PopeWatch: Progressives



As PopeWatch has noted, Pope Francis is a complicated man.  From a sermon yesterday, November 18, 2013:

God save us from the “hegemonic uniformity ” of the “one line of thought”, “fruit of the spirit of the world that negotiates everything”, even the faith.  This was Pope Francis’ prayer during mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta, commenting on a passage from the Book of Maccabees, in which the leaders of the people do not want Israel to be isolated from other nations , and so abandon their traditions to negotiate with the king.


They go to “negotiate ” and are excited about it. It is as if they said “we are progressives; let’s follow progress like everyone else does”.   As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope noted that this is the “spirit of adolescent progressivism” according to which “any move forward and any choice is better than remaining within the routine of fidelity”. These people, therefore , negotiate “loyalty to God who is always faithful” with the king. “This is called apostasy”, “adultery.” They are, in fact, negotiating their values​​, ” negotiating the very essence of being faithful to the Lord .”
“And this is a contradiction: we do not negotiate values​​, but faithfulness. And this is the fruit of the devil, the prince of this world , who leads us forward with the spirit of worldliness.  And then there are the direct consequences. They accepted the habits of the pagan, then a further step: the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and everyone would abandon their customs. A globalizing conformity of all nations is not beautiful, rather, each with own customs but united, but it is the hegemonic uniformity of globalization, the single line of thought . And this single line of thought is the result of worldliness . “
And after “all peoples had adapted themselves to the king’s demands, they also accepted his cult , they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath .”Step by step”, the moved along this path. And in the end “the king raised an abomination upon the altar of devastation”. “But, Father , this also happens today ! . Yes, because the worldly spirit exists even today, even today it takes us with this desire to be progressive and have one single thought . If someone was found to have the Book of the Covenant and if someone obeyed the law, the king condemned them to death : and this we have read in the newspapers in recent months . These people have negotiated the fidelity to the Lord and this people , moved by the spirit of the world , negotiated their own identity , negotiated belonging to a people, a people that God loves so much that God desires to be like Him . “

The Pope then referred to the 20th century novel, “Master of the World” that focuses on “the spirit of worldliness that leads to apostasy”. Today it is thought that “we have to be like everyone else, we have to be more normal , like everyone else, with this adolescent progressivism .” And then “what follows is history”: “the death sentences, human sacrifices”. “But you think that today there are no human sacrifice s? There are many, many ! And there are laws that protect them .”
” But what consoles us faced with the progress of this worldly spirit, the prince of this world , the path of infidelity, is that the Lord is always here, that he can not deny Himself , the Faithful One : He is always waiting for us, He loves us so much and He forgives us when we repent for a few steps, for some small steps in this spirit of worldliness, we go to him, the faithful God. With the spirit of the Church’s children, we pray to the Lord for His goodness, His faithfulness to save us from this worldly spirit that negotiates all , to protect us and let us move forward, as his people did through the desert , leading them by the hand like a father leads his child. The hand of the Lord is a sure guide”.

Those who are confident that they have Pope Francis figured out should read this homily and then think again.


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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. The reference to Benson’s “Lord of the World” (the translation mangles the title) is intriguing. That novel still has the power to chill.

  2. Thank you- great information.

    I prob should read the book- I hate to read “chilling” stuff 🙁 seems like I’ve got enough of that already

  3. Read it last year. The antagonist is the American President who becomes world leader. He is described as coming from Vermont with a backgroud that no one really knows. Also describes a radically secular society where religion is a first an oddity and then an evil.

    Yes, it reads like it was written yesterday. (Not to give an apocalyptic meaning to Obama.)

  4. “Yes, it reads like it was written yesterday. (Not to give an apocalyptic meaning to Obama.)”

    Obama is far too incompetent to be the Antichrist.

  5. I agree. I wrote that as I could see someone starting a useless blog war claiming that I was referring to Obama as the Antichrist. He is liar but not the Father of Lies.

