🎵 “‘When the pope says, ‘Don’t cry, rules we’re made to defy,’ that’s Amoris.” 🎵 [To the tune of “That’s Amore”]

Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies: Letters and statements addressed to Pope Francis, the Cardinals, and the Bishops with a collection of related articles and interviews
Edited by John R.T. Lamont and Claudio Pierantoni
Arouca Press, 2021, 433 pp.

3 Stars

After ascending to the papacy in 2013, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio perceived that the Roman Catholic church was in a serious pickle. Official Catholic doctrine taught that remarried divorcees were adulterers and could not receive the eucharist Jesus wafer, the alleged “source and summit of Christian spirituality” as the Catholic catechism declares, or the other sacraments. That was not a big deal fifty years ago when few Catholics divorced, but these days close to 30% of adult Catholics are divorced and many obviously remarry. Then there are the many Catholic couples that cohabitate rather than marry. Rather than endure the church’s discipline, many remarried divorcees and cohabitators stop attending mass altogether. Progressive Catholics like Francis and his allies felt that scrupulous adherence to rules for rules’ sake was counterproductive when fewer and fewer were showing up for mass on Sunday mornings.

In 2016, Francis wrote Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), an “apostolic exhortation,” which among other things, declared that “in some cases,” those living in “irregular unions” were committing only venial sin rather than mortal sin due to mitigating circumstances (e.g., children) and that it was up to the discretion of the local parish priest as to who could receive the Jesus wafer and the other sacraments. The language of Amoris Laetitia was purposely vague so as not to be seen as flagrantly overturning traditional doctrine.

Conservative and traditionalist Catholics were appalled. They interpreted the pope’s apparent rescindment of the ban on the sacraments to remarried divorcees as an act of grave heresy. Four cardinals officially submitted five dubia (“questions”) to the pope, requesting that he clarify Amoris Laetitia in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but Francis refused to respond. Conservative prelates advised their priests to ignore Francis’ “bending of the rules,” however, when the Argentinian bishops published a guideline endorsing Francis’ pragmatic, rule-bending intentions, the pope cited the document as “authentic magisterium,” i.e., the authorized interpretation. Several petitions signed by prelates, priests, and laypersons followed the dubia, all accusing Francis of heresy, but they were also ignored by the pope. Conservative Catholics were now the ones in a pickle. What to do when the pope is a heretic? They were in a Catch-22 because absolute fealty to the papacy is a prime tenet of conservative Catholicism.

In this book, the conservative Catholic editors present the dubia, the various petitions, and many relevant articles. As an interested evangelical Vatican observer, I was fascinated from start to finish of this book. This is unparalleled papal drama that every evangelical apologist should be taking note of. There was considerable “technical jargon” (references to Catholic papal theology and canon law) throughout, but I managed to wade through without my eyes glazing over too often.

I watched the Amoris Laetita “crisis” unfold beginning in 2016 and have posted many articles over the years citing the mammoth (for Catholicism) dilemma. Francis has undermined the age-old boast that it was impossible for the pope to lead the RC church into error (as per St. Robert Bellarmine, d. 1621). Five years after Amoris Laetitia, the furor among conservative Catholics has somewhat abated. The pope’s strategy to outwait his opponents has partially worked, but the pot is still simmering. All that conservative prelates can do is continue to wring their hands and counsel their priests and lay followers to ignore the heretical pope. There are no mechanisms within canon law to impeach the pope. Missing in this internecine Catholic feud is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Postscript #1: I ordered this 2021 book from Amazon back in April, but five months later it is strangely no longer being offered. Does Amazon now regard this “Francis is a heretic” book as “hate literature.”

Postscript #2: It’s probably safe to assume that the vast majority of mass-going Roman Catholics are not aware of this Amoris Laetitia controversy. They clock-in and clock-out every Sunday and that’s about the extent of it. However, rest assured that some incensed Catholic Karen will be talking to “father” if she spots a remarried-divorcee standing in line to receive the Jesus wafer.

Relevant terms:

Papal infallibility: Some evangelicals mistakenly assume Catholics believe everything the pope teaches to be infallible. But according to the RCC, only when the pope speaks dogmatically on matters of faith and morals, ex cathedra, or “from the chair” of the Apostle Peter, is his teaching considered infallible. When have popes spoken ex cathedra? Catholic theologians can only agree on a handful of declarations, but no one, including pope Francis, considers Amoris Laetitia to be infallible.

