I Am Standing with the Pope. Glad You Noticed.

I Am Standing with the Pope. Glad You Noticed. December 14, 2016

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

This isn’t about me, and I’m not trying to make it about me. But I’ve just had one of those experiences when angry people hand me a totally unexpected — and unintended — honor, and I’m too happy about it not to share.

I wrote a little post saying, in essence, that no matter what the reaction to Amoris Laetitia, I was standing with the Pope and his authority as head of my Church. The basic thing in the post was simple: Pope Francis is my religious leader. He’s the commander in chief of this earthly army for Christ, and I am — well I don’t even really qualify as a buck private — I’m more of a flag waving member of the cheering section, sending the real soldiers off to battle for Christ.

I hadn’t intended to take sides in the priest fight ensuing between Pope Francis and four cardinals. But, the stuff and nonsense I’ve been seeing directed toward the Pope just plain got to me. There are whole websites with large fanatical followings dedicated to destroying his credibility as the Vicar of Christ. There are Facebook pages authored by sick little people whose only purpose seems to be to tear down, do harm and create division among the faithful.

There are people who insist on referring to the Holy Father by his birth name as a means of disrespecting him. There are nuts out there who claim he’s not the pope. There are people who say he’s a heretic and is in apostasy. They quote — and misquote — canon law and papal encyclicals to “prove” this nonsensical garbage.

These sicko web sites who have dedicated themselves to attacking the Pope usually sell things and hit you up for donations as soon as you arrive on their turf. They are obviously making $$$ out of this hate enterprise they are running, and they equally obviously do not care one whit about the damage they are doing to the Church by attacking the Pope in this outlandish manner.

This whole thing is verging on being schismatic. It is also fodder for the mentals among the flock who need to rage about something in order to shout down their inner demons. Hating the Pope has become a kind of therapy for those who are damaged and hurting from the harms this sinful world has inflicted on them. It takes the place of drugs, overeating, cutting, and a lot of other ways of self-numbing.

I have every sympathy for these people. I understand the damage that the things that are done to us can do to our lives.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to follow them down the road. I sympathize, but I am not following these hate-filled web sites, Facebook pages and Twitter communities. I will follow the Vicar of Christ.

I am, as I said, standing with the Pope. Period.

I knew when I said this that there was every possibility that I would catch the angry eyes of the blogmeisters/Facebook-pagers/Twitter-storm-gurus who are fomenting this attack on the Church and her Pope. I knew that they are always in search of a new hate object.

These people need a steady supply of fresh meat to feed the angry crowd they’ve created so that it doesn’t get bored and look elsewhere. They are making their living by chopping away at the unity of the Church. If they don’t mind attacking the Pope, then they certainly aren’t going to mind attacking little old me.

Add to that the fact that members of this nasty tribe have had some success in getting writers fired for saying things they didn’t like, and you’ve got a leader, handing out the torches, and looking for someone to march on next.

I’m not saying that my little blog post got a full-on attack. But it did register a few hits. Evidently, one of the folks who drive this hate bus against the Pope said something or the other that was intended to take a bite out of me and that resulted in a little blast of comments on Public Catholic.

The difference between me and the people who have been hurt by being attacked by these folks is that I have nothing to lose. I don’t make my living doing this. I am not ambitious about my writing. I also don’t see myself as a theologian or a Church authority.

What I am is a pew-sitting Catholic who is grateful beyond words that I was allowed in this Church. I am a sinner whose main religious claim to fame is that I love Jesus with my whole heart. I am blessed every time I take the Eucharist.

If there was some way that I could reach out and enfold the whole world in the love of Christ that I have experienced, I would do it.

This little flurry of comments and whatever the hate-meister said about me that drove them wasn’t much in the scale of things. But being dinged a bit for standing for the Pope is an honor and I am grateful to have received it.

I am grateful to be a Catholic. I am grateful, blessed and healed every time I receive my Jesus in the Eucharist.

I can’t wish anything better for anyone than that they should know Jesus and His love. It’s what I truly wish for this sick and suffering world of ours.

If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no more hunger or misogyny or racism or economic disparity. If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no more war, no mindless hate. If everyone really knew Jesus, there would be no one to write hate blogs and no one to read them.

