Pope Francis’ Poverty Will be Forgotten

Pope Francis at Mass with Janitors and Gardeners

In this first week of his papacy Pope Francis has made some stunning and memorable gestures toward the Franciscan ideal of poverty. They have produced a fantastic splash of public relations positives, but they are not mere PR gimmicks. Jorge Bergoglio has lived a life of apostolic simplicity for many years, and he lives and works from a position of genuine affection for the poor and ministers positively for the poor.

However, the vast crowds (of mostly rich people) who profess to love his simplicity of life are responding sentimentally. There is a syrupy idea that the poor are wonderful just because they’re poor. There is also a very warm hearted feeling toward St Francis, who preached to the birdies and hugged trees and kissed lepers. This sentimental approach to poverty and ministry to the poor is shallow and naive. It’s the stuff of St Francis statues in the backyard, and the sickly sentimentality of that creepy sixties movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon in which a beautiful young Francis went tumbling through fields of flowers.

In fact, anyone who works with the poor realizes that it is very complicated. People are not noble and good simply because they are poor. The Franciscans I know are tough and hard headed and realistic. The latte sipping crowd who think the Pope is “just marvelous” because he doesn’t go in for the limousine or the trappings of the office are strangely deaf if we suggest that they follow his example. They’re all quiet happy for the Pope to sell off the riches of the church, but they’re not about to have a garage sale.

When Pope Francis gets down to work things will change. When his love of poverty shifts to criticism of the rich and powerful we’ll find that suddenly the media and the champagne socialists will not love him so much. When his love of the vulnerable and disabled shifts to criticism of euthanasia or defense of immigrants the non Catholics who think he’s a darling will decide that he’s a dark Lord. When his love of children and hatred of child abuse shifts to an attack on abortion and sex trafficking those who think he’s wonderful will soon say he’s wicked. When his love of old people and the family becomes a condemnation of divorce, pornography and homosexuality they’ll forget their affection for him and get out their knives.

When his kissing of prisoners’ feet shifts to calling for better conditions in prisons, for proper investment in rehabilitation programs and an end to the death penalty the warm opinion non Catholics have of him will soon crumble.

Not only will the worldlings dislike him, but so will Catholics. When his love of poverty shifts to a demand that we all follow his example and start tithing seriously all the Catholics who think he’s so wonderful will suddenly fall silent, put their tail between their legs and shuffle off home to their three car garages. When his love for the poor starts demanding that we re-examine our international trade practices they’ll forget that they loved his poverty. When his love for the peace makes him criticize the warrior country America they’ll soon forget how much they liked him. When his love for children and the family turns to an attack on the contraceptive culture they’ll perhaps not like him quite so much.

I predict that before too very long he’ll be under attack. The attacks will be vicious and cruel and unfair–like Christopher Hitchen’s famous attack on Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Pope Francis may continue to live in poverty and eschew the trappings of the papacy, but no one will notice. The “poverty effect” will be short lived. It will be played down, and if my hunch is right–it will even come under attack. The same members of the secular press who are now licking his hands will turn and bite him. They will say his “poverty” was a sham, a public relations stunt and that he is just another hypocritical Catholic prelate.

What may be even worse, is that Pope Francis’ public displays of poverty may overshadow his papacy, and that the members of the secular press (if they are very clever) will keep Pope Francis up front and center as a sentimental Franciscan-type figure, while studiously ignoring everything else he attempts to do. If they are really smart they will focus all the attention on the fact that he kisses the feet of AIDS patients, moves out of the papal apartments, wears black army boots and calls out to order a pizza all the time ignoring his real work of preaching the gospel and being a prophetic sign of contradiction to our age.

I hope readers will not mis understand this post. It is not an attack on Pope Francis’ embrace of poverty for the sake of the gospel. I am happy about the election and want to learn from this new Pope. However, I do think that the link with St Francis and “Lady Poverty” will be short lived, misunderstood or even be counter productive as I’ve outlined, and once the honeymoon period is over Pope Francis’ battle with the forces of darkness will begin in earnest. His embrace of poverty will help him win some battles in that war, but the war will be much bigger than the Franciscan gestures at poverty which have been so effective and productive so far.

  • fwk

    Been thinking along the same lines myself. Thanks.

  • FW Ken

    Valid concerns. Dorothy Day did not want to be canonized lest her real message be diagnosed.

  • Frjim T

    Didn’t Francis himself experience the same thing… Why should it be any different when the world gets the pope it needs, not wants.

  • http://agelastes.blogspot.com David Porter

    An excellent post, Father.

