We are approaching eleven years since Jorge Bergoglio was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. While most of us knew almost nothing about the man when he walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, now most Catholics wish they knew less than they do. From pedophile-enabling Cardinal Danneels joining Francis on that balcony to the pope’s recent endorsement of same-sex couple blessings, controversy has surrounded this pontificate from beginning to end; a week doesn’t seem to go by without the pope stirring the pot with some papal appointment, document, or off-hand comment.
I think I speak for a lot of Catholics when I say that the whole circus surrounding Francis has become wearisome. Probably nothing Francis could do or say at this point would surprise us, although he still desperately makes every effort to do so. We repeat a tiresome cycle:
Step 1: The pope says or does something controversial.
Step 2: Conservative and Traditional Catholics criticize his actions (traditionalists directly, conservatives more obliquely).
Step 3: Progressive Catholics rejoice and take the pope to mean exactly what he says.
Step 4: Non-progressive popesplainers storm social media to explain that the pope doesn’t actually mean exactly what he says.
Step 5: Return to Step 1.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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It’s like we’re stuck in a Star Trek-type Causality Loop, doomed to repeat the same actions over and over. Where exactly does it all lead us? Are souls being won to Christ? Is the Church’s moral voice in the world becoming stronger? Are bad actors in the Church being exposed and removed from office? It’s hard to argue that any of these things are happening.
We are weary. Upon waking up to yet another papal controversy, our first thought is “here we go again.” We know what kind of pope we have: a progressive focused almost exclusively on earthly matters, surrounded by deeply corrupt yes-men, and in league with the globalist elites of this world. Throw in an irrational animosity toward Catholic tradition, and you have Pope Francis.
Further, we know the pope is an old man and isn’t long for this world. If it’s possible for a life-time appointee to have a lame-duck session, we’re surely living in it now. Most faithful Catholics now ignore Pope Francis, waiting (and praying) for the next conclave and the next successor of St. Peter to be elected.
When future generations look back on this pontificate, its legacy will be one full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Francis has focused on the latest progressive fads of this world, and so his long-term impact will be negligible in historical terms. Pope John Paul II stood up to communism; Pope Francis rolled out the red carpet for it. Pope Benedict XVI fought the dictatorship of relativism; Pope Francis has rightly been labeled the Dictator Pope. None of Francis’s writings will stand the test of time (especially compared to his two immediate predecessors), and most historians will likely relegate him to a paragraph in the history of popes. When future generations look back on this pontificate, its legacy will be one full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.Tweet This
Of course, that’s not to minimize the grave and eternal harm he has done to individual souls by the confusion, scandal, and corruption he has sown. How many people who suffer with same-sex attraction didn’t leave their sinful and destructive lifestyle because the Catholic Church appeared to put her stamp of approval on that lifestyle? How many non-Catholics didn’t look into becoming Catholic because the Church appears to have a leader who doesn’t want them to become Catholic? And how many Catholics have become so scandalized by this pontificate that they have left the Church for Orthodoxy, sedevacantism, or atheism?
Still, there’s been good to come out of this pontificate, even if unintentionally. After all, God can work good out of anything, even the worst evils. I know many Catholics have become more knowledgeable in their faith in response to defending a doctrine that Francis undermines. Plus, many Catholics have begun the process of removing the man-made accretions to the Deposit of Faith regarding the role of the papacy. Future Catholics will be more wary of creating a cult of personality around whomever happens to be sitting in the Chair of St. Peter, thanks to Pope Francis.
Over the past decade, Francis has made a lot of noise in Catholic social media and in the pews, but I can’t help but think that his voice has gotten weaker with time. Many of us gave him the benefit of the doubt for the first years of his pontificate, but that benefit has been squandered. Who takes him as a serious thinker anymore? Who looks to him as a true moral leader? The more we’ve heard from this pope, the more our respect for him as a person has lessened. The pope’s insistence on “making a mess” instead of just doing his job makes him out as the immature teen who obstinately refuses to clean up his room.
We’re no longer angry. We’re just tired. Tired of the weaponized ambiguity, tired of the scandals, tired of the cozying up to the world’s worst people. The shape of this pontificate is clear, and the historical record will not be kind to it. While Francis can still do damage before his particular judgement, most of us are just waiting until we have a new pope who we hope will help clean up the mess. Until then, we’ll keep living our faith with endurance, for “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-5).