The problem, in a nutshell…

…is not that a satire website quotes the pope as saying that hell does not exist and that all religions are equally true at the end of the Third Vatican Council.  It’s that Catholics who ought to know better take such silly things seriously and panic about them.

The New Testament speaks to believers and tells us to wean ourselves off milk and learn to eat meat.  One way to do that is to learn to discern wheat from chaff in cyberspace and not buy every stray rumor about a supposed “radical change” in Church teaching every time a FB meme shows up in our news feed.  The pope is not going to and cannot “abolish hell”.  He can’t declare all religions equal.  He’s not going to say the Eucharist is merely a symbol or that original sin is old hat.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  The brave cadre of Catholic apologists like Jimmy Akin out there answering questions are doing a vital and necessary work.  But it should not have to be Jimmy’s job to have to perpetually calm jitters everytime some fresh meme “quotes” the Pope announcing something obviously ridiculous or anti-Catholic.  We Catholics should be able to educate ourselves (and, what is more important, strengthen our faith) so that our first thought is not “So Francis has finally betrayed the faith as I feared he would” but “Why believe this is real?  Why trust this this accurate? Show me the documentation. And if a seemingly troubling quote does turn out to be genuine, what does the pope really mean and how does it comport with orthodoxy?”  We can save ourselves a huge amount of worry if we will simply begin with the reality that the pope is, you know, the pope and will not be teaching anything heterodox.  Then we can begin the fruitful train of thought, “If this is challenging to me, what is it that I need to learn from it?”

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  • HornOrSilk

    When they talk about “Vatican III” Catholics should know it is fake. However, many sites have claimed this from Popes since Pope JPII, often taking the Pope out of context and ignoring what the Pope has said (often discussion of hell as a state and not a literal place of fire and brimstone under the earth has been used to say the Pope declares no one in hell). It’s sad people don’t “get it.”

    • Rosemarie


      Yeah, the “Vatican III” thing should have been a dead giveaway. That’s what I thought when I read the whole ham-fisted “satire.”

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Yes, my thought on this is that what is being shown up is a real incapacity for simple discernment. AKA, a stunning lack of common sense and basic critical reasoning.
    People are turning around, then, and giving Jimmy Akin a hard time for doing all these ‘what did the Pope really say’ columns, as if it proves how horrible the Pope is that he has to do that. But really, it proves how horrible we are, since we cannot be bothered to spend the five minutes it takes to actually find out what the Pope said, or if he said it at all, or what he actually said really means in light of our shared Catholic faith.

    • Rosemarie


      Agreed. Also, it may reveal that some Catholics are expecting the worst from this pope. So when they read some outrageous alleged quote attributed to him, their first thought is, “I knew it! He’s a heretic!” rather than “Wait, that doesn’t sound right, what’s the source? Let me fact-check that at the Vatican website.”

      I’m not saying that everyone who dislikes Pope Francis has such a knee-jerk tendency to believe anything bad about him. But some do, as I’ve seen on Facebook.

    • $2346491

      I do agree that this hysterical paranoia is ridiculous. However, Jimmy Akin is glossing over and trying to make some real changes with Francis go away. His column concerning Francis’ remarks about the children of gay couples attending Catholic schools seemed hypocritical to me because Akin was defending parochial schools’ right to kick such children out of schools and especially Chaputs’ decision about three years ago. I would have liked for him to acknowledge his previous stand on this and say whether he still agrees with it or has changed his mind. I agree with Francis that it would be horrible to kick these children out of school, but Akin has argued in favor of kicking the kids out in the past.

    • Francisco J Castellanos

      This reminds me of an article that appeared at “The Onion” a few years back with the title “Harry Potter Books Spark Rise In Satanism Among Children.” It was later repeated and disseminated as a real report by many Christians. I remember receiving chain e mails from Catholic friends and family together with ominous “I told you so!” warnings.
      Hum… maybe Pope Francis likes Harry Potter, that’s why he is abolishing Hell. I knew it was a judeo-masonic plot all along.

      • wlinden

        Well, remember that Benedict both “condemned Harry Potter” and “endorsed Harry Potter” (in the capacity of the TheVatican hive mind.)

