Pope Francis on Not Making It His Priority to Drive People Away from the Love of God

Where Peter Is covers one of the Holy Father’s recent airplane chats, which I love because of all the people he blesses and cares for, and which the Righteous hate because he keeps consistently telling them he does not conceive of his job as turning the sacraments into reducing valves for keeping as many people as possible from the love of God:


During his flight back to Rome from Slovakia, Pope Francis spoke on several issues that are dividing the Church, especially in the US: the Covid vaccine, the denial of communion to pro-choice politicians, the Amoris Laetitia debate, and same-sex unions. There’s a lot to unpack here—indeed, there’s a lot to unpack about this entire trip—but there’s also a lot of spin out there about what he said in this in-flight press conference. In addition to these topics, Francis also responded to some questions about the reason for his stop in Hungary was so brief, and he seemed be trying to diffuse some of the tension between himself and Hungarian President Viktor Orbán.

(Note: There isn’t an official English transcript on the Vatican site yet, and there are several floating around, so I will be relying primarily on the CNA translation, the Vatican News translation, and Gerard O’Connell’s report in America.)


Slovak journalist Bohumil Petrik of the Denník Štandard asked about resistance to the Covid vaccine: “You say that getting the vaccine is an act of love. And when you do not get the vaccine, what would you call it? Some believers have felt discriminated against and there are different approaches in the different dioceses on this point. … So, we would all like to know how to get along, how to reconcile on this issue.”

In his response, Pope Francis said: “Humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines. As children, we got them for measles, for other things, for polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything. Then this [opposition] happened. This was perhaps due to the virulence, the uncertainty not only about the pandemic, but also about the different vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines which are nothing more than distilled water. This created fear in people.”

O’Connell reported what the pope said next: “‘I cannot explain it well. Some say it is because vaccines are not sufficiently tested.’ But, he added, ‘Even in the College of Cardinals there are some anti-vaxxers, and one of them, poor man, was hospitalized with the virus.’ Journalists understood this as referring to Cardinal Raymond Burke, though Francis did not name him.”

In Pope Francis’s answer, he reveals that he is just as mystified as many of us about the rise of the anti-vaccination movement. It seems that he has tried to understand the various fears and concerns that vaccine resistant Catholics have—with sensitivity and compassion, but he clearly can’t fully understand the feat that drives them.

Eucharistic Coherence

America’s Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell asked the question from the English-speaking group. First he commented that “the surgery produced a splendid result and that you are rejuvenated.” He then asked a question that is on the minds of many Catholics, especially in the United States:

“Holy Father, you have often said we are all sinners, and that the Eucharist is not a reward for the perfect but a medicine and food for the weak. As you know, in the USA, particularly after the last elections, but even since 2004, there has been a discussion among the bishops about giving communion to politicians who have supported laws in favour of abortion and the woman’s right to choose.

And as you know, there are bishops who want to deny communion to the president and others who hold office. There are other bishops who are opposed, there are other bishops who say “you do not need to use the Eucharist as a weapon.” My question, Holy Father: What do you think about all this, and what do you advise the bishops? Then, a second question: You, as bishop, in all these years, have you publicly refused the Eucharist to anyone like this?

To this, Pope Francis responded (provided in its entirety for full context):

“No, I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone. I don’t know if anyone in that condition came, but I never, never refused the Eucharist. As a priest, that is. Never. I have never been aware of having a person like the one you describe in front of me, that is true. Simply, the only time I ever had a bit…an interesting thing, was when I went to celebrate Mass in a rest home and we were in the living room, and I said: “Raise your hand if you want to receive Communion.” Everyone, the old men, the old women, everyone wanted Communion, and when I gave Communion to one woman, she took me by the hand and said to me: ‘Thank you, Father, thank you: I’m Jewish.’ I said: ‘No, the one that I gave to you is Jewish, too…’ The only strange thing, but the woman received Communion first, she said it after.

No, I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone. I don’t know if anyone in that condition came, but I never, never refused the Eucharist.

No. Communion is not a prize for the perfect, no? Let’s think of Port Royal (des Champs), of the issue with Angélique Arnaud, Jansenism: those who are perfect can receive Communion. Communion is a gift, a present; the presence of Jesus in his Church and in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot receive Communion, like this Jewish woman, but the Lord wanted to reward her without my knowledge. Why? Because they are out of the community—ex-comunitate—excommunicated they are called. It is a harsh term, but it means that they are not in the community, either because they do not belong to it, they are not baptized or have drifted away for some reason.

