Pope Francis stated the following, from the “official” transcript of his conversation with Slovakian Jesuits (9-12-21):
A Jesuit asks, “How are you?”
He replies “Still alive, even though some people wanted me to die. I know there were even meetings between prelates who thought the pope’s condition was more serious than the official version. They were preparing for the conclave. Patience! Thank God, I’m all right.
No doubt, there will be some [legitimate] traditionalist Catholics and extremist radical Catholic reactionaries who would mock and deride this comment. But it’s a true observation, not merely sarcastic or dark humor on the pope’s part (though it probably was that, too, as he was joking just before the remark). This reminds me of the typical humor from President Ronald Reagan, who quipped when he was about to undergo surgery after he was almost assassinated: “I hope the doctor is a Republican.”
How do I know that the pope’s words are accurate? Well, here is some evidence from almost four years ago that we have no reason to doubt, from: “The War Against Pope Francis” (Andrew Brown, The Guardian, 10-27-17):
Pope Francis is one of the most hated men in the world today. Those who hate him most are not atheists, or protestants, or Muslims, but some of his own followers. Outside the church he is hugely popular as a figure of almost ostentatious modesty and humility. . . .
But within the church, Francis has provoked a ferocious backlash from conservatives who fear that this spirit will divide the church, and could even shatter it. This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: “We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: “You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.”
This mixture of hatred and fear is common among the pope’s adversaries. [my bolding]
The sedevacantist outfit, Novus Ordo Watch (folks who believe there is currently no sitting pope), commenting on these words, stated:
It’s a pity that this “prominent English priest” is not mentioned by name, but the report is entirely credible. Here at Novus Ordo Watch, we heard the same thing earlier this year, from a somewhat prominent Novus Ordo layman in the United States: “Everyone is praying for him to die.” [my bolding]
Most astonishingly, a Catholic archbishop (alas, one that has increasingly shown himself to be stark raving mad over the last few years, but a great hero to many traditionalists and reactionaries) has actually done this outrageous thing:
But, dear Priest, you expect that the iniquitous man will act as an honest and God-fearing person, while it is precisely because he is wicked that he will abuse without any consistency or scruple a power which he knows well that he has maliciously conquered in order to demolish it. Since it pertains to the very essence of tyranny, as a perversion of just and good authority, not only to exercise authority in a perverse way but also to want to throw discredit and repulsion on that authority of which it is a grotesque counterfeit. The horrors committed by Bergoglio in recent years not only represent an indecorous abuse of papal authority, but they have as an immediate consequence the scandal given to good people in his regard, because, by means of a parody of the Papacy, he renders the Papacy itself hateful and odious, irreparably compromising the image and prestige which the Church has enjoyed up until now, even though she has been afflicted by modernist ideology for decades. . . .
On closer inspection, it is precisely in order to defend hierarchical Communion with the Roman Pontiff that it is necessary to disobey him, to denounce his errors, and to ask him to resign. And to pray that God calls him to Himself as soon as possible, if a good for the Church can derive from this. (Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, “Open Letter to Confused Priests,” The Remnant, 2-2-21; my bolding)
I have remarked occasionally in the past that I suspected that much of the anti-Francis mentality is actually driven and led by priests getting together and gossiping. My friend, the late Fr. Angel Sotelo (sorely missed!) used to confirm that such gossip (generally speaking) was very common indeed among priests. How sad that is, but the above anecdote fully supports such a suspicion.
Gossip and slander are vicious, abominable things. They spread like wildfire. Priests and bishops who don’t care for this pope, don’t like him, even literally hate him in some cases, would be functioning in these instances like the proverbial “disgruntled employee.” And everyone is familiar with that mentality (most of us have partaken in it ourselves).
One priest that I know personally and admire (and a very well-known one) wrote to me, saying flat-out that Pope Francis was a “bad man.” That’s not just saying he is subject to original sin, like all of us. It’s a declaration that he is wicked and willfully obstinate; in mortal sin; a terrible and habitual sinner.
Now it’s perfectly plausible and imaginable to picture some of the pope’s most ferocious critics, folks who literally despise or detest or hate him (including, sadly, many priests), working themselves up into a fury of supposed “righteous indignation” and thinking themselves pious and praiseworthy in hoping, wishing, or praying for him to die so we can get another pope more to their liking. It’s all for the good of the Church, you see . . .
Sin among Christians often gets rationalized away and wrapped up in a faux piety, so the person can justify the stark contrast between such sin and their claim to be consistent (loving) disciples of Jesus. We have endlessly inventive methods of self-delusion and self-justification. Read C. S. Lewis’ wonderful Screwtape Letters to learn about many of these diabolical techniques.
I remember also in the latter days in the life of Pope St. John Paul II (yes, I vociferously defended him, too), how the self-described “traditionalists” were loudly and endlessly proclaiming that he was a loose cannon who had lived too long and was saying progressively more questionable things in their eyes. It was not far from those sentiments to wishing for him to die. And there is no question that some people did indeed hope and wish (and pray) for that result, just as there are unquestionably folks who think like that today. We wouldn’t expect for such travesties to be very easy to find in Google searches, but believe me, the attitude exists.
Pray very hard for those who have sunk to this low of a spiritual ( I should say, rather, carnal) level, while you also pray for the Holy Father. The pope-bashers have gone from “be submissive to rulers and authorities, . . . obedient, . . . speak evil of no one, . . . show perfect courtesy toward all men” (Titus 3:1-2, RSV) and “Even in your thought, do not curse the king” (Ecc 10:20), to (in the worst cases of Pope Francis-derision) openly hoping and praying that a pope dies because they hate him so much.
I hasten to add, that they also invariably fantastically misunderstand him and his teachings. They have worked long and hard to set up a gross caricature of the real man and his actual beliefs and teachings, that they proceed to set afire. It’s exceedingly wicked.
Photo credit: [pubic domain / Max Pixel]
Summary: Yes, there are Catholics (including priests) who hope & wish, even pray for Pope Francis to die, because they detest him so much and wrongly think he is a terrible, wicked, heretic pope.