  • Yae

    I sense Papa Francis knows what’s coming and thus his reason for always asking for prayers. I will support and defend him to the best of my ability and always, always keep him in prayer. The meeting between him and Papa Benedict was beautiful to watch. Divine Providence as seen fit to have Papa Benedict stand at the foot of the cross while Papa Francis works the trenches and fights the dark forces already unleashed.
    St. Micheal the Archangel pray for us.

    • Laura Fleck

      I agree with this response to this post. Our Pope will face battles but he will have God by his side. He en-flames my heart and I’m excited to do Battle with Him.

  • Ben

    I think the “ignore the message, focus on the image” strategy is more likely. B16 is to this day characterized as a strict enforcer of the faith who mercilessly quashes dissent. If only! Benedict’s style was much more positive: raising up orthodox teaching and orthodox liturgy alongside the heretical and banal and let the good guys slowly win over hearts and minds. All of B16′s actions and traits are ignored and the caricature is promoted.

    Similarly, I think Francis will always be seen as a humble good soul, and probably a man sympathetic to the left. Anything he does that’s consistent with that will be highlighted. Anything he does that’s inconsistent with that will be ignored.

  • Thinkling

    Totally agree. At best he will be portrayed as confused, as getting the whole faux social justice thing, but not getting the pelvic protestantism that the times demand. At worst…. defend us St Michael.

  • Charlene

    great article……wake up call for many. I love PAPA FRANCIS. He will also be willing to sacrifice his very life as the our 1st pope did, for the sake of the Bride of Christ.

  • elcid

    Father, of course it will happen, this is the dark world that we live in, even St Francis paternal father turn against him, the way Catholics can support our Holy Father is to pray for him and the church, a return to Eucharistic Holy Hour is the answer.

    John 15:18
    If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you.

  • Gia

    “Defense of immigrants” or “defense of illegal immigrants”? I don’t know anyone who has a single issue with legal immigrants.

    • Mike M

      Gia, in the United States today, anti-immigrant sentiment is directed against illegal immigrants but, if you look globally, that’s far from the case, and even if you dig into a lot of arguments made against illegal immigration, they’re really against immigrants regardless of legal status.

      Plus, we have groups like Numbers USA which push the notion that immigration is inherently bad for the country. Many conservatives forward around their e-mails completely unaware that 1) they’re economic arguments are garbage… completely contrary to the evidence of every respected study on every available dataset, and 2) the group is run by folks from the “humans are bad” coalition, including former Planned Parenthood officials, other abortion activists, radical environmentalists, etc.

      I’m not, by the way, for an open-border free-for-all. I think that, within reason, laws should be obeyed and enforced. But, unfortunately, around the world and here at home there is a lot of resentment and ill treatment of immigrants.

      • Gia

        That may be the case globally, but it’s not the case here. I’m a conservative, and I have never read an argument from a conservative against legal immigration. But I have a neighbor who’s been waiting years and has spent a great deal of money in a quest to become an American citizen. He’s educated, hard-working, patriotic (even though he isn’t a citizen yet) and wants to join our military (and BTW, not Caucasian), defending the very Constitution that people who sneak across the border or overstay their visas disregard. Giving U.S. citizenship — one of the most prized things on the planet — to people who knowingly broke the law is to spit in the face of every person who ever came here the right way. We may have to love the sinner, but we don’t have to love the sin — or erase lawbreaking just because some people think they can buy votes with citizenship. Regularizing these people might be inevitable and even beneficial, but handing them citizenship should never be.

    • TeaPot562

      Immigrants are people. The issue of “illegal immigrants” seems peculiar to the USA. Our nation has had varying attitudes in the past – welcoming Chinese in the early 19th Century to build the railroads, and discriminating racially for northern Europeans and against Asians for much of the 20th Century.
      The economic problem is that the USA is currently a “welfare state’, where poor people WHO HAVE A FIXED ADDRESS can collect welfare payments for a number of years. Poor people who are migrants – farm laborers or homeless people especially – have no way to plug into the system.
      Check far enough back in your own ancestry and you will find people who fled from some country to avoid persecution, or moved to a different country without “papers”.
      Absent eligibility for welfare, most people moving to the USA are hoping to improve their economic status by finding jobs.
      TeaPot562

      • AnneG

        The issue of illegal immigrants is bigger in some European countries than the US. You cannot become a German citizen even if you are born there. That has been one big problem of the guest workers in Germany and other places. Mexico is very, very unwelcoming of immigrants. Just to mention 2.

