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Are you suffering from Francis Shock Syndrome? There’s help for you! August 4, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, disconcerting, episcopate, error, General Catholic, Interior Life, Papa, sadness, scandals, secularism, SOD, the return, the struggle for the Church, Tradition.

The Bear at St. Corbinian’s Bear – who I swear writes exactly like a Senior Chief Petty Officer I used to know spoke – has a most relevant post regarding the affliction many Catholics are feeling under the current pontificate.  We feel spiritually and even psychologically harmed by the ongoing scandal and fear over even greater disasters in the future.  Some have called it Francis Derangement Syndrome, but that’s a hypermontanist calumny against people honestly feeling stressed and worse in confronting the constant antics in Rome.  I think Francis Shock Syndrome might fit better.  Kind of like Toxic Shock Syndrome, but from an ecclesiastical perspective.

The Bear has properly diagnosed the spiritual and psychological discomfiture many souls have been experiencing over the past two-plus years, seeing in it a form of cognitive dissonance.  For those who don’t know, cognitive dissonance occurs when deeply held beliefs are suddenly challenged (if not obliterated) by reality.  Catholics have been taught to believe that popes are infallible but many have taken that into impeccability. How can the current pontificate be reconciled with that very deep belief?

This pain is worsened by being told that they are not just wrong, but bad, horrible people and eve worse Catholics for feeling that something is very awry at the highest echelon of the Church. The Bear notes that such attacks are simply some people’s way of relieving that same stress themselves – they declare criticism of the papacy out of bounds, so they don’t have to think about the ongoing scandals.  The Bear also examines other ways of trying to relieve that stress, and how valid or invalid they are with respect to reality.  The worst case is when people create alternate realities that basically define the problem away.

Hopefully I’ve given sufficient set up.  I think we’re dealing with an unusually bright bear here……he gives much to consider (emphasis in original, my comments):

If you believe that the Church is a divine institution, carrying out God’s plan of evangelization and the cure of souls, maintaining a tradition that ensures its integrity, and if you envision popes in the mold of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and even Pius XII, Pope Francis comes as much of a shock as a spaceman from……..planet Clarion. [Clever picture at the link]

You can’t shake the feeing that something is terribly wrong. It’s not supposed to be this way. Popes aren’t supposed to be as off-kilter as Pope Francis. The Church is not supposed to be talking about changing things as settled as Jesus’ condemnation of remarriage after divorce, let alone homosexual unions. Nor should it be refereeing scientific debates, and in general showing interest in everything but the supernatural. [Indeed]
So, on the one hand, you have everything you believe in your core about the Catholic Church. On the other, you have the undeniable fact of Pope Francis. If a Grand Canyon sized split like that is not enough to cause cognitive dissonance, the Bear does not know what is……..[And this is something very smart guys like Eliot Bougis have been wrestling with for months.  Some pre-conciliar (but generally post-Vatican I) theological treatises make out that breathing even a hint of criticism of a Pope is highly suspect if not directly sinful.  Others (including some great saints) seem to argue that such criticism is possible.  All of these, however, assume a responsible, Church-loving pontiff.  Is that assumption safe anymore?]

………So how do we deal with cognitive dissonance? The Bear is not pretending to provide counseling, but will propose a few ideas. In general, there are four effective defense mechanisms that kick in to reducing dissonance.

