When faithful Catholics get it seriously wrong

by Deacon Nick Donnelly

As an ordained minister of the Church the key purpose of my life is very straightforward – adoring God and saving souls. Nothing else matters. I proclaim and defend the doctrines and the disciplines of the Faith because they have been entrusted to the Church as the means by which souls attain their supernatural destiny of sharing in “the good things of God”. It’s rare to hear nowadays, but I seek to cultivate in myself and others a “passionate zeal for souls”. Of course zeal for souls involves zeal to save man in his totality, body and soul, as expressed in the practice of corporal acts of mercy combined with spiritual acts of mercy. Pope Francis said earlier this year that the salus animarum [the salvation of souls] is the highest law of the Church, which he describes as helping people hear and live the universal call to holiness.

It is from this zeal for souls that I want to share with you my growing concern about attitudes, behaviours and arguments that I have observed among some Catholics whom I consider my friends and collaborators during this time of battle in the Church. I don’t write from some detached perspective but as someone who struggles against the same temptations. Ultimately, I write this because I want to see us all standing before the throne of Almighty God and hear His glorious words of recognition and welcome, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Mt 25:34).

Temptation to Rage

There is a lot of rage out there in the blogosphere, social media and on-line Catholic media among Catholics who clearly love the Church and take seriously the obedience of faith. I’ve even read comments wishing ill towards other Catholics, including physical harm. The most shocking example I’ve come across was a Catholic tweeting their hope that Pope Francis’ refusal of security would result in a successful attack on him! One of the dangers of social media is that anonymity encourages some individuals to gravely sinful thoughts and expressions.

I understand why faithful Catholics feel anger and even hatred suddenly flare up in their hearts on hearing yet more examples of bishops, priests, and lay activists betraying the Faith and leading souls into moral danger. Moral theology tells us that anger and hatred are passions which are natural movements of the psyche in reaction to injustice and evil. It is good to hate our own sins and natural to feel anger at the murder of unborn babies through abortion. The Catechism states:
“In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will…Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case.” (CCC 1767-1768)

In the rage I see expressed in some Catholic blogs there is not a spontaneous or passing passion. Instead given the constant expressions of anger and hate the activity of the deadly sin of wrath must be considered. The seven deadly, or capital, sins are vices that impair conscience, corrupt judgement and entrap the person in a vicious cycle of sin. Wrath, like lust or envy, is rightly called deadly because it eats a person up so that rage comes to dominate their response to life. How can we tell the difference between rightful anger and deadly rage? Apart from duration, there is a spitefulness and vindictiveness in wrath, as if the person took gleeful delight in expressing anger. The antidote to wrath is the virtue of mercy and forgiveness, which should not be confused with laxity or indifference in the face of sin and betrayal of the Faith.

I feel I must make one qualification about the question of anger and Catholic blogs, based on my personal experience of running Protect the Pope.com. Dissenters, and those who don’t want to face reality in the Church, often make accusations of anger, ad hominem attacks and “lack of charity” against faithful Catholic bloggers when their dissenting and erroneous arguments and dubious decisions are critiqued from the perspective of Faith and reason. By so doing they seek to portray robust argument, and rational challenge, as “sinful” in order to avoid answering just criticisms. Criticism, that is fair and reasoned, cannot really be mistaken for rage.

Temptation to Disrespect towards Pope Francis

During the pontificates of Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI it was common to read and hear dissenting Catholics express disdain and crude disrespect towards these two great popes. Signs of disrespect included omitting the titles “Pope” and “Holy Father” or their chosen name as Pontiff by referring to them as “Wojtyła” and “Ratzinger”. In this way dissenting Catholic signalled a number of attitudes and decisions including their refusal to acknowledge Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI’s authority or role as successor to St. Peter, and their dissent from the doctrine and discipline of the Church proclaimed and defended by them. But more than this, I think these expressions of disrespect towards Pope St John Paul and Pope Benedict manifested the dissenters’ rejection of authority in the Church in favour of autonomous freedom and their rejection of the “obedience of faith” in favour of so called “pick and mix” or “à la carte” Catholicism.

It is incredible to see the same spiteful expressions of disrespect being written and spoken by some “faithful” Catholics against Pope Francis. It is common to read on Catholic blogs Pope Francis referred to as “Bergoglio” “Frank” or “Frankie”. And like the dissenting opponents of Pope Francis’ predecessors such Catholics are signalling that they reject Pope Francis’ authority and role in the Church as the successor of St Peter.

