Pope Francis on Jesus and the lepers

The holy Pontiff recently gave a sermon comparing Jesus showing compassion to lepers to the Church showing compassion to sinners. Here is the English translation of that homily from Zenit:
Pope Francis has decided the Church should reinstate the marginalized to the Church, including those whose lives are struck by the disease of their own grave sins.

Pope Francis: I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized!

The comparison between leper and sinner, leprosy and sin, is being criticized by some conservative and traditionalist Catholics as if this were an innovation by Pope Francis. See the news story: Pope Francis Clarifies His Vision for Church. But certainly this comparison is the ancient understanding of the Church:

From the Golden Catena of Saint Thomas Aquinas:

Saint John Chrysostom: “For He came not only to heal bodies, but to lead a soul to the true wisdom. And then He did not forbid to eat with unwashed hands, so here He teaches us that it is the leprosy of the soul we ought only to dread, which is sin, but that the leprosy of the body is no impediment to virtue.”

Saint Remigius: “Morally; by the leper is signified the sinner; for sin makes an unclean and impure soul.”

Saint Remigius: ” ‘The sick’ are the slothful who have not strength to live well; ‘the lepers’ are the unclean in sin and carnal delights;”

Saint Anselm: “Matthew having in the leper shown the healing of the whole human race, and in the centurion’s servant that of the Gentiles, now figures the healing of the synagogue in Peter’s mother-in-law.”

Saint Bede: “Bede, in Marc., i, 9: And because the Lord said that He came ‘not to destroy the Law but to fulfill,’ [Matt. 5:17] he who was excluded by the Law, inferring that he was cleansed by the power of the Lord, showed that grace, which could wash away the stain of the leper, was not from the Law, but over the Law. And truly, as in the Lord authoritative power, so in him the constancy of faith is shown.”

Saint Ambrose: “But the multitudes which were able to touch the Lord are healed by the virtue of that touch, as formerly the leper is cleansed when our Lord touched him. The touch of the Savior then is the work of salvation, whom to touch is to believe on Him, to be touched is to be healed by His precious gifts.”

Saint Augustine: “The lepers may be taken mystically for those who, having no knowledge of the true faith, profess various erroneous doctrines. For they do not conceal their ignorance, but brazen it forth as the highest wisdom, making a vain show of it with boasting words. But since leprosy is a blemish in color, when true things appear clumsily mixed up with false in a single discourse or narration, as in the color of a single body, they represent a leprosy streaking and disfiguring as it were with true and false dyes the color of the human form. Now these lepers must be so put away from the Church, that being as far removed as possible, they may with loud shouts call upon Christ. But by their calling Him Teacher, I think it is plainly implied that leprosy is truly the false doctrine which the good teacher may wash away.”

Pope Francis expresses the common and ancient understanding of the Church that the story of Jesus healing the lepers is not merely a healing miracle of the body, but a teaching miracle in which leprosy stands for grave sin.

Moreover, Pope Francis is not merely a priest or theologian, whose opinions we might reasonably and faithfully reject. Pope Francis has been given the role by God to teach and correct the Church. He is the Vicar of Christ and the Head of the Church on earth. He hold the two keys of Saint Peter. But certain conservative and traditionalist Catholics have for a long time been speaking and acting as if they and their little groups within the Church are the sole source of truth on doctrine and discipline. They speak as if they hold the keys of Saint Peter. They are the modern-day version of the Pharisees, who were so sharply rebuked by Jesus.

Soon Pope Francis will teach true doctrine and make authoritative decisions on discipline in contradiction to these conservative Pharisees. They will falsely accuse him of heresy, and depart from the Church due to their own heretical and schismatic errors. Pride goeth before a fall. They have long been puffed up with pride, as if the traditionalist or conservative understanding on each and every point were infallible, as if, when any Ecumenical Council or Pope teaches otherwise, the only possible explanation would be that the Council or Pope had gone astray.

The great apostasy begins this very year, 2015, as soon as Pope Francis issues his decisions on doctrine and discipline at the Synod of Bishops beginning October 4th in 2015. That date is essentially the date for the start of the great apostasy. Stage one of the apostasy, many conservatives and traditionalists leave the Church by rejecting Pope Francis. Stage two occurs under the conservative successor of Pope Francis: many liberal Catholics leave the Church by rejecting that conservative Pope (Pius XIII).