Indefectability: The Roman Catholic church has boasted for 1500 years that it is “indefectacle,” i.e. that the church’s teaching magisterium (the pope in conjunction with the bishops) is incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error due to the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. The five-year debate over Amoris Laetitia debunks that cherished claim.

In Their Own Words: Pope Francis

In Their Own Words: Pope Francis
Directed by Marianne Kushmaniuk
PBS, first broadcast July 20th, 2021, 53 minutes

1 Star

I saw this documentary mentioned in an internet article and streamed it a couple of days after its broadcast premier.

This particular PBS “In Their Own Words” series installment follows the life of Jorge Bergoglio from his childhood in Argentina to his election and current tenure as pope Francis. Bergoglio is presented as a progressive reformer leading multiple crusades on behalf of the poor, refugees, homosexuals, women, and the environment. Those interviewed include Anne Thompson (NBC News correspondent), Austen Ivereigh (Bergoglio biographer), and Mario J. Paredes (Director, American Bible Society). It’s a bit strange that Francis himself isn’t interviewed in a series titled “In Their Own Words.” Instead, quotes from Bergoglio are frequently plastered on the screen as if scriptural.

This is more of a propaganda piece than a documentary. I could not imagine a biographical documentary being more flattering than “In Their Own Words: Pope Francis.” It defines the term, “puff piece.” In summing up Francis’ papacy, reporter Anne Thompson gushingly proclaims, “He has brought the Catholic church to the basic message of Jesus.” The only Francis misstep that’s mentioned is the pope’s clumsy 2018 mishandling of clerical sexual abuse cover-up by bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Colombia. There is hardly any acknowledgement of the significant opposition to Francis and his reforms by conservative and traditionalist Catholic clerics and laity. Neither Francis or his conservative Catholic foes teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Francis has strategically and pragmatically “elevated” the papacy from that of conservator of Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition to crusader for every politically-progressive cause imaginable. In response, the world loves Bergoglio. If a catastrophe were to overtake the planet, people would turn en masse to the pope for solace and guidance. That’s significant, folks, and it didn’t just happen by chance.

If you must, you can catch this puff piece at PBS’s website until August 17 (see here). I recommend you use those 53 minutes for something more productive.

Pope Francis’ annoying gadfly

Finding Viganò: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World
By Robert Moynihan
Tan Books, 2020, 375 pp.

2 Stars

Following his election to the papacy in 2013, Jorge Bergoglio aka pope Francis increasingly demonstrated that he was not going to follow in the conservative footsteps of his doctrinaire predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. When Francis tacitly lifted the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees via a footnote in his 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, conservative prelates were galvanized. In November of 2017, four conservative cardinals formally submitted five “dubia” (questions) to the pope, requesting that he clarify his “reform” in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but were met with silence. As conservative opposition to the pope increased, a major scandal erupted in the Catholic church in June 2018 when it was revealed that cardinal Ted McCarrick, one of the most powerful prelates in the American Catholic church, was removed from “public ministry” for a long history of sexually abusing boys and seminarians. The scandal was the tipping point leading to large numbers of former victims across the United States coming forward and filing claims of sexual abuse and cover-up against priests and dioceses.

Two months later, in August of 2018, Catholicism was rocked even further when archbishop and former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (2011 to 2016), Carlo Maria Viganò, testified that he had personally informed Francis of McCarrick’s predatory behavior back in 2013, shortly after he was elected, but that the pope had done nothing. Included in the archbishop’s statement were accusations of a powerful homosexual faction within the Vatican curia. Viganò called upon Francis to resign and forthwith went into hiding. In June and October 2020, Viganò issued additional statements supporting then-President Donald Trump and attacking the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Included were comments promulgating several outlandish worldwide conspiracy theories, which served to marginalize Viganò even among conservatives.

In this book, Catholic journalist, Robert Moynihan provides biographical information about Viganò and interviews the archbishop-in-hiding regarding his 2018 testimony and the state of the Roman church under progressive Francis. Conservative opposition to Francis has not coalesced mainly because one of the prime tenets of conservative Catholics is absolute fealty to the papal office. This book is an example. Conservative Moynihan, founder and editor of “Inside the Vatican” magazine, attempts to walk a tightrope by providing a sympathetic soapbox for Viganò without outright endorsing his views.

