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Christopher A. Ferrara

            Derived from the Greek root demos, meaning “the people,” demotic is a rich word that denotes or connotes all of the following: common, vulgar, popular, colloquial, the language of ordinary people, demagogic.

            Francis is the first designedly demotic Pope in Church history.  Unlike any Pope before him, he basks in the world’s unending praise precisely because he styles himself the people’s Pope.” The world loves “the people’s Pope” for saying what the people want to hear as opposed to what the Church teaches in calling all men to be elevated from their fallen condition through the operation of sanctifying grace and the conformity of nations, laws and institutions to the Law of the Gospel and the Social Kingship of Christ.  The disciples who abandoned Our Lord when He revealed the meaning of the Holy Eucharist declared:  “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?”  But so often when Francis speaks the world delights in replying: “This saying is easy, who can reject it?”

Wherein the Pope who lives behind walls condemns walls, gives another thumbs-up to contraception, folds on “gay marriage” and blatantly contradicts himself—as usual.

Another day, another blabbering press conference on the return flight from another useless, blabber-filled papal voyage.

And, as is so often the case, Francis has condemned others for precisely what he himself is guilty of. Speaking of Donald Trump’s vow to build a wall along the entire US border with Mexico, Francis declared:

"He who thinks only of building walls and not bridges is not Christian. This is not the Gospel. Vote for him or not vote for him? I say only that if that is what he said, this man is not Christian."

Please forgive me, dear reader, for burdening you with another piece on the doings of our very unusual Pope, but I just cannot bear it. Is there nothing to which Francis’s public relations team will not stoop? Do they feel no shame at the exploitation of gravely ill children to depict Francis, with the aid of the fawning liberal media, as the Pope of Mercy who is waging a Revolution of Tenderness?

I am referring to an infuriating,
blatantly staged video of Francis and the wife of Mexico’s President, Angelica Rivera, administering oral medication to a child at Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital, where poor children with cancer, genetic deformties, and neurlogical disorders come for treatment. Herewith a still shot:

On the very day he took possession of the Chair of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI declared his intention to subsume his personal ideas and predilections to the office of the Vicar of Christ:

The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism….

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in The Remnant in 2010. Since Pope Francis has now pulled back the curtain to further expose the radical coup d’état that has been underway in the Church for a long time, however, I feel certain that thinking Catholics are more disposed than ever to acknowledge the “progressive” innovations of the past half century as self-inflicted assaults on the Bride of Christ.  The attack on the Mass has been well documented in these pages, but the “reform” of the Rosary was no less revolutionary in its audacity. Codified by St. Pius V at the Council of Trent, the Rosary’s traditional form, given to us by Our Lady herself through St. Dominic, is what it is for reasons that far outweigh any human aspirations to add elements to it, no matter how pious those elements may be.

Is this a joke?

It seems to be impossible to get off the Francis beat on which Remnant writers and other tradition-minded Catholic commentators around the world have found themselves over the past three years. Not a week passes without something from the Vatican, orchestrated by Francis and his public relations team, designed specifically to call attention to the latest sensational development in what is being marketed shamelessly as Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love.® Many journalists have devoted entire careers to covering the Vatican beat, but this Pope’s endless of train of publicity stunts has made Vatican-watchers of the rest of us.

Take, for example, the Missionaries of Mercy,® the super-confessors whose still mysterious super powers will be activated by Francis in Rome on Ash Wednesday, when he will personally present 700 of the 1000 Missionaries of Mercy with their “mandate.”

Why the mocking tone, you ask? Because the whole affair is patently ridiculous, as was shown last week when Monsignor Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization®, explained the initiative:

[T]he Missionaries of Mercy are a select number of priests who have received from the Pope the charge to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event. It is only the Pope who nominates these Missionaries, not the Bishops, and it is he who entrusts them with the mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God while being humble and wise confessors who possess a great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional

So what are the rest of the approximately 400,000 priestly confessors in the Holy Catholic Church supposed to be during the Jubilee of Mercy®? Chopped liver? Doesn’t every priest with faculties to hear confessions have precisely the same “great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional”? For example, everyone knows that ordinary parish priests are already authorized to forgive the sin of abortion and that they do so regularly. Has Francis now withdrawn that authorization or placed it in doubt? The Vatican has been mum on the point, allowing the media to create the false impression—immensely disturbing to many women who have confessed this sin—that abortion was not previously forgivable at the parish level.

