Pope uses Bratislava Jesuit Meeting to attack enemies

Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor in Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Italy has posted an article about the Pope's meeting at the Nunciature in Bratislava on Sunday 12th September 2021 with 53 Slovak Jesuits.

The article itself contains a number of references to Spadaro in what struck me as quite an unusual (and potentially self-aggrandising way). The inclusion of these comments demonstrates that the Pope is completely aware that his comments will be fully reported. This does not appear to temper what he says in any way however and as usual, the Pope engages in personal criticism and uses the meeting as an opportunity to attack his enemies in quite extraordinary ways.

One of those present says: “I am two years younger than you in 1968 I entered the Society of Jesus as a refugee. I was a member of the Swiss Province for 48 years, and have now been here for 5 years. I have lived in very different Churches. Today I see that many people want to go back or seek certainties in the past. Under communism I experienced pastoral creativity. Some even said that a Jesuit could not be formed during communism, but others disagreed and we are here. What vision of Church can we follow?”

The Pope responds: "You said something very important, which identifies the suffering of the Church at this moment: the temptation to go backward. We are suffering this today in the Church: the ideology of going backward. It is an ideology that colonizes minds. It is a form of ideological colonization. It is not really a universal problem, but rather specific to the churches of certain countries. Life scares us. I’ll repeat something I said to the ecumenical group I met here before you: freedom scares us. In a world that is so conditioned by addictions and virtual experiences it frightens us to be free. In the previous meeting I took Dostoevsky’s The Great Inquisitor as an example. He finds Jesus and says to him: “Why did you give us freedom? It is dangerous!” The inquisitor reproaches Jesus for having given us freedom: a bit of bread would have been enough and nothing more.

That is why today we look back to the past: to seek security. It frightens us to celebrate before the people of God who look us in the face and tell us the truth. It frightens us to go forward in pastoral experiences. I think of the work that was done – Father Spadaro was present – at the Synod on the Family to make it understood that couples in second unions are not already condemned to hell. It frightens us to accompany people with sexual diversity. We are afraid of the crossroads and paths that Paul VI spoke of. This is the evil of this moment, namely, to seek the path in rigidity and clericalism, which are two perversions.

Today I believe that the Lord is asking the Society to be free in the areas of prayer and discernment. It is a fascinating time, a beautiful moment, even if it is that of the cross: it is beautiful to bring forward the freedom of the Gospel. Freedom! You can experience this turning back to the past in your community, in your province, in the Society. It is necessary to be attentive and vigilant. My intention is not to praise imprudence, but I want to point out to you that turning back is not the right way. Instead, we should go forward in discernment and obedience."

Pope Francis seems to take this question as an opportunity to criticise anyone who is looking to cling to the faith of the Catholic Church and not embrace his innovations. In other words it is an attack on critics of Pope Francis' laissez-faire, opaque and confusing leadership. It's interesting that he manages to make it sound like a short-coming of his critics, but, given he never addresses the questions, and that Catholicism is about a truth revealed by God the Father perfectly through His Son Jesus Christ, some explanation would seem to be required if the Catholic faithful are going to follow the Pope in a new direction on - say - communion for the divorced and remarried. Given that actuality, the short-comings would seem to be his own.

In another section, the Pope refers to gender ideology, which, thankfully, he condemns, but also suggests this has nothing to do with the homosexual issue:

One of those present recalls that the pope often speaks of diabolical ideological colonizations. He refers, among others, to that of “gender.”

"Ideology always has a diabolical appeal, as you say, because it is not embodied. Right now we live in a civilization of ideologies, that’s true. We need to expose them at their roots. The “gender” ideology of which you speak is dangerous, yes. As I understand it, it is so because it is abstract with respect to the concrete life of a person, as if a person could decide abstractly at will if and when to be a man or a woman. Abstraction is always a problem for me. This has nothing to do with the homosexual issue, though. If there is a homosexual couple, we can do pastoral work with them, move forward in our encounter with Christ. When I talk about ideology, I’m talking about the idea, the abstraction in which everything is possible, not about the concrete life of people and their real situation."

This is a typically vague response: what is the pastoral work we can do with them? What is the point of it? I mean, it would seem to be to bring them to Christ, right? But how does that work in the context of a relationship being lived out in direct contradiction to God's plan for Marriage? No answers from Pope Francis here, just more confusion and ambiguity.

In answer to one question, the Pope issues a thinly veiled attack on EWTN and this is the section of the meeting that seems to have caused the biggest noise on the internet. One of the participants tells the pope about the situation of the Slovak Church and the internal tensions. “Some even see you as heterodox,” he says, “while others idealize you. We Jesuits try to overcome this division.” He asks: “How do you deal with people who look at you with suspicion?”

Extraordinary that things are so bad, Pope Francis is confronted with questions like this in private meetings. It's like asking him if he knows what a mess he is making of everything! It doesn't phase him at all the, which makes you think he is well aware. The Pope answers: "There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope. I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil. I have also said this to some of them."

False humility notwithstanding, this is a quite extraordinary attack and it looks very much like the classic leftist "I'm a victim" response to a push back. I try to keep up with EWTN and very much appreciate their commentary. I know many of my friends at Church Militant, Lifesite News, etc consider EWTN are bought and paid for by the USCCB (the US Bishops Conference), and are therefore wary of trusting their output but even they do not seem to be able to pretend all is well under Pope Francis. 