This book provides some interesting information on Francis’ most vocal critic and “insider” insights into the current conservative-progressive tug-of-war within the the RCC. The significant takeaway from this book is that conservative Catholic priests and prelates realize that Francis is undermining Catholicism’s historic claims to the alleged authority and prerogatives of the papacy. Nowhere in sight within the 375 pages is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this book only for evangelical Vatican watchers.

Throwback Thursday: The “unchanging” Roman Catholic church changes once again

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 11, 2016 and has been revised.

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Catholics often boast that theirs is the UNCHANGING, “one true church,” but even a casual student of church history knows that is not the case. And now we have another example.

In the past, any Catholic who divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment was said to be living in a state of mortal sin and was officially barred from receiving the eucharist Jesus wafer. But in his new “apostolic exhortation,” Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), released last week, pope Francis tacitly suggests via an obscure footnote that it’s now up to the local parish priest to evaluate the circumstances of each remarried divorcee parishioner and decide if they are able to receive the sacraments (see article below). With so many Catholics divorcing these days, Francis was compelled to change the policy in an effort to keep the church viable.

But this ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a couple of important questions regarding this new policy. First, what about all the divorced Catholics who remarried and died in a state of mortal sin prior to this change? Do they all now receive a “Get Out of Hell, Free” card or is the declaration not retroactive? Also, how could such an important doctrine affecting faith and morals that was upheld by all previous infallible popes now be so conveniently discarded? Catholics would rather not confront such questions.

I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of Catholic legalism, ritualism, and man-made traditions. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.


Pope Francis to church: Be more accepting of divorced Catholics, gays, and lesbians
http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/08/europe/vatican-pope-family/index.html?eref=rss_world


Note from April 2021: I couldn’t have possibly known when I wrote the above post in April 2016, that pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia encyclical would have MAJOR repercussions within the Roman Catholic church. Conservative Catholic prelates, priests, and laity did in fact note the doctrinal incongruity of Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and reacted with zealous indignation. Formal protests were submitted and ignored by the pope. Cautious conservative prelates and priests advised their followers to ignore Francis’ doctrinal novelty while a few went so far as to openly call Francis a heretic. Amoris Laetita was the start and Francis has continued to roil conservatives with his progressive reforms.

Communion for the divorced and remarried, papal critics and family life: Pope Francis’ ‘Amoris Laetitia’ at 5 years
https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/04/08/amoris-laetitia-pope-francis-five-years-divorced-remarried-catholics-240412

Catholic talk radio host, Mother Miriam, advises her listeners to “oppose” pope Francis

I don’t get a chance to listen to Catholic talk radio like I used to, but back on December 8th, I was driving down the road and I tuned into the local AM Catholic radio station. The program being broadcast at that moment was “Mother Miriam Live,” hosted by Catholic nun, Mother Miriam (aka Rosalind Moss, photo above). Miriam is a protégé of über-conservative cardinal, Raymond Burke, and a propagator of traditional, militant, pre-conciliar Catholicism and an outspoken critic of the Catholic progressivism being disseminated by pope Francis and other liberal prelates and priests. She often criticizes pope Francis on her show while dichotomously feigning fealty to the papal office.

Halfway though the December 8th program, Mother Miriam read an email from a discouraged listener regarding pope Francis’ recent Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers) encyclical. I’ve transcribed Mother Miriam’s remarks below with the listener’s written words italicized:


“We have an email from Frank who writes, Dearest Mother Miriam, I am very troubled by pope Francis’s latest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti” (All Brothers). This encyclical seems more like a communist manifesto rather than a call to holiness. We’ve not talked about that on this program. I’m going to read Frank’s email because he describes why he has said that. I think it’s important that we do read it because so many people are confused if not distraught by it. Frank says, The Holy Father outlines his recipe for rebuilding a post-pandemic world beginning with a complete restructuring of politics and civil discourse in order to create systems prioritizing the community and the poor rather than individual or market interests. The pope criticizes heavily democratic forms of government that value individual and personal freedom and favors a socialist form of government where globalist elites look out for the common good. Communists always love the masses, but disdain the individual and want to control their lives. The pope seems blind to this reality. Now this is Frank writing. I don’t know, I wouldn’t personally say the pope is blind to this reality. Frank continues, This encyclical seems more concerned on the false promise of creating an impossible utopia on earth instead of a focus on the true promise of how to obtain eternal life for our souls in Heaven. Sadly, Frank continues, there are also, it seems, direct shots against President Trump. For example, where the pope laments, quote, the concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests, endquote. Frank says, I pray for the Holy Father, but would appreciate your thoughts on how faithful Catholics may respond to this latest encyclical. God bless you always, Frank.

