How Do You Solve A Problem Like Francis?

An atheist pope is destroying the Church.

No, reader, I’m not asking for a practical answer for Catholics heartbroken, confused, or outraged by Pope Francis’ anti-Catholic statements and actions. While in centuries past, a Catholic emperor or council on rare occasions deposed an unworthy pope, that option was foreclosed by the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806—not to mention the hyper-papalist rulings of the First Vatican Council in 1870. That Council made the papacy absolutely supreme, but also impossible to correct. No one on earth may now judge or remove a pope. Historians of the Romanovs might have something to say about whether such an elevation was really a great advantage.

Nor am I holding out hope any more for a coup by disgruntled Swiss guards and a swift splash into the Tiber.

It’s fruitless for individual Catholic laymen to decide that they can see that this pope is a heretic, and hence that he must have forfeited his office. For one thing, this maneuver reduces the papal claim of infallibility to a cheap tautology: The pope is protected from error … until he errs, and then he’s no longer pope! What’s worse, it’s hard to see how we even have a visible Church at all, if the universal consensus of the bishops isn’t sufficient to determine whether a given man is currently pope.

Pope Francis
(image by VectorPortal / Creative Commons)

Well then, what criterion could we use instead? How would the papacy re-emerge, and what would convince people of its legitimacy?

At the heart of the problem is this: We had a long string of mostly wise, brave, and holy popes, from 1870 through 1958, and again in the ’80s and ’90s. This happy fact contributed to an exaggerated notion of papal privileges—for instance, the popular and erroneous superstition that God picks the popes. (Holders of this view may wonder why He felt bound during the Renaissance to elevate to the Chair of Peter only those cardinals who’d paid the highest bribes.)

This long run of good popes led otherwise thoughtful Catholics to treat each papal statement on any subject as potentially infallible—and hence worthy of deference, just in case. But that’s not how the word “infallible” even works, is it? Something that might be certain (by the cold, clear laws of logic) simply … isn’t.

Vatican II itself, in the document Lumen Gentium, demanded that every Catholic on earth offer “religious submission” to papal opinions, even those offered with no infallible guarantee. There’s no other way to describe such a demand but as papal Stalinism, with each Catholic bound, like the poor Communist Party members in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, to conform their consciences to every new adjustment of the party line, since the party alone was the “voice of History.” 

Only a firm papal Stalinist like that would in 2023 still regard Pope Francis as a worthy pope, and his teachings as reliable. Sadly, countless bishops, priests, and public Catholics still affirm that stance, either explicitly or by their silence and acquiescence. 

It would take an entire book, and a long, grim one at that, to adduce all the damage Francis has done to the Catholic Church in just a decade. He wrenched from the mortician’s table the suppurating corpse of progressive Catholicism, electrified it back to the semblance of life, and turned it loose on the faithful. The “reform of the reform” which John Paul II launched after the dreary ineffectual reign of Pope Paul VI has been shoved into the memory hole. 

Traditional religious communities that quietly carried on the 1,000-year-old traditions of their founders have been relentlessly purged, and their real estate has been seized. Thriving parishes where large families joined young, zealous priests in celebrating the traditional Catholic liturgy have been arbitrarily closed, or stripped of their right to use the ancient rite. Faithful bishops such as Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, have been removed from office for trivial or imagined offenses. Strickland’s case is particularly striking, because he was told by the pope’s legate in America that his key fault was focusing too much on “the Deposit of Faith” (the body of apostolic Catholic beliefs), which the legate waved off as a tedious distraction. 

Francis haughtily dismissed principled pro-life objections to the COVID vaccine—objections that his own bishops had been raising to Donald Trump during the vaccine’s development. Francis told all Catholics they were morally obliged to take this experimental gene therapy, though its existence depended on the use of organs vivisected from unborn babies via abortion. He even minted a Vatican coin to celebrate the useless, dangerous vaccination of children. 

