Sick of this pharisaical attitude that constantly criticizes the Pope. Are you?

By “pharisaical” I mean the attitude of those in the church who are so caught up in strict adherence to doctrine and rigidity that they turn a blind eye to *actually *building up the Kingdom of God.

God has blessed us with a wonderful Pope. I am exhausted of hearing so many people saying we have a bad pope just because he is not a doctrinal sheepdog. Jesus Christ was concerned about the Truth: He is the Truth. But far more than delivering precise theological statements, Jesus lived a life of love that corresponded to the Truth that does set us free. Is not that what Pope Francis is doing? He is embodying the very Gospel message, bringing Christ to anyone possible, especially the poorest and oppressed. Hmmm… sound familiar?

So my question is: Where does this critical attitude in the church come from? What is it motivated by? Is it a fear or insecurity?

It’s false dichotomy to pit living a life of love against building one’s house upon a rigid rock of clear truth. In fact, you can’t do one without the other. It is only in the unity of truth with a clear understanding about what God’s revelation is and what leads to salvation that the Church can as one Body carry out her mission of true love to save the whole world. When that unity is weakened, the Church cannot carry out her mission as effectively since her members no longer believe and work in harmony—and since that unity is a mark of her credibility as well as the foundation of the charity which impels us on. Note, that unity must be diachronic too, since there is one God and His Son became Incarnate one time. There’s a reason the Church since Apostolic times has always taken a very strong stance against those things that threatened the unity of faith.

A Pope’s primary duty is to ensure that unity–that’s why his office exists (see below). If his words or actions instead call into doubt or cause confusion about truths of faith or morality, this harms unity. It means he is not doing his job well. Over history, some Popes have done their jobs better than others. St. Paul even had to criticize St. Peter for causing confusion and harming unity at one point. It is what it is.

[quote=St. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint]93. Associating himself with Peter’s threefold profession of love, which corresponds to the earlier threefold denial, his Successor knows that he must be a sign of mercy. His is a ministry of mercy, born of an act of Christ’s own mercy. This whole lesson of the Gospel must be constantly read anew, so that the exercise of the Petrine ministry may lose nothing of its authenticity and transparency.

The Church of God is called by Christ to manifest to a world ensnared by its sins and evil designs that, despite everything, God in his mercy can convert hearts to unity and enable them to enter into communion with him.

  1. This service of unity, rooted in the action of divine mercy, is entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who have received from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the people—as the rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42)—but of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can require the offering of one’s own life (cf. Jn 10:11-18). Saint Augustine, after showing that Christ is “the one Shepherd, in whose unity all are one”, goes on to exhort: “May all shepherds thus be one in the one Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but the only one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices … the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheep hear”.151 The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in “keeping watch” (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches.

Most of us have specific ideas of what it means to be Catholic. If what the Pope says or how the Pope acts does not fit our own concepts than, of course, it is the Pope who is wrong and not us. We must know better than any Pope about our own faith and how to live it.

As the OP points out, if a pope, or any bishop or other Church leader, talks or acts like Jesus they are also suspect. Anything that disturbs our religious comfort zone is an issue.

In the quote from Pope JPII that another poster used to emphasize unity, it is interesting that the word “mercy” shows up several times, and in fact is called the “root” of the Petrine ministry. Pope Francis agrees with that and is focusing on it, leading us kicking and screaming to better understand that mercy is at the root of the Pope is about, and what being a Catholic Christian should be about. But there are many Catholics for which “mercy” is as a foreign and very negative word.

The behavior of some in disliking Francis while liking JPII and/or Benedict XVI also shows how superficial their comprehension is of these men. Francis says the same things the last two popes said, and he quotes them in his speeches and writings. Either many do not know what past popes have said about the topics Francis is emphasizing, or they chose to ignore it or disbelieve it. Again, it would have taken them out of their religious comfort zone to accept what these popes were rally advocating.

The Church has a firm foundation of doctrine, just like the house that was built on the rocks. We know what happens when a house is built on the sand of shifting values, we’ve seen that in all the protestant churches. Gay “weddings”. Female bishops. Is this really the road we want to head on. If not, we should not neglect the value of sound doctrine as a foundation for all that we do.

