Pope Francis: a leader with credibility

Here is a quick translation of what Pope Francis said about his priestly identity in the Q&A when he met with the clergy of the diocese of Rome recently:

The Pope then responded to one who asked him how he defined himself now, seeing that when he was Archbishop in Buenos Aires, he loved to define himself simply as “priest.”

“But I really do feel like a priest. I feel that I am a priest, really, a bishop … I feel that way, no? And I thank the Lord for this. [applause] I’d be afraid  of thinking myself to be a little more important, no? Of that, yes: I’m afraid of that, because the devil is crafty, eh? He is crafty, and he makes you feel that now you have power, that you can do this, that you can do that… but he is always on the prowl around us, he prowls around us, like a lion – that’s what St. Peter says, no? But thanks be to God, I haven’t lost “that,” not yet, no? And if you see at some point that I’ve lost it, please, tell me, tell me, and if you can’t say it privately, say it publicly, but say it: ‘Look out, be converted!’, because it’s clear, no?” [applause]

If you want to know why Francis has credibility, has real moral authority – here it is: he has the humility to say, “If I’m getting uppity, somebody please tell me!” It’s a good example for all of us, whatever our level of responsibility in church or society.





  1. He’s like a breath of fresh air, ahhh…..

    Also, at Vatican Radio there was this interview with Monsignor John Kennedy who is an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He spoke to Susy Hodges about Francis’ first six months:

    “…..Monsignor Kennedy points out that it’s clear that Pope Francis knows where he’s going. “You can see that he’s a man with a vision, he’s a man who has plans for the Church…. His plans for further reforms of the Church. ”

    Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/09/13/six_month_anniversary_of__pope_francis%E2%80%99_election:_we_take_stock/en1-728002
    of the Vatican Radio website

  2. Truly a breath of fresh air. Thankfully I’ve met a few bishops over the years who implicitly know and practice what Pope Francis means. I won’t name names, not that many of the readers of Pray Tell would recognize the name, but only yesterday I had reason to contact through Facebook a bishop here in Japan with a relatively inconsequential question – I had a hunch he’d know the answer based on our friendship of over thirty years – and back the answer came within the hour.
    Be good if all Bishops and priests took note of Pope Francis’ way of being and doing.

  3. Brendan I agree, there are many good bishops but we usually don’t hear about them, they are humble servants of God. It seems we hear about the ones who I think like to draw attention to themselves usually with outlandish statements or lifestyles. Unfortunately, the old proverbial saying proves true, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.

  4. He speaks like Jesus in the earliest layer of Q (which supplied many sayings found in the Sermon on the Mount for example) — but I hoped he had stopped going on about the Devil.

  5. It is interesting that his credibility is so high amongst those one wouldn’t expect given his very clear teachings on the devil, on the Blessed Mother, on Holy Mother Church, on popular devotions and most critically on fidelity to the Magisterium, the pope and bishops in union with him. Pope Francis is imitating St. Francis in many ways and this has won those we least expected over to himself, starting first with the progressive cabal in the Chirch, then disengaged Catholics and then beyond the Church symbolized by the liberal media–secularist. In this Francis is brilliant, like Santa Chiara!

    1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #6:
      As Francis states in the article:
      “And if you see at some point that I’ve lost it, please, tell me, tell me, and if you can’t say it privately, say it publicly, but say it: ‘Look out, be converted!”

      I think you should take his advice.

      1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #8:

        I think you should take his advice.

        With respect, Mr. Rodrigue, I believe that the Pope is speaking to us all, teaching us all, and offering advice we might all do well to take.

      2. @Sean Keeler – comment #11:
        I never said I didn’t take his advice.
        Anyhow, if Pope Francis wants to be told he’s “lost it” why can’t Fr. Allan be told the same thing? Or do you subscribe to clericalism?

        You see it’s that circular thinking, that we cannot call out someone because we’re just as guilty that gets us into trouble. However, that is NOT what Pope Francis is talking about. He doesn’t like that circular thinking where no one dares say anything.

        Furthermore Sean, I think Fr Allan can speak for himself.

      3. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #12:
        Not to speak for Sean or Fr. Allan, but there are some of us out here that find the frequent (borderline obsessive), often off-topic, and personal attacks on Fr. Allan from you and Mr. DeHaas in particular to be very saddening. It looks an awful lot like bullying, whether or not it comes from a supposedly righteous desire to call someone out or get even for his own comments (here or at his blog). It also makes the combox a very inhospitable place – especially for those who know their own views don’t match yours. I don’t know why things like what you wrote even get passed the moderator – they seem rather mean spirited and not even remotely to the point.
        Many here are able to disagree with Fr. Allan and others without attacking them personally, I don’t understand why you don’t do this yourself.