Second the problem of abortion. Abortion is more than a problem. Abortion is homicide. Abortion…without being ambiguous: whoever has an abortion kills. Take any book on embryology for medical students in medical school. The third week after conception, from the third week, often before the mamma is aware of it, all the organs are already there, even the DNA… Isn’t that a person? It is a human life, period. And this human life must be respected. This principle is so clear, and to those who cannot understand, I would ask two questions: is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically, it is a human life.

The second question: is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? I said this publically to Jordi Évole when he did it, I said it the other day to COPE, I wanted to repeat it… and that’s enough. Don’t ask strange questions. Scientifically it is a human life. Books teach this. I ask: is it right to throw it out to solve a problem? That is why the Church is so hard on this issue, because it’s a little like if she were to accept it, if she accepts this, it would be like accepting daily murder. A Head of State was telling me that the decline in population began by them, there is an age gap, because in those years there was such a strong law on abortion that they did six million abortions, it is calculated, and this left a sharp drop in the society of that country.

Now let’s get to that person who is not in the community, who cannot receive Communion because they are outside the community, and this is not a punishment. No, the person is outside. Communion is uniting yourself to the community. But the problem is not the theological problem—that is simple—the problem it is the pastoral problem: how do we bishops deal with this principle pastorally. And if we look at the history of the church we will see that every time the bishops have dealt with a problem not as pastors, they have taken taken a political stance on a political problem. Think of St Bartholomew’s Night: “Oh, heretics, yes. But it’s a serious heresy…let’s cut all their throats….” No: it is a political matter. Let’s think of Joan of Arc, about that vision, let’s think of the witch-hunt…. Let’s think of the Campo de’ Fiori, of Savonarola, of all those people.

Every time the bishops have dealt with a problem not as pastors, they have taken taken a political stance on a political problem.

When the church defends a principle in an unpastoral manner, it acts on a political level. And this has always been the case, just look at history. What must the pastor do? Be a pastor. Be a pastor and don’t go around condemning, not condemning…. But is he a pastor for the excommunicated too? Yes, he is a pastor and must be a pastor with him, to be a pastors with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion and tenderness. The entire Bible says so. Closeness is already there in Deuteronomy where he says to Israel: “Tell me what people has its gods as close as I am to you?” Closeness, compassion. The Lord has compassion on us as we read in Ezekiel, in Hosea. Tenderness was there already in the beginning. It is enough to look in the Gospels and the things of Jesus. A pastor who does not know how to act with God’s style, is slipping and does many things that are not pastoral.

For me, I do not want to specify, since you spoke of the United States, because I do not know the details well of the United States, I will give the principle. You could say to me: “But, if you are close, tender and compassionate with a person, would you give the person Communion?” This is a hypothesis. Be a pastor, and the pastor knows what he must do at all times, but as a pastor. But if he goes out of the pastoral dimension of the church, he immediately becomes a politician: You see this in all the accusations, in all the non-pastoral condemnations the church makes…

What must the pastor do? Be a pastor. Be a pastor and don’t go around condemning, not condemning…. But is he a pastor for the excommunicated too?

With this principle, I think a pastor should be able to move about well. The principles are taken from theology. Pastoral ministry is theology and the Holy Spirit who is leading you to act with the style of. God. I dare say up to here. If you say: can you give or not give? This is casuistry, what the theologians say.

Do you remember the storm that was whipped up with “Amoris Laetitia” when it came out with the chapter on the accompaniment of separated couples, divorced? Heresy, heresy! Thanks be to God there was Cardinal Schönborn there who is a great theologian, and he clarified things.

But always this condemnation, condemnation. An excommunication is enough, please let’s not make more excommunications. The poor people, they are children of God and they want and need our pastoral closeness. Then the pastor resolves things as the Spirit tells him.”

Much more here.

I love this guy so much.


13 Responses

  1. From the linked article…

    “ again, Pope Francis seems to be endorsing the “San Francisco solution,” which provides for civil union arrangements between persons, regardless of their sexuality and the specifics of their relationship, but, by its nature, would also provide benefits for those in homosexual relationships.”

    I have to admit that I do like what Francis has to say, even though he makes it sounds like a little bit of prevarication. Just about everywhere in the world, and certainly, everywhere in the west, legal marriage is a civil union. The participation of any religious figure or rite is simply optional. WITHOUT EXCEPTION. This “San Francisco solution“ it’s simply an attempt to give us a second class institution, one that people in the first class institution can point to, pat themselves on the back for being so generous with the civil law that governs all of us, and say, “see, we’re not so bad. look at how nice we are. Will let those people pretend they are married. Poor, poor them“.

