Pope Francis: I Don’t Read Websites That ‘Accuse Me of Being a Heretic’

A man holds a smartphone showing Pope Francis' first tweet in front of a computer screen s

For the sake of his peace of mind, Pope Francis says he doesn’t read websites that accuse him of heresy, which he attributes to “resistance” to necessary reforms in the Vatican.

“Some people tell me it’s normal that there is resistance when someone wants to make changes,” the pope says in a conversation with a community of Jesuits in Santiago, Chile, to be published in the Feb 15 issue of the Jesuit-run La Civiltà Cattolica. “The famous saying ‘this is the way it’s always been done’ reigns everywhere; it’s a great temptation that we all have faced.”

“The opposition after Vatican II, which is still present, has this aim: to relativize and water down the Council,” he added.

In his conversation with his brother Jesuits during his recent visit to South America, Francis said that not every difficulty in life should be considered a “resistance,” noting that discernment is needed to separate true opposition from mere misunderstandings.

“It is easy to say that there is resistance and not to realize that in that push-back there can also be a shred of truth,” he said. “This also helps me to relativize many things that, at first, seem like resistance, but in reality are just a reaction arising from a misunderstanding.”

“But when I realize that there is real resistance, of course, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’m even sorrier when somebody enlists in a campaign of resistance. And unfortunately, I see this, too,” he said.

“I cannot deny that these resistances exist. I see them and I know them,” the pope said. “There are doctrinal resistances. For my mental health I do not read the websites of this so-called ‘resistance.’ I know who they are, I know the groups, but I do not read them, simply for my mental health. When there is something very serious, people inform me so that I know. It is displeasing, but we must move on.”

The pontiff said that his response to resistance depends on the good faith he perceives in those who are opposing him.

“When I perceive opposition, I try to dialogue, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and accuse you of being a heretic,” he said. “When I do not find spiritual goodness in these people, because of what they say or write, I simply pray for them. It pains me, but I don’t dwell on it, for the sake of my mental health.”

In 2016, four Catholic cardinals famously wrote a letter to Pope Francis asking him to clarify five serious doctrinal doubts proceeding from his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) concerning Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, the indissolubility of marriage, and the proper role of conscience.

The Pope chose not to respond to the cardinals’ doubts, and many defenders of Pope Francis interpreted the questions as a sort of opposition to the Francis.

Not long after, one of the signers of the “dubia,” the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, said that a response was necessary because different interpretations were being proposed, without clarification.

The Church “is suffering from a tremendous confusion on at least these five points,” Burke said, that have to do with “irreformable moral principles.”

As cardinals, we “judged it our responsibility to request a clarification with regard to these questions, in order to put an end to this spread of confusion that is actually leading people into error,” he said.

Burke also stated that the four cardinals wrote the letter “with the greatest sense of our responsibility as bishops and cardinals,” but also “with the greatest respect for the Petrine Office [of the Pope], because if the Petrine Office does not uphold these fundamental principles of doctrine and discipline, then, practically speaking, division has entered into the Church, which is contrary to our very nature.”

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