Catholics, Let’s Unite Around Pope Francis

Catholics, Let’s Unite Around Pope Francis

The future of the Church depends upon it.

[Sort of like the appeal to Unionism and abolitionism of the Civil War song “Rally ‘Round the Flag” by George Frederick Root; or as G. K. Chesterton puts it: “My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”]

Posted on September 27th, 2016 by Tom Hoopes

This article first appeared in Aleteia.

My book, What Pope Francis Really Said, has started shipping and not a moment too soon, it seems. The book defends Pope Francis at a time when a lot depends on defending him.

The Church will win in the end, we know, but there is no guarantee that it will carry the day in the West in our century. That will depend entirely on our fidelity to the pope. Consider:

First: If we undermine the pope, we lose Church doctrine.

This is already happening, and has been for quite some time. Many things that Catholics believe about what the Church teaches are simply examples of what the media wishes the Church taught. And they persist because we let them.

Take the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried. Commentators are taking advantage of the pope’s ambiguity (and, yes, his lack of clarity is definitely part of the problem) to make sure his words are taken only one way. They want everyone to be certain that the Vicar of Christ wants to change two millennia of Christ’s teaching.

But as one defender of the Church’s teaching put it: “Those who think this is equivalent with ‘Catholic divorce’ are mistaken. Marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It is doctrine. It is an indissoluble sacrament.”

That defender of Church teaching is none other than Pope Francis himself.

If you haven’t heard that he said that, spread the world. Don’t help the media redefine Church doctrine. Reject the approach that likes Pope Francis but doesn’t like doctrine, and the approach that likes doctrine but doesn’t like Pope Francis. Insist on both doctrine and papal fidelity.

Otherwise, we make the media the definer of our faith. And that’s a problem.

Second: If we undermine the pope, we won’t survive persecution.

Msgr. Charles Pope has given some excellent advice on how Catholics in today’s America should be preparing for persecution.

We do need to prepare, because persecution is coming, and it will either draw the Church out or drive it underground. Some Catholic cultures have grown or thrived under persecution — in many others, persecution all but eliminated the faith for centuries.

“Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter,” said Jesus. The Catechism applies that verse to Christ as our ultimate shepherd (No. 764) and then to the apostles “with Peter as their head” (No. 765).

Today, it adds, “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful’” (No. 822).

If that is true, then there is no question whether or not the Church in the West will scatter under persecution: We absolutely will. Sheep who are actively engaged in undermining their own shepherd have, indeed, already begun scattering.

I’m sure I could find enough holes in Pope Francis’s words to demonstrate a dozen different ways that he’s wrong about a dozen different issues. But what would I gain?

I would demonstrate that the papacy is an impediment to my brilliance, and that might work for a while. Eventually, though, I’ll end up far away from Jesus Christ. There is only one “perpetual and visual source of unity with him,” and it isn’t my personal brilliance.

Third and most important: If we undermine the pope, we will stop the advance of the Church.

For Catholics, Matthew 16:18 is papal apologetics 101. That’s where Jesus Christ says to Simon the fisherman: “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Gates are a key metaphor. Gates don’t attack us, we attack gates. This verse makes the Church not a bunker of refuge from evil, but an army which roots evil out of all its hiding places.

What is our place in the attack? “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life … under the leadership of the Pope” says the Catechism (No. 899).

The world is falling into darkness, and Pope Francis is promoting human dignity, gender sanity, religious freedom, peace against terrorism, and, yes, marriage, in effective ways that can reach new people.

I totally understand why many of us feel uneasy with Pope Francis. But I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity by Servant Books to spend a year delving into What Pope Francis Really Said on each of these issues. After writing it I am confident that we do not have a weak, naïve, bumbling commander. We have a defender of the faith with a definite plan to advance even past the gains of John Paul the Great and Benedict the Theologian.

All he needs is a front line of Catholic lay people who believe Christ’s promise and back him up. I’m in. Are you?

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.

