Pope Francis is reaching out to our Triparish with teachings, or catechesis, on how you, his Church, are to respond to your calling as Christians during the ongoing pandemic. Fr Kinney encourages all parishioners interested in discussing Francis’ and the Church’s teaching to participate in weekly Triparish Zoom sessions. The first Zoom session is Friday, September 11. You can sign up for those sessions by calling our office. We, in turn, will send a link to your email address for each Friday 6 pm session throughout the fall. These sessions will give you a much better understanding of your calling as active disciples of Christ.
On Aug. 5, Pope Francis resumed his weekly audiences after a July recess with the announcement of a new catechesis series. The series focuses on healing the world from the physical and social ills related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Holy Father has used these audiences throughout the month of August to express concerns about the economy, the environment, illness, death and sin, and he has encouraged Catholics around the world to respond with faith and hope to the challenges of the global pandemic.
Here we offer selections from the pope’s catechesis as well as links to his full remarks.
“Renewed contact with the Gospel of faith, of hope and of love invites us to assume a creative and renewed spirit. In this way, we will be able to transform the roots of our physical, spiritual and social infirmities and the destructive practices that separate us from each other, threatening the human family and our planet.”
Pope Francis focuses on examples of Jesus bringing physical and spiritual healing in the Gospels, particularly the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum (Mk 2:1-12). He delineates the role of the church in physically confronting the pandemic: “Although the Church administers Christ’s healing grace through the Sacraments, and although she provides healthcare services in the remotest corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or the cure of the pandemic. She helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. "He calls upon experts and political leaders to engage with not only the physical but also the social ills of the pandemic.
“Within the Christian tradition, faith, hope and charity are much more than feelings or attitudes. They are virtues infused in us through the grace of the Holy Spirit (see CCC, 1812, 1813): gifts that heal us and that make us healers, gifts that open us to new horizons, even while we are navigating the difficult waters of our time.”
“Jesus’s ministry offers many examples of healing: when He heals those affected by fever (see Mk 1:29-34), by leprosy (see Mk 1:40-45), by paralysis (see Mk 2:1-12); when He restores sight (see Mk 8:22-26; Jn 9:1-7), speech or hearing (see Mk 7:31-37). In reality, He heals not only the physical evil – which is true, physical evil – but He heals the entire person. In that way, He restores the person back to the community also, healed; He liberates the person from isolation because He has healed him or her.”
“The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world.”
Pope Francis reminds listeners that harmony is essential for protecting and uplifting life. He encourages believers to be attentive to those who suffer and to avoid “attitudes that run counter to harmony,” citing indifference and individualism. He discourages a throwaway culture in which people focus only on the things that immediately impact them and forget the essential interconnectedness of humanity. He implores people of faith to remember their particular responsibility to their neighbor in a time of suffering: “While we all work for a cure for a virus that strikes everyone without distinction, faith exhorts us to commit ourselves seriously and actively to combat indifference in the face of violations of human dignity.”
“Commendable is the effort of so many people who have been offering evidence of human and Christian love for neighbour, dedicating themselves to the sick even at the risk of their own health. They are heroes!”
“The harmony created by God asks that we look at others, the needs of others, the problems of others, in communion. We want to recognize the human dignity in every person, whatever his or her race, language or condition might be. Harmony leads you to recognize human dignity, that harmony created by God, with humanity at the centre.”
“This renewed awareness of the dignity of every human being has serious social, economic and political implications. Looking at our brother and sister and the whole of creation as a gift received from the love of the Father inspires attentive behaviour, care and wonder. In this way the believer, contemplating his or her neighbour as a brother or sister, and not as a stranger, looks at him or her compassionately and empathetically, not contemptuously or with hostility.”
“The virus, while it does not distinguish between people, has found, in its devastating path, great inequalities and discrimination. And it has exacerbated them!”
Pope Francis urges a dual response to the virus, calling not only for the eradication of the illness but also the social injustices it reveals and exacerbates. He stresses the importance of the preferential option for the poor to this response. He suggests that the virus will not end with a return to “normality” but with a world either better or worse off than before. He takes particular care to say that any normality of routine that we return to should not include social injustices and the degradation of the environment. He strongly and notably calls for the vaccine for Covid-19 to be available to all those in need, not simply to the richest or to those in a particular nation or region, when it becomes available.
“The preferential option for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel. And the first to do this was Jesus; we heard this in the reading from the Letter to the Corinthians which was read at the beginning. Since He was rich, He made Himself poor to enrich us. He made Himself one of us and for this reason, at the centre of the Gospel, there is this option, at the centre of Jesus’ proclamation.”
