WAYNE'S NOVEMBER COLUMN
NO CHARITY FOR POPE FRANCIS
By Wayne Weible
Turn on the ‘net, these days to Facebook or Twitter or a slew of private sites and you will find primarily Catholic critics bent on labeling our Pope in a negative way. Much of what we read and hear following the Churches’ first and second rounds of the Synod on the Family is negative or derogatory statements or articles that Pope Francis is a liberal; is a conservative; is the anti-pope or worse, is the anti-christ.
Really, to put it as I have in answer to many on the Catholic ultra-critical side, he is none of the above—he is simply Catholic!
Alas, there is no charity for our Pope during these trying times, most especially among many of our brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith. He is judged harshly for his words and his actions—or his lack of words or actions, which to the critics at large do not conform or defend the traditions and the conservatism of the Church. In the heat of the battle, he does not speak in defense of these accepted elements of our Catholic faith concerning the family, nor does he speak against them. He waits for the right time and the right place.
That way of dealing with these presently perceived critical issues concerning the family is what creates the perception by critics that our pope does not deserve our charity. But he does now more than at any other time of his papacy. He is our leader and deserves our charity in humility and obedience.
Then again, the Pope’s way of dealing with these issues is precisely how Jesus dealt with them. The Scriptural story of the woman accused of adultery and about to be stoned comes to mind as a good example. The accusers are demanding of Jesus to give an answer according to the law, to defend the law and approve of their judgment, obviously trying to trap him. He says nothing for a long time but writes with His finger in the dirt seeming disinterested. He does not quote the law of the Church. After a period of time, Jesus quietly looks up and says to them: “Let those of you without sin cast the first stone!”
The obvious point is Jesus does not immediately do what the leaders are baiting Him to do. He waits and then acts with words, words of compassion as He later says to the woman, “Where are your accusers?” Of course, the crowd of accusers has dismantled and gone away. He then says to her: “Go, and sin no more”, thus not abandoning the truth and the law of the faith. This is the charity of truth of Pope Francis.
Let us consider charity in the way Pope Francis considers it, such as being sensitive, caring and compassionate while defending truth. He cares with the heart of Jesus while acting in defense of the truths of the Church.
I read in a recent article that charity, and mercy by extension, is the acceptance of the sinner with due justice. It is administering justice by leading the misguided to truth. Our beloved Pope Francis is giving fraternal correction to the misguided constantly.
Are we charitable in this way to others? A story comes to mind. It is not one I would prefer to relate, but it makes the point in a way that is in total conformance with the charity of our Pope.
In about the fifth year of my mission I was back in Medjugorje hoping for a quiet and peaceful retreat. By this time my first book had been published and in the first days of the pilgrimage I had been deluged with people wanting to talk and tell their story. Everywhere I went it was the same. I just wanted some quiet time to myself.
One evening as the prayers were beginning, people again surrounded me. After awhile, I politely excused myself and made my way to the rear of the church where the outside altar was located and benches were installed. I went to the very back row, which at that time there were only about 25 rows of benches.
Finally at peace, I joined in the prayers silently in my heart, looking around at the beauty of the setting. Hearing a muffled commotion near the front rows of benches, I noticed two men and two women sitting there. One of the men was apparently quite ill and the others were trying to assist him.
Suddenly I heard that now-familiar occurrence when the Blessed Virgin wanted to say something to me by placing a message in my heart. Just as clear as anything, she said to me: “You should go pray over that man.”
As incredibly dismaying as it sounds, I responded to her: “Oh, I’ll just pray for him from here.”
The moment I said it, I felt horrible knowing how wrong I was. How could I refuse her anything? Yet, I closed my eyes so that I could not see the little group in front and continued praying the rosary.
Within less than a minute, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up to find one of the women from the little group standing there. “Are you Wayne Weible?” She asked. Feeling sheepish I replied yes, now filled with agonizing guilt for not doing what Our Lady had asked me to do. To make matters worse, the young lady began to cry. “I’m sorry to bother you, but that’s my brother there who is seriously ill,” she said before adding, “He’s dying of AIDS.”
The woman went on to tell me that she and her mother had brought her brother to Medjugorje hoping for a healing. The other man was his partner, both of whom were high school teachers. Ironically, the sick man was Catholic and his partner was a non-practicing Protestant.
I thanked the young lady for asking and caring so much for her brother—and then told her that I could not pray over him at this time. I didn’t tell her why—just that I could not do it now. There was just no Holy Spirit in me at that moment. However, I added, if they would return tomorrow evening in the same place, I would do it then.
The next evening, we met near the front of the altar. After introductions, I asked the sick man if he knew in his heart that his life style was responsible for his condition. He acknowledged it and we went on with a wonderful and open discussion. His partner said little but that he loved this man and wanted him to be healed. He did not know anything about Medjugorje but was desperate for anything that could save him. Lastly, I placed my arms around both of them and prayed for God’s healing mercy, praying not only for him physically but also for him spiritually.
When it was over and they had left, I sat there for awhile, wondering how I could have said no to Our Lady when she asked me to pray for this man. I vowed never to hesitate or say no in the future when asked to do what she had asked of me from the beginning: to be charitable and upholding of the faith.
May we learn from the example of Pope Francis, a man of charity but one denied the same by harsh critics within our Church who should know better.
The peace, grace and love of Jesus be with all of us.