Cliffs Notes on Pope’s Recent Interview

Just yesterday the Holy Father sat down for an interview with French magazine La Croix for an interview on a wide range of topics covering issues from terrorism, to the role of secular governments, to the SSPX coming into communion with Rome, to Amoris Laetitia. Some particularly notable parts are pasted below but it is encouraged to read the entire text as context is very important with this pope!

– On April 16, you made a powerful gesture by bringing back the refugees from Lesbos to Rome. However, does Europe have the capacity to accept so many migrants ?

Pope Francis : That is a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably. However, the deeper question is why there are so many migrants now.

The initial problems are the wars in the Middle East and in Africa as well as the underdevelopment of the African continent, which causes hunger. If there are wars, it is because there exist arms manufacturers – which can be justified for defensive purposes – and above all arms traffickers. If there is so much unemployment, it is because of a lack of investment capable of providing employment, of which Africa has such a great need. […]

A completely free market does not work. Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them. In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy.

Coming back to the migrant issue, the worst form of welcome is to ‘ghettoize’them. On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them.

I am thinking here of Pope Gregory the Great, who negotiated with the people known as barbarians, who were subsequently integrated. This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing.

– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?

Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. […]

Ultimately, co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible. I come from a country where they co-habit on good terms. Muslims come to venerate the Virgin Mary and St George.

– How would you characterize a positive form of [separation of church and state]?

Pope Francis: States must be secular. Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of History. I believe that a version of [separation] accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom offers a framework for going forward. We are all equal as sons of God and with our personal dignity. However, everyone must have the freedom to externalize his or her own faith. If a Muslim woman wishes to wear a veil, she must be able to do so. Similarly, if a Catholic wishes to wear a cross. People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture not merely at its margins.

The modest critique that I would address to France in this regard is that it exaggerates [separation of church and state]. This arises from a way of considering religions as sub-cultures rather than as fully-fledged cultures in their own right.

– In a secular setting, how should Catholics defend their concerns on societal issues such as euthanasia or same-sex marriage?

Pope Francis: It is up to Parliament to discuss, argue, explain, reason [these issues]. That is how a society grows.

However, once a law has been adopted, the state must also respect [people’s] consciences. The right to conscientious objection must be recognized within each legal structure because it is a human right. Including for a government official, who is a human person. The state must also take criticism into account. That would be a genuine form of [separation of church and state].

You cannot sweep aside the arguments of Catholics by simply telling them that they “speak like a priest.” No, they base themselves on the kind of Christian thinking that France has so remarkably developed.

– What does France mean to you?

Pope Francis: It is the eldest daughter of the Church, but not the most faithful! (Laughs) However, during the 1950s, they also spoke of “France, the mission country.” In that sense, it remains a periphery to be evangelized. However, to be fair to France, the Church there does have a real creative capacity.

France is also a land of great saints, great thinkers […]

– Who is your favorite?

Pope Francis: Saint Therese of Lisieux.

– As elsewhere, the Church in France is experiencing a serious crisis of priestly vocations. How is it possible to manage today with so few priests?

Pope Francis: Korea provides a historical example. That country was evangelized by missionaries from China who later left. Then, for two hundred years, Korea was evangelized by lay people. It is a land of saints and martyrs that now has a strong Church.

So there is not necessarily a need for priests in order to evangelize. Baptism provides the strength to evangelize. And the Holy Spirit, received at baptism, prompts one to go out, to take the Christian message with courage and patience. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of whatever happens in the Church, its motor. Too many Christians are ignorant of this.

– On April 1, you received Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior-general of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X. Is the re-integration of the Lefebvrists into the Church again under consideration?

Pope Francis: In Buenos Aires, I often spoke with them. They greeted me, asked me on their knees for a blessing. They say they are Catholic. They love the Church.

Bishop Fellay is a man with whom one can dialogue. That is not the case for other elements who are a little strange, such as Bishop Williamson or others who have been radicalized. Leaving this aside, I believe, as I said in Argentina, that they are Catholics on the way to full communion.

During this year of mercy, I felt that I needed to authorize their confessors to pardon the sin of abortion. They thanked me for this gesture. Previously, Benedict XVI, whom they greatly respect, had liberalized the use of the Tridentine rite mass. So good dialogue and good work are taking place.

