PopeWatch: Inquisitorial Beatings?

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PopeWatch confesses to a certain lack of understanding of much of what Pope Francis says.  Too often PopeWatch thinks that the Pope speaks in Zen like koans that obscure meaning at least as much as they illuminate.  When the Pope does speak clearly other problems can arise, as demonstrated by a quote from a recent homily given by the Pope:

The interview was released on the same day that Francis celebrated Mass with some 350 of his Jesuit colleagues at the main Jesuit church in Rome to celebrate his recent decree naming the order’s first recruit, Pierre Favre, a saint. During his homily, Francis told his fellow Jesuits to use mercy, not morality, when they preach.

“The temptation, that maybe many of us experience, and many other people have comes to mind; that of linking the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial beatings of condemnation. No, the Gospel is preached gently, fraternally, with love,” he said.




Perhaps things are vastly different in Argentina than they are in the States, but I cannot recall the last time I heard a homily that was inquisitorial or condemnatory.  Usually the homily is delivered in Care Bear tones and one would think that sin does not exist so rarely is it mentioned in the vast majority of homilies I have heard.  Too often the Pope seems to be concerned about non-problems while true abuses are passed by in silence.  It is like a fire fighter stopping in his course to give a lecture about the lack of proper positive appreciation for fire while a building is burning to the ground.


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  1. I take it as another of Pope Francis’s strawmen. Recall a few months ago he said that the confessional should not be a torture chamber:
    “Confessing our sins is not going to a psychiatrist, or to a torture chamber: it’s saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am a sinner,’ but saying it through the brother, because this says it concretely. ‘I am sinner because of this, that and the other thing.'”
    Where is going to confession like being held in a torture chamber? The pope doesn’t tell us.
    Concerning homilies, Evangelii Gaudium at 38 Pope Francis tells us: “For example, if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results, and precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked. The same thing happens when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word.”
    Not certain which parish the pope is addressing, but none that I know of.

  2. I cannot recall a homily that wasn’t a Dr. Phil-type, feel-good treatise.

    I would need to go to see the Baptists to hear a word about temperance, which is one of the human virtues along with fortitude, justice, and prudence. Hey, they should all get equal time!

    And, when was the last time you heard a priest publicly (or in Confession for that matter) exercise the Spiritual Work of Mercy of admonishing sinners? I cannot recall.

    That’s okay. Generally, priests are unqualified to expound on hell and suffering. They have no experience of either. They’re not married.

    ” . . .inquisitorial beatings of condemnation . . .”

    Inquisitorial condemnations resulted from recanted confessions or relapses.

    I misspent some time reading scholarly (pre-revisionist) works on the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. The accused subject of inquisitorial “interviews” was informed that if he/she confessed, he would be shown mercy. If not, he would be condemned. The beatings and rack were used to obtain information/confessions. The instruments were commonly used by civilian authorities from time immemorial up to and including 2014.

    This pope’s uses of inapt cliches is beginning to mirror Obama and his idiotic regime.

    But, that’s okay. Much of their intended audiences consist of information-deficient ideologues. Few of whom would know the truth if it hauled off and punched them in their dense skulls.

  3. I learned a new word today “koans” Merriam Webster says: “a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment” Maybe our pope is a koan.

  4. Another week goes by and Pope Francis again says something ridiculous. This man has nicer things to say about Muslims than he does about traditional Catholics.

    Well, I consider his order – the Society of Jesus – to be largely heterodox and he doesn’t speak for me in such things.

    Pope Francis has proven himself ignorant and reckless in the use of the term “inquisitorial”. Catholics in the English speaking world have long had to deal with the propaganda of the Black Legend and many suffered persecution at the hands of the perpetrators of the Black Legend and afterward. Any inferences that priests who admonish sinners are condemnational are asinine.

    I certainly don’t deal with my six year old in such a way that I pat him on the head and say it’s okay when he is rude to his parents or misbehaves at school.

    This man makes me miss Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II more and more each time he opens his mouth.

  5. Never thought I’d live to see the day when (conservative) Catholics in this country would start casting aspersions about the pope’s catholicity and orthodoxy. Can’t honestly say I’m finding it helpful or impressive. If we didn’t care for the liberal dissenting voices attacking JPII and Benedict XVI, why bother imitating them? What gain is there in undermining Peter’s latest (and legitimately) selected successor?

  6. The Pope is playing the progressive left like a fiddle.

    Our Faith is characterized exactly like the Pope says (ie the reference to the inquisitions, etc) in popular media, and more so by the lunkhead “former” Catholics, who whisper tales of strange goings-on in Church and then outright blaspheme our Sacraments as a way to prove they are “independent” thinkers. (Adolescent rebelliousness somehow wrapped up in a mass-media herd mentality is more like it.)

