Fr. Gerald E. Murray: Papal Standards – and Questions

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By Fr. Gerald E. Murray, The Catholic Thing, Sept. 23, 2019

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

We know that Pope Francis is a believer in the value of criticism from his extensive remarks on the plane ride back from his recent apostolic visit to Africa. He said: “First of all, criticism always helps, always. When someone receives criticism, that person needs to do a self-critique right away and say: is this true or not? To what point? And I always benefit from criticism. Sometimes it makes you angry. . . . But there are advantages.”

He wants critics to come forward with their arguments and be ready for a dialogue aimed at arriving at the truth: “I do not like it when criticism stays under the table: they smile at you letting you see their teeth and then they stab you in the back. That is not fair, it is not human. Criticism is a component in construction, and if your criticism is unjust, be prepared to receive a response, and get into dialogue, and arrive to the right conclusion. This is the dynamic of true criticism.”

He also spoke of those who criticize what he himself has said or done: “Regarding the case of the pope: I don’t like this aspect of the pope, I criticize him, I speak about him, I write an article and ask him to respond, this is fair.” He wants to hear from his critics: “This is clear: a fair criticism is always well received, at least by me.”

With this in mind, we should consider what Pope Francis said to bishops in his homily on September 20 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae: “You must love first the one who is closest, who are your priests and your deacons. . . . It’s sad when a bishop forgets those close to him. It’s sad to hear the complaints of priests, who tell you: ‘I called the bishop; I needed a meeting to tell him something, and the secretary told me that everything is full for three months . . . . When a priest calls, the bishop must return his call [at the] latest the following day, “because he has the right to know that he has a father.” ….