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Prosecuting the Pope

September 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Allison Ricciardi, Church Authority, God's Will, Pope

Prosecuting the Pope

 

My husband is a very smart man. Whenever I come up with a new idea (aka hairbrained scheme) he asks me his trademark question: What’s the upside? It makes me think.

Applying this question never seems to fail. Sure, with anything we consider we need to think about the pitfalls as well, but if there is no discernible or demonstrable upside, then we probably shouldn’t waste our time considering it to begin with. We could save ourselves a lot of time and heartache.

I’m struck particularly by the endless Pope bashing and suspicion that seems to be rampant these days in the blogosphere. We’re used to it from the press and many that are anti-Catholic, but it seems lately to be coming even from the most devout Catholics and it makes me ask this question: What’s the upside of PopeFrancisCaricaturepublicly questioning, criticizing or lampooning our Holy Father? I understand the confusion and consternation that’s out there. He seems to talk off-the-cuff frequently and his words are welcome fodder for those bent on changing Church teaching on important moral issues. The press is no friend of the Catholic Church, generally, and takes much out of context to lend seeming support to its agenda to undermine Church teaching. It seems those outside the fold love Pope Francis and the faithful regard him at best with suspicion or rolled eyes. But jumping into the fray with public criticism seems to me to have no real advantages.

So what might be the motivations? Well, for starters, we all like to be heard. We like to voice our opinions and be understood – respected even. Some like to pontificate, if you’ll pardon the cheap and obvious pun. Yet many are genuinely worried and want to defend what they know the Church actually teaches. As society degenerates further and further into godlessness, the mere appearance that the Church may be moving in that same direction is truly frightening. And so they take the bait and start the chatter. But what is there to really gain? More backbiting and division? Sowing more doubt among the faithful? Instigating a deeper distrust of God than already sadly exists?

Pope Benedict’s resignation was nearly unprecedented and was unsettling to many. Yet the election of Pope Francis was God’s will. I’m sure I’ll get some major blowback on that statement so please hear me PopeFrancis2DetailStampsOfEcuador2015-34 - for post on the Popeout. I know there are many out there who, putting alleged private revelation above divine revelation, assume there will be an anti-Pope who will destroy the Church from within. Some even hold that the last few popes have been illegitimate. Alleged seers abound these days and many make dire predictions and proclamations. And too many of the faithful read them like the gospel, swallowing every horror-laden conspiracy theory and posting each piece of juicy “prophecy” on social media with comments to spare. It’s not healthy.

Here’s the thing about God’s will. It is always done in one way or another.

  • God has His ordaining will – those things He wants us to do or wants to happen in the world. He wants world peace and for all of His children to live in harmony and love with their neighbors.
  • Then there’s His permitting will – those things He clearly doesn’t want but allows to happen for a greater purpose in the end. He respects our free will and will not interfere with it, hence we have the mess in which the world currently finds itself. Those that rail against authority and blame all evil on God are often the same people who stubbornly push their own wills and agendas that are in clear opposition to God’s will as revealed in Holy Scripture and as taught by the Church established by Jesus Christ. The deceiver is very clever and is taking his cut on both ends as he foments such rebellion and identifies the One to Whom the rebellion is aimed as the culprit.
  • God’s ordaining will and His permitting will are both expressions of His Immutable will and, through all of it, He wants and works out our good. He will not be outsmarted or outmaneuvered by his creatures or the devil (also one of His creatures). The idea is laughable. Like doctors once used leeches to cure their patients, God uses the devil and those who do his bidding in the same way to help and heal us in the long run. The worst evil ever perpetrated – creatures killing their Creator on a cross – became the very means of saving those very creatures. The chaos we’re experiencing now, which seems to be reaching a horrific crescendo, is not outside His control. Neither are the Pope’s comments, no matter how ill-considered they may seem to any of us to be.