    Much like T. Shaw, I long to see them punched in the head. Probably unlike T. Shaw, I wish I could punch them in the head. However, assault charges being what they are, I guess I better not.

    However, the Pope is right to try to get them back into Church. As much as I like to fantasize that a punch in the head would enlighten them, I know that a Priest is a much better emissary of Truth.

    As far as I can see, the Pope’s charm offensive is working. So, I am all for it. Frankly all the guys who got burned by the Black Legend would rather see the Church win out over the dingbats spreading the lies.

    I do miss Pope Benedict though. I felt like I got a Pope’s blessing when flaming morons when he was Pope. Now, I feel like I have to be nice to them. Not nearly as much fun.

  7. “What gain is there in undermining Peter’s latest (and legitimately) selected successor?”

    “There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glossa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2.14), ‘St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if sometimes they stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects.” (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 33, A. 4)

  8. “it’s saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am a sinner,’ but saying it through the brother,”
    No. There is no “brother” in the confessional. There is only Jesus Christ in the confessional,

  9. Thanks for the Saint Thomas Aquinas quote…I fear that my copy of his Shorter Summa may not be adequate in the long run.

  10. It never works unless everyone is held to an objective standard, i.e. the Bible. It’s wonderfult that Augustine and Aquinas knew this and can be quoted accordingly.

  11. Well since the Pope seems to reflect the silly accusations and excuses that we hear so often, *the confessional one yesterday),perhaps Catholic Rock is onto something. I hope so!

  12. Note from management: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    CatholicsRock!: I’ve grown too old to bring to anyone the good news.

  13. We have gotten the leaders we deserve just as Israel had gotten King Saul in 1st Samuel chapter 8. Both President Barack Hussein Obama and Pope Francis simply reflect who and what we are as a people.

  14. Paul, I respectfully disagree with part of your analogy. While our presidents reflect popular opinion, (important to understand elected for their image over reality), our Popes do not. Could one say that JPII and Benedict reflected popular culture? Oh were it true. We believe the Holy Spirit, if allowed in, has a role in electing our pontiff. That this pope seems so in tune with modern day culture and sentiment may turn out to be just what the Holy Spirit guided us to. Jesus, after all, had an understanding of the Pharisee mindset and obviously connected with the downtrodden class. He basically told the classes to listen to the good things they said but to ignore any bad example. Perhaps in his own way Pope Frances is trying the same approach to our defectors in addressing our the perceived and some real offenses of those in the Church. In any event, I do hope the Holy Spirit had a hand in his election.

  15. I have a different take on this. No doubt you are all surprised lol.

    I do not find the Holy Father’s statement concerning homilies disconcerting at all, if one is to understand the nature of homilies versus sermons [although frequently used synonymously they are not the same vehicle of communication within the Church]

    While a sermon can be given on any topic that the preacher desires, the homily is a communication that is dialogical (not literally 99.9% of the time) but in spirit. The homilist reflecting on the readings, the Mystery being celebrated [for example the Epiphany] and or texts of the Mass itself [usually the Propers] leading the People of God into a deeper encounter with Christ present in their midst in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as the Priest of the Holy Sacrifice, as the Word of God encountered in the word of God in the Scriptures proclaimed and finally in the community gathered as the Body of Christ

    The priest homilist can/should take as his model the Lord Himself Who after proclaiming the beautiful text from Isaiah 61 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, therefore He has anointed Me to proclaim Good News to the poor [meaning the disadvantaged, sinners, and the marginalized and exiled]-after which He simply says “This day, in your hearing these words are fulfilled” [see Luke 4] BTW some people didn’t like His homily either 🙂

    The homilist can and should take Paul as another model. In his Letters (Epistles) he first gives the doctrinal teaching then goes into the moral exhortation. What I believe I amhearing from some of you is the absence of this moral exhortation. Pope Francis certainly is not against that.

    However, let me give a few examples, of what did not work despite many who would think they should. One priest got up on Christmas (not this past one) and gave a homily on abortion. Friends, abortion is an important issue, but more important than the Nativity/Incarnation of Our Lord (there is a way of bringing in respect for the unborn here, but abortion? On Christmas?)

    A few years back, a Cardinal will go unnamed took over the Easter Mass of Pope Benedict talking about the pedophilia issue being a hype by the media. Pedophilia in the Church is a very serious issue and needs to be be dealt with. I don’t believe it was a media invention, but instead, the lack of pastoral care of bishops in their oversight of their priests and flocks. But Easter???? When we should be rejoicing that Christ has conquered sin and death and has opened to us the very same offer of Life in the Spirit?????

