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Since the early days of his papacy, Pope Francis turned many heads across the globe with his infamous "Who am I to judge?" mentality, but the pontiff has had no problem singling out a specific group of Catholics.
In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Aidan O'Connor takes a closer look at so-called rigid Catholics.
In 2013, the first year of Pope Francis' papacy, he released the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, speaking about the joy of being a missionary Church and the need for so-called ecclesial renewal.
In it, the pontiff harshly warns against parishes he claims have become a "useless structure out of touch with people."
Pope Francis urged the faithful to "abandon the complacent attitude that says, "We have always done it this way." He promoted an innovative approach, writing, "I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization."
Then, the Holy Father harshly turned on a specific group of Catholics, accusing them of adopting "adulterated forms of Christianity."
The pope condemned "the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past."
He calls this "spiritual worldliness" and claims it hides behind the appearance of piety and love for the Church while actually being an "ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church's prestige."
Over the course of his papacy, Francis has frequently used the term "rigid" to describe traditional priests and laity. Often, he has warned "rigidity" is a serious problem.
In 2018, one young Catholic wrote a personal letter to Pope Francis, pushing back on the pope's targeting of orthodox faithful.
The author wrote, "Tradition is for the young. Unfortunately, when many of us express our love for Tradition, we are insulted and unfairly labeled 'ultra-conservatives.' The young people who desire tradition are not 'rigid.'"
In 2019, D.C.-based Msgr. Charles Pope responded to the pontiff's attacks, dryly noting, "I'm not feeling the love here, I don't feel accompanied by you. I am wearied from being scorned and demonized by you."
Many Catholics see the 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes as proof the Holy Father views so-called rigid Catholics as a threat to the Church.
While Pope Francis seeks to champion love, acceptance and accompaniment, Catholics can't help but notice his own harsh and seemingly prejudiced statements.
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