Pope Francis – Jesus’ failure on the cross?

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The anti-Catholics have again latched onto Pope Francis’ words and taken them out of context. Here, for example, at the He is coming blog. And here, at Christian Reformed Theology [now deleted at the original site – thank you for your honesty].

In a sermon at Vespers at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, he used the words “cross” and “failure” in the same sentence. Now anti-Catholics who can’t read context are spreading the idea that the Pope called Jesus and the Cross a failure.

Let’s look at Pope Francis’ words:

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio SJ, 2008
Pope Francis – Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio SJ, 2008

We can get caught up measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success which govern the business world. Not that these things are unimportant! We have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us. But the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in God’s eyes. To see and evaluate things from God’s perspective calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, great humility. The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus… and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.

He starts off saying that our apostolic works are often judged (by us) by the definitions of success found in the business world.

He goes on to say that their true worth is measured by their value in God’s eyes.

We feel that our efforts produce no fruit. But he’s arguing that they DO produce fruit, in God’s eyes. We may not see that fruit, but God does.

He compares that feeling about our human experience with Jesus.

In human terms – “humanly speaking” – Jesus died, and wasn’t a conquering Messiah who would lead Israel against her enemies as a literal king.

We DO need to remember that – humanly speaking – Jesus, the cross, love, mercy … these are all failures. But not to God. Not in God’s eyes. And that is what Pope Francis is saying.

Donkey, Boston Public Library
Donkey, Boston Public Library

The wolves (or donkeys, depicted on the right) cannot read, or don’t want to read. They see the words “failure of the cross” and abandon context and honesty in order to promote their nasty agenda. I don’t see how any honest person can read the entire paragraph, notice the words “humanly speaking“, and misunderstand. The wolves bear false witness. It’s what they do.

True Christians see otherwise.

These words ring so true coming from this man who so obviously cares not a whit for the attractions the world has to offer and who is, instead, content to life the simplicity the Gospel demands of its ministers.
– Michael Winters at NCROnline

Full text of the sermon here at the NY Times and here at ABCNews.

Further reading:

Pope Francis at St. Patrick’s … by Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Register
Did Pope Francis Really Say Jesus Was a Failure? … by Jimmy Akin

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4 comments

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    • Craigo on September 30, 2015 at 3:22 am

    1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the Word of the Cross is foolish to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
    I am not pro-pope, but what is so difficult to understand here? From the world’s point of view, if you are not a failure, then you are NOT SAVED! But the real tragedy, besides the shoutout to Islam, is that the pope never mentions the only goal of Christianity – THE COMING KINGDOM!!!

    1. Thanks for that – the people bashing him for that should bash St Paul too.

      Pope Francis has spoken on many things – including sin, the devil, salvation, forgiveness, and the future kingdom of heaven. He just doesn’t talk about each of them all the time.

    • Sharon D on September 30, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Let’s examine this statement within the context of what is previously said: “The cross shows us a different way of measuring success.” Here the pope is stating the cross was a success. He continues, “If our efforts … seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ” … This is paralleling the things in our life that SEEM to be failures, just as the cross SEEMED to be a failure to those witnessing the crucifixion. This is why the pope referred to “The seeds of success”. When Christ died, there wasn’t immediate victory … only seeming failure from a human vantage point — to those there watching him die and be buried, and their hopes seemingly with him … but after 3 days, the battle was won as he rose up from the grave in victory. I believe this to be what the pope was trying to communicate in a nutshell: From a human perspective, at the time of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, his life seemed to end in failure, but seeds were planted in his death which produced the fruit of victory.

    • Soldier for Christ on October 15, 2015 at 3:50 am

    When you look at the Crucifixion, are you looking at a ‘failure?’ Or are you looking at the Super-Hero of all ages? What you see depends on your consciousness. If you are a ‘sense-bound’ person, then you see a ‘failure.’ If you ‘can SEE’ then you are looking at a Victor, a Super-Hero, Who conquered death through LOVE.

