Derived from the Greek root demos, meaning “the people,” demotic is a rich word that denotes or connotes all of the following: common, vulgar, popular, colloquial, the language of ordinary people, demagogic.
Francis is the first designedly demotic Pope in Church history. Unlike any Pope before him, he basks in the world’s unending praise precisely because he styles himself “the people’s Pope.” The world loves “the people’s Pope” for saying what the people want to hear as opposed to what the Church teaches in calling all men to be elevated from their fallen condition through the operation of sanctifying grace and the conformity of nations, laws and institutions to the Law of the Gospel and the Social Kingship of Christ. The disciples who abandoned Our Lord when He revealed the meaning of the Holy Eucharist declared: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” But so often when Francis speaks the world delights in replying: “This saying is easy, who can reject it?”
The disastrous back-of-the-airplane nod to contraception for eugenic purposes and other “emergencies” is but the latest episode of this ongoing debacle. By now we have seen more than enough to know that “the people’s Pope” habitually inclines his message to the popular sentiment that has made him the religious mascot of the New World Order. Thus he is liable to undermine the Faith every time he speaks or commits words to paper. This pontificate is essentially that of a liberal Jesuit from the Seventies who finds himself in the world’s most prominent bully pulpit and has refused to alter his views in response to the grace of the Petrine office: “Jorge, do not change, continue being yourself, because to change at your age would be ridiculous.”
What could be more revealing of this demotic pontificate than “Jorge’s” ostentatious renewal of his passport under his former namewhiledressed in his papal garb. For Francis, the papal name seems literally to be a mere alias for Bergoglio as he wields the power of the papacy to achieve what he desires. Nothing so trivial as becoming the Vicar of Christ could induce Jorge to cease being true to himself. The crowd roars!
Now we, being adequately catechized adults, know how to cope with history’s first programmatically demotic Pope: recognize, reject, protest and publicly refute his errors while praying for him and avoiding the extreme of purporting to declare that he has lost his office on account of formal heresy. We know this not the first Pope who has spouted error from the pulpit, provoking fierce public opposition, nor the first to be condemned for heresy—while yet remaining Pope in the judgment of the Church. Francis has simply taken to a whole new level these (albeit rare) historical examples of Popes who retained their office despite failures of doctrinal integrity. Let us say that given the very recent historical development of the global mass media, and his penchant for unscripted babbling into microphones, Francis has fully actualized the potential for papal error. This pontificate will be the textbook example of the limits of the charism of infallibility defined by the First Vatican Council, should there be any historians to write the history of the astonishing ecclesial crisis of the past fifty years.
But while we adults can process the calamity of this pontificate, placing it into historical perspective so that it does not overwhelm us and drive us to despair, what about the little children this Pope has scandalized repeatedly? For example, there was that prayerful altar boy, whose hands he pried apart while the video rolled and the cameras clicked awway, mocking him with the question: “
.be&t=25">Are your hands bound together? They seem to be stuck.”
Then there are Francis’s answers to spiritual questions from children, catering to popular notions that could only undermine their faith unless parents or some other spiritual guide immediately repair the damage. Francis’s mission to children appears to consist of hugging, kissing and holding hands with as many of them as possible—as though this is what they need from a Pope—while dispensing some very bad spiritual advice. To a group of gravely ill children, Francis offered the advice that there are no answers to the question why children suffer or why Christ was crucified, that Mary thus felt she had been deceived and betrayed when her own child suffered and died, and that children should not be afraid to “challenge” God regarding their suffering. Read it for yourself:
“Why do children suffer?” And there are no answers. This too is a mystery. I just look to God and ask: “But why?”. And looking at the Cross: “Why is your Son there? Why?” It is the mystery of the Cross.
I often think of Our Lady, when they handed down to her the dead body of her Son, covered with wounds, spat on, bloodied and soiled. And what did Our Lady do? “Did she carry him away?” No, she embraced him, she caressed him. Our Lady, too, did not understand. Because she, in that moment, remembered what the Angel had said to her: “He will be King, he will be great, he will be a prophet...”; and inside, surely, with that wounded body lying in her arms, that body that suffered so before dying, inside surely she wanted to say to the Angel: “Liar! I was deceived.” She, too, had no answers…
Do not be afraid to ask, even to challenge, the Lord. “Why?” Maybe no explanation will follow, but his fatherly gaze will give you the strength to go on…. Do not be afraid to ask God: “Why?”, to challenge him: “Why?” May you always have your heart open to receiving his fatherly gaze. The only answer that he could give you will be: “My Son also suffered”. That is the answer. The most important thing is that gaze. And your strength is there: the loving gaze of the Father.
Compare Francis’s liberal Jesuit rubbish about a clueless Mary at the foot of the Cross with the teaching of John Paul II on the same subject in Divini redemptoris (Mother of the Redemeer):
At that moment she had also heard the words: “He will be great...and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33).
And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned…. How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! How completely she “abandons herself to God” without reserve, offering the full assent of the intellect and the will to him whose “ways are inscrutable” (cf. Rom. 11:33)!....
Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying… This is perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened.
It seems unbelievable that Francis could say such things to sick and dying children, leaving them only with a vague reference to God’s “fatherly gaze” and the statement “My Son also suffered,” as if children had to suffer merely because Christ did—a kind of divine tit-for-tat. Evidently, “the people’s Pope” did not wish to offend the people by mentioning the redemptive power of suffering from the eternal perspective, exemplified by Christ Himself, or the revealed truth that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:180.” No, that is not what the people want to hear. They want to hear that they have the right to “challenge” God over their suffering, to be resentful about it as Mary supposedly was at the foot of the Cross. They want to think that perhaps God could have done better on their account, and that the inscrutable workings of His providence ought to be other than what they are.
