Why do some Catholics oppose Pope Francis?

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 11, 2019. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

It is neither unusual nor surprising to encounter discord and opposition in the Catholic Church. Such disagreement stretches back from the present day to the time of St. Paul, who stood up to Cephas in Antioch (Gal 2:14).

Opposition was manifest in the first ecumenical councils as well as the last two. At the First Vatican Council (1870), a group of bishops and theologians opposed the proposed definition of papal infallibility. Some did not accept the council and separated from Rome, giving rise to the so-called Old Catholic Church. Others did not leave the church but chose not to participate in or attend the last conciliar vote on infallibility—and some of these were so angry that they threw all the conciliar documents into the Tiber.


A century later (1970), the issue of infallibility arose once more, with theological disputes between the critical voice of Hans Küng and those of Karl Rahner, S.J., Walter Kasper and other more moderate German theologians. The controversy continued between historians critical of Vatican I, such as A. B. Hasler, a disciple of Küng, and more nuanced historians such as Yves Congar, O.P, Joseph Hoffmann and Kasper. Küng was stripped of his license to teach theology in 1979.

In 1950, during Pius XII’s pontificate, when the pope published the encyclical “Humani Generis” against the so-called nouvelle théologie, some Jesuit theologians from Fourvière-Lyon (such as Henri de Lubac, S.J., and Jean Daniélou, S.J.) and some Dominican theologians from Le Saulchoir-Paris (such as Yves Congar, O.P., and Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P.) were removed from their chairs. A decade later, Pope John XXIII appointed all of them as theological experts at Vatican II.

It is neither unusual nor surprising to encounter discord and opposition in the Catholic Church. Such disagreement stretches back from the present day to the time of St. Paul, who stood up to Cephas in Antioch.

Strong opposition arose there, led by the French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected Vatican II as neo-modernist and neo-Protestant. When Bishop Lefebvre began to ordain bishops without Roman authorization for his Society of Saint Pius X in 1988, he was excommunicated by John Paul II.

After “Humanae Vitae,” his 1968 encyclical on birth control, Pope Paul VI was challenged respectfully by numerous episcopal conferences. Without denying the value of the encyclical’s contents, they called for greater elaboration and qualification of certain issues.

During the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, more than 100 theologians were questioned, reprimanded or silenced [by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith]. Some were dismissed from their academic positions, and one was even excommunicated.

The purpose of this historical preamble is to remove any surprise that today, in the face of the new image of the church proposed by Pope Francis, there are discordant voices and critics who are strongly opposed to his pontificate.

Viewing the shifting winds over the course of time, we can see that the type and orientation of opposition always reflect the historical moment. There are progressive and prophetic voices in periods when classical Christianity or neo-Christianity dominates, and reactionary, fundamentalist and conservative voices in moments of ecclesial reform and attempts to return to evangelical origins and the style of Jesus.

Criticisms of Pope Francis have two dimensions, one theological and the other more socio-political, although there are instances where these dimensions converge.

Criticisms of Francis

At present, there is a strong group opposing Francis’ church: laypeople, theologians, bishops and cardinals who would like him to resign or promptly disappear from the scene while they wait for a new conclave to change the current direction of the church.

I do not want to conduct a socio-historical inquiry here, nor a Western-style television program pitting good against bad, so I prefer not to cite the names of the opponents who are currently skinning Francis alive. Rather, I would like to discuss the theological background to this systematic opposition to Francis in order to understand what the controversy is about.

The criticisms of Francis have two dimensions, one theological and the other more socio-political, although (as we will see later) there are instances where these dimensions converge.

What really bothers the detractors of Pope Francis is that his theology stems from reality: from the reality of injustice, poverty and the destruction of nature, and from the reality of ecclesial clericalism.

Theological Criticism

The theological critique starts from the conviction that Francis is not a theologian but comes from the Global South, from the end of the world; and that this lack of theological professionalism—in stark contrast to the academic acumen of St. John Paul II and obviously of Pope Benedict XVI—explains what they consider his inaccuracies and even his doctrinal errors.

According to this assessment, Francis’ deficit in theology would explain his dangerous positions on God’s mercy in [his 2015 papal bull] “Misericordiae Vultus,” his philo-communist tendency in support of the poor and popular movements, and his notion of popular piety as a theological locus in [his 2013 apostolic exhortation] “Evangelii Gaudium.” His shortfall in moral theology is displayed in his opening the door to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist in some cases (after personal and ecclesial discernment) to separated Catholics who have remarried, according to [his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation] “Amoris Laetitia.” His [2016] encyclical “Laudato Si’,”on the care for our common home, shows a lack of scientific and ecological competence. And his excessive emphasis on divine mercy in “Misericordiae Vultus” is scandalous because it lessens the grace and cross of Jesus.

