PopeWatch: Rude Shepherd



An interesting and completely wrongheaded article in Catholic Herald by Father Raymond de Souza:


What was more striking was the Holy Father’s denunciation of a particular woman who was expecting her eighth child, having had seven caesarian deliveries previously. Twice in the press conference Pope Francis said that, upon meeting her at a Roman parish, he had rebuked her for being irresponsible. He gave enough information that it would be easy to discover her identity. Her family and fellow parishioners certainly all know that she has been denounced by the Holy Father as irresponsible for conceiving her eighth child. The child, too, will grow up knowing what Pope Francis said.

Why would the Holy Father go out of his way to denounce a particular woman? It is not the first time he has done so. Last February, at his meeting with the priests of Rome, he criticised a specific priest in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, then at the nunciature to Italy. In April, an Argentine woman in an invalid marriage said that the Holy Father told her to ignore the instructions of her parish priest in regard to not receiving Holy Communion. As the woman’s name was known, everyone in the parish knew that their pastor had been corrected by the Pope.

Francis may be giving an answer to a question I have had since I was ordained more than a decade ago. I have often asked brother priests where in our pastoral ministry we imitate the denunciations – “brood of vipers”, “whited sepulchres”, “blind guides” and “hypocrites” – that the Lord Jesus used. Where do we obey His command to shake the dust off our feet at those who refuse to accept the Gospel?

In my own ministry, it would be very difficult to provide examples of how I have done what Jesus did, or commanded His Apostles to do. Jesus gives us different models of pastoral ministry. The dominant one would be that of the good shepherd who goes out in search of the lost, the friend to the afflicted and ostracised, the healer of the sick and the absolver of sins.

Yet that is not the only model given to us. It is just the only one that seminarians are trained to provide, and the only one that priests – myself included – tend to offer. Very few of us imitate the fullness of what Jesus did, and what the Apostles did in imitation of Him. Pope Francis is not like that. Rare is the daily homily in which he does not offer a pointed criticism of how some Christians are failing to live authentic lives of discipleship. In his principal magisterial document to date, Evangelii Gaudium, the denunciations were so numerous that commentators began to compile lists of them.

The Holy Father did the same in his Christmas greetings to his colleagues in the Roman Curia last December, composing a catalogue of their spiritual diseases and failings. Many of those in the room found it rude. Perhaps so, but no more rude than how Jesus spoke to the “curial officials” of His day, the Pharisees and scribes.

Is Pope Francis offering us a new model of how to be pastors, only slightly less quick with a lambasting word than with a loving one? Perhaps. It seems to me that the Holy Father is able to speak so harshly and so often precisely because he so transparently lives out the dominant model of Christian pastoral ministry, that of the good shepherd, the binder of wounds.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch is all in favor of the clergy being much more plainspoken in regard to sinners.   Mealy mouthed priests, bishops and cardinals have become all too common in the wake of Vatican II.  However, the problem with the Pope’s rabbit remark is that the woman he rebuked was not sinning.  She was living out heroically the teachings of the Church and the Pope verbally backhanded her for it.  That isn’t being plainspoken, that is being nuts.

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  1. We in the wealthy West need not patronise the poor. We in the West need to stop telling the poor to keep doing, what we in the West, would not in our right minds do.

    Again, eight cesareans is just stupid.

  2. God Bless your beautiful wife Donald. And thank God she had them safely and with sound health thereafter.

    I had 2 out of 3 cesareans.

    When I had my first child, the nurse that was checking on me told me she was caring for a mother who had just had her fifth child by cesarean and her uterus ruptured. This was in a modern, Private hospital.

    With every pregnancy after a subsequent cesarean, the wound needs to be monitored. I was monitored during labour.

    What sort of monitoring, advice and sound healthcare do you suspect a poor Filipino lady would be getting if she is having EIGHT cuts to get uterus?


