The Corriere della Sera published this morning a ranging Q & A session Francis had with 140 Superior Generals of male congregations and orders. This meeting happened on 25 November 2016 and the English transcript below was edited by Francis’ cohort in revolutionary modernism, Antonio Spadaro. As usual, it is filled with the vapid ideas which float around inside the Argentinian’s head.
One thing which Francis clarified is why he is fat. Dear reader, Francis believes that by eating everything put in front of him and eating it without complaint that he is practicing self-discipline, fasting, and mortification all in one! It’s no wonder his weight skyrocketed once he moved to Casa Santa Marta.
“True asceticism must make me freer. I believe that fasting is something that is still relevant today, but how should I fast? Simply by not eating? St. Thérèse also had another way: by never saying what she liked. She didn’t complain and took everything they gave her. There is a kind of small daily asceticism, which is a constant mortification.”
Only in the past year has his weight leveled off because the kitchen staff was ordered by doctors to cut out carbohydrates and sugar from his diet.
The remainder of the Q & A covers the queer ideas Francis the ‘vacuous’ has on vocations, criticism, discernment, charismatic people, ‘restorationists’, ‘Pelagians’, serenity, tranquilizers, Blessed Virgin Mary, corruption, reform, ‘radical prophecy’, clericalism, sexual abuse, the peripheries, ad nauseum. The straw men Francis sets up in the Q & A exist only in his wicked mind. It sounds almost as if he is critiquing himself in much of the Q & A.
The New Testament warms us about people like Francis. “A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways.” (Epistle of St. James 1, 8) The act which Francis the ‘vacuous’ puts on is premeditated and intentionally nefarious. He honed this back in his native Argentina where he helped destroy remnants of Catholicism in his diocese as well as the rest of the country.
One of Francis’ most telling answers is:
“What is the source of my serenity? No, I don’t take tranquillisers! Italians give some good advice: in order to live in peace we need a healthy couldn’t-care-less attitude.”
Francis does care and very much so! Like a spoiled child, he flies off the handle every time he doesn’t get his way. He wants to finish dismantling the institution of the Church and denigrate the papacy until everyone sees it as a joke! Hence, his implementation of noahide education programs, his promotion of his religion of Holocaustianity, his blasphemies of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, his hatred of the Catholic Faith instituted by Christ, and his daily epithets.
And with that we leave the reader with Francis’ blather...
«If there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes!»
“The Pope is late” they tell me at the entrance to Aula Paolo VI on 25 November 2016. Inside the chamber where the Synods are held, 140 Superiors General of male religious orders and congregations (USG), were waiting at the conclusion of their 88th General Assembly. Outside, a light rain was falling. “Go and bring forth fruit. The fruitfulness of prophecy”: this was the theme of the Assembly, which took place from 23 to 25 November at the “Salesianum” in Rome. It is not usual for the Pope to arrive late. At 10.15 the photographers appeared, and then the Pope, at a brisk walking pace. After the applause to greet him, Francis began: “Sorry I’m late. Life is like that: full of surprises. To understand God’s surprises you have to understand life’s surprises. Thank you very much”.
He continued by saying that he did not want his late arrival to affect the time they had planned to spend together. For this reason, the meeting in any case lasted three whole hours. In the middle of the meeting there was a break. A private room had been prepared for the Pope, but he exclaimed: “Why do you want me to be all alone?”. And so during the break the Pope happily mingled with the Superiors, enjoying coffee and a snack. Neither the Superiors or the Pope had prepared speeches in advance. The CTV cameramen only filmed the initial greetings and then left; the meeting was to be held in a free and brotherly atmosphere, with “unfiltered” questions and answers. The Pope in fact did not want to read them in advance. After receiving a brief greeting from Fr. Mario Johri, Minister General of the Capuchins and President of the USG, and Fr. David Glenday of the Comboni Missionaries, Secretary General, the Pope listened to questions from the Assembly. And if there were any criticisms? “It’s good to be criticized,” the Pope says. “I have always liked this. Life is also made up of misunderstandings and tensions. And when criticisms make you grow, I accept them, and reply. The most difficult questions, however, do not come from religious congregations, but from young people. It’s young people who really put you on the spot. The lunches with young people on World Youth Days or other occasions are the situations where I find myself in difficulty. Young people are bold and sincere, and ask you the most difficult things. Now ask your questions.”
Holy Father, we acknowledge your ability to speak to young people and fire their hearts for the cause of the Gospel. We also know of your commitment to bringing young people to the Church; this is why you called the next Synod of Bishops on the subject of young people, faith and vocational discernment. What led you to call a Synod on young people? What suggestions can you give us to reach out to them today?