      4. @Brendan McInerny – comment #13:
        Brendan, thanks for this. I need to step in – I should have earlier.
        Knock it off, everyone, stop picking on Fr. Allan. I need to delete if it continues, and I will do so going forward.
        And Allan, for your part, please don’t keep repeating your point about Francis really being conservative (like you) – we get it and we’ve already heard that point from you. And it’s kind of off-topic at times.

      5. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #18:
        But Fr. Anthony my repetiveness is to show that those who once were conservative are now progressives in Pope Francis’ hermeneutic which is really cool when you stop to think about this in terms of Gospel reversals! That’s my point, he’s unified us all as progressives in the things I repeat over and over again, but certainly not “useless repitition” but like the “Agnus Dei.” All us progressives embrace his repetitive teachings. I’m just imitating his style. 🙂

      6. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #18:

        And Allan, for your part, please don’t keep repeating your point about Francis really being conservative (like you) – we get it and we’ve already heard that point from you.

        The issue is not simply repeating points but also the total amount of comments.

        Back last year when Rita raised the issue that a few male non-contributors were making most of the comments and few women were commenting, I began to monitor the situation for awhile.

        The male contributors (those people listed in the upper right of the blog) altogether where commenting about 16.1% of the time. That is about right in my opinion. The blog needs their stability and experience without being overwhelmed by it.

        However women non-contributors were only commenting 4.9% of the time while Father Allan was commenting 5.8% of the time. I was commenting 3.1% of time.

        Besides the stability of the regular contributors , we also need the stability of regular alternative voices to those of the contributors or this blog becomes a conversation among the contributors and we might as well not have comments.

        We also need lots of comments by a lot of people. I think everyone should be encouraged to make a comment a day. A comment a day is not too much.

        Also I think new and infrequent commenters should be encouraged to comment as much as possible even many comments per day, That is the only way to learn how to make better comments and to learn from the blog, and for the contributors and regular commenters to get to know you enough to respond to you.

        However when it comes to male commenters who have an established presence commenting regularly we all need to be careful when we comment more than once a day. Are we really contributing something new or just saying the same things again.

        As far as women commenters, the sky is the limit. There ought to be affirmative action prizes for women who out comment Father Allan, or even myself!

      7. @Jack Rakosky – comment #23:
        Thank you for this interesting analysis.
        Am I one of those you, and others, would like to hear more from?
        Look what happened to my comment (number 34) to the post on re reading SC paragraph 51.

      8. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #24:
        Clicking the “Reply” button will “hot link” to a single reply. The HTML code that it shows can be replicated manually, but you need to know not only the comment’s visible number (like "24" in your case), but also its invisible actual number in the blog’s comment database ("1297511" in your case). You can find that invisible number by placing your mouse over the visible #NN of the comment you want to refer to.

        For example, move your mouse over the "#20" at comment 20 by Sean Keeler above. Your browser should indicate to you that the link goes to …/index.php/2013/09/17/pope-francis-a-leader-with-credibility/#comment-1297016. The URL of this particular blog post is “…/index.php/2013/09/17/pope-francis-a-leader-with-credibility”, and the part at the end "#comment-1297016" tells your browser to scroll down to the part of the page called "comment-1297016". That number, 1297016, is comment #20’s invisible number.

        So you could refer to Sean’s comment like so:

        @<a href="#comment-1297016">Sean Keeler</a> – comment #20:
        That’s a great idea, Sean!

        HOWEVER, comments are permitted just ONE <a href>…</a> tag (i.e. a hyperlink, or hotlink) in them. If you have more than one, it will enter the moderation queue. So most people are content just to type "@Sean Keeler: comment #20" and accept that there won’t be a hyperlink.

        NOTE: I have not put the beginning part of these URLs (the “http :// www . praytellblog .com” part) because whenever you paste a web site into this comment box, it will automatically become a link to that web site, and as I noted above, having TWO OR MORE links in your comment automatically sends it into the moderation queue.

      9. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #24:
        Ms. Santini,

        I didn’t even realize I was commenting regularly enough for people to pick up on my general prejudices AND be unsettled to agree with them. I’ll be sure to write under an alias from now on and in a far more circumspect manner. 🙂

  6. “but I hoped he had stopped going on about the Devil.”

    Francis use of the “Devil” and also “Pelagians” and “Gnostics” has a lot of similarities to the use in the Gospels of “Satan” and groups like the “Pharisees” “Scribes” etc.

    “Pelagians” etc. and “Phaisees” etc. are stock characters used to make a point. Any similarly to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. These stock characters enable us to understand and accept a flaw in other persons so that we might be able to detect it in ourselves. Even the “disciples” are used in this manner in the Gospels; we see the flaws in the disciples even Peter and Paul and therefore more easily recognize them in ourselves.

    However when it comes to the mystery of “pure evil” it is best not to locate this either in other persons, or things, or ideas or even in ourselves. For all these are a mixture of good and evil. Once we begin to demonize any leader, or any idea, or any value, or any party, or any movement, or any nation, the result is usually unhelpful and leads to further evil rather than to good. So a “Satan” figure becomes a useful way of talking about temptation by not locating it either in ourselves, or others, or beliefs, or values, or even things.

