Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist who puts questions to Pope Francis in the just published book/interview The Name of God is Mercy, raises a crucial point midway through this short text: “Sometimes, even from the Church, we hear ‘Too much mercy! The Church must condemn sin.’”

If anything still unites the various faith groups claiming the name Christian – and it’s not clear there is – it may be the complaint that we’ve lost a sense of sin. There’s the current ecumenical emphasis on God’s love, but also many disputes about what love means and how it works. Between the decline of “sin” and rise of “love,” Christians today often feel their churches are not much different from Baby-Boomer Buddhism, or New Age groups offering a comforting cocoon of vague cosmic consciousness.

But hear Pope Francis, “The Church condemns sin because it has to relay the truth, ‘This is a sin.’ But at the same time it embraces the sinner who recognizes himself as such, it welcomes him, it speaks to him of the infinite mercy of God.” [Emphases added.] Here, in a nutshell, is the whole book: a perhaps surprising condemnation of sin in the name of truth by Pope Francis, the welcoming of the sinner who understands what he is, and the offer of mercy.


All fundamental Catholic teachings. But it’s the relative emphases and the “Francis effect” that have caused confusion and controversies. For instance, recent reports from Italy and elsewhere that Francis’ Year of Mercy has led to a decline in Confessions. People somehow have the impression they no longer need sacramental absolution. Some that do still come resist even gentle priests who impose penances: “who are you to judge me” or “I don’t have time for all that, besides God understands.”

Francis argues, citing Jesus’ own words:

“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20: 19-23). Therefore, the apostles and all their successors – the bishops and their colleagues the priests – become instruments of the mercy of God. They act in persona Christi. This is very beautiful. It has deep significance because we are social beings. If you are not capable of talking to your brother about your mistakes, you can be sure that you can’t talk about them with God, either, and therefore you end up confessing into the mirror to yourself.

The media have filtered out this side of Francis (his frequent missteps, lack of clarity, and systematic incoherences haven’t helped).

But Francis does not stop at “mistakes,” as in the passage above. He works out a fairly substantial explanation of why we need the grace to recognize that we’re sinners: “Without that grace, the most one can say is: I am limited, I have my limits, these are my mistakes.” But recognizing oneself as a sinner is something else. It means standing in front of God and asking for what only he can do in forgiving and helping us.

Francis has repeatedly both encouraged Confession and said that it is not “dry cleaning.” Not merely a mechanical process for removing stains; we need to change who we are, something much more radical.

All perfectly traditional Catholic teaching, and the mystery is why, despite what he says, something else gets communicated. Partly it’s because he devotes little space to such reflections, much more to mercy, even here, so that it seems like the Church is all mercy, all the time.

The Church must, of course, proclaim that Jesus loved us so much that he willingly died on the Cross for us. But to be fully faithful to Him, it must also recall that He calls own disciples evil, warns about the strait gate that leads to eternal life and that few find it. And about the eternal fires of Gehenna. For decades now, the Church has been preaching essentially Francis’s message, and people not only don’t repent and confess. They leave in ever larger numbers.

Biographies of the pope haven’t explained why he seems so fixated on repudiating “rigid” Catholics, since they’re a small minority, even among regular churchgoers. In his homily to the thousands who came to Philadelphia from around the globe for the World Meeting on Families, for instance, he warned against rigidity and legalism, which – to say the least – seemed inappropriate for that crowd.

Pope Francis hears a confession at World Youth Day in Rio, 2013
Pope Francis hears a confession at World Youth Day in Rio, 2013

In the book, Francis provides other examples of the rigidity he finds objectionable. The “scholars of the law,” above all, the ones who, because they know a lot about theology, philosophy, or ethics, think they’re not themselves sinners. We’ve all met these types, liberals and conservatives; it’s been a commonplace in moral theology, since the universities were first founded in the Middle Ages.

The problem with this example, though, is that he also comes close to saying that study and law are themselves perhaps a distraction. “Scholars” wrongly go into libraries and “consider pros and cons,” not out to the peripheries and help people. But the Church is large, as large as the world, and it needs all sorts of people (cf. 1 Cor. 12) to reach that world. Were Aquinas or Francis de Sales or Newman morally deficient because they didn’t focus on corporal works of mercy? Put that way, Francis wouldn’t say so, but gives that impression.

Other examples are also heartfelt, but not particularly persuasive: the priest handling an annulment who brusquely asks for $5000 upfront; the pastor who refuses a church funeral for a newborn who died before it could be baptized? Such cases exist, but are so few amidst massive other sins and disorders that it’s hard to see why they should bulk so large (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and II, Benedict XVI all affirmed mercy without displacing so much else in Catholic thought) in the Church at this moment.

Still, read The Name of God is Mercy to better understand Pope Francis and what he’s about. (The Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year appears in an appendix.) Even if you believe there’s much else that the Church urgently needs to bring into the world today, he’ll make you think more deeply about your own hardness of heart and failures to show mercy.

You can buy The Name of God is Mercy at The Catholic Thing store at Amazon.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

  • JGradGus

    But if we keep in mind that Pope Francis lived his entire life in Argentina it’s not so hard to understand his point of view on many things. But of course us egotistical Americans think everything Pope Francis says is always aimed at us.

    • Veritas

      The better alternative is, of course, to realize that when the Pope is speaking of sinners and those who lack mercy, not to take that as a personal call, clearly he is NOT speaking to us.

    • 3C4

      You like confusion and vagueness? And then blame the hearer?

    • Andrew Joe Nelson

      And what is his point of view?

  • Tom Williams

    I thank you again for your clarity. What I read about Pope Francis’ remarks gives me hope that he is giving a clear picture of where he is trying to lead the Church.
    On the other hand however I see little evidence of this thinking being translated in any meaningful manner at the Local Church level as you noted regarding line ups to the confessionals.
    I feel the conspiracy of silence concerning the sins within The Episcopate, the Ministarial Priesthood and Religeous in the The Church needs to be dealt with first. Then people will feel more trust to receive the mercy offered through them in The Sacraments.
    From what I see happening with the leadership of The Church is that there is plenty of lip service about the ills of the culture but little admittance as to their failures which contributed a great deal to these ills.
    Pointing fingers is easy, but as the saying goes “there are three fingers pointing back.”

    • Re: confessionals – where in the Bible does it actually say we must go to confession, i.e., confess to the priest? I was told we can, when attending Church, confess to GOD. HE hears our sins.
      And we can then receive the Host. Thank you for info on this.

      • A complete answer to your question would take up a good deal of space. Why not ask a priest?

      • Diane

        Jesus told the Apostles, who were the first priests, ‘whose sins you shall forgive will be forgiven, whose sins you shall retain shall be retained’ now go out and preach to the world.