– Would you be ready to grant them the status of a personal prelature?

Pope Francis: That would be a possible solution but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently.

– You have already convoked two synods on the family. In your view, has this long process changed the Church?

[…] I think that we all came out of the various processes different from the way that we entered. Including me.

In [Amoris Laetitia], I sought to respect the Synod to the maximum. You won’t find canonical prescriptions there about what one may or may not do. […]

It is a serene, peaceful reflection on the beauty of love, how to educate the children, to prepare for marriage…

I think this interview does a pretty good job telling us just where the Holy Father’s head is on some important issues–whether you agree with him or not. I’m happy he did this interview. Please continue praying not only for Pope Francis’s intentions but also for him! ☩

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Pope Francis Validates SSPX Confessions

800px-SSPX_Mass-255x383The pope’s September 1 letter hit the worldwide news in a big way. The letter discussed some plans for the upcoming “Year of Mercy”, starting on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (12/8). He mentioned how all priests will have the ability to absolve anyone who has cooperated in the action of abortion. This confused a lot of Catholics in the United States (including myself) who assumed priests always had this ability. In fact, most priests in the United States have been given this ability already through their respective bishops–something not as common in other parts of the world. Of course, our media reported on this very poorly, adding to the confusion. You can read about it more here.

But there was another part of the letter that deals with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Pope Francis dropped this bombshell in the final paragraph of his letter:

A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy  approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.

This is a huge deal. For anyone who doesn’t know who SSPX is, they are an organization that started in 1970 by Archbishop Lefebvre in response to the Second Vatican Counsel and the changes in the Liturgy that followed. Currently they are in over 60 countries, with 600 valid priests, hundreds of chapels, scores of schools (K-12), and nearly 10 seminaries with the main one in Switzerland. Since Pope Saint John Paul II excommunicated Lefebvre and his four new bishops for illicitly consecrating them in 1988, here are some milestones leading up to where we find ourselves at today:

  • 2007 – Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, liberating the Traditional Latin Mass (extraordinary form) for the first time since 1970
  • 2009- Pope Benedict XVI lifted the 1988 excommunications placed by Pope Saint John Paul II
  • 2009 – Conversations on bridging the gap between the Vatican and SSPX took place, ending in 2011 and resurfacing a couple times in 2012
  • 2014 – Pope Francis allows SSPX priests to hold Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (video below)
  • 2015 – SSPX holds a large public demonstration and Mass in response to a “Black Mass” being held in Oklahoma City (video below documenting the event–worth watching)
  • 2015 – Bishop Schneider (Kazakhstan) said in an interview: “To my knowledge there are no weighty reasons in order to deny the clergy and faithful of the SSPX the official canonical recognition, meanwhile they should be accepted as they are.”

So what of this letter? Well, it’s interesting that Pope Francis–seen by many as a progressive or “liberal” pope (a term I disagree with)–has been making some of the biggest strides to reconciling a group that is, conversely, seen by many as traditional and “conservative” (I will point out again that I disagree with these terms when it comes to Catholicism). Now he is using his authority to validate the absolution of their confessions in the upcoming ‘Year of Mercy’. Their Masses still remain valid yet illicit.

He also made a point to add “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity”. This could very well come in the next year. Why would Francis give them the ability to validly absolve people through the sacrament of Confession and then remove that ability exactly a year after? That would be ridiculous.

It has already been pointed out that the Latin Mass has been flourishing under Francis;  that, along with the recent events, means that Francis in indeed no obstacle to the Traditional Latin Mass–something that was feared by some early on. This entire situation is very interesting.

There is no doubt they are not a schismatic group because anyone involved in a schism is automatically excommunicated–they are not (and the now-lifted 1988 excommunications were for a different reason). They are simply not in full communion with the Roman Church due to their odd and “irregular” canonical status which many attribute simply to a situation that was blown out of proportion. However, I must caution that I do not know everything about SSPX history meaning I do not consider myself informed enough to form a solid opinion of the situation.

St Peter’s Basilica Mass:
Oklahoma City Black Mass Response:

Jimmy Akin’s 12 Things to Know and Share on Francis’ Letter