Gregory the Great…

…judges Francis’ idea on God’s mercy aimed at religious syncretism

  • The stubborn and impenitent sinner stores up the wrath of God for himself

Consider, dear brethren, that the mercy of God does not allow any excuse for our resistance. Man has no excuse before God. We despise God, and He awaits our conversion; He sees that we despise him, and yet calls us again; He bears the injuries of our scorn, and despite this, He sometimes even promises rewards to those who return to Him. May none of us despise his longanimity, because he will be severe on the day of judgement, in the same measure as He extended his patience before the judgement. For, thence, Saint Paul affirms: Are you “unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance? By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his work’(rom 2:4-5). (Saint Gregory the Great. Homily on the Gospel, XIII)

  • God chastises with greater severity those whom he has tolerated longer

He who tolerates the sins of wrongdoers for a long time, is sure to demand a strict account. It is thus said from the mouth of Ecclesiastes: ‘The Most High is a patient retributer” (Sir 5:4). He is called a patient retributer, because he suffers and tolerates the sins of men, and afterward pays according to what is deserved; for he chastises with greater severity those whom he has tolerated longer time so that they convert. (Gregory I, the Great. Homily on the Gospels, XIII)

…judges Francis’ idea that it is no longer necessary to declare one’s sins to a confessor to be pardoned

  • Dead in his sin, the sinner will only ‘come forth’ like Lazarus if he freely confesses his wrongdoing

For every sinner, while he keeps his sin hidden within his conscience, lurks within himself, hidden in his own heart. But the dead man ‘comes forth’ when the sinner freely confesses his wrongdoing. Lazarus was therefore commanded, ‘Come forth’, as though it were being said to any sinner, who is dead in his sin: ‘Why are you concealing your wrongdoing in your heart? Come out, by means of confession, you who lurk within yourself through denial’. Let the dead man come forth, that is, let the sinner clearly acknowledge his sin, As he comes forth, let the disciples unbind him. That is, if a man is not ashamed to confess what he has done, let the pastors of the Church remove the penalty he had incurred. (Gregory I the Great. Homilies on the Gospels, Homily 26 – (pg. 99-100))

…judges Francis’ attitude towards public sinners, changing Vatican protocol

  • We should be altogether silent before those who do not change their wickedness

From these words we ought to derive a lesson, that whenever our hearers wish as if by praising us to gain knowledge from us, but not to change their own wicked course, we must be altogether silent, lest if from love of ostentation we speak God’s word, both they who were guilty cease not to be so, and we who were not become so. (Gregory I, the Great, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 23:6-12)

  • The heavenly Physician does not regard the sick who are made still worse by His remedy

Behold she who had come sick to the Physician was healed, but because of her safety others are still sick; for it follows, And they that sat at meat began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgives sins also. But the heavenly Physician regards not those sick, whom He sees to be made still worse by His remedy, but her whom He had healed He encourages by making mention of her own piety; as it follows, But he said to the woman, Your faith has made you whole; for in truth she doubted not that she would receive what she sought for. (Gregory I, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 7:36-50)

  • Like Christ, the priest must carefully distinguish vices, for we must cherish a brother and punish the sinner

So also some gifted with the priests’ office, if perchance they have done any just thing outwardly or slightly, forthwith despise those who are put under them, and look with disdain on sinners who are of the people. But when we behold sinners, we must first bewail ourselves for their calamity, since we perhaps have had and are certainly liable to a similar fall. But it is necessary that we should carefully distinguish, for we are bound to make distinction in vices, but to have compassion on nature. For if we must punish the sinner, we must cherish a brother. But when by penance he has himself punished his own deed, our brother is no more a sinner, for he punished in himself what Divine justice condemned. The Physician was between two sick persons, but the one preserved her faculties in the fever, the other lost his mental perception. For she wept at what she had done; but the Pharisee, elated with a false sense of righteousness, overrated the vigor of his own health. (Gregory I, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 7:36-50)