In the face of these accusations, I would like to recall a classic affirmation of St. Thomas Aquinas that distinguishes between the magisterial chair, proper to theologians and professors of universities, and the pastoral chair assigned to bishops and pastors of the church. Cardinal John Henry Newman returned to this tradition by affirming that although there may sometimes be tension between the two chairs, in the end there is convergence between them.

This distinction applies to Francis. Although he had studied and taught pastoral theology at San Miguel de Buenos Aires as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now his pronouncements belong to the pastoral seat of the bishop of Rome. He does not aspire to fulfill this role as a theologian but as a pastor. As has been said of him with a certain touch of humor, it is necessary to move on from the Bergoglio of history to the Francis of faith.

What really bothers his detractors is that his theology stems from reality: from the reality of injustice, poverty and the destruction of nature, and from the reality of ecclesial clericalism.

It bothers many that Pope Francis canonized St. Óscar Romero, the martyred Salvadoran archbishop, branded by many as a communist and a useful dupe of the left; his cause had been blocked for years.

It is all right for him to hug children and the sick, but it is definitely upsetting when he visits Lampedusa, and refugee and migrant camps like the one on Lesbos. It bothers people when he says that we should not build walls against refugees but bridges of dialogue and hospitality. He is annoying when, following in the footsteps of Pope John XXIII, he says that the church has to be poor and exist for the poor, that the shepherds have to smell like sheep, that it has to be an outgoing church that reaches out to the peripheries and that the poor are a theological locus, topic or source.

He bothers people when he says that clericalism is the leprosy of the church and when he lists the 14 temptations of the Vatican Curia, which range from the feeling of being indispensable and necessary to the craving for riches to living a double life and suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s. And he augments the irritation when he adds that these are also the temptations of dioceses, parishes and religious communities. It is annoying to hear that the church should be conceived of as an inverted pyramid, with the laity above and the pope and the bishops below, just as it is annoying to hear him say that the church is polyhedral and above all synodal. This means that we all need to travel the same path together, that we have to listen and dialogue with each other. It is annoying that in [his 2018 apostolic constitution] “Episcopalis Communio,” Francis speaks of the synodal church and of the need to listen to each other.

It bothers some groups that Francis has thanked Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, S.J., and José María Castillo, S.J., for their theological contributions and annulled the suspensions a divinis of Miguel d’Escoto, M.M., and Father Ernesto Cardenal; they are bewildered that when Hans Küng wrote to him about the need to rethink infallibility, Francis answered by calling Küng “dear companion” (lieber Mitbruder), saying that he would take Küng’s observations into account and was willing to enter into a dialogue about infallibility. And it bothers many that Francis canonized St. Óscar Romero, the martyred Salvadoran archbishop, branded by many as a communist and a useful dupe of the left; his cause had been blocked for years.

It is annoying that he says “Who am I to judge?” It is annoying that he says the church is feminine and that if women are not listened to, the church will be impoverished and biased.

Francis’ invocation of mercy, a mercy that is at the center of biblical revelation, does not prevent him from speaking of zero tolerance toward the abuse of minors and women by important members of the church, a monstrous crime for which one must ask forgiveness from God and the victims, recognize the complicit and guilty silence of the hierarchy, seek reparations, protect young people and children, and avoid a repetition of the abuse. And his hand does not tremble when he demotes and removes the guilty from their positions, whether they are a cardinal, nuncio, bishop or priest.

Obviously, the problem is not that he is not a theologian but rather that his theology is pastoral. Francis passes from dogma to kerygma, from theoretical principles to pastoral discernment and mystagogy. And his theology is not colonialist but from the Global South, and this bothers the North.

Pope Francis passes from dogma to kerygma, from theoretical principles to pastoral discernment and mystagogy. 

Socio-political criticism

Confronting those who accuse Francis of being a third-worldist and a communist, we must affirm that his messages are in perfect continuity with the prophetic biblical tradition and the church’s social teachings. What hurts is his prophetic clairvoyance: He says no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, no to an economy that kills, no to an economy without a human face, no to an unjust social and economic system that locks us into unjust social structures, no to a globalization of indifference, no to the idolatry of money, no to money that governs rather than serves, no to an inequality that engenders violence, no to anyone who tries to hide behind God to justify violence, no to the social insensitivity that anesthetizes us in the face of the suffering of others, no to weapons and the war industry, no to human trafficking, no to any form of provoked death (as seen in “Evangelii Gaudium,” 52-75).

Francis does nothing but update the commandment “Thou shall not kill,” defends the value of human life from beginning to end and repeats in the present day the Lord’s question to Cain: “Where is your brother?”

