A difference in tone or volume, but not in substance…

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There’s a Washington Post article that’s been circulating through cyberspace, quoting conservative Catholics who are expressing qualms about Pope Francis’ leadership style or have found themselves questioning whether they should stop proclaiming Church moral teaching.

For example, an Ohio marriage and family counselor in private practice and on the radio, Gregory Popcak, is featured. Popcak describes how he turned to prayer after several clients invoked the Pope’s public words to challenge Popcak after, to his credit, he explained Church teaching concerning human sexuality and love. One patient even quit, telling Popcak: “I’m much more of a Pope Francis-Nancy Pelosi Catholic, and you’re an old-school, Pope John Paul II Catholic.”

Several issues are entangled in what’s transpiring here, perhaps the most focal being how liberal Catholics have seized upon Pope Francis’ public statements and are challenging conservative Catholics to be less “obsessed” with Church teaching. In effect, they’re saying “Get over it! Pope John Paul II is dead and Pope Benedict XVI is retired. Our guy’s  in charge now. It’s our day. Your day has passed.”

Consider what Popcak reports feeling after his patient quit therapy. He first felt frustrated, then ashamed. Contemplating Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, Popcak saw himself acting like the good son. In that online essay, Popcak wrote:

The good kid who stayed behind, did everything his father told him to do. People who left the Church, who hated the Church…were suddenly realizing that God loved them, that the Church welcomed them, and all I could do was feel bitter about it.

Experiences like Popcak’s certainly put a face on the reality of the effect the Holy Father’s words are having on the ground. But, does that mean conservative Catholics should fall on their knees in frustration or perhaps even shame and repent of having evangelized others about Church teaching?

What’s important to note about the Washington Post article is that it reports nothing new, absolutely nothing.  Its contents could have been written last summer.


Yes, the momentous interview on the flight from Rio de Janiero did make people across the globe aware of Pope Francis’ views. And purposely so, because the Holy Father’s statements are being interpreted by the mainstream media in a way that favors their secularist ideology.

The Holy Father must surely know how his words are being twisted for ends other than which he may intend. But, so far, the Pope doesn’t seem much to care that he’s being misinterpreted. Perhaps that’s because Pope Francis believes the vast majority of people across the globe (including Catholics) have the wrong idea of the Catholic Church, believing Her teachers are cold, withdrawn, severe, and judgmental.

It appears the Pope isn’t going to allow that idea to persist, believing the idea will take care of itself over time. Right now, he’s going to use the mainstream media to get his point across. Perhaps the Holy Father even relishes the banner headlines he’s generating. Why? Pope Francis may see himself as the “the game changer” in the Church’s overall goal of evangelizing secular society.

Who’s to know?

If the experiences of the people reported in the Washington Post article accurately represent the reality on the ground, it appears Pope Francis may be correct. Driving people out of the Church won’t build the Church, so why alienate people if they can be opened to hearing the Good News?

Who’s to say that Pope Francis doesn’t agree 100% with pro-life, pro-family Catholics? Contrary to what the mainstream media is reporting and makes conservative Catholics feel frustrated or ashamed, his may be a difference in tone or volume, but not in substance.


Let the discussion begin…



To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link:

To read The Motley Monk’s blog, click on the following link:

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  1. One patient even quit, telling Popcak: “I’m much more of a Pope Francis-Nancy Pelosi Catholic, and you’re an old-school, Pope John Paul II Catholic.”

    Nancy Pelosi’s Catholic? Says who?

    he deadpanned.

  2. “Driving people out of the Church won’t build the Church, so why alienate people if they can be opened to hearing the Good News?”

    The problem is the Good News includes those moral behaviors. These behaviors conform us to Christ. Our openness to life in marriage is a reflection of the mutual, fruitful love of the Trinity. Our advoiding premarital sex reflects the love and committment of Christ for the Church. So the moral message is the life of God in us. To separate is to separate the very life of God.

    Okay, we must meet people where they are. But what I believe will happen is the old “use your conscience” line. Be a member of the Church and do what you please. After all, its all about “love.”

  3. Driving people out of the Church won’t build the Church, so why alienate people if they can be opened to hearing the Good News?

    That sentence right there really gets to the nub of the problem of trying to understand what Pope Francis meant, doesn’t it? Because, and no offense to The Motley Monk, but the idea expressed here, strikes me as a Protestant sentiment. Reformed, specifically.

    And I ought to know, having grown up in a Presbyterian-ish Evangelical church.

    So who is it that Pope Francis, in order to build the Church, is trying to conciliate here when he suggests (my very loose paraphrase) that the Church needs to “dial it down” (q.v.) on issues like abortion and homosexuality? Is it those who are outside of the Church, so that they can hear the Good News? Or is it those already inside the Church who aren’t particularly comfortable with what the Church teaches about how to live out the Good News?

    My apologies to The Motley Monk if I’ve misunderstood his point there.

  4. The Pope’s imprecise speech may in fact drive/lead people out of the Church–I’m not only thinking of driving them into the SSPX and SSPV (among others) but possibly Protestant Church’s as well.