The perfect example (perfect as an example, not as a model) is thesedevacantist. Get rid of the Pope and you get rid of the dissonance! They have changed one of the conflicting cognitions (“Francis is Pope”). Similarly, others may leave the Church. They have changed their cognition the opposite way from the sedevacantists by getting rid of the Church. [Of course, sede vacantism as a somewhat widespread movement pre-dates Pope Francis by decades]
Another way is to keep the Pope and the Church while turning a blind eye to anything distressing that the Pope may do or say. This is the ultramontanist solution. [I think we’ve gone beyond ultra, and into hyper-montanism, but whatevs]  A variation is to blame everybody in the Church but the Pope. This is the well-known position of Church Militant’s Michael Voris. It’s the Pope’s “bad advisors,” or the bishops. Both simply ignore the conflicting cognition. This means simply disregarding all evidence that Francis’ Papacy is deeply flawed. The Bear, by the way, is not saying this is a bad approach…….[I think it requires too much willful disregard of reality, and can even approach outright dishonesty]
Still others may physically stay in the Church, but just disengage. It’s easier to shrug it all off than deal with the pain. “Oh, I don’t follow all that.” They have justified the conflicting cognition by changing it (“It’s not all that important”).
One might also find a way to justify a cognition by adding another cognition to it. Perhaps by telling oneself, “Pope Francis may be Pope, but is so bad that normal pope rules just don’t apply to him.” This is probably where St. Corbinian’s Bear falls. If it were just an ordinary difference on a papal opinion or two, the Bear would not dare growl so. [I tend to agree.  But I think the reality must be faced that we are dealing with more than simply a Pope Francis problem, but a problem of popes for the past several decades.  Or does that just reveal my latent protestantism?  Nevertheless, while we may find Pope Benedict or Pope Saint John Paul II more convivial to our point of view, there has been much in the popes since 1958 that has been quite radical compared to, say, Gregory XVI or Pius VIII, has there not?]
These are all natural psychological defense measures that may kick in according to the individual’s needs and beliefs. Some of them have very bad “side effects.” What can we do consciously to help us deal with cognitive dissonance caused by Pope Francis?
If you are reading this, you are probably remaining faithful, but experience real psychological distress to a greater or lesser degree. We do not quite know what to do with a Pope who seems to have departed from the Petrine program, if not the neighborhood of reason. Even worse, we have the added stressors that we are not supposed to criticize the Pope, and that we can rely on his ordinary magisterium. The problem is exacerbated by the relentless train of unfortunate comments and visuals.
So what can we do? These are some ideas. You may find some more appealing than others. Not all of them are for everybody.
  • nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there (Holy Stubbornness) [a very good one]
  • seek out the pre-1960 comfort zone of the past in different ways, e.g. the traditional Latin Mass, Douay Rheims Bible, etc. [highly recommended, but beware, doing so will inevitably reveal startling differences in practice between the pre- and post-conciliar Church]
  • draw comfort from like-minded people at blogs like St. Corbinian’s Bear and others (if others are with you, you will feel safer), and that may include using comment boxes
  • on the other hand, avoid, as much as possible, all news and discussion of Pope Francis [Is this what Catholics are reduced to?  Avoiding mention of the Pope at all costs?]
  • more Jesus, less Francis — a regular classic prayer life (Divine Office, rosary, etc.), reading scripture (which has many examples of suffering under bad leaders) [!!]
  • recognize that this will be a relatively short papacy, and things will undoubtedly get better [This gets back to learning the pre-conciliar Faith and coming to recognize the rather stark differences at all levels between what we do/know now, and what was done/known then.]
  • therapy — the biggest thing in your life is being seriously messed with; people who are particularly at risk might benefit [Unless you can find a really orthodox Catholic therapist, I advise strongly against this one.  Loads of people have been therapied right out of the Church]
  • God permitted this to happen — you don’t need to know everything, but it does test our faith
In the end, perhaps the best we can do is hold on to our beliefs about the Church, while at the same time acknowledging the problems Francis poses. We don’t have to have all the answers. But we know what is right, and what is wrong, and we know nothing Pope Francis can do is able to change one to the other.
I very much agree with the conclusion.  I may not be fully on board with every single statement above but I think the main thrust – cognitive dissonance and people’s responses to it – is quite good.  I also very much believe that a return to the traditional practice of the Faith – what you might call Catholicism – is absolutely vital, not just for dealing with Pope Francis, but for far more important reasons, like coming to know the Faith much more fully, leading a life pleasing to God, and passing from this life in the state of grace.  Not that it’s impossible to do so otherwise, it’s just that being a Catholic makes it infinitely easier.


1. Dismas - August 4, 2015

On The Bear’s blog, a reader by the name of Jamie Wallace comments. All I can do is agree with Wallace. The current Bishop of Rome is no departure from the trajectory of John Paul II, whose reign of novelty simply set the stage for Francis. And JPII was the logical successor to John XXIII and Paul VI. The only tiny blip on the screen was Benedict XVI, a committed modernist himself who distinguished himself from the rest by perhaps having rued the revolution he was part of. At any rate, be all that what it may, he paid for it by being forced to resign, even while it remains not the stuff of wild hypothesis to question which of two really is the Pope, even while we sigh and allow that Francis probably is. On to Jamie Wallace:

Jamie Wallace July 30, 2015 at 6:07 PM
I think the damage was done to me long before now with all the changes that came after Vatican II. Pope Francis, to me, is just the logical conclusion to the direction the Church has been going for the last 50 years. In many ways Pope Francis affirmed my belief that there is something wrong with the Church. If there wasn’t, Francis would never have been elected pope.

Tantumblogo - August 4, 2015

Yes very well put. I was trying to say much the same, that Pope Francis is only different by degree, not kind, from pretty much all the Popes (possibly excluding Pope Benedict) over the past 60 years or so. Even Pope Pius XII allowed the ball to get rolling in many respects. As Msgr. Fenton said, the Church has been afflicted with sub-par popes since Pius X. None of them followed up on his work expiating modernism from the Church.

2. Baseballmom - August 4, 2015

The key phrase is that “God has allowed this to happen.” This is what we must cling to – He has allowed it. And yes, Francis is, I pray, the culmination of the errors that came out of V2 – I pray, because I guess it could get worse? Francis is to those errors what Obergefell was to Griswold…. Just a natural progression.

3. Branch - August 5, 2015

Dismas and/or others, if you what you say about recent popes is true, can someone explain to me how JPII and John XXIII are canonized saints? How? How can that be?

Dismas - August 5, 2015

Well, Branch, for my part I would answer that I just do not know. Often things are much more clear through the prism of hindsight and I suspect that in the future, Catholics will be able to look back and have a good explanation for all of this.

I do not consider myself competent to say that they are not canonized saints, so I sort of just let that whole issue slide and tacitly accept that they might well be.

