ABOARD PAPAL PLANE, September 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Pope Francis told a French author that he felt it an honor to be attacked by Americans.
According to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register and several other reporters, the Argentinian pontiff made the remark soon after the papal plane took off from the runway September 4 en route to Mozambique.
Francis had just been given a copy of a book called Comment l’Amerique veut changer de pape, (How America Wants to Change the Pope) by its author, Nicholas Seneze of the French Catholic La Croix magazine. Francis had allegedly recognized the book’s cover from a review titled “A plot from the USA to make the Pope resign” in an Italian newspaper.
“He reads Il Messaggero every day so when he saw the cover of the copy I was holding, he instantly recognized it,” Seneze told Pentin, who was also on the plane.
“When I explained the picture to the Pope, he said: ‘Per me è un onore che mi attaccano gli americani (I think it’s an honor that Americans attack me).’”
Ines San Martin of Crux added that when Pope Francis handed the gift to an aide he joked, “This is a bomb.”
Pope Francis’ press secretary Matteo Bruni confirmed that the pontiff had indeed made the remark about Americans but did his best to interpret them in a positive way.
“In an informal context, the Pope wanted to say that he always considers criticisms an honor, particularly when they come from authoritative thinkers and, in this case, an important nation,” Bruni said.
But Seneze denies that he really believes in an American plot to make the Pope resign. His thesis is that in the wake of the American clerical sex abuse and episcopal cover-up scandal, rich American Catholics have stepped into the leadership void. They believe Francis has been an inadequate pope, and should step down.
“I believe these people see themselves as invested in the Church and they feel they are not getting a return on their investment,” Seneze said.
According to Crux’s San Martin, the book alleges that some of these wealthy Americans are connected to such media organizations as EWTN and the Canadian-founded LifeSiteNews.
Reactions from American Catholics
Church Militant’s Christine Niles told LifeSiteNews that she couldn’t understand why Pope Francis would “exult” in American criticism.
“As an American — Vietnam-born with dual French citizenship — it's unclear why Pope Francis would exult in criticism from Americans, and his remark only reinforces the widely held belief that the Pontiff holds Americans in disdain,” she said.
“The basis of his comments is a book that falsely portrays 'right-wing' Americans as his enemies based on theological and political differences, when in fact our loudest critique is based on his failure to adequately address the sex abuse crisis in the Church, which is neither a 'Right' or a 'Left' issue.”
“For a certain kind of Argentine, far-left or far-right, the United States is always the enemy,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“Why? Bitterness, envy. The two nations were equally prosperous circa 1900. They had similar populations, and comparable natural resources. Each had a fierce national pride. But the Argentines followed demagogues with economic views much like Pope Francis and squandered all those advantages, turning their nation into a bankrupt backwater,” he continued.
“Meanwhile, the U.S. prospered. How easy it is to blame not your own countrymen’s decisions, but the machinations of the powerful, wicked Yanquis, who for their part don’t even remember your nation exists. I think this bitter Argentine chauvinism is the secret ingredient needed to make Pope Francis Sauce.”
Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute told LifeSiteNews that Pope Francis is not the first to suggest attracting criticism is honorable.
“Anyone can wear criticism as a badge of honor,” he said.
“Martin Luther wore condemnations and criticisms of his work as an honor, but all it [did was] establish his disdain for the Truth.”
“If Pope Francis truly feels honored to be criticized for perverting the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, Holy Communion, Marriage, and the doctrine of Hell, then he is only revealing his true entrenchment into ideological falsehoods,” Hichborn continued.
“A humble man takes criticism and embraces the truth in it while kindly refuting the falsehood. A proud man, however, boasts of the prestige of his critics.”
Phil Lawler, founder of Catholic World News, was unconvinced, however, that the Pope welcomes criticism.
“…Despite his claims and those of his spokesman, there’s precious little evidence that Pope Francis is ‘honored’ by criticism,” Lawler said in his Catholic Culture blog.
“Ask Cardinals Burke and Müller. Ask the other authors of the dubia. Ask the priests who were summarily dismissed from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for voicing concerns about the Pope’s thinking. Ask the ousted faculty members of the John Paul II Institute,” he continued.
“One honors criticism by responding to it. The track record suggests that Pope Francis prefers to suppress it.”