“Faith, hope and love necessarily push us towards this preference for those most in need,  which goes beyond necessary assistance (cf. EG, 198). Indeed it implies walking together, letting ourselves be evangelised by them, who know the suffering Christ well, letting ourselves be “infected” by their experience of salvation, by their wisdom and by their creativity (see ibid). Sharing with the poor means mutual enrichment. And, if there are unhealthy social structures that prevent them from dreaming of the future, we must work together to heal them, to change them.”
“Social inequality and environmental degradation go together and have the same root (see Encyclical, Laudato Si’, 101): the sin of wanting to possess and wanting to dominate one’s brothers and sisters, of wanting to possess and dominate nature and God Himself. But this is not the design for creation.”
Pope Francis leans on the idea of the universal destination of goods to call out injustices in the care for the economy and the environment. He denounces intense economic stratification and a throwaway culture that is devastating to the planet. He warns listeners not to transform property and money into ends but to instead take inspiration from the early Christian communities who weathered challenges by putting goods in common.
“In the face of the pandemic and its social consequences, many risk losing hope. In this time of uncertainty and anguish, I invite everyone to welcome the gift of hope that comes from Christ. It is He who helps us navigate the tumultuous waters of sickness, death and injustice, which do not have the last word over our final destination.”
“These symptoms of inequality reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy. And we must say it simply: the economy is sick. It has become ill. It is sick. It is the fruit of unequal economic growth—this is the illness: the fruit of unequal economic growth— that disregards fundamental human values.”
“Property and money are instruments that can serve mission. However, we easily transform them into ends, whether individual or collective. And when this happens, essential human values are affected. The homo sapiens is deformed and becomes a species of homo œconomicus—in a detrimental sense—a species of man that is individualistic, calculating and domineering.”
Pope Francis’ critics are dividing the church and families— including mine.
Continuation from 9/20/20 bulletin
While most of the world’s attention was focused on his public actions—paying his hotel bill, living in the simple Casa Santa Marta rather than the apostolic palace, washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday—I followed closely what he
was saying. I was challenged when, days after his election, he exclaimed, would like a church that is poor and for the poor.” I was moved when he articulated his view of the role of the papal authority in the homily at his installation Mass. “Let us never forget that authentic power is service,” he said, “and that the pope, too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the cross.”
What I and many other Catholics recognized in Pope Francis was how he put the principles of our faith—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—into action. This was reinforced by his words. In his homilies, addresses and interviews, he constantly admonished
us to understand that without humility, repentance, conversion, transformation and a heart filled with tenderness and hope, our faith was hollow and selfreferential.
It was also clear to me that Pope Francis’ vision for the faith is precisely the cure for the embattled, embittered and polarized church in the United States.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the U.S. church agrees.
Since the early days of this papacy, there has been a growing and concentrated effort to undercut Pope Francis’ message. Catholic media outlets and public figures once regarded as reliably orthodox and faithful to the magisterium began to question his
words and teachings. Off-the-cuff statements were taken out of context and interpreted as “insults” to devout Catholics. His encyclical on care for creation, “Laudato Si’,” was met by critics who decried his reliance on “unsettled science” and
his criticism of capitalism.
As this papacy has progressed, the reactions of several media organizations and periodicals popular with U.S. Catholics progressed from positive to wary to suspicious. When the pope’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and family, “Amoris
Laetitia,” was released on April 8, 2016, many of those outlets became openly hostile.
The opposition to Francis—bolstered by the publication of a document signed by four cardinals who insinuated that “Amoris Laetitia” violated immutable Catholic doctrines on marriage, adultery and objective truth—has become relentless. Wellknown
Catholic apologists who openly encourage opposition to Pope Francis and the bishops—including extreme voices like Michael Voris of Church Militant and the popular YouTube commentator Taylor Marshall—have wildly popular multimedia
platforms and go largely unchallenged by church leaders.
This is not simply a social media phenomenon. Many Catholics across the country hear figures like Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò—the former Vatican nuncio to the United States who has repeatedly attacked Francis after calling for the pope to resign
in 2018—praised from the pulpit. Articles disparaging the pope are shared among groups of Catholics and posted on parish websites. I have several friends who belong to Catholic book clubs where members will refuse to read anything by Pope Francis.
Since I began writing and speaking publicly about this phenomenon, I have heard from hundreds of Catholics who have seen their families and communities divided over Pope Francis. In some parishes—and even some diocesan seminaries—negativity toward Francis has become so commonplace that those who support him feel compelled to keep their views to themselves. One priest told me that several seminarians referred to their seminaries as “Francis-free zones.”