But we live in the time of Kingdom coming, a time when the Kingdom is here, in each of us who truly love Him, and not here in the way we sin in spite of this love; all this in a world that still writhes in the pain of its fallenness. We are witnessing a vast apostasy, a turning away from life to death by whole populations who reject Christ in order to follow their own, broad way.

I believe without doubt that these attacks on the Pope are ultimately an attack on the Church. The fact that those who foment them claim that they are doing what they do on behalf of the Church is just old scratch, talking through people to tell his lies.

I am standing with the Pope.

If that warrants me a few dings in the shooting gallery of the internet, I am honored to be of service.

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30 responses to “I Am Standing with the Pope. Glad You Noticed.”

  1. Rebecca, you remind me of the faculty and staff I had the honor of teaching with in my last 10 years as a teacher, in the RC school. I admire you for sticking with your ideals—not an easy task sometimes. I’ve said this many times, but will repeat it here—though not Catholic, but a spiritual person, I appreciate you letting me comment here. There are some (who shall go unnamed) who feel that I shouldn’t be allowed to do so, even though I know we disagree on some things.

  2. I’m glad you’re here. You contribute a lot to the conversation, and you are a friend. Thank you for being part of this community.

  3. A local Priest recently said that if you want to understand Pope Francis you have to understand that he wants the doors of the Church to be opened as wide as possible. Once you understand his viewpoint all of his actions make sense. As a convert I love that the doors of the Church are so wide open if they weren’t I wouldn’t be a part of it.

  4. I have my own thoughts about this situation, but I won’t be reading the sites that obsess about it. Heck, I only know a couple and I’ve no interest in giving them hits. I do like Ed Peters, although his canon law analyses go over my head sometimes. A lot of the times…

    Btw, Papa Bergolio, like Papa Ratznger is an affectionate term. No doubt some people turn it into a rude reference.

  5. I am so grateful for this. Thank you for being such a good and passionate writer that can articulate what IS and IS NOT of the Spirit of God.

    You are right, they are addicted to something dressed up to look and smell and sound Catholic –but has a seething cauldron of hell on the inside. The adrenaline of hate makes them feel alive. You’d think they’d be able to *feel* what their heart is eaten up with. Just when I start to become completely appalled I remember that they are wounded, and lashing out at something that is foreign to them. They are lashing out at a level of love and acceptance that they themselves have *never* experienced. Instead of running toward it, they fear, and cling to the lies about God that are familiar lies–the ones that reassure them that God has His exclusive favorites. It’s painfully sad, grasping, and stunted.

  6. Quite, and good on you.

    I don’t think it verges on schismatic, I think it is schismatic, not all that different from the Diet of Worms. I agree with some things he say, disagree with many others, not that that matters, I’m Lutheran after all. If I understand what The Catholic Church says, it quite alright to disagree with the Pope on many matters, that really aren’t central to our faith. What I don’t understand are the widespread personal attacks, which are quite despicable.

    Again, good on you.

  7. I honestly think the Pope is wrong in this situation, as far as not answering the questions of the Cardinals, as that is precisely what a Pope is there for (to authoritatively clarify doctrinal questions), but I am with you in condemning any disrespect for Pope Francis, and absolutely any schismatic tendencies are extremely harmful to the Church.

  8. In revisiting what I wrote, I suppose I need to clarify. Most people aren’t up to a “seething cauldron of hell” . Forgive my frustration for their frustrating rudeness (and insults) for our very honest Holy Father.

    I think they’re just afraid for their misguided safe spaces and channeling a little rivulet of that “seething cauldron from hell” !–Some more than others… Mea Culpa. We have to remember to pray for them and that temptation. It’s a particularly distressing form of bondage. In the big picture it’s got to be worse than a Catholic that doesn’t have the *luxury* to even discuss these issues because survival becomes the paramount focus. I don’t know who is worse off. After watching the BBC news I’d say the self satisfied Americans are worse off…God help us.

  9. I have lost a good deal of my faith over this. I am in that seething cauldron of hell. And every time you fail to mention that you’re still *also* for heteronormative, lifelong marriage, you make it look like you’re on the OTHER side- those who have shown great hatred for the sacraments and who are using Pope Francis’s words for cover.


