Since Pope Francis has started his reign as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, I am sure that there are many high ranking priests and ordinary priests that does not subscribe fully to his pronouncements and the direction he is taking the Roman Catholic Church.
But, I am confident, however, that many of the faithful and former followers of the Catholic Church are happy with the way the first non-European pope in 1,300 years is performing ever since he started urging/nudging priests, nun and bishops to think less about their careers in the Church and to listen more to the needs of ordinary Catholics, especially the poor.
Francis for sure knows whereof he speaks because his concern for and his work among the poor when he was still a bishop in Argentina is what prompted him to say that reaching out to marginalized people was “the most concrete way of imitating Jesus.”
“This is really very important to me: the need to become acquainted with reality by experience, to spend time walking on the periphery in order really to become acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people,” he advised the priests.
“If this does not happen we then run the risk of being abstract ideologists or fundamentalists, which is not healthy.”
It is in this context that Pope Francis has been recently quoted as saying that men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood should be properly trained or the Church could risk “creating little monsters” more concerned with their careers than serving people.
The Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica published an exclusive text of the comments, made in a three-hour, closed-door meeting Francis had in late November with heads of orders of priests from around the world.
“Formation (of future priests) is a work of art, not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps,” he said.
Civilta Cattolica is the same periodical that ran a landmark interview with Francis in September in which he said the Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful.
His conversation with the members of the Union of Superiors General is important because they will transmit his wishes directly to priests in their religious orders around the world.
I hope these constructive teachings/instructions/wishes of the pope reach our shores and get heeded by the ranking officials of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and down to the ordinary priests for the message is clear: let go of the old damaging practices that has alienated many followers from the Catholic Church because of the priest’s arrogance, immorality, political meddling, materialism and the propensity of bishops being more “papista que el Papa” (more papist than the Pope) – all bearing the signs of “monster priests.”