…judges Francis’ idea that Christ was stained by sin

  • Sin is a wound of the soul

Let us set before the eyes of our soul a man gravely wounded, almost to the point of breathing his last breath, lying naked upon the dust of the earth. In his desire that a doctor arrive, he groans and asks he who understands his state to have compassion. Well, sin is a wound of the soul. You who are wounded, realize that your doctor is before you and uncover to him the wounds of your sins. (Gregory I, the Great. Exposition on the Seven penitential psalms: PL 79, 581s)

…judges Francis’ idea on conversion of the papacy

  • Holy Church stands on the solidity of the Prince of the Apostles

‘For who does not know’, wrote Saint Gregory to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, ‘that Holy Church stands on the solidity of the Prince of the Apostles, who got his name from his firmness, for he was called Peter from the word rock? (Gregory I the Great. Epístola Ad. Eulog. Alexandr., quoted by Pius X in the Encyclical Iucunda sane, no. 7)

…judges Francis’ idea on the Church called to dialogue

  • Through the ignorance of the shepherds those who follow them stumble – the blind lead the blind

What rashness is it, then, for the unskilful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels? And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effect of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh! But because, through the ordering of God, all the highest in rank of this present age are inclined to reverence religion, there are some who, through the outward show of rule within the holy Church, affect the glory of distinction. […] being all the less able to administer worthily the office they have undertaken of pastoral care, as they have reached the magisterial position of humility out of elation only. For, indeed, in a magisterial position language itself is confounded when one thing is learnt and another taught. […] The unskilfulness of shepherds is rebuked by the voice of the Truth, when it is said through the prophet, The shepherds themselves have not known understanding (Is 56,11); whom again the Lord denounces, saying, And they that handle the law knew Me not (Jr 2,8). And therefore the Truth complains of not being known of them, and protests that He knows not the principality of those who know not Him; because in truth these who know not the things of the Lord are unknown of the Lord; […] Yet this unskilfulness of the shepherds doubtless suits often the deserts of those who are subject to them, because, though it is their own fault that they have not the light of knowledge, yet it is in the dealing of strict judgment that through their ignorance those also who follow them should stumble. Hence it is that, in the Gospel, the Truth in person says, If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch (Mt 15,14). (Gregory I, the Great. The Book of Pastoral Rule, part I, ch. 1, 101: PL 77, 14–15)

  • No one does more harm in the Church than one who has the rank of sanctity, while he acts perversely – Sin spreads forcibly when out of reverence to his rank the sinner is honored

There are some also who investigate spiritual precepts with cunning care, but what they penetrate with their understanding they trample on in their lives: all at once they teach the things which not by practice but by study they have learnt; and what in words they preach by their manners they impugn. Whence it comes to pass that when the shepherd walks through steep places, the flock follows to the precipice. […] For certainly no one does more harm in the Church than one who has the name and rank of sanctity, while he acts perversely. For him, when he transgresses, no one presumes to take to task; and the offence spreads forcibly for example, when out of reverence to his rank the sinner is honoured. […] Whosoever, then, having come to bear the outward show of sanctity, either by word or example destroys others, it had indeed been better for him that earthly deeds in open guise should press him down to death than that sacred offices should point him out to others as imitable in his wrong-doing; because, surely, if he fell alone, the pains of hell would torment him in more tolerable degree. (Gregory I, the Great. The Book of Pastoral Rule, part I, ch.2, 102: PL 77, 15–16)

…judges Francis’ idea on the pastor

  • Pastors who are hirelings, fearing to lose human favor, shrink from speaking freely the things that are right

For often improvident pastors, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth (Joh. x. 12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf cometh if they hide themselves under silence. (Gregory I, the Great. Pastoral Rule, II, IV)

  • The priest does not differ from the people when he does not surpass the people by the merits of his life

Consider, then, what is the fate of the flock when the pastors become wolves. For there are men who undertake the care of souls, and yet they are not afraid to lay snares for the flock of the Lord, which needs to be protected against them. We seek not the good of souls, we are intent on our own interests; we covet earthly things, we strive to obtain the praise of men. And since our rank above others gives us greater liberty to act as we please, we make the ministry of blessing a means to further our ambition. We abandon the interests of God, and give ourselves up to worldly business; we occupy a position which is holy, and we entangle ourselves in the affairs of the world. Truly the words of Scripture are fulfilled in us, ‘There shall be like people, like priest’ (Hos 4: 9). For the priest does not differ from the people when he does not surpass the people by the merits of his life. (Gregory I, the Great. Homily on the Pastoral Office)

