Catholic World News

Pope laments 'sad' Christians who always criticize preaching

December 13, 2013

In a homily at Mass on December 13, Pope Francis said that Christians who always criticize preachers are “sad Christians,” who are “trapped” in their own conceptions of the faith.

Commenting on the Jews who rejected the message of St. John the Baptist, and then rejected the message of Jesus, the Pope remarked:

The people of that time preferred to take refuge in a more elaborate religion: in the moral precepts, such as the group of Pharisees; in political compromise, as the Sadducees; in social revolution, as the zealots; in gnostic spirituality, such as Essenes.

The same tendencies are visible today, the Pope continued, among Christians who invariably find fault with the message presented to them by their priests. They are caught up in their own ideologies, he said, and unable to hear the Gospel message. This is a great loss, the Pope said, because effective preaching should sometimes be upsetting. The Church, he said, “admonishes you, teaches you—slaps you, as well—but it is the very freedom that makes the Church grow.”

This problem, the Pope went on, illustrates what St. Paul said about the scandal of preaching: “That God should speak to us through men with limits—sinful men—scandalizes.” Some people focus on the weaknesses of the preachers rather than the content of their message.

“These sad Christians do not believe in the Holy Spirit,” the Pope concluded, urging his congregation to pray that they might be open to hearing the Gospel message.

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  • Posted by: bruno - Dec. 17, 2013 5:20 AM ET USA

    A visiting African priest commented on how he saw so few parents coming back to mass with their children the week after they made their first communion. The angry (sad) parishioners couldn't tolerate his criticism and he was sent packing by the pastor to appease their demands. So much for accepting preaching that makes one feel uncomfortable!

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Dec. 15, 2013 12:28 AM ET USA

    Two of the comments to this article have me confused. I read the two sources cited at the end of the CWN news report, but did not see a mention of "traditionalists" or the "traditionalist movement" in what the Pope actually said. It would be useful if the commentators were more precise in their use of the word "traditionalist." I am considered a traditionalist because I assist at the extraordinary expression of the Roman rite. Yet I see no anger, hostility, resentment, or violence in my circles.

  • Posted by: florentine - Dec. 14, 2013 10:43 AM ET USA

    The Pope's admonition can be read two ways. At first I thought he was criticizing the Traditionalists for being two critical. But then on second reading, I thought ( hoped) his words were based on the presumption that the priests WERE preaching the Gospel correctly and truthfully, and the Pope was actually admonishing those who were critiquing orthodox teachings ( ie. those who favor SS marriage & abortion, etc). No matter where you stand, Pope Francis does make you think.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Dec. 14, 2013 10:33 AM ET USA

    Quote from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops and religious. It is to you, the people (LAITY). You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act as priests, your bishops like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” (Address to the Knights of Columbus – June 1972) A "sad" Catholic, he?

  • Posted by: Nuage - Dec. 14, 2013 5:58 AM ET USA

    While I understand that His Holiness is trying to address the anger, hostility, resentment and even potential for violence that is growing in the "traditionalist" movement, ALL Catholics are bound to take action when heresy is being preached from the pulpit, or when our priests are publicly living a sinful lifestyle. This is not only to protect our priests themselves, (and all consecrated souls - so precious to Our Lord) - but also to protect the faithful, and the Mystical Body of Christ.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Dec. 13, 2013 9:22 PM ET USA

    Wasn't John the Baptist one of the Essenes?

  • Posted by: happyseaotter8027 - Dec. 13, 2013 8:03 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, sometimes the message given by Catholic priests is not the Gospel and not Church teaching. The faithful need to be taught Truth and how to defend the Faith. Sometimes I have been told something that is not Church teaching but is presented as Church teaching. If we are there we want to learn. Teach us but teach us the Truth - not subjective personal opinion that contradicts actual Church teaching. And please don't run from controversy!!

  • Posted by: dancingcrane - Dec. 13, 2013 6:57 PM ET USA

    Hope Francis didn't say they were bad people. He said that people were polarizing into their own separate versions of the faith, and not trusting the Holy Spirit. And possibly not loving their fellow man. I seem to remember that not criticizing priests was a big thing when I first came Catholic. I also remember a quote that said" may the peace of God comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". If you know the truth about the faith, live it. The most important part of that is love.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2013 5:22 PM ET USA

    Excellent comments from our Holy Father. And very true.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2013 12:13 PM ET USA

    Again, Francis is working from the assumption that these are bad people. If the "sad" Christians wag their fingers at preachers, why does our Pope do the same to them?

  • Posted by: Defender - Dec. 13, 2013 12:10 PM ET USA

    Perhaps the problem also lies with priests who give no real message and run from controversial subjects. Though it might be different in Rome, it is terrible (for the most part) here where being politically correct or not making waves seems more important.