Also disturbing is Francis’ criticism of the anthropocentric and technocratic paradigm that destroys nature, pollutes the environment, attacks biodiversity and excludes the poor and indigenous from a dignified human life (as seen in “Laudato Si’,” 20-52). It bothers the multinational corporations when he criticizes the timber, oil, hydroelectric and mining companies that destroy the environment, harm the indigenous people of those lands and threaten the future of our common home. Irksome, too, is his criticism of political leaders incapable of taking courageous decisions (“Laudato Si’,” 53-59).

The announcement of the upcoming synod on the Amazon in October 2019, which will amplify the need to protect the environment and save indigenous Amazonian groups from genocide, is already beginning to annoy. Some major church leaders have said that the instrumentumlaboris, or working document for the synod, is heretical and pantheistic and denies the need for salvation in Christ.

Other commentators have focused only on the suggestion of ordaining married indigenous men to celebrate the Eucharist in remote parts of the Amazon but have been totally silent about the prophetic denunciation that this synod working document makes against the extractivist destruction that is being perpetrated in the Amazon, the issue of poverty and exclusion of indigenous peoples who surely have never been as threatened as they are now.

The opposition to Pope Francis is opposition to the Second Vatican Council and to the evangelical reform of the church that Pope John XXIII wanted to promote.

Reforming the church

There is undoubtedly a convergence between theological and social criticisms of Francis, with reactionary ecclesial groups aligning themselves with powerful economic and political groups, especially in the North.

The opposition to Francis is opposition to the Second Vatican Council and to the evangelical reform of the church that Pope John XXIII wanted to promote. Francis belongs to the line of all the prophets who have wanted to reform the church, joining Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Jesus, Angelo Roncalli, Dom Hélder Câmara, Dorothy Stang, Pedro Arrupe, Ignacio Ellacuría and the nonagenarian Brazilian bishop emeritus Pedro Casaldáliga.

Francis still has many tasks to complete for an evangelical reform of the church. We do not know what his future trajectory will be, nor what will happen in the next conclave.

Popes come and go, but the Lord Jesus is ever present and animates the church until the end of time. It is the same Jesus who was seen as an eater and drinker, a friend of sinners and prostitutes, the possessed, crazy, seditious and blasphemous. And we believe that the Spirit of the Lord who descended upon the early church at Pentecost never abandons her and will not allow sin to triumph over holiness in the long run.

In the meantime, as Francis always asks, from his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s as bishop of Rome to the present day, let us pray to the Lord for him. Let us pray that he not lose hope and that he may strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters (see Luke 22:32). And if we cannot pray or we are not believers, let us at least send him our good thoughts and energy (in his words, “me mande buena onda”).

Editor's note, Sept. 13: This article, adapted from the Spainish, has been edited in keeping with America's style.

Michael Ward
4 days 17 hours ago

Interesting take on things, some points stronger than others. On a practical level I have always sought from pontiffs for what they could teach me. JPII, B16 and Francis have all enriched my faith in various ways. But I will admit it is a bit rich to take in all the angst about push back on Francis (some of which is legit, some admittedly BS) now coming from the same now so "concerned" quarters from which I have heard scorn and ridicule heaped on JPII and B16 for decades. Some need to check their hypocrisy as well as their privilege it seems. Outside of a narrow realm of authority and responsibility they have ALL been fallible men...much like us...but with mind blowing responsibilities (that thankfully I don't have). All like us have at time proved in need of God's mercy...as I am sure they would to a man have readily admitted. Pray for them all.

Franklyn BUSBY
4 days 14 hours ago

"Scorn and ridicule," perhaps, but I don't recall the talking heads at EWTN (and others of their ilk) ever calling JPII and/or BXVI a heretic and/or accusing either man of being "in error so grievous as to scandalize the faithful." Even in the depths of the sexual abuse crisis, aided and abetted by co-conspirator JPII’s many grievous mistakes, did anyone call for his resignation.

Doing the "we're all sinners" dodge, is so predictable and apparent as to be an embarrassment to most people. And pointing the "hypocrisy" finger guarantees that three fingers are pointed directly at the accuser.

Michael Ward
4 days 12 hours ago

Well...the scorn and ridicule crowd didn't have their own TV station, but their disrespect for the office has directly contributed to the turn-around-as-fair-play contempt no being heaped on Francis. Wrong then, wrong now. That we're all sinners is no dodge...its the factual basis for us all having mercy on each other...a point that seems increasingly lost these days. I find sorting out the comparative demerits of the troika as kind of a waste of time, especially retrospectively through the lense of a couple of narrow concerns though admittedly none have acquitted themselves well on the abuse scandal, they all fell short of what needs and needed to have been done...a good list of don'ts to and not enough do's sadly.