Get AQ Email Updates

18 comments on “Catholics, Let’s Unite Around Pope Francis

  1. The pope is undermining himself and Catholic doctrine along with him. It would be better to rally around the Council of Trent, orthodox Catholic teachings, and Cardinal Bellarmine. The Catholic brand is already being damaged severely by the progressive modernism of the Spirit of Vatican II, Bergoglio’s clowning and buffoonery, and clergy scandals. It will take a LOT more than a PR campaign for Bergoglio and his style of progressive modernism to revive the Church. Get serious.

  2. Mr. Hoopes,
    This is for you and for your fellow brain-dead neo-Catholics:

    • The original Kool-Aid: Guyana Punch

      There’s a strange one in the jungle
      And I think I hear him calling my name
      There’s a strange one in the jungle
      And he’s offering death without pain

      Freshen up, freshen up, freshen up

  3. “The world is falling into darkness, and Pope Francis is promoting human dignity, gender sanity, religious freedom, peace against terrorism, and, yes, marriage, in effective ways that can reach new people.” Unfortunately Pope Francis is not promoting Catholicism. Can this man possibly be serious? The creed of St. Athanasius makes very clear that one has to adhere to the Catholic Faith in order to be saved, not any particular pope, and particularly not a pope who seems hell bent on undermining the Catholic Faith. I find it astounding that anybody could hold to such asinine opinions regarding the present pontiff. He needs to be ignored or resisted not followed.

  4. Mr. Hoopes is former Regnum Christi, the Maciel mind-control cult. To his credit, he left. From

    I was executive editor of the Register (as well as a member of the Legion’s closely associated lay movement Regnum Christi) when the news broke. I stopped attending Regnum Christi meetings immediately and told any Legionary who would listen that I was done with the movement.

    Not many would listen.

    The culture in the Legion of Christ made it very hard for Legionaries to simply admit that the founder was as bad as the facts showed him to be. Publicly, the Legion was only saying, “We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest,” and there was an effort to sum up what he had done as “misdeeds.”

    The entrenched attitudes started to change a year later, when a March 2010 Vatican communiqué described Father Maciel as “devoid of scruples and of genuine religious sentiment.”

    It’s hard to imagine a more devastating assessment of a religious founder.

    How now, Tom? You did the right thing when you learned of the problems with Maciel, but I don’t think you’ve fully shed the mind-control aspect they drilled into you. Those of us who most stridently criticize Pope Francis are doing so for the good of the Church. Did you not leave LC/RC for the good of the Church? But we never leave the pope or the Church, nor do we ever “undermine” him.

    As Howl observes above, it’s Francis who undermines himself. It is he who is letting all the world down, failing to fight the good fight. We are like the Israelites who held up the arms of Moses lest the battle be lost. So what if others see this as exposing his failings — which includes yourself. In fact, if no one was speaking out, you wouldn’t be writing your article. You minimize the concerns of many faithful Catholics, and raise your straw man of “undermining.” Your concern is with the wrong persons.

    • And one more thing, Mr. ex-Maciel cultist. You dance between the raindrops to find the choice morsels of Francis’ teachings. But Maciel, you tossed. I thought his works were central to the spiritual life of LC/RC. Why not keep the “good” from Maciel? You and I know why — it’s to avoid the poison. Same goes for Francis. Intelligent non-Catholics and fence-sitters will see through your arguments.

  5. The scandal of the Bergoglian pontificate with its dissembling progressive modernist Situation Ethics and crazy advice on air conditioners and climate change hysteria is public. It is already harming the Catholic brand and scandalizing other Christian groups with which previous popes had made some gestures of ecumenism and sought common cause on such things as pro-life issues and defending marriage and the traditional family. If Bergoglio continues in the same progressive direction he will do more damage to the Catholic Church. These are all obvious to literate Catholics. The Church is in serious trouble. Only a new pope with some commitment to orthodox Catholic teaching will be able to clean up this mess. Attempts to deny that do not serve the cause of the true Catholic faith.

