Acton Institute Powerblog

Some thoughts for Pope Francis on his 80th birthday

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This past Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday and in an opinion piece for The Detroit News on the same day Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg expressed his primary criticism of the Holy Father.   Gregg thinks that “rather than presenting the Catholic faith in all its fullness as the source of truth and true happiness, he focuses almost exclusively on the theme of mercy.”  Gregg explains himself:

Mercy is certainly central to the Christian Gospel. As a priest once said to me, “When I die and go before Christ to be judged, I’ll be pleading for his mercy — not justice.” The same goes for me. We’re all, without exception, sinners.

Nonetheless, the word truth — which appears countless times in the Scriptures — doesn’t feature heavily in Francis’ lexicon. Sometimes he even seems to present truth and mercy as opposites. Mercy, it appears, trumps everything else. Conversely, if you express a concern for truth, you’re basically labeled a modern-day Pharisee.

Gregg expresses concern with the way the Argentine Pope is portraying Catholicism in general.  Gregg says:

Unfortunately, once you’re perceived as decoupling the mercy offered by Christ from the truth proclaimed by Christ — especially those hard sayings which caused many of Christ’s disciples to abandon him — you bolster those who would dilute Christianity into a mildly-religious sentimental humanitarianism.

Much of our world today is drenched in emotivist feelings-talk. We don’t need more sentimentality or snowflakery. That’s one reason why liberal Christianity is collapsing everywhere. Moreover, a Church which proclaims mercy without also teaching the truth that sets us free and leads to happiness risks becoming something Francis says he doesn’t want the Church to be: just another NGO.

Gregg closes his article by making a suggestion to the Pope on his birthday:

So, if there was anything I’d suggest to Pope Francis, it would be to stress that proclaiming Christ’s mercy can’t mean viewing the truths of Christian morality as an “ideal” no-one’s really expected to live up to.

Contrary to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s bizarre 2014 claim that “heroism is not for the average Christian,” all Christians are called to lives of sanctity. To allow mercy to become an excuse for mediocrity is to trivialize the Gospel and the witness of saints and martyrs.

But all that aside, Happy 80th birthday, Holy Father! We do love you.

You can read Gregg’s full opinion article here at The Detroit News.

Kyle Hanby

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