Pope Francis Does It Again

I was just thinking on Saturday that it’s been a while since Pope Francis has given us one of his zingers. And then it came yesterday, at the Sunday Angelus. As Vatican Insider reports:

“We all know in our communities, in our parishes, in our neighborhoods how much hurt they do the church, and give scandal, those persons that call themselves ‘Very Catholic,'” the pontiff said Sunday.

“They go often to church, but after, in their daily life, ignore the family, speak ill of others, and so on,” he continued. “This is that which Jesus condemns because this is a Christian ‘counter-witness.'”

In an off-the-cuff, the pope spoke of the legalism of Pharisees and of Christians today:

“Caution!” Francis exhorted the crowds in the Square. “With these words, Jesus also wants to put us, today, on guard against considering that the exterior observance of the law may be sufficient to be good Christians.”

“As it was for the Pharisees, there also exists for us the danger of considering our place as better than others for the only fact of observing the rules or customs, even if we do not love our neighbor, [even if] we are hard of heart or prideful,” said the pontiff.

“The literal observance of the precepts is something sterile if it does not change the heart and is not translated into concrete attitudes,” he said, giving examples: “Opening yourself to the encounter with God and God’s word in prayer, searching for justice and peace, giving help to the poor, the weak and the oppressed.”

Well hey – I think we monks could be considered “very Catholic,” and I’m sure most all Pray Tell readers could be considered “very Catholic” and “very Christian.” I think the pope’s words apply to all of us.


    1. @Jeffrey Maurer:

      That “joke” got old like two winters ago.

      @ Rita Ferrone

      “…when we are careless about religious observances it comes with a temptation to doubt (is any of it worthwhile?).”

      So so very true, and for me, this has always been a bigger temptation and greater challenge. I struggle with it daily, especially with prayer.

      1. @Elisabeth Ahn:
        Elizabeth, thank you for your beautiful candor.

        Perhaps Pope Francis is able to nail the problem of pride in being “such a good Catholic” because he himself has struggled with it, and seen the folly of it. I am sure we all struggle with something. One of my own struggles is against discouragement.

        But, back to the pope. Where there is a way to hold to discipline with kindness and not harshness or pride, where there is a way to relax without losing our grounding in what matters most — that’s surely where the Spirit leads.

  1. Thank you for quoting this! I think he has named a very persistent human problem. The words “hard of heart” and “prideful” are key here, as is “sterile.” He hears the gospel coaching us on how to proceed if our observance of religious practices are going to be fruitful. I don’t think we can ever tire of being reminded of this! It’s a human weakness that when we do all the outward things “right,” it comes along with an inward temptation to pride and harshness toward others, just as when we are careless about religious observances it comes with a temptation to doubt (is any of it worthwhile?).

  2. I used to refer to such individuals as “super Catholics”. In my experience they never seem to notice the gap between their “orthodox” beliefs and their casting the net of judgment far and wide. That Gospel was the zinger that occasioned these comments from Francis. “Did you notice Father doesn’t wash his hands at weekday Masses?” “Yes, and he permits the people to hold hands during the Lord’s prayer.” “Sometimes I think he’s not reading all the right words at the altar, he sure doesn’t look at the book very much.”

  3. @ Fr. Jack Feehily,

    Your critique of the “orthodox” can appear to be a crutch or an attempt to justify disobedience in minor things to one’s self in light of what Jesus said to the “orthodox” scribes and Pharisees of his day, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others” (Mt 23:23). To “practice the weightier matters of the law,” and to celebrate the sacred liturgy in fidelity to its minute rubrics are not exclusive. One only has to insist on self discipline and be merciful, patient and loving toward others. This is the way of Jesus.

  4. Look…the only way he gets our attention is when we know what he says is true. I just hate it though when I know he’s secretly talking about me.

    Back to opening myself to the encounter.

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