During his weekly audience on November 3rd, the Holy Father emphasized that fraternal correction must always be guided by love. “The supreme rule regarding fraternal correction is love: to want the good of our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.
Perhaps the November 3rd audience should indeed serve as an opportunity for us to reflect on how we correct each other, and the pontiff. Let’s be honest, there were some Catholics who were dismayed by Traditionis Custodes. Some of us were outraged, which led us to publicly criticize the pope for the motu proprio as well as other words and actions by the pontiff we see as hypocritical and sometimes blatantly contrary to Church teaching.
There’s a fine line when it comes to fraternal correction and an even finer line when that correction is aimed at the Supreme Pontiff. Canon 1373 states:
A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.
As traditional Catholics, some of us tend to cross the line with papal criticism. The bona fide Trad priest, Fr. Chad Ripperger, does a superb job pointing this out in an article entitled, “10 Problems in the Traditional Catholic Movement.”
I’ll say it again: the pope is right in saying that we as Christians should correct others “in a spirit of gentleness.” Though it’s incumbent upon me to point out that even some of his fondest supporters acknowledged that the cover letter Pope Francis sent to accompany Traditionis Custodes was less than gentle.
My last article for OnePeterFive was prefaced with an Editor’s note explaining that my commentary was written in the spirit of Erasmus, “whose sardonic critique of the Renaissance papacy was critical for provoking long-delayed and long-denied reform in the Church.”
Sardonic is an adjective describing dry, understated writing—such as a clever remark that stings because it’s so accurate. While sardonic comments seem slightly hostile, they are supposed to be witty and humorous rather than deeply hurtful.
Sometimes situations are so grave that humor is necessary to quell the anger, frustration, and pain. I’d like to think that all my commentaries regarding Traditionis Custodes have been sardonic. I’ve offered an everyman’s response to the document, I’ve pointed out the hypocrisies of the current pontificate, and like so many others I’ve waited for the Holy Father’s Wednesday audiences, where without fail, Pope Francis wages some sort of passive aggressive manner of scolding at traditional Catholics. (At this point it seems clear that Pope Francis is either intelligent and passive aggressive, or woefully ignorant, dim witted and a fool. It is more reasonable and charitable to say the former!)
It’s in that sardonic spirit that I take a moment to offer another observation with regard to the November 3rd papal audience. I mean, come on, we’re all thinking about it, so somebody has to point it out, right?
Well, folks, get out your leather jackets and poodle skirts because it seems the doo-wop era has arrived at the Vatican.
In 1959, doo-wop legends, The Coasters, released a song entitled “Charlie Brown.”
Perhaps you’ve heard it.
The song tells the story of a rebel rousing student who despises the traditional manner by which students were expected to conduct themselves. Without fail, every time he’s caught breaking the rules he responds with the same line: “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?”
Dare I say that the Holy Father’s decision to discuss the need for loving fraternal correction might stem from the criticism he’s received from his most recent photo ops?
I suspect the Holy Father is taking a bit more heat than he expected as a result of his recent visits with Speaker Pelosi and President Biden. A photo released by the Vatican showed Francis and Pelosi engaged in some sort of “power handshake” and bizarre eye contact. In another photo, we saw the pope and President Biden laughing it up at what we’re told was likely one of Biden’s hysterical one-liners.
“I’m Jill’s husband.”
Ha! That one just never gets old.
While the treehouse friends: Biden, Pelosi, and the pope all seemed to enjoy their papal play dates, the photos left Catholics – not just traditional Catholics – very confused. Whether or not the Holy Father told President Biden he should continue receiving communion was irrelevant to most of the faithful. It didn’t slip the minds of most Catholics that both Pelosi and Biden are Catholic, and Pope Francis is their Holy FATHER. As such, many were left scratching their heads wondering why Pope Francis didn’t seem to offer any sort of fraternal correction regarding the position both the Speaker of the House and the President take regarding the right to life.
The answer might be found in the November 3rd audience, wherein Francis states:
In effect, when we are tempted to judge others badly, as often happens, we must rather reflect on our own weakness. How easy it is to criticize others! But there are people who seem to have a degree in gossip. Each and every day they criticize others. Take a look at yourself! It is good to ask ourselves what drives us to correct a brother or a sister, and if we are not in some way co-responsible for their mistake.
He makes a good point.
I’ve always been taught that if you want to make money you have to first do the job. Safe to say that’s how it works for most people.