      • Andrew Joe Nelson

        Jesus speaking to the Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained”. — John 20:23

        • Patti Day

          Thus instituting the sacrament of confession

      • Fr. Kloster

        I’m not sure with whom you consulted for your answer regarding confession. Confessing to God is a good practice, but it is not sacramental. Also, confessing to God can be very subjective. Jesus (God-man) instituted sacramental confession because He knows best and He knows us best.

        John Chapter 20:21-23 is a good start. Then too, is the binding and loosing of St. Peter in Matthew 16:16-19. Finally, I would point to James 5:16. So, there are three apostles who affirm the teaching.

        We need to be objectively forgiven since we are so good at rationalizing away our sins. The Church has always had the sacrament of Confession for a reason. If you avoid Confession, the obvious question from me would be why? Why would anyone shirk the graces of a sacrament? There can be only one answer that has many sides. The answer is spiritual pride.

        Here in the Archdiocese of Guayaquil Ecuador, it is as it should be. The confession lines are long and the communion lines are short.

        • PCB

          Thanks,Father Good point, : “We need to be objectively forgiven since we are so good at rationalizing away our sins.” – I think also the real beauty of our Sacramental Confession also lies in the converse – I think because we are also so good at being insecure, it is also very helpful for the sinner to receive the objective forgiveness from the priest, In Persona Christi, because of our insecurities might make us ask (when we only “confess to God” as Ms. Spingola suggests), “Am I really forgiven?” When forgiveness and absolution is received from a priest, we know we are in fact forgiven of that sin and never should worry otherwise – its loosed, its loosed – period.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Also PCB it is required for Catholics to confess to a priest forbidding Catholics to seek other means for forgiveness of sins. That canon goes back to Trent. Ms Spignola may have been ignorant as claimed due to misinformation from clergy or others so the fault partly may lie there. Or she may have misunderstood clergy saying you can make an act of contrition if your conscience bothers you but as you know serious sin must be confessed before communion. If however not receiving causes scandal say to other family members etc one can receive but must confess their sins asap. Her serious issue is the apparent belief as she stated that all that is required is to confess to God. This is opportunity for her to correct that.

      • kathleen

        Helen: Read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about Confession for the answer.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Helen as a Catholic the Church requires that you confess your sins to a priest for absolution and forbids seeking forgiveness by other means. For serious sin you must confess to a priest prior to receiving communion.

      • Tom Williams

        Hi Helen,
        When Jesus appeared to The Apostles after He Rose from the dead His first words to them were “whose sins you shall forgive they are forgive, whose sins you retain they are retained.”
        This is pretty explicite about going to a priest to confess your sins. God has given them the power to forgive sin.

        • olhg1

          IMO, the power to forgive is that of Jesus, God Almighty. His forgiveness comes through His priests. They are His instruments in the Sacrament of Penance, like a pen writing “Debt Paid,” after they take the measure of the penitent. What happened to the sinful-penitent-Catholics on the Titanic who were not able to get to a priest before they died, IMO, was probably another route to forgiveness.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “Mistake” for “sin” is both scripturally and philosophically sound.

    The usual word for “sin” in the NT (it occurs 173 times) is ἁμαρτάνειν from the verb ἁμαρτάνω, meaning, literally, “to miss the mark,” hence “to go wrong,” “to make a mistake.” Latin peccare literally means “to stumble, “to trip.”

    Similarly, the usual NT word for “repentance” is μετανοέω, literally “to change one’s mind,” “to reconsider.”

    Aristotle would have appreciated this terminology; for him, it is axiomatic that acts of the understanding are specified by their object, so good and bad choices are no more equivalent than apprehension and misapprehension, truth and error; rather, bad choices are paralogisms (παραλογισμός = Unreasonable or fallacious).

    The good choice, “This – being such – is to be done,” is intelligible, because intelligent; the act of the bad will is unintelligible. True enough, one can often trace its causes to instinctive or dispositional factors, but it remains logically incoherent.

    • Rusty

      Very interesting. However, there is a further logical piece that is missing if we simply characterize sin as “mistake” without expanding on your “act of the bad will”.

      The question of volition is not necessarily present in describing an act as mistaken. The intent behind the act needs examination before it can be understood. Sin is certainly a mistake, but it is also putting one’s own will before God’s will. One can, presumably, make a mistake in attempting to perform God’s will, despite all good intentions. This can still be sinful since the effect of the act may be evil.

      For example, assisted suicide or euthanasia to limit the suffering of others may have a positive motivation but be inherently evil. This is certainly more serious than a “mistake”. Unfortunately, for those who are in positions to make public policy decisions, the concepts of sin, grace, redemption, and respect for traditional standards of morality are too often irrelevant.

    • Michael DeLorme

      Taking a wrong turn off of the Throgs Neck Expressway is a mistake. Chopping up baby parts in order to sell them seems somewhat more deliberate.

      I doubt Our Lord died to redeem us from the former; incredibly, He did die to redeem us from the latter.

  • Marguerite

    Maybe if 2015-16 were proclaimed a Year of Repentance, more souls would seek forgiveness and mercy in Confession. Mercy seems to be decoupled from God’s justice. We humans tend to forget that if God is all merciful, he is also all just. Catholic teaching proclaims that God’s mercy is abundant now if we turn away from sin, but if not, after death his justice then takes over.

    • Andrew Joe Nelson

      This is true. We have forgotten the Four Last Things.

  • Michael DeLorme

    The late Harry DePuis, who taught English literature at St. John Fisher College, in Rochester, N.Y., used to tell his students: “Every man who ever wrote a book is a fool; so choose your fools wisely.”

    Ezra Pound, in “Guide to Kulchur” wrote that the struggle for every serious writer is to master, as far as is possible, the canon of all that has been said in literature and poetry, once and for all, better than it can ever be said again; and then to attempt to express what still needs to be said, just as well.

    When actress and singer Pearl Bailey died, a close friend was quoted in a newspaper article as saying: “When Pearl Bailey sang a song, it stayed sung.”

    As one of those many who continue to wrestle with his own less than full-throated approval of Pope Francis it’s not, for me at least, that when he says something orthodox I feel he’s necessarily throwing us a bone. It’s that even his most orthodox utterances sound so mundane.

    I speak entirely for myself; but nothing that this pope has said galvanizes; nothing captures the imagination or shows things in a new and unexpected light in a way that gives a particular idea a new clarity. It may be my own hardness of heart but, so far nothing that he sings stays sung.

    On the other hand: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy: Pope Francis and Cannonball Adderley! There’s still hope.

    • Tom Williams

      You share my sentiments, you said it well. I do not read much of what Pope Francis says these days, as the singer does not seem to resonate with the song. I pray for him.

      • Michael DeLorme

        We sheep should always pray for our Pope no matter who he is; and I do, though not always explicitly. We shouldn’t have to shepherd him. We shouldn’t have to read-between-the-lines to glean hope and sustenance. He’s our shepherd!

