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Papal pokes in priestly eyes

There is nothing wrong with a Pope presenting points for priestly reflection and improvement, but the interminable negative drumbeat is a major factor in low morale among the clergy and seminarians.

Pope Francis delivers his Easter blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 4, 2021. (CNS photo/Filippo Monteforte, Reuters pool)

“Men, not Angels, the Priests of the Gospel”. So did St. John Henry Cardinal Newman entitle one of his lectures in 1849,1 four years after his conversion. Newman was not scandalized by that realization; he was actually comforted by it because it meant he could thus count himself among the Lord’s especially chosen disciples.

On this recent Holy Thursday, the preeminent day of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood, my thoughts went back – nostalgically – to the twenty-seven years of the pontificate of St. John Paul II and his Holy Thursday letters “to my beloved priests.” Priests and seminarians eagerly awaited them. In our Community, we would gather on Holy Thursday at noon to pray Midday Prayer, at the conclusion of which we read aloud the Pope’s missive to us for that year. Then followed a festive meal, for which many local clergy joined us to celebrate God’s goodness to us in making us “dispensatores mysteriorum Dei” (dispensers of the mysteries of God).

That recollection made all the sadder the constant negativity directed to us priests by the present Pope. This “feeling” is not something unique to me. It came out clearly in a research project being done for the University of Notre Dame by Francis X. Maier. I should note that not only has he been a close friend and collaborator for some forty years, but he is one of the few lay ecclesiastical “bureaucrats” who is not a “wanna-be” priest and who genuinely loves and respects priests (even when some of us can make that difficult to do).

On to the study.2 We are allowed to eavesdrop on bishops’ observations about Pope Francis, among many other topics. “In the words of one baffled west-of-the-Mississippi bishop, ‘It’s as if he enjoys poking us in the eye.’” “Poking us in the eye” – a rather down-home way of crystallizing a common sentiment among clergy.

What about seminarians? Maier shares the following: “When pressed, none of the bishops I queried could report a single diocesan seminarian inspired to pursue priestly life by the current Pope. None took any pleasure in acknowledging this.” Again, this parallels my own experience from lectures and retreats I have given to numerous seminarians. In fact, in my spiritual direction of seminarians, I have also had the unenviable task of trying to convince them (and young priests as well) not to give up on the priesthood, so dispirited are many by Francis.

Perhaps most surprising to many is that seminarians of my acquaintance, many of whom had barely made their First Holy Communion in the waning years of the John Paul papacy, name him as their model for priestly life and ministry; Benedict is likewise highly valued by our seminarians – most of whom maintain a respectful silence about the current Pontiff, lest they show disrespect or even disdain. That is quite telling. It also explains why seminary numbers are so far down, precisely over the past eight years. Frankly, why would a young man find inspiration in a man who had even called seminarians “little monsters”?

I bring up this unpleasant topic because in just the two weeks before Holy Week, priests got four papal “pokes in the eye.”

The first, of course, was the banning of individual celebrations of Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, about which I wrote here at CWR. That decree has created a firestorm of outrage around the world. Cardinal Raymond Burke was the first prelate out of the paddock to condemn the insulting assault on priestly hospitality. He has since been joined by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Gerhard Müller and by Cardinal Robert Sarah, until recently, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. The indomitable Cardinal Joseph Zen has also entered the lists. It is no small irony that the Pope who dislikes private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica would abandon that Basilica for a private Mass on Holy Thursday (of all days!) in the apartment chapel of the disgraced Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu!

The second indication of papal disregard for priests was his decision to cut the salaries of cardinals, bishops and priests working in the Roman Curia, but not those of lay employees. This may require some explanation for American readers to understand the tremendous injustice. The typical American lay person might have reacted with approval, “After all,” one would be tempted to say, “priests don’t have the expenses of lay people. Free housing and food and all other necessary things provided as well.” Not so fast.

Clergy who work in the Curia do get a salary, however, room and board are not covered; for that, they are on their own. For example, if a priest lives at the Santa Marta residence (where Pope Francis lives), as much as half his salary goes to pay for his housing and meals. I remember well when a bishop-friend of mine was called to serve in Rome and received a Vatican apartment, which had been woefully neglected and in need of much repair, as well as retrofitting. The project was the sole responsibility of the new tenant. Further, a bishop or cardinal generally will have a priest-secretary living with him and perhaps one or more Sisters to assist with various household tasks; the upkeep of these personnel must be paid directly by the prelate. In other words, clergy working in the Vatican have the same financial responsibilities as lay workers – yet the Pope penalized only the clergy. Beyond the financial considerations, clergy in the Curia very often live thousands of miles from their homes and families, making tremendous personal sacrifices for the good of the Church. Of course, on more than one occasion, Francis has urged those priests to go back home (where they presumably belong!).

The third “poke in the eye” came when Francis gave an audience to the student-priests from the Filipino College, in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the institution and the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines. In the course of the address,3 the Pope cautioned them not “to take flight in an ‘ideal’ past” (in other words, don’t be “conservative”). Further, not to “imagine the ‘prestigious’ assignments that the bishop will certainly want to entrust to you upon your return… No, not that! This is fantasy” (Translation: Don’t look forward to putting to use the special training you are being given – because that would have the smell of “clericalism” or “careerism”); Finally, not to “speak ill” of one another (Why would he even presume that these young priests would do that?). So, three black eyes on what should have been a joyous occasion.