Now how and why they became canonized saints is a whole other topic, and it should and can be addressed separately if it needs to be. But in short, to adress the “how”, the processes in those cases do not resemble typical Catholic canonizations. And they were canonized in order to cement the revolution in the Church, to address the “why.”

Branch, if I am reading you right, your question is truly a question and not a challenge. That is to be appreciated, because a challenge could be answered more forcefully and it does not seem that to do that is necessary.

But consider something. During the time of the immediate de-facto canonization of John Paul II, who became “The Great” the day after his death, right on through the present day, I have asked this question of those who defend his canonization as valid, which I am willing to accept.

You see, Branch, I continue to pray for the salvation of the soul of Pope John Paul II. I ask the apologists for his canonization if they recommend I stop praying for him. Though they arduously defend his canonization, not one, to date, has put the proverbial money behind the mouth and told me I should stop praying. I refer here to the ecclesiastical class. It makes me wonder how sure they are regarding the validity of the canonizations themselves.

When (and I do not say “if”) they canonize Francis I, will we pray to him or for him?

Branch - August 5, 2015

It’s my understanding that canonizations are infallible: http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/theology/81-theology/74-infallability-of-canonizations.html.

If we grant that premise, then I wonder if we would be forced to try to square the seeming circle that is the Post-Vatican II Church. Because, as some have argued as you have that, essentially, to canonize them is to canonize VII. Of course, Paul VI is next in line. But again, if the premise is true, these men are saints regardless of the “whys” we read into the situation.

Now, the way I see it, perhaps one “out” for us in all of this is to grant that saints aren’t perfect: http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2013/07/saints-arent-perfect.html

This is difficult for me to accept as a conclusion when it comes to these two men because, to me, if you’re going to canonize a Pope, he better have been a good one, for the natural reaction is to look up to this particular saint as a Pope. The same would go for anyone in any vocation, but I think especially for Popes.

But perhaps that is really secondary in God’s mind and instead what we should take from this all is not scandal but a greater appreciation of God’s mercy and His patience (i.e. if God brought these men to Heaven, despite the confusion they at least witnessed if not propagated, then that says quite a bit about Him). And perhaps that’s entirely the point: His glory more than their’s.

Yes, these are questions, not challenges. I am not trying to defend or accuse anyone. I am simply trying to resolve the confusion I see.

camper - August 6, 2015

My opinion, which I have stated multiple times, is that the Pope is a material heretic. Not a Christological heretic, but a heretic, and though I am not a sedevacantist, my view is that his canonizations may not be valid.

4. Guest - August 5, 2015

Sacred scriptures say that at the end times the delusion would be so great that those who do not love the truth will be deceived. So any strategy that involves ignoring reality is dangerous.

5. Frank - August 5, 2015

We are unsettled by all of the events happening in the Church and in our country because it can be argued that we are living through the Great Apostasy (falling away from the Church) as forewarned by Holy Scripture, the Blessed Mother and some saints. We are seeing the disintegration of our Republic, our Church and we feel powerless and frustrated in our efforts to staunch the bloodletting. My suggestion would be to pray the Holy Rosary, morning, noon and night for protection against the contagion of the world and for the defeat of those in the Church who seek to undermine or even destroy Holy Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

6. RC - August 5, 2015

This is my question, are we actually living in the end times, or a terrible period before a great revival?

Think of what those in the Roman Empire must have thought when the empire was falling, they probably thought it was the end of the world, I wonder if we believe much the same?

Even though it is only private revelation and is not required of Catholics to believe, the many apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and the visions of saints points to a period of peace before the end of the world. As i understand it (could be wrong), the will be a great chastisement, reign of the immaculate heart (period of peace), the antichrist then the end of the world. Feel free to correct me on this.

As a side note, did anyone read what Fr. Gruener of the Fatima Network said that Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the top exorcist in the Church, told him? Apparently Fr. Amorth told Fr. Gruner back in March that is Russia was not consecrated by the end of October 2015 then the chastisement would follow shortly after. Whether or not this is true or going to happe is anyone’s guess, but I think just to err on the side of caution I will be praying the rosary a lot more, and I have officially started going to Mater Dei as I live a little bit closer, getting my spiritual ducks in a row!

7. tg - August 5, 2015

Thanks for the post. It helps. I’m actually already following some of the advice given. I avoid watching Pope Francis on TV or reading about him except here and a few other blogs. I think a lot of us are afraid of publicly criticizing because it might be a sin. I do think with so much bad news in the church and this country, it’d good to stay away from blogs for a few days. I’m trying to keep my mouth shut and just pray.

8. Tom - August 6, 2015

Wonderful article – GOD BLESS YOU. I think RC has it right above. For a long chronological list of strange quotes, alarming headlines, and odd happenings since the election of Pope Francis on 03.13.13 that have led to FSS (FRANCIS SHOCK SYNDROME), please see
It is overwhelming when seen as a list.

camper - August 6, 2015

I’ve been hoping to find something like that. That is really valuable, Tom. Thank you.

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