threatens to “interfere” with an individual’s spiritual life?

I would be delighted to say that there is good reason to dismiss this possibility out of hand, but I’m afraid I cannot.

9. Pope Francis appears to believe that Catholic teaching must be adapted to humankind, not vice versa. Likewise, he believes that Church teaching does not form the man; rather, the man forms the teaching.

“When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself … The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”

The unavoidable conclusion one must take away from the pope’s comments are that he imagines that doctrinal formulae once considered nurturing for the soul can become poison simply with the passage of time.

At this, we have arrived at the most fundamentally important takeaway from this interview, and indeed the entire six months of this pontificate.

10. Pope Francis is a modernist.

“St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time … The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.”

St. Vincent of Lerins in no way encouraged “different understandings.” Rather, he said, “Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all … we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed.”

Pope St. Pius X, in his magnificent Encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, On the Doctrines of the Modernists, said regarding the false notion that human experience somehow renders a “different understanding” of Catholic truth, “This doctrine of experience is also under another aspect entirely contrary to Catholic truth. It is extended and applied to tradition, as hitherto understood by the Church, and destroys it.”

Furthermore, the Oath Against Modernism states very clearly:

“Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that … dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.”  [Emphasis added]

This, I’m afraid, is a pledge this Holy Father could not, in good conscience, take.


We must us fast and pray much for this Holy Father, that he may, by the grace of God, govern the Church according to His will.

  1. Elizabeth September 21, 2013 12:19 am

    Thanks for the clear analysis. I really appreciate reading your words. Scary times. Truly.

  2. steve September 21, 2013 12:58 am

    Fortunately, our hope is not in a man, but in a God-man. Elizabeth, the times are always scary, but as His followers we are safe. Now, I just have to live up to these brave words.

  3. Craig September 21, 2013 3:15 am

    Spot-on analysis. These are scary times indeed.

    I’m just trusting in Our Lord’s promise that the Holy Spirit will prevent the pope from binding these modernist errors on the faithful.

    I’m not so trustful that this pope won’t try. And just how the Holy Spirit stops him…that could be quite scary. I’m thinking of all those prophesies of the chastisement, and so much seems to be coming to a head.

    Lord have mercy!

  4. Lynne September 21, 2013 4:06 pm

    Exactly, Craig.

  5. why zee September 21, 2013 4:14 pm

    I wish y’all the best, it now appears that Catholics have elected a protestant pope

  6. Patt September 21, 2013 6:16 pm

    I am glad to come to your page and read your analysis. You did a complete job and made things quite clear. I hope, since pope Francis does not like to govern, nor his role as pope— that he wisely seeks EARLY RETIREMENT from a post he did not want.
    As the liberals fawn over him and hold him up as the poster for their causes, it is a concern to those holding on to the Faith of Our Lord. I am aware that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church, but there remains damage that can be done…

  7. Tom H. September 22, 2013 1:19 pm

    I’m afraid we got the Pope we deserve….not the one we needed.

  8. Ziemek September 22, 2013 9:28 pm

    The Pope that we deserve is one of most terrifying thing that I can imagin.
    But, of course, wrath of God is some medival invention, poor I that I still belive in it.

  9. Not a dominican September 25, 2013 2:12 pm

    Mr. Verrechio,

    Thank you for speaking the truth. There are so many of us priests and religious who cannot..because we know the progressives would come down like an iron fist upon us…If Bergoglio is a Modernist, then we must begin to ask if he is even capable of holding office….warnings like your essay put in clear light, that we faithful Catholics must draw the line and say, enought is enough:
    As one lay woman and theologian, at Rome says: Nec plus ultra: http://chiesaepostconcilio.blogspot.it/2013/09/nec-plvs-vltra.html

  10. cyrillist September 25, 2013 4:28 pm

    “I hope, since pope Francis does not like to govern, nor his role as pope— that he wisely seeks EARLY RETIREMENT from a post he did not want.”

    I agree, Patt, but here’s my worry: How many current cardinals would be willing to govern as popes have for centuries? Is there anybody out there?

  11. Not a dominican September 25, 2013 5:59 pm

    Yeah, His Eminence Burke….

  12. Capt. Donnie September 26, 2013 12:04 am

    Well done Louis. I am saddened to say I must agree with your premises. May God Almighty have Mercy on us all.

  13. Jamey77 September 26, 2013 12:55 pm

    Craig said: “I’m thinking of all those prophesies of the chastisement, and so much seems to be coming to a head.”

    The lightning strike on St Peters after B16′s abdication only adds to the general angst of the situation.

