This testimony from Fr Michael Najim articulate the traditional Catholicism that I was familiar with growing up in a thoroughly Catholic environment and I’m grateful that people like Fr Michael are speaking up for the true tradition for the sake of genuine Catholicism.
…As I studied theology during my undergraduate years, I learned about the beauty of our Faith. My love for Jesus and our Catholic Faith grew more and more. And as my love for Jesus and our Faith deepened, my love for the pope and my respect for his office deepened. It was abundantly clear in my Catholic circles at home, at Franciscan University, and eventually in the seminary: as Catholics, we always love Christ’s vicar, his visible representative on earth, the pope.
To be clear, I understood that every pope is imperfect. He is a man and a sinner like all of us. In my Catholic circles, we understood that the pope does not always speak infallibly. He can make mistakes and errors in personal judgment, but not when it comes to officially teaching on matters of faith and morals. It was understood that, as a Catholic, you don’t need to like a particular pope necessarily; however, your love for the pope remains even if you don’t like the pope. What was inconceivable in my Catholic circles was disdain for the pope, distrust of the pope, or claims that the pope was attempting to undermine the Deposit of Faith. To think this way about the pope was anathema.
I share the above reflection because this was the Catholic milieu in which I was formed. As I reflect, what I learned was that I should always be interiorly receptive to the pope and his words. Never should I possess an attitude of interior resistance to his person or words, and never should I hate the pope or spread hatred towards him.
As I scroll through social media or peruse Catholic online media, one can imagine how disgusted I am as I see Catholics who claim supreme orthodoxy hating the pope and spreading hatred towards him. This disdain has risen to the highest levels in the Church. Recently, an American bishop claimed that Pope Francis is programmatically attempting to undermine the Deposit of Faith. To believe (and to state!) that the validly elected Successor of St. Peter, the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, is attempting to undermine the Deposit of Faith is about as contrary to Catholic thought as believing that the devil is trying to lead souls to Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom to one apostle: St. Peter. Along with the keys, Jesus prayed specifically for Peter and gave Peter his divine protection. Again, this protection does not guard the pope against committing sin or making mistakes in his life and ministry; but Christ’s protection does protect Peter from undermining the Deposit of Faith.
Every pope brings the totality of his life, his own history, to the Chair of Peter. His personal experiences inform his theological thought and ministerial approach which are always rooted in the theology of the Church. St. John Paul II confronted Communism because he witnessed its horrors. Pope Benedict challenged the dictatorship of relativism because he, too, saw firsthand how relativism harms the Church and the world. Pope Francis brings his own history to the papacy. As a priest who ministered in the Third World, his call for mercy, his plea for the Church to be poor for the poor, and his challenge to bring the Gospel to the peripheries, all flow from his entire life and ministry.
I am pleading with my fellow Catholics: To all of you who embraced and loved St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI; to you who were interiorly open to their person and words; to you who never distrusted them, who never disdained them, who never spread hatred for them; to you who believe that Christ prayed for Peter, who gave Peter his divine protection, who believe that the Vicar of Christ cannot undermine the Deposit of Faith; I am pleading with you to renounce and reject the cancer of hatred that some Catholics have embraced toward Pope Francis. This spirit of hatred and distrust toward the Holy Father is not of God and it must be firmly renounced in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray for Pope Francis, that he will continue to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And may we, his spiritual daughters and sons, always embrace him with a spirit of filial love and profound respect.