Mike Macrie
17 hours 40 min ago

Speaking of EWTN, I used to be a regular Viewer until it got political on praising a Republican President. I realized the station is located in Alabama but it doesn’t have to take on the political atmosphere of the state. I think the Catholic Church hurts itself when they start positioning themselves with Political Parties. When criticizing a political position of a party they should balance it out with something good that the party is for.

Nora Bolcon
4 days ago

This is the easiest question to answer. Pope Francis has proven himself just as misogynistic as all his predecessors. Done. Next question.

No one enjoys a hypocrite! So Pope Francis, when he says he can't do what is easy for him to do, and fix the systematic injustice in our church, by ordaining women same and equal to all men at all levels, which the majority of the church have been pleading for him to do, for the sake of supporting the basic human dignity of all women, the following statements become a reason for all rational people to want him gone: "It is annoying that he says the church is feminine and that if women are not listened to, the church will be impoverished and biased."

The church is impoverished and biased and clerical as long as it allows any form of sexual discrimination within its laws, traditions, sacraments and treatments to continue. Liars and Pope's who make fools out of nuns rather than hearing them, and giving them the rational support and changes they seek, are not going to be popular with progressives anymore than they will be popular with conservatives but at least the progressives are opposing him for scripture and gospel based reasons.

Tim O'Leary
3 days 15 hours ago

Nora - once again you react to every single article with your sexist anti-Catholicism. You again set yourself up as the interpreter of Scripture in opposition to the only entity with the authority to interpret Scripture faithfully - the Church. You simply cannot win because your beef is with the Holy Spirit.

Nora Bolcon
17 hours 47 min ago

Tim - You NEED to buy a dictionary! Now! Please! so you can cease describing English words incorrectly and absolutely incorrectly. (I am beginning to think you just like being wrong)

Next, my comment is against the Pope's behavior because it does actually fit the definition of sexist unlike anything you have said about me or my comments. Again, please refer to a dictionary before you comment back to me for the sake of all who are reading this thread.

Next, the Pope is not the Church itself and He isn't the Holy Spirit either, and he only speaks for the Holy Spirit, even according to our laws, when he is reciting Scripture or when he is declaring something 'ex cathedra' which once again the discrimination against women being ordained the same as men is not a matter of infallible dogma because it does not meet the standards according to the church's own canons.

For the record, a man who worships the Pope like he were God commits idolatry, a sin that is worse or at least as bad as treating your sisters differently than you wish to be treated yourself - per Jesus Christ. Both of these sins are tops on the sin scale! So just an FYI Tim - maybe you should consider opening a Gospel or two before you make more comments as well as a dictionary..

Tim O'Leary
2 hours 27 min ago

Begorra, Nora - it is a little rich for you to be recommending a dictionary when you cannot understand why it is not OK for you to demean women and womenhood because they don't agree with your warped view of sexuality. It is sexist to be prejudicial against one sex (male or female), just as it is racist to be prejudicial against one race (black or white or whatever). Moreover, you might consider buying a Catechism, since you are so far from understanding what the Church teaches on infallibility. You do not get to define what infallibility is. Only the Church has that authority and power, from the Holy Spirit. Below is a link to a very recent document from the CDF (May 29, 2018, under Pope Francis) reiterating why women's ordination is outside the deposit of the faith. Pope JPII, BXVIII & PF all confirm the infallibility of the doctrine you despise. Some quotes:

"Spreading these doubts creates grave confusion among the faithful, not only with regard to the sacrament of Holy Orders as belonging to the divine constitution of the Church, but also with regards to the Ordinary Magisterium that can teach Catholic doctrine in an infallible manner."

"First, concerning the ministerial priesthood, the Church recognizes that the impossibility of ordaining women belongs to the “substance of the sacrament” of Orders (cf. DH 1728). The Church does not have the power to change this substance, because it is precisely from the sacraments, instituted by Christ, that the Church is made. It does not pertain only to a disciplinary element, but a doctrinal one, inasmuch as it pertains to the structure of the sacraments, which are the original place of encounter with Christ and of the transmission of the faith."

"It is important to reaffirm that infallibility does not only pertain to solemn pronouncements of a Council or of the Supreme Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, but also to the universal and ordinary teaching of bishops dispersed throughout the world, when they propose, in communion among themselves and with the Pope, the Catholic doctrine to be held definitively. John Paul II referred to this infallibility in Ordinatio sacerdotalis."

"Further proof of the commitment with which John Paul II examined the question is the prior consultation that he undertook in Rome with the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences who were seriously interested in the problem. All of them declared, with complete conviction, through obedience of the Church to the Lord, that the Church does not have the faculty to confer on women priestly ordination. Pope Benedict XVI also reaffirmed this teaching"

"on November 1, 2016, Pope Francis reaffirmed: 'On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last word was clearly given by Saint John Paul II, and this remains.'"