Understand this: you’re allowed to wonder and even question what the Pope is saying or doing…just as you’re allowed to question any Church teaching. Questioning helps us to learn and to own the final answer. Simply going along like robots is not what God intends. If He did He wouldn’t have given us free will or intellects to even consider such questions. I know for me, asking questions in my twenties about teachings that made no sense to me was the best thing I ever did. It made me think. But as I thought I also prayed ChaseCountyNebraskaCourthouseCourtroom2for enlightenment and understanding. That was key. Just questioning without prayer and a sincere desire to know God’s teachings and His will tend to lead only to hubris…and we already have an ample supply of that these days. The questions of a prosecutor are very different from that of a child trying to learn. The questions asked these days of and about our Holy Father are mostly those with a prosecutorial tone. They already distrust Him and are trying to catch and convict Him. Such questions get us nowhere and lead only to division. The multitudinous sects and denominations among Christians is sad enough. Do we really want to accommodate the evil one by turning on our Holy Father and one another?

So sure, wonder, scratch your head, question what the Holy Father is trying to communicate, discuss it with a priest or a friend…but remain faithful. Remain obedient. There is no evidence of Pope Francis, or Chair_of_Saint_Peterany other Pope for that matter, changing Church teaching on faith and morals – none – despite all the rumors and speculation. Jesus promised that could not happen when the Pope speaks ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). When we don’t understand a particular teaching of Christ, or find some hard to follow, we are expected to be obedient as we work toward enlightenment. Assuming we know better, that until we understand it to our satisfaction we will not obey, is the ultimate pride and folly. The same rationale is in play here – God chose Pope Francis. He didn’t choose me or ask my opinion, or yours. He asks us to pray for the Pope and He desires that all His children be one, as He and His Father are one.

We’re a family – the Body of Christ, and just as publicly criticizing and questioning your husband or earthly father results in nothing more than disrespect and ultimate division, publicly chastising the Pope does the same, but on a larger scale with more devastating results.

There’s just no upside.

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Art for this post on “Prosecuting the Pope”: An image of Pope Francis in Shadow Ink app, Annika Laas, 23 June 2016 own work; Modified detail of Stamps of Ecuador, 2015 [Pope Francis], Post of Ecuador, 2015, PD stamps of Ecuador; Detail of 1911 Courtroom in Chase County Courthouse, Imperial, Nebraska, Ammodramus, 22 July 2010 own work, PD-Worldwide; Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, 03.05.2008, Sergey Smirnov, CC; all Wikimedia Commons.

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About Allison Ricciardi

Allison Ricciardi is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York. In 2001 she founded www.catholictherapists.com in response to a growing demand for counseling that is faithful to the Magisterium and includes prayer and spirituality. She is also Founder and Director of The Raphael Remedy, which offers counseling and life coaching from a Catholic perspective. Allison's core belief is that God has a great plan for each of His children...and that by combining sound psychology with solid faith, clients can find real healing and lasting happiness. Visit Allison's blog at www.theraphaelremedy.com/blog.

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  • anonymous

    Thank you Allison, I think it’s very much like Jesus. Great article.

    • Manuel

      great article, Allison. I agree one hundred per cent. Just a practical point: I think that some adviser to the Pope should council Him to cut the press conferences on the plane returning from a long and exhausting trip. On such ocassions, we all know that the only thing we want to do is rest and sleep. Because of his age, the Pope should do the same and not be answering the tricky questions of the journalists.

      • LizEst

        Sounds like a good idea! Now, secular journalists are another story altogether! Years ago, we could trust them and their accurate and unvarnished reporting of the news. These days, they have agendas that are definitely not in favor of the truth.

        • allisonricciardi

          Exactly! Why are we letting them set the agenda and conversation? We need to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves to navigate this culture!

          • marybernadette

            Talking about St Mother Teresa, when she went to Russia with her sisters to establish a ‘community’ she was invited to speak at a ‘venue’ (not sure where). A young man was addressing
            the people before Mother was to speak. He spoke in Russian. After some time Mother looked annoyed, went to him, telling him. to stop telling lies about her. The man was shocked at her understanding. Her sisters were surprised too at Mother Teresa
            ‘understanding Russian.’ She replied she didn’t but that the Holy Spirit does.