Unless you’re in politics.
Supporters and lobbyists alike issue check after check to encourage you to support their cause. It’s not uncommon to hear examples of major pieces of legislation with such overwhelming support they seem certain to pass. However, when it came time for the vote, somehow the measure failed. Why you ask? Because those legislators who voiced their support to lobbyists and supporters found every excuse to vote against the measure — perhaps an obscure piece of red tape or something tacked on to the bill they didn’t support. In other words, a smokescreen. Behind you can rest assured all those supportive legislators said the same thing: “If we pass it, the checks will stop coming.”
Suffusive to say, Catholics in the United States may be “in some way co-responsible for their mistake.”
Not just the mistakes of Biden and Pelosi, but of all elected officials. How much money have we pumped into the campaign funds of so-called “pro-life” legislators and what have they done for the cause? Perhaps if we want to see some actual momentum on the issue, we should consider withholding our financial support until after the job is done?
If that’s what the Holy Father meant when he said, “co-responsible for their mistake” I have to admit, I think he may be on to something.
A recent study by Pew Research indicated that 83% of U.S. Catholics say they have a favorable view of Pope Francis, compared with just 14% who express an unfavorable view of him. Only half of Catholic Republicans said that Pope Francis is ‘too liberal.’
When it comes to politics, U.S. Catholics are split down the middle. Around half of Catholic registered voters (48%) describe themselves as Republicans, while roughly the same share (47%) identify with the Democratic Party. In 2016, 52% of Catholics backed Republican Donald Trump. However, Catholics chose Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 by a margin of 54% to 45%.
Apparently, roughly half of the Catholic voters in the United States didn’t get Father Altman’s memo that you can’t be both a Catholic and a Democrat.
What I’m trying to say here is that the less than charitable reaction to the pope’s visits with Pelosi and Biden obviously took him by surprise and he’s left to wonder, “Why’s everybody always pickin on me?”
Pope Francis has come to expect such a reaction from Traditional Catholics. He knows we have a beef with him and frankly, he doesn’t care. If he can ignore the dispatch by the Dubia Cardinals, then surely blowing us common folk off must be a piece of cake. However, when you look at the numbers, the harsh reactions he received from U.S. Catholics would come as a surprise to anybody. As I mentioned, the pontiff has a more than favorably rating among the American faithful. In fact, two-thirds of them don’t even know about Traditionis Custodes and it’s no secret that 70% of U.S. Catholics see the Blessed Sacrament as a symbol, not a sacrament. And then there’s the “Synod of Synodality,” an effort to replace the Church of God with the Church of man — and U.S. Catholics seem to have taken the bait: hook, line, and sinker.
And so it happens that we find ourselves at November 3rd and a pontiff licking his wounds from criticism that came out of left field and hit him like a ton of bricks.
Isaiah (43:18-19) teaches us that when God closes a door, he opens a window. It’s safe to say that Pope Francis closed the door when he issued Traditionis Custodes. And while it went unnoticed by most Catholics in the United States, perhaps the pontiff’s latest photo op with Pelosi and Biden was God’s way of opening a window to provide mainstream Catholics with the clear view of Pope Francis that traditional Catholics have seen all along.
When he opened the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXII said it was time to “open the windows and let in the fresh air.” The Church has gone through a lot in the last half century. Over the years that “fresh air” has turned into the stench of ecumenism, globalism, and secularism.
Scripture also tells us that the Lord can do amazing things with faith the size of a mustard seed.
For me, that mustard seed came in the form of the pope’s recent photo ops and his subsequent November 3rd lament. It may be wishful thinking, but while the door on tradition might be closed for now, God always prevails. He’s given the mainstream Church an opportunity by opening the window on the Francis Pontificate. It’s my hope through that window, the breath of the Holy Spirit will open the minds of the faithful so that we can begin the process of restoring all things in Christ. That effort starts with us not only praying for, but offering charitable fraternal correction to the pope, who until now, seemed to be free to dismantle the Church brick-by-brick.
Sooner or later, as the song goes, “He’s gonna get caught, just you wait and see.”
Photo: Oct, 29, 2021 – Pope Francis met with United States President Joe Biden and his wife via Vatican Media.
Jeremy Dannebohm is a freelance writer and traditional Catholic. All too acquainted with controversy and attacks, Dannebohm is quick to defend those disenfranchised by the post-conciliar Church. He resides in the Carolinas.