Tim O'Leary
3 days ago

Michael - thanks for your well-balanced comment. The article is highly over-the-top. One amazing quote: "The opposition to Francis is opposition to the Second Vatican Council." There may indeed be some traditionalists who criticize both VCII and Pope Francis (as they did BXVI & JPII, both involved in and outspoken supporters of the Council), but the criticism Pope Francis has generated has come from many sides, from those concerned with his intemperate style, his imprudent off-the-cuff remarks in-flight, his knee-jerk anti-Americanism, his gullible acceptance of socialist and elitist causes, his firing of outspoken opponents while simultaneously claiming he welcomes public criticism, his checkered record with priests & bishops behaving badly with boys, and the perennial liberals (like Nora and others here) impatient with the pace of dechristianization and secularist sycophancy. For an example of the latter, there is a major storm brewing between the Holy Father and liberal-leaning Germans led by Cardinal Marx regarding their attempts at a local Council they are calling a synod. Pope Francis sent a letter in June advising them on the synod and "The proposal, which followed the instructions of a June letter from the Pope, was rejected in a 21-3 vote." Now, the Vatican has called the German Synod plans ‘Not Ecclesiologically Valid.’ You would never get such opposition from the so-called conservative bishops, whose methodology is letters of concern and dubia and calls for prayer and fasting. The US Bishops have never ever voted against the pope, even when he told them not to institute tougher accountability rules on bishops wrt sex abuse.


Michael Bindner
4 days 16 hours ago

Essentially, Francis stands with the pre-Vatican II dissidents and the counter-revolutionary St. John Paul. The old persecutors hate being shone the door. Too bad. Vive il Papa.

Michael Bindner
4 days 16 hours ago

My only gripe with Francis is that under him, the CDF will never condemn my books. I need the sales that would foster.

Fred Keyes
4 days 15 hours ago

That sounds like an 'imprimi protest.' :)

Franklyn BUSBY
4 days 14 hours ago

LOL Bless your heart...

Alan Johnstone
4 days 15 hours ago

Quite a good overview of the current terrain.
I look forward to Francis warning the third world leaders not to sell their souls and economies and material resources to China and the first world industrialists to harvest resources in the least traumatic way possible and to get third world Christians to pray and fast and evangelise the lost rich in the first world who have immortal souls too.

J. Calpezzo
4 days 15 hours ago

As far as I can "discern" those who oppose Pope Francis are the same ones who supported the two Popes who gave us the scandal of the millenia by covering up child rape in the church., costing the church billions of dollars, and muting its voice on the great moral issues of the day. Those who oppose Pope Francis should either leave the church or find one of the parishes forced to close by the Benedict/JPII/Bernie Law/ Mahony cabal and get off on the Latin Mass. The Church would do just fine without these pharisees.

lurline jennings
4 days 15 hours ago

Perhaps we need to hear what Cardinal Burke has to say. We should listen carefully to the accusations that call for immediate resignation. It seems this pope, according to his critics is not one who is concerned with the true meaning of the long-revered Magesterium. The whole situation reminds us of the time of St. Charles Borromeo. He too faced scandal par excellence. It would seem the church survived that time. It survived the Reformation while the rest of the world was being discovered and conquered. Since the church seems to consist mainly of human beings it should be allowed to grow, stretch, examine and apply new thoughts and actions to our old problems. Pope Francis represents the priests who are pastors not just the princes, great theologians, and philosophers. He has brought new life to the liturgy with his appointments of those who understand the old and the new and can present the best of both. All in all, we think he is a man for our time and one not encased in a golden cage and carried on the Sedalia.

J. Calpezzo
4 days 11 hours ago

Burke is a pimp, and like many of the Cardinals has lost credibility. Francis inherited a mess, a mess the likes of Burke helped to create. It's time for the Magisterium of the People.

Danny Collins
4 days 11 hours ago

Francis is the biggest cover-up artist of them all, and he should at least know better. What other pope has publicly called victims liars? What other pope has lied on camera himself about his own involvement in covering up sex abuse and trying to get convicted pedophiles off the hook by publishing hit pieces about victims and delivering those books/pamphlets to the desks of judges. Watch Martin Boudot's documentary, "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church: Code of Silence" if you want to know what Francis is really like. It is Francis who knowingly promotes people like Mauro Inzoli, Julio Grassi, Monsignor Ricci, Gustavo Zanchetta, Theodore McCarrick. Has there every been a child molestor who wasn't rewarded and promoted to a place of power by Francis, absent intense media scrutiny?

bill carson
4 days 15 hours ago

The writer is effective at creating straw argument, putting words in the mouth of those with Francis concerns, and then dismantling them. A waste of time piece, only good for leftist Jesuits.