This is a totally bizarre attitude for Catholics who seek to be faithful to Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium to adopt towards the 266th Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Successor to St. Peter. The basic attitude expected of faithful Catholics towards Pope Francis is first and foremost one of respect and reverence. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, explains this fundamental disposition:

“This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” (Lumen Gentium, 25).

It is clear from the Catholic understanding of the Primacy of the Successor of St Peter that it is contrary to the faith handed down to us from the Apostles to express disrespect towards the pope. Having said this, showing respect and reverence towards the office of the Roman Pontiff does not exclude critical engagement with Pope Francis’ teachings and judgments. In fact Pope Francis has gone out of his way to signal that much of his teaching, such as his daily meditations during Mass at St. Martha’s and even some of his apostolic documents, are not to be treated as magisterial.

Temptation to Schism

The latest eruption of heresy among some bishops, such as proposals to allow divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion and unqualified affirmations of homosexuality and fornication, is breaking the hearts of faithful Catholics. But instead of taking our concerns seriously we’re often dismissed as “fundamentalists”, “rigorists” and “hardliners” because we think the Church should proclaim the revealed truths entrusted to us by Our Lord to save us from sin and attain eternal life.

I get a sense that some faithful Catholics, worn out after decades of enduring either dissenting bishops and priests or ineffectual bishops and priests, long for freedom from the cruelty of heresy and the indifference of some of our shepherds. I’ve noticed that sometimes this longing for freedom expresses itself in talk of schism as a solution. It seems to me that some faithful Catholics are discussing the possibility of schism for two reasons:

First, on a general level, talk of schism is an articulation of the hope that if only we could be free of all the dissenting and heretical Catholics we could live in the Church as God intended. Often schism is the desperate action of Christians who seek to purify the Church because they’ve lost hope that things can be different. We can see the consequence of this type of thinking in the hundreds of thousands of Protestant ecclesial communities that have fractured from the heresy and schism of the Reformation.

Secondly, on a specific level, some faithful Catholics are talking about the possibility of schism as a ‘what if’ scenario – what if the Synod of Bishops in October recommends to Pope Francis, and the Holy Father accepts, some formula of words that allows divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion after observing some form of Cardinal Kasper’s “penitential way”. Such a decision on the part of the Holy Father and Synod of Fathers would represent an unprecedented, many would say unimaginable, action – the betrayal of the categorical doctrines of Our Lord and apostles on the indissolubility of marriage, the immorality of adultery, abandonment of children, and, offences against the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Concerns about schism are heightened by the fact that the Instrumentum Laboris – the working paper for the 2015 Synod – includes Cardinal Kasper’s proposal (paragraphs 122-123) even though it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority vote during the 2014 Extraordinary Synod.

But to contemplate schism as an acceptable ‘option’ is to forget that it is a grave sin against the Faith that deserves the severest penalty of excommunication. The prospect of inflicting “a wound to the unity of the Body of Christ” (CCC 817) should fill us all with a sense of horror. It’s painful enough knowing that our personal sins inflict the wounds on Our Lord’s crucified body, but to even contemplate the hypothetical scenario of another wound to the Mystical Body of Christ is heartbreaking.

Salvation of Souls – Nothing Else Matters

As faithful Catholics we are living through difficult times during which the Faith is not only under constant attack from secularism but also the Faith is under direct attack from certain cardinals, bishops and priests within the Church. The challenge for faithful Catholics is how to challenge these attacks without losing our souls, or those of others. If we succumb to habits of thought and expression that are sinful, then we do more harm than good, not only to ourselves and others but to the Church we love. I have the following sentence from St Paul posted on my kitchen wall to remind me of the truly Catholic approach to take in the current conflict within the Church, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. (Romans 12:21). Salvation of souls – nothing else matters.


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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45 Responses to When faithful Catholics get it seriously wrong

  1. John A. Kehoe says:

    Quite a few Catholics think they know better than Pope Francis, wishing to edit and reduce what he says.