“I even hesitated reading Frank’s email because I agree with Frank and it’s very, very difficult. The way we’re going, the Holy Father together with, what Frank calls, some elites in the world, billionaires who are striving for a one-world government and really to control the masses. Much of what’s going on with COVID, COVID is real, but much of what’s going on is to, I remember Hillary Clinton and others saying, Let’s not waste a good crisis. And so they’ve used the COVID crisis to further their agenda for a one-world market and controlling the masses. So, I agree with you, Frank. What are we to do? How do faithful Catholics respond to this encyclical? I think by simply countering what is not Catholic and speaking of what is Catholic. God’s plan for us is not an earthly utopia, but a Heavenly one, eternal life, to repent, to be saved, to embrace Christ, and to be part of His church. The only way to get to Heaven is to be part of His church on earth. These sorts of encyclicals, and plans, and ideologies are leading us away from that and we cannot have it. We must cling to Christ, to the church, to the teachings of the church, which have not, will not, and cannot change, and to the Scriptures, and I would say our response to the pope’s encyclical is to triple our Catholicity, to begin to live your Catholic faith beyond anything you’ve lived before. To be strong and steadfast and be fully Catholic and oppose anything that is not Catholic, that will not get you to Heaven.”


Fascinating!

Catholic conservatives and traditionalists are caught in a tortuous (for them) Catch-22 bind. One of their most cherished tenets is absolute fealty to the pope, the alleged “Vicar of Christ” on Earth. Yet, progressive pope Francis is subverting their beloved church doctrines and propagating progressive political views. What does it say about the Roman Catholic church when conservative Catholic prelates, priests, nuns, and lay leaders are advising their followers to ignore and even oppose the pope? In practice, they have appointed themselves pope over the pope! Keep in mind that neither side in this Catholic tug-of-war, neither the progressives represented by pope Francis or the conservatives represented by Mother Miriam, teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Both sides disseminate the RCC’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Below is the video of the 12-08-20 program in question. Mother Miriam’s critical remarks about pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers) encyclical begin at the 31:00 mark.

Conservative Catholic clerics begin to react to pope Francis’ approval of same-sex civil unions: “We have a bad pope.”

The conservative Catholic backlash to pope Francis’ call for civil unions for same-sex couples is just beginning to percolate. Watch this 7-minute video as a visibly emotional Catholic priest tells his congregation “we have a bad pope” (3:05 mark). The priest continues by saying he doesn’t know “what vanity, or dark spirits, or fallen inclinations” are guiding the pope.

A “bad pope”?

The foundation of Roman Catholicism is the pope, the alleged “Vicar of Christ.” What does it mean if the pope is a “bad pope” and is not to be followed? The foundation of Roman Catholicism crumbles.

There is another way, a better way. Jesus Christ declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Church membership doesn’t save. Trying to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) doesn’t save. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church that teaches the uncompromised Gospel.

Catholic vs Christian | “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”

BREAKING NEWS! Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine

I don’t normally publish two posts in one day, but this news cannot wait.

I was doing some routine work on the blog late this morning when I overheard on the television in the adjoining kitchen a special news announcement involving the “leader of the Catholic church.”

I scrambled into the kitchen to hear that Pope Francis is calling for civil unions for same-sex couples. This is ASTOUNDING, although not altogether surprising. The Vatican has been preparing for this moment for several years via the work of Jesuit priest, James Martin, its advance man for full acceptance of practicing LGBTers.

The ramifications and fallout from this “announcement” (underhandedly communicated via a docu-bio of Francis) are and will be ENORMOUS. This contradicts previous papal teaching on the illicitness/sinfulness of homosexual practices and same-sex unions/marriages that many/most serious Catholics held to be unchangeable and even infallible. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics will be enraged to a such a degree that many will now surely call for a formal split from pragmatically-progressive, world-pleasing, pope Francis.

