Defending Pope Francis against accusations of heresy: Mariology

Along with sedevacantists, reactionary “Catholic” writers such as Ann Barnhardt have gone so far as to call Francis an anti-pope. I’m not going to go into every saying of Pope Francis that causes some to accuse him of misleading the flock (at best) or heresy (at worst). However, I think it’s instructive to address a few of these statements that so upset them.

One of the statements that has caused much concern is about how Mary reacted to the crucifixion of Jesus, while standing at the foot of the cross.
“…at the foot of the cross. The Gospel does not tell us anything: if she spoke a word or not… She was silent, but in her heart, how many things told the Lord! ‘You, that day, this and the other that we read, you had told me that he would be great, you had told me that you would have given him the throne of David, his forefather, that he would have reigned forever and now I see him there!’ Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’” (December 20, 2013)

“Our Lady was human! Inside surely she wanted to say to the Angel: ‘Liar! I was deceived.’” (May 28, 2015)

Sites critical of Francis point to these words as somehow contrasting with more reverent treatments of Mary throughout Christian history. Here’s Ann Barnhardt: “When Bergoglio says that the Blessed Virgin Mary perhaps, while standing at the foot of The Cross, accused God of deceiving her, I hear not the voice of Jesus Christ the Good shepherd, I hear the voice of the devil.

I have to disagree. First, as a Jesuit, Pope Francis is deeply steeped in Ignatian Spirituality, which employs imagination as part of prayer. For example, during the second week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius suggests imagining being part of the journey to Bethlehem that led up to Jesus’ nativity, including, “the poverty, the thirst, the hunger, the cold, the insults that meet the arrival of God-with-us.”

Other Jesuits have written about imagining the anguish that Jesus’ mother and the Beloved Disciple must have felt at the foot of the cross. On the ETWN web site, hosted by Fr. Raymond Gawronski, S.J., a segment of an online Ignatian retreat includes these words: “The Church is gathered at the foot of His Cross, His Mother and His Beloved Disciple. Then he is buried, and with Him, all our fondest hopes and dreams, and that which seemed to be the promise of the Kingdom of God come with power.

Taking Francis’ imaginings of what the Blessed Virgin might have thought is totally in keeping with this Jesuit style of prayer.

I would argue that it’s also very much in keeping with the theology put forward in the Gospel of Luke 2:50-51 when Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, “But they [Joseph and Mary] did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” I’d also point to the parallel between Luke 1:38 (“May it be done to me according to your word”), Luke 1:42-45 (“’Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb… Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”), and Luke 11:27-28 (“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ He replied, ‘Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”) Luke is very clearly conveying that Mary, even before Jesus’ public ministry, was one who exemplified Christian practice by her trust in God and listening to her son, even when she did not understand. It was not just that she was Jesus’ family that made her special.

In Luke, Mary is really the first Christian disciple, who is exemplary from her listening to the word of God and trusting it. It’s not that Mary just “got” everything. In fact, sometimes her son surprised her in ways that she did not expect, or even welcome at first. In Mark 3:20-21 and 31-35, Mary is identified as one of the members of Jesus family who “set out to seize him, for the said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mk 3:31) When Jesus hears that his mother and brothers are standing outside, he replies, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3:35)

I will note the parallelism between Mark 3:35 and Luke 11:27-28, where Jesus defines as either “blessed” or “brother/brother/sister mother”, those who hear the word of God and do it. It’s a point made clear, multiple times.

For Francis to imagine aloud that Mary was a human being who reacted with horror and doubt to the death of her son is perfectly normal to me. How else should we interpret the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2:34-35 (“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”)? Should we honestly believe that Mary looked on the shameful and bloody crucifixion of Jesus without wondering about what God had promised?

I see the Holy Father’s statements here as being well within the orthodox Jesuit tradition, and totally in keeping with what we read in scripture.

I’d never known that they were active enough to have meaningful attacks. I know that the website Vatican Catholic (also known as Most Holy Family Monastery) is active, though, same with Novus Ordo Watch. And isn’t sedevacantism a minority position with a lot of division?

