PopeWatch: Bear Growls: Martin Luther



Our bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear asks an interesting question.  Who is the better insult slinger:  Pope Francis or the Mouth from Wittenberg:  Martin Luther?


Champion of Insults: Pope Francis or Martin Luther?

Background and Fighters

When it comes to Christians slinging insults, two heavyweights come to mind. First, of course, is the reigning heavyweight champion of the sour science of insult. The Bear gives you the pride of Saxony, the Heresiarch of Haymakers, the Raging Bull himself: Maaaaartin Luuuuuther!

And in this corner, a real up-and-comer, and a big surprise, the Pontiff of Punching, the Argentine Bombshell, and you know what’s coming! The Bear can only mean: Horhaaaaay Bergoliooooo! The 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church!

Luther started the Reformation in 1517, which split the Church under Bergoglio’s predecessor, Pope Leo X. Although the two camps have tried to keep the smack talk dialed down lately, you just have to know this is a 500-year-old grudge match.

Will Luther keep the title he’s held onto for half a millennium? Or will the antipodean upstart pull an upset? There are no rules, and low blows are encouraged. So let’s watch the Pope and the Heresiarch go head to head to find out who is the more insulting. The two fighters will square off over ten rounds, each with a different theme.

1. Johnny, Take That Out of Your Mouth!

Pope Francis: “Formenter of coprophagia!”

Martin Luther: “You are like a magician who conjures gulden into the mouths of silly people. But when they open their mouths, they have horse (dung) in them!”

Bear — the two statements are similar, but Luther’s earthy clarity beats the Pope’s spectacular display of vocabulary. Round One: LUTHER.

2. Say Again?
Pope Francis: “Self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagian!”
Martin Luther:  “You sophistic worms, grasshoppers, locusts and lice!”
Bear — here the Pope’s vocabulary dazzles, even if nobody understands it! Luther already looks tired in this round. Round Two: POPE FRANCIS.
3. Animal Crackers
Pope Francis: “Creed-reciting Parrot Christian!”
Martin Luther: “For you are an excellent person, as skillful, clever and versed in Holy Scripture as a cow in a walnut tree or a sow on a harp!”
Bear — Wow! What a comeback. Pope Francis is clever, funny, and right on target, but Luther’s humorous and memorable imagery demonstrates why he’s the champ. Round Three: LUTHER.
4. A Few Beads Short of a Rosary
Pope Francis: “Sloth-diseased, acedic Christians!”
Martin Luther: “You people are more stupid than a block of wood!”
Bear — Pope Francis may be getting a little cocky. He sounds like a doctor, here, and falls back into his tendency to use jargon that lacks impact. On the other hand, Luther connects with the simplest insult imaginable, but good enough to put the Pope on his heels. Round Four: LUTHER.
5. Prelates
Pope Francis: “Airport bishops!”
Martin Luther: “As for the signs of your peculiar priesthood, we are willing to let you boast of these mean things, for we know it would be quite easy to have, anoint and clothe in a long robe even a pig or a blog of wood!”
Bear — Here we see the difference. Pope Francis lands a popping jab that’s effective. But Luther just overwhelms him with an impressive combination relying once again on concrete, humorous imagery. He even slips that “block of wood” punch in again. Round Five: LUTHER.
6. Wings
Pope Francis: “There are Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord!”
Martin Luther: “You are a bungling magpie, croaking loudly!”
Bear — This one comes down to bat vs. magpie. The judges are going with bat! Round Six: POPE FRANCIS.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch is going to loyally stick up for Pope Francis as the greater insulter.  Who can forget his closing address to the Synod where he packed these gems in a very brief speech:
It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others.
It was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.
It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints,
In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways
 It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16).
You see, in order to be a champion insulter you cannot merely be an eloquent insulter.  You must always be willing to insult on the most solemn occasions and not care how your words wound and divide.  You must be willing to allow your bile to always freely flow so that those around you are always on pins and needles, waiting for your latest outburst. It is especially good form to allow insults to fly against those who are looking to the insulter for moral guidance and example.  This brings into stark relief the willingness of the insulter to sacrifice all other considerations for the purity of the insulting art.
Taking these factors into consideration, Martin Luther was a mere insult piker in comparison to our Pope, the true master of malice!

More to explorer


  1. Malice his harder to judge, but a straight-up insult contest is doable! I will say this for Luther. At least he saved his insults for his enemies, not his followers!