The final “poke in the eye” came during a papal audience given to the priestly community of the Pontifical Mexican College on March 29. Francis warned them not to “lock [themselves] up in their home or office or hobbies.” He went on: “Clericalism is a perversion.” He then went on to belittle getting a doctorate. Again, why always the negative presumptions?

This Pope has a “hang-up” on a strong priestly identity, which he equates with “clericalism” (which is indeed a flaw as it seeks privilege rather than offering service).4 To be clear: There is nothing wrong with a Pope presenting points for priestly reflection and improvement, but the interminable negative drumbeat is a major factor in low morale among the clergy and surely a harmful influence on young men contemplating the Sacred Priesthood. These “pokes in the eye” make it impossible for priests to hear anything good this Pope might say about us and our vocation.

When St. John Paul assumed the Chair of Peter, the Priesthood was at its lowest ebb since the Protestant Reformation. In fact, more men had abandoned their holy vocation in the wake of the Second Vatican Council than in the sixteenth century – some 100,000 defections from the Sacred Priesthood, by most estimates. Not only that, but terrible concepts of the priestly ministry had been taught in seminaries for more than a decade, thus polluting a generation of priests, as well as infecting thousands already ordained. Taking his own counsel, “Be not afraid,” John Paul stepped into the breach with gusto.

Because Pope John Paul knew priesthood from the inside and loved not only “priesthood,” but priests, he could empathize with priests whose love for their vocation had grown cold or with priests who even doubted the usefulness of their ministry. Hence, he ended his very first Holy Thursday letter to us priests with this most moving and tender reflection:

Dear Brothers: you who have borne “the burden of the day and the heat” (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not turn back (cf. Lk 9:62), and perhaps even more those of you who are doubtful of the meaning of your vocation or of the value of your service: think of the places where people anxiously await a Priest, and where for many years; feeling the lack of such a Priest, they do not cease to hope for his presence. And sometimes it happens that they meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they still keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy; and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob… so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a Priest can efficaciously utter. So much do they desire Eucharistic Communion, in which they can share only through the ministry of a priest, just as they also so eagerly wait to hear the divine words of pardon: Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis! So deeply do they feel the absence of a Priest among them!… Such places are not lacking in the world. So, if one of you doubts the meaning of his priesthood, if he thinks it is “socially” fruitless or useless, reflect on this!

He knew – all too well – the many weaknesses among the Lord’s sons in the Priesthood: Men, not angels. He didn’t scold us to make us better; he loved us into becoming better.

Through the intercession of St. John Paul, that quintessential priest’s priest, we need to pray that his successor would learn how to love priests into holiness of life, rather than “poking us in the eye.”

Lord, give us priests.
Lord, give us many priests.
Lord, give us many holy priests.

Endnotes:

1Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3.

2He reports on the first phase of the study, dealing with bishops’ attitudes, in “Somebody Needs to Be Dad,” First Things, February 22, 2021.

3 Oddly the talk is available only in Italian and Spanish – no English, even though that is surely the lingua franca of the Philippines.

4This is similar to his constant condemnation of “proselytism” (which he fails to distinguish from “evangelization”).


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About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 218 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments.

57 Comments

  1. Reading this article I wonder why the author never mentioned the special letter Pope Francis issued in 2019 to console us in the time of crisis?
    Well mentioning it and get through the content would required to set a different angle in this one-sided reflection.

    Kind regards,

    • “God willed all religions” PF to the Son of the Living God. Now there’s a reflection to ponder if you will, and would require quite a different angle of Catholic theology.

    • As a layperson seeing the constant attack from the Pope on Priests I would have a hard time supporting a young person considering the Priesthood. After all, if the Pope himself attacks Priests on a regular basis why would I want a person I care about to be attacked like that.

      • No, this Pope is all the more reason to prayerfully support vocations to the priesthood. Who is going to take care of God’s people in this time? The devil wants to keep young men from answering God’s call but we desperately need good priests! This is not merely an academic argument that I make – our youngest son just entered religious life and, God willing, will also be ordained a priest. Let us all pray for Our Blessed Mother’s protection of her sons, the priests.

    • After 21 years of a presence in my life, my earthly father, at his demise, left me with three positive memories with too numerous-to-count hours of anxiety, tears, and sorrow. It took another 21 years of prayer before the Crucifex to be healed. One day, looking at Jesus hanging there, I asked Him why I could not love my father. Jesus hanging there then became the image of my dad.

      To this day, I have only the three positive memories my dad left me. The fourth was given me by God as He hung upon the cross, bearing my dad.

      Pope Francis surely can summon the God to whom he answers in order to bless his holy sons. And the pope surely ought do it more frequently than a once-upon-a-lifetime letter in 2019.

