Matt C. Abbott
'Don't mistake compassion for weakness'
By Matt C. Abbott
March 22, 2013

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, two prominent pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage "Catholics," received Holy Communion at the inauguration Mass for Pope Francis. (Source)

I've asked Father John Trigilio Jr., author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to weigh in on the controversy.

I've also asked Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, to comment on what it will take – from a spiritual and moral perspective – to get the fractured and reeling GOP to fully embrace pro-life and pro-family values.

Thanks to both priests for providing me with thoughtful responses, which can be seen below (slightly edited).

Father Trigilio's comments:
    Don't mistake compassion for weakness.

    The secular media's infatuation with Pope Francis is as shallow as was their fondness of Pope John Paul II at the time of his death. Pope Francis is indeed a humble man, and his humility is something we clergy, whether as pastors, bishops or cardinals, need to emulate. The new pontiff's preference for simplicity should not be misunderstood, however. Just as his love for the poor is more than the pity of secular humanism, likewise, his Saint Therese style of littleness is not evidence of an elderly marshmallow. Like Our Divine Lord when He met the woman caught in adultery, Pope Francis shows mercy, but he also shows (as did Jesus) fraternal correction: 'Go and sin no more.'

    Vice President Biden and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi have made themselves ineligible for Holy Communion by their public scandal of giving overt and aggressive support for abortion and now for same-sex marriage as well. The Holy Father wisely chose not to give Holy Communion, as many heads of state and other politicians and government officials were at the Mass of Installation. Had the Vicar of Christ been on camera giving Holy Communion to an abortion-supporting politician, it would have demoralized and scandalized the faithful.

    Hence, some other prelate or priest or deacon gave Communion to those infamous and duplicitous public leaders, whether they knew the case history or not. As a pastor, then bishop, and finally as cardinal archbishop, Jorge Bergoglio showed kindness, patience and paternal affection for those found guilty in sin. This tenderness is not a sign of moral laxity, however. Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin. Pope Francis loves his fellow man, but that love is real – and do not mistake it for tolerance or indifference.

    A staunch supporter of the Magisterium, Pope Francis did as Christ did and rebuked those who should have known better. In other words, those religious and secular leaders who advocate public support for grave moral evils are now on notice and warning. It is the sin of sacrilege to receive Holy Communion unworthily. Pope Francis can still be kind, gentle and friendly, but as a loving spiritual father, it would be wrong and scandalous for Catholics who dissent from Church doctrine and/or disobey Church discipline to blasphemously take Holy Communion, as their public life contradicts the truths of our beloved religion.

    Pope Benedict XVI had the unfortunate caricature of him, proliferated by the secular media, when they often referred to him as Papa Rottweiler. His orthodoxy was known around the globe. He did not give ample opportunity for the enemies of the Church to discredit her.

    Pope Francis, like his namesake, is someone known for his compassion. Unlike the misguided compassion of modern man, Pope Francis will not condone the murder of innocent unborn human life merely to be politically correct and 'liked.' He may not have publicly dressed down the officials (like Biden and Pelosi), but he did openly concur and support Cardinal Burke's opinion on the canonical status of those who oppose the Magisterium, namely, that they not approach the altar for Holy Communion. Both he and Benedict XVI are on the same page, as was John Paul II. Different personas, but same doctrine and same morals. Love for the poor is not the sole possession of the far left. Communism and socialism are political distortions of the proper order God intended for the family of mankind.

    If the far left thought that Pope Francis would be their new poster boy or patron saint, they are much mistaken. He is first and foremost a Catholic priest who was ordained to save souls, just like Benedict XVI and John Paul II. Get with the program, already! Catholic politicians make themselves unworthy to receive Holy Communion by not being in communion with the doctrinal or moral teachings of the Church.

Father Pavone's comments:
    As I have said to pro-life, pro-family activists around the world, having the right convictions is not enough, and having a majority of people with the right convictions isn't even the biggest need we have.

    What our cause needs is a small band of people ready to take enormously large risks – risks that we will lose reputation and relationships, positions and power. We cannot point to any successful social reform movement in which the social reformers did not pay a tremendous personal price. The start of the United States of America, and the start of Christianity itself, involved life-giving sacrifices.

    To preserve what we have, we need to follow the pattern of how we got it in the first place. Whether we are talking about politicians, or clergy, or anyone in any position, if they are not willing to risk, they will be tempted to compromise. This explains the willingness to give in to the demands of those who advance agendas radically opposed to Judeo-Christian values.

    So many don't want to rock the boat. Yet we're called not only to rock it, but to turn it upside down altogether. The Acts of the Apostles shows us an early Church in which Christians were accused of 'turning the world upside down.'

    Both in the Church and in politics, radical spiritual renewal is needed. That is why, under the Priests for Life umbrella, I have founded the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. This is a movement that teaches and commits one to live pro-life as a spirituality, as an aspect of Christian discipleship, and not simply as a cause or political platform. When we understand the virtues we need to live the Gospel and defend the truth, our efforts will not be disconnected from our faith. We will then be less likely to engage in efforts that are misguided, or lacking in virtue, and we will also be less likely to tire in those efforts, or to fail to make the sacrifices that victory requires. (See
© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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