  • o_mlly

    “Biographies of the pope haven’t explained why he seems so fixated on repudiating “rigid” Catholics … ”

    “Rigid” Catholics are not those who study Church law and doctrine but those who think there is neither room in the pew for the devout anti-cleric in Milwaukee nor the worldly priest in West Palm Beach.

    To be “non-rigid,” a Catholic first acknowledges himself a wretched sinner; an attitude that, absent knowledge of Christ and his offer of forgiveness, is intellectually impossible. He then becomes his brother’s keeper — another wounded-healer (Nouwen).

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Like Bill O’Reilly Dr Royal a fair and balanced review of Pope Francis’ The Name. Unfortunately I don’t always agree with O’Reilly just most of the time is a good start for me here. Like you I like the strong connection Francis makes between recognition of sin and witness “to relay to” Truth. The difficulty is that ‘one must have grace to recognize sin’ and your text is not clear whether it is Francis’ or your point. I question that because it repudiates that man can indeed and does know good or evil by nature. Pelagius’ error was that man does not require grace to practice good acts sufficient for salvation. If man requires grace to recognize sin then it is difficult to presume his responsibility for evil acts. Grace is necessary to perform acts required for salvation. What that means to me, one of those troublesome philosophers, is an excuse to say ‘Well I haven’t received the grace yet.’ In the Profession of Faith 387 “Only the light of Divine Revelation clarifies” sinful behavior. Since it clarifies it means there is already knowledge. It does not mention grace for clarification.
    The problem with books is the majority of the faithful don’t read them. The ones who do frequently will expand on what mollifies responsibility. Or they will read a review. Salient points like recognition of sin and responsibility are essential and are the ones that usually disseminate. That is one criticism the other less empirical and that is the overall effect of Francis’ Pontificate say on statistics on fewer confessions in Italy. You do point that out which is where and on like issues that many of us are concerned. It is the overall bad effect Francis’ Pontificate seems to have on practice. I hope the book signifies a substantial change for the better. The waiting period for that is making that hope seem futile.

  • Manfred

    This is the Pope who removred Cd;. Raymond Burke, the head of the Signatura, the Supreme Court of the Church, and honored Cdl. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who refused to obey Burke’s orde (Canon 915)r to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion catholic politicians, with a position in a Dicastery in the Vatican. These actions were deliberate and they speak louder than words.
    You mention in at least two places “traditional Catholic teaching”. Is it not long past time to roll back the last fifty years and the deliberately ambiguous documents of Vatican II, and restore genuine traditional Catholic teaching?

  • Diane

    Pope Francis has caused confusion from the beginning. If you would read the liberal blogs, they are all for him because they believe that he is going to change The Doctrines of the Catholic Church to embrace homosexuality as not sinful to allow remarried after divorce couples to be welcomed into the Church without an annulment. That people should not have children like rabbits, so, obviously to them, that means couples can use contraception. So that is why his year of Mercy to them and to many Catholics means that there really is no sin and that anyone can do whatever they want wherever and with whomever they want. The Pope does nothing to refute these perceptions, nor do any of our pastors who are supposed to be leading the flock out of sinful behavior. The youth are especially affected because they live in the age of tolerance. To them tolerance means everything is OK as long as you think it is Ok, never mind what God thinks, because God is merciful and he knows that I am a wonderful person who is tolerant to all behaviors because they are not sinful. I agree with Marguerite below, it should be the year of Repentance, and we should asl God for His mercy because of how sinful we and the world is and ask for forgiveness so that we can be with Him for eternity.

    • I think you pointed out something of great importance when you wrote “The Pope does nothing to refute these perceptions.” He must be aware of how his words are being misconstrued, so why does he not loudly and clearly correct the false impression the very next day? The apologists for his neglect to do so often try to excuse him because of more orthodox statements he makes to some tiny audience later. That’s like the familiar pattern of the yellow journalism that puts the Big Lie on the front page on Monday, then publishes a nearly-invisible correction on page 39 a week later.

  • Elizabeth

    Without justice mercy would not be the gift that it is. Perhaps Shakespeare in his Merchant of Venice says it best:

    The quality of mercy is not strained;
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    ‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown:
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
    When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
    Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
    That, in the course of justice, none of us
    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;…

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Elizabeth the more I have contact with Shakespeare the more i’m convinced what a brilliant thinker and above all man of moral wisdom he is. Appreciate your isolating the relation he makes in the implied need to recognize the just demands of God and the consequent request for mercy. Again that is the Shakespearean rub that acknowledgment of sin precedes mercy. If man requires grace for recognition of sin then mankind by nature is not responsible for sin. All they need is our mercy.

    • olhg1

      “…When mercy seasons justice.” Not contemporary usage, but great expression. Will didn’t say “Throw out justice.”

  • Edith Wohldmann

    Pope Francis who invited Cardinal Daneels, Wuerl and Cupich. to the Synod, has made Cdl Daneels prodegee a cardinal. “Who am I to judge” is his agenda. We are like frogs in cold water, the heat is turned up ever so subtle.

  • Orthodox Catholic

    Thank you for this article. I totally agree with you.
    Just one
    remark regarding your mentioning the “recent reports from Italy and
    elsewhere that Francis’ Year of Mercy has led to a decline in
    Confessions”. We should be careful about this assertion. The same Sandro
    Magister who alluded to those reports published yesterday in his blog
    “Settimo Cielo” a letter from a french parish priest saying the exact

    • Michael DeLorme

      In France. How nice for the French.

  • Alicia

    Pope Francis ‘ sermon today at the chapel of of Casa Santa Clara is another riddle. He calls rebels and idolaters the Catholics who are not open to the ‘ newness ‘ of the Lord, the ‘ newness ‘ of the Holy Spirit and the suprises the Holy Spirit brings us. These terrible Catholics are not open to the changes the Holy Spirit’s newness brings us, etc, etc, etc.
    I read it, with an open mind, and have no idea what he was saying.
    Dr. Royal, could you please write a column and explain it ? Maybe someone in todays’ comment can read it and explain it.
    You can spin this sermon whichever way you like and it still wouldn’t be clear, at least to me.
    I do have to give him credit for something. He got me to start praying a daily rosary for the Church because, after his closing speeches at the Synod, and then at Florence, I became really worried for our Church.

    • BXVI

      He seems very fixated on this idea of a “God of surprises” and the need to be open to “newness.” But he never elaborates as to what he means by it. Of course, for those like me who have always seeen the Church as their “rock” – as “solid” – and as providing timeless truths and stability in a world that seems to have gone crazy, this theme can be very off-putting, even scary. He seems to be telling us that anything and everything is subject to change. He also seems to be almost warning us that he’s going to pop us with some huge and unexpected surprise at any moment. I must admit, I find it extremely challenging and, frankly, not edifying at all.