  • Keep watch lest you seek that they love you more than truth

Meanwhile it is also necessary for the pastor to keep wary watch, lest the lust of pleasing men assail him; lest, when he studiously penetrates the things that are within, and providently supplies the things that are without, he seek to be beloved of those that are under him more than truth; lest, while, supported by his good deeds, he seems not to belong to the world, self-love estrange him from his Maker. For he is the Redeemers enemy who through the good works which he does covets being loved by the Church instead of Him. (Gregory I, the Great. Pastoral Rule, Book 2, Ch. 8)

…judges Francis’ idea that Jesus is only mercy

  • Hell is eternal not because God delights in the torments of the wicked, but due to His righteousness

But they Say, no just man takes pleasure in cruelties, and the guilty servant was scourged to correct his fault. But when the wicked are given over to hell fire, to what purpose shall they burn there forever? We reply, that Almighty God, seeing He is good, does not delight in the torments of the wretched; but forasmuch as He is righteous, He ceases not from taking vengeance on the wicked. (Saint Gregory I quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea in Mt 25:46)

  • It belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment

They say that He held out empty terrors to deter them from sin. We answer, if He threatened falsely to check unrighteousness, then He promised falsely to promote good conduct. Thus while they go out of the way to prove God merciful, they are not afraid to charge Him with fraud. But, they urge, finite sin ought not to be visited with infinite punishment; we answer, that this argument would be just, if the righteous Judge considered men’s actions, and not their hearts. Therefore it belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment. (Saint Gregory the Great (Moralia XXXIV,19) quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea in Mt 25:46)

  • God works with rigorous justice in the retribution of good and evil acts

How incomprehensible are the judgments of God, and with what justice does he work in the retribution of good and evil acts! Above, it said that while Lazarus was in this world, he desired to satiate himself with the crumbs that fell from the table of the rich man and no one gave them; and now it is said, in speaking of the chastisement of the rich man, that he desired that Lazarus, wet the tip of his finger into water, and let a drop fall into his mouth. From this passage it may be deduced, my brothers, how rigorous the divine justice is. (Saint Gregory the Great. Parables of the Gospel, pg. 169)

  • The pastor should be rigid through the zeal of righteousness

The pastor should be […] through the zeal of righteousness, rigid against the vices of evil-doers […] and yet, when the fault of the bad requires it, he be at once conscious of the power of his priority; […] he may not fear to execute the laws of rectitude towards the perverse. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, book 2, ch. 6: PL 77, 34)

  • The pastor must stand in the battle out of love of justice to resist bad men

The pastor should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; lest he either utter what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to utter. For, as incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. […] according to the voice of the Truth (Jn 10:12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf cometh if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, […] if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel […] and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us. For, for a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? […] Hence again to the sinful people it is said, Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: neither did they discover thine iniquity, to provoke thee to repentance (Lam 2:14). […] And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For the language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Hence Paul says, ‘That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers’ (Titus 1:9). Hence through Malachi; it is said: ‘The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth’ (Mal 2:7). Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet’ (Is 58:1). For it is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. […] But, when the pastor prepares himself for speaking, let him bear in mind with what studious caution he ought to speak, lest, if he be hurried inordinately into speaking, the hearts of hearers be smitten with the wound of error and, while he perchance desires to seem wise he unwisely sever the bond of unity. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, book 2, ch. 4: PL 77, 30-31)

…judges Francis’ idea on human suffering

  • Jesus, the Wisdom of God, did not ignore anything

Who confesses that the Wisdom itself of God is incarnate say that there is anything which the Wisdom of God does not know? It is written: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by him (Jn 1:13). (Denzinger-Hünermann 476. Gregory I, the Great, From the Epistle Sicut aqua frigida to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, August, 600)

…judges Francis’ idea on material charity

  • It is worth more to encourage the soul, which is to live forever, with the food of the word than to satiate with earthly bread the body which is to die

