What is the warm, beating heart of Christian ethics? To cleave to Jesus Christ, wherever He goes, whatever He does. Sometimes that will mean standing as the witness to staggering glory, as at the Transfiguration. Or wondering at miracles of healing and forgiveness. At the end of time, it will mean being gathered to help judge the nations, as Christ returns in glory.

But most of the time, for most of us, in this fallen world cleaving to Christ means helping Him carry the cross. Or standing with Mary at Calvary, getting spat on by the crowds and menaced by Caesar’s soldiers. And seeking out the innocent who have been scapegoated by worldly powers as Jesus was, tending their wounds, defending their rights, championing their dignity by joining them at the margins where the “nice people” won’t go — whether that’s the abortion mills in our major cities, the villages of Afghanistan, the prison camps in East Turkestan, or the embattled front lines in Ukraine.

We can judge whether the recent Synod at the Vatican, and Pope Francis’ statements surrounding it, are authentically Catholic (or even Christian) by applying this criterion.

Why Bother Gathering Church Leaders?

Historically, the Church has summoned gatherings of its shepherds in answer to some crisis — either a deep doctrinal confusion or a pattern of corruption which needed to be corrected. Such meetings were often contentious, as learned theologians debated the finer points of doctrine. It wasn’t always obvious how to balance our affirmation of Christ’s full divinity and humanity, or His sonship to the Father that still entailed co-equal Godhood.

So what crisis in society, in the Church, occasioned the recent Synod that Pope Francis summoned at the Vatican, which gathered handpicked bishops and carefully vetted laymen chosen by local elites? Which basic Christian doctrine was under challenge, and needed defending? Which corrupt or destructive practice required correction by Christ’s chosen shepherds? And what response did Pope Francis offer to such challenges and practices?

Blessing Gay Pseudo-Weddings in Catholic Churches

In this time of ramped-up persecution of Christians in Africa and Asia, of legal attacks on the religious freedom of Christians in Western Europe and America, brutal grinding war in Eastern Europe, and the slaughter of Armenian and Israeli civilians, Pope Francis seems to think that the most pressing issue facing Catholics is … the wish of same-sex couples in rich, Western countries to have posh little rituals in church blessing their “unions,” mimicking the trappings of legitimate Christian weddings. Oh yes, and the desire of China’s brutal, Communist government, to see its abuse of the environment justified by attacks on Western consumers.

Is that Pope Francis’ idea of standing at the foot of the cross, of welcoming the penitent prodigal son, of seeking out the desperate lost sheep? At a time when Western governments are ramping up the pressure on orthodox Christians to abandon the truth of marriage, grounded in natural law and 6,000 years of divine Revelation, what has Francis done?

He stripped every Catholic pastor on earth of his best legal defense, in refusing Caesar’s demand for sacramental travesties of marriage: the argument that he’s simply following Church law. Now Francis has said that such a decision is “pastoral,” and washed his hands of the question.

It’s Awful When Zmirak Is Right

The Stream’s John Zmirak warned, way back in 2016, that Pope Francis was preparing the groundwork for secular persecution of pastors, by undercutting their First Amendment defense:

How soon will it be before pastors in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and other post-Christian wastelands are authorizing transvestites to hand out Holy Communion, same-sex couples to teach pre-Cana classes, and activists promoting sodomy to serve as principals of Catholic schools and seminaries – citing the language Pope Francis used to encourage compassion toward Catholics who have abandoned their sacramental marriages?

Under previous popes, faithful Catholics at least had firm, unambiguous papal statements to cite against such destructive local abuses, and to use in court when they had to defend their religious freedom against intolerant secular activists: “I’m sorry, Your Honor, but my Church explicitly requires this…” How long will it be until a well-informed judge, or a homosexual activist attorney, finds it useful to cite Amoris Laetitia against such beleaguered Catholics, and accuses them, in the pope’s own words, of “sitting on the chair of Moses”?

Not just our faith’s integrity, but our religious liberty is endangered by the pope’s ill-chosen words.

The Jack Phillips Treatment for Every Catholic Pastor in America

John wrote that years before the FBI was infiltrating traditional Catholic parishes and raiding pro-lifers’ homes, before the Dept. of Justice labeled as “domestic extremists” parents who speak up at school board meeting against pornographic books given to their children. I hate when he turns out to be right. We will see in the next few years faithful Catholic pastors given the Jack Phillips treatment, sued again and again and again by lavishly funded LGBT groups for refusing to hold sacrilegious “blessing” ceremonies. And Pope Francis will be on the record as siding with their accusers.

Who else is marginalized and persecuted, like Jesus and the first Christians?

  • Non-violent pro-life demonstrators in Washington, D.C., who face long prison terms for exposing illegal late-term abortions in our nation’s capital.
  • Uyghurs and other prisoners of conscience, who are imprisoned and vivisected for their organs to be sold on the global black market — a practice which Francis’ right hand man, Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, went to China to defend.
  • Doctors and other medical professionals who resisted the COVID panic, and the rush to churn out abortion-tainted, untested “vaccines” and force them on the public. These brave healers face attempts to drive them from their professions. Pope Francis commanded the faithful to brush aside their pro-life objections to that vaccine, and even minted a Vatican coin to commemorate the useless, dangerous vaccination of children.
  • Poor people around the world who lack access to reliable sources of energy. The Climate cult, which barely even pretends to concern itself with the good of the human family, would strip them and all of us of access to fossil fuels. Instead, we must rely on dodgy, unpredictable “green energy” sources, and drive electric cars that rely on dangerous minerals mined with spoons by impoverished children in Africa. Pope Francis has thrown the full weight of his moral authority behind this coercive movement.
  • Pastors like Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, and Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who have courageously spoken out against this new Church alliance with Caesar, Mammon, and Sodom — whom Francis has kicked to the curb, threatened with censure, and treated as unhinged extremists.

Pontius Pilate’s Court Dwarf, King Herod’s Jester

My friends, the church as Pope Francis sees it is no friend of the marginalized and persecuted. Instead it is the court jester and PR agent of the powerful. It hijacks the language of Christian ethics, as cynics now must do, to pretend that it speaks for the weak and the unjustly accused.

But in fact, Pope Francis makes his sympathies absolutely obvious by whom he chooses to praise and meet with. Francis has hosted Chelsea Clinton, Jeffrey Sachs, and Alexander Soros at the Vatican. Yet when Cardinal Zen got a three-day leave from the prison where Francis’ Chinese allies keep him, and flew to Rome, Francis refused to see him.

The church we face today is not led by apostles like Peter, confronting the Sadducees in the Temple. Instead our shepherds creep about like courtiers in Pontius Pilate’s palace, trying to make themselves useful. Victimists such as Pope Francis use the language and gestures of authentic Christian ethics, emptied of their real meaning, as tools for wielding power and making friends with Mammon. They already have their reward.


Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker.

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