A 20-euro coin commemorating the COVID vaccine, issued by the Vatican (Commercializzazione Filatelica e Numismatica, Vatican City)

Without invoking his highest (infallible) authority, Pope Francis has imposed heretical claims on the Church—the most blatant being his assertion that capital punishment is everywhere and always immoral. That contradicts not only the teachings of his predecessors for most of two millennia (and Vatican City civil law up through 1968), but many explicit passages in the Bible, going back to the first moral code revealed to man by God Himself: the Covenant of Noah. 

Francis has also enshrined in papal teaching itself a progressive, psychology-based replacement for Augustinian and biblical thinking about human sexuality. For a short book demonstrating that Francis’ various writings on sexual morality echo teachings condemned by John Paul II as heretical, see Confronting the Pope of Suspicion (2021) by Catholic philosopher John Gravino. For a shorter proof, see the article, “Pope Francis as Public Heretic: The Evidence Leaves No Doubt,” by John Lamont, at the Catholic site Rorate Caeli. Francis has used the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics as a wedge to open the door to full acceptance of Catholics in unrepentant, active same-sex relationships.

The recent Vatican Synod—a gerrymandered snoozefest of delegates handpicked by Francis’ progressive loyalists— raised the prospect of in-church blessings of same-sex couples. After dithering and head-faking, Pope Francis went on to approve such blasphemous rituals, which sprinkle holy water over couplings centered on sex acts the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “acts of grave depravity.” If individual bishops or priests try to refuse, they could face both dismissal by the Church and punishment by the State. No priest would have a legal First Amendment defense against litigation by well-funded LGBT groups of the kind that targeted Christian bakers and wedding planners for a decade. The legal brief writes itself: “Your own church’s leadership approved this…”

Pope Francis has promoted and praised LGBT activists within the Church who were condemned and sidelined by previous popes, including Rev. James Martin, S.J., who has encouraged same-sex couples to kiss during the Mass’s “sign of peace.” 

Francis publicly embraced and praised impenitent Italian abortionist and activist Emma Bonino. He welcomed at the Vatican pro-abortion public figures and population controllers, such as Jeffrey Sachs, Chelsea Clinton, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. He openly condemned as “not Christian” then-candidate Donald Trump for wishing to control immigration, but brightly congratulated the newly elected Joe Biden—a blatantly pro-abortion Catholic who had personally performed same-sex weddings. 

Francis returned to ministry the primitivist painter Rev. Mario Rupnik, despite extensive and credible accusations that he abused nuns he supervised in blasphemous sex-rituals involving the use of chalices from Mass. Francis approved Rupnik’s return to the priesthood and public ministry, only partly backing down after an explosive public scandal led by Rupnik’s accusers. The Vatican still features Rupnik’s crude, irreverent daubings on the covers of official Church publications. 

In 2019, Rev. Antonio Spadaro published
in the Vatican-controlled magazine La Civilta Cattolica a scurrilous attack on the American pro-life movement and the Christian right as motivated by white racism. He summed up the cooperation of Catholics and Protestants in defending the natural law as the “ecumenism of hate.” A close confidante of Pope Francis, in 2023 Spadaro preached a public sermon where he accused Jesus Himself of having committed the sin of racism, which He needed to repent. Less than two weeks later, Francis promoted Spadaro to a high position inside the Vatican. 

Francis pursued a very public political alliance with Communist China, sending child-abusing Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to draw up a partly secret agreement with that regime. In this contemporary Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Francis sold out loyal, pro-Vatican “underground” Catholics and granted vast concessions to the Communist-controlled “Patriotic Church.” Persecution of Christians in China didn’t abate; it became more aggressive. When Hong Kong’s persecuted Cardinal Joseph Zen got a three-day pass from prison to fly to Rome, Francis refused to meet with him. Francis has recently issued a letter praising China for its “climate” policies, while condemning Western countries for their use of fossil fuels. 

