VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - A number of Pope Francis' recent comments have provoked strong responses from clergy and laypeople alike.
In a prepared speech to the bishops of Mozambique on September 7, Francis warned them against "young, rigid priests."
"I would like to emphasize an attitude that I do not like, because it does not come from God: rigidity," he said. "Today it is fashionable ... to find rigid people."
He added, "Young, rigid priests, who want to save with rigidity ... I don't know, but they take this attitude of rigidity and sometimes — excuse me — from the museum."
Bergoglio mistakes his own communist worldview and personal moral preferences for the Good News— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) September 7, 2019
There is nothing more dreary and certain to extinguish the fire of genuine faith https://t.co/2q9HNbvP1o
The pope continued, "They are afraid of everything, they are rigid. Be careful, and know that under any rigidity there are serious problems."
Monsignor Charles Pope, Pastor of Holy Comforter-St Cyprian Roman Catholic in Washington, D.C., responded by addressing the pope directly in Italian as "Santo Padre": "I'm not feeling the love here, I don't feel accompanied by you."
Monsignor Pope implores Francis to "[m]ake room in your heart for me and others like me. I am not a young priest, but I know you don't like my type of priesthood."
He goes on alluding to another of Francis' targets — Americans:
Further I am an American and this mere fact seems to also make me troublesome in your eyes. I am not afraid of everything as you state, but I do have concerns for the ambiguity of some of your teachings and severity of some of your actions. Yet when we, your less favored sons, ask you questions you will not answer or clarify.
The monsignor ends, saying, "In all this I am still your son and share the priesthood of Jesus with you. I await the solicitude and gentle care from you that you say I, and others like me, lack. Meanwhile I must honestly and painfully say that I am wearied from being scorned and demonized by you."
British blogger-priest Fr. Raymond Blake circulated his concern on Twitter, adding, "I don't see this continuous criticism from our beloved Holy Father as Christlike, I find it painful and destructive of faith and unity, and contrary to the action of the Holy Spirit's action in the Church."
I don't see this continuous criticism from our beloved Holy Father as Christlike, I find it painful and destrucitve of faith and unity, and contrary to the action of the Holy Spirit's action in the Church. https://t.co/o7sXt4tIBV— fr. raymond blake (@raylblake) September 11, 2019
Francis also made headlines in early September en route to Mozambique, telling French journalist Nicolas Seneze, "It is an honor when Americans attack me." The journalist had presented the pope with a copy of his new book, How America Wanted to Change the Pope, which details Seneze's perception of opposition to the election of the Argentine pontiff by conservative American Catholics.
The thing is, @Pontifex has been talking up a schism since 2016 - could it actually be that he is actively courting such a terrible thing in contradiction to the very essence of his office? https://t.co/iT0L89hI1A pic.twitter.com/ZpPo0TXy8M— Mark (@sitsio) September 11, 2019
American Catholics responded in full force.
Church Militant's Christine Niles expressed befuddlement as to why Pope Francis would "exult" in American criticism. "As an American — Vietnam-born with dual French citizenship — it's unclear why Pope Francis would exult in criticism from Americans, and his remark only reinforces the widely held belief that the Pontiff holds Americans in disdain," Niles said.
“The basis of his comments, continued Niles, is a book [How America Wanted to Change the Pope] that falsely portrays 'right-wing' Americans as his enemies based on theological and political differences, when in fact our loudest critique is based on his failure to adequately address the sex abuse crisis in the Church, which is neither a 'Right' or a 'Left' issue."
“For a certain kind of Argentine, far-left or far-right, the United States is always the enemy," he told LifeSiteNews.
"Why? Bitterness, envy. The two nations were equally prosperous circa 1900," he continued. "They had similar populations, and comparable natural resources. Each had a fierce national pride. But the Argentines followed demagogues with economic views much like Pope Francis and squandered all those advantages, turning their nation into a bankrupt backwater."
"Meanwhile, the U.S. prospered. How easy it is to blame not your own countrymen’s decisions, but the machinations of the powerful, wicked Yanquis, who for their part don’t even remember your nation exists. I think this bitter Argentine chauvinism is the secret ingredient needed to make Pope Francis Sauce.”
Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute said, "Anyone can wear criticism as a badge of honor," adding, "Martin Luther wore condemnations and criticisms of his work as an honor, but all it [did was] establish his disdain for the Truth."
"If Pope Francis truly feels honored to be criticized for perverting the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, Holy Communion, Marriage, and the doctrine of Hell, then he is only revealing his true entrenchment into ideological falsehoods," Hichborn continued.
Also evocative is the pope's comment about not fearing schisms. "I pray that there will not be schisms," the Pope said aboard the papal plane, "but I am not afraid." Francis was returning to Rome from Africa, where he spent six days in Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.
"I don't fear schisms, I pray they don't exist because there's the spiritual health of many people [to consider], right?" he said. "[I pray] there will be dialogue, that there will be correction if there is some mistake, but the path of schism is not Christian."
"A pope who doesn't fear schism may cause one," writes Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News (CWN) adding, "Well, I am [afraid of schisms]. And I’m afraid of any Roman Pontiff who isn’t afraid of splitting the universal Church," he said. "Which means that, yes, I’m afraid of Pope Francis."
Lawler sees a connection between the upcoming Amazon Synod, set to make even more dramatic changes in the Church, with the pope's talk of schism. The editor says,
As we head into the Amazon Synod, there are numerous indications that the Pope and his allies will use the meeting to ram through another set of dramatic changes in Church teaching and discipline. He is willing to break with our fathers in faith; he is willing to break with his brothers. I fear that the Pope is determined to have his way, regardless of the cost to Church unity.
Whether the pope gives a response to critics on these matters is yet to be seen.
Pope Francis still has not responded to criticism regarding Amoris Laetitia (2016) nor answered the dubia, formally requested by Cdls. Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner, for theological clarification. The pope has also not explained in any detail his role in rehabilitating Theodore McCarrick. Nor has he addressed Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano’s stunning exposés.