  • wlinden

    I thought it was the kneejerk anti-Christian “liberals” who took it seriously. They were the ones repeatedly posting it.

    • Rosemarie


      At first. Then some orthodox Catholics picked up on it. At least one guy on Facebook demanded that Jimmy Akin “Explain this!”. That must be why Akin posted a refutation of the “satire”; some Catholics were really being taken in by it.

      • Which makes you wonder how many of the seemingly “orthodox” Catholics are really that orthodox.
        There, I freakin said it.

  • Stu

    “But it should not have to be Jimmy’s job to have to perpetually calm jitters everytime some fresh meme “quotes” the Pope announcing something obviously ridiculous or anti-Catholic. ”

    Maybe not. But it always will be and that is reality. I had a Captain once who was a big screamer to Queeg-like proportions. He would rant about how he always had to fix this and that and correct people and other such things. I pointed out to him that if the crew always did everything right, then there would be no need for us as they would just perform when needed.

    Not everyone is capable of educating themselves (even the eunuch needed Philip) and often they either misunderstand or “have baggage” that sometime clouds their thinking a bit on things. Whether it is liberal or conservative who runs to wild conclusions about “what the Pope said” or a self-identified “capitalist” who has a limited view of the economy then we are called to help out AND in a charitable manner.

    After all, if that wasn’t the case then there would be no need for apologists to write books or blog or whatever.

    • Rosemarie


      I’ll admit, I’ve been a little impatient with people who don’t educate themselves. I mean, we’re all on the Internet; it would not take five minutes to visit and find that the bogus quote is not there. Yet I think you’re right about the “baggage,” in a post above I mentioned something about that. That could also explain some otherwise inexplicable attitudes toward the Holy Father.

      • Linebyline

        Problem is, it only takes thirty seconds to find loads and loads of crap on the Internet. There’s more bad information in the universe than hydrogen. The only ones who’ll last the five minutes it takes to find good information are the ones who already know what’s good information and what’s not. The problem with *that* is it’s ultimately just confirmation bias in action. An impartial but uninformed observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between someone skipping over nonsense to find good information and someone skipping over good information to find nonsense that they happen to agree with.

        • Rosemarie


          I basically agree with you, which is why I prefer to think of the Internet as the “misinformation superhighway.” Unfortunately, that moniker fits just as well as “information superhighway,” if not better.

          One way to avoid most of the bad information, however, is to go to the most reliable source, especially a firsthand source. When it comes to papal statements, the Vatican website is the most reliable, though even that’s not perfect (they did first post and then remove the Scalfari interview). Yet it’s still the best place to go for things like, oh, I don’t know, confirming whether or not an Ecumenical Council has been going on under everyone’s noses for the past half-a-year (of course it hasn’t). Or finding out what the pope really believes about hell or abortion or stuff like that.

          If everyone who read that lousy “satire” piece had just done a search for it on the Vatican website, they would have not found any of that nonsense there. It doesn’t take much time to do a search there.

          (FYI, another good site for this kind of thing is – the official Vatican news agency.)

          • Linebyline

            Yeah, official primary sources can be good ways to cut through the crap. Of course, you have to trust that the Church wouldn’t hold an ecumenical council without telling anyone, but that’s reasonably

            I also find that Wikipedia can be (*can* be, not necessarily *is*) reasonably balanced, or at least reasonably good at pointing out when it isn’t balanced, when it comes to subjects that get a lot of attention. I expect that this is because it’s a community of people with varying views and biases who, by and large, all came together for the common goal of making a comprehensive encyclopedia, rather than telling everyone why POV x is *obviously* right/wrong. If nothing else, hitting up a wikipedia article and then clicking through to its citations is better than just googling what you’re interested in and clicking the first thing that pops up.

            Problem is, too many people literally don’t even know that there is another way to use the Internet than googling something and clicking the first link that catches their eye. I recall a story a couple years ago about a popular blog that wrote a post about Facebook and got a bunch of angry comments about people who couldn’t figure out how to log in, all from people who just typed “Facebook” into a search engine and clicked the first link without even reading it.