In fact, no one really knows exactly what the Missionaries of Mercy will be able to do that God Himself does not already do when the Sacrament of Confession is administered by an ordinary priest acting, in persona Christi, to a sincere penitent with a firm purpose of amendment. The Missionaries of Mercy will come forth from Rome surrounded by a carnival cloud of tinted steam—an impressive display, but what does it really mean?

Catch Chris Ferrara's latest in the new print edition of The Remnant-- "It's very entertaining to be Pope!"

At any rate, why should a mere 1000 priests, or 0.25 percent of the total Catholic priesthood, be given a special papal “mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God”? Doesn’t every priest in the world already have the same mandate from God Himself by virtue of his ordination? And, since this is the Year of Mercy® and God’s mercy toward the repentant is boundless, why such a strictly limited number of specially deputed dispensers of mercy? Why does Francis, hailed by the world as the First Merciful Pope, not simply declare that during the Year of Mercy all priests shall be able to do whatever he thinks his Missionaries of Mercy can do?

In short: Why so stingy with the mercy? Here is Mons. Fisichella’s revealing explanation:

We have received a great response for participation [in the Missionaries of Mercy] but must place a limit on the large number of requests in order to ensure that the specific sign value, one which expresses how truly special the initiative is, be maintained.

That’s right, the number of Missionaries of Mercy is being kept low so that each of them will be just that much more valuable as a “sign” of “how special the initiative is”—meaning how special Francis is for having invented it. It would hardly do simply to declare that during the Year of Mercy every priest-confessor shall exercise to the fullest the capacity for absolution he already has, given a properly disposed penitent. No, there must be a select group of priests, monopolized by Francis, who are given the appearance of being a cut above all the others in the absolution department because Francis alone has conferred that special status. We have here a kind of spiritual monopoly in which one supplier controls the supply.

Thus, Fisichella is pleased to inform the press that on account of this papally- enforced scarcity of Missionaries of Mercy, “Father Richard from Australia will visit 27 communities in his rural Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where there is only one church and no priests in residence. Traveling in a camper, he will journey from community to community as a ‘Missionary of Mercy on Wheels’! This is but an example of the way in which the Jubilee is meant to reach all, allowing everyone to touch the closeness and the tenderness of God.”

Is this a joke? The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has 30 priests ministering to 150,000 Catholics in 39 parishes, whereas “Father Richard” appears to be Father Richard Lennan, the only Father Richard in the diocese, who is listed as being on leave while living at Boston College. If the Jubilee is “meant to reach all” so that everyone can “touch the closeness and mercy of God”—as if God and His mercy were inaccessible before Francis—then why not declare that all 30 priests are Missionaries of Mercy, available at the 39 parishes? Why recall just one priest from the other side of the world, put him in a camper and have him drive from parish to parish? Or why not put all 30 priests on the road and divide the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle between them in order to increase the possibility of everyone being able to “touch the closeness and Mercy of God?”

 Again, why so stingy with the mercy? The answer, evidently, is that one priest in a camper sent specially by Francis into the Outback, endowed with a special “mandate” of mercy that only Francis, “not the bishops,” can give, naturally focuses all the attention on Francis by insuring the conspicuousness and exclusivity of his innovation. The absolution of sins and the good of as many souls as possible are apparently beside the point.

Now, there are only two ways to view this thing: Either Francis has indeed somehow invested his Mercy Monopoly with special powers of absolution not available except through the monopoly, in which case he is literally hoarding mercy, or else there is no real difference between the Missionaries of Mercy and a regular parish priest in terms of the capacity to absolve sins, in which case the thing is an elaborate sham whose only purpose is to advance the papal personality cult.

Finally, what sinner would expose himself to public humiliation by approaching a roaming Missionary of Mercy for confession as opposed to his own parish priest, thereby signaling that his sins are so grave that only the Mercy Monopoly can absolve him?

Yes, this is a joke.

“The Pope Francis Mercy Monopoly”—Update

A commenter to my original article under this title has objected: “The Missionaries of Mercy receive delegation to absolve the canonical Reserved Penalties. By not explaining this, you distort the whole fact.”