I need to read some more reports on this development before I can comment at length. The bottom line is the Roman Catholic church does not teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Whether it’s Francis’s progressive camp, now publicly embracing same-sex unions, or the Catholic conservative camp, the genuine Gospel is not to be found in Roman Catholicism.

Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/pope-calls-civil-unions-same-sex-couples-major-departure-vatican-n1244137

Update: I made it a point to listen to conservative Catholic talk-radio host, Al Kresta, at 4:00 p.m. today to get his take on Francis’s bombshell. As would be expected, Kresta tied himself up into multiple knots trying to downplay/minimize/mitigate/white wash the news. Kresta lamely postulated that, in approving civil unions for same-sex couples, Francis wasn’t necessarily sanctioning homosexual behavior. Kresta stumbled and stammered, suggesting the pope would expect civilly-united, same-sex Catholic couples to live as brother-brother or sister-sister. Say what?!?!? Kresta is living in fantasy land. He can’t yet admit to himself and his audience that his pope is a heretic according to Catholicism’s own tenets. But I think with this particular “reform,” Francis has finally given conservative Catholics, like Kresta, something they cannot glibly explain away.

Throwback Thursday: Galileo and the “infallible” popes

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 18, 2016 and has been revised.

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In 1870, prompted by pope Pius IX, who was besieged by the advancing Italian nationalist forces, the First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic church declared as binding dogma that the pope is infallible when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” This doctrine of papal infallibility had many opponents within the Catholic church at the time and is problematic when attempting to reconcile an infallible papacy with its history. Popes have excommunicated previous popes. There were the bloody Crusades, the Inquisition, forced “conversions,” and the persecution of Jews and Protestants, all carried out with the approval and, oftentimes, at the instigation of the allegedly infallible popes. Modern popes have been kept busy apologizing for their predecessors. But perhaps one of the most clear-cut arguments against papal infallibility was the church’s condemnation of Galileo and his revolutionary theory of heliocentrism.

In the early 1600s, people believed the planets, sun, and stars revolved around the Earth based upon the ancient Ptolemaic geocentric model. A literal interpretation of the Bible (see Joshua 10:12-14) also seemed to support geocentrism. In 1616, Galileo’s theory of heliocentrism – that the Earth revolved around the Sun – was declared heretical by pope Paul V and the Inquisition because it seemingly contradicted Scripture. Galileo continued to challenge geocentrism, so in 1633, yet another pope, Urban VIII, and the Inquisition once again condemned him. The scientist was consequently placed under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Four-hundred years later, it’s universally accepted that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The two popes were dead wrong when they condemned Galileo. Today’s Catholic sophists try to exonerate the two “infallible” popes by claiming the condemnations of Galileo were not done “ex cathedra,” as official papal declarations, but the controversy certainly did involve an important issue involving faith. We can see from our vantage point that the church’s claimed ability to infallibly interpret Scripture was totally discredited by the two popes involved.

At least one contemporary Catholic apologist, Robert Sungenis, correctly and honestly recognizes that the question of papal infallibility is central to the Galileo affair. Sungenis concedes that if Galileo was right, then the popes proved themselves fallible by condemning him. So over the last several years, Sungenis has gone about trying to prove that geocentrism is true and that heliocentrism is false. You read that correctly! In 2007, Sungenis began writing a procession of books and materials defending geocentrism. See here. Someone needs to inform NASA, the U.S. military, satellite providers, etc., that all of their celestial mechanical calculations based on the heliocentric model are incorrect!

Most dismiss Sungenis as a screwball, but I give him credit for at least having the courage of his erroneous convictions and refusing to engage in dishonest sophistry when it comes to the Galileo affair, like other Catholic apologists do. Sungenis was once one of the most prominent American Catholic apologists, and at one time even hosted two series on the EWTN Catholic cable channel, but his defense of geocentrism and his controversial viewpoints on Jews and the nation of Israel have since relegated him to the fringe.

The early church quickly became institutionalized after Christianity was adopted as the state religion by the Roman Empire. Simple faith in Jesus Christ devolved into legalism and ritual. Those who put their faith in a man or an institution will be forever disappointed. Put your faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Savior by faith alone.

The Two Popes: A ham-fisted plug for pope Francis

The Two Popes
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and featuring Anthony Hopkins as pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as pope Francis
Netflix, 2019, 125 minutes.