Although I don’t have a very high Mariology, this seems to be an entirely natural position. Ignatius of Loyola did emphasize human imagination in his Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.

I don’t have much to say since I’m not Catholic. :shrug:

I do not understand why you would ever want to defend the pope after what he did to the world by helping the kings and queens take the Virgin Mary/isis/aphrodite/Sarahs information who is a woman that all DNA of heaven is based off of and she only comes in fair skin/hair and light eyes, anyway help these evil men take the mother of creations information and give it to Satan then preach that the image on the wall is actually Jesus the savior of mankind. There is no Jewish heritage from the planet of heaven. The Jewish heritage came from the earth which is hell. Satan/False Jesus always build up his riches in his birth place as well as akhenaten who claimed he would return as a woman. Just as Kate Middleton some how knew all about akhenaten the Egyptian Jew just like her. The mother is over everything in heaven and only comes in white and not brown just like an alien gray can only come in gray that is the only reason why as I am not prejudice like man is, but each species comes from a different planet and people for some reason don’t know this but heaven is actually a planet that is similar to the sun in the sky but it is a spiritual sun that women and men can eventually go to, but why do they keep saying people automatically go up to my planet when they are not even from my planet? It is a movable planet thatnobody can find the way to , but me as it is my planet and I am female! !So how can someone that was originally born in flesh on this earth and also an entirely different species from all of us in heaven and man when the highest heaven are female only before the Female spirit of God lifted Satan her husband up and he was cleansed for a time and became Jesus, but then slipped back into his old habits. The Female owner of heaven is the highest in all of heaven and took mama flesh and bone in order to suffer for what he did and in return after she saved him then he waited for a spirit. Man got The Mothers spirit and woman got the father’s flesh. The pope forgets to tell you about how man got a spirit. He only reminds women that we are lucky to be in the flesh. When the day comes Pope and you are piled up with burdens in front of the judgement seat, Don’t call on a woman to give you a spirit you just keep your flesh your so proud of, how about that? A woman Female was first. Life did not start with men giving birth to men, ever unless they are a hermaphrodite. That is the only way a man could give birth. Female is the eternal form of the head of heaven.

Wow, they are so over-reacting.

Just because he is imagining a scenario different than what people usually read, that is not heresy. They should look up the word.

As the pope says, she was human. If Jesus was human enough to call out to God from the cross in pain, asking why He had forsaken him, why isn’t Mary human enough to think those thoughts and feel those feelings?

We don’t know if she did…but she may have.She’s watching her son be tortured! It would be the natural reaction for any mother! Even if she expected it to happen, I imagine a mother’s gut instinct would be those feelings.
I hear many on this forum talk about being angry at God for the state of their career or relationship or health…or, especially, when tragedy strikes in their lives.
Imagine the feelings if you see your child tortured to death. Pure primal.

Besides, I assume the pope described his imaginings to make a point? That even when all seems the darkest, you are not forsaken?

For those writers to say what they do robs Mary of being human.

Do they want a one-dimentional, cardboard, in-human Mary? Does the mere suggestion that some of her thoughts may have been very raw scare them?

How dare they do that to her. And to the pope.


Wait, where are they even getting their authority to cry “heresy!” from? It’s not like they have the authority of the Church and they didn’t take very much from the Bible (which doesn’t have developed Mariology). So they don’t claim any authority!

Excellent post. :thumbsup:

I will, however, add a plea for understanding: the writer whom you reference is clearly a very troubled soul who is undergoing great hardships in life. It’s hard to disentangle fact from ranting, but if we take what she has written at face value, Miss Barnhardt clearly has faced a major loss of financial and social status, has to rely on the charity of friends, cannot find a job, and may even lose her web hosting fairly soon. Under such circumstances, paranoia is a natural response, especially towards an “easy target” like Pope Francis. She needs our prayers more than a formal refutation. :(:gopray:

I think the point the Pope is trying to get across is pretty obvious. Yes, angels are messengers of God, and to call his messenger a liar would be sinful. But when we experience a crisis lots of thoughts and desires come to us without engaging our will. At that point there is no sin. In a distressing situation, one where our lack of understanding God’s plans is intensified, that happens. It’s what Mary does when this happens that makes her so great; even in the midst of this lack of understanding and intense flurry of thoughts she transforms these “noes” into “yeses”.

