The most recent dust-up regarding Pope Francis occurred when I posted some scalding commentary regarding a LifeSite News article that reported on Pope Francis concelebrating mass with a 93 year-old dissident, gay rights activist priest, and the Pope’s kissing that priest’s hands. Lifesite accurately depicted the problematic issues surrounding the ancient cleric:
Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Martha and then presented the pontiff with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten and a copy of his most recent book, “Dear Don Michele – questions to an inconvenient priest”.
In a previous book, Don Michele wrote, “homosexual love is a gift from (God) no less than heterosexual.” He also disparaged the idea of homosexual couples not having sex.
Francis closed the meeting by kissing the priest’s hand, a gesture that the far-left newspaper L’immediato called one “revealing the humility of a great man to another of the same stature.” De Paolis described the unusual papal gesture himself in a post to his Facebook page, saying that he asked Francis for an audience with the priest’s other organization, the Community of Emmaus: “Is that possible?”
He said that the pope replied, “Anything is possible. Talk to Cardinal Maradiaga and he shall prepare everything.”
“And then (unbelievably) he kissed my hand! I hugged him and wept,” de Paolis concluded.
The gesture has made something of a sensation in Italian media and ‘blogs since de Paolis is a well-known figure in Italy as a leading clerical apologist for the homosexualist ideology. He ostensibly met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS.
The article then included the following:
LifeSiteNews asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi for clarification as to the nature of the encounter but received no reply by press time.
On FB, I linked the Lifesite article with the following criticism from me:
Some other award winning and sensational headlines from years gone by:
Jesus Dines with Prostitutes
Galilean Rabbi Allows Woman with 12-year Hemorrhage to Touch Him.
Jesus at it Again, This Time Dines with Tax Collector.
Nazorean has Feet Washed by Whore’s Tears, Dried by Her Hair
Whore-Loving Rabbi Demands Jews Eat His Flesh, Drink His Blood as Admission Price for Heaven.
Dregs of Society will Inherit Heaven, When Will He End the Madness?
Rabbi Claims to be Doctor for the Sick, Ends Stoning of Adulteress. Is He Encouraging Sin?
Rabbi has it Backward. Conversion FIRST, Then Acceptance.
Sorry, but I’m beginning to see a heartlessness and self-righteousness in conservative and orthodox circles that is unnerving. As Father Groeschel once told me, “The sins against sex are the most humiliating, but the sins against charity are the most damning.”
This sparked something of an uproar, so much so that Lifesite printed a clarification of their position, and one of the editors called and had an extensive conversation with me. (I’ve been a contributing blogger for a few years). The conversation was frank, civilized, and gentlemanly. While it did much to clear the air, there is a larger, lingering issue that needs to be addressed by pro-life and orthodox Catholics; A question, really.
Who do we say Francis is?
Since his election, Francis has brought a style that has provided ample grist for the pro-life mill. Many have feared, openly and scandalously, that he is about to break with established church teaching on moral norms. And at every turn they have been proven wrong. He famously stated that one need not discuss the issues of abortion and homosexuality all the time, which sent most pro-life leaders into the stratosphere.
And for good cause.
Increasingly, we see the marriage between the gay rights movement and the culture of death through their support of in vitro fertilization and related technologies, the support for abortion, gay marriage, and the general support of left-leaning politicians. Western civilization’s implosion is accelerating and being catalyzed by these very issues.
Or is it?
Perhaps Francis sees these issues not as cause, but as effect. Perhaps Francis sees the breakdown as beginning in other areas and these latter issues are the final manifestation of a spiritual rot that has been progressing below the surface for quite some time. How can one know, or be sure? Is Francis a closet heretic and apostate, as some fear, or maverick pastor who is resorting to the audacious in order to snap people out of their torpor? How can one know?
In pursuit of this answer, and also in attending to several family matters (mostly good stuff), I have taken a self-imposed break from blogging, from the need to report, to comment, to publish with great regularity. The sabbatical has been both productive and refreshing. It has also confirmed for me some concerns regarding Francis. So, here it is.
I said this a year ago, and it is as true now, as it was then:
He. Is. Peter.
That’s who I say Francis is. He is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and that dread reality ought to make people pause before they publish news articles that call his character, morality, and motives into question. The thought that a deadline for publication should trump waiting for a reply from the Vatican spokesman where the reputation of the pope hangs in the balance suggests that perhaps we have crossed a line over here in the right wing. It suggests that we have established ourselves as a shadow College of Cardinals, advising our pope in print and tearing into him when he dares to march to his own drum.
If our Jesuit, hand-kissing, iconoclastic pope has aroused our ire, perhaps it is because he is shattering our icons of ourselves. Perhaps this pope sees that abortion and homosexuality are rooted in other serious ills that need also to be addressed, and that attacking root causes clears up a great deal of downstream issues like homosexuality and abortion.
Perhaps Jorge Bergolio brings with him to the Chair of Peter a perspective that we in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not grasp. The very people whom he grew up with, cherished and valued, ministered to in their poverty are largely our illegal aliens in the United States- a people resented here, even despised. So, when Bergolio/Francis speaks of the need to make these people a priority, and not speak all the time of abortion and homosexuality, he speaks from a perspective that runs up hard against the conservative, Republican/ Tea Party politics that animate so many of us in the pro-life movement and the orthodox wing of the church. It is difficult to separate the integration of our politics and faith, especially when the two dovetail so nicely on the life issues.
Still, Francis is calling us to espouse some of that espoused by our political opponents here in North America, and that means breaking the mold and entering the dangerous waters of consensus politics, of becoming odd bedfellows with the political lepers of the left.
Francis sees where the disintegration, the alienation takes place. It’s in the heart. That is most evident in those who castigated him for concelebrating with a brother priest who was never disciplined by Popes John Paul II or Benedict, and neither by Cardinals Ratzinger or Burke when they headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I suspect that all of these very “imprudent” actions on Francis’ part are reaching many homosexuals and lesbians at the core of their woundedness, and suggesting to them that they are not the lepers in the church that secular media have suggested that they are. What comes of this revolutionary pastoral approach remains to be seen.
Until then, Francis IS Peter. His choice was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he is in need of our prayers. Moreso, we need to pray for ourselves, for the gifts of wisdom and courage, vision and strength, and above all, humility.