      • joycelen

        I at one time was an advocate for immigrants. However, when I saw how those in this area steal from the government, I changed my tune. This is how it is done. Low income citizen women are impregnated without marriage. The family then draws checks, food stamps and medical aid from the government, while the man lives undetected or reported in the household. He works under the table or with a fake social security card. I cannot support that…all the while, they have a picture of the Blessed Virgin on their wall. This is the reality of the situation.
        On another subject thank you for stating that being poor does not automatically make one noble. Jesus never said that it did. It simply makes one a human being who happens to be poor. The response to God’s calling is an individual thing.

        • joycelen

          * unreported*

          • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar

            This is one of the reasons I think government assistance for the poor is a bad idea. We are to render unto God what is God’s, and I think that our care for the poor is one of those things.

  • JW

    Correctly said and sad. We are seeing this happening already. God Bless Pope Francis. We all need to pray for him and His mission everyday. Happy Easter everyone.

  • Mariusz

    My fears and premonitions exactly, Father. I always say that St. Francis of Assisi is easy to admire but very hard to emulate. I liked the bit about the “creepy” Zeffirelli’s movie but have you ever seen Mick O’Rourke as St. Francis? Much closer to the original, in my opinion.

    • Bill M.

      I think you mean Mickey Rourke, Mariusz.

      • Mariusz

        Right you are, Bill, thanks for the correction.

  • Briana

    I’m another that is betting Pope Francis already knows this is coming. He’s walked this route already, though the road was a bit smaller.

    All of that could happen. Hopefully though, with our prayers, his example with light a fire that will overtake the world.

  • http://www.sjccdalton.com Padrecito

    Great reflection on the contrast between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
    “Bendito el rey que viene en el nombre del Señor!”
    “Crucifícalo!”

  • http://maple_seed@wordpress.com Martin Barlow

    I agree with you some areas of your argument, BUT, I also disagree on the other hand as Pope Francis is leading and living out the Gospel. To quote St Francis of Assisi: Preach the Gospel at all times, but only use words if you have to. May God bless Pope Francis in his ministry and may we all follow his example of living to serve the poor and the oppressed.

    • Diane

      How many times does it have to be said: ST FRANCIS NEVER SAID THAT.

      • Mariusz

        Just like he didn’t write “The Little Flowers” or the prayer of St. Francis, did not tame the wolf of Gubbio, etc., etc. He was like a Zen or Taoist master: he was doing by non-doing…8)

        • midwestlady

          No. He was a man who had a dramatic personal conversion in the 13th century, which he was never able to forget. He became a disciple of Jesus Christ and sought to be like him in every way. People flocked to him because they loved him, and a group of brothers was formed around him which became the Franciscan friars (OFMs).

          You are correct about the Prayer of St. Francis though. St. Francis didn’t write that either. It’s very recent in fact. It first appeared in a French magazine called La Clochette. It’s believed that the real author of the poem was a French parish priest who was the editor of the magazine. It has nothing to do with Franciscans at all, actually. The parish priest was not a Franciscan, nor was it a Franciscan magazine.

          • midwestlady

            Oh, the date of publication for the poem was 1912. So you can see it’s very recent.

  • Richard E

    This was a very well written article and as others have already said, the attacks will come, some already have from ‘left leaning catholics’ like nuns on wheels, and would not be suprised to even see some attacks from left leaning Jesuits. We’ve seen the attacks from when he was Bishop during the so-called ‘dirty war’ even though many who were with him, some even held captive, say he did nothing wrong.

    • http://corningcm.wordpress.com CPT Tom

      Only Problem is Pope Francis did not become a bishop until 1992 and wasn’t Archbishop of Buenes Aires until 1997. The “Dirty War” had been over for a decade by the time he became bishop. So anything about “he didn’t do enough as bishop” is false if you match up the dates.

    • midwestlady

      “Nuns on wheels” is funny, but it’s even funnier that I know what you’re talking about. What a mess!

  • Diane

    You are right! I have been thinking the same way. He came in with a different attitude and a little different way of doing things. Soon, it will change, but either way, I will love and admire him for his goodness and high toughness!

  • Devadhas Muthiah SJ

    God who has chosen Pope Francis will guide him in all that he does. As Pope Francis has asked for our prayers, we journey with him through our prayers and following Jesus Whom Pope Francis follows. May God bless our Pope and the whole humanity.