    Finally, something I experienced and witnessed myself. A missionary priest came to my parish when I was a freshman in HS (it was the fall of 1964). It was a teen mission. The church was packed with my peers. The priest got up, yelling at the top of his lungs for ‘affect’ “Boys and girls, you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? [How could we forget; it was only two years before this-it was a horrible memory] Well boys and girls (you don’t call teens boys and girls-but that is just ‘style’) the H in the H bomb [btw the Cuban missile crisis was not about H bombs (fusion) but fission nuclear bombs] “The H in H bomb does not stand for Hydrogen it stands for heaven and hell-where would you go if it dropped???”
    The priest paused for dramatic effect-he got it but not what he expected. 2/3 of the packed church stood up and walked out. [BTW I didn’t I was too worried about what my parents would say lol] But seriously, while some believe this is the kind of stuff that is needed-is it???
    The Gospel is life in Christ-unless the issue is brought back to Him and this-then it is left hanging out there, and as important as the issue might be [certainly abortion etc are] they fall flat on their face, with no support without Christ and His grace that comes through faith and the sacraments

    I will finish with this:
    Instead of hammering people over the head about abortion-keep sharing with them the Gospel of Life and how each life is precious and to be respected from the moment of conception until natural death

    Instead of hammering away about birth control-keep reminding people of the beauty of marital love which is both love giving and life giving

    Instead of hammering away about gay marriage etc keep reminding people of marriage being between man and woman in a faithful, exclusive, total and wonderfully human union which is both love giving and life giving.

  16. Far be it from myself to appoint myself as a proper judge of papal administration. On the other hand, it’s also far from myself to encourage more of the same ideologically motivated second guessing that’s been a common practice of the past several decades amongst the laity and openly dissenting clerics.
    Let’s give the man our prayers and benefit of the doubt considering the awful mess he was elected to take over and renew both spiritually and administratively. Considering that the Church is the only Divinely-inspired and founded institution on earth, shouldn’t we begin by praying for its quintessential spiritual component first? Asking for the Lord’s discernment and strength to help His human administrators, all-too human administrators, work on putting the Church’s house back into better working order.
    Could Benedict be blamed for asking the Lord to appoint a younger and more vibrant successor to handle what had become under his papacy a rampant case of too many self-appointed “every man a pope and every pope a man” seat of the pants professionalized clericalists? You can’t have a winning team lead by “players’ coaches” because soon you’ll have the inmates running the asylum. And we need to stop listening to and encouraging a culture wherein every pfc thinks he can run an army better than his generals or commander-in-chief. I’m not suggesting boot-clicking allegiance . . . hardly, but what I’m reading up here sounds so unlike the kind of judicious use of conservative caution every kind of governing body needs; a genuine display of what we call “loyal opposition” within our secular governmental bodies, companies, or workplaces, and/or very loyal constructive opinion-offerings within the Church. It’ll sure as heck cut down on so much of the non-constructive dissonance coming from today’s more ideologically polarized “conservatives.”
    What’s next, a “Tea Party” version of our more (conservative) fellow Catholics? Heaven forbid and help us all from that malady.

  17. PS, please remember that David called King Saul the Lord’s Anointed. Sometimes the Holy Spirit chooses or allows those whom we deserve.

  18. I think someone famously said that -in a democracy- the people get the leaders they deserve. I don’t think we deserve what we got in this American democracy, but I do think that we will deserve what we accept. I am not sure the election was really very democratic, especially the second election of this administration. If we continue to accept such substandard leadership the onus is on us!
    I don’t really know How the Holy Spirit works, but I do know that the spirit of the age seems to carry the day sometimes.. whether Francis was actively personally selected by the Holy Spirit or by the spirit of the age I don’t know. I do believe the Holy Spirit protects and guards His Church and His Vicar so even if the electors made a left turn the HOLY Spirit will still have the last Word.

  19. Steven: Note that you are not alone here in your views (though it too often seems so). As a fellow conservative Catholic, I find most of the statements and views expressed in PW in disdain.

  20. I do not disdain our Pope. I watch and I listen and I try to discern. I am still growing and learning and trying to be docile to God. Complacency is difficult for me– my mind is always seeking

  21. I find the statements and views expressed in PW – Pope Watch – to be right on target and far more diplomatic and palatable than anything I would say.

    I despise and hold in utter disdain and contempt this ingratiation with liberalism, Marxism, and the homosexual movement, whether that is intentional on the part of the Pope or not. But God will protect the Church from his errors just as He protected Her from Popes in the past who were truly wicked. The Pope is not infallible except in a very small and narrow circumstance, and He cannot change dogma and morals.

  22. Botolph: Chances are the 2/3rds that walked out did because they didn’t want to hear an admonishing. They don’t want to hear about Hell, just Heaven. They want to be told that they are going to Heaven and not to worry about Hell. Being told that they might actually have to give up sins that they like is not so pleasing to them. They’d rather walk out and not hear it. Will watering things down to what they want to hear save their souls, no. Jesus talked about pruning the branches off the vine if the branches didn’t bear fruit. Those that don’t want to show their love for Him by obeying him will demonstrate this with their self love, and don’t want to hear the message that they actually have to choose to turn away sin. They want their cake, and Heaven too.