Franklyn BUSBY
4 days 14 hours ago

Really?!? That's all you've got?!? Tired cliches?!? You may want to try comic books or the National Enquirer next time.

Oh, and one of the primary talking-heads at EWTN, Mitch Pacwa is a "liberal Jesuit."

Ron Martel
4 days 1 hour ago

Lol liberal Jesuit!

Jim Englert
4 days 12 hours ago

Far from putting words in the mouths of Francis’s critics, Bill, Fr. Codina is pretty faithfully reporting the very verbiage that I read repeatedly on Catholic social media sites. It’s not a matter of creating a straw man, but revealing much of the criticism to be made of straw.

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 days 15 hours ago

Missing in this discussion is the reality of the eventual misery and poverty which have taken place under the banner of Liberation Theology....which is the animating Theology /philosophy /economic social justice of what Father Codina describes as the Church’s South Branch.

A reality based pastoral theology of the Poor must be undergirded by a an understanding of basic economics needed to generate the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people. Unfortunately such a marshaling Of economic Resources takes not only time but a significant understanding of the economic human.....one who is motivated by nature to seek the maximum benefit for himself and his genetic line. There are no short cuts as the long interval between Adam Smith and the present demonstrates. But during that interval it has been demonstrated that once established improved economic results for ever greater numbers can be obtained with vector speed.
Liberation Theology,as well intentioned as it may be, has been used to undermine that progress wherever its precepts have been applied. Nicaragua ,Cuba, and Venezuela demonstrates that the worthy goals of Liberation Theology are but handmaidens to their political proponents and their personal ambitions and goals. See Father Cardenal’s recent belated rejection of Ortega, but alas too late to avoid the growing catastrophe his earlier views and support has created.
Father Codina, as well as the selected Editors “Tweet This” boxes betray the same lack of economic principles/understanding and expose the debilitating I’m patience inherent in Liberation Theology. Their efforts and support should be directed at helping implement and grow economic systems which have been proven to work. There also needs to be an understanding that so called global solutions...Grand Pan human Coops ....will also fail because of the innumerable cultural differences in its potential global members. Such lack of “common interest” and binding points of cohesiveness may be deplorable but they are nonetheless less a seeming fact of our failed human nature.

Franklyn BUSBY
4 days 14 hours ago

While "Liberation Theology" is a bit of straw-man these days, you make some interesting points. Not said is that your premise resolves to a (non-spoken, perhaps but undeniable, nonetheless) endorsement of capitalism. If you seriously believe/contend that multi-national corporations have ANY interest in generating "the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people" then I have a bridge to sell you.

P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for not trotting out the "evil socialism" canard. It seems that virtually no one in the chattering class actually knows the definition and philosophical basis of the word. Thank you.

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 days 13 hours ago

I do not believe that multi nationals have any interest in generating anything but profits for themselves....but the genius of Adam Smith’s identification of the Invisible Hand is that out of the cacophony of these competing self interests progress is made toward a greater good....not spread equally but of such huge proportions that all benefit. It is messy and frequently even quite scandalous but forward progress is made not just for those present bu5 for the future generations as well.
No one could seriously argue that Capitalism is “fair” but it has none the less over the past 40 years lifted billions of people out of poverty....Even “The Economist”, a respectedChristian Socialist Magazine, has been forced to admit that Capitalism has done exactly that and will do so in the future...See The Economist, June 2013, “TOWARDS THE END OF POVERTY”.
The trouble with Liberation Theology is that it demands/attempts to create “the result” now and in that “now” process it cannibalizes and destroys the very generators of prosperity ....Venezuela is a shining example of just how fast this destruction occurs and as in Nicaragua The Liberation Theology supporters Chavez embodied in Arturo Sosa S.J. (current Father General Of the Jesuits) did not recant their support until it was too late.
It is the hallmark of Liberation Theology: so many good intentions with such disastrous results

Jorge Rebasa
4 days 2 hours ago

Stuart, it isn't capitalism that has “lifted billions of people out of poverty” but rather people who engage in hard work (business owners, employers, etc) who have ethics. Capitalism is a nice idea on paper much like Communism, and I say that with pause since I fled a Communist country as a political refugee. The problem with these ideas is it depends on people, flawed and driven by appetites. Additionally not everyone is able to create and work at the same level of drive and output as the next person. “What the market can bear” is a hideous metric which has led us to where we are today thanks to an appetite for profits, outrageous pricing vs actual costs, shafting employees with merciless employment practices (e.g. Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, supermarket chains, etc). Americans have gotten screwed by these mega business owners with untold wealth on the backs of their employees.