  • John

    Most seem not to have grasped the challenge of Fr.’s post. For it is not only what one commentator has called “left leaning catholics” who will criticize Francis. His message will be distorted and minimized by so-called “conservative catholics” as well, and indeed, this is already underway, both in the snarky comment about “illegal immigrants” above and in the commentary of George Weigel and Fr. Sirico–Americanists both–who didn’t waste any time downplaying what will in fact be a very challenging emphasis on economic justice in this pontificate. Here, there will be fawning paragraphs admiring the Pope’s dedication shortly followed by an appeal to “prudence”–which for a certain set of Catholics in America has come to mean: our economic injustice and militarism can contine unabated, don’t worry rich donors! Indeed, the rhetorical gymnastics will be dizzying, and nauseating, to behold. Will we allow ourselves to be challenged by a Pope, rather than merely confirmed in our status as “faithful” Catholics? The life of the Church in the U.S. is at stake.

  • http://maryvictrix.com frangelo

    There is another possibility, Father. Pope Francis will demonstrate once again that the Franciscan spirit is not sentimental schlock. St. Francis was, in fact, a reformer, and his work shot through the lower and higher echelons of both Church and state. Not that this will be noted by most people, and certainly not by the media. But Franciscans like myself will look at it as welcome vindication.

    • midwestlady

      Not real sure St. Francis was into vindication, frangelo. Maybe just doing whatever is God’s will would have suited St. Francis more.

  • PMR

    I hear a lot of comments about liberal Catholics attacking Pope Frances, but when I visit many Traditional sites, there is a lot of attacks on his ways of handling liturgy. Many were furious with him for allowing Pelosi and Biden to receive Communion. I think we will see both Trads and Libs on the extreme end disappointed as he is a man who is neither Right nor Left but a true follower of the Gospel.

    • Kathy from Kansas

      Pope Francis did not “allow Pelosi and Biden to receive Communion.” There were 200,000 people there, hundreds of priests distributing Communion. The Pope himself did not distribute Communion personally due to logistics nightmares. There’s sure no way Papa Francis could have supervised every single interaction!

      • Antonio A. Badilla

        I meant “did,” sorry!

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      “Many were furious with him for allowing Pelosi and Biden to receive Communion.” I read many of the traditional sites you mentioned and never once did I see anyone “attacking” the Pope because he didn’t give Holy Communion to Pelosi and Biden, someone else did. I bet the new Pope does not even know who Pelosi and Biden are. Most people outside the United States would not find those names familiar.
      If you want “unity” in the Church. you can’t disparage “traditional” Catholics. All Catholics should support Canon 915, not just traditionalist Catholics!

  • http://www.arsorandi.blogspot.com David Werling

    I think there is a lot of wishful thinking here, and it for the most part is unjustified. Of course, Pope Francis is going to be anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-artificial contraception, anti-gay marriage. Which Pope was ever in favor of these things? Which Pope has ever been for human trafficking, the exploitation of the poor, unjust economic practices? Yet despite all this opposition, these evil things continue unimpeded in the modern world, fueled in large measure by people who call themselves Catholics.

    Opposition to these social issues has never been lacking on the part of our post-VCII pontiffs. What is lacking is a clear proclamation of the faith.

    Ever since VCII the post-VCII popes have been peddling the notion that people of other faiths are perfectly OK believing what they want, and thus living the way they do. (For example, if Protestants are OK being Protestant, then it is perfectly acceptable that they continue living the way they do, and that includes using artificial contraception and for most thinking abortion is morally permissible under certain circumstances.) If Muslims and Protestants and Jews and Hindus and Atheists and Occultists can believe whatever they want, as the policy of post-VCII ecumenism states outright, then it stands to reason that those who call themselves “Catholic” can believe whatever they want regardless of what the Church has always taught.

    The results are clear. We have never had a post-VCII pope who said artificial contraception was morally permissible, yet the majority of Catholic women have used them. We have never had a post-VCII pope who said euthanasia or abortion was morally permissible, yet nearly half of all Catholics in the United States are not opposed to making either “safe or legal”. We have never had a post-VCII pope who said “gay”-marriage was acceptable, yet a growing percentage of Catholics have no problem with it.

    Is he going to teach that you have to believe what the Church teaches to be saved? Is Pope Francis going to continue to sacrifice the Articles of our Catholic Faith, which are the truths granted us by Divine Revelation and not discovered in some kind of humanistic dialogue, on the altar of ecumenism? The corporal works of mercy flow from faith, not dialogue.

  • SfoCan2

    We are thankful for our new Pope .We stand beside him and pray for him.

  • Mike

    I’m also astounded by the almost studied naivety and profound ignorance of many who want things “done for the poor.” I was happy to see your note on hard-headedness – indeed, I’ve started appending the following to email exchanges with some of my “progressive” friends:
    Hard-headed is not the same as cold-hearted cold-hearted.

  • Mike

    The problem all too many liberals is that it’s easy to pat oneself on the back for being “charitable” and “concerned for the poor” when that means spending someone else’s money.