At the end of the last Synod each participant gave three suggestions on the topic to be addressed in the next one. Then the Bishops’ Conferences were consulted. There was a consensus on burning issues such as the young, the training of priests, interfaith dialogue and peace. There was a stimulating discussion at the first Council after the Synod, where I was present. I always go, but I don’t speak; for me it is important to listen. It is important for me to listen, but I let them work without my influence. In this way I can see what issues emerge, what proposals and problems, and how to address them.
They chose the issue of young people. But some stressed the importance of priests’ training. Personally, I am extremely interested in the question of discernment. I have on several occasions urged the Jesuits to focus on this: in Poland and then before the General Congregation . Discernment unites the issue of training young people for life: all young people, and in particular seminarians and future priests. Because the training and path that leads to the priesthood requires discernment.
It is currently one of the biggest problems we have in priests’ training. In education we are used to dealing with black and white formulas, but not with the grey areas of life. And what matters is life, not formulas. We must grow in discernment. The logic of black and white can lead to abstract casuistry. Discernment, meanwhile, means moving forward through the grey of life according to the will of God. And the will of God is to be sought according to the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the rigidity of an abstract doctrine. Reasoning on the education of young people and on the training of seminarians, I decided on the final topic as it was announced: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment”.
The Church must accompany the young in their journey towards maturity, and it is only with discernment and not abstractions that young people can discover their path in life and live a life open to God and the world. So I chose this theme to introduce discernment more forcefully into the life of the Church. The other day we had the second meeting of the Post-Synodal Council, where we discussed this subject in depth. They prepared the first draft of the Lineamenta which will be immediately sent to the Bishops’ Conferences. Monks and friars also worked on it. The final document was a well-written draft.
This, however, is the key point: discernment, which is always dynamic, like life. Things cannot be static, especially when young people are involved. When I was young, it was fashionable to hold meetings. Today, static things like meetings are unpopular. You have to work with young people by doing things, working with the popular missions, social work, going every week to feed the homeless. Young people find the Lord in action. Then, after action they have to reflect. But reflection alone doesn’t help, because it is only ideas ... ideas. So, two concepts: listening and movement. This is important. But not only training young people to listen, but first listening to them, the young people themselves. This is an important priority for the Church: listening to young people. And in the preparation of the Synod the presence of religious communities is very important, because they work a lot with young people.
What do you expect from religious orders in the preparation of the Synod? What hope do you have for the next Synod on young people, given the falling numbers of those choosing the religious life in the West?
Of course, it is true that there is a decline in those choosing a religious life in the West. It is certainly linked to the demographic problem. But it is also true that sometimes the pastoral vocation does not respond to the expectations of the young. The next Synod will give us ideas. The decline of religious life in the West worries me.
But I am also worried about another thing: the rise of some new religious institutes that raise some concerns. I’m not saying there should be no new religious institutes! Absolutely not. But sometimes I wonder about what is happening today. Some of them seem to represent a new approach, to express a great apostolic strength, attracting many, only then ... to go bankrupt. Sometimes it even emerges that they concealed scandals ... Then there are small new foundations that are really good and work seriously. I see that behind these good foundations there are sometimes groups of bishops who accompany and ensure their growth. But there are others that do not arise from a charism of the Holy Spirit, but from a human charisma, a charismatic person who attracts by means of their human charms. Some are, I might say, ‘restorationist’: they seem to offer security but instead give only rigidity. When they tell me that there is a Congregation that draws so many vocations, I must confess that I worry. The Spirit does not follow the logic of human success: it works in another way. But they tell me that there are so many young people prepared to do anything, who pray a great deal, who are truly faithful. And I say to myself: ‘Wonderful: we will see if it is the Lord!’.
Others are Pelagians: they want to go back to asceticism, do penance. They seem like soldiers ready to do anything for the defence of faith and morals ... and then some scandal emerges involving the founder ... We know all about this, right? Jesus has a different style. The Holy Spirit made noise on the day of Pentecost: it was the beginning. But it usually the Spirit not make much noise, it carries the cross. The Holy Spirit is not triumphalist. The style of God is the cross that is carried until the Lord says ‘enough’. Triumphalism does not go well with a life of prayer.
So, do not put hope in the sudden, mass blooming of these Institutes. Instead, seek the humble path of Jesus, that of evangelical testimony. Benedict XVI put it perfectly when he said that the Church does not grow by proselytism but by attraction.
Why did you choose three Marian themes for the next three World Youth Days leading up to the Youth Days in Panama?