The answer is inner, personal reform, an internal locus of control as opposed to depending on government regulations, government heavy handedness and the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, et al. Trump, Alphabet Inc, Zuckerberg, Bezos are the faces of capitalism and they are not pretty.

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 days ago

Capitalism is a descriptive term for a process whose fundamental underlying principle is “free market” where individuals, and groups of individuals organized or disorganized exchange goods and services.. You quite correctly describe these participants as hard working individuals. As I indicated , no one can describe Capitalism as “fair” because it inherently involves the shifting needs, wants, desires of innumerable individuals offset by the willingness of other individuals to supply those needs, wants and desires. While unfettered Capitalism allows potential massive shifts, no successful country practices that form having established safety nets for those who would be left behind.
As for your comment on merciless employment practices, I refer you to the fact that even today with the recent reductions in our own government control there are now 7.2 Million open jobs and only 6Million unemployed. The result is an increase in real average income over the past 2.5 years of @$4,000 vs @ $1,500 over the previous 8. For myself the this demonstrates that government directed economies yield results inversely proportional to the quantity of such direction/control.
The actual daily practice of economics is never a stagnant human endeavor, with ever present shifts as identified by Adam Smith. This means that absolute or even near “fairness” is inherently unattainable. Attempts by economic philosophies like Liberation Theology are doomed to failure because they need to generate instant results in exchange for the required immediate political control essential to its establishment! As noted, this process cannibalizes the very sources of the prosperity it promises to generate.
The job of Theology in practice is to change the hearts and minds of individuals in establishing safety nets to cover the problems you describe, It is decidedly not its job to design , dictate, or impose economic systems for which it has no credentials whatsoever!

Chuck Kotlarz
2 days 23 hours ago

Mr. Meisenzhal, do maximum benefits include non-living wages? How have non-living wages been proven to work? Did Liberation Theology pioneer the “non-living wage”?

You fail to note the uptrend in median household income began during the Obama presidency and has entered its sixth year. Obama’s uptrend and an earlier uptrend in 1993 both began the year the top income tax rate increased to 39%. When the top tax rate fell below 39%, as it did during the Bush 41 and Bush 43 terms, median household income declined.

Jorge Rebasa
2 days 13 hours ago


J Cosgrove
2 days ago

The Jesuits claim the Pope believes deeply in Liberation Theology. I doubt Adam Smith would understand your interpretation of him. At the time of Adam Smith in England prices were dropping dramatically on the cost of some important commodities. The essential ingredient for prosperity is not capitalism but freedom. When some entities control too much of the market they can effect the freedom of both buyers and sellers. What is key is freedom which leads to free market capitalism where both buyer and seller are free to choose.

J Cosgrove
2 days ago

By the way the Jesuits advocate communism/socialism as a desired economic system. When asked about it, they said they were not Marxist because of the atheistic implications. But did not deny they advocate communism. They had the chance to deny it but they didn't. So they are officially on record at least here in America, the magazine.

J Cosgrove
3 days 22 hours ago

The evidence is quite clear. When a small part of the world was allowed to experience freedom, the world became prosperous. This happened about 300 years ago in England and about 200 years ago in Northwestern Europe, then to a lesser extent in southern Europe and then in the 20th Century after World War II in most of the world. It is easy to follow the changes by country See bit.ly/1S9BM3G

J Cosgrove
3 days 22 hours ago

The Pope is a hard core Liberation Theologist, at least according to the Jesuits who run this site. Fr. Gilger said Pope Francis believes deeply in Liberation Theology.

Jim Lein
3 days 23 hours ago

In other words no direct helping of the poor, pass by them if you see them suffering or starving. Even if this includes the unborn who really need intrauterine nourishment to develop. Cut programs like WIC (food for women, infants and children). Put all your faith and effort in the national or world economy. Nothing in the very long meantime. How is that Christian, Christ-following? His disciples pooled their resources, taking from their from wants, to meet the needs of the poor.
Our current system is not based on Christian principles--or on reality. Here, money is speech and corporations are people. This is unreal and inhumane and certainly unchristian.
We need to face reality. Money is not speech. Corporations are not persons. We are all persons. We should not have to live in the shadow of giant super wealthy persons, and wealth should not drown out our speech. Such a fine mess we are in.

J Cosgrove
3 days 22 hours ago

"no direct helping of the poor etc."

You are talking nonsense. Why not engage in asking questions to reach a more accurate assessment?

Jim Lein
3 days 21 hours ago

Just want to add that private efforts, including religious charity efforts like food pantries and free meals, are very helpful. But government food programs provide 95% of food for the poor. Government efforts are needed, more than just letting capitalism work its magic which benefits mainly the wealthy and barely trickles down to the needy.

