in defence of pope francis


My last blog post was an angry rant. I believe that anger is the correct response to the seriousness of the abuse crisis. Anger is the wake up call. Anger is the emotion that will fuel the desire to face the problem, search for solutions, and begin the difficult task of reforming and rebuilding.

But, we also need to put anger aside to gain clarity and perspective amid a deafening cacophony of opposing voices. In the next few posts, I hope to share some more thoughts with the hope that you will share yours. Dialogue is needed more than ever before.

In reality, the problem is greater than one grand jury report. Greater than one diocese. Greater than one cardinal or one bishop or one priest. Greater than one pope. The sheer magnitude, world-wide, of the abuse crisis defies any “one size fits all” solution.

Heavy the head that wears the crown. But, I have more faith in Pope Francis wearing that crown than any other head in our church today. Here’s why…

From day one, Francis has railed against the evil rot of clericalism. He preached about it to the cardinals as they prepared for the last papal election. After he became pope, Francis never tired of criticizing men who enter the priesthood for power and prestige. He pointed his finger at cliques within Vatican circles that spend their energy in political posturing, infighting and gossiping.  He consistently preached to bishops and cardinals, old and new, to be true servant leaders not princes.

As a bishop and cardinal, Francis lived a simple, humble life in the poor neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. When he counsels families on daily life and love, he speaks with an intimacy and knowledge that defies his celibate life. His words reflect the many hours he has spent with families, sharing their joys, their sorrows and their struggles.

Francis’s deep love for children is without question. We know he will do all within his power to protect these little ones and their families.

Francis is a Jesuit. At the core of Jesuit spirituality is the discipline of discernment. Discernment requires deep prayer and hard work. And, it takes time. This is hard to accept when we yearn for quick and easy solutions.

No words of penance or sorrow can take away the damage, both personal and institutional, that this crisis has caused. But, I do believe that when Francis speaks he speaks from his heart. His words are genuine, honest and transparent.

This crisis is greater than the wisdom of any one person, no matter how kind, wise, loving or holy they are. Francis is not perfect. He has and will continue to make mistakes. For some, his words and actions will be too much. For others, not enough.

The church is in a mess beyond the power of any one person, committee, inquiry or program. If any pope is capable of beginning the clean up, it’s Francis.


12 thoughts on “in defence of pope francis

  1. It helps to read today’s article by Brian Rowe in the National Catholic Reporter.

  2. I too am angry. Not much I can do but hope and pray. Cardinal rule was broken, best to leave it to the authorities.

  3. Thank you for both the rant and the endorsement of Pope Francis. Unfortunately, to me, Pope Francis’ discernment does not see himself as an epochal agent of the Holy Spirit for renewal – as I think, did Pope John XXIII. He is “picking at it” piece by piece within the status quo context. In doing so his caution is leading him into the hands of the diligently intransigent and empirical domineering cadre(s). Inevitable specific mistakes become issues used against the larger plan – if there even is one that is proportionate to the need.
    He wants to avoid a schism and “bring along”, to convince and convert. Yes, he “appeals” because of his living his faith; he’s an example. He seems to have failed to build a constituency with strategy that will stand with him. Personal example does not change institution. He seeks to avoid a schism in spite of the obvious reality that it has already happened and the schismatics are the authority that is legitimate only in their entrenched status as institution and the culture of clericalism. In his leadership by example he steps outside of the institution, becoming one with us and thus loses power. One could quote from Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” but better to read it: Book V, chapter 5, “The Grand Inquisitor”.
    I think that we are becoming better followers of Christ because of Francis, but what will be left for the next generations? Hopefully, the incarnation continues to unfold. Francis is like a “Joseph” who is still without a Mary.

  4. “Personal example does not change institution.” I humbly beg to differ. I know a certain president, who’s personal example IS changing an institution –and definitely not for the better. It seems that good seldom spreads as quickly as evil, but spread it does. Francis faced an uphill battle from day one with the “old guard” at the Vatican. Much needed reform may still seem a long way off, but Francis is making an influence. We have to hope and pray that he is given several more years of health and life, and that his eventual successor will continue the work he has started.

    1. “That” institution was a cess-pool ready for a Trump. Obama was a good, honourable man and the “institution” stultified and sullied his good will and good example. I still maintain, sadly, that it takes more than personal example to change institution. Another example: Pope John XXIII.

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