In today’s hyper-aggressive media culture where nearly every story or person is presented as a binary option without nuance, some Catholics find themselves disagreeing with reports of what Pope Francis has said in certain instances. What should a Catholic do if they find themselves disagreeing with the Pope?
Watch Brian Holdsworth’s video commentary on his thoughts of dealing with finding himself disagreeing with the Pope…
I became a Catholic right around the time Pope Benedict XVI was elected and one of the most frustrating experiences for me as a new Catholic was the media’s consistent portrayal of him in ways that were fairly inaccurate.
For Benedict, they saw him as a conservative and so whatever they reported about him was an attempt to reinforce that interpretation. And Catholics like me, I think, rightly complained about this constant portrayal or Benedict and the Church for how inaccurate it usually was.
Unsurprisingly, the same thing happened when Francis was elected but on the opposite end of the spectrum. He was cast as a liberal and if you are a casual observer of news coverage, you’d have no reason to think that he was anything but a champion of the left.
At first, the same Catholics that laboured to correct deceptive coverage of Benedict would often jump at the opportunity to correct the inaccuracies about Francis and produce the appropriate context that the media neglected to balance out their one-sided portrayal.
But after a while, it seemed like those voices grew silent while a new trend of subtle criticism and even hostility towards Pope Francis began to emerge in certain corners of Catholic Media.
So, where this became a more relevant concern for me was in my own surprising experience of finding myself disagreeing with the Pope. The more headlines I read, the more I couldn’t help but be influenced by that constant one sided portrayal.
Take for example his recent comments that equated wasting food with stealing food right off of the table of impoverished people.
To compare the accidental mismanagement of food resources that can occur from trying to keep a family of children fed to maliciously stealing from people who are already destitute seemed like it was unbelievably sophistic and hurtful to those of us that are trying our best.
So, in an attempt to gain some perspective, I’ve started to do my best to go back and read actual statements that he’s made in their proper context as well as to listen to the common complaints that are being made against him by his critics to see if they truly measure up.
One of the more common complaints about Pope Francis, among his critics, is that he lacks clarity when he speaks. The claim is that if he spoke with more definitive precision, there would be less confusion and diversity in interpretation which can lead to the spreading of misinformation.
It seems like they want every statement from the Pope to be entirely without the possibility of differing interpretation. As I thought about it, I realized that if we held Jesus to that same standard, we would have likely found ourselves on the wrong side of that story.
We modern Catholics benefit from generations of theological clarification of everything that Jesus said so we’re used to a lack of ambiguity, but the people that heard Jesus preach did not have that same benefit and Jesus said all kinds of things that were ambiguous and open to interpretation.
Jesus’ own disciples even questioned him about his use of parables as a teaching mechanism and he replied by quoting Isaiah saying that the hearts of the people are calloused and they do not hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. I think Jesus is pointing out that we have to encounter the mysteries of God with our hearts as much as our minds.
Jesus used metaphorical and poetic language often and he even used hyperbole to exaggerate or emphasize his point. He said things like, “among those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist.” Taken literally, we’d have to assume that John was greater than Jesus.
If using exact language to avoid confusion is what we expect from our religious leaders, then I think we’re in the wrong religion because the guy who started it all didn’t seem to agree with that notion.
In my experience of finding myself disagreeing with Pope Francis, I’ve decided to respond in a few ways. The first is to not jump to conclusions about headlines framed by secular media. The second thing is to give him the benefit of the doubt. Too many people are jumping to the worst possible interpretation of the things he says. Lastly, I’m learning to accept that there is room for disagreement and diversity under the umbrella of orthodoxy.
At the end of the day, even if I disagree with Pope Francis about a few things, I’m certain that I agree with him on the majority of things. That should be a good enough reason for me to consider myself on his side.
Oh God my Father, please let this July 2018 be a month of testimony for my family. Father Lord let us be approved oh Lord! Please Lord grant us your favours and graces. Let this be a month of our breakthrough oh Lord. Please remove every delay and obstacles to our blessing oh Lord. Oh Lord please show us mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Please Father also grant eternal rest to the faithful departed especially my grand parents.