    THAT is the only way we can interpret Amoris Laetitia. THAT is the only way forward. The Pope should answer the dubia and write off those who dissent from tradition.

  10. I agree with you about the hate sites, as you might presume given that 2 of my favorite writers were fired at the urging of some of these people. I also don’t like attending the Tridentine Mass, even when my brother is saying it. So I am not a fan of Cardinal Burke. On the other hand, I think in this case the questions were reasonable and the Pope would do well to answer them. I do subscribe to Catholic Philly for the obvious reasons and support the Archbishop’s interpretation of Amoris Laetitia unless and until the Pope clearly repudiates it, which I don’t expect to happen.

    I would also suggest that unless you are reading a Vatican authorized translation of a text from Rome, you should take what you read with a lot of grains of salt. Even Catholic writers tend to misinterpret what members of the hierarchy say in order to support their own point of view. That sort of thing has happened to Pope Francis so much that it makes me want to cuss.

    And as far as accompanying people is concerned, if someone is bound and determined to go to hell we should pray for them, but we shouldn’t accompany them if it means we end up there too. God respects free will and we have to if we are to follow Him.

  11. Rebecca, I have been following you silently for a few years. I have found food for thought and some wonderful sprituial help. Thank you for being the witness that you are. Praying for you!

  12. I appreciate what you are saying here, Rebecca. There has been way too much nonsense and foolishness directed at Pope Francis. Although I have no problem with the original letter to the pope by the four cardinals, making that letter public was a bridge too far for me. That brought the truly nasty folks out in droves, to accuse Pope Francis of heresy, to call him an anti pope, and it just went downhill from there. Bless you, my dear.

  13. Ted, I deleted your link. I don’t normally allow links to other web sites on this blog, for lots of reasons. I’ve given you much more leeway than I normally do, but it’s time to stop.

    If you want me to delete your post rather than edit it to take out the link, I’ll do that. But I’m going to stop all the links on this particular post from here on out.

  14. Rebecca,

    I have always enjoyed your posts, and I have the highest respect for your stated intention to stand with the Pope. He is the successor of St. Peter and as such all Catholics (in truth, all Christians, whether they acknowledge him or not) have a duty to stand with him and to pray for him.

    I say this to you as a brother in Christ, not as any kind of a critic or enemy: In the present situation, what it means to truly stand with the Pope is to resist his stated teaching in some parts of Amoris, as St. Paul resisted St. Peter (Gal 2). Sometimes in order to support someone, in order to truly love them, you must tell them clearly that their present course of action is harmful to them and to others. In some contexts, to say nothing or to do nothing to resist is to objectively betray someone, to fail to love them. You would do this for a friend or relative suffering from alcoholism or drug abuse. You would do this for severely depressed friend or relative who was dropping hints of suicidal thoughts. You would even do it for the priest at your local parish, if something he was saying or doing was objectively harming his witness to Christ in the parish, causing scandal. You would say to the alcoholic relative “Enough; this has to stop” not because you are an enemy, but because only a friend cares enough to say something. The real enemy keeps out of it, and watches the person destroy themselves.

    Your duty now, not because you are against the Pope, but precisely because you are standing WITH the Pope, is to join your voice with those of the four cardinals who sent him the dubia letter (not necessarily by signing petitions, but by indicating support for their questions). These cardinals are not enemies of the Pope; it is not just to judge them by extreme comments you’ve come across in internet comment boxes. These men wrote the letter precisely because they are standing with the Pope, because they recognize absolutely the pope’s authority as Peter, because they are reaching out to him as his brothers in the episcopacy, ultimately as his brothers in Christ.

    The things at stake in Amoris laetitia are not ‘disciplinary’ matters that have to do with the ‘rules’ of how parishes administer the sacraments. The things at stake are fundamental to Christianity:the reality of marriage (and thus also the reality of Christ’ love for the Church); the reality of the Eucharist; the objective content of human moral action (and thus the very possibility of objective good and evil). These things are part of the very bedrock of Christianity; not one of these things is peripheral. The whole Faith stands or falls together, and these things are not hair-splitting matters of abstract theological debate. If marriage is dissoluble, then so is Christ’s love for the Church. If the Eucharist can be received in a state of continual sin, then the Church has been wrong in her practice from the very beginning, reaffirmed by councils and popes, recently by St. John Paul II. If the conscience can determine the good or evil of an action based on one’s concrete circumstances, even to the point of making an intrinsic evil into a good, then there is no objective evil at all.