2 Stars

Back in February 2019, I reviewed an interesting book, “The Pope,” by Anthony McCarten, that contrasted the doctrinally conservative, pope Benedict XVI, with his successor, the progressive reformer, pope Francis. See me review here.

Netflix produced a film based on the book and released it for streaming this past December 20th. Just as in the book, the sharp contrast between the conservative Benedict and the progressive Francis is the theme of the film. Benedict is portrayed as hopelessly out of touch with the world with his rigid clericalism and doctrinalism. Francis, in contrast, is presented as a breath of fresh air who is willing, make that eager, to eschew clerical privilege and bend/circumvent doctrine in order to reach people with the progressive version of the Catholic works-righteousness “gospel.”

This film is a biased representation of the current battle within the Catholic church between conservatives and the Francis-led progressives, with Francis the clear favorite. Pro-Francis screenwriter, McCarten, “swings for the fences” at the end of the film with Benedict XVI/Hopkins admitting the error of his rigid ideology and fully embracing Francis’ reforms. The two characters seal the deal over Fanta and pizza, watching a soccer game, and dancing the tango together (VERY creepy in light of the current clerical abuse and homosexuality scandals in the RCC). What a “hammy” ending and it’s all pure fiction.

People love Francis for being so “down to earth,” but neither in conservative Catholicism’s rigid doctrinalism or in Francis’ doctrine-bending “pastoralism” can be found the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

While “The Two Popes” is garnering a lot of accolades at the various Hollywood awards shows, I would recommend this pro-Francis puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers. Everyone else should use the two hours for something more productive.

Pope Francis’ fight to steer the RCC toward progressivism

Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church
By Austin Ivereigh
Henry Holt and Company, 2019, 401 pp.

2 Stars

When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy in 2013, conservative Catholics did not know what they were in for. However, by 2016 it was crystal clear that Bergoglio was on a mission to steer the Roman Catholic church towards a progressive/liberal ideology. In that year, pope Francis guilefully overturned the ban on communion to remarried divorcees via a couple of footnotes in his “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical, and conservative opposition to Francis has been on the rise ever since.

Books critical of pope Francis by Catholic authors began appearing in late 2017 and have continued to be published. See here for details. There is disappointment and frustration with Francis among some conservatives that borders on outright rebellion. Discussions of schism are held in check by hopes that the next pope returns the church to pope John Paul II-style conservatism.

British journalist, Austin Ivereigh, answers Francis’ conservative critics with this very flattering apologia of the current pope. The problem, according to the author, is not Francis’ attempts to make the church more relevant, “pastoral,” and appealing in an era of rising secularism and an increasingly disaffected membership, but, rather, the problem is the intransigence of rigid conservative Catholics who are rooted in “clericalism” and doctrinalism at the expense of compassion and mercy.

In this book, Ivereigh covers all of the sturm und drang of Francis’ controversial papacy, including such topics as…

  • The fight with conservatives over control of the Order of Malta
  • The ongoing Vatican Bank financial scandals
  • Reform of the corrupt Vatican Curia
  • The ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal including Francis embarrassing mishandling of the situation in Chile in early-2018.
  • How Francis is adapting the “Aparecida” movement (focus on the poor, social justice, etc.) of Latin American Catholicism to the entire church.
  • Francis’ elevation of environmental concerns and climate change to the forefront.
  • The “Amoris Laetitia” controversy including the dubia sent to the pope by the resistant right-wing cardinals.
  • Francis’ method to orchestrate liberal change through synods rather than by papal decree.

One of the greatest ironies of our era is watching conservative Catholics line up in opposition to their own pope!

This book will give the reader a good understanding of the pro-Francis progressive viewpoint in this ongoing feud between liberal and conservative Catholics. Except for a brief account of Francis’ bumbling accommodations to Argentina’s murderous dictatorship as head of the country’s Jesuit order in the 1970s, the pope is portrayed with embarrassing adulation. This book reminded me, no exaggeration, of the fawning Catholic saint hagiographies of yesteryear.

Please keep in mind that neither the conservative Catholic doctrinalists or Francis and his progressive allies proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers who are interested in the current internecine tug-of-war within Catholicism.

Postscript: Here’s a question for Catholics regarding the title of this book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic church boasts that it is the “one, true church” and that it is Semper eadem, always the same. Why then is pope Francis trying to convert it?