  2. dfxc says:

    You spelled “heretics” wrong…

  3. A very fine essay, but there is one thing I don’t understand. Deacon Donnelly mentions the “what if” scenario. (“What if the Synod of Bishops in October recommends to Pope Francis, and the Holy Father accepts, some formula of words that allows divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion.”) Unfortunately – except to say that schism isn’t the answer – he doesn’t tell us how he thinks faithful Catholics should react if the “what if” scenario becomes a reality.

  4. ginnyfree says:

    What these folks who do such things as bash the Pope openly fail to grasp is the sin of setting a bad example. They do it. They think there is nothing wrong with doing it. But their very defensiveness belies the fact they know at some fundamental level they are sinning against not only the Head of the Body, but the rest of the Body as well. Their hope is that their bad example will be taken up by others and repeated. It is sad especially when it comes from supposedly faithful Catholics. Faithful means exactly that – faithful. In that there is a love for the Holy Father that comes naturally to an assent of one’ will to the Holy Office he holds and to the will of Christ in the practice of obedience. It is the underlying principle that prevents the mind from going there, the place where one feels comfortable bashing the Pope, disrespecting his person and his office. These folks are really in need of this virtue and should pray to obtain it, but it really has a bad name these days in the modern church of nice. It is called PIETY. Without it, one’s faith is rather shallow. These negative expressions the good Deacon draws our attention to are simply one way this lack shows itself in the lives of persons who lack it. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  5. ginnyfree says:

    I was just listening to a Catholic Radio show this morning while reading this article and was amazed at some of the comments by a well known Catholic personality who just got done saying that there is a way to accept homosexual leadership in the Scouts and that each parent should decide for themselves if they won’t mind an openly gay man serving their children as a Scout Leader! I couldn’t believe my ears! She gave some weird reason why this could be acceptable to Catholic parents and even a learning experience. HUH? I was about to email the show and let them know she needs to look in the dictionary for the definition of “leadership” and there she will find that persons are placed in leadership positions because their example is worthy of emulation, that their life is laudable, that their achievements are praiseworthy, etc. HELLO?!!?!? There can be no homosexual leadership in the Scouts at all because it does actually that – endorse and promote homosexuality no matter what words they use to excuse this inexcusable behavior away and sugar coat it. That’s exactly why parents send their kids to Scouts – so they will learn honorable ways to become virtuous men. By accepting this abomination, they are showing these boys that it is actually an honorable lifestyle choice. It is totally incompatible with the nature and origins of Scouting. And this woman is a “faithful” Catholic and a voice others will go along with. Homosexuality is never acceptable and to find a rhetoric that allows others to compromise away their morals is totally unacceptable too. There are nine ways to be accessory to the sin of another and this gal giving the speech a few minutes ago needs to look this one up in the Catechism too. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  6. annem040359 says:

    Well, there are those Catholics who RESPECT the calling and the OFFICE of the Pope, but are not crazy for Pope Francis, yet are still “faithful Catholics.” Just saying.

  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Very well said, Ginny – although completely off topic insofar as you concentrate on the issue of the American Boy Scout movement decision to accept *gay* scoutmasters. But since you mention it, I was a senior scout (never an Eagle scout – one step up) and patrol leader. I would never have been a scout were it not for the homosexual paedophilic leader of my cubpack (one step down from scouts) being more interested in a fellow cub (whom he later murdered) than me. I have a nice copy of Baden-Powell’s good (but unfortunately named) guide to scouting:

  8. Magdalen says:

    I must admit that I am distressed by what comes out of ‘Rome’ these days and the ‘experts’ called in for advice, etc. It seems the enemies of the faith are given preference and it is surely not obvious that there is an attempt to bring them to the Church.

  9. ginnyfree says:

    John Henry, I must say I am sorry for your personal tragedy. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary shower you with healing graces. Actually I thought my example was right on target simply because the woman on the radio show was demonstrating how some can get it seriously wrong and she did so in a timely way for this thread. I chose her talk as an example. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Don’t mind me too much, Ginny. What I said is true, but it was not my “personal tragedy”, and with the benefit of hindsight (“sigh” – yet again) I had no business mentioning in a clever way the murder of a person whose parents are likely still grieving his death a half century ago.