    • Remembering when Our Holy Father first addressed the People awaiting His address — Pray for me” “Never Give up HOPE” Pope Francis comes from a completely different Culture than those of us who seem to know so much about what we really dot know, I have always been a reader, and when my eyes were still — ABLE, I did read a Biography by the Priest who was in the Seminary with Him. Pope Francis is a TRUE JESUIT, when so many of them and They keep their boots on — He Risked His Life for His Fellow Priests at Times, when they were in Danger. Pope Francis told us that WE are ALL GIFTS, and that We all have FLAWS. Throughout His priestly life He has Practiced His vow of Poverty — At 87 years of age, I still remember that year of CLOister, when I was discerning a vocation as a Missionary Nurse — One begins to get RID of the Flaws that keep one from becoming a Saint. We are ALL called to become Saints, and we will do much better by discovering these FLAWS, and as I became aware in the Confessional b a CHARISMATIC Priest — WHO was not NICE — But GOOD, at FORTY YEARS OF AGE, Christ told me that my Problem was that –E WAS BOT REAL. He allowed St Paul to have a life threatening EXPERIENCE, that CHANGED THE COARSE OF HISTORY. St Paul was Highly Educated, and St Peter was ILLITERATE, and Yet Jesus left the Keys in Peter’s hands. When my Son spent a couple years in Peace Corps — Post Communism, I sent him the Book, SEARCH OF MEANING, by Doctor FRANKl — I recently gave a copy to one of the Administrators here at the Senior View Doctor Frankl believed that there is a Higher Knowledge than Intellect — He compared this Knowledge to a Mother being able to Hear the Cry of Her CHILD in the Middle of the Night. Pope Francis asked us to PRAY FOR HIM — He Loves Our Blessed Mother. and I do believe that Jesus will be WITH this man as He continues His Mission — Ad Jesum Per Mariam. Totus TUUS. “MY IMMACULATE HEART WILL TRIUMPH” “BE NOT AFRAID” and “Do Not give up Hope”– Living in the present Culture of Death, It is Helpful to — LIVE IN THE MOMENT (Doc SiEGAL in Love,Miracles and Medicine.)

  2. There are Popes who edify the Church and there are Popes who do not.

    “By their fruits you will know them “

  3. I’m somewhat ambivalent about this one, Father Peter. I do share your frustration with Pope Francis, and I do look forward to a new conclave. But I don’t see seminarians the same way you do. Perhaps I am impatient. But I also find the current state of the priesthood to be very disturbing. You clearly love the priesthood, the Mass, you actually teach the faith, you are not afraid to do so, but my good friend, a solid manly priest whom you would love, is part of the Presbyteral council in his diocese, and what he tells me is really disturbing. They are not made up of priests like you. They just don’t get it! They don’t get the papacy of John Paul II, and they don’t get Benedict XVI, and they think they get Pope Francis, but they don’t. They are not focused on the teaching of the faith, morality, marriage and family, on the guts of the gospel and Church teaching. They are focused on vacations, nice meals, liturgics, and this pandemic has been for many of them an extended vacation. There are really good solid priests around, but you have to admit, they are somewhat few and far between. Returning now to seminarians, good seminarians do not need a poke in the eye, but if they are the real deal, they can take a poke now and then–they’re tough enough; if they are not, they are not JPII/Benedict calibre material. But I just don’t see our seminaries filled with such people. There is some evidence that a good number of them are focused on the wrong things, are a bit light in the loafers, and are a bit too effeminate. I hope I am wrong, but if you are right, that what we have there are really good solid candidates, then we have nothing to worry about–they can take a few pokes, and the future looks bright. But if they are discouraged and leaving because they are not getting continual pats on the back and they believe the future will involve hard work and persecution, instead of the clerical pedestal with the faithful fawning all over them, then happy trails. Come back when you have tougher skin and are ready to serve rather than be served.

    • Mr. James,
      Authentic priesthood is not a cake walk. Priests, even those of the JPII model, need encouragement and good moral – just like a good combat officer gives to his men. This is called leadership and it’s necessary.

      On another note, the homosexually-oriented country club priests and bishops will leave or die through attrition once the Church in America enters persecution. Furthermore, the faithful who remain will have little stomach for priests of the country club variety.

      The future of the Church is both bright and painful.

      • Steve Seitz: You didn’t read my post carefully. “Good seminarians do not need a poke in the eye, but if they are the real deal, they can take a poke now and then…” They do need encouragement. The good ones do. But they are few and far between.

        You also wrote “..the homosexually-oriented country club priests and bishops will leave or die through attrition once the Church in America enters persecution.” They are being replaced by their kind. When persecution comes, they’ll just capitulate as they are doing now.” I hope you are right, but I think it is wishful thinking. We’re a long way away from genuine reform.

        • Mr. James,
          Yes, good priests can take an occasional poke because they’ll survive any way they can. But they also need someone to lead them and encourage them against the onslaught of evil. I’m not a priest but feel demoralized nevertheless.

          Regarding the country-club priests, I agree that some/many will continue to exist — at least for awhile. But when those laity without a true and lasting faith disappear in the face of persecution, only the “die-hards” will be left in significant numbers. These die-hards, such as myself, will start migrating from standard parishes to Catholic groups like the FSSP. This will cause the standard parishes to become financially insolvent from lack of membership.

          These, at least, are my thoughts on the matter.

      • I agree; homosexual men won’t be attracted to enter the seminars when the Church will be more and more persecuted.
        And that’s something to look forward to! It cannot be that Catholic priesthood is regarded as a ‘ gay profession “.

    • Mr. James: Can you honestly say that, if Pope Francis had repeatedly “poked in the eye” married couples and the vocation of marriage — not once but on countless occasions — you would say, “Well, marriage is a challenging vocation, if they are really called to marriage, they can take a ‘poke in the eye’ once in a while.”

      Do the thought experiment. What if he said (repeatedly) something like ‘married spouses are often self-centered, inconsiderate of their spouses, use their spouses for their own ends, lazy, etc.” Imagine what the reaction of the lay faithful would have been.

      I don’t think you would have been so dismissive. Nor should you have been.

      • Dear Cincinnati Priest: Pope Francis has already insulted couples, generous couples who have large families, referring to them as “rabbits”, or words to that effect. He’s also poked the eyes of devoted members of the pro-life movement. That’s why I look forward to a new conclave. But that hasn’t kept my good friends from their pro life work, nor from getting married in the Church. What is frustrating about such remarks is that he has energized the enemies of the Church.

