Pope Francis, Christ and Conversion



Gillea Allison is a rarity, someone who has rejoined the Catholic Church due to Pope Francis.  She writes at Vox about her politics and her path back to Catholicism of a sort:


For me, finding truth elsewhere meant finding a different kind of home in politics and in the candidacy of Barack Obama. In 2006, one of my best (Jesuit-educated) friends sent me a copy of Dreams From My Father, then-Sen. Obama’s memoir. I couldn’t put it down. His honesty, prose, and self-reflection were unlike any I had seen in a politician; his years spent on the South Side of Chicago in organizing in Catholic churches caught my attention. His compassion for others and understanding of injustice — drawn from personal experience — guided his interest in politics and felt to me like the real deal (and, I would argue, it still does). I started paying attention to Obama’s candidacy from abroad, and in September 2008 I moved back to the United States to volunteer for him in Colorado without a dime. A version of faith, one could say.

In the 2008 and the 2012 campaigns, I found an organization dedicated to empowering its people and providing an opening to the political process. In candidate and now President Obama, I found a leader who embodied what I had loved about the church and my Jesuit education: the notion that by loving our neighbor, seeing our similarities instead of our relatively smaller differences, and coming together, we will in fact change the world. We didn’t have to accept things the way they were; rather, it was our responsibility to question and make those things better. The Obama campaigns felt to me like the truest articulation of people over politics, of love over power — and after my falling out with the Catholic Church, they restored my faith in leadership and the potential for institutions to evolve.


So now, as a card-carrying member of St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan, I’m discovering what it means to be Catholic as an adult.

I keep it pretty practical, but there’s certainly been a reigniting of my spirit. I volunteer at Xavier’s soup kitchen, which feeds hundreds each Sunday. I am a godmother to my best friend’s son — a responsibility that now carries new weight and meaning. I go to church whenever I can. It’s beautiful, and I’m often struck by the priests’ wisdom and humor.

By and large, however, it is the community that fills my heart. A few Sundays ago, we celebrated a dedicated parishioner’s 90th birthday. The priest presented her with a lovely bouquet; the entire congregation sang “Happy Birthday.” You could feel the love — it’s that simple.

But this reawakening comes with distinct challenges. As a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood, I am often at odds with persistent church policies on social issues. But we must avoid the American tendency to pull the church into our political battles and project our political dynamics onto figures like Pope Francis, the absurdity of which was abundant during his US visit. (An example: when the New York Times recapped his speech to Congress on A1 by stating, “Both sides could walk away taking vindication from parts of his message. But the liberal references in his speech were explicit and extended while the conservative ones were more veiled and concise.”).

Go here to read the rest.  It would be mistaken I think to assume that the author has rejoined Catholicism simply because Pope Francis is a leftist.  That is part of it of course, but like many people she is looking for a leader she can raise on high in her mind and heart.  First Obama and now Pope Francis has assumed that role.  Pope Francis would doubtless look upon her as a success story:  get them back in Church and then change their hearts by barely stating the things that they vehemently disagree with in regard to the Church.  There are many problems with this type of low content evangelicalism but the foremost is that it differs radically from how Christ built His Church.  He did not shun hard sayings.  Telling His followers that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood repelled many of them.  His Apostles were appalled by His teaching on marriage.  His proclamation that he was the great I AM, God, seemed like the ultimate blasphemy to many who heard Him.

We often hear that Christ sought out the blackest of sinners:  prostitutes, tax collectors, collaborators with Rome, etc., and that is certainly true.   What we usually do not hear is that these same sinners received the full force of his preaching as did all of his listeners.  Christ taught with authority and did not mince His words.  He did not pander to His audiences but preached to them the pure and unvarnished Truth.  The approach favored by Pope Francis attempts to remove, or at least hide, the hard sayings and attract people to a Christ who loves them as they are, with mercy as His sole command.  To be blunt, this is completely contrary to what the Church has been teaching for 2000 years because it is contrary to how Christ taught.  In his nonjudgmental stance Pope Francis may attract a few people back to the pews of the Church, but what good is that if their hearts are unconverted?

When the Church teaches as Christ taught, with authority and fearlessly, we never lack for converts.  When we follow the path of Francis, and that of all too many of the clergy over the past half century, we make no true converts and send many faithful Catholics into spiritual exile, hungry for the gospel of Truth.  I wish Gillea Allison well, and I hope that she may embrace the Church fully in all its splendor as the bride of Christ, but for the moment she is an example of flawed evangelicalism leading to flawed non-converts.

[56] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. [58] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. [59] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. [60] These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.

[61] Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? [62] But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? [63] If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [64] It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. [65] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him.

[63] If then you shall see: Christ by mentioning his ascension, by this instance of his power and divinity, would confirm the truth of what he had before asserted; and at the same time correct their gross apprehension of eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, in a vulgar and carnal manner, by letting them know he should take his whole body living with him to heaven; and consequently not suffer it to be as they supposed, divided, mangled, and consumed upon earth.

