“It’s an honor that the Americans attack me.”1
Whose anti-American diatribe is this? Is it Venezuelan socialist dictator Maduro’s or Bolivia’s equally socialist Evo Morales? Perhaps Nicaragua’s bloodthirsty tyrant Daniel Ortega?
It hurts to say it, but it came from the lips of the common father of the faithful (including Americans)—Pope Francis.
“His remark came at the start of a six-day trip to Africa, as the pope shook hands in the back of the plane with a French reporter who handed him a copy of his new book How America Wanted to Change the Pope.”2
Upon receiving a copy of the book by the French reporter Nicholas Senèze, he emphasized, “This is a bomb.”3 The volume is a sensationalist work in the style of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code about a supposed conspiracy by millionaires, rightwing politicians, and conservative Cardinals to overthrow Pope Francis.
An Outburst From a Tired Old Man?
As good Catholics, we wish we could give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt and regard this unfortunate phrase as uttered recklessly or as the outburst from a tired old man.
Unfortunately, we fear it is not just that.
It is notorious that Pope Francis—despite all the decadence of the Society of Jesus—was still trained in the Jesuit school to control his temperament, instinctive impulses, and physiognomic expressions as appropriate (see below).
“The Style Is the Man”
If Count de Buffon’s saying is true—“the style is the man himself”—then a man can be recognized by his style.
What then is the style of the current occupant of Saint Peter’s Chair? Pope Francis is a consummate master of the art or technique of making an impact and shocking his listeners with scandalous phrases. Suffice it to remember a couple of them: “Who am I to judge?”4 and “The worst thing of all is religious proselytism.”5
In this fashion, Pope Francis gradually confuses the faithful, creates doubts, and shakes the faith of the simple.
Acts and Gestures That Confirm His “Style”
The shocking phrases of this new “impact magisterium”—rather “scandal magisterium”—are complemented by acts and gestures in the same style.
Thus, his phrase on homosexuality, “Who am I to judge?” was abundantly illustrated by a video in which Pope Francis welcomes and effusively embraces a male same-sex “couple” at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.6 Ditto for a photograph of his between two Spanish women he invited to the Vatican, one of whom presents herself as a man (pretending to have changed her sex) and the other as her “bride.”7
His oft-repeated statements against trying to convert people of other religions to the Catholic Faith are based on his concept of religion, clarified in the Abu Dhabi document, which he signed with a Muslim imam: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions…are willed by God in His wisdom.”8
He repeated the same idea in less striking terms on this trip to Mozambique by saying that differences between religions, and even atheism, are “necessary.” He said, “I thank the members of different religious confessions who have joined us, and those who do not belong to any particular religious tradition.… [W]ith our differences, we are all necessary. Our differences are necessary.”9
But if they are necessary, then they are willed by God.
Pope Francis’s Multiple Faces
Pope Francis is a man of many faces with masterful control of physiognomic expressions, depending on the message or “signal” he wants to convey.
He shows a cheerful and relaxed face when receiving a leftist politician or activist. He can then put on what Italians call faccia feroce (a ferocious look) when having to welcome someone seen as representing conservative values.
This is not mere speculation, as his mastery and facial self-control can be seen in the photos at the links below.
There are photos of a smiling Pope Francis as he welcomed Peronist socialist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at their private meeting on June 7, 2015, in Rome,10 and the gloomy face he showed to her rival, Mauricio Macri, current president of Argentina.11 An expressionless face welcomed President Trump on May 24, 2017.12 And he shared happy and relaxed laughter with Cuban dictator Raul Castro during a Vatican audience on May 10, 2015.13 The picture that went viral worldwide, showing him, with an ambiguous face receiving a hammer-and-sickle-shaped “crucifix,” a communist symbol, from the hands of Bolivian dictator Evo Morales, in Bolivia July 9 2015.14
The Pope Francis Bumper Book of Insults
His “style” has still another facet.
A Pope who speaks so much about dialogue and shows support and friendship to people in situations that publicly contradict Catholic morality is nevertheless extremely brutal and scathing towards those who disagree with his doctrinal and institutional innovations. There are even compilations of his favorite insults, such as the online booklet titled The Pope Francis Bumper Book of Insults.15
On his flight from Rome to Mozambique, the Pope did not hesitate to call Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a “child.” Condescendingly, Pope Francis said, “[he] has good intentions, and he is a good man, but he is like a child.”16
This is the context for the Supreme Pontiff’s latest insult showing contempt for the American people. Americans are not being insulted because of their defects. All peoples have defects because of Original Sin. No. Paradoxically, Americans are insulted for their virtues. For upholding the principle of private property and free enterprise. Their generosity to shed their blood to defend the West against Nazism and Communism. Their present fight against Islamic terrorism. Their defense of innocent unborn human life; of true marriage as the lifelong union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others; and their dislike for the transgender revolution.
As far as American Catholics are concerned, many of them have shown a love for the truth, for the Church’s splendorous liturgical tradition and her supernatural mission in the salvation of souls.
The Supposed Conspiracy of Millionaires
Leaving aside Catholic millionaire-funded organizations, the great public display of Catholicism in America is the March for Life, which brings together hundreds of thousands of homemakers, students, and people from all walks of life.