  11. geoffkiernan says:

    Ginnyfree at 1253: I have to ask, in your opinion is the Holy Father setting a bad example by his, “Who am I to judge “Comment? Leadership after all should begin at the Top.
    Are we being faithful and obedient to Our Lord if A Holy Father sends out misleading or confusing messages and we endorse and accept his directives?
    “Faithful means exactly that, faithful” I ask, faithful to whom? To whom do we owe our allegiance first and foremost?
    I am on record as saying that it is permissible to criticise the Holy Father provides there is an equitable correlation between that criticism and how much we pray for him.
    We continue to pray for the Holy Father and the Church. And God Bless you also.

  12. geoffkiernan says:

    John: It is that some people think that know better than the Holy Father or is it that they find some of his utterances are just plain confusing and they seek clarification which is rarely forthcoming?

  13. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Geoffkiernan. You have me seriously confused with someone else. I don’t know how you did it, but I didn’t say that. Not by a long shot.
    Did you know not everything the Pope says is an ex cathedra statement? If he orders a pastrami on rye sandwich for lunch, is that somehow to be imitated throughout the Catholic world? God bless. Ginnyfree.

  14. geoffkiernan says:

    Ginnyfree: I am sorry if I have confused you with someone else but I find it difficult to accept.
    By your, “bashing the Pope” comment, of course you don’t mean a physical assault? More like criticism or comments made in desperation/exasperation at some of His confusing statements. ( that invariably cry out for some clarification, with none forthcoming) And outright disrespect couched in over familiar and crass references like ‘Bergoglio’ ‘Frank or Frankie’ All of which I agree does Harm and is sinful by giving a bad example to others.

    My Point is that it works both ways. The Holy Father sets a ‘bad’ example’ by his many confusing statements that without doubt leave the flock, that he is charged with leading, in utter confusion. As the Leader and Vicar of Our Lord on Earth his obligation to speak with clarity in defence of Truth is a fundamental necessity. Hence my reference to leadership starting at the top. His culpability in these instances are not lessened by the fact He sits in Peters Chair, but rather it is heightened.

    Your, “Did you know that not everything the Pope says is an ‘ex cathedra’ statement?”
    Yes I do know, but that does not give the Holy Father the right to speak with utter abandon when talking about things to do with the Church and morals. He knows, You know and I know that great stock is placed in his words by Catholics and Non Catholics everywhere. More the reason to speak with clarity and sound aforethought.

    My reference to the Holy Father’ , “Who am I to judge” comment was given as an example.

    Your pastrami on rye comment comes no where near the mark.
    We are the Popes good servants but God’ first. There are many example in Church History where recalcitrants have sat in Peter’ Chair.
    We pray for the Holy Father, the Church and you also…

  15. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Geoffkiernan. Thanks for sharing your position. I feel that you’ve cleared that up for me. Now I know where you stand. I disagree with you though as point of principle. To me, criticizing the Pope is pretty much out of the question, no matter what he says or does. I really don’t think that is helpful to anyone and if taken to an extreme can do actual damage. It shows others that evaluating the Holy Father’s words and actions is an acceptable practice and can lead folks down a road that will eventually distance them from him and thusly obstruct their Communion with him. Without this vital link, this Communion with the Holy Father, a person is no longer worthy to receive the Eucharist. It is THAT SERIOUS A DISTANCE. The slippery slope to that swamp is begun with mild criticisms for some. I’ve watched it happen. It doesn’t take long. To deliberately encourage others to break this vital Communion with the Holy Father by constantly criticizing his words and actions is not good for the Body of Christ. That is my main concern when it comes to those who find Pope Francis a target for their personal scrutiny. Does this help you understand my position? It is for the common good of all if Catholics stop criticizing his every move especially when in public places and venues. It really isn’t our place to do so. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  16. Deacon Nick Donnelly says:

    Hi Robert, you make a fair point about my omission. I think it will take a whole new article to explore the options open to us if the ‘what if’ becomes reality. I am still praying and thinking about this.

  17. Hi Nick, I didn’t mean to point out any kind of omission. I mentioned my question because I’m concerned about the options faithful Catholics would have if the “what if” should become a reality. At the moment, the only option I can think of is for us as individuals simply to go on with our faith and practice as we always have, within the Church. At the same time, we could be secure that the possible mistakes we’re speculating about now would one day be corrected.

  18. Yes, now that I’ve reread my original comment, I guess it does sound as if I was pointing out an omission. I shouldn’t have phrased my comment that way.