  • Lowla

    I think the Pope will have to do less himself soon. If he does not delegate some of his tasks for the worldwide 1.1 billion Church he could become seriously backlogged with work.

    • midwestlady

      I’ve been thinking the same thing myself. It’s not like Rome is Buenos Aires where he can just go wandering around the streets.

  • Ninth Centurion

    “…the warrior country America..”
    Really? What exactly does that mean Fr? It comes off sounding like an implication the US is some modern day Roman Empire using its military to plunder the world.

    Those poor you rightly point to as not filled with more virtue because of their poverty than the non-poor. The vast majority are not made slaves at the end of a US whip. They are made slaves where America does not send her military to liberate. Or when America does liberate them they either do not lack the courage or love for freedom to hold what we gave them, or they do not have the moral culture to hold what we gave them. But make no mistake, America does not oppress. Some evil American businessmen may do so, but not America the country or nation.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Many people around the world do experience America as a modern day Roman Empire using its military and economic muscle to plunder the world. Just sayin’.

      • Dust

        In my 32 years in uniform, some of it overseas, a good portion on the pointy end of the spear, I don’t recall any tasks or missions I received where “plundering ” was a specified or implied task. Or even a second or third order result. Just sayin’ .

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I never suggested the military did the plundering. It’s the businessmen who do that. The military just make it possible for them.

          • David Naas

            The comments of General Smedley Butler, USMC, would be pertinent here.

          • Dust

            Padre,
            It was your use of the term ” warrior country America” that suggests a level of culpability of those who have served or are serving since it is an all volunteer force foe almost 40 years, whether you intended it or not. Your follow on reply to Ninth Centurion punctuated it. (BTW, Poor choice of a handle in this thread NC)

          • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

            Fr. L,
            I disagree. The military is an accomplice in the plundering worldwide. They are the cavalry that goes in first to decimate resistance.
            If anything, the military is America’s greatest export, though it strangely brings in nothing good and all that it manages is to create is a trail of innocent blood in its unprovoked wars of choice.
            As a foreigner, you might want to expel me or to cynically suggest me to bail out. Rather, just call me a subversive foreign agent of contradiction. But I’ll say that in over 15 years in America, only a couple of them were without a war and all of them were or became unjust and immoral wars, which a conscientious soldier has the moral imperative to refuse to fight, for his soul’s sake.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mr.alexanderson Alexander S Anderson

          Unlike in Ancient Rome, America uses two different institutions for this. The military is sometimes used as a stick, but it’s the corporations, not the military, that do the plundering.

      • AnneG

        I don’t know what countries you are talking about, specifically, Fr L, but the countries I am most familiar with in Latin America, where I have spent a large part of my adult life, don’t see us that way. Frequently, I’ve been told that Americans should throw our weight around more and blamed us because we did not save them, usually from themselves. Mexico sees the US as a piñata, you hit it and good stuff falls out. Yeah, our businesses want to sell stuff, but they also build things in those countries that benefit host country national populations and workers. Not always great and certainly needing constant self-examination, but business is not all bad. The US and US foreign policy are not perfect, but it did get rid of two of the most evil influences of the 20th century. When we forget our call to holiness as individuals, though, we lose our way.

  • vox borealis

    I’m having weird problems posting. So, this is what I tried to write and apologize for any double post:

    What may be even worse, is that Pope Francis’ public displays of poverty may overshadow his papacy, and that the members of the secular press (if they are very clever) will keep Pope Francis up front and center as a sentimental Franciscan-type figure, while studiously ignoring everything else he attempts to do.

    I’m not sure this behavior will be restricted to the secular press.

  • David Naas

    Several years ago, a very wise priest said to me, “prepare to be humiliated.” As English was not his first language, I thought he simply got confused.
    However, as years have gone by, I finally realized what he was saying — as a Christian, preparfe to be humiliated. Even if you humble yopurself (the primary description of being humiliated), the World ( plus the Flesh, and the Defvil, natch), will do its utmost to humiliate you. Thgis happens to Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, why not to a truly holy man, and a Pope? When Francis walked out onto that balcony , every tv commentator was remarking how he just stood there, looking stunned. Should they wonder why? I believe he knew. Knew, what was in store for him. Not even Christ walked happily to his crucifixion. (“Father, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done”.)
    Get ready to see Pope Francis crucified in the media.

  • David Zelenka

    What I find interesting, is that if we really believe what the Catholic Faith says about the Pope, i.e. he is the Vicar of Christ, then he seriously is the primary leader in our world. All the other country’s leaders are under him, whether or not they know it and whether or not they are obedient. And if Pope Frances is being obedient to Christ. Then we’re going to good and difficult places. We’re heading to the cross.