    What the Pope said was correct. It doesn’t matter if some think he is “rude”. That is irrelevant.

  3. Well then. Since rudeness is now officially sanctioned, I am sure any of us who have been accused of being rude or even “divisive” when we raise our voices about contradictions, or wrong-doing, or just voicing a different opinion, will be now heartily welcome. After all, we are only bring rude as Jesus was rude–our new officially approved manner.


  4. As I see it, this pope’s rebukes fall mainly at traditional teachings: It seems as if he is biased in his lambastings.

    He could have exercised restraint with the eight-CS woman, and advised her that she may, because of serious health concerns, medicinally avoid possibly dangerous pregnancy. As reported, he did not couch his rebuke in charity or humility.


    Plato wrote, “Opinion is not truth.” It appears that this pope owns an opnion such as a divorced and remarried (without Church sanction) may present herself/himself to receive Holy Communion. In fact, that person (no matter how nice and sweet) is in a state of mortal sin/adultery and needs to desist from receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
    In life, you make your choices. A divorced remarried person chose to disobey Church teachings. Not to worry. There are a couple thousand christian sects that regularize such behavior.
    Does he feel a need to fill the pews with these people?
    “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”

    Matthew 16, 23

  5. My wife was the 14th of 17. Without the heroic witness of my wife’s parents I would not have her nor our two children. I remember telling a priest about the number of children in my wife’s family. He called my in-laws “generous.” He had a true sense of the sacrifice and willingness to bring new life into the world that they demonstrated.

    This degree of sacrifice is not for all. The teaching has always been to use reason to determine the number of children given health, finances etc. Species determination has never been a reason I’ve seen the Church use. Until this Pope that is.

  6. Pope Francis denied the child, the person in the womb; the person in the womb whom the mother was risking her own life to shelter. While the Pope was castigating the pregnant woman, the Pope ought to have been blessing her and praying for her safe delivery. In fact, the Pope was derelict in his duty to bless the mother. St. Gerard Majella protect her.
    The problem with all crime and sin is that when one is committing a crime and a sin, one is not living the life of Christ on earth. Who is the Pope confessor?
    Who is the Pope’s advisor?

  7. “What the Pope said was correct. It doesn’t matter if some think he is “rude”. That is irrelevant.”
    Sorry Ezabelle, Pope Francis is rude and gets no free pass to demean any person. If you like a demeaning Pope, that is OK with me.

  8. 1. The Pope should never have discussed this private affair publicly. That was wrong.
    2. Privately advising a woman to abstain from sexual intercourse based on health concerns associated with Caesarian section is the province of a physician, not a cleric.
    3. If a mother’s health is adversely impacted from future pregnancies, then she and her husband ought to refrain from sexual intercourse.
    4. The Pope spoke about a woman. Where is the man who impregnated her and why was he not rebuked? After all, both man and woman have equal rights and as such equal responsibility.

  9. The Pope was not correct from a spiritual perspective. Having the children God gives you is not “testing God.” Or is the Pope claiming that God is not the author of life? Not only rude, but wrong. And you, Ezabelle, are misguided. Hope that is not “rude.”

    Again, where did you get that this woman of eight CSs is poor?

  10. …no more rude than how Jesus spoke to the “curial officials” of His day, the Pharisees and scribes.
    –Father Raymond de Souza

    Jesus was not the High Priest (pontifex maximus) who hired and could fire those “curial officials of His day”. Yes, Fr. de Souza is completely wrongheaded in his Catholic Herald article. That’s just one of many examples.

  11. Mary he did not demean her.

    As far as I believe, this is a topic that has been ignored by the Church for too long.

    How hypocritical of us to support a poor woman’s misinformed, negligent and risky pregnancy choices when we wouldn’t dream of making the same choice for ourselves or children. This is belittling to the poor woman.

    I am in remission from cancer and I keep myself as healthy as I can for my 3 small children. I want to be around to raise them. Shouldn’t we hope the same for that same mother in the Philippines? Or does it not matter for her? She’s just poor and stupid….