        I can’t help but think that “celebrity status” has gotten to his head. I hope I’m wrong. But he seems to be a people pleaser–the wrong people at that. If Pope Francis came out and said something very challenging to those couples of practice contraception, for example, I’d be impressed. When he comes out and attacks “sanctuary priests” and “airport bishops”, I’m not too upset. I think he should challenge married couples, but he won’t. He saves his insults for the faithful ones. Not good.

  4. This is all so true. As my youngest son discerns his vocation, he has to shut his ears to Pope Francis. At the TLM we attend, this is fairly easy to do, since the priests can find no inspiring words from the Pope to insert into homilies.

    • My FSSP parish priest reminded us, in his Holy Thursday homily, that God called sinful men to serve Him and His people in Holy Orders. The allusion was lost on few. Our priest may consider himself a sinful man, but we understood him to talk of another priest, a bishop, cardinal,and pope.

  5. I do not view any of the points raised as pokes in the eye.

    Good Pope Francis has been remarkably consistent in calling priests to view themselves as servants rather than lords – in other words, be like Christ.

    Cutting salaries of the Curia is not a poke in the eye…. it’s good fiscal policy given the financial stress the Vatican is currently enduring.

    It is perplexing to read this article when all you can see from the author is attempts to pole Francis in the eye

  6. I have tried to be positive about our Pope but find it difficult. I’ve wondered why he is the way he is…so unhappy and can I say it, crabby.

  7. It is ironic that Pope Francis should have encouraged anyone not to take flight into an ‘ideal past’ because that is precisely what he has done. The word ‘conservative’ has been rendered meaningless as it can now mean anything from promoting traditional values to imagining oneself as a part of a pretend superior earthly aristocracy extending into the past. Pope Francis exemplifies the latter and this is quite common in South America where those with the means can separate themselves behind stoned walls from the ordinary people and opine that those outside are lacking in value in one respect or another. True, Pope Francis did occasionally set up photo-ops where he would let it be known that he was out and about among the people like Jesus, but otherwise he always had a practised an air of superiority. The Francis everyone now sees as poking eyes is as he always was.

  8. Francis is a bad Pope, maybe one of the worst, and this has been abundantly obvious for at least 5 years to anyone who isn’t a neo-modernist, Dave Armstrong or Tim Staples. Why is anyone in the clergy or seminary surprised or hurt by the things he says and does at this point? It’s to be expected and he should just be ignored to preserve your faith and sanity.

    It’s also time to rip the scab off how great the pontificates of JPII and BXVI were. If there was much truth to this claim the Church would be in great shape after 35 years of their leadership. They effectively had appointed every single Bishop and Cardinal in the Church on the day BXVI resigned, far too many of them absolutely awful appointments.

    Who appointed Jorge Bergoglio a Cardinal? Who gave red hats to the St Gallen Mafia that conspired to elect him? Who let depraved monsters like Maciel, McCarrick, Bernadin and Weakland operate unchecked while gallivanting around the world like a rock star instead of governing? Who was de facto promoting religious indifferentism before Pachamama was cool? Who refused to suppress the Legion of Christ after it was revealed it was basically a money laundering and sex trafficking ring? Who knew how bad the problems in the Church were, resigned and has had nothing but effusive praise for his successor?

    • There are some details you are not apparently aware of. Pope John Paul II was not as careful as he could have been in the matter of interreligious dialog. To his credit, he allowed Cdl. Ratazinger to talk him out of joint prayers with leaders of non-Christian faiths at the Asssi Conferences; however, it was overall a badly run affair that sent mixed messaeges, some of them readily appropriated by heretics. Unfortunately, due having lived under Nazi and Communist occupation, Pope John Paul II had an excessive mistrust of accusers and rarely took back trust once given. Smart sociopaths like Maciel and McCarrick could and did play him. Ratzinger was less easily duped and even tried to initiate action against Maciel as Prefect of the CDF–but was blocked by the corrupt (and bribable) Cdl. Sodano–until he became pope. Then Maciel was forced out of ministry. Remember that Pope Benedict XVI also placed sanctions against McCarrick–ones that were ignored by enablers in high places (and subsequently promoted by Pope Francis). Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI, essentially a gentle academic, was no master of the game nor iron-fisted enough when it came to internal politics better played by corrupt curial officials and the lavender mafia. The scope of how little control he had over the administration of the Church was manifest in a disheartening December 2012 report requested by him that led to his decision to be succeeded by somebody that would hopefully be a more able and forceful administrator. This included the discovery that Cdl. Bertone, whom Pope Benedict XVI, had been counting on to counter-balance Cdl. Sodano and clear up the Curia was himself deeply compromised. Stepping down in favor of a more vigorous, strong-willed and skillful reformer seemed like the right thing to do. Sadly, it appears that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has been succeeded not by a saint-reformer but by a stereotypically wiley and effective, but heterodox post-modern Jesuit.

      • So basically they were really nice guys and it’s not their fault that they ran an institution for 35 years that they had absolute authority over that is basically imploding in on itself despite their effective leadership and governance. If they left this institution in good shape it would be far too resilient to be experiencing the depths of the crisis it currently is.