    Since some of the more conservative neo-Catholic defenders of Vatican II are beginning to see the problems with Bergoglio it is only a matter of time for them to connect the dots and see that these are effects from the progressive modernist Spirit of Vatican II. Bergoglio is Robert Drinan on steroids with a South American accent. It is as if Drinan, Hans Küng , Richard McBrien, or Charles Curran had become pope. 1970s progressive modernism and Situation Ethics from Commonweal of that era have taken over the papacy. No true Catholic can support or defend that. Pray for a Catholic pope. While Bergoglio continues to deconstruct the Catholic Church and the papacy with his progressive modernist agenda faithful Catholics have a duty to cry foul and protest.

    Cardinal Bellarmine, call your office.

  6. More by Tom Hoopes (this time in the Neo-Catholic Register) on the same theme of “Rally ‘Round the [Pope], Boys” – confirming GKC’s observation: “My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

    Catholic Journalists and Pope Francis

    BY TOM HOOPES, COLUMNIST Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016

    It can be hard to process all of Pope Francis’ sometimes-surprising pronouncements. After finishing my book called What Pope Francis Really Said, it seems that the opportunities for an expanded edition are never lacking. The latest: the brouhaha over his “addition to the works of mercy.”

    It is important to get to the bottom of what Pope Francis really said, because we need a strong shepherd. As Jesus himself said, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” The problem: Sometimes it is the sheep themselves who strike the shepherd.

    At least that is how it feels when Catholics go after Pope Francis.

    It is easy to understand how they feel: Many Catholics instinctively dislike the Pope’s style of casual ambiguity. Those who felt awed and grateful watching Pope John Paul II or reading Pope Benedict XVI often feel a little deflated watching Pope Francis. Feeling underwhelmed by the Pope is understandable. Savaging him in public isn’t.

    How to treat a shepherd who does the wrong thing? Biblical precedent can be found in Genesis 9:21-23 — the story of Noah’s sons finding their dad naked and drunk. They avoid even looking at him as they cover his shame with the original “cloak of charity.” They certainly don’t snap photos of him and put them on their blog under the headline “How foolish our ‘holy’ father is!”

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Pope Francis is behaving like a disgraced drunk. Quite the contrary. But if I thought he were, the last thing I would do is try to make it worse for the Church by broadcasting it.

    The latest thing that the Pope is getting flak for is the “new work of mercy” he reportedly said he wants to add to the original seven. Only he never really said that.

    This criticism, like so many others, always takes the most dissenter-friendly possible reading of what Pope Francis is doing and then helps cement that as the normative reading of what he is doing.

    In recent remarks in Rome, Pope Francis reiterated that there are “seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy.” He lists them in a footnote. He never proposes changing them.

    He notes that “the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.” He points out that “care for our common home” can also meet that end. Then he proposes a “complement to the two traditional sets of seven: May the works of mercy also include care for our common home.”

    So he wants care for our common home — for the environment — to complement (not add to) the works of mercy. It seems clear what he is saying: “Here are the lists of seven spiritual and seven corporal works of mercy. Care for the environment can meet the goals of both lists.”

    Think of minimizing water pollution and stewarding food production as helping those who thirst and hunger; think of comforting those afflicted by environmental devastation (in China, for instance) and admonishing those responsible (in economies that flood themselves with made-in-China goods, for instance).

    By contrast, when Pope John Paul II added mysteries of the Rosary, he spelled them out; he made it clear that he wanted there to be more mysteries of the Rosary now. He didn’t say meditation on the public life of Christ can “complement” the Rosary; he said, “Here are five Luminous Mysteries.”

    If someone truly thinks Francis was wrong to do what he has done, what should that person do? If anything, the person should thank the Holy Father for broadcasting the traditional list and then shore up that original list by sharing ways to meet it.

    What someone shouldn’t do is gin up outrage against the Pope, because that would do three things at once:

    1) damage readers’ fidelity to the Church.

    2) teach people that the truths of the Church are subject to change; and

    3) teach people that they should be looking to smart lay Catholic writers instead of to the magisterium of the Church for the surest way to truth.

    The Church is counting on the laity to defend the Pope. The Catechism says the laity are “the front line of Church life,” as “the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common head, and of the bishops in communion with him” (899).

