I Am Not the Pope and Neither Are You


The deeper I go into my theological studies, the more I am at peace with the Church. My peace does not come from the knowledge of men, but from the reality that the Holy Spirit is at the helm. It is easy to get dragged into outrage because of pockets of corruption and the sins of the people within the Church. The Pope said this, a Cardinal did that, a heterodox priest is now working in the Vatican. I think the truth is always somewhere in the middle and if people are truly interested in giving up their outrage, they will stop reading reports from the mainstream media on the Church. It is impossible for a secular world to understand the Church. They view us as a bureaucratic institution, rather than the Mystical Body of Christ that is animated by the Holy Spirit.

It seems in some of my dealings with people in social media, that Catholics are forgetting who we are and who we are not. It seems that many respond strongly to Pope Francis because they have forgotten the mission. I don’t agree with everything the Pope does, but I don’t feel the need to rant and rave about it. He is human and most of the time is not acting infallibly. I am not the Pope. I don’t know what goes on in his head most days. I am sure it is a daunting task to lead a Church of 1.2 billion Catholics as well as try to evangelize the other 5 billion people on the planet. He is probably learning as he goes just like all of the other Popes. He will make mistakes and while we are not obliged to agree with him, we are still required to treat him with the dignity and respect that is given the Vicar of Christ. We are also called to consider his non-infallible statements.

I think that many people would breathe easier if they studied more Church history. There have always been heretics, sinful, and corrupt people within the Church, even at high levels. There have been periods of great violence and Popes who were martyred or exiled for the faith. Pope Martin I comes to mind here. The world has always been upside down. I have no doubt that there are heretics and heterodox clergy in the Vatican. It’s always been so, whether Arian, Monophysite, Monothelite, Nestorian, Gnostic, etc. When we focus on this fact and allow it to overwhelm our faith then we are acting as the secular world does. We forget who is in charge of the Church, who guides the Church, and who is perfecting the Church. We also forget that even in the face of great corruption, the Church’s doctrine has been preserved. In a thorough and honest reading of Church history the only explanation that she has not been destroyed is that the Holy Spirit is keeping her on course. The Church never should have made it out of the catacombs, let alone throughout the world.

We need to accept that we are not the Pope and most of us lack the holiness, insight, experience, or understanding to lead the Church. Sure it would help if things were more articulate at times, but we can’t get bogged down by distortions and mistakes. We need to live the mission. The mission is to bring the Good News to the world. That is what Pope Francis is doing. He is bringing us back to the center: Jesus Christ. I am a student theologian. I love theology and most specifically the works of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I understand him, as much as anyone can understand his brilliance. That being said, I get what Pope Francis is doing. He is bringing us back to the core so that we can convert souls on the issues of our day. I look to him for guidance in holiness rather than great works of theology or philosophy. Although, I have read both Lumen Fidei and the Joy of the Gospel and they are insightful works in which we could learn a lot. His mission is different from his predecessors. People are not typically converted by a great argument against abortion or “gay marriage”. They are converted by a real encounter with the Risen Lord. That is where we begin. The rest will fall into place.

So what will bring us peace of mind within the Church? I don’t mean apathy or willful ignorance. I mean peace. The kind of peace that only comes from trusting the Most Holy Trinity. First, accept that we are not the Pope. Second, accept that fallen men and women are within the Church. Third, read more Church history. Fourth, pray for the Church and her leaders. Fifth, stop reading mainstream media reporting on the Church. Sixth, pray for humility. Seventh, continue on the path to holiness, Eighth, trust in the Holy Spirit. TRUST, and Ninth, most importantly, live the mission. Let’s bring Christ to the world. Our bickering hinders the mission.