  19. toadspittle says:

    “To me, criticizing the Pope is pretty much out of the question, no matter what he says or does.”
    Well said, Ginny. The Borgias could have done with a few more like you.
    Francis certainly does.

  20. GC says:

    Eggtually, Toad, Pope Borgia (there was only one to my knowledge*, Alexander VI – a Valencian noble – unless you have discovered more) is said to have been an excellent pope, papistically speaking, though Savonarola didn’t agree. Which is also not to make any comment on the offspring he (Pope Borgia, not Savonarola) sired before occupying the Petrine throne.

    You’ll have heard of his great grandson, St Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia and third General of the Jesuits? Francis’ mother was the daughter of an archbishop, himself the illegitimate son of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, aka Ferdinand V of Castile (Isabel’s consort) and also King of Sicily.

    *Alas, Callixtus III was also a Borgia, but was said to be a very pious pope, who declared Joan of Arc innocent on all charges.

  21. ginnyfree says:

    Actually, the reminder of Pope Alexander VI helps put things in perspective. Could you just imagine the level of immoral behavior that must have been regular fare then to have brought such a man to the Holy See? Yeah. We whine quite a bit about corruption, but there have been worse times. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  22. Brother Burrito says:

    Says Toad, king of the peanut gallery.

  23. johnhenrycn says:

    I agree with Geoff (and Ginny too, I hope) concerning the topic of this thread, which is to say that I think the non-magisterial musings of the pope are not off limits to respectful, sober critique. I offer, by way of example, this amusing article by the American priest, Fr George Rutler, who was recently made known to me by Brother Burrito on another thread: The Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Remarks in Turin.

    Fr Rutler, an amateur boxer in his younger days (even as a priest he once decked a burglar at his church) knows that fighting the good fight sometimes means not agreeing with those (see above – not you GF) who suggest it’s an act of lèse majesté for Catholics to “think they know better than Pope Francis”. I shudder at what those same people will tell us if the October synod goes against doctrine.
    Too bad for Fr Rutler that his boss man, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, might not share his beliefs, or courage, which may be (I can’t say for sure) why Rutler was recently transferred (in his late 60s) from a solid parish, which he built from financial scratch basically, to a new one in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York (Cardinal Dolan must like irony – if not sarcasm) that’s slated, I believe, for closure in the near future.

  24. Brother Burrito says:


    I think the current license to criticize the Pope is sparked by a simple misunderstanding brought about by the mass-media world we find ourselves in.

    Only a few of us are meant at any one time to hear the words of another eg: the bystanders to a conversation, the recipients of an email or the audience of a letter read out. Others may hear these precious words by eavesdropping or other unjust means, and start reacting to them, though they do not have the rights to do so.

    In this world of instant over-communication, the Truth has a hard time. Let none of us assist in His Crucifixion.

  25. toadspittle says:

    “(Toad) You’ll have heard of his great grandson, St Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia and third General of the Jesuits?”
    Heard of him, GC? Not ‘arf. Used to go to “Tramps” with him. Diamond geezer.

    How splendid to be named King of the Peanut Gallery.
    (Is that how you moderating chaps refer to CP&S amongst yourselves, Burro?)

  26. geoffkiernan says:

    Ginnyfree : “criticising the Pope is pretty much out of the Question NO MATTER WHAT HE SAYS AND DOES” Are you serious? I feel maybe you are confusing the Petrine Office with a very Human incumbent. I feel they are two different things. Greater minds than mine however will have an opinion and I can be convinced if I am wrong.
    The Deacon takes to task Bishops, Priests and lay activist for betraying the Faith and leading souls into moral danger. Is he suggesting the Cardinals and Popes are incapable of such things?
    He also says rightly that leading the Church into schism is worthy of excommunication. Betraying the Faith and leading souls into mortal danger are not?
    Our God given intellect and will are not handed in upon our baptism. They are enhanced and supplemented by prayer, the Sacraments, and the gift of discernment and must be engaged by a Faithful Catholics when determining right from wrong. Blindly following the Holy Father and all his utterances will do us no good when the time comes, if we choose to ignore the movements of the Holy Spirit when his direction is prayerfully sought and humbly requested.
    The Holy Fathers virtual endorsement of Cardinal Kasper and his ilk in setting the agenda for the up coming Synod will place him on very thin ice should they carry to vote. The question of Schism will be very much a problem for the Holy Father (of his own making) should that occur.
    I wonder where our decision, not to criticise and making our concerns heard, will leave us when/if that time comes
    We pray for the Holy Father and the Church

