Is Pope Francis a promoter of relativism? German author and journalist Alexander Kissler thinks this is the case. Kissler believes that Pope Francis harms the Church and explains that his encounter with him showed “The pontiff talkative, almost theologically ignorant and not fulfilling the responsibility of “his” Church.” He even predicts that the next Pope will find a “spiritually neglected church.”
Alexander Kissler refers to Pope Francis, due to his Amoris Laetitia, as the UN Secretary General with a pectoral cross! Kissler’s response was caused by some of Pope Francis’ remarks in La Croix interview on May 17th:
“We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner.”
I can see why some Catholics would be upset with this rather puzzling statement. It’s filled with words such as “colonialist” and “triumphalist.” Personally, if any have studied a little bit of liberation theology, it carries the tone of those controversial ideas. However, even more, controversial is Pope Francis’ statements on Islam compared to Christianity:
“ Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
I almost laugh at the way this thought has been formulated because it takes me back to some debates I use to have in a classroom with a young lady who was a proud postmodernist. I can almost close my eyes and see her say “It is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel…in terms of the same idea of conquest.” Of course, I would have simply replied, “Impossible.” I encourage anyone who gets into a conversation with a relativist to simply reply, “Impossible.” I doubt that it would put an end to the conversation, but you’ll enjoy the puzzled look on their face for thirty seconds.
By looking at these comments made by Pope Francis, I understand the sentiments of those who accuse him of relativism. My concern with Pope Francis is that I see him acting in public as a Populist, much like most of our politicians today. However, I have never been overly critical of Pope Francis, but the comments about the Gospel of Matthew and “possible to interpret” need to be rejected.
However, is this truly who Pope Francis is? There are those Catholics, and even Protestants, who think we shouldn’t dare criticize Pope Francis. I am of the mind that if something warrants criticism, we should feel free to do it. And these remarks do deserve to be critiqued. Notwithstanding, I am not one who looks for only blemishes on any particular person. So I ask does Pope Francis ever reject relativism and support Catholic doctrine?
Catholic News Agency reported on April 22, 2015, that Pope Francis defended marriage in a general audience saying that in the Genesis account, “man appears for a moment without woman, free and master, but he is alone, he feels alone…God himself recognizes that this reality is not good, that there is a lack of fullness and of communion, and because of this decided to create woman.”
Pope Francis, in the same general audience, defends the sanctity of marriage by criticizing modern media that doesn’t dignify women as they are selling the body. He explains that we need to renew a proper sense of marriage and refute a distrust and hostility towards marriage. Of course, all of what Pope Francis says is in accordance with Catholic Doctrine and Theology. He should be commended for defending the institution of marriage. I ask, “how are we to know Pope Francis says such things when the media pays no attention or Facebook Trending chooses not to trend this particular message?”
I am also not so critical of Pope Francis because of I have taken the time to read some of what he has written. I have not had the chance to read Amoris Laetitia, but I have read both Laudato Si and The Name of God is Mercy. I won’t spend much time on Laudato Si, but overall, it explains that God has called us to steward his creations and that all should strive to do so for the glory of God. In my view, there is nothing relative about this sentiment; it is in accordance with God’s commands.
In regards to The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis challenges Relativism by saying, “Relativism wounds people too: all things seem equal, all things appear the same. Humanity needs mercy and compassion. Pius XII more than half century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.” Furthermore, on a personal note, reading Pope Francis book on Mercy has convinced me more to seek out the confessional booth. He writes about a woman, seeking confession, who told him one day that “The Lord forgives everything.” Pope Francis replied, “How do you know? The woman explained, “If the Lord didn’t forgive everything, our world would not exist.” I will certainly assert that the woman speaks a truth that is far from relative.
The Gospel of Luke is often referred to as the Gospel of Forgiveness. It has several examples such as the forgiveness of the thief on the cross and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Pope Francis reminds us of the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son who speaks the truth about how he has served his Father all of these years, but his younger brother gets the celebration, Francis writes, “but he disqualifies himself.” In this regard, we can bridge what St. Anselm speaks of in Chapters 8 through 11 of how God can be both merciful and impassible. If God couldn’t infinitely forgive then, none of us would be forgiven. In the end, we must teach against relativism, but we must be careful on how we focus on the truth. The truth is Christ, our bridge to the Father, and he explained to us the Kingdom of God is at hand, he told us to repent and sin no more. However, we must do what is necessary to allow people to accept this Gospel.
Does Pope Francis actually do this? Is his concern for more Pastoral methods nothing more than an open invitation to accept Christ? Tell me what you think about Pope Francis.
 Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy (New York: Random House, 2016), 16.
 Ibid, 25.
 Ibid, 45.