Very early in the papacy of Pope Francis, I reached the height of my frustration with the seemingly endless confusion he prompted within me and within the laity altogether. It was at this point that it dawned on me that the Church is much bigger than Pope Francis. Indeed, God is infinitely bigger than Pope Francis. Further, Catholics tend to see things in terms of eternity, not in the here and now, or at least we are supposed to. In that sense, the papacy is much bigger than Pope Francis is.
In considering all of this, I determined that Pope Francis is a “bookmark” until we have our next pope. I wrote a blog post at the time saying that Francis is “the bookmark Pope.” Unfortunately, friends of ISIS hacked my blog, and all of my posts up until that point evaporated, including the “bookmark Pope” post.
I didn’t think much more about it until it dawned on me that Church Militant was also taking a stand-offish view of the Holy Father. They, too, don’t wish to step on the papal toes but assuredly disagree with some of his more outrageous pronouncements. We know they disagree, right? They just don’t say so. Not really.
Today, I learned that Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture has come to this same conclusion.
Worrying about the daily confusion and sorrow Pope Francis introduces into our lives can impede us from working on our first priority—which is living our Catholic life in Christ as fully as we possibly can. With only exceedingly rare exceptions, we are in no position to offer correction to the Holy Father. Therefore, it will do us little good to engage in endless arguments over what is wrong, whose fault it is, and how the problems posed by the current papacy might be resolved. And not only will this do us no good, but it can be a significant source of scandal to others, most of whom will have little or no awareness of the issues at stake.
I’d like to suggest that it is time to turn the corner on Pope Francis. Most of us have no cards to play in the game of improving the papacy. But we do have our own callings, our own God-given talents, our own opportunities to engage in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, to teach the truth and to foster the good. When we can use something Pope Francis has said or done in our own Catholic service, then we should—all the better! But when we cannot take our inspiration from Pope Francis, we can still reference Our Lord and the Church He founded. We do not need to come up against Francis and grind to a halt. That’s what I mean about turning the corner.
How can the faithful remain at peace when this Pope gives us so much pain? Simple. The Pope is not God. He is not the Church. He is not even the papacy. He is one pope. We’ve got this.
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62