  2. ….And the third and last element: staying with the flock. I am referring to stability which has two precise aspects: “staying” in the diocese and staying in “this” diocese, as I said, without seeking change or promotion. As pastors it is impossible to know your flock really well — walking in front of it, in its midst and behind it, caring for it with your teaching, with the administration of the sacraments and with the testimony of your life — unless you remain in your diocese. In this Trent is very up to date: residence. Ours is a time in which we can travel and move from one place to another easily, a time when communications are rapid, the epoch of the internet. However the old law of residence is not out of fashion! It is necessary for good pastoral government (Directory Apostolorum Successores n. 161). Of course, concern for other Churches and for the universal Church can take you from your diocese, but let it be only for the time that is strictly necessary and not a regular practice. You see, residence is not only required for the purpose of good organization, it is not a functional element; it has a theological root! You are bridegrooms of your community, deeply bound to it! I ask you, please remain among your people. Stay, stay…. Steer clear of the scandal of being “airport bishops”! Be welcoming pastors, journeying on with your people, with affection, with mercy, treating them with gentleness and fatherly firmness, with humility and discretion. And may you also be able to see your own limitations and have a large dose of good humour. This is a grace we bishops must ask for. We must all ask for this grace: Lord, give me a sense of humour. Finding the way to laugh at oneself first is part of it. And stay with your flock!


    Thursday, 19 September 2013


    Why are we supposed to be upset that he said that?

  3. I mean, I understand the feelings of frustration, and Francis does seem to be too humorless a person to be talking about the value of a sense of humor, but look at what he did there. He gave sound pastoral advice to new bishops. Not “pastoral” in a negative sense, as a euphemism for doctrinal weakness. This was Trent. This was Borromeo and Bellarmine stuff. He wasn’t badmouthing individuals, but giving the people under his care sound warnings. We’d be praising, say, Pope Benedict if he’d said this.

  4. Looking these over further, it looks like in every one of the cases, the Pope was talking about tendencies, but Luther was talking against individuals.

  5. “Talking about tendencies” vs. “talking about individuals” is some mighty fine parsing. How about “tendencies of individuals?” And Luther usually filed broadsides, and didn’t snipe at individuals.

    The Bear stands by his characterization of Pope Francis’ quotes as insulting language, moreover directed at fellow Catholics! Are you seriously saying his comments represent sound pastoral advice?

    But you bring up another excellent point about Pope Francis, He is often sharply critical — even insulting — without identifying his target. Who are “fundamentalists” — a Francis favorite?

    What it comes down to is that if your style of Catholicism, or your psychology, is not of the giddy type; if you disagree with his style (and that’s what we’re often talking about, apparently) you are the Bat Christian, the Museum Mummy, etc. If you disagree with his program (that he ever so carefully manages in secret) then you are the Promethean Neo-Pelagian. And dare not criticize, or you may be a Fomenter of Coprophagia, or Terrorist. Can you honestly imagine Joseph Ratzinger calling people fomenters of coprophagia?

    Seriously, who talks like this? How is this remotely edifying?

  6. Each of the Luther quotes begins with or includes “you”. They’re personal.

    In the first example, Francis was referring to the scandal-driven mentality of Vatican press coverage, not to his own critics. (He was a not-very-prominent cardinal at the time.) In the fifth example, he wasn’t talking to his critics, but to new bishops, and yes, I can imagine other popes and saints talking that way.

    I couldn’t figure out who the second one referred to from a review of the context.

    The third one doesn’t seem to be a quote, but I gather was in reference to this portion of his sermon on January 10, 2014:

    “Faith means confessing God – the God who revealed Himself to us, from the time of our fathers down to the present: the God of history. This we recite each day in the Creed – but it is one thing to recite the Creed heartily, and another [merely] to parrot it, no? I believe, I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe – but do I believe what I am saying? Is this a true confession of faith or is it something I says somehow by rote, because it is [the thing to say]? Do I believe only halfway? Confess the Faith! All of it, not part of it! Safeguard this faith, as it came to us, by way of tradition: the whole Faith! And how may I know that I confess the Faith well? There is a sign: he, who confesses the faith well – the whole Faith – has the capacity to worship God.”