    Despite his constant repetition of the word benefits, marriage is about a lot more than benefits: rights, responsibilities, social and legal recognition and support, and obligations are also entailed. “Civil unions“ in the “San Francisco solution“ are a recognition that the gay minority has a moral, legal, familial, and yes, religious claim upon the heterosexual majority, but it is also a clear statement that there is no way in hell that our equality will ever be recognized. Separate but equal has never worked, at least not for those who are less equal by law. It works just fine for the self-righteous, however.

    “Meanwhile, he reiterates the Catholic teaching on marriage and the need for the Church to remain true to her doctrine on marriage and to remain free from coercion by the state: “The Lord desires that everyone be saved, but please, don’t make the Church deny her truth.” And here is the proverbial red herring, the insidious waiving of an imaginary flag of imaginary persecution. Believe whatever you like. No one cares. No one is trying to coerce the church in this matter, despite the claims of persecution and invasion. (Someone wise once said that accusation is confession. I can’t seem to remember his name). Catholics can believe whatever they want. Keep it out of the civil law that governs all of us. Does that make me a satanist per today’s Column? As I have often said, if you don’t think my marriage is valid, don’t attend the wedding. I certainly won’t be expecting a gift. But don’t tell me that I am not entitled to the same rights, obligations, responsibilities and benefits that you are because of your theological concerns. My life, my family, my children, and my participation in society, and thus my marriage, are every bit as valuable as those of fornicating, adulterous Newtie’s, whose third marriage occurred IN THE CHURCH.

    The sad thing is that I have to compare my life to that slime to make a point.

    “Pope Francis is trying to strike that difficult but necessary balance between justice and mercy with the LGBT community.”

    What’s difficult or necessary? For 2000 years, justice directed towards us has consisted of criminalizing us, jails, murders, beatings, judicial murders, vilification, destroyed families and lives and careers, calls for heavens vengeance for asserting that my life is valuable, and being blamed for every single social problem we could not have had a thing to do with. Frankly, so to speak, the use of the word mercy implies that you have some sort of moral or judicial right to make our lives difficult, dangerous, unpleasant and expensive as possible, but because you are a nice guy, maybe you won’t do what you have done for 2000 years. You might even throw us a bone if we’re lucky. “Have a nice civil union. Just ignore the spoiled parts.”

    I am simply not interested in your ideas of justice and mercy with their implied superiority as human beings. Civil equality, not religious equality, is our goal.

  2. The delicate balance between justice and mercy has to do with sin. Sin always punishes. Whether it’s Newtie, or you or me doesn’t make a difference. Sin is sin. The quality of a union can be seen and understood only by the One who sees everything. Pieces of paper with signatures don’t mean much, unless of course one partner in a bad union needs to assert their legal rights.

    (In the case of a close family member–this meant that she was entitled to a million bucks plus 100 grand per kid if “it” didn’t work out. He took up with her best friend, divorced his wife, grew tired of the mistress (after they mutually destroyed her family too), and then moved his old family to a country that doesn’t recognize common law marriage, –and then forced his ex to invest the 1.3 million from the pr-numpinto his new company which failed.)

    Jerks are jerks. It doesn’t matter if the jerk is Catholic and thinks they are getting officially *sacramentally* married and that the location of the ceremony makes it more authentic

    .A Catholic, *sacramental* marriage has some pretty specific qualities which involves children and of course strict monogamy. This means that a lot of Catholics are walking around thinking that they are married when in fact their union might only amount to a civil union. Does this keep me up at night? No, it does not. I keep my eyes on my own paper. There are probably oodles of couples who have blessed unions –more holy than some jerks who can check all of the Humanae Vitae boxes. Just because they didn’t use BC doesn’t mean their marriages are sacramental–but— they said all of the right things to get the reservation at the Catholic Church.

    Are Catholics guilty of discrimination if they don’t let gay couples have their celebrations in Catholic churches? Of course not. Does it make the gay couple less holy than the Catholic one? Nope. If Joe Blow thinks he’s superior to Ben because of his beautiful wife and ten children does that make it so? I couldn’t care less about the Joe Blows of this world, in fact I want nothing to do with them. The louder they are –the easier it is to get as far away as possible. They can have each other.

    I’d say that the Pope and most of the people on the planet are in Ben’s corner. The jerks will always exist and aren’t worth the oxygen and pixels.
    What if we all just ignored them? They would hate that.

