A look at some of Francis’ affirmations pronounced during the last Jubilee Audience (April 30, 2016) might be useful to our readers.
“Often we think it is our sins that distance the Lord from us, when in reality it is by our sins that we draw away from Him. … A common way of saying this is that, when we sin, we ‘turn our back on God’.”
So, what is the upshot? That our sins don’t distance God from us, and in sinning we turn our backs and stray from him… These statements really seems to entail an inherent contradiction. What the former statement affirms, the latter refutes. Or perhaps human language is relative and the semantic revolution has taken over the pontifical vocabulary…
Before venturing to plumb the meaning of what was said, we would have to figure out what language Francis thinks in, since the translation of his thought is such a skewing process that it distorts what he really meant to say. And if this type of thing is not corrected in time – Father Lombardi does take action, but always after the bungle – we all know what happens. This state of affairs would surely call for script revision prior to delivery. But, the problem is: that is not the only hazard surrounding Francis’ audiences and speeches. He also tends to paraphrase the text he is reading, or set the papers aside altogether!
“May this Holy Year be the favorable time to rediscover our need of the Father’s tenderness and closeness so that we might return to Him with all our heart.”
It seems to us that the word ‘tenderness’, occurring all too frequently in Francis’ pronouncements, is not an apt term for characterizing the infinite mercy of God. In defining tenderness, the American Oxford dictionary mentions ‘feelings of deep affection’. God is, in fact, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ps 86:15). However, God’s tenderness goes beyond mere feelings. Moreover, his ‘tenderness’ is complemented by the anger, also mentioned, though it possesses a different dynamism in the economy of His Providence (in God, who is absolutely simple, all is present and is identical with His essence). It is truly completed by anger, wrath and even vengeance (cf. Dt 32:35). These ‘sentiments’ are oddly missing from Francis’ vocabulary.
On another occasion, in the chapel of Santa Marta (April 7, 2014), he affirmed that ‘Jesus goes beyond the law’ in being merciful. And he said that ‘God doesn’t forgive with a decree but with a caress. Caressing the wounds caused by our sins’.
It cannot be denied that, without due explanation of their nuances, such affirmations may instill laxity in sinners, and embolden the relativization of sin. These kinds of declarations will not lead transgressors to sorrow for their sins, and much less, to amendment. Does God really caress the wounds caused by sin? Wouldn’t it truer that he cures them? The Bishop of Rome might consider speaking a little less in his homilies, and being more precise.
After all, what is his aim with these cloying sayings? To shake sinners up so that they repent, or rather to numb their consciences? A coin has two sides, and both must be surveyed to verify authenticity. Mercy is accompanied by justice – there’s no two ways about it, but rather two vital sides to the coin.
Francis once affirmed (March 4, 2016) that the confessional isn’t “a torture chamber”. And, in fact, that is not the right idea of confession. Yet, what is the right idea? Is the Sacrament of Reconciliation meant to be a session of caresses and fawning? Should penitents leave the confessional ready to staunchly practice virtue, or feeling comfortable with their sins, and ready to carry on sinning? Note that this isn’t an occasional slip-up (can this happen with a Pope?!!) Francis repeats this often: “Confession is not a matter of sitting down in a torture chamber, rather it is a celebration” and also “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber”
What matters is that sinners return to God. If they do not, being dead set on tenderness will amount to complicity toward the hardened sinner.
It is becoming painfully clear that Francis has a different notion of sin than what Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium teach us. From his perspective, sin is merely a mistake, a blunder; not such serious matter, but really quite irrelevant. This is what any person might gather from his affirmations. As an example, we cite another consideration of his, from March 30, 2016: “God is greater than our sin. Let us not forget this: God is greater than our sin! ‘Father, I do not know how to say it. I have committed many, serious [sins]!’. God is greater than all the sins we can commit. God is greater than our sin. Shall we say it together? All together: ‘God is greater than our sin!’. Once again: ‘God is greater than our sin!’”
It is exactly the type of oversimplification that leads right down the garden path to fatal error. Who could fail to perceive it? Is the Bishop of Rome blind?
A simple member of the faithful, with little formal learning, knows that a man is no angel… And since humanity is so sinful, he might as well just sin. Wasn’t that precisely how Luther thought?
And if doubt still persists (conscience is still alive!), one only needs to hear this: “Maybe some of us don’t like to say this, but those who are closest to the heart of Jesus, are the biggest sinners, because He looks for them, he calls to all: ‘Come, come!’ And when they ask for an explanation, he says: ‘But, those who have good health do not need a doctor; I have come to heal, to save.’” So why go away from Jesus’ heart by trying to sin less?
And what about this rash saying (September 30, 2014): ‘Of what things can a Christian boast? Two things: his sins and Christ Crucified’.
One cannot possibly put Jesus and sin – which are diametrically opposed – on the same level. For Saint Paul, preaching Jesus crucified was cause for glory. Might there be a sinner who glories in his sin? If a sinner (as we all are) has no shame or sorrow for the sin committed, nor seeks regeneration, he will end up dying in his sin and suffer eternal condemnation in a place where tenderness and caresses have no place…(Note of the DB: We have made a study regarding Francis’ affirmation that alters that of Saint Paul in speaking of “sins’ rather than weaknesses’. View it here.)
Speaking about sin, (January 3, 2014) Francis has disconcerted us with his ‘politically correct’ stances. For example, he affirmed that: ‘We are all sinners, but we are not all corrupt. Sinners are accepted, but not people who are corrupt.’
Why this distinction? Is corruption not a sin, then? Since corruption evidently is a sin, can it not be subject to pardon? It seems apparent that, for Francis, the ‘corrupt’ are confirmed in disgrace, and the ‘sinners’, in grace… For him, corruption would surely have to be added to the list of sins that bear no pardon. According to this point of view, the Gospel tax collector Zacchaeus most likely didn’t actually repent, but rather deceived Jesus. Or maybe corruption has a whole different connotation for Francis? What would a thief, a pedophile, a murderer, an adulterer, or an abortionist be in Francis’ eyes? Sinners? Corrupt persons?
On the same topic, in Santa Marta (January 29, 2016), Francis declared: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption. We are sinners, yes, O Lord, all of us, but [let us] never [become] corrupt!’ Let us ask for this grace.’
During the Jubilee audience of April 30, 2016, which we already commented on, Francis declared (for the umpteenth time) that ‘God never stops offering us his forgiveness’. Exactly. And we could further add that, far from tiring or stopping, God actually finds repose in pardoning. However, pardon requires of the sinner, a heart of flesh, not of stone, open to mercy in order to be cleansed and regenerated. Any other idea of mercy is nothing but worldliness and hypocrisy.
It’s easy to embrace and caress. But the important thing is to resurrect the sinner to a new life. This is something that Francis hasn’t managed up until now, nor will he ever, with Raúl Castro, Scalfari, Hans Kung and the rest of the lot.
We can never sufficiently lament so many doctrinal and moral errors based on such transitory sentiments, no matter how tender they be… It is a veritable doctrinal juggling act, which may lead many souls to the eternal abyss.