[64] The flesh profiteth nothing: Dead flesh separated from the spirit, in the gross manner they supposed they were to eat his flesh, would profit nothing. Neither doth man’s flesh, that is to say, man’s natural and carnal apprehension, (which refuses to be subject to the spirit, and words of Christ,) profit any thing. But it would be the height of blasphemy, to say the living flesh of Christ (which we receive in the blessed sacrament, with his spirit, that is, with his soul and divinity) profiteth nothing. For if Christ’s flesh had profited us nothing, he would never have taken flesh for us, nor died in the flesh for us.

[64] Are spirit and life: By proposing to you a heavenly sacrament, in which you shall receive, in a wonderful manner, spirit, grace, and life, in its very fountain.

[66] And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father. [67] After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.

John 6: 56-67


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  1. It seems to me that the Apostles certainly prioritised certain things in their evangelization.
    If we look at Acts, these were:
    (1) the age of fulfilment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets (Acts 2:16; 3:18, 24); (2) this has taken place through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
    (3) by virtue of the resurrection Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel (Acts 2:33-36; 4:11; 5:31);
    (4) the Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory (Acts 2:17-21, 33; 5:32);
    (5) the Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ (Acts 3:20; 10:42);
    (6) the preaching of the good news closes with an appeal for repentance, the offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19, 25; 4:12; 5:31; 10:43).
    In other words, their preaching was categorical, not argumentative; concrete, not abstract; concerned with facts and actions and, above all, with a Person; not with ideas or notions or reflections.

    This teaching is summarised in the Apostles’ Creed, of which Bl John Henry Newman said that it “remains now what it was in the beginning, a popular form of faith, suited to every age, class, and condition. Its declarations are categorical, brief, clear, elementary, of the first importance, expressive of the concrete, the objects of real apprehension, and the basis and rule of devotion.”

  2. Gillea Allison thinks she joined the Catholic Church when in her own mind has joined a Protestant Church that calls itself Catholic. Her;s is a religion of sentimentality, of camaraderie, almost entirely emotional. One where one gets to choose what one wishes to believe. She has the same hope in religion as she does for Obama, a hope of worldly salvation thru any means necessary such as abortion. Her perception of Pope Francis is similar. Her religion is a fantasy.

    I wonder if she would agree with Christ that to love Him is to obey Him. And to obey Him means strictly obeying the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the part that Gillea seems to be missing. She has helping her neighbor down pretty good but needs to put God first, neighbor second and herself third. Let us pray for her.

  3. This woman describes herself as a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood. She is therefore a murderer of babies. That’s all I need to know.

  4. Two excellent reflections, Donald and MPS.

    Weighing them out.

    My conclusion is that confusion kills.
    The recent example being Kim Davis et al.

    Conversion built on half truths will not suffice.
    I couldn’t imagine St. Paul watering down his letters, nor would he be likely to boldly lay his life down for the Faith if he didn’t believe and preach Jesus Crucified.

    We too are to crucify our bodies are we not?
    Flesh v. Spirit.

    How can that message be conveyed in it’s entirety if we accept non-repentant abortion supporting politician’s, or pro-homosexual practitioner’s (sodomites), into communion?

    You’ve both given much food for thought regarding conversion, and I don’t ever wish to interfere with one’s return to the Faith.

    I’m going to pray over this today at Mass.

  5. I could say that because of Obama and this new Pope I feel like my church and country are going down the tubes! How do you like that? BUT my church is centuries old and it is NOT Francis . My country will be better after Obama is gone. Hope…. Hope …. Hope springs eternal ! And God us going to protect my church and my nation

  6. I believe Christ’s final commandment (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:19-23; Act 1:6-8) was to go forth and make disciples of all nations; to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins; to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded; to preach that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the tomb in three days; etc.
    That woman is a leftist, secularist not a Christian.
    The essential difference between leftists’ (in and out of the Church) social justice and Christ’s Charity (love of God first and neighbor) is that the former coercively/forcefully takes other people’s money, the latter assumes one freely gives of one’s earthly assets for the love of God and of one’s neighbor.
    Channeling Mark Twain, “Suppose you were a liberal. And, suppose you were an idiot. But, I repeat myself.”


  7. “As a monthly donor to planned parenthood…” So she attends Church because it makes her feel fuzzy singing happy birthday to a 90 year old, and serving soup to a homeless. She doesn’t really need a Church to do both these things.

    However, she is no different to the many Catholics who would say “As a daily user of the artificial contraceptive pill”…the only difference between her and others is she is arrogant enough to flaunt her actions knowing they go against the Church she is s part of.

    In other words, there have always been hypocrites in our Church. It’s up to her parish priest to pull her up on this- he’s the one that preaches to her every Sunday.

    Pope Francis has always been clear on abortion.

    That’s just the way I see it. I know many will disagree.