    To say that these things are called into question in chpt 8 of Amoris is not exaggeration or false interpretation in any way. The literally dozens of bishops and theologians who have pointed out these dangers in the text are not “conservatives” who are irritated at having a more “progressive” pope, and therefore are looking for an excuse to attack him. These people have tried very hard to read the text with an open mind, and have found that the circle cannot be squared. The simple, literal reading of the text openly conflicts with Familiaris consortio, with Veritatis splendor, and by extension with the constant teaching and practice of the Church (insofar as FC and VS reiterate this constant teaching and practice). Francis himself has directly confirmed that Amoris is intended to allow those living continually with someone other than their spouse to receive the Eucharist (indicated in his response to the Argentine bishops).

    I spent 2013 and 2014 defending Pope Francis against criticism, and I viewed that criticism as unjustified and poisonous. Since the 2015 synod and the publication of Amoris, I have come to understand that Francis has embraced some serious doctrinal errors. When St. Paul recognized that St. Peter was in error, he confronted him about it to his face, not because he had ceased to be fully behind Peter, but precisely BECAUSE he was fully behind Peter, because he loved Peter as a brother and understood that to him (Peter) had been entrusted the keys. If he did not recognize that Peter was still in charge, Paul would not have bothered to change his mind; he would have encouraged the Church to follow him instead, and to turn away from Peter’s guidance.

    So, too, the four cardinals have not encouraged anyone to turn away from Francis and to follow them instead. They are not the pope, and he is; they cannot and will never lead the Church in place of Francis. Rather, they are appealing directly to Francis, asking him to come back from the edge of the cliff and to clearly reject the falsehoods, contrary to both Scripture and Tradition, that Amoris strongly suggests.

    It is because we are behind Francis that he must be challenged on this matter of grave importance, not because we are against him.

  15. Thank you for your kind comment Jordan.

    I have no problem with intelligent, thoughtful and appropriate questioning of the Pope which is based in a sincere desire to understand how to follow Christ. However, that is not what I am seen happening. These web sites and FB pages that I am referring to are hate-based, hate-fueled and entirely malicious. Sadly, people who go to them for long periods of time tend to become like them in their own behavior.

    As for my “duty” in this instance, I don’t have one. Let’s think about this.

    I am married to my only husband, so the whole question of divorced taking communion — if that is what this about — does not apply to me.

    I do not determine who takes the Eucharist. I am not a bishop, cardinal, priest, deacon or even an extraordinary Eucharistic minister.

    The only thing I have to worry about is if I take the Eucharist appropriately.

    What at means for me is that whenever I don’t go to mass for dubious reasons — the past year it has been due to being too tired — then I have to go to confession before I take communion again. To be honest, I think that I’m being almost too strict with myself about that, considering the depth of tired I have experienced during this year of cancer. But that’s the standard I apply.

    As long as these pope-haters are damaging my Church with malicious, crude, destructive attacks on the Pope — and anyone who supports him, I might add — that drive people away from Christ and that, if they continue, will lead to schism, then you better bet I am going to stand with the Pope. I will absolutely stand with the Pope, because standing with the Pope is the right thing to do. I’m not much, but I try to do the right thing when I know what it is.

  16. Yes, even many of us who think the Pope got this one wrong are also appalled at the attitudes of those who are attacking his person rather than only what he said in this specific instance. It doesn’t directly affect me because my early out of the Church wedding was annulled years ago. I’m very happy to be single, thank you. But people take things out of context, like Who am I to say, which in context was completely in line with Church teaching, and then interpret it to mean something that has no connection to what was being said. Totally frustrating. Don’t fall for it.

  17. This whole controversy strikes me as just about as important as all those angels dancing on the head of a pin. The parish my wife and I attend and the one where she is the pastoral associate, absolutely NO ONE is talking about this. I only see it on the Catholic blogs which have a rather limited readership. As to the document, NO I don’t think the Pope the should address the cardinals and I fon’t think he will answer them now or ever. it’s been written that the Pope doesn’t like confrontation so he’ll just say and do nothing until it simply goes away. Do I think it’s vague? Sure, because he wants it that way. To me, it’s subtle way of saying pastors should judge situations on a case by case basis. will the average Catholic notice? Probably not.