    And I don’t believe for one moment that the Pope did not pray over her and her child. I wouldn’t for one minute jump to that assumption.

    The husband got away scot-fee on this one.

    As the saying goes, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

  12. C matt. I find you very rude. Especially when you don’t know what you are talking about. Ask any doctor if he would support a woman to have eight cesareans.

    Read my first comment at the top before you decide to target me.

  13. Ezebelle, you have little information on this woman other than what the pope offered. You have no right to criticize her for being faithful and open to life and, above all, following Church Teaching. You are also NOT the standard of “ideal motherhood” so you can get over yourself and put all that to rest. Regardless of nature the pope did not have her permission to retell this story. No priest I’m aware of would ever do such a thing. The details are so specific that it is easy to know who she is. The pope also emboldened the pro contraceptive/abortion heretics within the Church and I’m sure she got an earful from them too. How is any of that “pastoral”? If she had been a lesbian who had an invitro baby, he probably would have said “that was between me and her”, as he did with the transvestite. So, unless she guilty of some scandalous sin, which she is not, he had no business publicly rebuking her. The pope owes this woman a public apology. PERIOD.

  14. In agreement with Paul W. Primavera’s comment #1; “The Pope should never have discussed this private affair publicly. That was wrong.”

  15. Somebody important needs to tell the current Roman Pontiff to shut up. How many children the lady with several Caesarians and her husband is between them and God and none of my business or that of the Roman Pontiff.

    Oh, Rorate reported that Fr. Volpi has been found guilty of defamation of the family of FFI founder Fr. Manelli. He accused Fr. Manelli of transferring assets of the FFI to his family.

    Father Volpi, put in place personally by the Roman Pontiff to push around the FFI, is GUILTY of defamation and lying. So where is our Pope of the People now?

    I remain a faithful, albeit sinful, Catholic. However, my being Catholic has nothing to do with how good or bad a job the Roman Pontiff or any cleric is doing and NONE of us are exempt from accurate and honest criticism.

    I would not cross Pennsylvania to see the Roman Pontiff. I would not cross the street to see him, either. Having said that, if anyone is in desperate need of prayer to increase his wisdom, it is the current Roman Pontiff.

  16. So calling someone misguided is “rude,” but to call a mother of eight you have not ever met, about whose individual circumstances you nothing about, “nuts,” “stupid,” “misinformed,” and “negligent” is okay. Hmmm.

    I also note that those defending this woman’s choices are evidently the ones who think she is just too stupid to make choices for herself, yet the same person who called her the names above is the one who really respects her dignity.

    Isn’t the internet a great thing?

  17. In all this discussion about this woman who got pregnant and had Caesarians 8 times, I repeat my question: where is the man? Why is this the woman’s fault? Why did the Pope rebuke her and NOT the man who impregnated her? Is she even married? Or is this the result of adultery or fornication? And if the result of sexual immorality, then why wasn’t that rebuked? Details, details, details. This Pope does not like details or critical logical thinking.

  18. Ezebelle, you have the typical elitist attitude of the cultists I used to know. It just oozes out of your comments about that mother of eight children, and your inability to criticize the Pope for his uncalled for remarks. Frankly, you sound more like a High Church Episcopalian who’s looking down on Catholic mothers breeding like cockroaches or rabbits. Wait a minute, it was a High Church Catholic who made the rabbit remark, wasn’t it?!

  19. If I was the husband of that women, I would have smashed Bergoglia in the nose, since the Pope has told us it is okay to do so.

  20. BTW, most modern Western doctors would have told this woman not to have a fifth, or sixth, or seventh child, but they, much like our current Pontiff would look pretty foolish right now.

  21. I call into question the attitude not the person.

    It’s funny how many pots are calling the kettle black.

    I stand by my opinion.