    Isn’t that exactly what we on this site have been calling for: him to call people to belief in the whole of the Faith and worship of God? Likewise, the fourth seems to be a reference to his sermon from January 4th of the same year. This one is also targeted at Catholics, but it doesn’t strike me as unfair. In the sixth one, he said that he was being facetious.

  7. Well, Pope Francis did lose, so perhaps the European Insult Commission judges agreed that they weren’t insults at all. The Bear just provided a little commentary to the matchup. Perhaps if you belonged to the insulted class, you would feel the sting a bit more. It’s easy to dismiss the stone not thrown at your head.

  8. I am a devout, “conservative” Catholic, and while I feel like the pope has tossed a few stones at me over the years, that doesn’t mean that every stone he’s ever tossed has been aimed at me. What stings more than a couple of stone hits is that orthodox people don’t trust him, and treat every statement of his as an attack against themselves. For my part, even if the pope were the devil, I’d rest my head against his chest…and grumble about it, but only because I’m an ungrateful jerk at heart.

  9. “What stings more than a couple of stone hits is that orthodox people don’t trust him,”

    Other than his office Pinky, what actions of his, or words for that matter, would give orthodox Catholics reason to trust him? I can point to many actions and words of this Pontiff which would support a distinct lack of trust by orthodox Catholics.

  10. To trust him to be incapable of proclaiming doctrinal error, 100%. That comes with the office. To trust that he’s actually the pope, 100%. Beyond that, should a faithful Catholic ever think in terms of trust or distrust of a pope? Isn’t that more characteristic of a modern us-versus-them internet score-keeping mentality?

  11. And as for why we should trust him, take a look at the passages I quoted earlier. In at least two of the six statements the original article referred to in a negative way, there were sections that an orthodox believer would love to hear that the pope was saying. “Confess the Faith! All of it, not part of it!” Bishops: follow the teachings of Trent and stay in our diocese!

  12. “To trust him to be incapable of proclaiming doctrinal error, 100%. That comes with the office.”

    Well, we’ll find out about that soon enough won’t we? A handful of prior Popes have come perilously close to heresy, or skated over the line briefly, and I would not bet even a small sum that Pope Francis may not be in their number.

    “To trust that he’s actually the pope, 100%.”

    I quite agree. There would be no problem if he was not.

    “Beyond that, should a faithful Catholic ever think in terms of trust or distrust of a pope?”

    On occasion, based upon history, sure. For example, the word of Alexander VI wasn’t worth spit. Popes have engaged in actions that I think few would defend today against faithful Catholics, including the destruction of the Templars, the suppression of the Jesuits, to the persecution today of the Friars of the Immaculate. Popes are the Vicars of Christ, they are not Christ, and they are fully capable of engaging in actions that are wrong-headed, duplicitous and damaging to the Faith.

  13. “Read this homily and tell me what you distrust about it.”

    The Pope is always about dividing Catholics into the sheep and the goats. This homily has to be read in pari materia with others that he has given including this recent gem:

    “The attitude of Christ is to include

    In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorts us not to judge and not to despise our brothers, because, the Pope said, this leads to excluding them from “our little group,” to being selective, and this is not Christian.” Christ, in fact, “with His sacrifice on Calvary” unites and includes “all men in salvation.” In the Gospel, publicans and sinners draw near to Jesus – “that is, the excluded, all those that were outside,” – and “the Pharisees and the scribes complained”:

    “The attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees is the same, they exclude. [They say,] ‘We are the perfect, we follow the law. These people are sinners, they are publicans’; and the attitude of Jesus is to include. There are two paths in life: the path exclusion of persons from our community and the path of inclusion. The first can be little but is the root of all wars: all calamities, all wars, begin with an exclusion. One is excluded from the international community, but also from families, from friends – How many fights there are! – and the path that makes us see Jesus and teaches us Jesus is quite another, it is contrary to the other: to include.”

    There is resistance in the face of inclusion

    “It is not easy to include the people,” Pope Francis said, “because there is resistance, there is that selective attitude.” For this reason, Jesus tells two parables: the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the woman and the lost coin. Both the shepherd and the woman will do anything to find what they have lost, and when they find it, they are full of joy:

    “They are full of joy because they have found what was lost and they go to their neighbours, their friends, because they are so happy: ‘I found, I included.’ This is the ‘including’ of God, against the exclusion of those who judge, who drive away people, persons: ‘No, no to this, no to that, no to that…’; and a little of circle of friends is created, which is their environment. It is a dialectic between exclusion and inclusion. God has included us all in salvation, all! This is the beginning. We with our weaknesses, with our sins, with our envy, jealousies, we all have this attitude of excluding which – as I said – can end in wars.”