    A layperson turning on the Pope is as unthinkable as a soldier turning on his commander.

    And who is the Pope? “The Roman pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered,” says the Catechism (882).

    So there you have it. Does that mean no layperson should ever criticize the Pope? That depends.

    If you are Janet Smith and have done the difficult work it takes to receive academic credentials, it may not only be okay for you to comment, it may be your job to clarify points of doctrine that suffer from confusion because of papal airplane interviews or other confusing communication.

    But I’m not Janet Smith. I’m Tom Hoopes. I am a Catholic journalist. What I have is not detailed, specialized, credentialed expertise. What I have is the ability (on my good days) to helpfully drive home a truth of the faith because of my ability to write clearly and summon a helpful insight or interview.

    None of those talents equip me to square off against the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, and nothing in my vocation suggests I should try. (One writer made an excellent point: You can tell the difference between an expert and a faker because experts know so little. Fakers know everything. Perhaps you have noticed that we journalists know everything.)

    I’ll go further: My vocation, in fact, calls me to defend the Holy Father wherever and however I can.

    I freely admit that this is not always easy. I spent a year working on What Pope Francis Really Said, and what a year it was. It was the year of Laudato Si and the synod on the family. I was writing about papal remarks on everything from “Who am I to judge?” and “rabbits” to Zika and Amoris Laetitia.

    At first, I hated it. I hated slogging through the Pope’s words at exactly the moment great doubt was being cast on him.

    But now, I am so grateful that I did it. I can hardly contain my joy. I discovered a secret I desperately want to share: Far from tearing the Church apart with oafish ambiguity, Pope Francis is building it up with strategic intelligence.

    It would take a book to explain what I mean. But suffice it to say that we needn’t either strike down our own shepherd on the one hand or cover up his embarrassment on the other.

    What we should do, in fact, is unite around “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful,” which, Catechism 882 tells us, is “the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor.”

    • Far from tearing the Church apart with oafish ambiguity, Pope Francis is building it up with strategic intelligence.
      It would take a book to explain what I mean.

      Yeah, I’ll bet.

      What someone shouldn’t do is gin up outrage against the Pope

      Agreed. But now you’re judging, setting up a straw man.

    • How to treat a shepherd who does the wrong thing? Biblical precedent can be found in Genesis 9:21-23 — the story of Noah’s sons finding their dad naked and drunk. They avoid even looking at him as they cover his shame with the original “cloak of charity.” They certainly don’t snap photos of him and put them on their blog under the headline “How foolish our ‘holy’ father is!”

      Tom, you have it backwards. The ones snapping photos and spreading the shame are the left wing bishops and cardinals. And note that the very bishops who are pushing novelty are the same ones Francis keeps around himself! If Francis isn’t drunk, why isn’t he rewarding the conservative bishops?

      So, who are the children who are putting a cloak over their father’s nakedness? It’s the ones who point out the error by providing the true teaching to counter (cover) the ambiguity. In other words, the ones you accuse of “ginning up anger” are actually providing true Catholic cover. You claim to be doing this also, however, you are not helping those of weak faith to avoid the naked infidelity of Francis. They will easily perceive your condescension toward them. They’re not stupid, and clearly see the nakedness.

  7. While anti-Christian barbarians are invading Europe and murdering people in the streets of Paris and raping young women in Germany and Sweden, for any pope to take time out to pontificate on the dangers of air conditioning and the scientific and political debates over climate change and global warming is nothing short of a declaration of senility or insanity. It’s absurd that there would even be a debate about this.

  8. Howl wrote: “It’s absurd that there would even be a debate…”

    Which is, I fear, the whole point of these exercises: Reductio ad absurdum in pursuit of the total disembowelment of doctrine, praxis and the bimillenial prestige to which only the Church may lay claim as the True Israel, the Kingdom of God on earth.

  9. Robin: Holy Twilight Zone, Batman! Is there something absurd about defending 1970s-style progressive modernism even when it is being promoted by a progressive South American Jesuit who becomes pope?

