Matt C. Abbott
February 23, 2017
Differing opinions on Pope Francis
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By Matt C. Abbott

(Please pray for veteran Catholic journalist John Vennari and his family. At the time of this writing, Mr. Vennari is in the very late stages of cancer.)



I received some interesting emails in response to my Feb. 10 column "The enigmatic Francis continues to disappoint." Several readers expressed agreement with me; others didn't.

The funniest vituperative email came from Callista M., who wrote:
    That you don't asphyxiate on your pride is a true miracle ... Make yourself 'relevant' on your silly irrelevant 'blog.' Why not do some real good in the world? Get off your fat arse and help Jesus homeless on the streets. Pope Francis cannot 'not like' Catholics like you, because you are not a true Catholic. Whited sepulchre. Pharisee. Hypocrite! Judas – stabbing that man in the back as you do. The man sees right through you.
(Ha! I could stand to lose some weight, mind you – but I'm not fat.)

Dale C. wrote:
    Birth control? Guess what? I use birth control and when I hopefully meet with St. Pete and God Almighty, I am going to guess that they are OK with this issue. The intellectual argument in favor of Humanae Vitae is actually quite weak and not supported by any real evidence. I think God and I are good about this.... I think you have sour grapes. You feel on the outside and are upset. You are one of the 'more Catholic than the pope' people.... I'll pray for you, Matt. I'll pray that God is more merciful than He is just.
(My column didn't address the issue of contraception per se, but if a Catholic chooses not to accept traditional Catholic moral teaching for whatever reason, it's fruitless to argue with that person. Also, God is infinitely merciful and infinitely just. There is no contradiction with God.)

Father Lawrence Goodwin, CJM, associate pastor of St. John Eudes Catholic Church in Chatsworth, Calif., wrote:
    So, I get it...you are a conservative Catholic. That's great, but being conservative is not without its consequences, 'good' and 'bad.' Personally, I would say that I am a capitol 'T' traditional, liberal Catholic. What I mean by that is that I am whole heartedly convinced that Jesus was crucified and was raised to new life. My life is shaped by everything that flows from His death and resurrection. I am a convert who was baptized in the great city of Chicago at St. Clement in Lincoln Park in 1997....

    So, you think Pope Francis is divisive. OK, as you are a conservative Catholic, I can see how some on the right might feel that way. But does this mean that you think Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were a unifying force in Christianity? I assure you, that for every time that you feel 'upbraided' by Pope Francis, I felt unwelcomed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Even before I was Christian, I felt a kind of disdain from John Paul II and Benedict XVI and therefore Christianity as a whole.

    I am old enough to remember the events of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Even though I was not Christian at that time and I was around 10 years old, I remember how some of the things I heard about Vatican II gave me a great feeling of hope. I would not have been able to articulate it back then, but that feeling of hope was that this huge thing called Christianity could find a way to include someone like me. John Paul II and Benedict XVI did and said many things to try to extinguish that feeling of hope.

    You can imagine the surprise I experienced and the surprise of almost all of my family and friends when I became Catholic. That surprise is compounded by the fact that even through some of the most repressive anthropological and dogmatic statements of John Paul II (and I suspect many of the things that you love most about John Paul II), my personal encounters with the living Lord cut through everything to show me that Christianity is about God's love for us which was made know to us by Jesus on the Cross and His inevitable resurrection.

    Perhaps some of your discomfort with Pope Francis can be found in the fact that Francis is trying to help us remember that the center of our faith is Jesus who is love incarnate and the fact that John Paul II and Benedict XVI rightfully spent time, perhaps too much time and words, reminding us of that dogmatic truths. If you know Jesus you will understand the law. The converse is not necessarily true. One can study the law and know it chapter and verse and not know the living Lord....

    So, my brother, Pope Francis is no more divisive than were John Paul II or Benedict XVI. The pain is a result of the view of Rome you have because of the seat in which you choose to sit.
(Father Goodwin's email is respectful. However, I disagree with his characterizations of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I suspect that the majority of Pope Francis' supporters share Father's views about the previous two popes – not to mention most of the pre-Vatican II popes. That's unfortunate, but it is what it is.)