They honestly discuss the controversial and problematic issues at the Vatican caused by Pope Francis and those he promotes always involving knowledgeable journalists and clergy to give proper perspective. Check out the latest for yourself and see what you think - are they attacking the Church or are they asking genuine questions about things Pope Francis says?

I honestly can't see how the Pope thinks that they are attacking the office of the pope (it seems rather that they defend it and the Church), or even him personally. They clearly are distressed & concerned about actual decisions he makes, as are so many Catholics. His prickly attitude makes it look like he is refusing to accept any responsibility for his decisions?

Pope Francis continues: "Yes, there are also clerics who make nasty comments about me. I sometimes lose patience, especially when they make judgments without entering into a real dialogue."

How does he square this comment with his refusal to answer the dubia cardinals four years ago??

"I can’t do anything there. However, I go on without entering their world of ideas and fantasies. I don’t want to enter it and that’s why I prefer to preach, preach… Some people accuse me of not talking about holiness. They say I always talk about social issues and that I’m a communist. Yet I wrote an entire apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate."

More gaslighting here -- "their world of ideas and fantasies" is a personal attack which is not the sort of merciful dialogue one would expect from a pope, surely? Just saying that is dismissive of their concerns and positions, which cast serious doubt on the merciful pontiff's constant recourse to "dialogue". It's not much of a dialogue if you are able to dismiss alternative perspectives as "fantasies" is it?

I have to admit that at this point I have stopped reading Pope Francis' documents so I am unable to offer a personal insight into the contents of Gaudete et Exsultate. Everything he writes is very long, repetitive and wordy. I have found very little of value therein and it is time I simply will never get back. 

The summary of this one is that it is a repetition of the constant themes of this papacy. It attacks Traditional Catholics using the a redefinition of ancient heresies. Basically describing the modern forms of Pelagianism and of Gnosticism Francis sees these two ancient heresies in the current notion of holiness based on following certain abstract rules, "an obsession with the law, ... a punctilious concern for the Church’s liturgy", while ignoring the messiness of real life and the suffering of people at the margins. If the Church does not open itself to change, it can become a "museum piece" out of touch with a lively charity which is the foundation of the Christian life: "Once we believe that everything depends on human effort as channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace."

So basically he is attacking rigid Catholics...AGAIN! And his strategy for holiness is to be more worldly??? It sounds like the plot line from Whoopi Goldberg's film Sister Act!
The evidence is that what actually works is preaching the Gospel of repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Pope continues: "Now I hope that with the decision to stop the automatism of the ancient rite we can return to the true intentions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II." 

Benedict XVI, defending Summorum Pontificum said: "My main reason for making the previous form [of Mass] more available was to preserve the internal continuity of Church history. We cannot say: Before, everything was wrong, but now everything is right..."

Is Pope Francis lying? Does he not understand Pope Benedict XVI? Am I missing something?

"My decision is the result of a consultation with all the bishops of the world made last year." We know this isn't true -- quite a few bishops said they hadn't even received it, let alone responded!  "From now on those who want to celebrate with the vetus ordo must ask permission from as is done with biritualism. But there are young people who after a month of ordination go to the bishop to ask for it. This is a phenomenon that indicates that we are going backward."

This constitutes a quite extraordinary and revealing disgust for those who seek to follow Catholicism faithfully. Why does he constantly attack faithful Catholics? What do we do instead of being faithful? Be flaccid? How must the priests and religious who have joined traditionalist orders and dedicated their lives to Christ feel about his constant haranguing? Where is the mercy for them? The inclusivity? I find the rhetoric extraordinary! And it can only be driven by a bizarre hatred of the faith!

"A cardinal told me that two newly ordained priests came to him asking him for permission to study Latin so as to celebrate well. With a sense of humour he replied: “But there are many Hispanics in the diocese! Study Spanish to be able to preach. Then, when you have studied Spanish, come back to me and I’ll tell you how many Vietnamese there are in the diocese, and I’ll ask you to study Vietnamese. Then, when you have learned Vietnamese, I will give you permission to study Latin.” So he made them “land,” he made them return to earth. I go ahead, not because I want to start a revolution. I do what I feel I must do. It takes a lot of patience, prayer and a lot of charity."

From this comment, it appears the Pope has absolutely no idea of the importance of worship in a hieratic language (as Jesus did) and benefit of a universal language of the Church: that once the Mass was known in Latin, it would be the same Mass wherever you went in the world. What could be more inclusive?

I've picked out the bits I thought important in this blog. You can read the whole thing here. All in all I think it provides some interesting - and concerning insights into Pope Francis' thinking. His determination to break away with the faith as handed down through the generations and, in the name of mercy, make Catholicism about something else all together. Yes there is a laudable desire to meet people where they are and comfort them, but after he has met them there, it doesn't seem at all clear where he is going to take them or why. It's all very well being merciful to people in difficult or painful situations, but at some point you have to offer some clear, practical direction or reason for the meeting.


  1. Report of Confused Catholics on the State of Faith in Slovakia on the Occasion of the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis


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