    Kelley over at John Carroll has a new Lit Press book on the history of Satan (I guess much like his books on the history of Christmas). Its on the way to me so I will be interested in what he has to say about it. It will be interesting to see if Francis has made the Devil such a topic of conversation that Kelley will be able to go around parishes and libraries talking about the Devil as he has been talking about his books on Christmas. His course on Christmas at JCU always fills up promptly.

  7. Fr. McDonald —

    Your last post shows that you don’t understand the first thing about us liberals and what we value. Look again at us and keep looking until you see why our love for him was predictable.

  8. A suggestion – let’s not get bogged down in this side brawl, or about how to interpret what Pope Francis meant about talking about the Devil.

    I mean, my gosh! Let’s celebrate this most holy man and the stance and witness he is giving to us all!

  9. No disagreement, Mr. Haas. I look forward hearing more from a Pope who seems more social worker than lawgiver in a world that desperately needs more social workers and fewer lawgivers.

  10. The place of the Pope in the life of the church has been magnified out of proportion especially since Vatican I. At the same time it can be said that the Popes following Pio Nono down to the present have been distinguished for their holiness of life. But in terms of credibility, five stand out in my mind: John XXIII, Paul VI, the two John Paul’s, and Francis. Let me hasten to add that I can think of many good reasons to laud the holiness of life of Pope Benedict who was also possessed of nearly unparalleled intellectual gifts. He was in fact a credible witness for a significant segment of the church, especially those preferring, in good faith, to restore elements of the pre-conciliar church. But the others are all truly charismatic figures, each in their own way. During his 33 days as bishop of Rome, John Paul excited the imagination of rank and file Catholics by his very selection of a name and by his smiling countenance. His reference to the maternity of God struck a deep chord within me. Francis is coming across as a man who has a clear vision of the mission of the church and of those who are called to be its servant leaders. When he speaks one does not immediately think that he saying this because he’s the pope. Rather his thoughts and comments resonate from the depth of his being. This man is a true believer who aspires to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ who is calling me to deeper fidelity. That doesn’t mean that Benedict or Pio Nono or Gregory weren’t true believers, it just means that some project this more transparently than others. If God wills it, Francis is going to transform the whole notion of ministry, what its for and who it serves. He seems determined to implement the council’s vision of God’s priestly, kingly, and prophetic people by driving a stake into the heart of clerics who use their “ontological” difference to lord it over their subjects. I have changes to make and I’m already an old man.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #17:
      ‘If God wills it, Francis is going to transform the whole notion of ministry, what its for and who it serves. He seems determined to implement the council’s vision of God’s priestly, kingly, and prophetic people… ‘

      Vatican Radio also included an interview w/ Msgr John Kennedy from the CDF and he stated that Francis does have a vision and a “plan”, “reforms” for the Church. I think changing ministry is at the top of the list, he wants clerics who smell like their sheep.

      I will leave off the last part of your comment about “driving a stake into the heart of clerics” if you know what I mean.

  11. Fr. Feehily,

    During a discussion of last week’s “Good Shepherd” sermon, one of our group asked theoretically if the Pope could order (recommend with a vengeance?) that each diocese send 1/2 of its priests on a 6-month mission to inner cities, foreign lands, etc., to be followed by the other half at the end of that time.

    Aside from the obvious “how Mormon!” comment, it didn’t sound half bad. Sure, it would mess up Mass Schedules for a good while, and be a an administrative nightmare, but it sure fits the paradigm of the gospel. But is it even vaguely in reality land?

    1. @Sean Keeler – comment #20:

      …each diocese send 1/2 of its priests on a 6-month mission to inner cities, foreign lands, etc., to be followed by the other half at the end of that time.

      Given how thinly stretched most dioceses are already, I think most bishops would be dumbstruck…

      Perhaps they could send a few at a time.

  12. @Kelly Marie Santini – comment #24:

    Actually you have been doing a very good job of getting through the unintended initiation ritual which I had to go through, too.

    It occurs because a lot of the established people know what each other has said in the past, but they don’t know much about newcomers, and the newcomers don’t know what the established people have said.

    Yes it is a masculine blog with a lot more competition and criticism than support and affirmation. I am often uncomfortable because I worked for several decades in the mental health system where the “talk therapy” model dominated. As one MIS manager described it. “You people talk and talk. Nobody ever really disagrees with anyone else directly. After a while everyone seems to be on the same page and understands everyone else. Then no one does anything. We electrical engineers fight like hell about the correct solutions, then when a decision is made we all pitch in and help.”

    I like your many brief comments. Keep up the comments. I think you will do very well after you figure out the mechanics, the regular people, and some of the regular issues

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