    After all, if the Church is going to go soft, or is believed to be going soft, on contraception, abortion, etc., (and the Mass is of questionable validity, you don’t like the pastor’s politics, etc) why stay? My children already go to Protestant Youth Groups. They want to be with their friends and that is where the friends are. At three different youth groups run by three different Protestant denominations. (The two young friends who are Catholic are also infrequent Mass goers–and do not go to the local Catholic youth group.)

    If the rules on contraception, abortion, divorce don’t matter, then surely the whole Sunday obligation thing doesn’t matter much either. Confession? Collection plate? Yeah, whatever. I know a number of people who work hard all week, work hard on Saturday, and Sunday is in fact their only real day off to kick back. Going to Church–Catholic or Protestant, etc is not high on the list of things to do. After awhile, people figure out that being a member of a club where the rules don’t matter is rather a pointless endeavor.

    Pope Francis may in fact be right on target. The right Pope for the right era. I simply don’t know. I do find myself wondering, however, what the first Pope, St. Peter, is thinking.

  5. Pray for poor Popcak. He confused his unrepentant patient with the repentant prodigal son. Popcak did not act like the faithful son at all. He did what Jesus commanded. He admonished the sinner, the third spiritual work of mercy. In fact, Jesus says that we will be judged for not admonishing our brothers when they fall into grave sin.

    The pope was clearly talking about how to approach those outside the Church. And there is nothing wrong with what our pope said. Catholics should give him the benefit of the doubt and stop over-reacting when the heretics and atheists twist his words out of context.

    In his 1st homily as pope, he looked right at all the cardinals and told them that if they were not with Jesus they were with the devil. Now that’s refreshing. If only our bishops and priests would start teaching on the last things as often as Jesus did in the gospel and like our new pope has done so frequently. Pray for our bishops and priests. Jesus said he will hold them accountable for all the lost sheep. And there are a lot of lost sheep.

  6. Let’s face it, so many of those who have “defined” themselves out of the Catholic Church, by going for modern and who now feel justified and, perhaps, self-righteous with their own interpretation of Papa Bergoglio’s (apparently) off-the-cuff-remarks) have already left the Church. It’s called self excommunication, vide Canon Law. They just don’t have the decency or moral courage to say so. They are better out than in as they cause great confusion.

    Unfortunately for them, their rush to join “NewChurch” has exposed them finally for what they have become. You know to whom I refer.

    Our first duty is to save our own souls, not those of others, although the 2nd duty comes up close.


  7. I’ll say it-this Pope is a loose cannon-he shoots from the lip and if what I am hearing is really accurate and he is saying things like i.e. Evangelization to the True Faith is “pious nonsense” then he should shut his yap as this is contrary to Church teaching-he is encouraging CINOs and demoralizing the Faithful Remnant.

    If he changes ONE word of the catechism or contradicts ANY previous Infallible statement or encyclical like Humanae Vitae then I will go Orthodox or SSPX in a flash.I AM A PAPIST but this Pope needs to learn self-discipline-The Gospel of NICE leads to the wide road.I know nothing he has said so far is ex cathedra but 90 per cent of so-called Catholics and 100 per cent of the media don’t KNOW THAT.

    St Paul corrected the first Pope and someone better correct THIS one.I CANNOT even believe I am criticizing a POPE for the love of God but as part of the Church Militant-the Body of Christ I have the OBLIGATION to say SOMETHING.

  8. all those who stand for what is not Catholic should not say that they are practicing Catholics….they make the rest of the true faithful practicing Catholics look foolish…

  9. It may be of little consequence to Pope Francis, or it may be an acceptable outcome of his comments, but this past Sunday Oct 13th at Kansas City, in a sermon during a Mass as part of the SSPX Angelus Conference, SSPX Superior General Bp Bernard Fellay analyzed the new pope’s many recent statements and identified them as promoting a “dangerous relativism.” Fellay especially assailed Pope Francis’ recent comment, “If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good…If one has the answers to all the questions, that is the proof that God is not with him, that he is a false prophet.” Fellay in response declared, “That’s pure Modernism, my dear brethren. We have in front of us a genuine Modernist.” It doesnt appear the Fellay and the SSPX will go gentle into this good modern night.

  10. “The Holy Father must surely know how his words are being twisted for ends other than which he may intend. But, so far, the Pope doesn’t seem much to care that he’s being misinterpreted.” (Motley Monk)

    Each succeeding day I am coming closer, inexorably closer to a final conclusion that Pope Francis’ words are not being misinterpreted at all, and that is the reason for his unconcern.

  11. Having lived as a zero faith formation- Greek Orthodox baptized secularist for 51 years, I can attest to the fact that free sex, free love 60’s 70’s ‘morality’ does not make you remotely satisfied with life on this planet. I don’t know any truly happy homosexuals. My point is that I am now a happy Catholic convert, in communion with the faith. Any suggestion that any departures from the traditional church is anything to even talk about is truly insipid.

  12. Maybe a problem with the Papal approach is that it doesn’t open people to hearing the Good News, but simply confirms that they don’t need it: they’re fine just the way they are.

  13. The Holy Father must surely know how his words are being twisted for ends other than which he may intend.

    How can we be sure about that? Do we have any record of anyone telling him personally, “Do you realize how much damage you are doing?”

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