      • allisonricciardi

        Yes, Manuel, good idea. Let’s pray and invoke the angels on this one. The Feast of the Archangels is coming up real soon! Let’s ask for their help. God bless.

    • allisonricciardi

      Thank you. God bless.

  • Lindia

    Well said, Allison – thank you!

    • allisonricciardi

      Thanks, Lindia.

  • Walter Gomez

    When Jesus went ‘against Jewish Law’ by saving the prostitute from a horrible stoning death, healing on the Sabbath, dining with tax collectors, the Jewish faithful were dismayed by his actions. Do we see a parallel here? Catholic faithful must beware of those on the fringes seeing the opportunity to sow disunity in the Catholic Church. Brilliant, relevant article! Thank you …

    • allisonricciardi

      Yes, Walter…those sowing disunity and misreporting are doing way more damage than the Pope with his comments. We need to be aware and not keep falling for it and taking the bait. No upside to division!

      • Walter PCG

        I come from a ‘third world’ country and honestly I don’t see Pope Francis doing any damage at all! On the contrary he is doing a lot of healing and promoting inclusiveness, just like Christ did. I pray that the Holy Spirit will grant me a tiny fraction of the Spiritual wisdom that Pope Francis has. The spirituality and wisdom of the Popes in the last several decades are nothing short of inspiring … the work of the Holy Spirit!

        • LizEst

          Indeed, more people prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the election of this Pope than ever before in the history of the world. God’s will be done. Thank you for your input … and God bless you.

        • allisonricciardi

          Thank you for that perspective. God bless.

  • nancyveronica

    Well sure, I certainly believe God’s Will is always supreme, no buts about that. I love Pope Francis to pieces (as a dear priest always says to keep me in line) but Saint Catherine of Siena didn’t sit around and let things fester in the confusion of her day, neither are those who are vocally questioning and requesting clarity. Don’t bash them either.

    • allisonricciardi

      You make a valid point about St. Catherine, although I think if she had a blog today she would agree with me and not be publicly prosecuting her case against the Pope. We need to follow her example of courage and willingness to address issues with the Pope- but respectfully and privately.

    • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

      I like to tell people that as soon as they have spent years in seclusion, fasting, praying, and communicating with God as St. Catherine did, then they can consider whether He is calling them to confront the Pope in charity.

      • LizEst

        Woo-hoo! Thanks for sharing that Connie! That’s a most excellent point!

      • nancyveronica

        Wow. Turning that upside down: Mom! Mary, Mother of God, please pray for us.

        • nancyveronica

          and then I like to tell people “who am I to judge” what is in the heart of one who loves God? That is only one saying that may have been well meaning from the Pope’s intent that was run away with by those who had their own agenda…and that is a sad thing. But Connie, I took your comment as a passive “put up or shut up” which does bother me but shouldn’t. Being a member of our beautiful Saint Catherine of Siena parish has taught me a lot about this particular woman of God.

          • LizEst

            Catherine advised the Pope after many years of prayer and solitude and listening to God, and spiritual direction, very rarely matched in those who criticize the Pope. Some Catholic folks, rather, are very quick to run off at the mouth not unlike the media, many of whom have an anti-Catholic bias. Even in her day, she was acknowledged to be a very holy woman. The comments of someone like that carry a lot more weight than those of most people. It would be like Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were she alive on this earth today, confronting Pope Francis. I daresay Pope Francis would definitely listen to what she had to say.

          • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

            My point is that we all like to be like St. Catherine when she was bold and “out there,” but few are willing to make the sacrifices she did. As for me personally, God has made it clear that I need to do better at running my household before I start telling the Pope how he should run God’s. And I suspect I’m not the only person for whom this is true. First things first.