God has blessed us with a wonderful Pope


It is your opinion that he is wonderful and clearly not everyone will agree with that statement.

I am exhausted of hearing so many people saying we have a bad pope just because he is not a doctrinal sheepdog.

If someone can not be faithful to doctrine, that would make them a bad leader in the church. There have been some indications that Pope Francis may not be faithful to doctrine. A key problem is the grave ambiguity in some of his comments however.

Jesus Christ was concerned about the Truth: He is the Truth. But far more than delivering precise theological statements, Jesus lived a life of love that corresponded to the Truth that does set us free. Is not that what Pope Francis is doing? He is embodying the very Gospel message, bringing Christ to anyone possible, especially the poorest and oppressed. Hmmm… sound familiar?

Jesus spent a very large part of his ministry on doctrine and theology. Sound foundations make for positive ministry. Simply going out and talking to as many people as possible is not the sign of good ministry. Its more like the sign of a good politician.

So my question is: Where does this critical attitude in the church come from? What is it motivated by? Is it a fear or insecurity?

Ambiguity. Indecisive and unclear statements, off-the-cuff remarks that seem to indicate less than orthodox doctrine, hostility to conservatives and traditionalists.

Try turning the media off. Really. You will be much happier and the things you will not know are not worth knowing.

The Pope spoke on quite a few doctrinal issues during the interview.

A key mission given to the Catholic Church by Christ is the salvation of souls. I identification and condemnation of sin is necessary to carry out that mission.

Remember…Jesus said ‘if you love me you will obey my commandments’.

I think the word you are looking for is pharacitical. A new word for Catholics to throw around as an accusation to compete with ‘uncharitable’.

I agree with you. Unfortunately, some people think being Catholic makes them better than anyone else. To be a member of the Catholic Church is a special grace, but we are all children of God, and God loves us all.

I love Pope Francis, and I think he’s bringing the world the message it needs to hear.

I agree with you.
I think the critical attitude you describe comes from people who are of a specific personality–people who thrive on being “right” and pointing out that others are “wrong”, people who *need *to be rigid rule followers to feel good about themselves.
They are afraid that if anything changes even a bit–like the pope washing a woman’s feet–it means they have been wrong all along.

But these kind of people often miss the Big Picture, which is what the pope has been trying to present and is what you are talking about here.
They get so hung up on minutiae, they cannot be an iota flexible enough to see that the pope is trying to EXPAND and open up the religion, not harm it…he is trying to wake people up from looking down at their rulebooks to look out into the world…
He’s trying to take it back to the original reason for it all in the first place, when it was a man and his mates going around trying to teach people about compassion.

IMO people like what you describe are insecure…and fearful, as you mention. And any nuance of something new or different makes them feel afraid and unstable instead of what it makes others feel–INSPIRED.
So they lash out.


Yes…I do find the criticism of the Pope by Catholics nothing short of revolting.

Having worked as a theologian on the issue of Church unity across the decades since Vatican II, to use one example, I never cease to be amazed by those who try to tell me what the Church teaches – in defiance of what the Magisterium actually teaches today and what theology actually holds and in spite of the fact that they have never studied theology in their lives. It can lead to really quite remarkable conversations.

I am sorry for you if you judge Pope Francis to be wanting. It is, however, a bridge too far to say he “may not be faithful to doctrine.” I am above all disappointed to see such a remark from a member of one of the Ordinariates.

It irks me. A lot.

But for the time being, Francis is the Pope. Period.

I was thinking just yesterday how there is a strong feeling that men need to be brought back to the Church, that the Church is losing men, that women are taking over, the Church is feminized, etc.

And repeatedly we are told that men will be drawn to a Church that *challenges *them. Men *love *challenges. Men are engaged through challenge.

Francis is challenging everyone: men, women, presidents, politicians, bishops, priests, and cardinals.

