The old proverb of a ‘man is known by the company he keeps’ speaks to the trait of human beings to surround themselves with like-minded people. There is a certain comfort in close contact with others who share your preferences, interests, habits, and values. Most likely, through some deep-seated psychological need for safety and protection, people search out those who will affirm them and support their lifestyle and choices.
If this is indeed true, then we all have to question the company that Pope Francis keeps. He wrote a handwritten letter to James Martin during “pride” month, received an artist known for his rendition of a crucifix suspended in his urine, recently held a private audience with the likes of Bill Clinton and Alexander Soros, and appointed an old colleague from Argentina as the prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. We will examine each of these in turn.
Fordham University (supposedly a Catholic institution) hosted an alphabet Outreach Ministry Conference. Fr. James Martin was in attendance and served as a conference moderator. Francis penned a handwritten letter to Martin offering this greeting, “I send my best regards to the members of the meeting at Fordham University. In my prayers and good wishes are you and all who are working at the Outreach Conference.” Fordham quickly shared this letter with the public on their website. This was not a one-off, as Martin received another encouraging handwritten letter in June of 2021 during a similar Outreach event. Martin shared that letter on his Twitter account. Did Bishop Strickland receive an encouraging handwritten note from the pope after he protected the faithful from the blasphemy of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgences? Of course not. Instead, he received an apostolic visit.
Andres Serrano, infamously known for his photograph called Piss Christ, was one of almost two hundred contemporary artists recognized by the Vatican at a reception at the Sistine Chapel. Serrano created this controversial photo by submerging a small plastic crucifix in his urine. During his speech at the event, Pope Francis affirmed the following regarding modern artwork, “Art can never be anesthetic; it brings peace, yet far from deadening consciences, it keeps them alert.” In another disappointing move, Francis gave Serrano a thumbs up and a hearty smile when greeting him. Most other artists received the typical limp-wristed papal handshake with the accompanying annoyed/comatose facial expression Francis is known for.
Francis then held a private audience with Bill Clinton and Alexander Soros (George Soros’ son). George Soros’ foundation, Open Society, promotes all sorts of values antithetical to church teachings, and we all know too well the moral leanings of Bill Clinton. Video from the meeting shows the pope graciously exchanging gifts with Bill Clinton. Francis gifted Clinton with a statue meant to symbolize peace. Wouldn’t it be more effective to work for real peace – say in Ukraine – than to stage photo ops with an elderly has-been world leader?
The last blow in this series of disappointments came with the announcement of Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández to head the Doctrine of the Faith. It has been rumored that Fernández was Amoris Laetitia’s ghostwriter but is also known for his unsettling 1995 book, Heal Me With Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing. After receiving some criticism for this book, Fernández claimed he had written it as a parish priest working with teenagers, which can hardly be seen as a serious justification for publishing erotic poetry and images. Fernández was also accused of being involved in a sexual abuse coverup case in Argentina. This is the guy that Francis thinks will faithfully guard and defend the deposit of faith?
Okay, you say Pope Francis goes to the fringes and associates with sinners just like Jesus did. What’s so wrong with that? No one can argue with the immense mercy of God as exhibited by Jesus, who often ministered and dined with sinners. When confronted by the Pharisees with his choice of companions, Jesus said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinner,” Mark 2:17. But here is where the comparison breaks down as Jesus not only forgives their sins but also sends the fringes on their way, commanding them to “Go and from now on sin no more,” John 8:11.
We do not know what is being said behind closed doors, but we never hear any public rebuke from the Pope regarding his friends and associates. We could believe that Francis was evangelizing if we could observe that after these meetings and papal audiences, there was a true conversion of the heart, and the outward behavior of his visitors changed for the better. Has Nancy Pelosi changed her position on abortion after her papal visit?
Unfortunately, the images and sound bites released to the public from the Vatican show a very friendly, smiling, and cordial Pope sometimes giving specially made gifts or handwritten letters to those who openly oppose the church and her teachings. This only serves to confuse the faithful and create the appearance of scandal. Don’t be like Pope Francis. Mind whom you spend your time with and follow the wisdom of the scriptures, which tell us, “Walk with the wise, and you become wise, but the companion of fools fares badly.” Proverbs 13:20