  9. Thank you for an article that speaks the truth. his efforts to make himself look great and to criticuze St, John Paul in reference in the mc carrick Report are hhurtufl.
    In 2016 I gave communion in Ov. at the end of the Holy Year Mass since there were not enough priests who had signe up to do so.
    In 2018 my last pilgrimage to rome I saw many empty stores in the BorgoPio Arfea or downsized due to fewer Pilgrims. One store where i purchase tapestries in the Borgo Pio Area the owners metioned they did not carry Francis Tapestries since they would not sell. morale is down in the Eternal City. I just say to affirm everyone “Do not dispair for there is always hope in Death.

  10. Enemy of the faith or Apostle of mercy? Fr Stravinskas’ strongest response to the query is the positive effect of John Paul II on presbyter seminarian most bishops compared to the effect of punitive pokes in the eye administered by Pope Francis. What nevertheless is behind the punishing criticism if not an appeal to be charitable, discerning, to walk in the shoes of the suffering laity caught between harsh rules and harsh reality. Amoris Laetitia addresses the hardship reality of the laity trying to live as a disciple of Christ the best he can and questionably refused the very sacrament meant to heal and strengthen. 351 infamous or curative depending on our rigidity or kindness, kindness what God would expect for the sufferer penitent from presbyter. So the supreme pontiff leader of Catholicism, the Christianity world has we may assume a vested interest for admonishment. Love for the laity. Now effect does not determine the good of intent. Nonetheless a good act must be ordered to a good effect. What is the effect on the presbyter? I can only speak from firsthand experience, that the majority are neutralized trapped between relinquishing Apostolic Tradition or obedience to the supreme pontiff. They know that embrace of Amoris’ premises cannot be exercised with prudent exception, rather reasoned on respect of the penitent’s conscience it must grant benefit of the doubt. Consequently, it must open the floodgates to dissolution of the rule, all rules, all the commandments of Christ. Bland homilies bland personal witness emphasis on sentimentality or worse prevails. What then is the measure of truth for priests and bishop? Answered in Clintonesque abruptness, It’s the laity stupid! Laity for the most part are starving for the faith they know in their hearts resides in Christ’s Gospel, not the gospel according to Francis. Our Pontiff would have presbyters marching dronelike as did bonny Switzerlanders 2016 opening ceremony into the entrance of the Gotthard Tunnel. Minds benumbed poked by a mindless amorality into the Dark maw of the Beast.

  11. Catholics were blessed with two very solid men in JP2 and B16, particularly following the catastrophe that unfolded during the pontificate of P6. Any ordinary man who followed these two greats would be by a comparison a let down. But Francis goes beyond disappointment. He reminds me of the numerous petulant teenagers i have counseled over the years. Even his own sister “did not recognize him” when he was declared pope…. she saw him smiling for the first time in years. Perhaps he suffers from depression. But more to the point, Bergoglio seems totally lacking in fatherly virtue. He is crafty, and plays both sides of the fence, and his statements are designed to be ambiguous–all signs that he lacks sincerity. The great Fr Weinandy warned Bergoglio that he risked sinning against the Holy Spirit. Bergoglio volunteered in his biographical interviews early in his papacy that he had little admiration for his father —he despised his father’s work, and was envious of his brothers athletic talents. If a man even comes close to envy or despising his father, he has a tall hill to climb in order to be a virtuous father figure—Bergoglio has not summited that hill yet, and there is no indication that he feels the need. As a priest, Bergoglio was feared and loathed by many in his native Argentinian, and after 8 years as pope he has yet to return to visit his own home! His own Jesuit superior—a liberal no less—warned JP2 that Bergoglio was unfit to be a bishop. He seems intent on dismantling the legacy of his predecessors, especially in the areas of family and sexual ethics—look at the freaks that he has appointed to high positions, including running the JP2 Institute. This reminds me poetically of the two brothers, Cain and Abel; envy consumed the former and he sought to destroy the good works of his brother. A young man of faith will see these problems. Is it any surprise that young men do not admire Begoglio; he holds the highest office on earth, and yet even in so many simple ways, he is not an admirable man.

  12. I was reading this article to my wife and she asked, “Wasn’t he a priest? Why is he so critical of them?” My response was to point out that people are often quickest to criticize what they themselves are guilty of.

  13. The best I could say to Fr. Stravinska is: Why are you looking to the Pope — any Pope — for your conception of the Priesthood?

    • Mr. Dunn, to answer your question, have you ever heard of leadership by example? It is perfectly normal to look to a leader as a model to which to aspire.

      • My spiritual director reminded me when I entered seminary, “remember, your highest boss is Christ, all popes are your supervisors”

  14. Francis did not once apologize to the priests or the Church faithful for the scandal with pachamama. The only apology from him was to to those who bowed to the false goddess because they were thrown into the river.

  15. There are, of course, stories of unpleasant interactions between then-Archbishop Bergolio and his seminarians — and priests — when he was in Buenos Aires, though it was rarely easy to hear them spoken about openly. It may not be a coincidence that annual ordinations dropped from 40-50 per year when Bergoglio was first appointed to Buenos Aires, down to 12 in his last full year there (2012). The final ordination class he recruited, that of 2019, saw only 3 priests ordained.

  16. IMHO the entire point has been missed in PFG’s acerbic relations to priests. The ‘Progressive’ mind set is inevitably of a scolding nature. Karl Marx, the god of Progressives, insisted that everything must be torn down – all institutions shattered – and a new utopia fashioned according to his imaginings. Can we not see it today in the DemoncRat Party, in Antifa, in BLM? What do we think Build Back Better means. PF is simply a reactionary Progressive – he is not an introspective person – thus his crudity.

  17. “Again, why always the negative presumptions?”