Whosoever remains faithful to each Roman Pontiff, remains faithful to Christ. Whosoever rejects any Roman Pontiff, rejects Christ.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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8 Responses to Pope Francis on Jesus and the lepers

  1. Agellius says:

    In my experience conservatives do not object to the Church reaching out to sinners — obviously, that’s what it’s supposed to do. But he scriptures themselves admonish us not to associate with immoral people, including the sexually immoral, drunkards, swindlers, etc., who bear the name of “brother” — see, e.g. 1 Cor. 5:11, Mt. 18:15-17.

    Yes, as people are fond of pointing out, Christ dined with sinners and harlots, etc. But this was for the purpose of bringing them to repentance that they might be saved. And this the Church and all Catholics certainly ought to do.

    The objection that conservatives have (again, in my experience) is with the idea of allowing people who are living immorally and are unrepentant, to be Catholics in good standing, eligible to receive Communion, etc.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Pope Francis might permit Catholics to receive Communion if they are not conscious of grave sin, according to their conscience. He might allow some easier process for divorced and remarried Catholics to obtain an annulment, or to receive Communion based on their own judgment that the previous marriage was invalid. As Pope, he holds the keys of Peter and he can take a wide range of different actions.

      In my view, the vast majority of Catholics who currently receive Communion are committing objective mortal sins and are unrepentant. They use contraception, commit gravely immoral sexual acts, and have fallen into a number of serious heresies. Many of the conservatives who complain about the possibility of an easier wider path to Communion for their fellow Catholics do not meet their own standard for who should receive. And yet they receive anyway.

  2. Agellius says:

    The first option you name sounds sketchy to me, particularly the “according to their conscience” part. The others I don’t necessarily have a problem with.

    I agree with your statement that “the vast majority of Catholics who currently receive Communion are committing objective mortal sins and are unrepentant”, and I consider that a major problem.

    Arguing that “many conservatives” don’t meet their own standards strikes me as a tu quoque fallacy.

    • Ron Conte says:

      My own preference would be very strict. No one should be receiving Communion who refuses to believe any infallible teaching, including of the ordinary universal magisterium. No one should be receiving Communion if they have committed any grave sins, including all the popular sexual sins, use of contraception, or any other grave sin. Until and unless they have repented and been to Confession. I would also require everyone to go to Confession at least once every three months, or else no Communion. But that is my own point of view.

      The Pope has the authority to decide these questions. And if his decision is different from my own judgment, I will still support his authority and his decision.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Bottom line: We are not to judge – the Pope has said that. However, we can judge the sin. If people are receiving the Eucharist and are not following the teachings of the Church, and they are doing so because they don’t know they shouldn’t because they haven’t been taught the truths of the Gospel and the Catholic Church, then the answer is simple: preach and teach the truth from every pulpit in the Catholic Church. The teaching should start at the very top from the Holy Father himself. Then all this confusion will end. Our God is a God of order, not confusion.

    • Ron Conte says:

      You don’t know which persons are committing which sins. The Pope has the authority to decide the rules for receiving Communion. He can allow each person to decide based on conscience, if he wishes. Your point of view has insight, but you must realize that you are not infallible. The situation is not as theologically simple as you claim. And perhaps the Pope has a better understanding that you do.

    • Kathleen says:

      I know I am not infallible. I also know that the Church cannot err in what She teaches in matters of faith and morals. All the Popes have been consistent when it comes to matters of faith and morals. We have had Popes who gave scandal and lived immoral lives – not too many, thank God, but even these Popes never changed Church doctrine, or discipline, when it came to matters of faith and morals. I don’t think Pope Francis will either, even if some of his advisors would like him to. If he does, then we have a real problem. It would seem that in this present time we are living the messages of Akita – cardinal against cardinal, etc.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The non-infallible teachings of the Church can err, to a limited extent. The disciplines of the Church are not teachings, so these types of decisions are fallible. The Pope is the head of the Magisterium, so whatever we say about the teaching of the Church can be said about the Pope.

      It is a problem when Catholics think that the Church cannot err in doctrine or discipline, and a further problem when they also say that the Pope can err in doctrine and discipline. That is a contradictory position to take. Who is to judge if a Pope has erred in doctrine or discipline? Each conservative assumes that their own understanding is sufficient to judge the Pope. That is yet another problem.

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