On Saturday, as I cleaned house, I had had my eyes and ears half-tuned to a conference on Pope Francis’ papacy going on at Villanova University. I listened to part of a talk by Massimo Faggioli, who is on the theology faculty there, and I’ve been watching some of the tweets by Faggioli and others.
Such as this one:
Faggioli was tweeting during Fr. Antonio Spadaro’s talk, so those words about opposition and hatred are Fr. Spadaro’s.
First of all, I was surprised to see the opposition and hatred described as “so much” since usually Pope Francis is described as very popular and any opposition to him as coming from a small traditionalist and conservative fringe that happens to have a big megaphone on social media and blogs. And Francis does remain popular with the world, no?
Which brings me to why I want to write about that tweet. One of the reasons why I have enjoyed Ross Douthat’s approach to what is going on in Rome is that he is both modest and humble in his assessments. His book To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism examines the risks Pope Francis is taking, yet at every turn Douthat tries his best to give the Pope the benefit of a doubt and to admit he, Douthat, may be wrong.
Douthat is concerned Pope Francis’ reforms risk Anglicanizing the Catholic Church, something he does not see as a good idea. Neither do I.
But how do we make sure that any opposition we may have to what we perceive is the Pope’s project is not due to evil spirits and hatred, as Fr. Spadaro seems to be charging?
First of all, one must always examine one’s heart to see whether one’s ability to see clearly is clouded by the world, the flesh or the devil. One must confess and renounce any spirits of division, of hatred, of bitterness, of resentment, of confusion, of anger, of outrage that interfere with the ability to discern by the light of the Holy Spirit.
It is our duty to love the Pope and to pray for him and that means not allowing ill-will or animosity towards him to find a place in our hearts.
The fruits of the Spirit should be our guide concerning our spiritual state—and holy dispassion towards everything that is not God’s will our aim. Then, if we calmly discern by the light of God and oppose, then we are doing so in the right spirit. But if we are animated by judgment, spite, derision, contempt, a sense of moral superiority, or a critical spirit then we need to pray more and yield more to God’s will.
The talks will be posted on Villanova’s YouTube channel eventually. I will try to find the time to listen to them.