    So, what is remarkable and what will change history is his call for humility. A very large number of people will listen and will apply those habits to their daily lives–Catholics and non-Catholics. And that will change the world.

    I am very hopeful.

    What would happen if just 5% of the industrialized people just started to act a bit less arrogant? 1%? It might just have a profound effect on families, economies, etc.

    I just think we’re heading for a wonderful, wild ride with Pope Frances at the helm of the fleet. Our prayer should be that he is listening to Christ. So, far it seems to be the case.

  • I M Forman

    The Godless media is something I do not watch, will not financially support (even at the price of a newspaper) and something I don’t listen to in the car while in traffic since I found EWTN Radio on my Andriod cell phone. They are going to go to Hell as long as they keep up their hostility against the Church, so why should I make my life anyomore complicated than it is already. I don’t need to buy into one of their heretical ideas to join them down there either.

  • TheInformer

    Let’s hear NO MORE about “abolishing the death penalty”, until all you big hearted “Luvving” people concurrently offer sufficient replacement punishments for capital offenders! ‘kay?

    “When his kissing of prisoners’ feet shifts to calling for better conditions in prisons, for proper investment in rehabilitation programs and an end to the death penalty the warm opinion non Catholics have of him will soon crumble.”

  • Suzan

    May God bless our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines. And make your next mass intention for Pope Francis.

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    You are on the right track father with this one. There is a great film by Preston Sturgess called, “Sullivans Travels.” There is a famous scene where the butler gives a rendition concerning the poor. It was valid in 1940 and its still valid today.
    The poor don’t need constant reminding they are poor.

  • Francis

    I agree with writer Werling. Our Pope Francis preaches nothing new or altered from his predecessors. Why will he affect the rank and file any greater? His example may make many take pause, God willing, but doctrine will not change. I don’t understand your need to proclaim the inevitable. I pray for Pope Francis that when the hour of his fall from media favor comes, he makes the world self conscious.
    I do find it a difficult situation that the Church holds that not all souls achieve Heaven yet I who am now 56 have heard the rightly or distorted VCII justification that all faiths can go to heaven. It is no wonder to me that there is a wide spread loss of faith in the need for the Church. What remains for them is largely sentimental.
    God bless Pope Francis

    • Koh

      People of all faiths can go to heaven because often it would be extremely unjust if they couldn’t. Of course, each of them would have to accept Christ, truth, before entering heaven. But *honestly*, does anyone believe that a man who has never heard of christianity will go to hell for not being a catholic? Or that someone who has received horrible education on the topic and therefore rejects the false god he has been presented will go to hell? Or someone who has been somehow hurt or traumatized through the church, for example abused as a child? Are people to go to hell for the crime of instinctively fleeing from christianity because of trauma or ignorance? Is LEWIS in hell for being an anglican? It boggles the mind how people can oppose the teaching that no, membership to the earthly institution of the Catholic Church is not the only way God can save people. Nothing is impossible for God, and we’re ordered not to judge the state of other people’s souls. That’s God’s job, not ours.
      Sorry for going off topic, but I felt like I had to say this :(

  • fg

    leave smedley Butler out of this. he was kind of a nut.

  • Lynda

    David Werling yes, the issue is the teaching and preaching and worshipping according to the WHOLE Deposit of Faith. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivandi. Salvation is possible only through Christ’s Church.

  • Greg

    Hey, what is wrong with 3 car garages? If you have nine kids three cars are not reasonable

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      It was a generalization.

  • walden

    In Latinamerica we have enough experience on the “church of the poor”. The Jesuits embraced liberation theology, pushing for redistribution of wealth a la Obama, they idolize Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They made a virtu of poverty. They forget to preach about the virtues of discipline, perseverance, sacrifice, etc etc. A few were fooled by their shortsightedness, a great majority of Latinos opted by the evangelical churches, even Mormonism. Their numbers of jesuits plummeted worldwide. In USA we have the examples: they are for same sex marriage. Woman priests. In order to ingratiate themselves with Obama, they shamelessly covered the image of Christ on the walls of Georgetown University. I wonder way Father Rice was asked to leave the direction of the Magazine America, Why the Congregation of the Doctrine of faith, has to force Father Mac-nil out of the Jesuits. Do you want an example of how to work for the poor look at Mother Theresa, look at the ex jesuit Father Long, in his work with the poor. I hope that we do not revive the the concept Jesuit=hypocrisy.
    Having say that I wish the best on the new Pope.

    • walden

      The truth will make us free.