  22. How many children do you have Lazarus. (Not including the ones you aborted?) I have 3.

    And how long has it been since your vasectomy? Or has your wife had her tubes tied?

    I’ve never used the pill in my life.

    I hope you don’t talk to your wife and daughters like that.

  23. “Eight caesareans is nuts.”

    There are many ways a uterus can rupture besides having a Cesarean section. One of my roommates in college lost her first son because her uterus ruptured during labor and the only anesthesiologist on duty at the time was dealing with another patient.

    One of my friends with whom I attended church had been in labor for 30 mins with her first born when a doctor, who wanted to get back to his New Years Eve party, performed a needless Cesearen section on her. The rest of her 6 children were born at home with the help of a mid-wife because of fear of what the medical system might do to the mother & child after more irresponsible behavior on the part of the hospital staff with 2 more babies being born–including the near deliberate death of one child.

    Another friend was told she would die in child birth–yet has had 2 perfectly healthy children.
    My mother delayed cancer treatment so that I could be born. She later died from the cancer after my birth. Some would call my mother stupid.
    Please don’t judge others–they are accountable to God for what they do–not us. Just because we would do something different doesn’t make others wrong.

  24. As regards the lady with seven cæsarian sections, the Holy Father would appear to have fallen into a category error.
    As Hume reminds us, any desire can be called “unreasonable” only insofar as (1) “a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not exist” or (2) “When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse [sic] means insufficient for the designed end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects.”
    Conflicting desires, such as the desire for another child on the one hand and the desire (in a particular case) to preserve one’s life or health on the other, are not commensurate physical forces; there is no calculus by which reason can direct us to choose the satisfaction of one over the other.
    I choose A, you choose not-A; is it clear that we actually disagree? We are not arguing about a description of anything, for there is no shared object of enquiry about which we differ.

  25. Barbara Gordon.

    Good point.
    The one who knows our hearts perfectly is the one who holds each of us, and I thank Him that He will be our final Judge.

    The blind man begged to see in last Sundays reading. The ones CLOSEST to the Lord tried to dismiss the begger. He persisted. Our Judge healed the blind man.

    May I come away from this realizing my need to beg for sight. May I not interfere in the healing of others.

  26. “My mother delayed cancer treatment so that I could be born. She later died from the cancer after my birth. Some would call my mother stupid.”

    Not at all. Never. Your Mother chose the path of Love. She had no other choice. Treatment during her pregnancy with you would have harmed you! God Rest Her Soul in His Divine Presence for eternity.

    This is not the same as deliberately, putting oneself at an increased risk voluntarily.

    I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma when my third daughter was 6months old. I underwent chemo and have now been in remission since December 2013. I choose to delay having more children until I feel I have been in remission for at least 3 years. Children need a healthy mother. Under my doctors advise.

    I do not use use the Pill. I never have. And I never will. NFP only.

    But I choose to listen to my doctor, in this regard. Modern medecine is a gift from God. Our God, after all is a God of reason.

    There is no sin or harm or offense or rudeness in telling a woman of seven the risk of having eight cesears, just as it is no sin committed to have those 8 cesears. I would think that the Holy Father spoke to this woman out of care for her well-being and the well-being of her children. Incase she was under the illusion that we weren’t allowed to use our reason to make judgements for our family size. Because we most definitely and positively are.

    The Pope, in his comment, was responding to a question about poverty and family size. Read the link above. This woman’s situation is but one of many women. If this woman was in a western country, she would be recieving better medical advice. She would be empowered with better understanding. Not this archaic mentality of ignorant obedience. Mother Theresa taught the poor how to monitor their fertility naturally using beads! This woman has the human right to this information.

    Regardless, at the end of the day, the Pope won’t make her choices for her- that is up to her and her husband.

  27. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” Romans 14:4

  28. “There is no sin or harm or offense or rudeness in telling a woman of seven the risk of having eight cesears, just as it is no sin committed to have those 8 cesears. I would think that the Holy Father spoke to this woman out of care for her well-being and the well-being of her children.”