Thank YOU Lord because I know you will answer me.
Well written piece. I saw the Pope Francis movie “A Man of His Word” and there was the Holy Father tell you to your face what he believes. The challenges that face our world and his belief about what we must do to overcome them. We are blessed to have Francis, who leads not just by his words but by his example. His choice of the papal name Francis is not just symbolic, he walks the walk. Going back to being a bishop in Argentina he live in a rectory and took the bus. Pope Francis has refused all of the trappings of his office, he lives in a hotel for Vatican visitors instead of the papal apartment and is driven around in a tiny Fiat instead of the “Popemobile”. He is a man of integrity. I agree that we need to give him the benefit of the doubt and question media interpretations.
Thanks for your comment, you hit the problem on the head.
Pope Francis is not Jesus. He should always and only be about making sure that Jesus’ teachings are clear. If I wanted ambiguity, I would become protestant.
It’s not so much what he says, but the actions he takes that are truly disturbing, which look to be designed to water down the Faith so that it eventually disappears. I won’t accept it.
[…] DiNardo: Roe v. Wade Is No Litmus Test for Supreme Court Justices – CNA/EWTN News via NC Reg What Happens When You Find Yourself Disagreeing with Pope Francis? – uCatholic The Good Guys Win One – Donald R. McClarey J.D., The American Catholic […]
It’s his friends that worry me. Particularly Cardinal Danieels.
The institutional part of the Church, the bit that Francis runs, is no longer Catholic. Ot maintains very little continuity wit the Church of the ages. Aquinas would not recognise it.
Those of us who maintain incontinuity with Tradition are the visible Church remnant.
We are reliving the Babylonian exile (spiritually).
Sorry, I couldn’t disagree with this article any more than I do. Oh, how I long for a pope who leads his sheep with the truth. This one celebrated the reformation with Protestants, praised Italian abortionist Boninio, is suppressing contemplative orders of nuns, welcomes communists etc. Oh, dear, I could go on. God bless and Viva Cristo Rey!
…and what about…
The rigged Synods
The St Galens Mafia
His Holiness’ chasing off a woman who complained about her son’s molestation when he was archbishop
The fact that he surrounds himself with sodomites
The fact that he surrounds himself with communists
The fact that he aligns himself politically with all the causes touted by the elitist One World UN clique (global warming, mass migration, wealth redistribution, borderless nations…)
This is apostasy. Everywhere is deception, intrigue, lies and scandal.
Our Lady of Fatima ora pro nobis!
I cannot remember the last time this pope issued an encyclical instructing the faithful on Catholic morals and beliefs.
However he or his close advisors seem to issue New versions of the communist manifesto most weeks.
Is it me ?
A new catholic babe. Welcome. If you had lived the last 50 years in the church striving to be Catholic you would understand much better the battles the laity, the church militant have been fighting. Better put on your armor. Your going to need it.
Francis is a disaster. He either speaks without thinking about what it is he wants to say, or he fails to pay attention to what the more sensible of his advisers have told him to say, or he speaks with a studied ambiguity. He’s well aware that a studied ambiguity protects him against the charge of formal heresy, that is why he uses it. He mixes a little error with lots of truth, that is his method, it’s a drip, drip feed of poison. While Our Lord spoke in parables he often explained them or demonstrated the same with his actions and we have had the Tradition of the Church and over 2000 years of the Holy Spirit to clarify and confirm the Truth. It is not for Bergoglio to abuse us with his studied ambiguity, it is his role to defend the Tradition, not to try to add or detract from the Deposit of Faith. I look forward to the next Pope to correct everything malignant that has been taught so subtly so far. And please, Francis,don’t meddle in politics about migrants and such like and climate change and refer to such pagan things as ‘Mother Earth’ (we have three mothers, not four), these are outside of your competencies even if they are pet personal interests – just teach the Faith of our fathers, restore the Liturgy, and leave it at that