They say that St. Catherine rebuked two Popes. She had a number of things to say, especially that the Popes should return to Rome from Avignon. But when I read one of her letters [Catherine of Siena: Letter 74 To Pope Gregory XI, in Avignon] and in my mind I compared it to all the things the papal haters of today say about Pope Francis, I saw the hypocrisy. They are nothing like her.
She did not accuse the Pope of heresy or of failing in faith. She did not suggest deposing a Pope. She says nothing like, “Recognize and Resist.” She did not reject any Ecumenical Councils. She did not make a series of grave accusations against historical Popes. She did not deny that Popes who have been canonized are truly Saints. She speaks with great humility, while the accusers of Pope Francis, who also accuse many other Popes and multiple Councils, speak with great pride. She speaks with love, and they with hatred. She speaks with encouragement, compassion, and heart-felt support; they speak with anger, ridicule and heart-felt malice.
She, with humility: “I Caterina, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ and your poor wretched unworthy daughter, am writing to you in his precious blood.”
She, with submission to Papal authority: “For you know that God has placed in your hands the giving and the taking away of this inheritance as your kindness pleases. You hold the keys, and to whomever you open it is opened, and to whomever you close it is closed. This is what the good gentle Jesus said to Peter, whose place you take: ‘Whatever you shall loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, and whatever you shall bind on earth will be bound in heaven.’ ”
She, taking the side of the Roman Pontiff: “I am confident that by God’s measureless goodness you will win back the unbelievers and [at the same time] correct the wrongdoing of Christians, because everyone will come running to the fragrance of the cross, even those who have rebelled against you most.”
She, rebuking the sinful clergy: “So by the fragrance of their virtue they would help eliminate the vice and sin, the pride and filth that are rampant among the Christian people — especially among the prelates, pastors, and administrators of holy Church who have turned to eating and devouring souls, not converting them but devouring them! And it all comes from their selfish love for themselves, from which pride is born, and greed and avarice and spiritual and bodily impurity. They see the infernal wolves carrying off their charges and it seems they don’t care. Their care has been absorbed in piling up worldly pleasures and enjoyment, approval and praise. And all this comes from their selfish love for themselves. For if they loved themselves for God instead of selfishly, they would be concerned only about God’s honor and not their own, for their neighbors’ good and not their own self-indulgence.”
She, supporting the Pope, trusting that God will help him: “Ah, my dear babbo, see that you attend to these things! Look for good virtuous men, and put them in charge of the little sheep. Such men will feed in the mystic body of holy Church not as wolves but as lambs. It will be for our good and for your peace and consolation, and they will help you to carry the great burdens I know are yours. It seems to me, gracious father, that you are like a lamb among wolves. But take heart and don’t be afraid, for God’s providential help will always be with you. Don’t be surprised even though you see a great deal of opposition, and see that human help is failing us, and that those who should be helping us most disappoint us and act against us.”
And what do the papal accusers say?
They accuse Pope Francis of heresy, apostasy, idolatry and sacrilege. They say, “Recognize and Resist”. They publish documents: one called “Contra Recentia Sacrilegia”, signed by 100 clergy and laity, accused Pope Francis of sacrilege and idolatry. Another, called the Filial Correction, accused the Pope of “propagating heresy”. And a wicked Open Letter to the Bishops, issued Easter Week of 2019, accused the Roman Pontiff of “the canonical delict of heresy”. How dare they compare themselves to Saint Catherine!
All such accusations are contrary to the dogma of the never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff. St. Catherine never offends against that dogma, even though she lived long before Vatican I. The papal accusers offend against it grievously and without apparent remorse. For, as the Fifth Lateran Council taught the whole Church: “the person who abandons the teaching of the Roman pontiff cannot be within the Church….”