    • Some of us have lived almost their entire Catholic lives with the destruction wrought by those who distorted the teachings of Vatican II with their constant appeals to embrace the “new” (by which they meant the things they themselves liked better). I hope it’s understandable why we would take a very jaundiced view of yet another such appeal, coming fifty years into this disastrous project.

    • John II

      Ironically, I suppose, the Holy Father’s many puzzling utterances strike me as the ruminations of a Jesuit more than a pope. In some of his interviews, he has alluded to his pre-Vatican II formation and his own more youthful religious disposition as something rigorist and brittle. He seems to be recalling a time when the old Catholic Christian formula of cultivating a tough mind with a tender heart had become exactly reversed. It’s as if he is now living out a private rebellion of his own against a past he now finds acutely disagreeable.

      I’m no armchair psychologist, but I’ve learned a thing or two about human nature in a lifetime of studying literature. I was educated by the Jesuits and taught at one of their universities for 40 years. So I know a thing or two about the strengths and weaknesses of the Jesuit order, which seems now to be undergoing a gradual disintegration. I think of that disintegration almost every time the Holy Father opens his mouth in public to utter this or that remark that sounds so eerily familiar in its apparent confusion and indiscipline.

      Ah well, at least it’s become clear why St. Ignatius insisted that his Company avoid appointments to the Church hierarchy.

  • BXVI

    I read “The Name of God is Mercy” this weekend.

    In discussing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Father cited with approval an example from a work of fiction. In the book, a German soldier has been condemed to execution by the French authorities (the setting is WWI or II). A priest hears his confession.
    The man has committed many sexual indiscretions. He says he is not sorry and
    would do it all again. But the priest asks if he is at least sorry that he is
    not sorry, to which he replies in the affirmative. The man is then absolved.

    Pope Francis cites this as a positive example, in the vein that all that
    is required is even the slightest turn toward God for the power of mercy
    (apparently including sacramental absolution) to flood in. Honestly, this
    scandalized me. The (fictional) man in the example is clearly not repentant. He
    openly admits that he is not. How can the blatantly unrepentant be absolved in
    the confessional? Am I off-base here?

    • Tom Williams

      I have not read the book and probably will not. If what you say is presented as mercy by Pope Francis in the example of the unrepetant soldier is where he sees mercy being applied…we are in serious trouble within the Church. In this example of this confession, given credability by the Pope, I think both pennatent and confessor will be unable to see The Beautific Vision promised by Christ. But perhaps I am being a little too conservative in my thinking.

    • That is unsettling indeed. I would like to ask the Holy Father: “what are we to make of the story of the Prodigal Son, then? The son in that parable goes off with his inheritance, but the father doesn’t follow after him, offering him a reward for coming home; he simply waits. The son must drink the results of his choice down to the dregs before he repents and decides to return—not to ask his father to take him back as a son, since he knows now that he has forfeited that, but just to take him in as a common farmhand or servant. Isn’t that the depth of the repentance to which the Church should call us, Holy Father?”

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Pope Francis needs to rethink Judas Iscariot who had great remorse, sorrow over his betrayal of Christ but did not turn to Christ for forgiveness.

    • Michael DeLorme

      I’m not sure I understand why you’re scandalized. I often think: if I had my life to live over again—knowing what I know now—I’d live my life entirely differently. On the other hand, given the same level of ignorance, lack of perspective, selfishness and the same degree of human weakness, I’d commit all the same sins and make all the same mistakes I’ve already made.

      When I hear someone saying “I’m not sorry and I’d do it all over again” yeah, it seems, on first blush, to indicate a thorough lack of repentance. But the very fact that the soldier in the story is allowing his confession to be heard, indicates another possibility: I’m hearing someone saying “I did what I did because I enjoyed it; and I don’t regret enjoying what I enjoyed. And if I had my life to live over, I’d go right on doing those things that please me.”

      He’s indicating that there’s no malice in his heart; just selfishness—which he sees no way of not acting from. Yet, again, the fact that he does acknowledge being sorry for not being sorry, by that very fact he’s also acknowledging a major blind spot in his conscience:he’s failed to recognize the downside of his selfishness: from broken hearts to broken lives and broken families; from possibly aborted children to children not adequately provided for.

      I’d say it must be easier to repent of selfishness coupled with malice: “If I had it to do all over, I’d never have cheated people to get ahead myself” or “I’d never had stepped on all those other people as I climbed up the ladder of success.”

      But”mere” selfishness, without malice, must be harder to repent of; which is why St. Augustine prayed: “Lord, make me chaste—but not right away.” He knew lust is wrong; but, not seeing the downside, it was apparently addictively pleasurable, too.

  • A real problem is that we’re dealing with a major disconnect between the Catholic and Secular definitions of the word Mercy.

    The Catholic definition always includes repentance, confession, forgiveness, and conversion.

    The secular definition is more what we Catholics call Pardon- unilateral forgiveness of the unrepentant. This is important for sins between individuals- but there is still always the eternal effects to consider.

  • Mike Hurcum

    In all these comments and opinions not one person seems to have read St Faustina’s diary. The one book where we have Christ’s view on mercy: after all who is the expert on mercy other than Christ. His early statement in His revelations on Himself is very interesting. “I am Mercy, but above me is the Father who is Justice”. I find it very amusing wryly so, that the Pope who is advancing the cause of Mercy this Jubilee Year says practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy and yet says,”Who am I to judge”. You cannot practice the spiritual works without ‘ADMONISHING SINNERS”. The poster boy on the papal banner with the works of mercy behind him screens out if you look, the admonish sinners directive.

    • Andrew Joe Nelson

      This is true as there is no mercy without the truth of justice. ‘Before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice’. — Diary of St. Faustina, paragraph 1146.

  • BXVI

    I think the Holy Father has made a massive mis-diagnosis of the illness plaguing the Catholic world.

    Yes, there are some who feel that a) an unmerciful Church has pushed them away, or b) they are unworthy of God’s mercy. These seem to be the people he is most focused on reaching. I hope that he is successful in reaching them.

    I think there is a much, much larger group for whom the Year of Mercy signals something entirely different. For them, it has nothing to do with recognizing their own sinfulness and need for mercy. Rather, they are hoping that what it means is that the Church will show “mercy” by changing certain of its doctrines and/or disciplines which they have concluded are “unmerciful.” For them, the “Year of Mercy” means communion for the remarried, welcoming homosexuals and potentially blessing their unions, etc. etc. The focus is not on their own need to change, but on the expectation that Pope Francis will change the Church.

    Pope Francis and his close advisors have done many things to feed this expectation, not the least of which are a) giving the strong impression that they believe the Church lost its way under the prior two pontificates by somehow forgetting about mercy; and b) constantly castigating as so-called “Pharisees” and “doctors of the law” virtually anyone who defends orthodoxy.