    Batman: Indeed, Robin. Perhaps especially when it is being promoted by a South American progressive modernist. But let’s be careful with allusions to popular mass culture and media. You wouldn’t want to get in trouble with any members of the cultural elite who police standards and issue citations for failing to give the classics their due.

    Robin: Good thinking, Batman!

    Susan Sontag: Camille Paglia might take issue with that, Batman.

    Tom Wolfe: As Professor McLuhan could explain, there are these parallels to absurdity in which progressive modernism and the popular media of the society of the spectacle overlap.

    Professor McLuhan: The society of the spectacle has its own iconography, yes. But we would need to delve more deeply into the media pontificate of Pope John Paul II and his entrance into media culture to get a grip on how the public representations of the papacy affect Catholicism overall.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Oh, we have a lecture at Fordham named after him… I seem to remember one of our speakers relating the internet to the noösphere of Teilhard de Chardin…

    Bob Dylan: It’s PR, man! Managing the narrative.

    Ed Sullivan: PR is important.

    Ed Sullivan: …as these four lads from Liverpool know so well.

    Batman: Which is why you will be working on your Latin homework and all of your Vergil and Cicero translation tonight, Robin.

    Robin: I will?

    Robin: Oh, boy… Latin homework on a Saturday night… Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab

  10. Hunter S. Thompson: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

  11. Robin: The noösphere?

    Batman: I believe Mister Spock is our resident expert on the cosmology, metaphysics, and epistemology of Teilhard de Chardin and may have a report on that for us, Robin.

    Captain Kirk: Mister Spock! The Teilhardian noösphere …analyze using your usual superior Vulcan logic which we no longer call “superior” to avoid being accused of excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism by progressive modernists, liberals, secular humanists, New Left Frankfurt School social theorists, and multiculturalists who disparage all claims made on behalf of Aristotelian logic.

    Spock: Fascinating, Captain. If I may consult the ship’s computer…”The noosphere (/ˈnoʊ.əsfɪər/; sometimes noösphere) is the sphere of human thought. The word derives from the Greek νοῦς (nous “mind”) and σφαῖρα (sphaira “sphere”), in lexical analogy to “atmosphere” and “biosphere”. It was introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922 in his Cosmogenesis. Another possibility is the first use of the term by Édouard Le Roy (1870–1954), who together with Teilhard was listening to lectures of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky at the Sorbonne. In 1936, Vernadsky accepted the idea of the noösphere in a letter to Boris Leonidovich Lichkov (though he states that the concept derives from Le Roy). Citing the work of Teilhard’s biographer—Rene Cuenot—Sampson and Pitt stated that although the concept was jointly developed by all three men (Vernadsky, LeRoy, and Teilhard), Teilhard believed that he actually invented the word: “I believe, so far as one can ever tell, that the word ‘noösphere’ was my invention: but it was he [Le Roy] who launched it.”

    Robin: Boy, those late-night discussions at the Sorbonne sure do get complicated, Batman!

    Professor Sartre: Sometime they do…

    Batman: That, they do, Robin. Which is why you will be doing overtime on your Latin and Greek homework from Fordham Prep tonight. You wouldn’t want to lose your way in the Teilhardian noösphere during a South American modernist pontificate, would you?

    Robin: I guess so, Batman. Do you want me to start with the proper ancient Greek case endings for νοῦς ? Or should I practice the third declension case endings for
    rectitūdō again first?

    Batman: It’s entirely up to you how much homework you do on a Saturday night.
    Just don’t get carried away, Robin.

  12. Robin: Holy Gutenberg Galaxy, Batman! Why are we italicizing?

    Batman: Perhaps for emphasis or as a test to see if anyone is paying attention to the Bacon ciphers.

    Robin: Let’s just stick to the text, Batman! If we improvise with too much deliriously subliminal ambiguity, people will get confused and think that we’re progressive modernists.

    Batman: Well, we can’t let that happen, Robin.

    • Looking deeper into Tom Hoopes’ joy:

      I discovered a secret I desperately want to share: Far from tearing the Church apart with oafish ambiguity, Pope Francis is building it up with strategic intelligence.

Leave a Reply