      • Wills

        Not that easy. Jesus said,”If you abide in My word, then you will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free.” Do not forget the condition precedent: to abide in His word–to abide in Him. If, then; and the IF part is the hard part….as Pope Francis is teaching us.

  • les

    having served for 12 years during the vietnam war, i never saw the troops i served with do anything other than what they were called to do by their superior officers. If you want to assign blame for the state of the country’s intent in foriegn countries, look to the people you and I elect. Troops dont set policy, they follow orders, and considering what they are asked to do, they have acted honorably and professionally despite the greed from the top being peddled as “humanitarian” . just sayin

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I agree. I never blamed the troops on the ground. I think the rot is at the top.

    • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

      Troops have the moral imperative to refuse to obey illegal orders. Otherwise, they are as guilty as their commanders.
      Beyond the military code, there is a higher code that states that it is immoral to kill civilians, as American did so blatantly in Vietnam or in WWII before it.

  • les

    and yes, i DO think we are emulating the Roman Empire, not just for our foriegn policies but for our hedonism and corruption in everyday life. I say our, because i am as guilty as anyone else for placing myself first over others.

  • John Burt Polhamus

    On the other hand…poverty is not defined by money. Blessed are the “…poor in spirit…” To be spiritually poor one need not have no money. Not all religious orders are called to give up their material possessions. And, as St. Philip Neri observed, rich people have souls, too, which require our efforts to save. Best, I think, not to forget the necessary balance, which people in love with economic equivalence tend to do, between one’s situation in life, one’s spiritual welfare, and the needs of others. None of them need be mutually exclusive. Economic poverty has never been a barrier to zealous faith, in fact it is one of the greatest spurs to it. Many of the fiscally poorest possess the greatest spiritual wealth of treasure, and which can in fact present collective temptations to pride. So lets not kid ourselves about the inherent virtues of poverty’s external trappings. Better, I would say, to act in accordance with the situation of life in which you find yourself, and do as much good as possible from where you are. The pope should act like the pope for the solemn edification of all concerned, and outside of that, he may do as he pleases. But he should not demean those externals which have in all cases been made with the best efforts of men’s (and women’s of course) hands and minds, for the glorification of Christ, not him who holds the office. The office is not his to manhandle. He holds it in trust for Christ, and for the future.

  • Antonio A. Badilla

    I do agree with you Father and I put it this way. Today on Palm Sunday everyone will exalt him as the Pope of humility, but as soon as he preaches against abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, contraception, etc, the world will crucify him on Good Friday. Does this sound familiar to you?

    Although I love this article, there is one statement that puzzles me, “When his love for the peace makes him criticize the warrior country America they’ll soon forget how much they liked him.” I just don’t see this country as being a “warrior country” under Obama. I might be wrong, but I think Syria will bomb Israel before Obama says anything, let alone act.
    Don’t get me wrong Father, this article is so good, I will print it to give it to my colleagues to read in the Catholic High School I teach.

  • John

    I just want to note, in response to some of the above, that the Church has always taught that the temporal power may redistribute property in the service of the common good. No matter what you “conservatives” hear from Glenn Beck or your other favorite Americanist ideologue–some of which include members of the U.S. clergy–this teaching is not Marxist but derives from Thomas Aquinas (and before him the fathers of the Church). Indeed, it is a minor scandal that bishops in the U.S. are not regularly calling for the appropriation of Walmart’s profits, since that corporation’s practices run directly counter to the common good, and, by they way, increase your own taxes.

  • Will J

    There is already criticism of Pope Francis on some blogs. Do we really need speculation about the next few weeks, months, or years?

  • Birthday girl

    Thank you for that, Fr. L. I have a few relatives who are into the “garden St. Francis” schtick. I have been thinking along the lines you describe as per my relatives in particular … and you are undoubtedly correct that it will be the same with the secular press et al.

    I once tried to live the Franciscan rule of 1221, slightly updated for modern life. I failed. There are a couple of associations of the faithful out there that adopt this rule and you can find them by gargleing … most people would be astonished at the amount of fasting that is required in order to live as St. Francis personally thought appropriate … enough to put any hippie off his feed, heh heh …

  • JudeThom
  • Joe in Canada

    He wasn’t Bishop, but he was Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina during the Dirty War. As such he had perhaps as much responsibility as any bishop, certainly towards the Jesuits under his charge.
    Father, why do you say his approach to poverty is Franciscan? Why not Jesuit? Authentically Jesuit, I mean. Jesuit poverty is always adapted to the apostolate, so it is not as externally radical as Franciscan poverty. I see nothing particularly Franciscan about his lifestyle, but he does appear to me to be a good Jesuit.