    • Yes, the misdiagnosis you describe is at the heart of the problem. I believe it’s based on a tendency to *guess* why people have left the Church, rather than actually *asking* them why they left. In my own (admittedly limited and statistically insignificant) experience, most leave because they don’t like the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality. They want to follow the world’s lead on sexual ethics and look progressive and “tolerant” to their friends, and the church makes them uncomfortable when it preaches the truth. A smaller number leave because their local clergy has given up on preaching the truth, so they go in search of a church community that challenges them to live a virtuous life.

  • Flunking_retirement

    I used to think, “man, juts get me into purgatory,”, but that’s not in the spirit of the exercise, as we oft said in the old Navy. Look, we all know what to do; say the rosary everyday, go to mass and confession, follow St. Phillip Neri’s call to be good. I think too much emphasis is put on what the Holy Father says, we have been “media-ized”, and the media is a collective fool. Not saying that we disregard the Pope, but realize he is a human like the rest of us.

    • Peter O’Reilly

      Thank you. I’d say you are not flunking retirement, but have a great game-plan: daily rosary, go to mass and confession, Phillip Neri, pray for each other and the Pope. The Holy Spirit is working in us. Thanks.

  • Marvinas2

    I see the problem of interpreting Pope Francis’ messages as twofold. One, there are fewer and fewer children attending Catholic schools, and the public schools are eliminating everything to do with God and Religion – hence, those children are ill-prepared to interpret Pope Francis’ messages, if they even get to see or hear them in their entirety. Two, most Catholics depend on the mainstream media to report and interpret the Pope’s messages for them – a huge mistake! since the media picks and chooses the bits and pieces they want to report and how they want to report it, many of them also unschooled in Catholic doctrine and attempting to interpret Francis’ messages in a way that fits their own – often anti-Catholic, anti-Christian – agenda. We need to get the children back into Catholic schools, and we need to get the Catholic press into Catholic homes.

    • It would help, too, if bishops and priests emphasized the importance of getting our Catholic information from Catholic sources. Our bishop, for one, seems perfectly content to kowtow to the sole local newspaper, which is thoroughly secular in attitude.

    • Jude

      The Catholic schools are barely Catholic at all, and often the teachers are pushing a very different agenda. Oddly enough, not a single teacher I had in all my years of Catholic school had more than two children.
      The most faithful Catholics I know are all homeschoolers.

    • ThirstforTruth

      First, in order to get our children “back into Catholic schools”, we, the laity in cooperation with the hierarchy, must do more to keep our Catholic schools open and operating….as truly Catholic.

    • Rick

      “fewer children attending Catholic schools”

      In Midwest, USA, this is true, but on its East Coast they are banging on the door and begging to be let in. Midwest society is more homogeneous. Catholic schools in the Midwest are much less strict because they have to appeal to the EC’ers the stay in business.

    • Guadalupe Knight

      If this were true. I’m a teacher in a parish elementary school. Fewer than half of my students attend Mass on a weekend. I Pray to God that I am always the best example I can be. Parish schools aren’t the answer unless the families participate. Most students who have gone through our school matriculate into the local public high school, then you see the participation really fall. Honestly, I’m not sure why our doors are still open. It has to start at home..we in the schools can do only so much.

  • lostproton

    The one story from the New Testament of the Bible has the answer to the question here that the second sentence of Jesus to the lady accused idolatry is left out of most quotes on the “forgiveness of sin”. Jesus interrupted the start of the stoning of a lady accused idolatry, when he stated to the crowd; Let the one with no sin cast the first stone. When the crowd dispersed Jesus asked the lady where her accusers had gone. Jesus then said to the lady; Neither do I condemn you. Now the second sentence of Jesus that gets left out; Go and sin no more. That admittance of committing a sin and the perseverance to avoid that sin again in life is the hinge-pin that Jesus did not remove from the “forgiveness of sin” as so many progressives are falsely telling people.

    • JoAnn Leichliter

      Not to quibble with lostproton, but I think the woman in question was accused of committing adultery.

      • Richard A

        She was caught in adultery.

        • RodH

          This passage is often highly misinterpreted. It is NOT a simple sweeping ignoring of sin in order to be “merciful” as it is often portrayed to be.

          The charges were fraudulent. Not because she wasn’t guilty of committing adultery {she was} but because under the Law their was no provision to punish ONE party. BOTH parties caught in adultery were to be executed, not just one. There is no mention of the other. So Jesus could not execute righteous judgment according to the Law if He called for her stoning alone. However…He could have if both had been brought before him, were charged and proven guilty.

          Ever think that what he was writing in the dirt was the name of the guy they let go who very possibly was an accomplice in the whole scheme?
          The mercy here was twofold; First, as author of the Law itself, our Lord through His Spirit gave the Jews a just law, a law that forbade the shenanigans that the crowd tried to accomplish. Second, and brace yourself those who want to show mercy to some and not all sinners…Jesus was merciful to the CROWD, because he could have condemned them in their sin of charging adultery to only one party. But He didn’t.

          As for “judgement”, Jesus judged righteous judgement, not judgement by appearances. He condemned the woman for her sin but let her go according to the mercy of the Law. The Law is not always “unmerciful”. Especially when it is inspired by God…

          • Richard A

            I was merely responding to the ‘accused of …’ framing of the situation. There was more than the accusation; according to the text she was caught in the act.

            I suppose the text invites speculation about what happened to the male party, but it has to remain speculation. I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken about the fraudulent bit; they’d execute either party who’s guilty of adultery, or both, although I’d guess if one party was an ambassador with diplomatic immunity they’d forego the execution. But it was a rougher time for ambassadors back then. I suspect if he were a Roman centurion they’d omit the execution part as well. But that, of course, is not relevant to the point of the story.

  • Donald P. Richmond

    Having just purchased and read THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY, I must comment on Dr. Royal’s less-than-celebratory analysis. It is clear to me, from reading this text, that His Holiness is not changing fundamental Roman Catholic doctrine. What he is changing, and challenging, is the tone in which truth is communicated AND the pharisaical temperament from which it arose: The fundamentalist Catholic “scribes.” Royal references the Pope’s “frequent missteps, lack of clarity, and systematic incoherences [sic.]” but fails to appreciate that our Lord himself also generated such misunderstanding. Truth is not always communicated “systematically” although it will always be communicated rationally….or at least reasonably. The average churchman will appreciate His Holiness’ suspicion of Roman traditional-ISM and its strident refusal to understand that “mercy” is true doctrine.

    • Can you give us a few examples of this “strident refusal to understand that ‘mercy’ is true doctrine?” Five or six should do. Please cite your sources so we can check them out. And by the way, what is a “fundamentalist” Catholic?

      • ThirstforTruth

        It is, I believe, a reference to the Pope’s recent homily on fundamentalism
        in general in Christianity as well in Catholicism. Signs of it are the rigidity
        and hypocrisy shown in what some are inferring as “traddies”…not that it is the reality regarding those respectful of Church tradition, one of the three
        pillars of the Church. The other two being Holy Scripture and the Magisterium.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      The pope is not changing fundamental Roman Catholic doctrine? Is that a measure of the insight you have to offer?