            • Rosemarie


              I don’t see how the Church could hold an ecumenical council without telling anyone. Sneak all the bishops in the world to Rome and keep them there for years on end? I think some Catholics would notice before long that their local bishops have been mysteriously missing without a trace for a while. It couldn’t stay secret for too long.

              As for Wikipedia, it’s a mixed bag. Sometimes I like to read the “Talk” section for an article just to see what kind of objections people raise to its contents.

              • HornOrSilk

                Captain Kirk used the Enterprise to beam them up and make them talk, apparently…

              • $2346491

                To me, the fact that people actually believed that there was a Third Vatican Council is beyond me. This would have been big news. However, there are Americans who still don’t know about Obamacare and the fact that they are required to purchase health insurance.

              • Linebyline

                Agreed. That said, people would have to have some clue what an ecumenical council actually is before that bit of common sense would kick in.

  • AnsonEddy

    If the sheep cannot pick out the sound of the shepherd’s voice, it may not just be the fault of the sheep.

    • No, but it is a fault IN the sheep (including those sheep who are also shepherds). It is less important to assign blame than it is to correct the fault. Such correction begins with oneself and those within one’s reach.

      • AnsonEddy

        The problem is one of relationship. It is not that one person is failing and that another is succeeding. That’s not really how relationships work.

        • But there is no fault in the relationship on the part of The Shepherd. His Voice is ever present. God needs no correction or healing.

          We sheep, on the other hand, do need healing, correction, rehabilitation, and discipline. We need, among other things, healing and growth in our ability to discern God’s voice among all the noises of the world.

          • AnsonEddy

            Sigh. I’m really not that interested in pursuing this with you, particularly now that you are dissembling on the identity of the shepherd. Yes. God is the Shepherd. But in your earlier post you acknowledged that there are intermediary shepherds as well.

            • I am not dissembling. (The bishops’ voices are never the voice we are listening FOR; rather, we listen for the Voice of God in what they say, hence the need for discernment.)

              I am, perhaps, getting distracted. I took your original comment as implying that the bishops (and the pope in particular) was to blame for the confusion. My objection was to blaming the bishops and, by implication, leaving the rest of us off the hook.

              On a second read, you also seem to be emphasizing that we all have a role to play in communication breakdowns. I apologize if I have misunderstood you.

          • Stu

            Anson is correct. Communication is a two way street. Even Aristotle recognized this.


            • Yes, communication is a two-way street; but that does not mean that the problem in communication always is distributed among all parties.

              Now, among humans, who are by nature finite, communication always requires adaptation on everyone’s part. But God is infinite, unchanging, and perfect by nature. His act of communication, by definition, is perfect and infinite.

              This is why I insist that there is a fault in the sheep, but not in The Shepherd.

              • Stu

                I don’t think anyone here would assert that there is any fault in THE Shepherd (Capital “S”). I think the assertion is that there may be some fault in the shepherds (small “s”) who are also “sheep”.

    • BillyT92679

      Or it certainly might be.

    • $2346491

      Perhaps we shouldn’t believe everything that we read on the Internets.. m’kay?

      • Stu

        Indeed. But it happens to everyone. Even our host can attest to that.

        • $2346491

          The emails that your friends forward you shouldn’t be believed.

          • Stu

            You know my friends?

      • AnsonEddy

        An admonishment on the internet not to believe stuff on the internet. Very meta. Makes my head go all asplodey! (BTW – I didn’t believe it. I’d have been pretty embarassed not to recognize the linked piece as satire.)

  • It’s kinda amusing: I see posts like this and I go “now you guys realize why I have little love for the status quo of catholicism and I am a traditionalist.”

    Todays parishes have turned out the kind of people who believe those Francis memes. Many (but not all) of Catholic commentators and apologists defend that status quo. Some even try to say if you aren’t sending your kids to Catholic schools that clearly aren’t teaching the faith since they believe these dumb things, you aren’t being a good Catholic.

    I know my side of the fence has a lot of bad apples and things we really haven’t thought through, but is what we represent really worse than the status quo of Catholicism today?