Francis is nothing if not persistent. Hence his theme of “no answer” to the suffering of children appears in his latest populist initiative: “Dear Pope Francis: the Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.” Much of the advice in his answers is perfectly sound, but as always with this pontificate there are poison pills. For example, in answer to the question “If you could do 1 [sic] miracle, what would it be?” Francis gave an answer one feels safe in saying would never have flowed from the pen of any of his predecessors:
I would heal children. I’ve never been able to understand why children suffer. It’s a mystery to me. I don’t have an explanation. I ask myself about this, and I pray about your question. Why do children suffer? My heart asks the question. Jesus wept, and by weeping he understood our tragedies. I try to understand this. Yes, if I could perform a miracle, I would heal every child…. My answer to the pain of children is silence, or perhaps a word that rises from my tears. I’m not afraid to cry. You shouldn’t be either.
Oprah Winfrey could have given the same “spiritual advice” to this poor child, who is told nothing of God’s providence or the eternal happiness that awaits the blessed departed and is offered the stupefying suggestion that even God Incarnate weeps over the suffering of children that He Himself allows to occur, but Francis would remedy. Yes, Francis would end the intolerable situation God has allowed to fester in the world since the Fall by healing all sick children regardless of the unforeseeable consequences for their temporal and eternal welfare. But then why not repair all of the innumerable “defects” in divine providence by miraculously ending human suffering as such?
If Francis cannot understand the suffering of children, how can he understand the suffering of anyone, much less the suffering of Christ? Has he never thought of the possibility that a death in childhood may be the doorway to eternal felicity as opposed to a life fully lived but ending in final impenitence and eternal damnation or at best eons of purgatorial suffering worse than any earthly disease? Who is Francis to read the inscrutable designs of Providence regarding suffering and tell a child that he would wish it all away? What do we make of a Pope who has no answer to the question why people suffer when the constant teaching of the Church has always given the answer that leavens grief and fills the grieving with hope for the one they have lost?
But this is what the people want to hear amidst the “silent apostasy” John Paul II lamented near the end of his life: a Pope who plucks their heartstrings by commiserating with them over what God has inexplicably allowed to occur; a Pope who would, if only he had the power, make the world a better place than the one God has allotted to us; a Pope who wants no part of the indispensable role of suffering in the economy of salvation or Saint Paul’s teaching on the true proportion of temporal trials in comparison with everlasting life; a Pope who focuses on “the sufferings of this time” rather than the abiding hope of eternal glory that makes all earthly suffering bearable and comprehensible as a purifying passage from here to eternity, which every one of us must undergo in following the way of Our Lord.
In the same book Francis further scandalizes the little ones in giving the following reply to a nine-year-old who asks whether young Jorge had ever been an altar boy:
Dear Alessio, yes, I was an altar boy. And you? What part among the altar boys do you have? It’s easier to do now, you know: You might know that, when I was a kid, Mass was celebrated different than today. Back then, the priest faced the altar, which was next to the wall, and not the people. Then the book with which he said the Mass, the missal, was placed on the right side of the altar. But before reading of the Gospel it always had to be moved to the left side. That was my job: to carry it from right to left. It was exhausting! [Oh come on!] The book was heavy! I picked it up with all my energy but I wasn’t so strong; I picked it up once and fell down, so the priest had to help me. Some job I did! The Mass wasn’t in Italian then. The priest spoke but I didn’t understand anything, and neither did my friends. So for fun we’d do imitations of the priest, messing up the words a bit to make up weird sayings in Spanish. We had fun, and we really enjoyed serving Mass.
This is just what “the people’s Pope” would be expected to say in answer to the question: mockery of the traditional Mass and the priest who offered it, but happy memories of his youth as an impudent little smart aleck who defiled the sacred liturgy in which he was privileged to assist. Is there really an essential difference in mentality between the irreverent altar boy who thought nothing of committing blasphemy and sacrilege and the Pope who now thinks nothing of scandalizing children with fond recollections of his blasphemy and sacrilege?
The Editor knows, and I know, that articles of this sort undoubtedly tend to incite indignation against Francis. But at this point is not a wave of indignation exactly what is called for? And in fact we see it rising among clergy and laity alike throughout the Catholic world, ranging well beyond traditionalist circles, as for example: here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Let wave after wave of indignation batter the walls of the Vatican in the hope that someone inside will be roused to remedial action, if not Francis himself. Absent any serious opposition from the same members of the upper hierarchy who murmur their alarm in private while doing nothing in public, righteous indignation in defense of the Faith and our prayers, especially the Rosary, are the only weapons at our disposal in the midst of this madness. Lord, may the madness soon end, even if our own sins have helped to bring it down upon us.
Christopher A. Ferrara: President and lead counsel for the American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Mr. Ferrara has been at the forefront of the legal defense of pro-lifers for the better part of a quarter century. Having served with the legal team for high profile victims of the culture of death such as Terri Schiavo, he has long since distinguished him a premier civil rights Catholic lawyer. Mr. Ferrara has been a lead columnist for The Remnant since 2000 and has authored several books published by The Remnant Press, including the bestseller The Great Façade. Together with his children and wife, Wendy, he lives in Richmond, Virginia.