    If I exclude, I will one day stand before the tribunal of God

    Jesus, the Pope said, acts like His Father, Who sent Him to save us; “He seeks to include us,” “to be a family.”

    “We think a little bit, and at least – at least! – we do our little part, we never judge: ‘But this one has acted in this way…’ But God knows: it is his life, but I don’t exclude him from my heart, from my prayer, from my greeting, from my smile, and if the occasion arises I say a good word to him. Never excluding, we have no right! And how Paul finishes the Letter: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.’ If I exclude I will one day stand before the judgment seat of God, I will have to give an account of myself to God. Let us ask the grace of being men and women who always include, always, always! in the measure of healthy prudence, but always. Not closing the doors to anyone, always with an open heart: ‘It pleases me, it displeases me,’ but the heart is open. May the Lord grant us this grace.””


    The sickening thing about this tripe is that the Pope condemns as Pharisees Catholics seeking to uphold the teaching of Christ on marriage while the Pope has been doing his worst to undermine that teaching. Catholics that think like the Pope are in his view the sheep, Heaven bound, while Catholics who have the temerity to recall the words of Christ are goats, Hell bound.

  14. What is more likely to happen is that Luther, the foul-mouthed anti-Semite Deformer, who created “Bible alone” AFTER he changed it, and the Roman Pontiff will both be a pair of heels in a pro wrestling match. They could compete together for the World Tag Team Championships.

    They could wrestle the tag teams of Lenin and Trotsky, or Robespierre and Napoleon, or Henry Tudor and Oliver Cromwell. Probably, Stalin, Cramner or some other historical nitwit (Calvin?) would interfere in the ring, throwing in a folding chair and smacking everyone in the head.

    Which reminds me…I haven’t checked Epic Rap Battles of History lately.

  15. Popes are the Vicars of Christ, they are not Christ, and they are fully capable of engaging in actions that are wrong-headed, duplicitous and damaging to the Faith.

    Damaging to the institutional church and the faith of individual believers, not the Faith. “In almost 2000 years, no Pope has taught Error.” As a past pastor at the parish I belong to was fond of saying. Maybe that’s an insufficient definition of Infallibility.

  16. “Confess the faith!” “All of it, not part of it!” If only this pope took his own advice. In your next column, Bear, please go through the appalling hypocrisy of this pope. Maybe start with his statement that violence never conquers violence. A statement he made, of course, from behind the Vatican walls and protected by armed Swiss Guards. A statement he made when the plight of the Yazidis drew a request for military intervention by the west.

  17. I re-read the post and the comments, and saw this phrase which had not struck me before:
    “fomenters of coprophagia”
    So the Pope is saying orthodox traditionalist conservative Catholics promote the growth or development of eating feces.
    Maybe the Pope needs to stop excreting feces onto his followers.

  18. is there any rational man that believes this shepherd speaks to his flock with clarity? isn’t that the prime role of a shepherd? His sheep are supposed to know his voice and he knows theirs…
    Confusion, is not the stuff of good shepherds.

  19. Not necessarily. Infallibility is hedged in with several requirements. It is arguable that Pope Honorius was not writing infallibly at the time. Of course this highlights Newman’s contention that those who wished to assume that a Pope was always speaking and writing infallibly were the true enemies of the doctrine, since popes not infrequently contradict predecessors when not speaking or writing infallibly.

  20. The priest who was fond of saying that no Pope had taught error was an escapee from the lawmines. So I suspect that taught is the key word here.

  21. Paul – Cardinal Bergoglio was talking about the Vatican press corps at the time. Not everything the man has said over his lifetime has been directed at conservative Catholics.

  22. I shut all considerations of this “whom-am-I-to-judge” hypocrit in practicing my Catholic faith. I cannot think of this man any more. All that’s left to do is wait for God to handle. Which He will.

  23. The 500th year after 1517 will soon be here. Yet can even 1 in 100 Catholic Christian catechists explain Luther’s errors and refute the Luther’s arguments for his heresies?

    Hey, bishops, don’t let 2017 sneak up on you and your diocese. Bishop of Rome, take special note.

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