It wasn’t me that chose Marian themes for the next three World Youth Days! This is what they asked for in Latin America: a strong Marian presence. It is true that Latin America is devoted to the Virgin, and to me it seemed like a very good thing. I didn’t have any other proposals, and I was happy with this. But the real Madonna! Not the Madonna at the head of a post office that every day sends a different letter, saying: “My children, do this and then the next day do that.” No, not that Madonna. The real Madonna is the who generates Jesus in our hearts, a Mother. This fashion for a superstar Madonna, who seeks the limelight, is not Catholic.
Holy Father, your mission in the Church is not an easy one. Despite the challenges, tensions and opposition, you offers us the testimony of a calm man, a man of peace. What is the source of your serenity? Where does this confidence that inspires you and that can also support us in our mission come from? Called to be religious leaders, what can you suggest to help us live responsibly and pursue our task with peace?
What is the source of my serenity? No, I don’t take tranquillisers! Italians give some good advice: in order to live in peace we need a healthy couldn’t-care-less attitude. I don’t mind admitting that what I am experiencing is a completely new experience for me. In Buenos Aires I was more anxious, I admit. I felt more tense and worried. In short, I was not like I am now. I have experienced a sensation of profound peace ever since the moment I was elected. It has never left me. I live in peace. I cannot explain it.
When there was the conclave, they told me that in London I was number 42 or 46 in the betting. I didn’t expect it at all. I even had my homily ready for Holy Thursday . The newspapers said I was a king maker, but not the Pope. At election time I simply said: “Lord, let’s go ahead”. I felt peace, and that peace has not really left me.
There was talk in the General Congregations of the Vatican’s problems, there was talk of reforms. Everyone wanted them. There is corruption in the Vatican. But I’m at peace. If there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God. I always sleep six hours. And I pray. I pray in my own way. I love the breviary and it never leaves my side. Mass every day. The rosary .... When I pray, I always turn to the Bible. And the peace within me grows. I don’t know if this is the secret ... My peace is a gift from the Lord. I hope he doesn’t take it away from me!
I believe that everyone must seek to discover what the Lord has chosen for them. After all, losing peace does not help us to suffer at all. The Superiors must learn to suffer, but to suffer like a father. And also to suffer with a great deal of humility. This is the path that can lead from the cross to peace. But never wash your hands of problems! Yes, in the Church there are Pontius Pilates who wash their hands to avoid discomfort. But a superior who washes his hands is not a father, and doesn’t help.
Holy Father, you have often told us that what distinguishes religious life is prophecy. We have discussed at length about what it means to be radical in prophecy. What are the comfort zones we are called to go out of? You talked to nuns of a “prophetic and credible asceticism”. How do you understood this in a renewed perspective of a “culture of mercy”? How can the monastic life contribute to that culture?
Being radical in prophecy. This is extremely important to me. I will take Joel 2:28 as an “icon”. It often comes to mind, and I know it comes from God. It reads: “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions”. This verse expresses in a nutshell the spirituality connecting the generations. Being radical in the prophecy is the famous sine glossa, the rule sine glossa, the Gospel sine glossa. In other words, without tranquillisers! The Gospel should be taken without tranquillisers. This is what the Church Fathers did.
It is in them that we should seek the radical nature of the prophecy. They remind us that we are called to come out of our comfort zones, forsake all that is worldly: in our way of life, but also in thinking up new ways forward for our Institutes. New roads are to be found in the founding charism and initial prophecy. We have to acknowledge what our worldliness is personally and as a community.
Even an ascetic may be wordly. But they must be prophetic. When I entered the Jesuit novitiate, they gave me a hair shirt. Even a hair shirt is fine, but be careful: it shouldn’t help me prove how good and strong I am. True asceticism must make me freer. I believe that fasting is something that is still relevant today, but how should I fast? Simply by not eating? St. Thérèse also had another way: by never saying what she liked. She didn’t complain and took everything they gave her. There is a kind of small daily asceticism, which is a constant mortification. I am reminded of a phrase of St Ignatius that helps us to be freer and happier. He said that mortification in all things possible helps us follow the Lord. If something helps you, do it, even a hair shirt! But only if it helps you to be freer, not if you need it to show yourself that you are strong.
What does community life involve? What is the role of a superior in cherishing this prophecy? What contribution can consecrated people give to renewing the structures and mindset of the Church?
Community life? Some saints called it a continual penance. There are communities where people flay themselves! If mercy does not enter into the community, this is not good. For those in religious congregations, the capacity for forgiveness must often begin in the community. And this is prophetic. It always starts with listening: everyone should feel listened to. It requires listening and persuasion also from the superior. If the superior is constantly reproaching, it doesn’t help create the radical prophecy of religious life. I am convinced that consecrated people are at the forefront in giving a contribution to renewing the structures and mindset of the Church.