To see the reaction of a significant part of Catholic Americans (a fruit of their zeal for faith and morals) as a “capitalist” conspiracy of millionaires is to distort reality. Moreover, the criticism they address to Pope Francis is very well-argued, respectful, and anchored in Catholic doctrine. And it comes from cardinals, bishops, and laity who are far from being millionaires. His answer to these criticisms is always silence, sarcasm, and insult.
Does Pope Francis also consider it an honor to be regarded as a heretic? No good Catholic would think so, much less a pope. Is it an honor for the father of a family to be criticized respectfully for his errors by his faithful children? Of course not, unless he has a false concept of honor and fatherhood. We prefer to suppose the same goes for Pope Francis, although his attitudes leave us in doubt.
In any case, his offenses and silences have characterized his pontificate as one of the most disastrous in Church history.
Confide and Fight
Amid the storm assailing the Church, we must remain confident. Saint Matthew tells us how the Divine Savior entered a boat with the Apostles and cast off into the lake after preaching to a crowd. But a great storm suddenly arose, and it covered the boat with waves, making it look as if it would sink.
And yet, Our Lord slept…
The anguished Apostles pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, save us, we perish!” Then Our Lord awakened and rebuked them: “Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?” The Divine Master seemed to sleep, but being God He knew what was going on, and as a Loving Father, He would not let them perish.
The Evangelist then concludes: “Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.”17
Our confidence, a fruit of Faith, must keep us combative and calm. At the proper time, when Divine Justice is appeased for the offense caused by our sins, the winds and storms will cease, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph, as promised in Fatima.
Updated September 20, 2019.
- Philip Pullella, “Pope calls U.S. conservative attacks an ‘honor’,” Reuters, Sept. 4, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-critics-idUSKCN1VP291.
- Jason Horowitz, “Pope Francis says it is ‘an honor that the Americans attack me,’” The New York Times, Sept. 4, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/world/africa/pope-americans-attack.html.
- Inés San Martín, “Pope Francis says ‘it’s an honor that Americans are attacking me,’” Cruxnow.com, Sept. 4, 2019, https://cruxnow.com/pope-in-madagascar/2019/09/04/pope-francis-says-its-an-honor-that-americans-are-attacking-me/.
- “Press Conference during the return flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome,” Vatican.va, July 28, 2013, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/july/documents/papa-francesco_20130728_gmg-conferenza-stampa.html.
- Carol Glatz, “Pope Francis reveals top 10 secrets to happiness,” National Catholic Register, July 29, 2014, https://www.catholicregister.org/faith/item/18548-pope-francis-reveals-top-10-secrets-to-happiness.
- Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein, “Pope Francis met with a same-sex couple the day before he met with Kim Davis, The Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/02/pope-francis-reportedly-met-with-a-same-sex-couple-the-day-before-he-met-with-kim-davis/?noredirect=on.
- Ana María Ortiz, “La imagen del encuentro del primer transexual recibido por un Papa,” El Mundo, Oct. 6, 2015, https://www.elmundo.es/sociedad/2015/10/06/56140419ca4741bf7d8b45f4.html.
- “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Vatican.va, Feb. 4, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html.
- “Interreligious Meeting with Youth—Address of His Holiness,” Vatican.va, Sept. 5, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2019/september/documents/papa-francesco_20190905_giovani-mozambico.html.
- “Cristina Fernandez plans sixth meeting with the Pope, when he visits Paraguay,” MercoPress, July 4, 2015, https://en.mercopress.com/2015/07/04/cristina-fernandez-plans-sixth-meeting-with-the-pope-when-he-visits-paraguay.
- “Unhappy Pope Has ‘Cold Meeting’ with Argentina’s Macri,” TeleSur, Feb. 28, 2016, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Unhappy-Pope-Has-Cold-Meeting-with-Argentinas-Macri–20160228-0007.html.
- Sarah Wildman, “Donald Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis, in one hilarious picture,” Vox.com, May 24, 2017, https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/24/15684774/donald-trump-pope-meeting-vatican-photo.
- “Cuban President Castro impressed with Pope Francis; says he might return to Church,” The Straits Times, May 11, 2015, https://www.straitstimes.com/world/americas/cuban-president-castro-impressed-with-pope-francis-says-he-might-return-to-church.
- “Pope receives Communist crucifix and says rich should not rule the world during South American tour,” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/pope-receives-communist-crucifix-and-says-the-rich-should-not-rule-the-world-during-south-american-10379377.html. See also Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, “The ‘Communist Crucifix’: Are Socialism and Catholicism No Longer ‘Contradictory Terms’”? TFP.org, Aug. 19, 2015, https://www.tfp.org/the-communist-crucifix-are-socialism-and-catholicism-no-longer-contradictory-terms/.
- The Pope Francis Bumper Book of Insults, accessed Sept. 9, 2019, http://popefrancisbookofinsults.blogspot.com/.
- Horowitz, “Pope Francis says it is ‘an honor that the Americans attack me.’”
- Matt. 8:25–6.