    • ThirstforTruth

      Where is it stated that Roman Catholic traditionalism is refusal of mercy as true
      doctrine? These are NOT mutually exclusive terms though some would have us
      believe they are. Narrow mindedness and rigidity are not exclusive traits of the traditional. Many liberal/progressives are quite set in their ways as well. Let’s
      get rid of this propensity to label one another.

      • RodH

        THIS IS WHAT I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. You are dead right.

        Their whole argument is FAKE. The Pope rants and raves and progressives jump up and down and accuse “Traditionalists” of all these “anti-mercy” “sins” and frankly the whole absurd argument is taken for granted that “Traditionalists don’t show mercy”.

        What “mercy” has this Pope shown to those who demonstrate the “rigor” necessary to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? Oh, the “rigor”…the “sin” of rigor…

        Does anyone stop and wake up and realize that the whole Christian FAITH is rigorous? What, does the Pope not think that what Jesus called us to is “rigorous?” Does the Pope think that the Christian life is “easy” and if it isn’t then it isn’t Christian?

        You know what it is? It is calumny. Plain and simple.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    I have to say this. I’m amazed at the moral astuteness of Christians on this website who are not clergy or hierarchy for that matter. Perhaps the Church [I’m old now but still active] must depend on these persons of faith to recover us from the tatters and restore what the Church really is.

    • Tom Williams

      I am also old Father, but we are not yet so old as to not encourage those who see Truth to fight the good fight. Your wisdom is well received…Thank you.

  • Michael Dowd

    There is something terribly fatuous about this Mercy business. The target audience for this spiritual largess by Pope Francis’ would appear to be folks who think what we (orthodox Catholics aka The Rigid) regard as sinning is perfectly OK. And where did they get this idea? Well, one way is the tacit approval of sinning since Vatican II. And the Mercy door? Nearly comical. How about tying in Mercy with Confession? This has not been done in any meaningful way. The Mercy door would now appear to replace the Confessional door. To me there is something artificial, presumptuous and contemptible about the whole thing. God have Mercy on us all by giving us the grace to confess our sins and amend our lives.

    • Sheila

      After going through the Doors of Mercy (twice already) at our local Cathedral, two of the requirements I must do to obtain a plenary indulgence and get God’s full mercy were to go to Confession and abstain from sin. That sounds fully catholic and strong to me. Abstinence is the tough part. The rule for completion is posted next to the outside of the door as you enter. And It is also posted on our Diocesan website. Therefore, sin is not being glossed over.

  • Manfred

    I echo Fr. Morello’s comments on “the moral astuteness” of CATHOLIC commenters on TCT. I am reminded of Cdl John Henry Newman who traced the positive impact of the laity in the history of the Church through Arianism (, Fourth Cenury-it was the laity who supported St,Athanasius against Fr. Arius and his followers which may have included a pope), The XVI century revolt of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and the appeal of Pioi Nono to the bishops of the world: What do your people say on whether Mary was sinless from her conception?
    BTW, Newman also said :”To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” (Newman knew as he converted from Anglicanism in his forties). which helps explain my aversion to the use of the word “Christian”, as it seems to include Roman Catholics among everyone else.

  • JaneSeymour

    Mercy without justice is meaningless. Sin should either confessed, repented and then forgiven or PUNISHED. Nobody can fool God as St. Paul has said.

    • ThirstforTruth

      So you think the only way sin can be forgiven is in through the sacrament of Confession? That is NOT what the church teaches although it recommends that
      we confess our sins, at least once yearly and preferably more often, as often as once a month. BUT…the Church does not teach that sin is only forgiven within
      the confines of this sacrament. God is greater than that and through his mercy it
      is possible to be forgiven by God by other means. Think of all the Protestants that
      never had access to formal confession or those who might have died without that
      special grace of the last rites. Are they automatically condemned?

      • JaneSeymour

        I did not mention anything about the Catholic Sacrament of Confession. Every Christian can go through this process without any help from a priest. Psalm 51 is a beautiful illustration of it.

      • Guadalupe Knight

        I’m pretty sure one has to confess mortal sin in confession. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

        • kathleen

          Yes, you have to confess mortal sin in the Sacrament of Confession. You must not receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. If you do you are committing a sacrilege. That’s the teaching of the Church for the last 2000 years. You can participate in Holy Mass but must not receive the Eucharist until you have confessed your mortal sin(s) in Confession with a firm resolve not to commit the sin(s) again, with the help of God. And, we must be sincerely sorry for having offended God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a very good resource when questions arise relative to Catholic teaching. It should be in every Catholic home. Very reader friendly.

  • givelifeachance2

    See new advent on the sin of presumption “Presumption is here considered as a vice opposed to the theological virtue of hope. It may also be regarded as a product of pride. It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.”

    • ThirstforTruth

      Explain how any of us deserves salvation. We don’t deserve it and that is the true lesson of humility for the sinner. There is nothing in our own actions deserving of salvation. We cannot earn this gift freely given through His death on the Cross.
      That is why we call Him, Holy Redeemer, Our Savior, Our Salvation.
      The only thing we can do is to live our lives in love of God and neighbor as Jesus
      taught in the Greatest Commandment. In the end, all that matters is how well we
      loved one another because of God’s great gift of love to us, sinful man. If we believe that and manifest that belief by our love for one another, then we can
      hope in His Promise, as our God always keeps his promises.

  • Rene

    We will have a good opportunity to more accurately form an opinion about Pope Francis’ view of mercy when he comes with his apostolic exhortation on the Synod on the Family. He may support the internal forum, or he may come with a nuanced exhortation. Any of these two outcomes will serve to legitimize false ideas about mercy and create more dissent, division and confusion within the Church. He may surprise us, however, and issue an apostolic exhortation in continuity with what the Church has traditionally practiced regarding communion for those living in adulterous relationships, a practice in agreement with the true view of mercy. For this to happen, it appears to me that the Holy Spirit will have to do some arm twisting. From an exclusive human standpoint, one would not expect this from someone who, regarding the Synod on the Family, gave so much prominence to Cardinal Kasper and other Modernist cardinals and bishops. An exhortation in agreement with the true view of mercy would be clearly inconsistent with having given those with false ideas about mercy so much prominence during the Synod.
    Let us pray for some arm twisting!

    • BXVI

      Prepare yourself.

  • Isn’t Andrea Tornielli, apparently a regular visitor to Casa Santa Marta, one of the journalists who spins for Pope Francis?
    There is a Messianic Jewish Rabbi by the name Jonathan Cahn who says in times like this, the grays disappear it is either black or white. Sooner [better] or later, Dr. Royal’s postion on Pope Francis will be known.

