Pope Francis on the “Temptations” of the Synod

In his speech to the members of the extraordinary synod at its conclusion today, Pope Francis spoke of the “journey” of the synod. There were moments of running fast, of fatigue, of enthusaism and ardor, of consolation and grace and comfort. And “moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations.” Francis listed six (depending on how you count them) temptations:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it];

or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

And then he said that “the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us…”

Go, Francis!


  1. He is SO Ignatian. Consolation / desolation, the meditation on Christ’s Temptations… all of it is soaked with Ignatian spirituality. It’s wonderful to see how that spirituality speaks today, so vividly. But it is also very unlike his predecessors, I think, and so may be surprising and disorienting for some observers, who are looking for a more abstract and intellectual response from him.

  2. “Go, Francis!”???

    More than half of what he criticized in this excerpt fits the articles at PrayTell and other similar sites like a hand in a glove.

    It looks like (as usual) everyone takes a hit in the gut from the Pope!

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski – comment #2:
      Exactly! Everyone takes a hit. And what a blessed relief THAT is, after the previous 35 years.
      And I’m not so sure that Francis isn’t playing himself a bit more moderate than he really is, in order to keep everyone on board. Be that as it may, I’ve never in my entire life heard a pope speak this way about traditionalists, until March 2013.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #3:
        I very much agree. The assessment in comment #2 regarding the articles in Pray Tell is way off. There seems to be 2 against the traditionalists and 2 against the progressives, but the former (first, third and fifth temptations) gets the heavier shelling.

  3. Well said, Fr. Anthony. It will be VERY hard for anyone to wag a finger at “others” with one hand and point to the Pope’s words today with the other, without at the same time pointing to a passage that indicts himself. So, if we’re not able to spend our time parsing this to make someone else look bad, maybe each of us will spend it really examining what it says about us.

  4. All of us across the whole ecumenical spectrum have been waiting for reflection like that of Pope Francis. We had become so accustomed to special pleading and partiality. Now we hear language that speaks of passionate impartial love for all the church.

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