CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
It’s a hard place for me to be. I have a great admiration and immense respect for the office of the papacy, its history and its members, including Pope Francis. The role the Holy Father plays in the Apostolic Church is of great importance, and the men who have been placed in that spot deserve the highest levels of respect.
However, I have a hard time placing my faith in Pope Francis during a time such as this for several reasons. His comments that youth who pursue the Extraordinary Form are “rigid,” the appointments of bishops and cardinals in the U.S. who are clearly not good (see, Chicago), the Amoris Laetitia ambiguity and subsequent refusal to address the concerns of the dubia cardinals, and the lip service he’s paid to McCarrick and Wuerl; these and many more instances are all reasons that have caused me to struggle to reconcile these words and actions with the respect and belief that is due to the Bishop of Rome.
I know I am not the only one that feels this way. In fact, there are several students on this campus who feel similarly, though they might not feel as confident expressing their struggles as me.
Their reluctance for speaking out is quite understandable. There seems to be a notion that one cannot disagree with the Holy Father without being seen as a bad Catholic or, even worse, some sort of sedevacantist, just for one’s simple disagreement with how Pope Francis is doing his job.
Last week, I was at a talk on campus where someone asked the speaker something along the lines of how young Catholics should regard the hierarchy in this time of crisis. He responded by saying much of what I just said — that he didn’t like Pope Francis and didn’t think he was a good pope. And then he talked about why that was okay.
One of the biggest beefs our Protestant brothers and sisters have with Catholicism is the fear that we worship the pope and that we believe his every word and action to be infallible. Our response to this, of course, is, “No, we don’t. Only certain, specific things the pope says can be infallible. We are allowed to disagree with him in other ways.”
However, when someone actually has the gall to speak up against the pope, the reaction can often be the one I mentioned earlier — how can someone question the pope’s actions or motives and still expect to be considered a good Catholic by others?
This shouldn’t be the case.
Pope Francis is not a perfect pope. In fact, he’s quite far from it. Some of the things Pope Francis has done, and even some of the things he hasn’t done, have caused great scandal within the Church, and it has left me and many, many others quite frustrated. The Vigano testimonies, while the most recent incidents, are hardly the only ones.
Catholics have a moral duty to speak up in the face of wrong and even more so during this time of crisis within the Church. Now more than ever, it is necessary not to be blindly obedient but rather to voice our concerns to hold our spiritual leaders’ foots to the fire, and that includes Pope Francis’.
While there is no way yet to tell how much of Archbishop Vigano’s allegations are true, I don’t doubt at least some of allegations are true. In his first testimony, Vigano said his conscience compelled him to come clean and call out Pope Francis and Cardinals McCarrick, Wuerl and Cupich, among others, for their alleged betrayal of the faithful.
The archbishop’s words are a call to action. They are a reminder that staying quiet implicates us in the evil that has and is occurring within the Church. We cannot afford to remain silent until the Church is well into the healing process and all evil is rooted out of it.
At the same time, we must increase our prayer for the Holy Father because whether we like him or not does not remove the fact that he is our pope. We must pray for his soul and his leadership in the hopes that one day our Church will be healed.
If we are not holding him accountable and simultaneously praying for the Holy Spirit to guide Pope Francis, then we have no ground to stand on. He is our leader, and no matter how much we believe in him, we cannot abandon him spiritually when he is in most need of our prayers.
I have seen scandal come from Pope Francis’ actions too many times and it hurts me to see Holy Mother Church in the state it is today, divided, broken and bleeding, and I will be open about that with people because I believe it is important to talk about. But as much as I dislike Pope Francis, I still pray for him for the sake of our Church and I hope you will, too.