Francis’ less reactionary critics have done little to stem the rise of their much more vicious counterparts. Nor has this story received significant public attention from U.S. bishops or Catholics who support the pope. Quite often, they will actively discourage others from speaking out publicly against these reactionary leaders, arguing that to do so would give them the attention they crave. But as we have witnessed in the United States and international politics, the “establishment” can no longer afford to ignore these powerful populist movements.
Whatever motivates those who have been leading this assault on Francis’ reputation —money, politics, ideology or, in the best case, deeply held convictions—the whole thing has become a grand distraction from Christ’s mandate to spread the Gospel to
all creatures and to build the kingdom of God here on Earth. The focus has drifted very far from what Jesus implored us to do. And things are not improving.
My mother, who never read anything Pope Francis actually wrote, became convinced he was a heretic by her friends at church, members of her Catholic book club and through watching “The World Over Live,” a weekly talk show on EWTN hosted by Raymond Arroyo, which often features outspoken papal critics.
Early in Francis’ papacy, we argued about him frequently. Prior to each of the two sessions of the Synod on the Family, for example, she repeated the common claim among Francis’ critics that the synods were “rigged” and that they were little more
than vehicles for predetermined changes to doctrine. Similarly, whenever a bishop she deemed to be moderate or progressive was appointed to lead a U.S. diocese, she would insist—relying on commentary she read in Catholic media—that these decisions were further proof that Pope Francis was deliberately trying to destroy the church. Any attempt I made to clarify or correct this narrative was immediately shut down.
At a certain point, I realized that I would never persuade her, and I tried to avoid the subject rather than create more division. When she became sick, I raised the subject a few more times, but it was clear that her views had become entrenched. She even
had a coffee mug with the word “Viganò” written on it in capital letters. And every conversation we had about religion drifted into an argument about Pope Francis. Being unable to talk about God with the person who gave me my faith as she lay dying was agonizing.
My experience is not unique. This division in the church is a tragic situation that is harming families and communities of faith. It is totally opposed to the Gospel and to Pope Francis’ message. As the pope said in his homily on June 29, “There are always
those who destroy unity and stifle prophecy.” I experienced this division in a very personal way. The impact of the public defiance against the pope is not theoretical; it is doing real damage to the body of Christ. Which leaders among us will respond
to the urgent need for action to promote unity in the church?
Certainly, there are difficult disagreements to resolve, and not every division will be healed on this side of heaven. But we cannot lose sight of who we are as Catholic Christians. By our baptism, we are united as brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ,
the Good Shepherd. Jesus entrusted the care of his sheep to Peter and his successors. The church teaches that Pope Francis is the visible foundation of communion for all the faithful, and the healing of these wounds can only begin in unity with him.
Why do some Catholics oppose Pope Francis?
Victor Codina, S.J.
September 12, 2019 (America Magazine)
It is neither unusual nor surprising to encounter discord and opposition in the Catholic Church. Such disagreement stretches back from the present day to the time of St. Paul, who stood up to Cephas in Antioch (Gal 2:14).
Opposition was manifest in the first ecumenical councils as well as the last two. At the First Vatican Council (1870), a group of bishops and theologians opposed the proposed definition of papal infallibility. Some did not accept the council and separated from Rome, giving rise to the so-called Old Catholic Church. Others did
not leave the church but chose not to participate in or attend the last conciliar vote on infallibility—and some of these were so angry that they threw all the conciliar documents into the Tiber.
A century later (1970), the issue of infallibility arose once more, with theological disputes between the critical voice of Hans Küng and those of Karl Rahner, S.J., Walter Kasper and other more moderate German theologians. The controversy continued between historians critical of Vatican I, such as A. B. Hasler, a disciple of Küng, and more nuanced historians such as Yves Congar, O.P, Joseph Hoffmann and Kasper. Küng was stripped of his license to teach theology in 1979.
In 1950, during Pius XII’s pontificate, when the pope published the encyclical “Humani Generis” against the so-called nouvelle théologie, some Jesuit theologians from Fourvière-Lyon (such as Henri de Lubac, S.J., and Jean Daniélou, S.J.) and some Dominican theologians from Le Saulchoir-Paris (such as Yves Congar, O.P.,
and Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P.) were removed from their chairs. A decade later, Pope John XXIII appointed all of them as theological experts at Vatican II.
Strong opposition arose there, led by the French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected Vatican II as neo-modernist and neo-Protestant. When Bishop Lefebvre began to ordain bishops without Roman authorization for his Society of Saint Pius X in 1988, he was excommunicated by John Paul II.