Silas K. wrote that I should think about joining the Presbyterian Church:
    Keep in mind that the Constitution of the United States was patterned after the governance of the Presbyterian Church, with three branches of governance with checks and balances and an equal share of responsibility between clergy and laymen. This is not found in the Roman Catholic experience.

    If the Roman Catholic Church does not make changes, it will die. If you travel through Europe you find great cathedrals that are empty. These costs alone are unsustainable. Also, the unfunded liability of retirement of the various levels of clergy is having a huge impact on the funds of the church.
(God bless you, Silas, but I'll take a pass on Presbyterianism.)

Richard T. wrote:
    Read your commentary and agree with you. I also understand that you are not a true Catholic believer (me neither) because you do not accept the infallibility of the pope. Foundation of a religion is shaky when it assigns infallibility to any mere mortal. But, since Catholics do assign this infallibility, how can he be wrong?

    Your disagreement with the pope's teachings is biblical and true, but you cannot have it both ways. Either you are Catholic and believe in the infallibility, or you do not. You should either get in or get out. Sitting on the edge throwing stones is an hypocrisy beneath you.
(I responded to Richard that I do believe in papal infallibility, but Catholic teaching on papal infallibility is sometimes misunderstood, and Richard obviously misunderstands it. Not everything the pope says is infallible. In fact, popes speak infallibly only under very limited conditions. Click here to read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the subject of papal infallibility.)

Kristine Tejada wrote:
    I've always been on 'the fence' with this pope on whether or not I like him. I miss Pope John Paul II, as I'm sure a lot of others do. I appreciate you writing what you did and for posting the [link to] the 2016 review of [things] Pope Francis has said and done....

    I just wanted to write thank you for the article. As Catholics we get so much backlash over things because we don't 'conform.' And I get tired of us having to defend ourselves because we are the religion that doesn't conform to society's b – t (apologize about that word). I will never be pro-choice and pro-gay marriage; not going to happen ... Please continue the good work.
G. W. "Bill" Hebenstreit wrote:
    I share your disappointment with Pope Francis. When he was initially chosen to succeed Pope Benedict, I was very hopeful. I liked his self-deprecating humor and concern for the poor, as well as the way he would not accept many of the 'benefits' of his office (i.e., living quarters, red shoes, and so on). However, since that time, he has made what I consider insulting comments about U.S. Catholics (i.e., we are not 'giving' enough to the less fortunate, and so on).

    Further, as a long-time worker in the U.S. natural gas industry, I was extremely disappointed that he jumped on the environmentalists' bandwagon, accusing the companies that work hard to bring reasonably-priced energy to the masses as being selfish and money-grabbing. Ironically, my local parish has expanded to the point of needing a new church building and is actively seeking funds from myself (and others in my industry) for that purpose. So, apparently, the Church has no problem taking my money to build its facilities, but has great issues with the industry that funds it!

    It is also interesting that the Green Energy that our pontiff apparently favors is too expensive for the poor to even afford! Perhaps the Holy Father does not fully understand the ramifications of his actions?
Ginger Steele wrote:
    I came across one of your articles on Pope Francis recently and I have to agree wholeheartedly with you. My family is a Christian family, although not Catholic, and he even alarms us. We do pay attention to world events, and the entire world seems to be turning upside down. I pray daily for our country and I will add the pope to those prayers also.

    I don't understand how so many people have become so blind and misled about what is going on. I even re-read Revelation a few days ago out of curiosity. I guess we all know how it eventually will end, but the getting there is going to be frightening. Keep up the good work. I am refusing to be quiet any longer. I think perhaps many of us 'regular folk' were quiet for far too long.
(Amen!)

© 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's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails – complete with email addresses – that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if those emails are marked confidential. Also, please be aware that RenewAmerica is not my website; RA's president and editor is Stephen Stone, who can be reached here. I'm just one of RA's columnists, for which I'm very grateful. I don't speak for the other RA columnists, so please don't email me to complain about what someone else has written. Thank you and God bless!)

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