  23. Tina,

    You are right they did not want to hear what that priest had to say because all he knew was that he had a church full of teens in front of him. That is all he knew of us. Of course no one would be so silly or stupid as to claim all of us were angels etc but neither are adults. Instead of proclaiming Christ, he gave us condemnation -on the basis of what? simply because we were teens?

    “What father among you would give your son a stone if he asked for bread, or a snake if he asked for fish….” “God so love the world that He gave us His only Son that all might believe and enter into eternal life. The Son came into the world not to condemn the world but to save it” [John 3.17-18]

    Instead of opening up the treasures of the Church he shut the church doors shut-as many do even today. We all need to heed Christ’s words about going around making others twice as fit for hell as we are ourselves.

  24. Botolph,

    While I appreciate the fact that someone raining down brimstone alone doesn’t make for a convincing argument in favor of the Faith, I would also like to point out the following: distilling Jesus’ message to a non-condemnatory one is also a misrepresentation.

    There’s a popular fallacy that Jesus spoke only comforting words and that the fear of hell began with Saint Paul. The textual truth is the opposite: Jesus uttered many “hell fire and damnation” sermons, while nearly all the passages that offer any hope to the universalist (who believe all men will be saved in the end) are from Paul.

    Now, to be certain, Jesus spoke a message of both salvation (if one was His follower) and of consequences (if one was not). But I think that distilling His message down to just salvation leads to the conclusion of no consequences…just as a message of nothing but consequence leads to a despair about the possibility of salvation.

  25. It is hard to know when to speak up and when to stay quiet. Is it loving to not rock the boat or risk sounding inquisitorial when someone’s mortal soul is at stake?
    The confessional compared to a torture chamber when most of us have experienced it as a hospital. Why would Catholics who love and appreciate the confessional repeat these kind of charges against the holy sacrament of reconciliation with God. Giving ammunition to enemies of the Sacraments.

  26. John by any other name,

    I believe we are in agreement. I have never said that Christ or the Gospel brings no consequences. Saint Augustine says something to the effect that while God created us without our cooperation He will not save us without our cooperation [that might not be an exact quote]
    However, and I still maintain this: the content of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, He is God’s “yes” to us. We may say “no” to Him, but God says “yes” to us. The Gospel of the Kingdom calls us to the two fold response of faith (doctrine) and ongoing conversion (moral teaching). But the Gospel is the Kingdom, Jesus Christ uniting Himself with His Bride the Church

  27. Botolph, I love your comment!

    Encourage the good more often, than continually admonishing the bad. But, you stated it more beautifully.

    I guess the old saying “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar” has some merit.

  28. devout catholics do not have great problems with teachings about morality, sin and hell.

    also, devout catholics are already completely loyal to the magisterium and avid recipients of the sacraments.

    to me, francis is addressing how to approach lukewarm catholics, non-catholics and the unchurched.

    since most of us who frequent catholic websites are not the primary targets of the new evangelization (we are the implementers and that is what francis is doing, training us implementers), it may be difficult for us to absorb the fact that many others, who are not devout catholics, do have the perception that the church is primarily a condemner, a chastiser and a judge.

    i firmly believe that francis has interiorized the gospel to a much greater extent than almost all others of this generation.

    practice finding the positives in what francis is teaching. realize that francis has NO intention of watering down the gospel we have received through the apostles and their successors. if you find yourselves understanding francis’ words as a watering down of the gospel, realize you are misunderstanding his point.

    if you find yourselves questioning what francis is saying, use that as a motivation to meditate on his worlds until you seen their connection to the gospels.

    you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    Jesus did not come for those who are already saved, but to offer salvation to the sinners. to avoid misunderstanding, i am not saying that devout catholics are, necessarily, saved because everyone faces judgment at death. but, i am trying to make the point that living the gospel and helping to make it present to the world proceeds differently for the devout catholic than it does for others.

    of all people, the devout catholic already understands the morality that derives from the nature of our Creator. consequently, further expounding on that morality is completely appropriate for the devout.

    the problem is that emphasizing catholic morality to the lukewarm, the non-catholic and the unchurched may be a stumbling block to their salvation.

    just my two cents worth.

  29. I think you are right Eddie too, that he is trying to help us reach lukewarm Catholics, non-catholics and the unchurched with a softer approach, an emphasis on mercy.
    At the same time, in order for people to recognize that they need mercy, they need to see their sin. That’s where their confessor can help by not being afraid to judge rightly according to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church.
    The Church teaches morality; because Jesus did … and He knew what He was teaching might be a stumbling block for some who did not want to change their ways.

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