After “Humanae Vitae,” his 1968 encyclical on birth control, Pope Paul VI was challenged respectfully by numerous episcopal conferences. Without denying the value of the encyclical’s contents, they called for greater elaboration and qualification of certain issues.
During the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, more than 100 theologians were questioned, reprimanded or silenced [by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]. Some were dismissed from their academic positions, and one was even excommunicated.
The purpose of this historical preamble is to remove any surprise that today, in the face of the new image of the church proposed by Pope Francis, there are discordant voices and critics who are strongly opposed to his pontificate.
Viewing the shifting winds over the course of time, we can see that the type and orientation of opposition always reflect the historical moment. There are progressive and prophetic voices in periods when classical Christianity or neo-Christianity dominates, and reactionary, fundamentalist and conservative voices in moments of ecclesial reform and attempts to return to evangelical origins and the style of Jesus.
Criticisms of Francis
At present, there is a strong group opposing Francis’ church: laypeople, theologians, bishops and cardinals who would like him to resign or promptly disappear from the scene while they wait for a new conclave to change the current direction of the church.
I do not want to conduct a socio-historical inquiry here, nor a Western-style television program pitting good against bad, so I prefer not to cite the names of the opponents who are currently skinning Francis alive. Rather, I would like to discuss the theological background to this systematic opposition to Francis in order to
understand what the controversy is about.
The criticisms of Francis have two dimensions, one theological and the other more socio-political, although (as we will see later) there are instances where these dimensions converge.
The theological critique starts from the conviction that Francis is not a theologian but comes from the Global South, from the end of the world; and that this lack of theological professionalism—in stark contrast to the academic acumen of St. John Paul II and obviously of Pope Benedict XVI—explains what they consider his
inaccuracies and even his doctrinal errors.
According to this assessment, Francis’ deficit in theology would explain his dangerous positions on God’s mercy in [his 2015 papal bull] “Misericordiae Vultus,” his philo-communist tendency in support of the poor and popular movements, and his notion of popular piety as a theological locus in [his 2013 apostolic “Evangelii Gaudium.” His shortfall in moral theology is displayed in his opening the door to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist in some cases (after personal and ecclesial discernment) to separated Catholics who have remarried, according to [his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation] “Amoris Laetitia.” His 
encyclical “Laudato Si’,”on the care for our common home, shows a lack of scientific and ecological competence. And his excessive emphasis on divine mercy in “Misericordiae Vultus” is scandalous because it lessens the grace and cross of Jesus.
In the face of these accusations, I would like to recall a classic affirmation of St. Thomas Aquinas that distinguishes between the magisterial chair, proper to theologians and professors of universities, and the pastoral chair assigned to bishops and pastors of the church. Cardinal John Henry Newman returned to this
tradition by affirming that although there may sometimes be tension between the two chairs, in the end there is convergence between them.
This distinction applies to Francis. Although he had studied and taught pastoral theology at San Miguel de Buenos Aires as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now his pronouncements belong to the pastoral seat of the bishop of Rome. He does not aspire to fulfill this role as a theologian but as a pastor. As has been said of him with
a certain touch of humor, it is necessary to move on from the Bergoglio of history to the Francis of faith.
What really bothers his detractors is that his theology stems from reality: from the reality of injustice, poverty and the destruction of nature, and from the reality of ecclesial clericalism.
It is all right for him to hug children and the sick, but it is definitely upsetting when he visits Lampedusa, and refugee and migrant camps like the one on Lesbos. It bothers people when he says that we should not build walls against refugees but bridges of dialogue and hospitality. He is annoying when, following in the footsteps
of Pope John XXIII, he says that the church has to be poor and exist for the poor, that the shepherds have to smell like sheep, that it has to be an outgoing church that reaches out to the peripheries and that the poor are a theological locus, topic or source.
He bothers people when he says that clericalism is the leprosy of the church and when he lists the 14 temptations of the Vatican Curia, which range from the feeling of being indispensable and necessary to the craving for riches to living a double life and suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s. And he augments the irritation when he adds that these are also the temptations of dioceses, parishes and religious communities. It is annoying to hear that the church should be conceived of as an inverted pyramid, with the laity above and the pope and the bishops below, just as it is annoying to hear him say that the church is polyhedral and above all synodal. This means that we all need to travel the same path together, that we have to listen and
dialogue with each other. It is annoying that in [his 2018 apostolic constitution] “Episcopalis Communio,” Francis speaks of the synodal church and of the need to listen to each other.
