Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th-century saint and Doctor of the Church who renewed the Western monastic tradition, once warned that “The most grievous danger for any pope lies in the fact that, encompassed as he is by flatterers, he never hears the truth about his own person and ends by not wishing to hear it.”
Every pontificate has its courtiers. The current one is no exception; quite the opposite. Thus, St. Bernard’s words came easily to mind as I read a recent Austen Ivereigh article for America magazine. In it, Ivereigh claimed that “over the last eight years, a powerful U.S.-based media conglomerate has used its formidable wealth and power to turn a large portion of the people of God against Rome and its current occupant. And for good measure, against key reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”
Frightening stuff; so where might this muscular wickedness spring from: Comcast? Facebook? George Soros’s Open Society Foundations? No. Today’s spirit of schism — Mr. Ivereigh describes it as “the diabolos, and calling it something else is just putting lipstick on a pig” — is the work of those iniquitous devils at . . . EWTN. Yes, that’s the network founded by that arch-troublemaker and woman religious, Mother Angelica, and funded largely by tens of thousands of small donations from ordinary, faithful Catholic individuals and families.
To be fair, Ivereigh’s article simply elaborates on comments that Pope Francis made recently to Jesuits in Slovakia. Pope Francis didn’t name the offending media organization, but as journalists quickly confirmed, he meant EWTN. It’s surprising to hear any pope be so publicly and personally sensitive to perceived ill will from a few commentators at a modest network (by secular standards) based on another continent. Conflict, a lot of it, both within and beyond the Church, comes with the job of every bishop. The bishop of Rome is not excused from that unhappy burden. And EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, whom Ivereigh seems to regard as a special tool of the diabolos, does not pose quite the same fearsome threat to the Church as, say, China’s Xi Jinping. Or significant figures in America’s current leadership.
Mr. Ivereigh is right to see mean-spirited ecclesial criticism from anyone as poisonous to the unity of the Church. But he might take his own words to heart in examining some of his own past work. Moreover, not all criticism in a family is ill-intended or disloyal or inaccurate. Some anger, even anger at legitimate authority, is righteous. The virtue of Christian obedience is rooted in speaking the truth — with love, but frankly and firmly — and true religion has nothing to do with a posture of servility.
As an EWTN board member for many years before retiring, I’m well acquainted with the network’s shortcomings. It can always improve. But it has managed to serve the gospel for decades now with skill and endurance where many others have failed. Thus, it’s hard to read critics of the network without also sniffing their peculiar cologne of faux piety, jealousy, and resentment. EWTN’s achievements deserve praise and warrant pride. I admire the dedication of its leaders and staff. I’m grateful for the network’s service to the Word of God. And any suggestion that EWTN is unfaithful to the Church, the Second Vatican Council, or the Holy See is simply vindictive and false.
Mr. Ivereigh is a capable writer — I was pleased to endorse his first (and best) book, The Great Reformer, grandiosely titled and with a light seasoning of snark, but a worthwhile read nonetheless — and Pope Francis is a complex and absorbing subject for any honest biographer. Ivereigh should, but likely won’t, be embarrassed by his America article. The role of courtier doesn’t suit him. But then he’s hardly alone in that line of work during the current pontificate.
Massimo Faggioli’s sunny assessment of Joe Biden and Biden’s seeming common ground with Pope Francis—his recent book is Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States — certainly qualifies him for courtier status, despite his text being rudely dismembered by veteran religion journalist Ken Woodward in a Religion News Service critique. Prof. Faggioli’s relentless commentary on the United States, American Catholics, and so much more — he arrived in our country in 2008, apparently knows everything about us, and currently teaches at Villanova University — makes up in astonishing breadth for what it lacks in depth. In December of last year, Faggioli suggested that “the parallel between [Biden] and the late Italian pope [John XXIII] certainly offers hope from a historical point of view.” Or maybe not so much. Any parallel between the two men might be news to the saintly dead pope, since the Democratic party has effectively sacramentalized abortion, exterminated pro-life Catholic witness in its ranks — ask former Congressman Dan Lipinski — and our “Catholic” president has signed on fully to the party’s slash and burn campaign.
