Ignoring the Holy Father

I’m a relatively new Catholic, and so please excuse my ignorance on this matter.

But is it ever OK to simply ignore what the Holy Father is saying, especially if his words, rightly or wrongly, are scandalizing someone? Of course, by “ignore” I don’t mean that a person would utterly cast the Pope aside. But what about not going out of one’s way to hear what he is doing or saying or even teaching?

I’ve only been Catholic for 2.5 years, and so I genuinely don’t know what to do if I find myself consistently being confused by the Pope’s actions and words. This kerfuffle surrounding his letter to a bishop in Argentina with regard to Amoris Laetitia is another example. I consistently get the feeling or impression that something isn’t quite right, and I’m not sure what to do with those thoughts.

It’s fine to ignore the Holy Father; I am actually doing this myself a little bit. There isn’t any obligation to read up on everything the Pope says, especially if the Pope is confusing.

I do that right now. I put very little stock in what this Holy Father has to say, unless it’s in a document with a Latin title.

Whatever we choose to do is a choice including listening to Jesus. Of course if we want to go forward in our faith life and in truth we would listen to Jesus and the Pope especially on marriage.

There are limits to what we have to listen to from the pope. He has many opinions on many subjects that he is less qualified to speak on than the experts. Lets take global warming for instance. It is HIS opinion that is it occurring. Some…actually many scientists…such as myself do not subscribe to anthropogenic global warming.

Now now Thundersnow …You mention HIS opinion as if no scientists agree with him which of course is not the case. In fact an overwhelming majority of scientists in the field of study of the environment and climate change agree with him on anthropogenic global warming. But then that’s not the focus of the OP and has been discussed already in depth on other threads. Actually I find the Pope to be right on with regards to marriage and the environment. Both of which are being taken for granted in our present day.

More to the point in our Catechism we learn that the Pope speaks in an infalliable way when he’s speaking on faith and morals while sitting in the Chair of Peter.


Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

The whole climate change question, AGW is heavily politically charged. And there’s big money involved. Would you yourself put money on any of Al Gore’s catastrophic predictions coming to pass? The whole thing reminds me of the 80s environment fad, acid rain. It was presented almost as life and death issue, where has the acid rain gone?:smiley: Lastly the media like to scare people, to sell more copies, attract more viewers or some ulterior motives. If there is a coverage of a coming hurricane, they’ll take the most spectacular footage and show it over and over, not because it’s a faithful reflection of what happens, but because that’s the nature of the media: entertain and inform, in that order.

Yes, if I can humbly say so, I wasn’t intending to make this about Pope Francis so much as about the office of the Papacy in general. But let’s just take for granted that, sometimes, the Holy Father says or does things that require a certain amount of explaining. We need not get into the details of specific examples.

I have a strong desire to be docile to the Pope. But I also find myself being scandalized sometimes and, frankly, it does undermine my faith a bit. I just wonder if it’s a good Catholic attitude, however, to avoid hearing anything from the Pope to avoid scandal. It seems, forgive me, kinda stupid to do that. But I don’t know what else to do sometimes.

I spoke with my priest about this very topic. I too find the comments and off the cuff remarks of Pope Francis confusing and frustrating. Some of what he says seems to contradict established Catholic Church teaching. My priest said to give the media and the coverage no heed - pay no attention whatsoever. Pray for the Pope and live the very best example I can live as a Catholic. I do not have to follow the controversy. He reassured me that Catholic teachings and belief have not changed and that it would be difficult for the Pope to change Church doctrine given how the process works. Official changes cannot go against prior Council’s, Church doctrine and decrees of infallibility. From how my priest responded it sounded as if my questions were being asked by many of my fellow parishioners. I found his response reassuring. So turn off the TV and go make sandwiches for the homeless!

That’s very sad to hear. I wonder if a lot of people just feel let down by the past few years.