    I have a relative who is a dismissive person by nature and he speaks in exactly this same way. He can never simply disagree or dislike something without attacking it as if it was a personal affront to him. This is not a political thing (though it makes political discussions unpleasant); it’s a personality issue and it happens even with inanimate objects. Imagine a couple discussing apartments they viewed. Normal people sound like this:

    > I liked the one with the big living room and the view of the river.

    >> Yeah the view was amazing and I loved that kitchen, but wasn’t that the apartment that only had one bedroom? What about the baby?

    > We could squeeze and make it work. It would be worth it for the view and the schools in that neighborhood are the best.

    >> I still think it would be too tight. Let’s revisit the two bedroom tomorrow.

    Now image the second person in that dialogue is a dismissive personality type:

    > I liked the one with the big living room and the view of the river.

    >> That place was a shoebox. No normal family would ever live there. You think we could fit in that place? That’s a total fantasy. Where would the baby sleep, on a kitchen shelf? Don’t be ridiculous (waves hand dismissively).

    > We could squeeze and make it work. It would be worth it for the view and the schools in that neighborhood are the best.

    >> Why are you so hung up on that place? You just have to get over it. (waves hand dismissively again).

    The weird thing is that when the dismissive person speaks like this, in his mind he thinks this is how all people feel when they are having the discussion in the first dialogue. That is, he can’t imagine that a thing he dislikes could possibly have any pros, and therefore anyone who raises the pros (even if they agree with him) is just hung up on something, or too rigid to see it his way.

  18. Priests and seminarians who are fans of “all negative all the time” blogs, websites, and other sources which are not necessary reading bear some of the responsibility for their low morale. They should exercise prudence as to what they fill their minds with.

  19. I am a Latin Mass Traditionalist who is convinced that Francis is an antipope. But I know a few Novus Ordo priests who consider him to be pope and are disheartened by his jabs. Who wants to work for a nitpicking critic? If he were only a kind non-Catholic…

  20. Blessed Feasts of Pope St.Martin 1 and that of Bl.Margaret of Castello ; being the 13th of the month and the special connection to bl.Mother , can gratefully take note of the Zeitun apparitions in Egypt , the land that the Holy Father was called and blessed to visit about 4 years ago this month .
    https://www.universalis.com/-600/today.htm
    Interesting to hear about the struggles in The Church , in discerning the mystery of the unity of the Divine Will and human will in The Lord , well meaning persons allowed to raise objections , ? for the truth to be pressed and clarified through it all .Interesting that the bl.Mother was seen as walking on the roof of the church in Zeitun – ? treading down the areas of the divides ..
    Love and glory to You Lord , for the prayers and sufferings of all ,in union with Yours , including that of our beloved Holy Father , all other holy Popes, Bishops, priests , saints and all , helping to bring us the Precious Blood , to free us from the effects of the rebellious self will , for us too to live in the Divine Will and its infinite graces and goodness . Bl.Margaret , who suffered with disabilities , help us too to be compassionate and trusting in The Lord , esp. when we too rightly or wrongly perceive areas that are seen as troublesome .
    Blessings – esp. for all the blessed future priests too , called to live and love continually in the Divine Will !

  21. Fr. Stravinskas is a good example of a priest formed in the classic theology of the priesthood looking at a priest in a near cult-like manner as an “other Christ” and is greatly pained at Pope Francis taking down priests from their pedestal. In the process he looks back to the St. Pope John Paul II’s hyper idealization of the priesthood blindsided to the fact that precisely because of this pet theology project on the part of JPII shown in his Holy Thursday letters to priests and in Pastores Dabo Vobis, among others, his papacy will forever be marked and remembered for his blindspot with regards to the emerging clergy homosexual predation sex abuse scandal. JPII simply did not act on this reality of a crisis because it went against his idea on the matter. He promoted the icon of this scandal Ted McCarrick five times: Auxiliary Bishop of New York, Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal. Likewise, JPII called the serial sex offender, who sired children, and founder of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Marcial Maciel Degollado, “a model of heroic priesthood.”

    • McCarrick was made a bishop by Paul VI. At least get your objective data straight, before you pontificate!

      • Look, Father, who’s pontificating! Your article is actually your jeremiad of a pontificating and bashing the Pope disrespectfully and disloyally. Yes, I stand corrected with McCarrick’s first episcopal appointment by St. Pope Paul VI in 1977. But my oversight does not change the veracity of my assessment of the mishandling of the emerging clergy sex abuse scandal by St. Pope John Paul II and of your and JPII’s cult-like exalted theology of the priesthood “from above”. I suggest you balance it with one “from below” and that which is in line with its biblical and historical (especially patristic) sources and as retrieved in Vatican II by re-reading “A Priestly People: Baptismal Priesthood and Priestly Ministry” by Jean-Pierre Torrell.

    • Priests should not be tyrants nor even schoolmarms; but neither are they merely social workers, either.

      There *is* a great deal to be critical of with regards to John Paul II’s handling (or more aptly, non-handling) of clerical sexual abuse claims and episcopal appointments generally. But his “hyper-idealization” of the priesthood does not seem notably distinct from any of his predecessors who have left reflections on the subject, going back to the Patristic era. And it is hard to say that Pope Francis, during his overlapping years as auxilliary and ordinary in Buenos Aires during the previous two pontificates, left behind any more admirable record. Consider Archbp. Bergoglio’s efforts to protect Rev. Julio César Grassi during Grassi’s criminal prosecution (to name merely one of the most notorious cases); his insistence to rabbi Abraham Skorka that there had not been *any* abuse cases his diocese, as recorded in Skorka’s 2010 book On Heaven and Earth; or Archbp. Bergoglio’s steadfast refusal to ever meet with sexual abuse victims. None of this can excuse John Paul II’s failings, but it does underline the grim impression that such failure was far, far more widespread in that pontificate among the episcopate, including the present incumbent, whatever he has done the last few years notwithstanding.