  27. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Geoff. Why is it strange that some of us feel no need to criticise the Pope? Most don’t. That’s the truth. Most of us don’t bother. We are expected to by those who do. They can’t understand why we don’t and usually point to a few verbal blunders as proof that his every word needs scrutinizing for fault and failure. Gotta watch that Pope Francis! He may betray the whole Church all at once and order pastrami on rye without the Russian dressing and only Swiss cheese! Really is gets ridiculous. Yes, it is necessary to observe the Pope. He is a newsworthy person and in the news frequently, but the constant criticism of his every word gets ridiculous. And there is a real danger of the criticism taking souls places they shouldn’t go and this is true for both the critic and those who read what they write. People can and are lead by the words they read. Other may think it okay to question the Pope’s words and action and see no danger in it. It can however lead to a breech of Communion with the Holy Father that is necessary to be worthy to receive the Eucharist. That is a very real danger to the faith and morals of the people of God. Yeah. Oh didn’t think of that? It is true as well. You may be “safe” from falling, but what about your neighbor? And what of those others who would LOVE to ruin your state of union with the visible head of God’s Church so as to remove you FROM COMMUNION with Him and His Church? Think they don’t relish the opportunity criticism of the Pope gives them to work to this end? Hello? Earth to Geoff. They’d love to snatch you and everyone else right out of the Church! Why help them by “valid” criticism? See what I mean? These are just some of the things that need considering when you launch into a critique of the latest actions or speeches of the Holy Father. Yes, we all need to know what he says, but it is for edification and to build up the faith, not tear it down. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  28. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I think we need to wait and see what actually happens. You suggest two stages: the Synod recommends and the Pope accepts. Personally I believe that the Synod will recommend no such thing. You just have to look at the voting patterns in the first session last October – see my first article at:


    The KasperKampf make an awful lot of noise but numerically they are weak.

    However if the Synod were to recommend such we have to remember that a Synod cannot change the doctrines of the Church so we would just have to ignore it and sigh.

    I think it would be impossible that a Pope would accept such a recommendation so lets not worry about it.

  29. geoffkiernan says:

    Ginnyfree: I am staggered….Perhaps the problem lies with the use of the word ‘criticism’?…. ‘Disagree’ maybe? I try to meet you even half way but just cannot agree with your assessment. Quite frankly when the Holy Father indulges in such confusing banter, he does more damage to the Church than any body who simply holds him to account.
    Confusion among the ‘people of God’ simply aint a gift of the Holy Spirit.
    To say that criticism of the Holy Father is out of the question NO MATTER WHAT HE MAY SAY OR DOES. is mind boggling. “NO MATTER WHAT HE MAY SAY OR DOES”. I feel Faithful Catholics have an obligation to defend Our Lords Church. With respect I feel your stance is very hard to understand .
    I think it was Pope Alexander IV or V had his wife, His Girl friend and his mistress in the Vatican with him as he made decisions of State. Given those circumstances, would you still feel it unnecessary to criticise Him?… Sorry, am I missing something here?
    We continue to Pray for the Holy Father and the Church. God Bless you too.

  30. ginnyfree says:

    Pope Francis is not Pope Alexander VI and it is an unfair comparison. It is also a weak justification for those laypersons who think themselves somehow “charged” with keeping vigil OVER the Holy See as if it is theirs to watch and monitor. I also think it odd that you mentioned the Holy Spirit as a “gift” that keeps confusion from clouding the judgement of the people of God. No, the special charism of the Holy Spirit that prevents the Holy Father from committing errors of a specific type is not poured in anyway on the laity. You’re confused and that comes from within, not the Holy Spirit. I hope I’m not upsetting you with my choice to remain in another camp than yours regarding whether or no to critique the latest actions and speeches of Pope Francis. I’m secure in my choice. You are proving my point though. As I said earlier, some folks can’t understand WHY those of us who don’t critique the Holy Father’s words and actions don’t join them in their criticisms. You really don’t and can’t. That is one result of your criticisms. You’ve already limited your ability to see things outside the box you’ve created for yourself by criticizing so much so often. You’ve hurt yourself already by doing this and you can’t see it. But some of us do and use what we see others failing in as a warning not to commit the same mistake. Sin has a price and you’ve started to pay. It could cost you all. You’ll get so puffed up and assured that Pope Francis is wrong and you and others are right, that it gets to your heart and you break that vital link, the one that is part of the Communion of the Saints, that it Communion with the Holy Father. You cannot be out of Communion with him and his Office and remain worthy to receive the Eucharist. It has other consequences as well. That is the very real risk you take each time you critique him and his actions and words. Why risk it? To sound morally superior or in-the-know? Not smart. Leastways not if you ask this silly gal. Limbs like that have a way of giving out when you climb out on them. Hope you see what I mean. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  31. johnhenrycn says:

    Nicolas, your optimism is very heartening, and you seem to be more “in the know”, from astute study and inquiry, than me. Still, I’ve got this sinking feeling…

    Thanks for the link. Gosh, there are so many good Catholic websites. My favourites folder is overflowing.

  32. GC says:

    Dear Toad, excellent to hear that you keep such good company.

    You’ll then know, of course, that St Francis Borgia was in fact a widower and father of eight children before entering the Society of Jesus. Before seeking to undertake religious life he had a most distinguished civil career, and on becoming a religious his work and piety were even more remarkable. If ever the Gospel inspired and formed a man, he was indeed one.

    Although he had a bit of a head start in life, what with being the great grandson of both a pope and a king of Spain and stuff, this man was really something. I propose making him the patron saint of all men (and women!), as in his life he performed so many roles as a man: son, husband, father, civil leader, priest and religious, and finally religious leader.No prospects for a life in journalism, television, ball games or Mel Gibson movies in those days, Toad.

  33. geoffkiernan says:

    I was not comparing Our Holy Father Pope Francis with Pope Alexander. I asked the simple question, would you consider it unnecessary to criticise if confronted with the antic of someone like Alexander? Like most of my queries you have chosen not to answer.
    ‘Confusion is not one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit’ . The statement speaks for its self but you have….
    With our such divergent views on this matter I suspect the answer is somewhere in between.
    Is there anyone at CP&S that can direct us to an authoritative source.
    God Bless and please continue to pray for Our Holy Father…

  34. ginnyfree says:

    Okie dokie Geoff. Just so you cannot say I am avoiding giving an answer……if there was such a man as Pope Alexander VI seated in the Holy Father’s Office, then my efforts at remaining detached from his every word and action would take on heroic proportions. The same heroic proportions are those the faithful maintained when Alexander VI was Pope. They managed to bite their tongues, so there really is a way to do so, isn’t there? It simply isn’t appealing to you. Pope Alexander VI is proof that God is in charge of His Church and His Vicar and no matter what happens, the gates of the netherworld do not prevail. God bless. GInnyfree.

  35. kathleen says:

    Although it is necessary (as has been mentioned above) to distinguish between a fallible and infallible pronouncement from the Holy Father, it is still nevertheless important for Catholics to listen to the words and actions coming from Christ’s Vicar on Earth. When some of these appear strange, confusing, and sometimes even heretical (or at least, not holding to the Church’s ancient traditions), it is understandable that the faithful start getting uneasy and begin asking questions!! “Can the Pope be a heretic?” See the response to that question some weeks ago on Crisis Magazine:

    This one might be more extreme or disputable for some, but it is an interesting and well-researched read, “Can the Church depose an heretical Pope?”:

  36. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Kathleen. Very nice response and very nice articles. I’ll thank the first article for giving this very sage bit of advice regarding those who choose to constantly critique the current Holy Father nearly each and everytime he speak or acts publically: “However, no person can presume to convict him of any transgressions in this matter, because, although the Pope can judge everyone else, no one may judge him, unless he, for whose perpetual stability all the faithful pray as earnestly as they call to mind the fact that, after God, their own salvation depends on his soundness, is found to have strayed from the faith.” (Decretum, Part 1, Distinction 40, Chapter 6) I think they mentally blank out the part that no one may judge the Pope and deem themselves worthy of such a task. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  37. geoffkiernan says:

    I bow to those with greater knowledge. I am not entirely convinced but convinced enough to ‘issue’ a retraction of sorts. I can seen that I should not be as free in my criticism of the Holy Father as I have been. To ginnyfree and anyone else I may have ‘put off’ by any of my earlier comments I apologise. I apologise also to the Holy Father.
    However to ginnyfree’ last response I must ask, when do efforts of heroic proportions become simply an excuse or euphemism for not having the courage to defend the Church. Does Our Lord some times permit us the Holy Father we deserve?
    Okie Dokie ginnyfree, I am humbled by your graciousness in condescending to answer my ‘silly’ questions.