  3. All true and very kind, but I do have a couple of exceptions.

    That legal paper means a great deal, some of it very tangible and some of it very intangible. I am on my husband‘s health insurance, which is invaluable, because medical people take care of themselves. Two of my friends have one bio child each, and when they travel, they are recognized as the parents of these two fabulous children, my god children. Funny thing for an atheist to have, but there it is. I’m trying to get my heterosexual nephew in Germany to marry his girlfriend because they just had a baby, His rights may not be recognized outside of Germany.

    No, Catholics are not guilty of discrimination if they don’t wish to host same-sex weddings in the church. I say that first because I don’t care about getting married in the church, but mostly, it’s because I actually believe in religious freedom. I think it’s stupid, but that’s a different matter entirely. I do know a couple of gay Catholics that would love to get married in the church, but they belong to most holy Redeemer and feel it isn’t such a big issue for them. No one else I know, except my former clientele, had ever the slightest desire to get married in the church. And if they did, there’s even a local Baptist church that would be ecstatic to have them.

    I’m not sure that the pope is in my corner, and I certainly wouldn’t say that about a majority of the world. We are still very well hated in lots of places. Francis‘s choice of language leads me to believe he’s not, and his failure to curb the American, Polish and Hungarian bishops tells me it’s not a huge issue for him.

    1. And right on time, almost as if someone was reading my posts here, there is this:

      Religion News Service reports:

      Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, railed against “new social justice movements” during a speech Thursday (Nov. 4), decrying them as “pseudo-religions” that ultimately serve as “dangerous substitutes for true religion.”

      The prelate argued the United States, like Europe, has been subject to “aggressive secularization,” insisting “there has been a deliberate effort in Europe and America to erase the Christian roots of society and to suppress any remaining Christian influences.”

      He also lambasted “cancel culture,” contending that “often what is being canceled and corrected are perspectives rooted in Christian beliefs.” But Gomez saved his most strident criticism for “new social movements and ideologies,” the influence of which, he said, accelerated after the murder of George Floyd.

      Who was it that said, “what you have done to the least of these, my brothers, you have done unto me.”? He must have been a republican.

  4. I worry about Archbishop Gomez. I hate to say it here publicly (because I think he is a good person)…but I think perhaps he is somewhat weak. My guess is that the people who surround him and the pushier prelates fill his ears up with the fear mongering that my family and some friends used to feed me a constant diet of. I also hate to say it, but Bishop Gomez, as a Mexican, probably suffers somewhat (ironically!) from the very thing that the social justice movement is pushing back against–that thin veneer of pseudo decency that we cover our racism up with.

    Pope Francis on the other hand, takes no scheisse. He has one foot in the grave and is trying to help us as much as he can in the space of time that he has. It is indeed a delicate balance if you push too hard all at once, causing people to lose sight of why the Catholic Church exists at all.

    I *do* think there are hateful people out there that are so blinded by their rage and fury that they want to “cancel” good people just because they were/are Catholic. Padre Junipero Serra comes to mind. He is simply not the person they are trying to make him out to be. What they are doing is ungodly. I hope they throw the book at the vandals that spray painted and tore down his statue at the San Rafael mission. Same for the dull normals that have a problem with the name San Francisco or statues of him. I’m sick of them. –Bunch of holy rollers at the service of their own self edification.

    1. @ taco

      “ I *do* think there are hateful people out there that are so blinded by their rage and fury that they want to “cancel” good people just because they were/are…” FILL IN THE BLANKS.

      I believe that What they are blinded by, and I will include Gomez in this, is the always present, always assumed, but otherwise totally unwarranted Faith in their self assigned and otherwise completely imaginary superiority. It amazes me that any member of any disadvantaged minority can look at the struggle for social justice, and announce it as inapplicable, a cult, a mistake, a moral error, or whatever else he comes up with. He is blinded by his position, his office, his power, and what I will call his wealth: I doubt he is ever missed a meal in and the entirety of his adult life.

  5. Ben, I don’t get the “I’m better than you” vibe from Gomez, I get the “he’s drinking the Kool Aid from the bullies” vibe. I think he follows orders well and that’s why he’s there. He seems manipulated to me.

    Yesterday at dinner my two youngest boys told me that our school district is removing the term “man up!” as appropriate language. I’m a little bit on the fence about that one. (I’ve definitely resorted to it from time to time!) (Trump’s arrested development is the quintessential example of the type of whiners that need to be told this.) I kept that thought to myself and shrugged saying, “if a guy is effeminate, and those words are used as a weapon against the way he looks, etc. than yeah, we can do without it.” My youngest son (a whippersnapper if there ever was one) told us that he stated his own reservations about the new district rule. Some random girl in his class, that he doesn’t know, went utterly mad dog on him. To that I said something to this effect: “some people love moral superiority so much that they’ll use it as a cudgel against anyone who dares to question that moral superiority, but–MOST IMPORTANTLY it defeats the entire purpose of calling people out. They are stroking their own inflated egos.”