      • I don’t understand why some of us continue to point to JPII’s “oversight” regarding McCarrick and Marcial. Psychopaths are very difficult to discern, even for the most highly trained experts in the field. They are highly intelligent and devious. And yes, even Pope Francis was hoodwinked, but those on the Francis train seem to have forgotten that. Having said that, a priest really is an “alter Christus”. JPII’s theology of the priesthood is profound, brilliant, and accurate, and he was no “sanctuary priest”, but a genuine model of what it means to be a priest and bishop. But that’s precisely why I think Francis’ “pokes” have been rather fitting. Christ was not a little “monster”, a little “jealous Nancy” running around looking busy, preoccupied with vestments and altar candles. I do know a priest who was a “little monster” and who, after reading Francis’ first encyclical I believe (possibly 2nd), really changed. He saw himself in what Francis was saying, and there was a genuine 180. But some will never see. And I don’t think many of the bishops are getting the Francis message. All they seem to be drawing out from Francis is a supposed justification for their “liberalism”, especially with respect to life/sexual issues, all under the guise of being more pastoral. Classic self-deception. In the end, things haven’t changed all that much.

    • Having had dinner with Fr. Stravinskas numerous times since 1995 I can assure you that one thing he is not is “blindsided” by Pope Saint John Paul II or Fr. Stravinsaks’ formation “in the classic theology of the priesthood” (Your words are a complement to Father’s self formation, since he attended Darlington in the 70’s which is far from a model of ‘classic theology’) Fr. Stravinskas is well aware of the shortcomings during reigns of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and I can assure you he is far more critical of where these men did not live up to their callings, but Father is making a point that I think you completely overlooked. There are two ways to look at something: the glass is half empty or half full. When it comes to his brother clergy His Holiness always emphasizes the glass as half empty. This model of constantly being critical, judging, and ‘nit picky’ is not helping to build up these men! Cutting men’s pay who have to maintain a residence and staff, making fun of the hats they wear, being critical of the fact that they love the Tradition that have been handed on to them, and accusing them of looking back as if they want return to some kind of Disney reality which is just a straw man argument does not help the situation. As opposed to being constantly critical of the men who have given their lives to God why not spend energy promoting the positive aspects of ministry? All these statements are doing is making these young men feel horrible for having tried to give in self donation their entire lives to God. It reminds me of a parent when a child brings up a piece of art that they have made, correcting mistakes the child may have made. You only assure that the child will never produce such work for you again out of love. And the proof is in the pudding. When in Argentina vocations dropped horribly, and today they are universally down since His Holiness ascended the chair of St. Peter and those who are in the seminary do not enter because of modeling or the example of His Holiness, but rather those of previous pontiffs who though horribly imperfect in their reigns at least understood you say thank you when someone opens the door for you. How many vocations has His Holiness’ in being so critical chased away? When it comes to his spiritual sons this Holy Father is not fatherly.

  22. “Through the intercession of St. John Paul, that quintessential priest’s priest, we need to pray that his successor would learn how to love priests into holiness of life, rather than “poking us in the eye.” This conclusion is key.

    Could the frustration lay in the “worldly” emphasis on the priesthood by Pope Francis rather than its Christ inspired and led vocation? From the environment to health, the Eternal City appears more focused on the temporal world and trusting modernistic human efforts to remedy all human weaknesses and troubles. Worse is the absence of the Holy Mass and Sacramental remedy, especially during the pandemic.

    How telling, too, that in this same issue and elsewhere, there is the announcement of the most horridly prideful secular “experts” convening at the Vatican to discuss what will be evil resolutions to the consequences of disobedience of natural law and Divine authority, only increasing the devil’s stronghold. Would not Pope Francis be better attuned to “scold” these social engineers and policy makers for their self idolatry and false idealism?

  23. Pope Francis the Greater:

    “looking at a priest in a near cult-like manner as an…”

    Restated:

    Looking at the pope (Francis the Greater?) in a near cult-like manner as venerable and justified in administering public “pokes in the eye” to select groups of people:

    1) Priests dedicated to preaching the TRUTH, priests who try to authentically live their vocation BECAUSE they truly believe that as stated in CCC 1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”(136) “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” —and THEREFORE these priests consider the salvation of souls a priority. By the grace of God they are bearers of light and peace to their charges because as St. Paul 1 Cor.2 stated:

    –1″AND I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ. 2For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power; 5That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

    2) Fathers and mothers giving themselves unselfishly to the procreation of new life without reserve and accepting dutifully Catholic education of their offspring.

    3) Youth who take seriously their physical and spiritual wellbeing, striving to live according to fundamental Catholic doctrine.

    Pope Francis the Greater, on what merits do you pre-canonize a pontiff that publicly castigates entire groups of people, so that the media can cheerfully get on their bull-horn? Where is his private and public gospel charity and encouragement to priests, parents and youth? No other pontiff to my knowledge has engaged in this routine public shamming – intimidation. What a contrast the fatherly letter is from St. John Paul to the clergy. This particular letter is important to keep in mind for both clergy and laity. It brings into laser focus the importance and gift of faithful clergy to the world.

