Not long after I started this YouTube channel and it began generating an audience, the McCarrick scandal, and all of the refuse that came with it, broke in the Catholic Church and, for the first time, I did a commentary on scandal in the Church as that was something that I was struggling to sort through myself.
And that video, relative to other stuff I was producing, went somewhat viral. It showed me that there was a lot of interest in this kind of content and so became a temptation for me.
The temptation for me was that I could shift the focus of my channel to scandal and outrage commentary and that this would, based on my experience, generate a lot of notoriety and interest in my channel. It would provide easy clicks and growth.
And I noticed that a few other publishers of podcasts and YouTube videos that I had been following, some of whom were limping along at this point, seemed to be drawn to the same thing and I wondered if they were being similarly tempted.
And the thing about temptation, is that it’s so easy to rationalize and justify as if you’re doing it for some greater good.
For my part, I thought about it, and, remembered that that wasn’t why I started this channel and as tempting as the potential fame and fortune that could come from capitalizing on the current state of affairs might be, I was going to continue doing what I set out to do at the outset.
But witnessing the kind of explosive growth that other publishers have experienced as they did make that shift, has confirmed my suspicions that there is a really strong appetite for that kind of thing and a lot of outside pressure to succumb to that temptation which is why I want to take this opportunity to explain why I have refused to do so.
In order to understand why I think Catholics should, generally, avoid criticizing the Pope and why I, especially, refuse to do so publicly, is by first understanding the Church through the analogy of a family.
Because God is invisible and all powerful, he can feel remote from us, but out ofa clear desire to be close to us, he’s always made himself available to us in ways that we can experience and understand and that often comes in the form of our human relationships.
The commandment to love God is so often paired with the commandment to love each other as if those two things are inseparable. We learn to love God through our human relationships.
Jesus said that what we do for the least among us, we do for him. He also said that we will be known as his disciples by the way we love one another.
And if you’re still not convinced, what about the obvious fact that God, in his desire to help us relate to him and know him, became one of us. He became human in the most profound example of our need to learn to love him through our human nature and experience.
And what is a more profound example of human love, than the image of the family. The catechism says that, “Christ chose to be born and grow up holy family and that the Church is nothing other than "the family of God."”
And since it is a family, and since God has always designed our relationship with him to follow the patterns of our human relationships, it makes sense that he would appoint a head for the Church, a Father, who we understand to be the Holy Father, the Pope.
Now before anyone throws out the obvious objection that we are to call no man Father, as Jesus says in Matt. 23:9, you should remember that Jesus conceded the reality of spiritual fatherhood when he called Abraham, “Father Abraham”, in John 8:56.
And in 1 Corinthians 4:15 St. Paul says that he became a spiritual father to them through the gospel.
So, if the Pope is our spiritual father and, therefore, the head of our family, following God’s lead in learning how to love him by loving each other according to our human experience, we should ask ourselves, how is it that we are called to love our fathers.
Well, for starters the 4th commandment tells us to honor our father and mother. So how do we do that?
When I was a kid, I remember when things seemed to be unravelling in our domestic life as a family, my parents would call a family meeting where we’d have to get together at the kitchen table and work through our problems.
And we hated doing that, but it was a necessary thing and probably the best way to resolve our issues. We would work it out internally. What we didn’t do, is broadcast to the world the things we didn’t like about our parents, or if we did do that, it would absolutely be in violation of the 4th commandment.
I remember seeing a headline recently about one of Donald Trump’s nieces being involved in some tell all book that was designed to injure his character. Now, if that family has a patriarchal figure, I’m sure Donald Trump is it and whether you like him or hate him, he’s obviously a person who has had failures as a father figure in his family. Just the fact that he’s been married three times is a good indication.
But when I saw that his niece was doing this, I couldn’t help but be repelled by it a little. It struck me as a serious betrayal, not just against Trump, but against the whole family.
And the obvious reason is because it’s being used by his and the family’s enemies against their interests. When you attack the head of a family, you attack the family. There’s no separating those two actions.
And this is definitely true of the Church. I can’t count the number of times people who are hostile to the Catholic Church have appeared in the comments on my videos with reasons why the Church is evil and why they will never join it while citing Catholic sources who have been critical of Pope Francis.
Attacking the Pope gives ammunition for those who would attack the whole family.
But this raises the question, what then do we do if we have a bad Pope? I think the same thing should be asked of a child with a bad father. While that’s not an easy question to answer, I think we can draw some insight from looking at the domestic life.
For one, it’s not the place of the children to offer correction to their parents. Anyone who is a parent, knows this. They don’t have the right and it would only be arrogance and pride to assume that right exists.
But others do have that right. Uncles, grandparents, and spouses do have rights to provide critical feedback to a father who isn’t fulfilling his role.
And when we look at the history of the Church, we see something similar. What we definitely don’t see are examples of lay saints, publicly denouncing the behaviour of the Pope. Some examples that do come to mind are St. Paul when he rebuked St. Peter and St. Catherine of Sienna when she wrote to the Pope and urged him to return to Rome when he was living in Avignon.
In the case of St. Paul, he was an apostle. You could say he was another authority figure in the family, like an uncle. He had the right and responsibility to have that kind of conversation with the Holy Father, personally. What he didn’t do was trash talk him publicly. He dealt with him personally.
St. Catherine of Sienna knew the Pope personally and had a personal correspondence with him. Again, she didn’t denounce him or criticize him publicly. And if you want to analogize her role, she would be something like a Mother in the family.
For those of us who are children, again, it’s not our place and there is no precedent to say that it is our role. The only examples I can find in the history of the Church of those who publicly criticized the hierarchy or the Pope were schismatics.
So, on that note, I’ll leave you with St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of schismatic. It appears in question 39 of the second part of the second part. He says, “Wherefore schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy.”