Hmmm. scandalized? Don’t know what you mean when you say that and there is no need to share but as a Christian we could all say that we are taken to task for our beliefs, or scandalized. It’s the cost of discipleship to follow Our Lord. There’s probably a piece of all of us that questions what the Church believes because it is contrary to what we believe or better yet ‘wish’ to believe, but as Catholics we do have to keep an open mind and heart and allow ourselves to be led into the truth found in the Catholic Church even if it takes some time to get there… I’ve done this through prayer and study and understand the basic truths found in the Catholic Church… The truth is found in God and God has entrusted the Church to teach the truth and the truth found in the Church isn’t some fly by night truth that one person has made up… I can tell you from personal experience that there’s a lot of things I wish that weren’t true and I could live my life the way I want (wouldn’t we all)? but that’s living for ourselves and not in truth. Beauty is found in the truth and when we keep living in our own personal truths we miss out on seeing what lies for us to be found in God… Scary it may be to go away from what we know, what lies ahead is absolutely amazing… I suppose the thing to do when someone really questions Church teaching is to find someone knowledgeable on the Church teaching and ask questions and to become close to God through prayer and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist…

I agree, very well said.

But my issue isn’t so much with Church teaching. What I’m scandalized by is everything surrounding the Kasper situation coupled with Pope Francis’ views on the matter, which, it would appear to a dummy like me, offer a certain tension to what has been taught previously on the divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion without living as brother and sister.

There is no circumstance in which the proper response would be to ignore the Holy Father. The Bishop of Rome is the Successor of Peter. He is the Vicar of Christ.

Having said that, if you are Catholic for two and a half years, naturally there will be many things that you can encounter that you may not understand or the significance of which may not be able to be appreciate.

There is a reason why the study of theology is structured the way that it is. Just as we have established norms for the admission of neophytes into formation, first in philosophy and then theology, is they manifest an aspiration for the priesthood. In this case, we are talking about a situation that crosses a variety of disciplines from sacramental theology to pastoral theology to, of course, canon law.

Amoris laetitia is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation. While it provides many interesting points of reflection and considerations for those who read it, the actual application of it in concrete circumstances is the realm of Diocesan Bishops and of priests…and of priests, most especially those with the cura animarum.

I don’t discuss those aspects with laity…unless I am basing what I determine for a couple’s actual particular situation rests on the document and I need to explain it to them. Otherwise it is a document I discuss exclusively behind closed doors with those who are also ordained or else with my colleagues of theology or of canon law in the academy…where, actually, in both instances, I have found the expected equanimity and nothing of the reaction I have encountered outside of those two realms.

That said, the exhortation is something my own presbyterate continues to reflect upon with assistance from specialists in the disciplines touched by it and, of course, with guidance derived from the deliberations of the bishops who gather regionally and nationally that our bishop informs about as he provides to us his own directives.

Thank you, Father. You’ve helped me realize something.

This is probably precisely what I meant by “ignoring” the Pope: that there are certain things that are absolutely none of my business to analyze, but yet I consume certain media despite, frankly, being too stupid to properly discern what I read.

Most of the “confusion” over what this pope has said can be eliminated simply by reading his actual words within their actual context, rather than listening to what the media has “reported” his words to be. I used to have a hard time with this pope, until, as a work-related project, I read a good number of actual documents and speeches by him. He’s actually very deep in his thinking and spirituality; heavily influenced by the Eastern Christian thinking, particularly that of the Desert Fathers. This depth doesn’t come across at first glance because the language of his writings and talks is so down-to-earth and non-technical, especially when compared to St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (both of whom I love reading).

Of course, no Catholic is “obliged” to read the writings of any pope. But when one is faced with reports about a pope that one finds confusing or disturbing, wouldn’t it be best to give the pope the benefit of the doubt by reading what he actually said? Wouldn’t Christian charity demand it? He is, after all, the visible head of the Church on earth.

This is a wonderful insight, and I quite like the advice you offered at the end of your post. Thank you for responding, it really does help tremendously. God bless you.

No no no no no. It is not a matter of being stupid.

It is a matter of having in place the studies and the background to be able to analyse it, process it, and put it into its proper place in the mosaic, as it were (if one is an academic) or to apply it (if one has received a pastoral assignment from the Bishop that would entail such).

No lay person, even if they have some title such as a “Family Life Minister” in a parish, should be making that sort of application.

Quite the opposite from the sentiment you describe, as a retired priest I find Pope Francis to be an incredible gift for both the Church and the world. He is, assuredly, distinctly Ignatian…and knowing and understanding that is essential.

Hanging on the pope’s every word as reported by the media is a very modern phenomenon. For most of Church history, I can’t imagine that the average Catholic had any idea what the Pope in distant Rome was saying or doing. I remain of the opinion that our spiritual life should be primarily directed by our local pastor and bishop. I am not suggesting that one should ignore the Holy Father - but we are not obliged to reflect on every single thing he says.

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