    Love 101 from 1 Corinthians 13: Agape love “Does not behave itself rudely.”

    Holding intimate parts of someone’s life to public scrutiny/judgement is always rude. There are a many ways this pope, who wants to emphasize “mercy” could have made his point, yet he chose to do it in a public manner.

    There is no doubt that parts of the Phillipians is over run with poor and needy children. Having lots of children is part of their culture. Their govt has recently supported the modern methods of contraception with some support from their Catholic clergy. However, that is an entirely different post.

  29. He is quick to rebuke practicing Catholics but when have you ever seen, read, or heard where he told a practicing sodomite to “go and sin no more”. Seems like “Who am I to judge” kicks into gear anytime homosexuality is concerned. And he must not offend his liberal fans by telling the truth about the evils of the homosexual lifestyle.

  30. D Black
    On his visit to the Philippines the Holy Father warned of efforts “to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life” and ““Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.”

  31. Ezabelle, Thanks for sharing the article. It does put the matter in better perspective. I there is a legitimate range of opinion about how Pope F handled this. When JPII scolded the liberation priest, I don’t think it was staged but I do think it was meant to be a public message. So there are times when public rebuke can be a symbolic gesture to others. He did not, however, reveal anything personal, unknown or unnecessary – that would be calumny. In the case of the Philippines’ woman I personally find it odd he chose to use her as his example. How widespread is the problem of abusing Caesarean section as a means for having children? Not too common I would presume. If his point was to show how the Catholic Church is reasonable about having children, which I suspect it was, I think another way would be better. Especially since he did seem to be exposing a personal story, one in which sinfulness was certainly not established. Additionally he must be astute enough to know how the press will jump on any of his words that will work to their purpose and ignore the kind of content like his positive words on family.
    Next, for all, I thought the personal and derogatory attacks on each other were not in the example of Christian charity and sad to see it in the conversation.
    Finally, Philip, tell your wife hello from another 1 in 17 family. I am 8A (one set of twins). Same mom and dad, both responsible and saintly parents. I am sure glad they did not stop at 3, or 7, or even 16.

  32. Ezabelle: “There is no sin or harm or offense or rudeness in telling a woman of seven the risk of having eight cesears, just as it is no sin committed to have those 8 cesears. I would think that the Holy Father spoke to this woman out of care for her well-being and the well-being of her children. Incase she was under the illusion that we weren’t allowed to use our reason to make judgements for our family size. Because we most definitely and positively are.”
    Pope Francis exposed the pregnant woman to scorn and ridicule as he ridiculed and scolded her in public. Pope Francis, had he been a gentleman, would have spoken to the woman in private. RUDE

  33. I am just relieved to know now that should I be rude, maybe even personal, perhaps shallow (“they’re having babies like rabbits,” he said), and argumentative in destroying an opponent, I am actually being Christ-like.
    Wow, all these years I had it wrong! Now I can be just like the progressive Catholic left!

  34. Ezabelle , I don’t have any children because I insisted that my wife use birth-control for most of our marriage. We stopped about 6-7 years ago when I returned to the Church. In my youth (some 25-30 years ago) I caused two unplanned pregnancies out of wedlock to two different young ladies. The first one we gave up for adoption. The second one I forced into an abortion. Because you see, it was always about the unholy trinity of me myself and I. And as such, my self-centered lust wrecked numerous lives and robbed my own wife of the miracle of children. And that is a rudeness that is far beyond anything I could every convey in here with mere words.

