Pope Francis “favors change on the disciplinary rules on access to sacraments for divorced people who remarried outside the Church,” declared an article in the Huffington Post Monday. The fact that Pope Francis has never said this does not seem to matter.
It seems to be open season on Pope Francis, with any number of self-anointed experts boldly stepping forward to tell the world what the Pope really thinks about the issues. Once the Pope was dubbed a progressive, people just assume that he toes the liberal line. They know, of course, that he will not come out to correct every journalistic fiction put forward in his name.
The HuffPost piece continues to explain just why Francis does what he does, as if the writer possessed a crystal ball with access to his soul. Don’t worry, the Post explains, because the Pope’s failures to get his way at the synod are not the “harsh blow” that people imagine; Francis is just biding his time and planning his next move, ever attentive to keep nudging the Church towards modernity.
CBC News has proposed a similar narrative, declaring that the synod was not a loss for Francis and his vision for change because “he’s playing a long game,” while the The Washington Post simply sighed that “the bishops defeated Pope Francis.”
The mainstream media seemed to miss Francis’ remarks on Saturday where he criticizes extremism of any sort, including the sort of “nice guys” who are ready to say yes to anything.
The Pope said that “progressives and liberals” are tempted by destructive laxity, which, he added, “in the name of a false mercy would bind up wounds before they have been cared for and healed, treating symptoms rather than the disease.”
Francis also said that some bishops are tempted to ignore “the ‘deposit of faith’ [Church doctrine], considering themselves not guardians of the teaching but its owners and masters.”
The Pontiff even reminded his hearers that the Pope himself is not an absolute ruler, or “supreme lord” of the Church, but a servant. It’s the Pope’s job, he said, “to guarantee the Church’s obedience and conformity to God’s will, to the Gospel of Christ, and her own tradition.”
As if to underscore his continuity with Church tradition, Francis also read a long quote from none other than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on the nature of the Church.
The bishops gave the Pope a five-minute standing ovation after his address.
For those who have already written their own script for the Francis papacy, none of these facts seem to matter. They seem unwilling to grasp that the Pope might just be Catholic after all.