By Judie Brown
Pope Francis recently told reporters:
“I pray that schisms do not happen, but I am not afraid of them.”
What the pope is referring to is a type of division within the Church that one astute professor, Roberto de Mattei, describes as a
“laceration of the Mystical Body” of Christ. He goes on to explain that “Catholics who truly love the Church are horrified by schisms and heresies and are ready to defend until the shedding of their blood the purity and integrity of Christ’s teachings.”
When Pope Francis says he is not afraid of schism, therefore, we feel alarm. In addition, Pope Francis’ many derogatory comments about his critics—many of whom have valid points—trouble us greatly. You see, while the Holy Father says “we need to be gentle” with those who voice reservations or have questions, he has never shown any willingness to do so. In fact, commentator Phil Lawler, who has followed the pope’s actions and words closely, writes:
When Cardinal Müller expressed concerns about papal statements, the pope abruptly dismissed him from his role as the Vatican’s top doctrinal watchdog; more recently he has dismissed the German cardinal as “like a child.”
These are not the words nor the actions of a leader who welcomes honest criticisms. They are telltale signs of a willingness to ride roughshod over critics. And since they come from a pontiff who has simultaneously shown a willingness to believe that powerful American forces are plotting against him, we can probably expect to see further signs of papal hostility later this year, as the bishops of the United States make their ad limina visits to Rome.
This is sad, but it is also a fact that cannot be ignored. Monsignor Charles Pope, for example, wrote on Facebook in response to the pope’s criticism of traditional American Catholics in particular:
I am not afraid of everything as you state, but I do have concerns for the ambiguity of some of your teachings and severity of some of your actions. Yet when we, your less favored sons, ask you questions you will not answer or clarify. In all this I am still your son and share the priesthood of Jesus with you. I await the solicitude and gentle care from you that you say I, and others like me, lack. Meanwhile I must honestly and painfully say that I am wearied from being scorned and demonized by you.
Yes, we Catholics are indeed living in peculiar times. It seems to us that the Holy Father has more time to answer questions from the New York Times than he does to minister to those he finds rigid.
This is why we are so grateful to Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider for calling Catholics to 40 days of prayer and fasting from September 17 to October 26.
In the declaration announcing this time of spiritual sacrifice for the Church, both Burke and Schneider explain that in view of the fact that so many commentators, prelates, and others have warned of the dangers inherent in the working document to be studied at the upcoming Amazon Synod, it is important for us to pray now for the Holy Father, to seek the Blessed Mother’s intercession, and to rely totally on Jesus Christ.
The problems the Church confronts today in this age of 30-second sound bites and perplexing papal statements are grave, but we find solace in these words of St. John Paul II from Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason):
Reason cannot eliminate the mystery of love which the Cross represents, while the Cross can give to reason the ultimate answer which it seeks. . . .
The wisdom of the Cross, therefore, breaks free of all cultural limitations which seek to contain it and insists upon an openness to the universality of the truth which it bears. What a challenge this is to our reason, and how great the gain for reason if it yields to this wisdom!
Take heart my friends, the Lord is nigh, and He is in complete control of the current situation. St. Paul of the Cross invites us to bask in the truth when he writes of our safe harbor within the wounds of the crucified Christ:
See the dwelling for my loved ones
Where the lance has forced its way!
Here the soul who loves Me only
Lives detached; I am her stay.