J Cosgrove
3 days 20 hours ago

Again, you are making unwarranted assumptions. No one is against government programs. Some have run their course and should be done away with or combined with others but most have a positive function. However, the question is how much and to whom?

J Cosgrove
3 days 20 hours ago

just letting capitalism work its magic which benefits mainly the wealthy and barely trickles down to the needy

As far as the poor in the United States, why does the bottom 20% of the US have more material goods than most of Europe? The problem with our poor is not material goods which you are arguing for but something else.

J Cosgrove
3 days 20 hours ago

For anyone who is interested here is spending by the Federal government for the last 45 years http://bit.ly/2kgnHIx

Play around with it and see if we are underspending in any area.

J Jones
1 day 16 hours ago

Hi Jim, complete aside here but want to call attention to your comment. The vast majority of funding for Catholic nonprofits is provided by the American taxpayer, with a tiny fraction provided by parishes and other parts of the RCC institution. This cannot be said often enough. Most Catholics are deeply proud of Catholic charitable efforts even as many of them vote to end the taxpayer funding which makes all that "Catholic charity" possible.

Jorge Rebasa
1 day 13 hours ago

JJ: Catholic Charities income for year 2016 was $4,485,053,636, with government revenue accounting for 63%.
“Income mix varies significantly among agencies. In the aggregate, funds from local, state, and federal government represented the largest source of funding; however, the median proportion of government funding among agencies is 37%.”

Stuart Meisenzahl
18 hours 49 min ago

J Jones
Tax payer funding of Catholic Charities binds the Church to the politicians.....a time honored method of destroying the Church’s independence and the transformation/distortion of its moral principles.
As usual it is all undertaken with the best of intentions and purity of motive.....but historically the result has always been the same.....look only to the violent upheaval of the French Revolution and the anti clericalism that followed. First Cardinals acting as chancellor/prime ministers and eventually chancellors/ prime ministers controlling the Church.
Had Christ meant to preach the Sermon on the Mount to governments he would have gone to Rome.....His message was distinctly to individuals who cannot in turn simply outsource the heavy obligations it imposes to government.

The fact that It has already become quite common for the Church organizations to rely first on the government for their funding and only after to the Church’s members is quite revealing. If you are already dependent on government funding,
for 63% of your funding, then the die is cast and control has already shifted. The excuse will be “Resistance” to current/future government demands will imperil our mission, and we can’t allow that.

Paul Hierholzer
4 days 14 hours ago

"And his excessive emphasis on divine mercy in “Misericordiae Vultus” is scandalous because it lessens the grace and cross of Jesus."
It seems the grace and cross of Jesus is in fact the ultimate manifestation of divine mercy.

Christopher Minch
3 days 20 hours ago

Correct and this divine mercy has been a part of God's plan for us and all creation since the very beginning of time and for Christians became very much apparent when we realized what the cross of Jesus really meant and how it became a grace in our lives. Pope Francis' thinking does not make this divine mercy scandalous but broadens it and emphasizes it in other contexts as it should be. It's what prophets do.

john schmidt
4 days 14 hours ago

Francis is the best Pope in years trying to change the course of the Church to what Christ wanted. He is liked by more than those who dislike him. Conservatives are threatened by his actions and that threatens their power. I'd rather discuss the reasons to like him.

Crystal Watson
4 days 13 hours ago

There are *two* groups that dislike Francis' policies: the conservatives and also liberals. There are hardly any liberals left in the church and they aren't very vocal, but we do exist. We disagree with Francis on his views on women priests, marriage for LGBT people, gender theory, contraception, etc.

Terry Kane
4 days 12 hours ago

No mention of: the Church's activities in China; Francis' beliefs about capitalism; Francis' comments on President Trump; position on "Liberation Theology"; and others.
There are many things which would cause some to oppose this Pope.

Christopher Scott
4 days 11 hours ago

I went on Amazon to see if there are any books written by Pope Francis. I found 1 in good condition for $3.99. Make an offer...

Michael Ward
4 days 11 hours ago

That just is not factual. Seems like a snarky lie to me.

E. Commerce
4 days 11 hours ago

Pope Francis is growing on me over time, but I was really put off by his opening statements that seemed to scoff at pro-lifers as being obsessed with the issue. Of course there are many issues, and of course women in poverty must find ways to manage the size of their families so as to be able to cope, but abortion is not the answer. 40 years of struggling to keep the issue on the front burner to effect the saving of lives is not obsessive. It is determined, and courageous, and right. I think there are many other issues where American Catholics need to be more open to the radical call of Jesus to love--but the pro-life movement is at the forefront of Jesus' call to protect the little children. If they do not have life, then the other things that they need--such as food, decent housing, freedom and a clean environment-- can't be addressed at all.

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