Francis sent his right-hand man, Bishop Marcelo Sorondo on a shepherded whirlwind tour of China, from which Sorondo returned praising Xi’s China as better implementing Catholic social teaching than Trump’s America. Francis sent Sorondo again to give a fulsomely friendly address at a meeting of the Communist regime’s organ harvesters—the very men who, according to Forbes magazine, vivisect prisoners of conscience such as Uyghurs and outlawed Christians, and net hundreds of millions annually for the regime on the black market for human kidneys and hearts. 

I could go on and on. For much more on Francis’ anti-Catholic record see my columns at But I think the point is established: Pope Francis is not an orthodox Catholic by any sane, non-Stalinist definition of the words. But what is he instead?

Should we think of Francis as a goofy, naive idealist who still puts stock in the promises from the early 1960s that secularizing and liberalizing Christian institutions would make them stronger, attracting the young? This despite the abject collapse of every Mainline denomination that hewed to such advice, and every religious order in the Catholic Church (such as the Jesuits) that replaced concern for salvation with the social justice gospel? 

Or, is Francis a genuine zealot like those preachers of Liberation Theology, who convinced themselves that Christ came to set up the Church as an eternal proletarian movement, working for the Kingdom of Heaven built on earth with human hands? That movement didn’t succeed in establishing Marxist states, but it did reduce Catholicism in long-time bastions such as Brazil to a minority religion, while driving countless millions to seek the Gospel in Pentecostalist churches.

I think a study of Francis’ whole career, such as Henry Sire’s masterful The Dictator Pope, (2018)gives that theory the lie. Francis isn’t some dim-bulb mediocrity who drifted into the Church as a cushy career option where glad-handing leads to promotion, like so many American bishops he has appointed. Nor is he one of those “Disney princesses,” gay men who realized they couldn’t sing or dance on Broadway or rise in the Democratic Party, who still wanted to live in a palace someday. I think Francis is personally and sincerely homophobic, in the style of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. But he’s perfectly willing to weaponize the grievances and fantasies of sexually active homosexual clergy to achieve his ultimate goal. The nancy boys can get a bullet in the back of the head once they’ve ceased to be useful. 

That goal, I believe, is the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church. As Paul Kengor documents in The Devil and Bella Dodd (2022), Dodd was a longtime Communist activist, involved for decades in global intrigue. After her personal epiphany of Marxism’s basic evil, she found her way into the Catholic Church. And she warned publicly (for instance, in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee) that the Party had carefully recruited young, zealous Marxists to enter seminaries, with the secret intention of subverting the Church. Marx himself spoke often of Christianity as one of the key obstacles to awakening the masses. Engels wrote that religion, private property, and the family were the three great enemies of the Revolution. So it’s hardly a shocking idea that Communists—who’d managed to infiltrate the physics team at Los Alamos—would also target the priesthood.

I can’t read souls. I don’t know Jorge Bergoglio. But I don’t think he’s stupid, naive, or deluded. There’s a consistent pattern to this pope’s behavior. It is that of a vandal, a foreign agent, whose task is to salt the fields and poison the water at an institution he hates. Nothing else could adequately explain Francis’ ongoing persecution of the Church.

There’s a consistent pattern to this pope’s behavior. It is that of a vandal, a foreign agent, whose task is to salt the fields and poison the water at an institution he hates.

I think Francis, like so many of his friends, is a hard-core atheist. He sees his historic role as completing the destruction of Christianity that Marx barely began. But I think there’s a worm of doubt in this pope’s mind, a secret nagging fear or peasant superstition that wonders: What if I’m mistaken? What if all these slogans I had to parrot all these decades are really true? Will I face judgment? 

Francis seems determined to prove the claims of the Catholic Church untrue empirically, by discrediting the institution of the papacy itself. Maybe if he leaves Rome as devastated as Carthage after the Third Punic War, that still, small accusing voice in the back of his mind will finally fall silent. 

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