    • Rosemarie


      Well, the status quo of Catholicism has produced a lot of Catholics who are badly catechetized and so don’t know the Faith. Some of them take the time to learn the Faith on their own, which though not ideal is better than nothing. Yet one possible pitfall of that is that they could become spiritual loners, so to speak, used to figuring out the Truth for themselves rather than receiving it in the context of a community, a tradition, a religious and even cultural heritage, (such as exists in Catholic cultures and among first generation immigrants from such cultures).

      So when faced with a pope saying things they’re not used to hearing, they try to independently judge whether he’s teaching true Catholicism, the way they independently taught themselves the Faith. Catholicism becomes too much of a private endeavor, cut off from a vital community. The Internet doesn’t help; besides providing a blizzard of information and misinformation about the pope and everything Catholic, it also creates a false substitute for Catholic community which we can easily mistake for the real thing, but which leaves us isolated in the end (yes, I have three fingers pointing back at me right now 🙂 ).

      As for traditionalists, many of them grew up in the same poor catechetical status quo and learned and argued their way into traditionalism, no? And some from your side of the fence are among the orthodox Catholics who are tripping over Pope Francis right now (along with some non-trad orthodox Catholics, of course – neither “side of the fence” has been unaffected by this shaking). If today’s parishes have turned out the kind of people who believe those Francis memes, so have some segments of traditionalism. The traditionalist movement is not entirely removed from the status quo of Catholicism, rather it is partially formed by it.

      (EDIT: In fact, I think that some of the reaction to Pope Francis may be due to past bad experiences with progressive bishops, which traditionalists often report. Catholics who were burned by the actions of their local bishop in the past may unconsciously project their feelings toward that bishop onto the present Pope, fearing that he’s the same type of prelate. When they see him, it’s as though they see their former bishop, only now he’s wearing a white cassock and the Fisherman’s Ring. I could be wrong, but that’s what I surmise.)

      I also think that politics has a lot to do with it. If Pope Francis didn’t make statements that touch on political issues (which he has absolutely every right to do), I don’t think we’d see as much opposition to him as we do from otherwise faithful Catholics. And no, that’s not his fault, that’s our fault for failing to make a clear distinction between the teachings of the Church and the tenets of 21st century American conservatism. We’ve let the latter inform our faith and morals too much; they’re now so entangled that we have trouble teasing the two apart.

      As for Catholic schools, I’m a homeschooler who had a bad experience in a Catholic school years ago, so I’m not among those endorsing them.

      • Oh no doubt we got issues. I’ve spent time chronicling and fighting those issues more than most. I don’t mean firing off an angry blog post, but going in on the personal level and doing my best to get them to knock it off or at least shut up.

        It’s just that all too often (and sometimes when Shea gets in his moods he still does this) trads are painted as being fundamentally different than everyone else, when this latest experience should show we really aren’t. I wasn’t saying you in particular. More often than not, you handle things in a balanced way. Better than Jim Scott in his glory days that’s for sure. 😉

        I think your diagnosis is correct, and honestly Rosemarie, it’s one of the best I’ve heard for why such poorly catcheized people (whatever hat they wear) are having the problems they are having.

        I try to get rid of the tribalism by promoting a message we can all support: there’s a lot of idiocy out there, and we need to work to stamp it out together. C’mon, it could happen!

        • CatholicJames##Scott+~

          > I wasn’t saying you in particular. More often than not, you handle things in a balanced way. Better than Jim Scott in his glory days that’s for sure. 😉

          Are you trying to kiss up to me Tierney? Such vulgar flattery aimed at the Son of James III is beneath you. 😉

          On a serious note. Even thought I dusted off and brought out my old Radtrad spiked club to bust heads(i.e. I wasn’t around for the big Conservative/Traditionalist peace treaty that retired Radtrad and Neo-Catholic. I didn’t sign anything.) I can’t help but notice more than quite a few of the Francis Bashers Guild are Conservative non-Trads types.

          I know this because they are all sporting the meme that life under John Paul II was awesome and JP2 was not as “gaff-prone” as Pope Francis is alleged to be now. Francis hasn’t been Pope for a year and I saw that ponce Ferrera declaring his Pontificate a “disaster”. Still he in Trad mode at least has the decency to remember the Koran Kissing & stay a Radtrad But others down play that gaff of Blessed JP2 but proclaim charitable statements on gays or something Francis said about Mary or “Jesus Pretending” as the sign of the end of days.