  • Edd

    You are so right. The arguments for the sacredness of life are countered by the added expense of caring for those who can’t take care of themselves or “overpopulation” and its similar affect; Global Warming and what effect its counter arguments are having to protect the industries that would have to change in order to reverse the carbon released into the atmosphere; the need for clean water vs. the pollution released into water supplies due to fracking and other industrial processes; the list can go on and on. The Capitalists hold on the world’s resources are only concerned about the profits to be made. All who set obstacles to this end are considered to be their enemies. It’s always been that way and needs to be countered with true understanding in order to have true peace and justice for all. Courses teaching what was written in the Papal Encyclicals would be a good start.

  • http://maryvictrix.com frangelo

    Archbishop Chaput on the real Francis in Pope Francis:

    “The real St. Francis was a ‘radical’ in the original sense of the word: committed down to his roots in his love for Jesus Christ and God’s people; radical in his self-denial; and radical in his solidarity with the suffering—whoever and wherever they might be. The lesson is simply this: The world might ignore the bitter suffering of Christians in the Middle East, but the real Francis of Assisi would not. And the pope who took his name is unlikely to do otherwise.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/03/pope-francis-and-the-christians-of-the-middle-east

  • Allan Wafkowski

    Some of us believe that the pope’s actions are meaningless. We would like to see him get to work. His statements about the poor church go unexplained. A church with over a billion members cannot act as if it were still a church with only 12 members. We would like to see him emphasis poverty of spirit and fidelity to the church. We don’t need him to take the subway, but rather offer with force the teachings of the Catholic Church. We don’t need him to act as if he is ashamed to be pope. Perhaps he should make clear the distinctions between the office of bishop and the office of the bishop-pope. We don’t need him to make alliances with motley groups of religions that oppose the Catholic Church as he slights people within his own church who have sinned by wanting a Mass that is edifying. Maybe a shout-out to the Society of Saint Pius X is in order. I am morally certain that they are no more heretics or schismatics than Muslims, Buddhists and Protestants. From Pope Francis, have as much style but little substance. Even the things that appear to be dear to him have only been offered as slogans, without substance. Holy Father, it’s time to step up to the plate and get the ball in motion.

  • Deacon Peter Trahan

    I don’t read other peoples comments, but I noticed that you got a lot, a lot on this post. I hope most were in support of you realism. I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion. This infatuation, with the new Pope is the sugar that we all love but soon makes us nauseous. I have been reading his homilies and previous writings carefully, but there is no real substance there. Next will be his Wednesday General Audiences which have traditionally been, as you know, a source of catechesis and theological outpouring. My comments may sound more like criticism of the Pope than your blog post, and I hope my feelings do not contradict my hopes for his papacy. At this point it is a “wait and see.” My fear is that his compassion for “the poor” (which the media translates into anyone oppressed, i.e. homosexuals, mothers who do not want to be pregnant, and couples who want chemical certainty that they will not get pregnant,) this compassion could easily turn into compromise by “spinning” certain Church policy, of course guarding against doctrinal change. We will wait and see.

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  • Kathleen

    I hate to point this out but who says he picked his name because of St. Francis of Assi?
    There is also St Francis Xavier who was also Jesuit. I love our new pope, Francis I !!!
    I hope he follows both St Francis’, if that is humanly possible. And nothing is impossible to God.
    Here is a link to St Francis Xavier from New Advent.com

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06233b.htm

  • SteveD

    I understand that the Pope disapproves of dog ownership and the use of cosmetics. I expect that his list includes a lot more things than that – perhaps 2 cars, 2 holidays, expensive Christmas gifts, a wardrobe full of expensive clothing and shoes, expensive watches, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, large amounts of spare cash, a freezer full of expensive foods, etc. etc. I hope that he does start to get specific or people will think that they are already ‘doing enough’. I know that I’m not doing enough but he has got me thinking about possessions and the poor.

  • Mitch

    I thought along the same lines after a few days of this new Pontificate. Let’s see if folks start scaling down their houses and SUV’s in favor of more modest means. And when this all dies down all we are going to be left with …again….might be a broken Church in confusion and disoriented. And once again, one with a little less beauty to share with the world. I doubt the tourists are going to flock and stimulate the economy and donate to the poor if there is nothing left. Short term all may look great, but long term this could spell less to work with and bring negative consequences to the less fortunate. All we can do at the moment is pray.

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  • alain bou nafeh

    The harder the war will be the better the pope and the church will look. And as long as St Francis won by doing the right thing, our pope will win only by doing the Right(christian) thing


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