Neither Ivereigh nor Faggioli measures up, though, to that zenith of melodrama and ill will achieved in 2017 by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa. Writing in La Civiltà Cattolica — “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism” — the authors provide a Crayola coloring-book version of Catholic-Evangelical relations in the United States, a portrait that’s simultaneously sweeping and all-thumbs, and shaped by standard European and Latin American pique toward the Yankee colossus. The irony is that the article could have been genuinely penetrating and very fruitful in its criticism. But that would have taken more work, more humility and balance, and less resentment.
No pontificate is well served when its promoters show contempt and belligerence toward perceived enemies. That kind of flackery simply produces more, and even more determined, critics who do indeed elide into enemies. One can hope that Pope Francis understands this. In the meantime, it’s worth stressing that the latest attacks on EWTN are both ugly and unjust, and calling them something else is, to borrow a thought from Mr. Ivereigh, “just putting lipstick on a pig.”
The above comes from an Oct. 21 article in First Things by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., the archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia.
“The most grievous danger for any pope lies in the fact that, encompassed as he is by flatterers, he never hears the truth about his own person and ends by not wishing to hear it.”
Not just Popes.
But we have the Holy Spirit who convicts us.
Proverbs 27:6, relating the idea of a sycophant with that of enemy, not a a perfect correspondence, to be sure. Who are the Pope’s real friends?
“Whom should the pope listen to about America?”
I once had a boss who claimed that he was big on “listening to his people”. What he really meant was that he’d listen but never take any action on our inputs. At a certain point, his team stopped responding to his questions.
Remind you of anyone?
Clearly, from word and deed, Francis does not like America, but does love that American money. His Argentinian upbringing has prejudiced him from an early age, and instead of trying to understand Americanism, he remains rigid and unmoved. A Marxist at heart, his politics loom large in his dislike and jealousy of a first world country he holds in contempt.
How about we just do this:
Dear Pope Francis,
Americans know that you cannot stand us.
Most Americans have no use for you either.
How about we call it a draw and we will both proceed from there?
Most American Catholics love Francis. Where have you been?
From what I have observed, I assume that he only listens to Marxists.
He should listen to a real Roman Catholic bishop and that would be His Grace Cardinal Raymond Burke, but we all can wish can’t we? All here clearly understand he is a Marxist we are all adults to see and know this, the Jesuit order was over run with Communists decades ago and sadly Bergoglio is no exception.
This website took away my thumbs. If you are going to have that feature, then be honest with it.
I have seen so many times when “people” thumbed down Scripture or the Catechism. Or some innocuous comment was thumbed down,
Now we don’t know really what is going on.
I rarely use the thumbs but I did on this article and every thumbs up or thumbs down I gave disappeared.
I respect Archbishop Chaput but I quit watching EWTN because I could no longer trust it. Stuff I saw (and It was Raymond Arroyo and Archbishop Vigano) just was too weird. I am a conservative, traditional Catholic and I do not want to be led astray. When something seems off, I leave.
I think Archbishop Chaput may need to study and pray (and maybe apologize)
This is online but I cannot say the veracity of anything in it:
“I think Archbishop Chaput may need to study and pray (and maybe apologize)” With respect, Seems off, it was Pope Francis who vilified EWTN publicly, more or less, and without specifying exactly what comments were made and when that led him to characterize them as instruments of Satan. Absent such concreteness and prior dialogue with EWTN, the pope’s statements do seem off to this reader, and that is putting it very mildly. I have listened to the Papal Posse many times, and these men are honorable and intellectually honest, even if they question things Pope Francis says or does. They are never vindictive or petty, at least from all I have seen. And I wonder if it is their thoughtfulness that is such a threat to Pope Francis.. or maybe their influence. If he has a problem with them, let him come on The World Over and engage in clear transparent dialogue. If he has time for Biden and Pelosi he can come on the air with the Posse.
Do you have any idea who the Pope is???? Are you a Baptist or something?
Sorry seems way off, but allow me a touch of hyperbole, if you will: the Pope played in the muck by calling out honorable men at EWTN, which indicates to me that Francis has an insufficient idea of who he is. Such action is something a Baptist might do, not the vicar of Christ.
The Pope did not call out EWTN. Be honest.
Ever notice how the Pope’s detractors need to lie, exaggerate or distort in order to accuse him. Or they read things into his statements.