          For me it’s just Jaw Drop!!!!!!! Respect for JP2? Till now that has been noticeably lacking.

          I have news for all these idiots. It was never Camelot. Every Era had it’s good points and bad. JP2 was a lousy church administrator but a man of good will and a great inspirational figure who made me excited & proud to be Catholic. B16 was a better administrator then JP2 & a concise theologian. He inspired a rebirth of authentic Traditionalism that makes me proud to say “I am now a Traditionalist”.

          Francis will do things that are awesome and somethings that are mistakes. Just like every Pope that came before him. Why should I expect different? I was asked by a friend of a Francis Basher(not one himself) what would the Pope have to do to cause me concern? I answer short of banning the use of Hebrew in Israeli Catholic Churches or taking up publicly with a girlfriend or God forbid a boyfriend. I have no reason to harsh on the Pope.

          But if this Francis Bashing Guild continues to fester I predict it will transcend old Trad vs Con distinctions but won’t be any less fraking annoying & stupid.

          Beware Francis Bashers! BenYachov is annoyed!

          PS. Cheer Kevin! Peace to you.:-)


          • The old term “Neo-Catholic” was wildly polemical, but it did kind of serve a point, even if the costs outweighed it. Part of it was criticizing the rampant personality cult that formed around John Paul II amongst the more “conservative” types. There really was the belief that the man could do nothing wrong. When you said “he should have done more on the liturgical matters” you were accused of being some dangerous schismatic. When John Paul II says at the end of his life “man, I really shoulda done more to deal with liturgical abuse”, all of a sudden it was common knowledge more needed to be done.

            A lot of people had a visceral hatred of the Latin Mass and said the Pope would cause a schism if he liberated it. The day after they had always loved liturgical diversity, and those liberal bishops were always cowards anyways.
            Now in “conservative” circles, they are going through what alot of us trads went through during the JPII era: how to not like certain things but maintain a healthy respect for the office. A lot of people failed. So what, Chrysotom said 95% of his audience was going to hell anyways. 🙂
            Some are reacting by taking the personality cult even further. I’ve been involved in lots of discussions in background where I’m told our “mission” is to “defend Pope Francis” everytime he says something.

            No thanks, Francis is a big boy. He can speak for himself, and more often than not, he does, whether or not we want him to! I just say “is there anything in tradition that could give evidence for what he said?” “Is there a chance I’m wrong?” (In the language of Nate Silver, there is a 98.475 chance I’m wrong in such instances.) Finally I say “is there a chance I can reach out to my Non-Catholic friends with this situation, even if it means swallowing my personal opinions and doing what’s best for business?” Sometimes, the answer is still “He probably shouldn’t have done that, but we can’t change the past.”

            I tell that to most of the trads I disagree with, and they respect the honesty, and those who are less optimistic about Francis don’t bash me over it.

            I just think Catholics need to stop caring about every sentence of the Pope. More often than not what he is saying will not impact you in any way whatsoever, and you have more important things to do.

            • CatholicJames##Scott+~

              I second Ro’s sentiments to you old friend.

            • Rosemarie


              >>>I just think Catholics need to stop caring about every sentence of the Pope. More often than not what he is saying will not impact you in any way whatsoever, and you have more important things to do.

              True. Maybe that’s another pitfall of the Internet. For most of Church history, the vast majority of Catholics probably had no idea what the pope was saying most, if not all, of the time. Yet somehow they managed to be good Catholics and many even become saints. We, OTOH, can read his every word every day if we wish, but I’m not sure we’re better off for it.

        • Rosemarie


          Thank you, Kevin. I know you weren’t talking about me, I just thought I’d throw that in about Catholic schools.

          True, trad and non-trad orthodox Catholics aren’t so fundamentally different. I’ve long thought that they would be natural allies of each other if they… we… could only get past some issues that needlessly divide us.

          I’ve noticed your efforts to bring sanity to the online controversy over the Holy Father. It’s been good to see. I do hope we can stamp out the idiocy and bring something good out of all this. God help us.