While we are not required to accept every statement by the Pope, we do need to stop flying off the handle at every word he utters. Our own panic only enlivens the secular world. Yes, the world is in a bad place right now, but it’s always in a bad place. Our age has the same level of evil as previous ages, we just have more powerful weapons. Here’s a thought: Listen to Pope Francis and watch his actions. What is he trying to teach us prideful people? Pope Francis is not leading as a theologian or philosopher like our last two popes. He is leading from the simplicity of the very Early Church. It is Christ Risen that is the great mystery and hope of the Church. When we come face-to-face with Jesus Christ, when we love Him, He gives us the grace to overcome sin. He helps us with our battles and with the lies of the culture. We need Him first before we can combat the evil of our age. We have to stop putting the cart before the horse. In the end, that is what Pope Francis is teaching us. If we are angry or frustrated by that fact, then the issue is not our Pope, it is us.
**I am stunned, humbled, and amazed at the response this piece has generated. Thank you for reading. I have written a follow up, which can be found here.

18 Replies to “I Am Not the Pope and Neither Are You”

  1. I may not be Pope but I certainly know that there is no place whatsoever for the acceptance of sodomy in our Faith. Anyone who teaches that there is needs to be immediately removed from the Church as per the teaching of St. Paul. I am at peace because I know the faith and know my job is to always fight against evil where ever it is found. That is why I am a soldier of Christ and not one to be found in a house of repose.

    1. Isabel,
      Pope Francis is only asking you to love and accept all of God’s children. What anyone does privately as long as it is without malice, should be no one else’s business or concern.

    2. Pope Francis upholds the teaching of the Catholic Church, that includes her teaching on sodomy, which is why this comment made no sense to me.

    3. I think the pope prays that God will always grant him serenity to accept things–even sins against the 6th commandment–that he can’t really change; and the courage to change in himself the things he can change–like judging and condemning others; and the wisdom to know the difference. My prayers go out to you, Isabel.

  2. A very inspiring article, I am a “born again” Catholic and found my spirituality a few years ago and it continues to grow. Thank Dave Armstrong for bringing this to my attention. I try to meditate every day and start with the rosary. It isn’t always easy to find time but I recommend it, it sure has helped my life!

    1. I am a revert, Stephen, so I understand. The Rosary is a beautiful and powerful devotion. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. I agree with you. It is also important to remember that a lot of the upset that people have over Pope Francis is directly due to the fact that he does not speak English. Many of the most irate people are so because of the problems with the media’s over eagerness to report (without understanding the meaning) and the failure of translators to get the translations right.

    1. Nicole,
      I understand that people are upset about media reporting and mistranslations. My question is then, what does getting irate do besides lead us into sinful anger? I used to be a linguist. Translations take time and in our world of real-time analysis, people can be lazy, agenda driven, or mistaken in their translations. I say we give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt and trust the Holy Spirit. Doctrine is not going to change, so we need to stop freaking out whenever the media reports on Pope Francis. Much of the anger boils down to a lack of trust in Christ’s promises to His Church. Thank you for your comment.

      Pax Christi,

  4. The Church is the Body of Christ, Christ came down from heaven, He undressed is glory and majesty, to live as a concrete human experience, to show us that it is possible. He came down for ALL not just for catholics, not just for saints but also for sinners, neglected, and poor people. The Church should open to all people including sinners (gay, divorce etc.) Theymust fell the Love of people and show them the right way that Jesus has already thought. Then repent and never do again the sins from the past.

    1. Yes, he came for all, but I am a Catholic writer and student theologian. I believe some truth lies elsewhere, but the fullness rests in the Catholic Church. So I focus on bring people into the fullness of truth. The Church invites all people to her, but we must all repent and believe the Good News.

  5. I am not stupid. I know what you are talking about and agree with you. E.g. the church in Ireland has lost its impetus because of wayward homosexua, paedophile clergy – not because if thd Holy Spirit. Catholics i cluding the Pope are called to be faithful to the Holy Spirit. They ars not called to shape the Church into their own pervertdd image and likeness.

    1. I actually wrote this in response to offensive Pope bashing that I witnessed in a debate on Facebook. True, we are called to be conformed to the Blessed Trinity, not our own image. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Love this article; especially the part that says we need to focus on the mission of bringing the Good News to people. Oftentimes I would encounter Catholics who are scared of this or that, or the Illuminati, or Masonry, or wars, or the growing threat of materialism and secularism, etc. But I would just keep reminding them, “Just focus on your God-given duties and God will do the rest. He will fight the enemy and our battles for us.”

    Btw, I have noticed that reverts are usually better Theologians. God bless you, Isabel.

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