  38. geoffkiernan says:

    PS… Thanks to Kathleen and CPS

  39. Nicolas Bellord says:

    Is not the proper response to perceived difficulties to judge the sin and not the sinner? Thus in thinking about the Synod on the Family there are a host of stories surrounding it which are fairly worrying if true. However I have no way of judging the truth of these stories and the motives and actions of those involved. What we do have though are the texts of the various documents issued by the Vatican in connection with the Synod and there is plenty of meat in them to occupy a critical eye. I try to concentrate on those written texts rather than judging individuals – at least I hope I have!

  40. Brother Burrito says:


    I am in complete agreement with you. We mustn’t allow the mass media to distort our reasoning on Church matters. I would rather be informed than misinformed or uninformed. The written texts of the Church, and comment on them by those I trust, will suffice aplenty.

    On behalf of the CP&S team, may I offer “céad míle fáilte”.

  41. kathleen says:

    I welcome new commenter, Nicolas, too (and dfxc) and thank them for their interesting contributions to the discussion threads these last few days. I would add the request to “le do thoil fanacht thart” [please stay around]. 🙂

  42. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Geoff. I rarely turn down the opportunity to defend my faith and my Church. But I feel no compelling need to defend it from the Holy Father. I’m learning steadily about the field of apologetics and I really do love defending the Church. I’ve invested a few years in learning what I know so I can give an answer for what I believe. I’ve also learned that when I don’t know something to admit it promptly and dig for the answer so next time, I won’t be found short. It’s fun and rewarding. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  43. ginnyfree says:

    Yeah Thank you very much Kathleen for providing much food for thought and conversation. God bless you every effort on behalf of the Church. Ginnyfree.

  44. kathleen says:

    Dear Geoff,

    In spite of what has been stated about criticism of the words and actions of Pope Francis, and those of certain conflictive bishops in the Church today, we can all share and understand your very real dilemma on how should we give due obedience and loyalty to our shepherds when we see the glaringly obvious un-Catholic behaviour from many of them!! It is indeed problematic for faithful Catholics. Any legitimate criticism should always be measured and charitable of course, never forgetting that the Pope is Christ’s ‘Vicar on Earth’, and the bishops are representatives of the ‘Apostles’. However, no one can deny that we are witnessing plenty of heresies and betrayals to our Catholic Faith taking place before our very eyes, leading many of those with ‘an agenda’ of their own on the wrong path, and hence the mentioned confusion rife in the Church today. Pope Paul VI’s famous “smoke of Satan”, that he predicted had infiltrated even into the Holy of Holies, continues to billow out its ‘clouds’ of falsehoods, although we know that the traitors will never succeed in bringing Her down.

    In the 19th century, when the evils of Modernism within politics and even the Church were gathering strength (and this despite the Catholic Church’s great popes of this period who valiantly defended Her Sacred teachings) St John Bosco spoke these wise words that I think are highly appropriate for us today:
    “Many people [in authority] oppose us, persecute us, and would like even to destroy us, but we must be patient. As long as their commands are not against our conscience, let us obey them. But when the case is otherwise, let us uphold the rights of God and of the Church, for those are superior to all earthly authority.”

    Yes, we must pray very much for the Pope that he be a faithful and valiant guardian of the Truths contained in the doctrines and dogmas of the One Holy Catholic Church he has been chosen to lead. There are so many enemies bent on Her destruction – the most dangerous being those already “within the gates”.
    And pray for all the many loyal, faithful, holy bishops and priests, greatly suffering their own Via Dolorosa in these troublesome times.

  45. kathleen says:

    Thank you Ginny – that is very kind of you. We on CP&S should thank you too for all your lively, interesting contributions and for your own faithfulness to Holy Mother Church. 🙂

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