I have distorted nothing.

First of all, canonical penalties are remitted, not absolved. Only sins are absolved, and there are no longer any “sins reserved to the Holy See” under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, even though the Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy erroneously refers to such sins as being “pardoned” by the Missionaries of Mercy. As you can read here, here, and here, a parish priest with faculties can now absolve all those sins as to which there are canonical penalties reserved to the Holy that must still be remitted.

Secondly, under the 1983 Code there are five sins as to which, even after absolution, only the Holy See can remit the attached penalties:

(1) defiling a consecrated host by throwing it away or keeping it for a sacrilegious purpose; (2) physically assaulting the Pope; (3) a priest absolving an accomplice to a violation of the Sixth Commandment; (4) consecrating a bishop without a papal mandate; (5) violating the seal of the confessional.

Abortion is not one of these five sins because the penalty of excommunication attaching to abortion under Canon 1398 is not reserved to the Holy See (but apparently can now be remitted by the local bishop).

Notice that three of five penalties involve clerics, not members of the lay faithful who are supposedly benefitted by this beneficent display of mercy. At any rate, there is no need for a papal “Mercy Squad” to remit these penalties, for the Pope could simply declare that whoever is absolved of any of these five sins by any priest with the faculty to hear confessions shall have the attached penalties remitted by the Holy See as well. In that regard, the Mercy Squad is just for show. Moreover, if Francis insists on using a showy Mercy Squad to remit penalties he could simply declare remitted upon prior absolution locally, why limit membership in the Mercy Squad to only 1,000 priests for the whole world?

On the other hand, if Francis has decided that only the Mercy Squad can absolve the sins involved in these five cases, not just remit the penalties, then he has substantially contracted the scope of mercy in the confessional by limiting it to the chosen 1,000. But it is not clear what Francis actually does intend in this regard. Can the Mercy Squad do anything more than absolve the underlying sins, while the penalties remain reserved to the Holy See? No clarification has yet been provided.

Lastly, and most important, Francis has cited the above-noted five cases as merely examples of the “breadth” of the mandate of the Missionaries of Mercy, but he has not explained what else is included in this mandate beyond the power of an ordinary priest to absolve sins. If something more is included, then Francis is indeed hoarding mercy by limiting its dispensers to 1,000 priests for 1 billion Catholics. If, however, the Missionaries of Mercy have no power to absolve sins beyond that of any other priest then, again, the whole thing is just for show. And I fail to see how Francis could grant any priest such a “super power” as the power of absolution comes from Christ, not papal fiat. There is nothing Francis could add to that power as any priest with faculties, acting in persona Christi, can already absolve any sin in God’s name, no matter how grievous, if the penitent is properly disposed.

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.
So my “cage match” with Mark Shea is over.  As for the inevitable question  “Who won?”, there is nothing so graceless as a debater who publishes a post-debate article on “How I won the debate with X” or who quotes people who tell him that he won the debate with X. 

I will let the people in the audience decide who had the better of the argument, along with those who watch the video or audio when they are posted on the Argument of the Month (AOTM) or The Remnant website. You can also check the Remnant’s home and Facebook pages for reactions on how the evening went.

There is, however, one undeniable winner of this debate: AOTM. I don’t think there is any Catholic venue in the world where, with little or no local promotion, 400 + Catholic men show up every month to sit in the hall of a church basement to watch debates on issues pertaining to the Faith.  What is the motive?

For nearly three years, during his daily sermons at Casa Santa Marta, Francis has been providing the congregation, and the world, with his idiosyncratic readings of events in the Gospel. These are usually delivered off-the-cuff because Francis tends to view prepared texts with contempt. As we have seen again and again, Francis evidently believes it is more “pastoral” simply to say whatever he thinks without to regard to the doctrinal implications or the potential for scandal. The results have often been, to put it mildly, stupefying.

As the incredible tragicomedy of this pontificate continues to unfold, I keep coming back to that dire piece at Rorate Caeli, whose author warned us at the very hour of Cardinal Bergoglio’s election that as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires he was “famous for his inconsistency” and that “faith and morals seem to have been irrelevant to him.” What seemed an intolerably rash assessment of a newly elected Pope turns out to have been a soberly realistic assessment of what the Church was about to endure: “the future terrifies us,” he wrote.