Ethika Politika (EP) has undertaken a full-court press on behalf of Pope Francis. Yesterday, Andrew Haines, EP’s lead editor, laid into Catholics who are less-than-impressed with the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod on the Family and the direction in which Francis is taking the Church. Today, another EP editor, David Mills, chastises his coreligionists about their public (or even private) attitude toward the Pope. While Mills is right to observe that some of the negative rhetoric concerning Francis’s pontificate is extreme, he may be going too far in assuming that those who criticize the Pope strongly are only doing so in order to score sanctimony points. Many faithful Catholics are genuinely worried, if not panicked, about what Francis has allowed to transpire over the past two years because it is hindering the Church’s divine mission. Mills expresses worry about what non-Catholics might think when they hear sons and daughters of the Church speaking ill of Francis, but does he worry about what those same non-Catholics think when the Pope appears to undermine Catholic doctrine while failing to discharge his duties seriously?
Very few, if any, of my Eastern Orthodox friends and acquaintances are impressed with this Pope. Instead of seeing a man who is supposed to seriously lead 1.2 billion Christians to the Kingdom of Heaven, they find an inept chairman of the world’s largest and most dysfunctional NGO. His off-the-cuff remarks to pressmen and individual Catholics are oftentimes confusing, if not scandalous. His liturgical style is grotesque, not to mention anti-traditional, and his priorities seem to be directed at accommodating the Church to the ways of the world rather than saving souls. Although the Orthodox are not without their own faults, can anyone imagine Patriarch Kirill of Moscow—head of the world’s largest Orthodox jurisdiction—wagging his finger at those in his flock attached to traditional doctrine, liturgy, and piety? Is there a single Orthodox patriarch in the world—save Bartholomew of Constantinople—who behaves like Francis? Heaven forbid.
Mills wants Catholics to love the Pope as “their father.” The hard truth is that Francis does not project the authority, leadership, and love of a true father. He is the embarrassing loudmouthed uncle who is begrudgingly invited over on Thanksgiving. He’s family, so you love him; but you still hope your friends never see him.