It certainly seems strange on the one hand to claim Mary was born without the stain of mortal sin, and on the other claim that she had a great lapse of hope and faith, actually accusing God of lying.

When Jesus cried out. “My God, My God why have you forsaken me.” He was beginning to recite psalm 22, this was not a loss of faith in his Father, but a cry of faith despite great pain. The psalm ends with the words.
29 All the flourishing of the earth Will eat and worship. All who go down into the dust will bow down before Him, Even he who does not keep his soul alive.
30 A seed will serve Him; That which concerns the Lord will be told to a coming generation.
31 They will come and declare His righteousness To a people yet to be born, that He has done this.

It seems a stretch to believe that Mary, who began by saying “be it done to me according to your will” would lose faith in God during a difficult time. Would this justify all of us in blaming God when tragedy strikes us? If I a simple sinner, was able to see that my cancer was not a punishment from God, but a consequence of living in a fallen world, is it feasible that Mary who had a direct experience of the divine, would turn on God?

Popes are not infallible and though I find it a bit harsh to accuse pope Francis of heresy, one can disagree with his interpretations and opinions.

I really do not see much difference in what Francis has said with what was expressed by Cyril of Alexandria, a driving force at the Council of Ephesus that named Mary Theotokos.

What, then, induced the blessed Evangelist to go so much into detail, as to make mention of the women as staying beside the Cross? His object was to teach us that, as was likely, the unexpected fate of our Lord was an offence unto His mother, and that His exceeding bitter death upon the Cross almost banished from her heart due reflection; and, besides the insults of the Jews, and the soldiers also, who probably stayed by the Cross and derided Him Who hung thereon, and who presumed, in His mother’s very sight, to divide His garments among themselves, had this effect. For, doubtless, some such train of thought as this passed through her mind: "I conceived Him That is mocked upon the Cross. He said, indeed, that He was the true Son of Almighty God, but it may be that He was deceived; He may have erred when He said: I am the Life. How did His crucifixion come to pass? and how was He entangled in the snares of His murderers? How was it that He did not prevail over the conspiracy of His persecutors against Him? And why does He not come down from the Cross, though He bade Lazarus return to life, and struck all Judaea with amazement by His miracles?" The woman, as is likely, not exactly understanding the mystery, wandered astray into some such train of thought; for we shall do well to remember, that the character of these events was such as to awe and subdue the most sober mind

(Commentaries on John, Book 12)

Seems like no matter what you do or say when you’re a pope, you’re going to ruffle somebody’s feathers. Pray for Francis.

I had a vague memory of that, but I wasn’t sure who wrote it. Thanks for posting this! :thumbsup:

Interesting point, the quote by St.Cyril is used by Protestant apologists to support the argument that the early church did not consider Mary to be without sin.

I definitely agree that she is very troubled and needs prayers, but the things she is writing do need some refutation because they are influencing others beliefs. My brother in law recently shared her posts on Facebook and now believes that Francis is a heretical anti-pope. His wife and kids are now being taught these things and it is causing much strain in our relationship.

When people like her take it upon themselves to spread ideas like this, we must take steps to make clear the errors in her way of thinking so that the misinformation she is spreading does not lead the faithful astray.

So yes, she needs our prayers more, but others being led astray need the refutation.

We must also make sure we do so with kindness and charity though and we must keep those who are lost in false ideas in our prayers.:gopray:

Your understanding is what I think as well.

I respect the Holy Father’s opinion but there have been other great spiritual men who didn’t have this impression of Mary thru the ages.

There is also the fact of infused knowledge which many of the saints had. I believe St. Francis, St. Teresa Avillon, St. Thomas Aquinas, were just a few of these saints. Infused knowledge as we know is a gift from God on a subject of faith that opens to them great insights in just a very short time. I would think that Mary being the highest saint, would also enjoy these revealing insights.