    • Padre

      FMShyanguya, the St. Benedict Center is canonically unrecognized by the NH Roman Catholic Diocese. Google ‘feeneyite catholics’ for a better understanding of this group.

  • Dave Fladlien

    I am amazed at the bitterness of much of what I’m reading on this page. OK, my turn.

    First, I think Dr. Royal’s article is about the best effort I have seen in a long time to treat Pope Francis with fairness and even-handedness. We all know that isn’t an easy thing to do. The Pope does quite often seem to say one thing in a press conference, and a seemingly opposite thing in a speech, etc. It is very hard to be sure where he stands. But that fact doesn’t justify all the inferences I am reading below in today’s comments.

    Someone suggested we look at why people leave the Church. Good idea. That person goes on to say that it is all about sex. I know a number of ex-Catholics, and I’d say almost none of them left over sex. They all left because the Church seemed irrelevant to them, or God Himself seemed irrelevant to them, or because they don’t think the Church presents God or Christ in a form anything like reality. Or they just think Catholicism — with all its rules — is ridiculous. But those things are often a failure of us to properly present our beliefs (or a failure to have correct beliefs). Other times it is a failure on the part of the persons leaving, not on our part at all. But none of that is a failure of Pope Francis. Every ex-Catholic I know left before Francis was Pope.

    Those who read these pages often know that I am no fan of Pope Francis, but I don’t want to just bash him either. He is our Pope (at least unless it is determined that he isn’t), and while many of his offhand comments are undeniably irresponsible, so far all of his official positions seem to be consistent with Apostolic Tradition.

    So can we be a little more positive please, and start focusing on how we reach the people around us, and not just on bashing poor old Francis?

    • Diane

      I agree with you that Catholics did not leave because of sex. Catholics left because they don’t believe in sin, so it goes without saying, one of the no sins is to have sex with whomever, wherever and whenever you want. To use contraception, to have an abortion to have same sex relationships. Anything that feels good and your conscience tell you is OK is OK, no ramifications, no guilt. It isn’t easy to be Catholic, but it is rewarding. No sin, no God and that is the rest of the story.

    • Guadalupe Knight

      I don’t think it is much bitterness as it is frustration. When I hear people say we need to be open to NEW ideas and such…well, aren’t the old ideas pretty darn good? The church has been the bark of safety and truth since the beginning, and well, since Vatican II, we have lost most of the Church. Man over board!!!! The New way “don’t seem to be working.” The tried and true way is good and holy. The current messengers need to be more clear in their purpose. I’m no theologian, but I sure see some pretty bad examples from the top down. From what is said and not said all in the name of charity…oops, their’s another one over board…who’s going in to fetch him? I fear that most of these people who have left the safety of the bark aren’t getting their spiritual renewal from reading the documents of our pope or another qualified author but what they might see on the standard news agencies which certainly don’t have the salvation of souls on their agenda but just feeding on and diseminating half truths and made up lies telling the masses that their actions shouldn’t be judged…we’re all okay and everyone is going to heaven…you’re a good person..there, there. It’ll be okay. That’s where most people are. So do we feed them with the truth or what makes them feel good?

  • I agree with Dave Fladlien that Dr. Royal’s article attempted to treat Pope Francis with fairness. But many commenters weren’t going to have any of that today.
    If I was the Pope in 2016 where would I put my focus? Would it would be with traditional or conservative Catholics, who claim to be loyal to Church teachings? Or would I spend more time reaching out to liberal or progressive Catholics who might be more inclined to be open to new ideas or teachings? Perhaps I would decide that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, … to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then again I might heed the Lord’s guidance and know that “those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick, I have come not to call the righteous but the sick.” And I’m sure I would be reminded constantly that “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
    So I might be called to share the good news of Christ with the lost, reaching out to the LGBQT community, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics etc. They will probably need to hear of a merciful Jesus before they are able to open their hearts to the love and teachings of his Holy Church. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the world and my soul shall be healed.”
    God bless Pope Francis.

    • Dave Fladlien

      “They will probably need to hear of a merciful Jesus before they are able to open their hearts to the love and teachings of his Holy Church.” Good point; very good point.

    • Manfred

      The flaw in this argument is that “liberal or progressive Catholiocs” were declared heretics (Modernists) by Pope SAINT Pius X. They were suppressed (see the Oath Against Modernism which every Catholic cleric had to reaffirm every year ubtil 1965) until Vat II when they served as periti at the Coiuncil. It was they who were responsible for the ambiguous documents which the Council produced. Read PASCENDI and LAMENTABILI and see the practices which were condemned in 1907 being performed in your parishes today. This is not rocket science, folks. The Church has not been Catholic for fifty years.
      The present Pope is suffering from dementia. Wake up!

    • Michael DeLorme

      Robert Royal has done a yeoman’s job in reading and reviewing the book by Pope Francis. Yet, in rereading his essay I find 6 different caveats that he himself offers.

      1. The “Francis effect” has “caused confusion and controversies.”

      2 “(his frequent missteps, lack of clarity and systematic incoherences haven’t helped).”

      3. Regarding Francis’s “…perfectly traditional Catholic teaching…” “he devotes little space to such reflections, much more to mercy, even here, so that it seems like the Church is all mercy, all the time.”

      4. “…he seems so fixated on repudiating ‘rigid Catholics'” even though “they’re a small minority, even among regular churchgoers.”

      5. “…he also comes close to saying that study and law are themselves perhaps a distraction.”

      6. Francis focuses on relatively minor/rare instances of priestly coldness-of-heart and “…it’s hard to see why they should bulk so large…in the Church at this moment.”

      In spite of which Mr. Royal recommends reading “The Name of God is Mercy,” first, to “better understand Francis” and also because he’ll make you “…think more deeply about your own hardness of heart and failures to show mercy.”

      The second purpose is a more than worthy undertaking; except that reading Michael D. O’Brien’s “A Cry of Stone” or “Island of the World” or watching the movie biography “Bakhita: From Slave to Saint” provide more than sufficient means for inducing shame in me for failures to exercise mercy.

      So why should one subject himself/herself to picking his way through an admitted minefield in order to “understand” that Francis has his good points? It sounds like one has really got to be a fan already to want to read the book—or an aspiring saint taking on an additional penance.

      • Dave Fladlien

        I disagree. I think there is at least one very good reason to consider what Pope Francis says: he is the Pope. Like him or not (and in general I don’t), he is the primary authority in the Church. While I strongly believe that a *properly-formed* conscience must be followed by any individual person, the Church as an organization must follow the Pope, or it will cease to be an organization at all. At some point we may need a way to “impeach” a Pope; I don’t think we are even close to that now.

        Besides that, if we don’t examine and consider what the Pope says, how can we even intelligently decide whether we agree or disagree? I won’t go so far as to say that everyone should read this book, but I certainly think that everyone should be following closely what this, or any, Holy Father says about things.