It bothers some groups that Francis has thanked Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, S.J., and José María Castillo, S.J., for their theological contributions and annulled the suspensions a divinis of Miguel d’Escoto, M.M., and Father Ernesto Cardenal; they are bewildered that when Hans Küng wrote to him
about the need to rethink infallibility, Francis answered by calling Küng “dear companion” (lieber Mitbruder), saying that he would take Küng’s observations into account and was willing to enter into a dialogue about infallibility. And it bothers many that Francis canonized St. Óscar Romero, the martyred Salvadoran
archbishop, branded by many as a communist and a useful dupe of the left; his cause had been blocked for years.
It is annoying that he says “Who am I to judge?” It is annoying that he says the church is feminine and that if women are not listened to, the church will be impoverished and biased.
Francis’ invocation of mercy, a mercy that is at the center of biblical revelation, does not prevent him from speaking of zero tolerance toward the abuse of minors and women by important members of the church, a monstrous crime for which one must ask forgiveness from God and the victims, recognize the complicit and guilty silence of the hierarchy, seek reparations, protect young people and children, and avoid a repetition of the abuse. And his hand does not tremble when he demotes and removes the guilty from their positions, whether they are a cardinal, nuncio, bishop or priest.
Obviously, the problem is not that he is not a theologian but rather that his theology is pastoral. Francis passes from dogma to kerygma, from theoretical principles to pastoral discernment and mystagogy. And his theology is not colonialist but from the Global South, and this bothers the North.
Confronting those who accuse Francis of being a third-worldist and a communist, we must affirm that his messages are in perfect continuity with the prophetic biblical tradition and the church’s social teachings. What hurts is his prophetic clairvoyance: He says no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, no to an
economy that kills, no to an economy without a human face, no to an unjust social and economic system that locks us into unjust social structures, no to a globalization of indifference, no to the idolatry of money, no to money that governs rather than serves, no to an inequality that engenders violence, no to anyone who
tries to hide behind God to justify violence, no to the social insensitivity that anesthetizes us in the face of the suffering of others, no to weapons and the war industry, no to human trafficking, no to any form of provoked death (as seen in “Evangelii Gaudium,” 52-75).
Francis does nothing but update the commandment “Thou shall not kill,” defends the value of human life from beginning to end and repeats in the present day the Lord’s question to Cain: “Where is your brother?”
Also disturbing is Francis’ criticism of the anthropocentric and technocratic paradigm that destroys nature, pollutes the environment, attacks biodiversity and excludes the poor and indigenous from a dignified human life (as seen in “Laudato Si’,” 20-52). It bothers the multinational corporations when he criticizes the timber,
oil, hydroelectric and mining companies that destroy the environment, harm the indigenous people of those lands and threaten the future of our common home. Irksome, too, is his criticism of political leaders incapable of taking courageous decisions (“Laudato Si’,” 53-59).
The announcement of the upcoming synod on the Amazon in October 2019, which will amplify the need to protect the environment and save indigenous Amazonian groups from genocide, is already beginning to annoy. Some major church leaders have said that the instrumentumlaboris, or working document for the synod, is
heretical and pantheistic and denies the need for salvation in Christ.
Other commentators have focused only on the suggestion of ordaining married indigenous men to celebrate the Eucharist in remote parts of the Amazon but have been totally silent about the prophetic denunciation that this synod working document makes against the extractivist destruction that is being perpetrated in the
Amazon, the issue of poverty and exclusion of indigenous peoples who surely have never been as threatened as they are now.
Reforming the church
There is undoubtedly a convergence between theological and social criticisms of Francis, with reactionary ecclesial groups aligning themselves with powerful economic and political groups, especially.
The opposition to Francis is opposition to the Second Vatican Council and to the evangelical reform of the church that Pope John XXIII wanted to promote. Francis belongs to the line of all the prophets who have wanted to reform the church, joining Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Jesus, Angelo Roncalli, Dom Hélder Câmara, Dorothy Stang, Pedro Arrupe, Ignacio Ellacuría and the nonagenarian Brazilian bishop emeritus Pedro Casaldáliga.
Francis still has many tasks to complete for an evangelical reform of the church. We do not know what his future trajectory will be, nor what will happen in the next conclave.
Popes come and go, but the Lord Jesus is ever present and animates the church until the end of time. It is the same Jesus who was seen as an eater and drinker, a friend of sinners and prostitutes, the possessed, crazy, seditious and blasphemous. And we believe that the Spirit of the Lord who descended upon the early church at Pentecost never abandons her and will not allow sin to triumph over holiness in the long run.
In the meantime, as Francis always asks, from his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s as bishop of Rome to the present day, let us pray to the Lord for him. Let us pray that he not lose hope and that he may strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters (see Luke 22:32). And if we cannot pray or we are not believers, let us at least send him our good thoughts and energy (in his words, “me mande buena