In diocesan councils of priests, consecrated persons help them on their journey. They should not be afraid of saying things. A worldly and princely attitude has entered the structures of the Church, and religious communities can contribute to destroying this malign influence. And there is no need to become a cardinal to feel like a prince! It’s enough to be clerical. This is the worst thing in the organization of the Church. Monks and friars can help with the testimony of a more humble kind of brotherhood. They can give the testimony of an inverted iceberg, where the tip, i.e. the summit, the head, is turned upside down, and is at the bottom.
Holy Father, we hope that through your leadership better relations may be developed between the monastic life and the particular Churches. What do you suggest we do to fully express our charism in the particular Churches and to face the difficulties that sometimes arise in relations with bishops and the diocesan clergy? How do you think we can achieve dialogue between the monastic life and the bishops, and cooperation with the local Church?
For some time there have been requests to review the criteria of the relationship between bishops and religious, established in 1978 by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and by the Congregation of Bishops in Mutuae relationes. It was already discussed at the Synod of 1994. That document responded to a certain period and is no longer particularly relevant. The time is ripe for change. It is important for consecrated people to fully feel part of the diocesan Church. Fully. There are sometimes misunderstandings that do nothing to help unity, and then we have to find the root of the problem. Consecrated people must be in the local church governance structures: the boards, presbyteral councils ... In Buenos Aires monks elected their representatives in the Council of Priests. Work must be shared in the diocesan structures. Religious must be involved in the governance of these structures. We cannot help each other in isolation. There is much to be done in this field. This way, also bishops are helped to avoid faling into the temptation of becoming a little prince ...
But also spirituality should be promoted and shared, and consecrated people are bearers of strong spiritual currents. In some dioceses the priests of the diocesan clergy gather in spirituality groups of Franciscans, Carmelites ... But this is a lifestyle that can be shared: some diocesan priests are asking why they can’t live together in order not to be alone, why they can’t be more part of a community. The desire comes, for example, when you have the good example of a parish supported by a religious community. There is thus is a level of deep-rooted partnership, because it is spiritual, from the soul. And maintaining close spiritual contact in the diocese among the clergy and religious communities helps resolve possible misunderstandings. Many things can be studied and rethought. These may include the length of service as a parish priest, which I think is short, with priests changed too easily.
I do not deny that there are also many other problems at a third level, linked to economic management. The problems come when talk turns to money! There is for example the question of selling off assets. We have to take great care with selling off the assets we have. Poverty is central to the life of the Church. Both when it is observed, and when it is not. The consequences are always significant.
Holy Father, as in the Church, also religious communities are committed to addressing cases of sexual and financial abuse with transparency and determination. These abuses are a counter-testimony, cause scandals and also have repercussions on the vocational proposal and the help of benefactors. What measures can you suggests to prevent such scandals in our congregations?
Maybe there is not enough time for a comprehensive answer and I will rely on your wisdom. Let me say however that the Lord strongly wants consecrated people to be poor. When they are not, the Lord sends a bursar who leads the Institute to bankruptcy! Sometimes religious congregations are accompanied by an administrator considered a “friend” who then leads them to financial ruin. However, the fundamental criterion for a bursar is not to be personally attached to the money. Once it happened that a nun bursar fainted and a sister said to those who came to help: “Waft a banknote under her nose and she is bound to come round!”. It’s funny, but should also give us pause for thought. It’s also important to check how banks invest money. It must never happen that we are investing in weapons, for example. Never.
On the subject of sexual abuse: it seems that half of those who commit abuse have themselves been victims of abuse. Abuse is thus sowed in the future and this is devastating. If priests or religious are involved it is clear that the devil is at work, who ruins the work of Jesus through those who should proclaim him. But let’s be clear: this is a disease. If we are not convinced that this is a disease, we cannot solve the problem. So pay attention when receiving candidates for the religious life and ensure that they are sufficiently emotionally mature. For example: never accept in a religious community or diocese a candidate that has been rejected by another seminar or another institute without asking for very clear and detailed information on the reasons for their rejection.
Holy Father, the religious life is not self-serving, but is concerned with its mission in the world. You urged us to be an outwardly-projected Church. From your vantage point, are religious communities in different parts of the world working towards this conversion?
The Church was born as outgoing. It was closeted in the refectory and then came out. And it must remain in the outside world. It must not shut itself off again. Jesus didn’t want this. And “outside” means what I call the outskirts, both existential and social. The existential poor and social poor impel the Church to go beyond its confines
At about 1.00 pm the meeting ended with some words of thanks and a long applause. The Pope, already on his feet, before leaving the room, addressed us all with these words: “Go forward with courage and without fear of making mistakes! Someone who never makes mistakes is someone who does nothing. We must go forward! We err at times, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side!”. Before leaving, Pope Francis wanted once again to say goodbye to all those present, one by one.