Maybe it’s not the *challenge * people wanted, but you gotta admit he’s challenging. :wink:

not sure why this feeling is just coming out now.

women in general have always been more religious than men, in any period of history

in fact, out of all the male apostles, only one didn’t wrun away from Jesus during his crucifixion and countless women stayed.

that alone should be a pretty good indicator of something

Would you care to give an example?

Oh the vagueness is so thick I could cut it with a knife!

Vagueness and lack of clarity seems to surround our Pope at all times. He is so well-intentioned… but the messages he sends to the media are… troublesome. Whether intentional or not… the things he says send the wrong messages. People respond “oh he’s just speaking off the cuff!” or “oh that’s just his style, who cares if people misinterpret him!”

I am sure you have heard all the news surrounding him over the years…

“The pope says gay lifestyle is OK.”
“The pope says contraception is OK.”
the list goes on…

Of course I immediately come to these forums and read through countless posts by people who rabidly defend the Pope’s remarks, who blame the media for being sloppy, or make vague accusations of concerned Catholics being too “pharisaical” without actually explaining what is Pharisaical about wanting the truth of the Catholic faith to be well understood and not muddled… and the fact of the matter is, I want to believe that. I want to believe that it is just the media’s fault for reading into Pope Francis’ statements. But when I read the transcripts, I begin to wonder myself what the Pope is actually trying to say. I can’t honestly blame the reporters or the people reading the news for “misinterpreting” what the pope says, because to be honest what he says doesn’t seem that far from what is in the newspapers.

Meanwhile people will go on name-calling these “pharisees” and “rigid Catholics” and “fundamentalist Catholics” without actually defining those terms or making any real, coherent or honest criticism against them.


Women are taking over?
The Church is feminized??

What the sam hill (a nod to Harper Lee) do you mean?

Must be all those female priests and bishops…



I don’t hold those views, but a number of people do.
It’s a fairly common thread topic on CAF.

Do you go to Mass? Do you see that in many parishes there is a disproportionate of women? That those running many aspects of things in the parish are women?

Before you say, so what, that’s on the parish level, let me ask where you think priests and bishops come from? And if they are discouraged at the lowest level by the feminization of the parish, they will drop out rather than move up.

I suspect that the Holy Spirit gives us not the Pope we necessarily want, but the Pope we need.

I loved Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and I love Pope Francis. It’s just my opinion, but I think that different times call for Popes who emphasize specific callings, and who come to call the Church back to where it should be. The Pope we needed when the Nazis where the greatest threat the Church faced, or the Pope who faced down Soviet Communism, or the Pope who tugged the Church back towards orthodox teachings and did the most to stem the abuse crisis, had different episcopal and worldly concerns than our current Pope. In a world where people are increasingly polarized and alienated, where we feel people of a different political persuasion are not just wrong, but somehow morally evil for what they believe, Francis is urging a Church of Christlike simplicity and forgiveness.

We make the mistake of confusing our political ideologies with our faith, and so assume that if there is a seeming conflict between them, it must be our faith that is shoehorned into our political stance. This strikes me as part and parcel of the sin of Pride.

I’m as guilty of that as anyone else. I have always tended to political conservatism along with religious orthodoxy, and much of what Francis has said challenges me. But that’s a good thing. He’s my shepherd, and the shepherd’s crook is used to steer the fold back onto the right path when it’s necessary. If someone on the political left were to challenge my political presumptions, I would argue and point out where they must be wrong and reject their message. I can’t do that with my Pope. He’s il Papa, and I have to give his arguments greater credence than I would a polemical opponent. He’s not really of the Left (although many conservatives think he must be), any more than he is of the Right (although may liberals think he must be.) He leads the Universal Church, and he consistently reminds me that the lens through which I view the world must not be a conservative or a liberal one, but a Christocentric one.

I return again and again to that idea, when the World urges me away from it. As the great Catholic writer R.A. Lafferty wrote, “Things are set up as contraries that are not even in the same category. Listen to me: the opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive. Thus I will describe myself as a radical conservative liberal… Beware of those who use words to mean their opposites. At the same time have pity on them, for usually this trick is their only stock in trade.”

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