After nearly three years of this sort of thing we ought to be used to Francis’s constant railing against unnamed “doctors of the law,” who resist unspecified “change” in the Church because they have “a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit,” which “always surprises us” with some mysterious new development that Francis never identifies but obviously consists in something he intends to spring upon the Church—if he can get away with it. Meaning, most probably, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, apparently due in March, that would finally conclude his obsessive campaign to authorize the reception of Holy Communion by public adulterers, thus overturning the Church’s bimillenial sacramental discipline respecting the divorced and “remarried,” affirmed by both of his immediate predecessors.
The quoted phrases are from Francis’slatest ranton this theme (Italian originalhere). This time, however, the ranting exhibits not only the usual twisting of Sacred Scripture for polemical purposes but also borderline babbling that suggests an impairment of the rational faculty.
First, the twisting of Scripture. According to Francis, when Saul made a burnt offering following his victory over a garrison of the Philistines (cf. 1 Kings 13), the reason God punished him for disobedience was that he “wanted to offer a sacrifice of the best animals…. because ‘it’s always been done that way,’’ whereas “this time, God did not want that.” The point being, evidently, that God had some surprising novelty in mind for the celebration of the victory, to which Saul was blind because of his slavish adherence to the Hebrew ritual.
That reading is utterly false and misleading, presenting precisely the opposite of what Sacred Scripture teaches here. Saul’s disobedience consisted precisely in his not doing what had always been done by arrogating to himself a liturgical function reserved to the priests, violating not only Hebrew tradition but also the explicit command of the prophet Samuel that he wait seven days for Samuel’s arrival so that Samuel, a priest of the old dispensation, could offer the sacrifice. Further, when Saul attempted to defend his disobedience by arguing that “forced by necessity, I offered the sacrifice” because he had to appease the Lord before the Philistines counterattacked, Samuel rebuked him thus: “Thou has done foolishly, and hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee (1 Kings 13:12-13).” For this and subsequent disobedience God would dethrone Saul.
We can add this flagrant abuse of Scripture to all the others Francis has committed to serve the rhetorical needs of the moment. The most infamous example, of course, would have to be his insistence that when Our Lady held the crucified Body of Our Lord beneath the Cross “surely, with that wounded body lying in her arms, that body that suffered so before dying, inside surely she wanted to say to the Angel: “Liar! I was deceived.” She, too, had no answers.” (“Bugiardo! Io sono stata ingannata.”) That the sinless and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Co-Redemptrix, thought God had lied to her respecting His divine Son’s mission and that she had “no answers” for Christ’s redemptive suffering and death on the Cross may be the most outrageous statement uttered by any Pope in nearly 2,000 years of Church history.
Aside from the usual verse-twisting, the sheer irrationality of the latest outburst at Casa Santa Marta leaves one wondering whether the Pope is in full possession of his faculties, especially given the slurred speechevident in the “I believe in love” video paean to religious indifferentism launched two weeks ago. Francis argues confusedly that “Christians who cling to what has always been done” are guilty of “the sin of divination” because they “have a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit… the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.”
But it is precisely divination that Francis himself demands: listening to the “voice of the Spirit” to receive the latest gnostic communiqué on how the Church must change in order to “receive newness.” Unlike Francis, the objects of his denunciation are not claiming to “divine” anything but rather, as Francis would have it, they stubbornly “cling to what has always been done.” Indeed, in the same breath Francis accuses his nameless targets of “obstinacy,” which he somehow concludes “is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry!”
Divination! Obstinacy! Idolatry! Whatever! This meandering from one accusation of sin to another might well suggest a loss of reason. Francis is now blurting out incoherent invective against his own subjects because he perceives they will not go along with his various demands for “change” dictated by “the Spirit,” meaning by him. Moreover, since it is not the laity but the hierarchy that would have to implement Francis’s designs, the primary targets of his denunciations could only be the cardinals and bishops who do not agree with him on what “should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit”; it is they who are vile sinners immersed in divination, obstinacy and idolatry.
In the entire history of the papacy the Church has never witnessed such an embarrassing spectacle. Francis even goes so far as to cite Our Lord’s parable of new wineskins for new wine, as if to suggest that his plans for the Church are as momentous as Our Lord’s institution of the New Covenant and the passing away of the Old: “This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’” An alarming grandiosity is plainly apparent.
Given the narrow limits of papal infallibility and the broad field of possible papal error when novelties are in question, it is obvious that at this point, barring a miraculous turnabout, Francis cannot be trusted in the exercise of the papal office. An increasingly irrational pontiff offers almost daily what John Rao has aptly described as “a tiresome rehash of arguments that have repeatedly been offered by the idolaters of change since the time of the Abbé de Lamennais [whose proto-Modernist works and philosophical system were denounced by Pope Gregory XVI].” The faithful sense that they must constantly be on guard against Francis’s acts and pronouncements.
The way things are going, Francis bids fair to join Honorius in the Church’s historical judgment: a Pope posthumously condemned by an ecumenical council and his own successor because, like Honorius, although he never formally pronounced a heresy he “did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.” Francis’s ludicrous, blatantly seditious “Synod on the Family” would be Exhibit A in that regard.
This is no reason for despair, however, but rather for confidence in the promises of Christ. In the end, our divinely protected Church will right herself just as she has after every other crisis in her long history, even if the present one is arguably the worst of all.
Christopher A. Ferrara: President and lead counsel for the American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Mr. Ferrara has been at the forefront of the legal defense of pro-lifers for the better part of a quarter century. Having served with the legal team for high profile victims of the culture of death such as Terri Schiavo, he has long since distinguished him a premier civil rights Catholic lawyer. Mr. Ferrara has been a lead columnist for The Remnant since 2000 and has authored several books published by The Remnant Press, including the bestseller The Great Façade. Together with his children and wife, Wendy, he lives in Richmond, Virginia.