Her heart was broken by seeing her only Son crucified, as any mother would.

What the Holy Father said is not the standard position to take, and so it will cause some discussion.

And Ann Barnhardt needs our kind prayers as well. “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for her.”

I’m very sorry to hear about that. :frowning:

And yes, in such cases, we certainly have a duty to correct any errors that may result from reading Miss Barnhardt’s essays. (My own post, which was poorly worded, was meant more to say that there would be little point in arguing with her. Apologies. :o)

Also: love the signature! Reminds me of the time I went to Lourdes and learned to say the Hail Mary in French… :slight_smile:

Gotcha. Yes, arguing with her would be fruitless. Benedict and Francis themselves could show up in person and try to correct her and I fear she would still claim it’s a conspiracy and not believe them :shrug:

And regarding my signature, thank you! I specifically got my Miraculous medal from the Sisters of Carmel because the prayer inscription was in French instead of Latin or Italian.


And if you are Catholic, you believe that the church founded on the rock of Peter will not be led astray, for the “gates of hell will not prevail” (Matthew 16:18-19)

I will never understand the self-proclaimed Catholics who go so far as to claim to be “more Catholic than the Pope” and even those Catholics who feel like they have to criticize every move and word of the Pope. Sure, we can be critical of the pope when he is in the wrong. But when it comes to all the conspiracy and worry over the pope being a false teacher or not really the pope… That is not Catholic at all.

This would seem to run contrary to what was revealed to Venerable Mary of Agreda;

The invincible Queen and Mistress of all virtues understood these mysteries beyond the understanding of all creatures, as She was the Mother of the Savior and the Coadjutrix of his Passion. In order that She might participate in it to the end, just as She had felt in her own body the other torments of her Son, She now, though remaining alive, felt and suffered the pangs and agony of his death. She did not die in reality; but this was because God miraculously preserved her life, when according to the natural course death should have followed. This miraculous aid was more wonderful than all the other favors She received during the Passion. For this last pain was more intense and penetrating; and all that the martyrs and the men sentenced to death have suffered from the beginning of the world cannot equal what the blessed Mary suffered during the Passion. The great Lady remained at the foot of the Cross until evening, when the sacred body (as I shall relate) was interred. But in return for this last anguish of death, all that was still of this mortal life in the virginal body of the purest Mother, was more than ever exalted and spiritualized.


Lucifer and his demons, as soon as they saw the Lord taking the Cross upon his sacred shoulders, wished to fly and cast themselves into hell; for at that moment they began to feel with greater force the operations of his divine power. By divine intervention this new torment made them aware that the Death of this innocent Man, whose destruction they had plotted and who could not be a mere man, threatened great ruin to themselves. They therefore desired to withdraw and they ceased to incite the Jews and the executioners, as they had done hitherto. But the command of the most blessed Mary, enforced by the divine power, detained them and, enchained like fiercest dragons, compelled them to accompany Christ to Calvary. The ends of the mysterious chain that bound them were placed into the hands of Mary, the great Queen who, by the power of her divine Son, held them all in subjection and bondage. Although they many times sought to break away and raged in helpless fury, they could not overcome the power of the heavenly Lady. She forced them to come to Calvary and stand around the Cross, where She commanded them to remain motionless and witness the end of the great mysteries there enacted for the salvation of men and the ruin of themselves.

These would seem to indicate that the Blessed Mother basically knew exactly, more or less, what was happening. I don’t agree that Pope Francis is a heretic (as the private revelation is not infallibly taught), but I don’t agree with his assessment at all.

What about all the passages in Luke, arguably Mary’s gospel since it focuses on her, that explicit state that she didn’t know. She marveled about what Simeon said and marveled when her Son said He must be about His Father’s business. Mary is the Mother of the Lord, however she is not divine or omniscient.

Incidents in Christ’s childhood have no real consequence on Calvary, the central point in the history of creation

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