  18. If you read Church history you’ll that this has always been a problem. At the Council of Jerusalem the apostles dispensed with the Mosaic law for Gentiles, which was given to Moses from God. Judaizers probably thought “The nerve of these people! Putting their decisions above God Himself.” But we know that whatever they bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven.

    Or after the persecutions some people were angry because the Church let people who sacrificed to the Roman gods back in the Church. Was that also too merciful?

    If Jesus didn’t approve of what His Vicar was doing, He could stop it Himself. He didn’t appoint any non-clerical babysitters to guide the Church

  19. However the 4 Cardinals sent the letter privately and Pope Francis did not respond either publicly or privately. It appears even now he will refuse to make any kind of response to the letter. In order to understand why these cardinals made this public consider that the alternative is to just let it go. They had to make that call. As much as it is disturbing to see the reaction from pope-haters it’s not fair to judge these Cardinals and others with legitimate concerns based on the reaction from the most fringe wackos. The few who go to extremes should not be used as an excuse to ignore or disparage the enormous legitimate concern within the church. Everyone needs to try to be fair in this situation.

  20. I didn’t stand with Benedict when he saw the OT massacres as sins rather than God mandated in some cases ( Verbum Domini sect.42). I didn’t stand with St. John Paul II when sans data, he turned death penalty deterrence into deterring the one murderer you caught instead of the four in your town who are still out there uncaught. But I stood with them on feeding the hungry and praying for those on death row. If any of us were cross examined for 12 hours by an excellent systematic theologian, we would all have unconscious faith errors, hence the psalm says, “cleanse me from my hidden sins”. Popes like us have pockets of error that can enter non infallible documents. We shouldn’t be standing with any one Pope on every issue that he broaches. Rare is the document clearly covered by infallibility….see canon 749-3.(c).

  21. Rebecca,

    Might seem odd to reply to a comment from a month ago, but it has been a busy month and I didn’t have sufficient time.

    First: Yes, you certainly do have a duty, and No, it is not the case that the only thing you have to worry about is whether you personally are receiving the Lord without mortal sin. Your blog is called “Public Catholic.” You represent the Faith in the things you do and say. Every one of us is a ‘public Catholic’ in this sense. What we do and say has an affect on those around us: family, friends, co-workers, strangers. And you are perhaps a more public Catholic than most, insofar as you hold elected office.

    Secondly, regarding the argument you present (not in this post, but in the post you closed comments on): it is simply not Catholicism to say that everything a pope might write is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is not how Vatican I describes papal infallibility, at all. In fact, the whole point of Vatican I regarding papal infallibility is that the pope safeguards the apostolic witness and has no power to contradict this witness.

    The authority of the Petrine office does not extend to altering a teaching which originates with Christ’s own words, and which has been repeatedly affirmed with utter consistency by numerous councils and popes. The Catholic Church certainly believes that the Holy Spirit protects the pope from teaching error, but only in the sense of formal, direct statements (i.e., “I solemnly declare and define…,” or along those lines). But the Church does not believe, nor has she ever taught, that every single thing a pope writes is infallible. Any statement from a pope that would contradict the words of Christ is not from the Holy Spirit. The analogy of Peter’s dream is false, because the dietary restrictions were never part of the natural law, as the command against adultery is; they were a law required only of the children of Israel, for the purposes of the covenant God had established with them. When this covenant was extended by Christ to the Gentiles, this dietary aspect of the covenant was not extended.

    The Holy Spirit cannot ‘guide’ the pope to contradict the command “You shall not commit adultery”. The papacy is not a direct mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit; that is not a Catholic understanding of the Petrine ministry.

    It is my hope that in the last month, since you wrote this post, you may have come to realize that the cardinals who wrote the ‘dubia’ letter are not disrespecting or attacking the pope, but proving themselves his most loyal friends. Only a true friend will say something when they see you heading down a dangerous path, and Amoris Laetitia is an extremely dangerous thing for the whole Church.

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