    An encounter with a young priest from South Korea shows out just exactly the sacrifice of and the need for faithful priests. Particularly the first part of the letter embodies the story he told, that every few months he would travel on foot for 3 days to yet another small far flung community to hear confession and celebrate Mass. Then his rounds would begin all over again:

    -“Dear Brothers: you who have borne “the burden of the day and the heat” (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not turn back (cf. Lk 9:62), and perhaps even more those of you who are doubtful of the meaning of your vocation or of the value of your service: think of the places where people anxiously await a Priest, and where for many years; feeling the lack of such a Priest, they do not cease to hope for his presence.”

    So many faithful clergy sacrifice their lives for the salvation of souls, here and abroad.

    Pope Francis, bishops and priests do have a claim on our prayers. That’s a fact.

    Are you aware, Pope Francis the Greater, that the present pontiff used Ted McCarrick’s expertise? to visit havoc upon our faithful Chinese Catholics? As to the other prelates you disparagingly indicate, maybe you could look into the character of some of the miscreants your hero holds close to his vest. As the German saying goes, “The weight of the load doesn’t always hang on one side. In other words, if you want to put Pope John Paul’s major shortcomings on display on a particular issue, give equal criticism to Pope Francis on his address to sexual misconduct and his soft peddling of disordered behavior among high ranking church hierarchy and political figures who flaunt their uncatholic faith.

    • Pope Francis the Greater:

      Have you ever been privately, charitably admonished by a priest, parent, cherished friend, even a stranger? If you have been given that gift you know that by their charity a seed was planted which germinates and grows. True story!

      Pope Francis needs to exchange his “pokes” for private correction and for encouraging letters.

      • Hello! Rosemarie, focus, focus…. I’ve pointed out the hyper-exalted theology of the priesthood of JPII and Stravinskas and his blindspot on the major role JPII played in the implosion of the clergy homosexual predation sex abuse scandal. If you are interested to study deeper the point I made in this comment, you should follow Thomas James in reading the book I recommended to balance high and cult-like theology of JPII and Stravinskas. You should also read the critique of the apologist Dave Armstrong for the disloyal and disrespectful bashing of Pope Francis on the part of Fr. Stravinskas. Armstrong’s point is also applicable to you!

        • Rosemary focused quite clearly on the fact that you carp about Father Stravinskas and St. John Paul II because you don’t like their view of the priesthood because you consider that it makes priests too important and makes them idols; while at the same time you idolize Pope Francis.

          You criticize John Paul II and then you get all in a swivet when anyone criticizes Francis.

          You’ve a mighty high opinion of your own opinion, claiming that someone who disagrees with you must do so because she is not focusing, and insisting that she must read a book you recommend. Why should she, or I, or anyone else, think that your opinion about the priesthood and that of the author of the book have more merit than the opinions of Fr. Stravinskas and St. John Paul II? Because you say so?

          And it requires quite a bit of gall to blame John Paul II for promoting Theodore McCarrick while blithely skipping over the fact that Francis relied on him far more, at a time when much more was known about McCarrick’s behavior.

        • Dear Pope Francis the Mediocre I pointed out to you that Father Stravinsaks was well aware of the problems in the Church today from my numerous times meeting with him. Frankly he is one of the few people who has a very good pulse of the problems in the church, and can be critical of both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. You would find, if you knew him well. And if you did you would know that he has always been an equal opportunity offender when it comes to pointing out shortcomings, and is just as gracious when someone achieved arte in their actions. Fr. Stravinskas was attempting to highlight how Pope John Paul II, in this particular instance, decided to encourage, and uplift, whereas Pope Francis has decided to be so critical as to dishearten those in the clergy and discourage those aspiring to the priesthood. Your image of Fr. Stravinskas’ having been blinded by the ‘classic thelogy’ in his formation process reminds me of the allegory of the cave where the man is indeed blinded by the light until he gets used to seeing in the sunlight and understands reality. The man then returns to show those imprisoned in the cave what the reality is, and they reject him. (Allegory to Socrates.) I pointed out that Fr. Stravinskas was not schooled in this ‘classic theology,’ during his seminary formation, but from later self formation, rather Fr. Stravinskas like you had the modern anticlerical line and rejected it for Catholicism, and has attempted to return to warn people in the cave, like you, that what they are seeing are only approximations of reality. Just as in the allegory of the cave they tried to kill man who was showing them that what they were looking on were only approximations, mere shadows of reality. Your posts reflect a theology that tries to shoot the messenger and continue the staus quo of failed concilium theology and its anticlericalism that you see so fully displayed in the constant jabbing in the eye by His Holiness of those who think things like reverence in worship, professional clerical boundaries, solid moral theology, and adhering to Tradition is important.

  24. Fr. Stravinskas isn’t speaking for himself just so. Clearly Fr. Stravinskas would have
    authentic interests in priesthood.

    It’s not just priests and seminarians affected but bishops and cardinals as well.

    The pokes described aren’t germane/matched to the particular area of working to stop abuse by priests.

    The mention of Torrell’s book (among the comments here), coincides with the announcement of the synod on priests to be held in 2022. Torrell’s title and the synod agenda seem to align? (I haven’t read the book.)

    It can’t be that gratuitous cutting up of priests is the basis for ecumenical understanding.

    Isn’t there another synod for 2022 already set, a synod on synodality?

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “The constant negativity directed to us priests by…” Wherein Fr. Z relates, reacts, reflects and rants. | Fr. Z's Blog
  2. TVESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit
  3. PopeWatch: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Approves – The American Catholic

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