  • Pamela

    This is an excellent reminder that God is in charge and that, rather than wringing our hands and running our mouths — often “off the cuff” as we accuse our pope of doing — we need to be working on our own holiness … working out own our salvation with fear and trembling.

    • allisonricciardi

      Amen to that Pamela.

  • bringiton

    You’re right, it’s not our job to criticize the Pope…but it is the job of the rest of the Magisterium! The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church that consists of the Pope AND Bishops. And they are to make sure that only truth is being unambiguously conveyed! Truth being unambiguously (!) conveyed–that is the upside!

  • bringiton

    You’re right, it’s not our job to criticize the Pope…but it is the job of the rest of the Magisterium! The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church that consists of the Pope AND Bishops. And they are to make sure that only truth is being unambiguously conveyed! Truth being unambiguously (!) conveyed–that is the upside!

    • allisonricciardi

      You make a good point about the Magisterium….we need to pray for them and let them talk to the Pope…public bashing, even by bishops, still has no upside.God bless!

      • Pamela

        I think we can see a good role model in Cardinal Burke, who never criticizes the Pope or his fellow bishops but remains steadily in proclamation of the truth.

        • allisonricciardi

          Yes, a very good example. We need to follow it and pursue holiness and leave all the rest in God’s hands. He is ultimately in control.

  • allisonricciardi

    You’re right, confusing teaching is a problem and we need to be aware of it. But I think we’d be more effective praying and perhaps writing to the Pope, than publicly bashing him as has become so common. Yes, of course a Pope can be wrong on many things…but not on faith and morals when exercising his role as Pope. He hasn’t changed any teachings, nor will he. God bless you.

  • allisonricciardi

    Thanks, Patti. Well said.

  • allisonricciardi

    Good point, Anton. Humility is the measure. We can speak out but not with the vitriol and disrespect that has become so epidemic these days. God bless you.

  • LizEst

    Excellent point, Anne. God bless you!

  • Dona

    After Vatican II, faithful Catholics are more weary of comments about Church doctrine. It is naive to think that all people, everywhere are going to take what the Pope says and not try to change Church teaching, i.e., German Bishops twisting what the Pope said and applying it as ‘Gospel’ on divorced and remarried couples and the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
    These days it seems that everyone has an agenda, as in Vatican II days and not everyone is as noble as they should be.
    Also, the faithful are so poorly catechized, they have no idea what ex cathedra even means!
    I feel badly that we have come to this, but, I will be weary and protect my salvation.

    • allisonricciardi

      Yes, Dona you’re right. We do need to be wary about what we hear…especially when reported by the secular media. There certainly are factions within the church that look for any excuse to make changes…but the Holy Spirit won’t let that happen in the official church. We need to read original sources and always pray for a spirit of Truth to guide us. God bless you.

      • Dona

        And this may be why there will be only a small remnant. May God bless you, too.

  • Patricia

    An excellent, timely and relevant discussion which fits right in with a few verses from today’s first reading:

    One generation passes and another comes,but the world forever stays.
    All speech is labored; there is nothing one can say.
    The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.
    What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done.
    Nothing is new under the sun.
    Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”
    has already existed in the ages that preceded us (Eccl. 1:2-11).

    This posting reminds us that what occurred ” in the beginning” is still going on: “The deceiver is very clever and is taking his cut on both ends as he foments such rebellion and identifies the One to Whom the rebellion is aimed as the culprit. ……God chose Pope Francis. He didn’t choose me or ask my opinion, or yours.”

    So it’s back to the big decision in the Garden: God’s will or my will?

    • allisonricciardi

      Great connection Patricia. Yes, that is THE question…

      • Patricia

        Another question came to me after I read these responses to your post:
        Are we, as the People of God, wiling to follow the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church established by Jesus on earth and really trust and believe that it is lead by the Holy Spirit?
        Perhaps Jesus wants His Church to focus on Him and His Mercy and Mission, rather than our ways. We must follow Him and go where He wants us to go.
        Isn’t this the very same issue that lead to the “throwing of stones” and the Crucifixion?