    South Park usually gets it about right. Humans are so predictable.

    1. @taco

      I could be wrong about this, but then, I don’t know the man personally. But I am pretty sure that the only reasons someone drinks the Kool-Aid from the bullies is that it offers them some opportunity for protection, or that it allows them the illusion of being one of the cool kids.

      Or because he gets off on it. I always remember 43 years ago, when I was fighting the Briggs initiative in California. It was my first real tango with diehard bigots who are looking to make a buck or otherwise profit from attacks on gay people. Briggs in particular love to talk dirty, partly with the idea of shocking and causing disgust in his listeners. but it was also clear that he just like talking dirty about gay sex.

      I want to write a little bit more about your experience with your son, but das husband just came in. Shortest version possible: suggest an alternative, such as “ovary up“. I hate the idea that kids should be taught that responsibility comes because of your gender. Got to go.

      1. Oh Ben,
        Someday I will tell you about my experience with bullies.

        Sometimes it’s just about surviving.

        Right now I am “ovarying up”. A girl can tell when she’s ovulating after a while. A menstrual cycle can last any number of days but once you ovulate you can be 100% sure that your menstrual cycle will come 14-15 days later.

        Mine came five days late today.

        And even if I had a kid with Downs which I dreamt about last night I wasn’t terrified because my nephew with Downs is one of the most beautiful people that I know. Truly. Honestly. But my ability to not be more than frightened comes from a. privilege and b. my faith. I’m humbled by the fact that it goes in that order.

      2. @ taco

        I finally found some time today to write, and I found I don’t have too much to say past the “short version“ above. As I said, I really dislike the idea that kids are taught that taking responsibility for who they are and what they do in any way depends upon gender, but especially upon being a member of the male sex. I’m not even sure I like the term “ovary up“ over, let us say, “woman up“.

        what we mean when we say “Man up!” Is to stop being a child and be an adult, take responsibility, stop being afraid, to do what is necessary. We would mean the same with “woman up” or “ovary up”. We say a man doesn’t have the balls to do X. We should also say a woman doesn’t have the ovaries to do X. But what we mean is that they are not taking responsibility and standing up. So that’s what we should say, rather than attaching it to some idea of gender or sex.

        I was one of three possible valedictorians for my high school class. We all have the same GPA: 4.0. We were all athletes, we were all involved in the school, and in every way that the valedictorian committee wanted to measure us, we were pretty much identical. It all came down to writing our valedictorian speeches, and that would determine who gave the valedictorian address. I didn’t understand that the political thing to do was to write about embarking on our personal ships onto the great sea of life, blah blah blah blah blah. Silly me! I wrote instead about our responsibility, now that we were adults, to be responsible, to stand up, to do what we saw as our duty FIRST. I was very disappointed that I wasn’t chosen to deliver the valedictorian address. My dad told me that I shouldn’t be surprised, because nobody wants to hear that kind of stuff.

        For good or ill, I haven’t been able to shut up about it since.😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬

  6. Oh, and one more thing Ben. It is traditional that the Archbishop of LA (one of the largest dioceses in the world) is made a cardinal. That Gomez hasn’t been given the nod is a pretty glaring proof of Francis’ disapproval.

  7. I started out not liking Francis, but changed my mind. The people in my diocese don’t care that people are being deprived of the eucharist by virtue of being immunocompromised. They are the elect, God loves them best, they don’t need a mask or a vax. The bible does not have nice things to say about rebels.

  8. @ Ben
    Thank you for saying those good and balanced words.

    You have a big heart.

    Please say a prayer for my 6th kid who is trying to get into an impossible Ivy school (4% acceptance). I think they want him for his native American blood despite his 4.6 . They want to know about *which* tribe he is a member of. He is 10%, his father 20. I sat him down and explained to him what 500 years of colonialism did in their society in Latin America. As soon as you were white passing you did what you had to do to survive. Once you were white enough you only talked about your European blood. My husband’s grandmother had high tea every afternoon and claimed to be British. Her DNA report says otherwise.

    Life is like an epic ballad. My prayer is that they will reject him if it isn’t good for him.

    Thankfully the interviewer will interview him here. Our son who is trying to get into that prestigious east coast citadel is one of our three kiddos that look completely white, –but she will see my husband and know we aren’t making it up.

    And they want a tribe, with tribe affiliation.

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