Pope speaks out against fake news

Pope Francis released a message for World Communications Day, titled,

“The truth will set you free” (Jn8:32)

Fake news and journalism for peace. 

Francis describes fake news as “spreading of disinformation on line or in traditional media.” Fake news is used to deceive and manipulate. It twists the truth. It identifies hatreds and biases, and feeds those hatreds and biases to promote its own agenda.

Truth is more than freedom from falsehood. Truth is also about relationships. Francis writes,

To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another…

We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.

The evil of fake news lies in its insidious, snake-like nature. Francis turns to the book of Genesis, describing the methods of Satan in the Garden of Eden. Fake news looks like real news. It sounds like truth. But, it isn’t.

Francis calls for journalists to work harder in the service of truth, but the burden really lies with all of us. How educated are we in spotting fake news? Can we spot it in our own news feeds? Do we confirm the legitimacy of a news story or the reliability of an author before we share, retweet, or forward a story to others? Are we quick to be the first to share news before all the details have been reported? Do we respond to headlines without reading the full article?

It is possible to be emotional and rational in our writing. There is a way to seek truth in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. There is a way to promote dialogue rather than angry diatribes. Francis ends his message with a practical, inspirational guide, based on the prayer of St. Francis.

Make me an instrument of your peace…

where there is shouting, let us practise listening; where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony; where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity; where there is exclusion, let us off


Śto Lat, Pope Francis!

Pope smiles as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Four years ago today, the world was introduced to Pope Francis. As the Habemus Papam was announced, journalists struggled to fill in the many blanks. Argentina? Jorge Bergoglio? Francis? Why Francis? Within moments of his appearance on the papal balcony, we were given some important clues about this  man.

Where was the rich, papal finery and cross? Where were the victory waves, the triumphant looks of joy and pride at becoming the most powerful leader in the Catholic Church?

francis 2

Instead, we saw an elderly, timid, somewhat confused-looking man. Perhaps he simply forgot to put on the rest of his papal garb? Perhaps he just needed a crash course in papal balcony protocol?

And then came the moment of magic. As the world waited to be blessed by their new pope, he first asked US to bless HIM!

pope francis blessing

We often ask “where were you when…?”. I was sitting in hubby’s dental chair when the news was announced. Hubby stopped mid-way in my tooth repair. Along with our staff, our attention was glued to my iPad on the counter. It’s a moment I will never forget. It’s a moment that still gives me goose-bumps.


The following hours and days were filled with small actions that spoke loudly of the kind of pope Francis wanted to be. He took the bus with fellow cardinals. He stopped at the hotel to pay his bill. He wore his own, simple episcopal cross and mitre. He carried his own suitcase. And then there were the shoes. Ah, the shoes…

popes shoes

His choice of footwear wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for the extravagant clothing of his predecessor. You can’t judge a book by its cover. But…sometimes you can.

This year’s anniversary is especially poignant. We yearn for leaders of integrity, who see beyond their own self-interests. We need leaders who will work for both the good of their country as well as the good of the world. We need leaders whose vision is grounded in seeking justice and peace for all. We need leaders who give us hope, not increase our fears.

Francis is such a leader. In an  NCR interview by Joshua J. McElwee, Cardinal Cupich of Chicago gives an excellent analysis of the first four years of the Francis papacy. Becoming a more “synodal”, collaborative church was a key concept in the Second Vatican Council, and is a foundational part of Francis’s vision for the church. Cardinal Cupich describes it this way,

I find that it does two things. First of all, it gives you insight into what the issue is by hearing other voices. And secondly, it keeps you from the temptation that you have to in some way make all the decisions, and the weight falls on you.

Or even worse, that you make your work an exercise in your own ego being affirmed. Because there is a temptation at times to make your whole work an exercise in narcissism, where you want to in some way prove yourself by the decisions that you make.

That’s very tempting to people who are in positions of authority. You want to build this building, you want to do this particular task that you want to leave behind as a legacy. I think that if you do that you’re really not going to be free to address the issues that are there because you’re going to be blinded by the task that you think is going to affirm your own ego.

Cardinal Cupich also reminds us that we  must be grateful to Benedict XVI for his wisdom and courage. If Benedict had not resigned, we would not have Francis.

I hope and pray that Francis will be with us for many years. In Polish, we wish for Śto Lat!…one hundred years of life! Let’s all raise a glass today. To Francis…Śto Lat!


francis speaks out against clericalism…again!

Pope Francis continues to make daily head-lines that excite this liberal heart. Here’s one from yesterday, written by NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee,

Francis: Spirit works in laypeople, ‘is not property of the hierarchy’

On the one hand, it’s sad that this announcement makes head line news. Shouldn’t it be obvious that the Holy Spirit isn’t an exclusive gift to priests, bishops and popes? And, yet, how many times have we been led to believe that those with the sacred oils of ordination have a direct line to the Divine while we, the great unwashed in the pews, are wallowing in ignorance?

Ongoing Vatican reports on Pope Francis, like the one above, provide a path-way to a deeper understanding of Amoris Laetitia. As much as I have would have loved Francis to single-handedly sweep away all church teachings that have caused women and men to feel excluded from the Body of Christ, I also know that I would not want other popes to have this kind of power.

What Francis is doing is greater than simply changing laws. He is challenging minds and hearts to prepare the way for a more participatory, egalitarian and inclusive church.

Clericalism is the antithesis of a participatory, egalitarian and inclusive spirit. In the NCR story above, Francis called clericalism “one of the greatest deformations that Latin America must confront”. The context was a letter written to Cardinal Marc Ouellet in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The pope is obviously well acquainted with the church in Latin America, and feels strongly about the issues that he is addressing.

Francis speaks often about the evils of clericalism, and the damage it has imposed on the church. In the letter , he writes,

Clericalism, far from giving impulse to diverse contributions and proposals, turns off, little by little, the prophetic fire from which the entire Church is called to give testimony in the heart of its peoples…Clericalism forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belongs to all the people of God and not only an elect or illuminated few.

One of the most quoted lines from Amoris Laetitia is,

We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. AL, 37.

In the letter to Cardinal Ouellet, He writes,

We trust in our people, in their memory and in their ‘sense of smell,’ we trust that the Holy Spirit works in and with them, and that this Spirit is not only the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.

The Holy Spirit works in each of us? We might have better knowledge than a priest of what is right and wrong in our own situation? Who would have known!

Clericalism IS at the heart of much that is wrong with our church. Clericalism feeds, supports and shelters the power and control that has been associated with the hierarchy for centuries. Clericalism wraps itself in finery and surrounds itself with symbols of prestige. Clericalism demands to be served rather than to serve.

Francis is nudging the People of God to an adult faith, a faith that sheds an unhealthy and dysfunctional dependence on “Father”. Father does not always know best. Clericalism stifles the independence and freedom needed to be formed into spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually mature women and men.