        In this article, Dr. Royal has set a good example for us: he has tried to be objective about this Pope. I think we all need to try to do that.

        • Michael DeLorme

          I don’t mean to be flippant, but I believe I’m sufficiently well-informed as to what this Pope has to say. Those things he says that I agree with are nevertheless nothing new and I’ve learned nothing new from him.

          Those things he says with which I disagree are a matter of public record.

          A friend once gave me, back in the 80s, two books to read, one by a dissenting priest; another by a dissenting “Catholic” couple—both extolling the new sexual morality in the Church. I read both books from cover to cover, and concluded that all three writers were snakes.

          When I gave this same friend a slim volume upholding the virtues of celibacy, he returned it two days later, telling me he was familiar with “all those arguments”

          In my experience, progressives always presume that you couldn’t possibly know what they know and still disagree with them. Yet, I’ve never met a one of them who has been as open-minded as I’ve been over the years, in considering opposing views.

          For decades I’ve tried to “see things from the other person’s point of view;” decades giving people the benefit of the doubt. I’ve reached my own personal saturation point.

          Now, I don’t take no guff—not even from popes. If it smell like BS, it’s BS.

          As I’ve indicated in a previous post, Francis has my prayers; both for his own personal growth in holiness and for the success of his pontificate.
          I don’t see that I owe him much more than that.

  • Correction – “only say the word and I shall be healed.”

    • Diane

      ‘Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall healed.’

  • Robert Wheelock

    I am an old priest and bewildered by the culture we live in today. It looks to me that we have so stressed the Social Justice Gospel that most people do not realize that the first point of Jesus is “to be Holy as….” and “go teach, Baptizing them…… Where is the stress on a holy life, a life centered on God. If we have that we will from that be kind and caring, helping the poor as just a part of who we have. Aetheistic social workers can do good works but they are not virtue because they exclude God. Catholic Christians do good works because we love Jesus and the Trinity so much it just flows from us as naturally as blood in our veins.

  • Thanks Diane but the old version just seems to come naturally after 50 years.

    • Diane

      Your welcome!

  • Arden Abeille

    “John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and II, Benedict XVI all affirmed mercy without displacing so much else”

    Can we bear in mind that Pope Francis is FOLLOWING these (and all other previous) Popes, and consider that he is BUILDING UPON their teachings? He need not (indeed, time is short and he must not) simply keep repeating the teachings that have already been taught. If we want those, they are available to us; now more than ever, we can find them all fairly easily at our fingertips. He is bringing the message he is charged with bringing, which (for faithful Catholics) ASSUMES familiarity with all that has come before (to the extent that we are not familiar, that is our shortcoming, not his), and carries us on from there, challenging us (as you say) to view things (including ourselves) MORE DEEPLY.

    For those outside the church (which I believe he has a special mission to, in these desperate days for Western culture), he is communicating something that startles them and conflicts with their preconceptions and misconceptions (including that God is a big mean “judge-y” guy in the sky, and that the Catholic Church is all about guilt and repression and condemnation). Indeed, what THEY probably MOST need to hear is that God LOVES them, and that God wants them, prodigals that they (and we all) are, to come home. Thus his “over-emphasis” on mercy. Nobody sends out an invitation to a gathering that says at the top, “you really stink and need to do something about that, THEN you could come to my gathering.”

    • olhg1

      There’s a story about Pope Jn XXIII, that has his finance minister telling him that the Vatican wouldn’t be able to pay its employees because the charities of the Church’s missions would be shorted funds. The Holy Father was supposed to have said “Pay our workers. Justice before Charity.”

      • Arden Abeille

        “If you, Oh Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?”

        God’s Justice and Mercy are not two different things, but one–they are two different ways that we experience His love (for more eloquent statement and exploration of this, see Peter Kreeft’s _The God Who Loves You_).

        We limited mortals, trapped in time, do sometimes have to order one good before another. While Pope John XXIII was no doubt wise to prioritize as he did in that situation, perhaps Pope Francis is also recognizing the necessary order here; recognizing, indeed, the impossibility of getting clean while one is still in the pigsty?

  • RodH

    Ridiculous is the word that comes to mind when I read of sweeping and generalized condemnations of Traditional Catholics. As a convert, my experience is that the lion’s share of the Catholics I have met in the various novus ordo parishes do not appear to be particularly concerned with sin at all. Yet the Traditionalists ARE, and not concerned about everybody else’s as the implication always is, but about theirs. Yeah, they may speak in stark tones about sin and the state of the Church, world, etc, but when I attend the FSSP parish I have to get there EARLY to make sure I don’t miss Mass for the long line in confession whereas when I go to the novus ordo parishes, well, there ain’t no line t’all…

    An anecdotal example to be sure, but one that gets to my point; The Pope rants and raves about people who are struggling to live the life they are called to live by Christ and the Church and has about zilch to say about those who treat the 10 Commandments as options for the self doting.

    Sorry, but as I said, as a convert, I have simply made my observations and find myself strongly attracted to the Traditionalist parish I have to drive nearly 2 hours to get to as opposed to the novus ordo parish located 20 minutes from home.

    I just wonder what would happen if the Pope and the Bishops gave the FSSP and the ICKSP etc some real and significant support. I know our FSSP parish is busting at the seams, wearing the Priests out and has a building program for a new Church.

    The gray hair in every NO parish I have attended in my region indicates that in 20 years the only building they are going to see is plywood over the doors or a minaret where the statue of Our Lady used to be…

  • Lou Iacobelli

    We often say that to understand what’s really going we should “Follow the money.” But to get to know a person, we should first follow the language. It reveals their thinking. Pope Francis is best understood with these words: “God is mercy,” who am I to Judge,” less talk of sin, Lutherans can decide if and when to receive communion and criticism of “rigid” Catholics. One’s languange unmasks the soul.

  • olhg1

    A puzzling-and observable-religious routine of many people, is that they go through the ritualistic motions -“Traditions”-of their respective liturgies, and then, in many ways, explain that they’ve done their duty to their Deity. The quote in St. Mark, 7,6 (from Isaiah 29,13) springs to mind “…far from ME” and when these folks are asked about their “traditions” seem to imply that the questioners are jerks and infidels.

  • I am no theologian but I know that Jesus also condemned legalism. I believe the Pope’s message of mercy is intended more for the individuals whether ordained, religious, or lay. The priest must still be the confessor and help us bring our souls to God for healing, but he can condemn sin and offer penance without being judgemental himself among his flock or his greater community. Everyoone deserves mercy, whether repentant or not, but only the repentant can be reconciled to God. Condemnation does not convert the broken soul or the hardened heart. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” For me, it is much like my parents raised me: I had no fear of their wrath, I feared their disappointment. The difference here not only helped keep me from wayward behavior, but assured me that I could bring my troubles to them because that disappointment would always be followed by mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The assurance of reconciliation is more powerful and more effective than the assurance of condemnation.