    And Jesus said: ‘The problem of the Ages has been solved, a son of man has risen from the dead, has shown that human flesh can be transmuted into flesh Divine. And what I have done all men can do.’ He did not say, :”what I failed at, you also can fail at it.”

    This “pope” saying Jesus failed at the Cross is one of the most, if not the MOST distressful statement made in the history of humanity is the statement below, given by the recently elected Pope Francis of the Novus Ordo Church.

    Is this Pope trying so hard to make ‘people feel good about themselves’ that he dares to demean the Sacrifice of the Golgotha and speak of Jesus as the most ‘base Ignoramus’ would? Does he realize that his humanistic, liberating theological efforts are very harmful to many souls and are blatantly disrespecting not only the One Divine Being he should serve, but also the office which he holds?
    An office that he is indeed constantly misrepresenting with actions that seem geared to create a superficial humanistic paradise, a world where false trying efforts based on communist principles are imposed on all by blind authorities serving the OWP ends of Lucifer to govern the world and enslave humanity. Lucifer, whose glories were sung publicly at the Vatican during the event in which Pope Francis beatified John Paul II (you can google the video).

    Are the people so brain-dormant that they were singing the glories of the adversary of the Christ and they didn’t even know it? Or is it that they all have become Satanic? Pope Francis’ statement blatantly disregards the most Powerful and Essential Teachings of His Master, Jesus the Christ, His Willed Sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection. Has he ever known what the Power of Love and the Christ Jesus are all about?

    Has this Pope forgotten that the Life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ DIDN’T END at the Cross? Has he forgotten what the appalled young, black reporter who I saw giving this news knew with no effort? The reporter KNEW as most of us do, that no one imprisoned or killed Jesus the Christ because He failed to be strong, or because He was too weak to face and vanquish His enemies. This young man knew that Jesus the Christ laid down His Life WILLINGLY for us, as most of us know.
    I want you to know Pope Francis, that what most of us see when we look at Jesus on the Cross is not ‘a failure’ in the human sense, or in any other sense, but that we see a Victor over our worst enemies, which are the EGO-SELF and DEATH. And that we bow in awe in front of Him when we see Him on the Cross.

    No, we are not looking at a ‘failure’ when we look at the Cross. It is literally impossible for us to do so, for we are looking at Love Itself, the Super-Hero of all Ages –conquer of Death through Love. That’s what we see. It is sad and embarrassing to see that a young reporter, or I, have to teach a basic Theological Principle of Christendom to this man, a so called ‘Pope’, who seems to be more of an ‘anti-Pope’ –even more so than the three others who preceded him.

    These words I direct to you Pope Francis: From now on to the rest of your life, when you look at the Cross – NOT AT THE HORRIBLE MELTED SATANIC CROSS SYMBOL THAT YOU ‘NO Popes’ CARRY AROUND – but at just a Cross with Jesus on It, you will feel the urge to put your forehead on the floor and bow in front of Him; and before you open your mouth to mention the name of Jesus – His pronounceable NAME that is – because I am sure that you don’t know His Unnamable Name, the Word of Life – for if His Word would be alive in you, you would not be talking as you do, or singing glories to Lucifer. So, for the good of your soul, next time before you speak the name of Jesus humble yourself IN FRONT OF THE CRUCIFIX in order to protect yourself from the ignorance that permits you to commit blasphemy maybe without even realizing that you are doing so, thus lacking reverence and respect for the most sublime sight that anyone, including you, have seen on earth: THAT OF THE CHRIST JESUS CRUCIFIED ON THE CROSS.

    Now BY HIS GRACE and the spiritual Power of this affirmation to protect all followers of Jesus from being mislead by the blind ignorance of those who should lead them to Life and neither go to the Light, nor let others go to It, I put a mandate on you, and that is: From now on and throughout your life, every time that you or anyone who reads this letter looks at a Crucifix you all will Bow you head in Reverence in front of LOVE, YOUR TRUE AND ETERNAL MASTER, THE VICTOR AND CONQUEROR OF SELF AND DEATH. Amen.

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