Dan, I see on another story that you are a convert. A lot of times, converts don’t understand the Pope. I will leave you alone now and let the Holy Spirit continue to guide you.
I knew the morality of the country would never be the same when President Clinton did not resign after being caught doing dirty deeds with an intern. I knew the government of our country would turn into a farce when presidential candidates and even the President started going on talk shows. Now you want to lower the Church by having the Pope go on an cable interview show.
The in flight interviews are bad enough.
Shepherds need to smell like the sheep not act like the sheep.
I can tell people just read the headline.
I do that too often times..
Pope Francis listens to jon. We should follow his example. Listen to jon. Respect the Pope.
When we try to analyze Pope Francis we should keep in mind the country in which he came of age and lived for decades. It is not the US for sure. We are unique in that our democratic republic with a capitalistic economy, mostly, survived for a couple of hundred plus years. It is hard for us to understand how someone could dislike us and our systems and institutions. But, if you have witnessed and experienced living under dictatorships, military rule, corruption, and poverty it is hard to value the rich, the owners, the bosses. Pope Francis is not the product of a democratic society or a thriving capitalistic economy; his has almost always been the opposite. That background may push one to want an economy that spreads out the wealth more evenly, lets more people have a say in running the country, etc. But that isn’t Marxism, it is anti-Peronism or such.
In answer to the question in the headline, none of the four mentioned in the sub-headline. None are Americans (unless Faggioli has become a citizen of this terrible, racist country in which he chooses to live). And, Figueroa is not a Catholic. So, who should the Pope listen to about America? How about one who knows it well? Archbishop Chaput was raised on the plains of Kansas, was a priest and bishop in the Midwest and archbishop of two major American archdioceses, one in the Mountain West and one on the East Coast. And, he is an indigenous Native American (for those to whom that matters), Not only that, he is a wise and holy bishop. He is one the Pope should listen to.
And, if the Pope wants to hear from Catholics in America, it wouldn’t hurt to watch a little EWTN.
The Pope gets his information about America from the ad limina visits that the bishops make every 5 years. There is also an apostolic nuncio.
“over the last eight years, a powerful U.S.-based media conglomerate has used its formidable wealth and power to turn a large portion of the people of God against Rome and its current occupant. And for good measure, against key reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”
Vigano’s first letter came 4 years ago. So it can’t be that.
They own Catholic News agency which does not attack VII or the Pope. They own National Catholic Register which also does not do that.
I think it is not talking about EWTN. EWTN is good with Vatican II.
I won’t write who I think he was talking about.
The quote is from Ivereigh not Pope Francis.
American magazine has more on what the Pope has said, but I do not trust them as a source.
Dear seems way off October 28, 2021 at 8:43 am, I was honest. The pope was calling out EWTN even though he had the common sense not to mention it by name. And the only thorn in his side would have to be the Papal Posse, headed by Raymond Arroyo first and foremost, and perhaps the news segments second. No lie, no exaggeration, no distortion. In fact no accusation. Just the facts. As for converts not understanding the Pope, I would admit readily that this pontificate, with the deliberate ambiguity of so many statements, is in fact hard for anyone to understand this far away from Rome. And I do not intend this statement as a criticism–it’s just Pope Francis’ style.
The news commentaries I saw agreed that Pope Francis was referring to EWTN, but idk has put Michael Voris to mind. I don’t think he has remotely the following EWTN has but he has poisoned the pot in a way EWTN never has. Now I should like to go back to the sources I read and ask why they didn’t point their fingers Voris’ way. One thought directed idk’s way: I haven’t thought Voris rejected Vatican II in any way, shape for form, just the “spirit of Vatican II.” I can’t say for sure as I haven’t heard him for a while now. I wouldn’t mind being corrected on this. And if their is new support in the media that Pope Francis has Voris in mind, I shall gladly grovel before all Cal Catholic readers in general, and seems way off in particular.
From the National Catholic Reporter: “Most notably, host Raymond Arroyo has regularly promoted and interviewed the schismatic former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Viganò has previously called for Pope Francis’ resignation. Arroyo also regularly hosts a “papal posse” of commentators known for their anti-Francis views, including Fr. Gerald Murray, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, and author Robert Royal. ”
I did not know that Arroyo had given Vigano a platform on EWTN. All sources I checked gave EWTN as the locus of the pontiff’s ire.