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March 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A respected Catholic commentator and former Pope-Francis supporter has penned a book outlining how the pontiff has become a “lost shepherd” who is “leading the Church away from the ancient sources of the faith.” 

Catholic World News Editor and founder Phillip Lawler’s book Lost Shepherd was released two weeks prior to the 5th anniversary (March 13) of Pope Francis’ election to the chair of Peter. 

“Faithful Catholics are beginning to realize it’s not their imagination. Pope Francis has led them on a journey from joy to unease to alarm and even a sense of betrayal. They can no longer pretend that he represents merely a change of emphasis in papal teaching,” states a short description of a book from its publisher Regnery Publishing. 


Lawler, also news director of, outlines how he was at first enthusiastic, along with many others, about the Francis pontificate in its early days. 

In one passage he writes, “For months, in my work reporting on the daily news from the Vatican, I did my best to provide reassurance – for my readers and sometimes for myself – that despite his sometimes alarming remarks, Francis was not a radical, was not leading the Church away from the ancient sources of the faith. But gradually, reluctantly, painfully, I came to the conclusion that he was.”   

It was about a year ago that Lawler said he had reached his breakpoint. It happened after Francis turned that day’s Gospel (Mark 10: 1-12) “into one more opportunity to promote his own view of divorce and remarriage.”   

Francis had condemned hypocrisy and the “logic of casuistry” in his homily, saying Jesus rejected the approach of legal scholars. 

But the Pope neglected to acknowledge that in his rebuke of the Pharisees, Christ said that in marriage, the man and woman become one flesh, joined by God, and also that when an individual divorces another and remarries, they commit adultery, wrote Lawler.  

Francis had “turned the Gospel completely upside down,” he added.  

And Lawler “could no longer pretend that Francis was merely offering a novel interpretation of Catholic doctrine.”

“No, it was more than that,” Lawler said. “He was engaged in a deliberate effort to change what the Church teaches.”  


Lawler contends in his book that Francis has devoted himself to opening Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, aggressively promoted his friends while “marginalizing, humiliating and even insulting” his enemies, and failed to reform the Vatican’s “dysfunctional” bureaucracy or resolve the Church’s ongoing sex-abuse scandals.

He states as well that Francis is the most divisive Pope in modern times.

“The Roman pontiff should be a focus of unity in the Church,” Lawler says in the book. “Francis, regrettably, has become a source of division.”

“There are two reasons for this unhappy development,” adds Lawler, “the Pope’s autocratic style of governance and the radical nature of the program he is relentlessly advancing.”

Lost Shepherd corroborates reports coming from Rome about the Pope's dictatorial style of leadership. 

Not a lone voice of criticism

Lawler’s book joins the ranks of those that shed light on a new crisis threatening the Church with the election of Pope Francis in 2013. These include Catholic author George Neumayr’s The Political Pope: How Pope Francis is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives and The Dictator Pope from Marcantonio Colonna – the latter penned under a pseudonym, taken the author says due to Pope Francis’ “tendency towards vindictiveness.”

Lawler will likely take heat for his book due to apologists for the Pope's agenda who have a history of fiercely assailing the Pope’s critics, often from their high-level positions.

Lawler suggests that faithful Catholics are beginning to realize they aren’t imagining the troubling aspects of the Francis papacy. A recent Pew Research Survey showed a growing discontent with the Pope among some Catholics, presumably the same or similar factions as those often termed by Pope Francis as “rigid,” rosary counters, “doctors of the law” and countless other invectives.

Lawler counts himself among those Catholics of whom “Francis does not approve” – faithful Catholics who “cling to and sometimes suffer for the truths that the Church has always taught.”

The Catholic author gives his analysis of Francis’s pontificate in the book with a voice that effectively conveys he’s been keeping close track all along, and he offers his conclusions in even-tempered fashion.

The pontificate is recounted to date in the book beginning first with the startling circumstances around Jorge Bergoglio’s “Surprise Election” and much of the world’s being subsequently swept away by “The Francis Effect.” 

He recounts Francis’ “failure to advance the cause for reform,” including Francis himself having “overlooked the failure of some of his own favorite bishops to confront abusive clerics.” He examines the Pope’s handling of his “allies and enemies,” and his insulting of traditional Catholics. He also examines the manipulation of the two Synods on the Family, the dubia, the Pope’s various comments and actions apparently green-lighting Communion for individuals in non-marital unions, and the ambiguity in Amoris Laetitia. He generously notes what he finds positive in the exhortation.

Throughout his book Lawler draws attention to the unchanging nature of Church teaching and tradition currently at stake, explaining it well in the process.

For those just now awakening to the realization that all is not well in Rome Lawler’s book is a comprehensive primer, and even if one has been paying attention it constitutes a reliable handbook.


Today, Lawler writes, “the universal Church is rushing toward a crisis.” 

“Pope Francis has not taught heresy,” he states, “but the confusion he has stirred up has destabilized the universal Church.” 

But he says that recognizing the problem, ending the “fruitless search for ways to reconcile the irreconcilable,” can actually provide some relief. 

And Lawler says that a proper understanding of the limits of papal authority would help resolve the crisis, adding that the Pope is not a lone ruler of the Church, rather a leader of the College of Bishops.

It is the bishops, Lawler says, “as primary teachers of the faith,” who “cannot neglect their duty to intervene.”

The laity must pray, Lawler writes, for Pope Francis and for his successor, and faithful Catholics must encourage their bishops in doing their duty.

“If we cannot count on clear directions from Rome, where can we turn?” he asks.

“First,” writes Lawler, “Catholics can rely on the constant teaching of the Church, the doctrines that are now too often called into question. If the Pope is confusing, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not.”

He adds, “Second, we can and should ask our own diocesan bishops to step up and shoulder their responsibilities. Bishops, too, have spent years referring tough questions to Rome. Now, of necessity, they must provide their own clear, decisive affirmations of Catholic doctrine.” 


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