  6. It sounds to me like Pope Francis’ handlers have advised him to take an equal swipe at the other end of the religious spectrum in this homily against “progressives”. But at some point, people who try this tightrope walk (Paul VI; John XXIII; or even John McCain and LIndsey Graham) are going to settle into the actual intellectual and spiritual position they are comfortable with, and based on all that is so far available to us on the Bergoglio pope, it is doubtful that he is going to end up a traditionalist.

  7. Once again, I think of how God’s kingdom transcends human institutions and values. It is a comprehensive vision, but one rooted in a story that entails Creation and Fall. It is a story that finds its resolution in the cross of Christ, where God’s peace and reconiliation are brought to the world. It is the ongoing story of that kingdom which has come. What we do now and what the future holds results from God’s plan in Christ, and our understanding of progress can never be divorced from that. During the 1960’s, revolutionary thought at times separated itself from the Gospel and its narrative roots, and when that happens, disaster ensues. The Guyana tragedy bore that out.

  8. Thanks for posting this, Don. I’ve gotten way too busy the last couple weeks to keep up with news much at all, but I’m glad that I didn’t miss this sermon. I think you get a really interesting sense of Francis from it.

  9. In reading the fuller version of Pope Francis’ words, I realize his words, very much flowing from the Book of Maccabees, has a two pronged approach. He first radically criticizes the hegemony ( dictatorship) of a so called progressive culture (Greek for the Jews at the time; aggressive secularist hegemony of Western democracies) which imposes itself on other cultures but most importantly the People of God, Israel and the Church.

    However, the other prong goes after those within the People of God- at least by birth and/or name-who in what Pope Francis calls, adolescent progressivism, seek to reject or ignore Tradition and seek to move forward, totally acccomodating themselves to the spirit of the age, ceasing to be the People of God in any substantial way.

    Along with the now well known letter to Archbishop Marchetto, this homily reveals Pope Francis’ emphasis on the hermeneutic of continuity and a rejection of the progressivist element within the Church that seeks to change doctrines of the Church in order that the Church be transformed by the culture (which we sadly see in the mainline Protestant communities). The Church as communion is the sacrament of salvation for the world. For the sake of the world and it’s salvation, the Church must remain faithful as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. She must remain distinct from the culture, but not rigid. Note Francis’ gentle invitation to our adolescent progressives in the Church who have taken steps in the wrong direction to return the God Who is faithful and merciful, and return home and be reconciled in full communion with the Church

  10. Many progressive-minded people imagine things are reaching a convergence, and that educated, worldly people must come down on the side of history. They view their opponents as reactionary and backward.

  11. George Steele Gordon: “Intellectuals, especially in the social sciences, have a nasty habit of thinking that, ‘This is the way the world should be, therefore this is the way the world can be.’

    “Sometimes the mind just boggles.

    “The Atlantic had an article (September or October 2012) with the title ‘Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It).’ I am always curious when intellectuals announce that the people (who in the American constitutional system serve as the sovereign power) don’t know what’s good for them (What’s the Matter with Kansas?) or don’t even know what they want.

    “Implicit in all of these revelations, of course, is the firmest, if never directly expressed, belief of the Left: That the average person is too stupid to run his own life, let alone make public policy decisions. Those few, those happy few, that band of liberal intellectuals, must do that for them.”

  12. To dispel ones “confusion” about Pope Francis read Homily where the Pope explained that a society that nurtures the elderly, is a society that protects its memory and future- referring to the role of grandparents passing on the Faith. Hence the warning about progressiveness (it could have been the same Homily or the one the following day.) The generation of “progressives” (ie. baby boomers), that lost the Faith and didn’t pass it on to their children. Etc etc etc


    Reading things in context, is always a good idea, if you want to gauge the Truth of the matter. As I assume “gauging the truth”, is the intetion here.

  13. Calvin Coolidge came from Vermont and became President not long afters the book referred to was published. And Coolidge was a progressive, albeit a Christian one.

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