  • allisonricciardi

    Great point!

  • allisonricciardi

    Nothing wrong with speaking up and clarifying…but we need to do it respectfully and not be trashing the Pope as so many are doing. That’s the bigger problem. satan’s calling card is division…we need to stop taking the bait. God bless.

  • allisonricciardi

    Well said.

  • Mary P

    Once in awhile I receive a magazine from let’s say,
    “They have a devotion to Mary.” I don’t want to give the
    title of the magazine. They are with an organization and
    I read an article that didn’t sit well with me…it made me
    uneasy. It seems like subtle “Pope bashing,” I could be
    wrong but I would like to send the magazine to someone,
    either Allison R., Dan Burke or Liz Estler to to read, because I give money monthly to this organization and have been for years and want to make sure that I’m not reading anything into it. I also want to know if the organization is legitimate. I heard another person mention this organization to Fr. Trigilio and Fr. Levi, a long time ago and asked if they were okay. Both priests said that the group was and not harmful. Again, I feel like I need to discern this again, after reading the article. Most of the article isn’t about Pope Francis, but it has to do with this other person and the Pope making a symbolic gesture towards commemorating this “person.” We don’t need doubt put in the minds of Catholics faithful to the Magisterium, by a group that puts doubt in your mind, that they aren’t.

    • LizEst

      Anytime you have a question about the article, or post, which that person has written, you can send a question to that person directly by clicking on the word “Mail” (in small letters) directly below the bio or “About” write-up within the box.

      If you have general questions about something else, you can send us a question at questions@myavila.com.

  • marybernadette

    I am so glad that you have addressed this very important ‘problem’ we have in the Church. I have been grieved at the way some people speak disrespectfully
    of the Holy Father.
    Some believe that they are right, using Him as another reason that ‘Vatican II’
    is not ‘valid.'( not from the Holy Spirit)
    may God forgive them. They believe the true Church is ‘Vatican I.’ We know , of course, who the ‘sower of confusion’ is
    I admit, I have been concerned re: ‘off the cuff’ because of the media’s handling of it. I pray for our Holy Father
    especially for His Leadership, in these very challenging times.

    Some believe that they are right, using Him as another reason that ‘Vatican 11’ is not ‘valid.’ (not from the Holy Spirit.) may God forgive them. They believe the ‘True Church’ is Vatican 1. We know, of course, who the ‘sower of confusion’ is.
    I admit, I have been concerned re: ‘of the cuff’ because of the ‘media’s’ handling of it, looking for opportunities to ‘discredit’ Our Precious Catholic Faith. I believe the Pope is a Holy man and pray especially for His leadership in these very challenging times

  • Mary

    Thank you for addressing this, Alison. This papacy has been the source of the greatest spiritual challenge I have ever faced, even greater than a painful family crisis which I would describe as the most difficult thing that ever happened to me, but also the most spiritually fruitful. It feels to me as if the rock ( our Lord through his Church) upon which I have been grounding myself through this family crisis is disintegrating into shifting sands. I don’t know where to turn for the truth even among normally reliable Catholic news outlets. Some sound the alarm about serious error, while others seem to dismiss the possibility that there is anything problematic going on. Sometimes I wonder if my faith or even my sanity will survive this difficult period in the Church.

  • CLudwick

    I am only just now reading this article and the responses. Wow!! Thank you so much, Allison, for such a balanced and insightful rendering. It is truly disconcerting to hear the disrespect and vitriol spit out whenever the Pope speaks. Your article (and I dare say the responses) has given us much food for contemplation and for our reason for respect for the papacy.
    These comments have also bolstered my concerned heart! May the Holy Spirit enlighten us all in our prayers, our lives and our individual missions (as you mention, Connie. Yes, we most certainly must look to “bloom where planted” and pray for all priests, bishops and the Pope as well.) God bless you all.

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