    So you see – I know what it’s like to rage against new life. And I know the lasting pain that that crime leaves within us. It’s a cross that people like me drag behind themselves every day. And it cuts a deep furrow in its wake and it redeems me in sorrow. And it also makes me realize that we must choose life always – even at the risk of our own peril. Because the miracle of life is infinitely more precious to me now that I have taken it from another. The heavenly Grace of Shame will impart that virtue on a Soul. Praise be to God. So if a mother endangers her own health by bringing her seventh or eighth or twelfth child into the world – do you honestly believe the Good Lord will let any dire consequences occur without some ultimate good? Not a chance. God calls us to new life – in all things. In all ways. In all the seasons of our lives. But we have become foolish in our modern technical knowledge. We have made life subservient to a measure of reduced risks and a false sense of “quality of life” that is a mere illusion. We have in short – decided we are our own little gods to some extent. And our new found wisdom has left us even more terrified of living – because all we’re really doing is running from death.

    I have brought myself down low – and God has found me in the depths of my despair.

    Love your children Ezabelle. And love all the children who will never be. And love all those mothers who take a chance on life even unto death. Because all of this is really about our happy death – because that’s what life truly is.

    Have a blessed Ash Wednesday.

    “Though art dust, oh man. And to dust thou shall return.”

  35. “How widespread is the problem of abusing Caesarean section as a means for having children? Not too common I would presume.”

    In the US there is an incredible overuse of Ceaserean sections. Do an Internet search for “too many Ceasearean sections” and you will get articles such as the following:



  36. I have dated a Filipino in his early 50s. I am in my late 40s. In discussion of a possible life together, he assured me that if we were younger that we would move to the country and have 10 children. He has 2 children who are 23 & 26 from his first wife who has been deceased for 20 years. She died and took a 3rd child with her He literally wanted 10 children. My point is that it is impossible to judge even our own lives correctly. We sure can’t judge others’ reproductive choices correctly.

  37. Poignant- you brought tears to my eyes Lazarus. God bless and protect you.
    “We have made life subservient to a measure of reduced risks and a false sense of “quality of life” that is a mere illusion. ”

    We have freedom and education and wealth and leisure time and that is the best we can do?

  38. I wonder if anyone really knows all the facts surrounding the woman with 8 Caesarians, for example, what was the compelling forces that made her pregnant 8 times (and please nobody tell me it is intercourse that makes a woman pregnant). Pope Francis does not do himself a favor by awarding himself a medal for scolding this woman.
    Also, why is there so much babbling about “pastoral” putting the golden seal on even the shady and unlawful? After all, the good shepherd must lead his flock to real grass, not artificial turf.

  39. Were there any criticism of God, who created and ensouled the child within that woman? Where was the “Who am I to judge?”

  40. I’ve had 6 c-sections and one natural birth. I will be having my 7th c-section this April.

    I guess I’m nuts. My children are love and well cared for, and they are all happy to be alive.

    Childbirth is always a risk. I know a woman who died from complications while giving birth naturally. Having multiple c-sections presents a different set of risks, but statistically it isn’t any riskier than natural birth.

    Having multiple c-sections is not sinful. The Pope should have prayed fo the woman’s health and her babies health and left it at that. Anything else is being judgemental, and “who am I to judge?”

  41. Lazarus, thank you for the courage in sharing your story. Your story brought a tear to my eye. Our Lord is a merciful God. And it is through His mercy that He has brought you to this point in your life where you can be closer to Him. You may not see your children here in this life, but know that your children are all in His presence and you will be with them one day. I’ll pray for you- a father.

    I love my children so much that words could not describe. It pains me that I had to fight for my life a few years ago. It frightens me thinking I could get the cancer again. The thought that I could not be around to raise my three girls scares me. It angers me that people take life for granted. Life is so fragile. God Bless the woman we all have been squabbling about. I hope and pray she has a safe birth. For the sake of her children, that she not encounter harm or ill health. Children need their mother. I hope her 8th cesarean is successful.

    I hope and pray women like her DO use their God given gift of knowledge and reason to make reasonable and SAFE choices for their family. I pray she is being given the best medical care through this pregnancy.

    A Holy Ash Wednesday to you Lazarus also.

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