Members of the Catholic Church are tearing one another apart in full public view on Facebook as the reverberations caused by Pope Francis’ pronouncements on abortion and other controversial views reach the African continent. At the centre of the South African storm stands the Bishop of Klerksdorp.
This is after the Pope extended to all priests the power to forgive women who have committed abortion, a grave sin in Catholic doctrine. Pope Francis did say that: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.”
This has not gone down well with hardliners within the Church. It comes on top of fresh protest against Pope Francis pronouncement for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion. Four cardinals, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner, have written a letter to to Pope Frabcis demanded clarity on the divorce matter.
War of words has broken up in South Africa between Church members who debating the matter on Facebook. The war is taking place on a post by the Bishop of Klerksdorp in South Africa, Victor Phalana. The Bishop’s post comes to the defence of Pope Francis.
Bishop Phalana begins his post by stating that “Cardinals: Burke, Sarah and Arinze, etc., are not our popes. They were almost our popes but God did not choose them. The Holy Spirit overlooked them for a reason unknown to us.”
He adds that the pope us a champion of fighting “corruption in the world and in the church” and is challenging “clericalism”. The post also states that Pope Francis is correctly “scandalizing these prophets of doom who see God as a punitive judge.”
Well, adds Bishop Phalana, Pope Francis says that while God is a judge, he is a merciful judge because MERCY IS HIS NATURE.
The post has been met with mixed feelings. One comment notes that “I am a bit disappointed with the argument brought against the cardinals as it fails to address the theological and canonical concerns raised in their statements. Showing concern over the perceived flaws in some of Pope Francis’ views must not be viewed as questioning papal authority. This must be seen from a point of view of collegiality and pastoral charity…”
Another comment says: Amen…may God give you guidance and spiritual strength and conviction Bishop (Phalana) as you help reinforce our clergy and the people of the Christian and Catholic…”
Another note: “There is no doubt about his elect as the pontiff, but clarity is required in most of his proclamations unlike others. He has been called severally to clear the air on sensitive issues.”
And another observes that “They (the Pope’s critics) don’t know what they’re doing.”
One points out: None of these African cardinals or Mr Burke will become pope. I see their hard-line attitude at work in Nigeria. I know they are ready to wage war against the Pope by turning the people against him. The truth is not an idea. It is a person. So I believe the Pope is truthful to Christ. That is what matters the wailers can go to hell. Doctors of the law. Pharisee cardinals. The law only brings death.”
Here follows the full Bishop Phalana post:
My friends… Cardinals: Burke, Sarah and Arinze, etc., are not our popes. They were almost our popes but God did not choose them. The Holy Spirit overlooked them for a reason unknown to us. Our Pope is His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. He is a servant of the Gospel (Eph 3:7); He is a servant of the Church (Col 1:25); He is a servant of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:1). He is the Successor of St Peter the Apostle. He is the Vicar of Jesus Christ and the Patriarch of the West. We respect the fact that the college of bishops together with the pope can teach infallibly; we also know that the pope is infallible when, as pastor of all Christians and successor of Peter (see Matt 16:18-19; Lk 22:31-32), he solemnly teaches some revealed truth concerning faith and morals ‘ex cathedra’ (DS 3065-75).
The Spirit is working through the Holy Father, challenging us and redirecting us in some way. Our poor Cardinals and conservative bishops, clergy and laity want to control the Holy Spirit. They are insecure. They do not trust the pope and are bombarding us with mails and phone calls saying that our pope is an antichrist and a false prophet. Well, I believe that they – are the false prophets.
Jesus gave the special service for Christian faith, life and unity performed by St Peter to Pope Francis. He continues to witness to the Resurrection of Christ (Luke 22:31-32; Acts 2:22-36). Whether they like him or not… (and I know that they despise and loathe him), He is elected to exercise pastoral authority with love 1 Peter 5: 1-4; John 21:15-19).
The pope will continue to challenge corruption in the world and in the church where it might show its ugly head. He will continue to challenge clericalism which is responsible for most of the clergy undermining the Priesthood of all the faithful, according to Vatican II. He must continue to talk about mercy and grace!!!! Scandalizing these prophets of doom who see God as a punitive judge. Well, Pope Francis says that while God is a judge, he is a merciful judge because MERCY IS HIS NATURE. While they call for punitive measures at all times and under all circumstances he calls for compassion. This does not mean that he undermines the role of the rule of law!
I appeal to all who are bombarded with mails from these people to ignore them and to listen to voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who speaks to us through our pope (John 10). He has brought joy to many: Young people are going back to Church; Non Christians listen to him; Europeans appreciate him and are rediscovering their faith. The poor find in him a friend. Migrants find in him comfort and solace. The disabled desire his hug. Human Rights activists identify with his teachings. Seminarians survive through his inspiration. Young Religious find meaning for their call. Africa and the Developing world as a whole find in him a sign of hope and a pillar of strength in their convictions. We, young bishops met him recently and found in him a father, a mystic and a man of orthodox and orthopraxis. For him exegesis without the context can lead us to irrelevance. He believes that dogma must be tempered by realism. Justice must be tempered by mercy. He prays. He is a man of discerment. He wakes up at 4.30 am and prays and listens to the Spirit before he talks. He does not pretend. His poverty and simplicity is real. His concerns about the need for reform in the Vatican and in the Church worldwide are genuine. This will be his legacy at the end. He is fighting hypocrisy and careerism in the Church. God bless our pope. Re bolokeloe, Mopapa, lenqosa la Jesu Kriste. Be strong! Remain loyal.