I’ve done it, you’ve done it–go ahead, admit it–forwarded a meme or an email that was so perfect, such a reflection of and corroboration of personal views, only to find out later it was a pack of lies. It’s human nature to crave affirmation, and when such a beloved and respected person as Pope Francis is doing the affirming, that’s REALLY affirming.
But let’s remember the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, y’all:
As Francis Fever sweeps the nation, Francis memes, old and new, are flooding the internet. Two extremely popular ones which I’ve made efforts to combat before are back again and stronger than ever, being forwarded by normally trusted sources including Catholics who really should know better.
The above meme comes in many forms, and springs from a longer and more complicated story that made the rounds awhile back and also included the gift of a goat and the blessing of guide dogs. I was suspicious of the story when I first read it, even though as you can see it was being reported by the mainstream press. It took me about an hour of clicking back and doing research on the Vatican website to realize that the original article in the Italian press had conflated several events and was being misquoted to boot. Anyone could have done this research but apparently they did not bother.
Y’all, come on. I cannot BELIEVE that Catholics are circulating this. I’ve heard plenty of people saying this, but not Pope Francis. He didn’t say it or anything like it.
Pope Francis has said a lot of wonderful things. He has also said a lot of challenging things. Many are uncomfortable with some of his verifiable statements regarding homosexuals, capitalism, and climate change, to name just a few.
But what he has never done, as he very recently reminded reporters, is say anything that falls outside of Church teaching:
I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church . . . a colleague asked me . . . “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” . . . Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation . . . And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.
Yes, y’all, you read that right: all that awesome stuff Pope Francis says is stuff the Church has been teaching all along! It’s all right there in the Catechism and encyclicals, and even most Catholics never read it, and it’s beautiful. Pope Francis somehow is able to put these teachings into word and action in a way that resonates with people today. People are listening to him and hearing the doctrine. Because many cannot reconcile his words with their perception of the Church, they try to frame him as progressive or liberal or as someone who has come to change the Church, and I believe that is what gives rise to these memes that clearly do not reflect Church doctrine.
I’m linking this up to Worth Revisit, the weekly Wednesday linkup hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb. You can join in or read the other contributions by clicking the picture below!