‘For the lips of the priest are to keep knowledge, and instruction is to be sought from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts’ (Mal 2:7). But such an elevated name you can also deserve if you desire; for each one of you in as much as you are able, according to the divine grace you have received, if you distance your neighbor from sin, if you seek to exhort him to act well, if you remind the one at fault about the Kingdom or about the eternal punishment, you are certainly an angel when you use words of admonition. And may no one say: ‘I am no good to admonish, I am not ideal to exhort’. Do what you can, so that that, in the torments, what you received and kept badly may not be demanded of you. He had not received more than one talent, the one who preferred to bury it than to use it for his profit. We know that for the tabernacle of the Lord, there were made at his command, not only vessels, but also cups (cf. Ex 37:16). By vessels is designated the abundant doctrine, and by cups, little and scarce knowledge. Once one is full of the doctrine of the truth, he fills the minds of those who hear him, and by what he says, he offers as a full vessel; another cannot say all that he feels, but as long as he teaches it as he can, it is as if he gives a cup to taste. Therefore, placed in the tabernacle of the Lord, that is, in the Church, if you cannot administer the sound doctrine in vessels, then as much as you are able, helped by divine grace, give to your neighbors goblets of sound doctrine. […] Perhaps you may not have bread to help the needy; but whoever has a tongue has a greater good to distribute: for it is worth more to encourage the soul, which is to live forever, with the food of the word, than to satiate with earthly bread the body which is to die. Therefore, brothers, do not deny your brethren the alms of your words. (Saint Gregory the Great. Homilies on the Gospels, homily VI: Mt 11:2-10, no. 6 Spanish)

…judges Francis’ prayer in the ecumenical and interreligious Meeting in Sarajevo

  • The Jews have ceased to be children of Abraham – we are truly because of faith in Christ

And if you be Christ’s then are you the seed of Abraham (Gal 4:29). If we therefore because of faith in Christ are deemed children of Abraham, the Jews therefore because of their perfidy have ceased to be his seed. (Gregory the Great. Homily XX, 4th Sunday of Advent in the Basilica of St. John the Baptist: PL 76, 1164. The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers form the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, London-Chicago, Longmans Green, 1964, vol. I, p. 92)

…judges Francis’ idea that the Pope should not judge

  • By their just punishment they might be taught the gravity of unjust desire

Forasmuch as they had been kindled to bad desires in the ill savour of the flesh, it was meet that they should perish by fire and brimstone combined; that by their just punishment they might be taught what they had done in unjust desire. (Gregory the Great. Morals on the Book of Job, Book XIV, 23, pg. 131)

…judges Francis’ idea on the flesh of Christ and poverty as a theological category

  • Christ took the Church to Himself, and forms with Her one mystical Person

Our Redeemer has shown Himself to be one with the Holy Church, which He has taken to Himself, for of Him it is said, Who is the Head of us all (Eph 4:15) and of the Church it is written, the Body of Christ, Which is the Church (Col 1: 24). (Saint Gregory the Great. Preface, Vol. 1, 14: PL 75.525)

…judges Francis’ idea of the Roman Curia

  • Submission to the Curia is a sign of love for the Pope

If, then, the pastoral obligation is a testimony of love, the one who, possessing the necessary qualities, does not feed the flock of the Lord, demonstrates a lack of love for the Supreme Shepherd. It is a sign of even greater love that one, because of a friend, serves also others, and not exclusively his friend. (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, Book 1, Ch. 5)

…judges Francis’ idea on Peace

  • He Who Refuses to Feed the Flock of God Does Not Love the Supreme Shepherd

For hence it was that the Truth said to His disciples: “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid: neither do they light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house”. (Mt 5:15) Hence He says to Peter: “Simon, Son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” (Jn 15:16-17); and he, when he had at once answered that he loved, was told: “If thou lovest Me, fled My sheep.” If, then, the care of feeding is the proof of loving, whosoever abounds in virtues, and yet refuses to feed the flock of God, is convicted of not loving the chief Shepherd.  (Saint Gregory the Great. Pastoral Rule, Book I, c V)

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