    Blessed Elena Aiello warned of a chastisement by water and if mankind doesn’t repent then there will be a chastisement by fire (Akita). With all the floodings, landslides, typhoons and the tidal wave in Japan 2011 I think we are in the chastisement by water.

    Scroll to the bottom of the following page to see her prophecies:


    It seems unlikely there will be genuine renewal in this pontificate but more of what Archbishop Lefebvre called a sentimental, superficial, charismatic religiosity that will probably end in disaster. Mass attendance by Catholics has dropped from 75% to around 10% within 50 years and we are told the Church has never been in better shape.

  14. doulos September 27, 2013 10:28 pm

    The analysis shared frankly saddens me. It expresses a spirit of judgment that is difficult to align with the Gospel. I confess I am one of those who came in because of the windows opened by Vatican II. I have been a Permanent Deacon for over 12 years. I was a very conservative Pentecostal pastor deeply taught in the alleged errors of Catholicism. As I read and followed the work of Pope John Paul II and then studied the teachings of the Church, including the Vatican II documents I knew our Lord (Christ) was calling me into full communion. If labels are important I would consider myself a Eucharistic Catholic. It was our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the Magesterium that especially spoke to my heart. I see in the entirety of the Magesterium the working of the Holy Spirit to counteract the strife, divisions and schisms that have scandalized the Body of Christ. However I have never felt the Magesterium is only relegated to the Traditional, i.e., Tridentine era. Nor am I able to believe that a relatively small (less than 500 years) segment of a 2000 year liturgical history is the only time liturgy was fully correct. Forgive this former Protestant but I see Vatican II as a true time of renewal in the Church. As for Latin, I love the language, it is rich, profound and beautiful. However to focus liturgy on a language and rigid rite (as opposed to Christ) has developed what feels almost cultish. Catholics I know make it very clear that they consider those of us who prefer a non-Latin Mass as inferior at best or possibly not Catholic. Pope Francis, in his words and actions has shown me yes…the work of the Good Shepherd reaching out to find and bring God’s healing to the sheep. That he has touched many hearts, even non-Christians, with a spark of God’s love and hope is clear by peoples attraction to him. That this troubles some Catholics is, to me…sad. That he speaks from his heart as opposed to a scripted and controlled message shows me a servant who trusts the Holy Spirit. If we compare the person and message of Pope Francis with a strict Tridentine era of the Papacy, yes it could be troubling. If, however we compare Francis to a fuller Roman Catholic understanding rooted in the New Testament we see a shepherd seeking to share the Kingdom of God. That he may lead us to allow God, His Church, His Kingdom to be bigger than the little boxes of our understanding may be difficult, but that is ok too. Pax et bonum.

  15. Catholic at Rome September 28, 2013 1:56 pm


    It is not clear from your comment to what you are refering, Mr. Verrechio’s analysis or the Nec Plus Ultra intiative, but as an ascriber to the latter and an approver of both, I would charitably point out that your judgement in matters of religion should not be based upon your experience but upon the unchanging Faith to which Christ calls us, a Faith the knowledge and comprehension of which in doctrine and morals and liturgy has grown deeper throughout the ages, by a natural organic and slow progress in virtue of the Divine Power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church. Your these presupposes that the Holy Spirit somehow forgot about the Catholic Church in the post Pastristic era, in the middle ages, and at the Time of Trent, and that therefore the devotion of Catholics to what He worked in the Church in those epochs is misplaced. Yet, the Holy Spirit is God and His viewpoint is a timeless one, therefore, the things which the Church passed down in that age are certainly willed by Him to remain forever. Thus every Catholic with such an understanding of the faith finds it necessary and obligatory, for love of God the Holy Spirit, to hold fast to these things and to insist upon them. Indeed, the mere fact that an organized clerical movement against them has not prevailed against an unorganized laity sense of the faith, shows that the Holy Spirit is on the side of those in favor of Tradition.

  16. doulos September 28, 2013 2:52 pm

    My ‘judgment is not based upon experience alone. Yet if we are to heed the words of Christ that we are to be “witnesses” to His working in our life I cannot negate that grace. I am neither totally ignorant of the faith and doctrines to which you refer Neither did I or have I ever negated the working of the Holy Spirit in any era of the Church. I simply am understanding, as you yourself refer, that the working of the Holy Spirit in our faith, teachings, has grown deeper THROUGH THE AGES. To me this includes the great graces of the Vatican II and post council era. Has ant era of the Church been without growing pains, challenges and questions? Of course not, I am sure we would both agree. I simply am grateful that Christ has never left the Throne nor has the Holy Spirit abandoned His people. I share this for the entire history of the Church, including the Council of Trent, Vatican II and Pope Francis.

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