  8. “It’s up to her parish priest to pull her up on this- he’s the one that preaches to her every Sunday.”
    “”,,,,one of my best Jesuit educated friends………..”
    “Says it all, really.”
    Don’t think we can count on her church to set her straight. Check out the link in the original Vox article. It’s a Jesuit parish in NYC. One of the bulletins has a notice that their organist and his partner are going to Fairfield Univ (another Jesuit connection).
    So what we find is a Jesuit church employing a openly gay organist who is now leaving to teach at another Jesuit institution.
    The “Good News” apparently is that one no longer has to be Catholic to be Catholic. Catholics are now inclusive. Anyone can join. You don’t even have to believe!
    Yes the “new” Catholic church is not quite the United Church of Christ, but it’s getting closer.
    There is something unsettlingly ironic that she left the RC Church while she was in Argentina when Bergoglio, was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and is now “returning” when he is Pope.
    Also troubling is that she left the Church around the same time that her parent’s marriage broke up. Somehow, I have to think that was more of a factor than she lets on.
    Reading the Vox article, I can see that she grew up with a totally different perspective of RCism than I did. And that is the bottom line question: What does it mean to be a Roman Catholic?

  9. Our elected Prime Minister Tony Annott recently has been overthrown by a new leader, Malcolm Turnbull (you can do that in Australia). Abbott was Jesuit educated, as was our Treasurer. Both opposed SSM in office. Abbotts sister is openly gay. Even criticising her own brother in public interviews because he wouldnt change the marriage laws. Abbotts closest friend and confident was the then Cardinal Pell. Abbott is a good example of a strong Catholuc who held onto his Catholic values in both his public office and private life. This stemmed from his Jesuit education and his strong activism during his university days, where he strongly stood up to Liberal thinking. The media hated Abbott. Of course.

    Seems not all doom and gloom from the Jesuits.

    The Parish referred to in this ladies article sounds like a mess. So does she.

  10. @T. Shaw -“The essential difference between leftists’ (in and out of the Church) social justice and Christ’s Charity (love of God first and neighbor) is that the former coercively/forcefully takes other people’s money, the latter assumes one freely gives of one’s earthly assets for the love of God and of one’s neighbor.”

    Precisely the point; Catholic Democrats are Democrats because of the U.S. Bishops’ adoption of Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin’s “Seamless Garment” which the bishops renamed “A consistent ethic of life” after adding “social justice” issues to the word “pro-life.” Avid Democrat Catholics are fawn of saying “Their pro-life doesn’t end at birth.” They’re wrong. There is no “pro-life” extending forward after being born in “social justice” issues, just prudential judgments. There are no sins in “social justice” issues either. But, it a sin in thinking you’re morally superior to others because your are a Catholic Democrat.

    Where there are even more serious sins in Catholic teaching, on this subject, is in joining organizations like the Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan. They are mortal sins against the 5th Commandment. Yes, Mortal Sins for merely joining those organizations; and there are no conditions exonerating you from those sins. In other words, there is no forgiveness for those mortal sins unless you repent and remove yourself from those organizations and stop supporting them.

    Since it is a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment for JUST BEING A MEMBER of either of those organizations, because of their support and promotion of discriminating against people based on their race or religion, denying them their human rights, what do you think the sin is for joining an organization that supports and promotes the murder of innocent human beings, lives that Catholics say they believe are created by God? What do you think Jesus is going to do to those Catholics that remained in and supported that organization, giving it the electoral power to keep the murder of unborn babies legal for 42 + years, and costing the lives of over 58,000,000 babies?

  11. I always had the opinion that the worship of a man, particularly
    a pagan commie community organizer and disciple of black
    liberation theology, is idolatry. She should contact the office of
    the President of Bolivia or the many leftist secret societies
    at the Vatican for assistance in obtaining a commie crucifix.

  12. Matthew 21:13; “And he saith to them, it is written. My house shall be called the House of Prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.”

    It could be argued that today instead of sacrificial doves or lambs, a portion of your integrity is offered up when lies are sold as Truth. When darkness is presented as light.

    The money changes are still within the Church, but they unfairly exchange solid teaching for acceptance of sorid behavior. These are our thieves of today. They are masquerading as Catholic politicians yet they are no different than the extortionists, cheating pilgrim’s as they walk into Church. Exchange my solid values at what cost? Tolerance? Acceptance? False Mercy?

    It’s only a matter of time and the disappointed Son of God will chase these thieves away too.
    He will flip their false notions about SSM and Abortion on demand, in their faces and cast them away from His house of prayer.
    Come Lord Jesus come, and restore your kingship to this Church you established.
    Make your House of Prayer worthy once again.

  13. I have no ability, let alone interest, in examining her motives. But from the words she has written, she seems to see religion as a strictly immanent experience. Yes, she mentions beauty, but, it seems to be a faith entirely rooted in this life, this world.

    I hope she comes to the point where she decides to express a willingness to be taught on the doctrine she rejects as opposed to viewing herself as an agent of changing it.

    I also think her parents’ divorce affects her more than she lets on. It’s a lesson that you can preach doctrine all you like, but if you can’t or won’t live it, it won’t take root in your children.

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