Does Francis Know What He’s Doing?

It’s often said that Satan’s greatest achievement is to convince people that he doesn’t exist. If we believe he doesn’t exist, then there is less motivation for us to avoid temptation and more likelihood that we will fall into sin more often—the very thing that Satan seeks.

By implication, the belief that Hell is empty will have similar consequences. As Crisis, editor Eric Sammons puts it, “[If] you believe everyone is getting to Heaven regardless of how they live here on earth…then the importance of both practicing the Faith and sharing it with others collapses.”

Yet, last month Pope Francis expressed a hope that Hell is empty: “This isn’t dogma,” he said, “just my thought: I like to think of Hell as being empty. I hope it is.”

One hopes that the Pope learns to keep his thoughts to himself. He must know by now that no matter how much he qualifies a controversial statement, the media will reduce it to its simplest terms, e.g., “pope says hell is empty.”

As Sammons points out, “an empty Hell undermines the entire purpose of Catholicism,” and also “makes a mockery out of the words of Jesus, who warned us to avoid Hell…”

One might think that if Francis understood that he risks undermining “the entire purpose of Catholicism,” he would be more careful about what he says. But what if undermining the entire purpose of Catholicism is his goal? What if he considers Catholicism as currently constituted to be riven with faults? What if he considers it his duty to tear down traditional Catholicism and replace it with a new and improved version—one that puts more emphasis on inclusivity and less on sin and– excuse the language—Hell?

One could look upon the “empty hell” remark as a well-intentioned but careless comment. Or one could look upon it as a calculated move in a decade-long campaign to minimize the gravity of sin (Francis’s frequent jokes about “sins below the belt,” his insistence that unrepented sins should be forgiven, his opposition to the death penalty, etc.).

Some people, myself included, believe that Francis is deliberately attempting to demolish the Church. But even if you believe him to be nothing more than a well-intentioned progressive whose goal is simply to lift the burden of sin and guilt from the shoulders of Catholics, it’s hard to deny that he has done great harm to the Church.

If you subscribe to the well-intentioned progressive scenario, it would also be difficult to deny that he is out of touch with reality. Anyone who thinks that the average Catholic feels overburdened by the weight of sin just hasn’t been paying attention. Prior to the sixties many Catholics may have been over-scrupulous, but when the first wave of psychologically attuned priests hit the Church in the mid-sixties, confessional lines disappeared almost overnight. Why? Because the new gospel of self-esteem taught that people should learn to feel good about themselves, trust their impulses, and accept themselves as they are.

Of course, the Church of “I’m OK” suffered some setbacks during the anti-relativist papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but upon his election, Pope Francis immediately set about to stir the subjective view of morality back to life.

He seems to have been quite successful—not in building a new and vibrant Church, but in hastening the destruction of the old one. If that was his intent, then we would be wrong to accuse him of being out of touch. Quite the opposite. His multifaceted campaign to downplay the importance of sin was exactly what was needed to undermine the Church of Christ. In relieving people of their sense of sin and replacing it with the false pride of “I’m OK the way I am,” Francis found the formula for undermining the whole rationale for the Christian faith—namely, that Christ came to save us from our sins and ultimately from Hell.

If that has been the real purpose of the Francis papacy, then it seems to be working well. As it turns out, the belief in an empty Hell results eventually in an empty Church. And that is exactly what we’ve witnessed during the decade-long Francis papacy.  The churches have been emptying out at a rapid rate. People who believe they are going to Heaven no matter what, tend to lose one of the chief motivations for practicing their faith.

It’s telling that those countries which have been most influenced by the progressive “teachings” of Francis have seen the largest drop-off in Church attendance and Church participation. In many European countries, weekly Mass attendance among Catholics has fallen to the 5-15 percent level.

In Germany, the country which has adhered most closely to the “Synodal Way” which Francis sees as the future of the Church, more than half a million baptized Catholics left the Church in 2022. And a 2021 report by CNA Deutsch revealed that 1 in 3 Catholics in Germany were considering leaving the Church.

In the Diocese of Limburg, zero priests were ordained for the first time in history in 2023.  This is significant because the Diocese is led by Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German Bishop’s Conference who is known for his heretical stances on moral issues. Bätzing said that the “alarming” number of departures from the German Church indicated a need for continued “cultural change”—in other words, more of the same radical changes that are now being introduced into the German Church,

Meanwhile, in Africa which has shown resistance to Francis’s program of radical change, the data reveals a much more robust Catholic Church. Ninety-four percent of Catholics in Nigeria say they attend Mass at least weekly. In Kenya, the figure is 73 percent. Moreover, in contrast to the rest of the Catholic world, Africa saw the only increase in vocations between 2020-2021.

None of this data resolves the question of Francis’s intentions, but it does call his intelligence into question. His campaign to downplay the importance of sin has done nothing to improve the health of the Church, and much to weaken it.

 Is Francis too stupid to recognize the futility of his sin-is-no-big-deal approach? Or does he have sufficient intelligence to realize that his agenda is counter-productive? The question needs to be raised because it does help us to resolve the question of intent. In order to absolve Francis of the accusation that he is deliberately wrecking the Church, one must assume that he is a person of low intelligence.

Why? Because smart people don’t keep making the same mistakes time after time, after time. So, when Francis keeps appointing people to high office who then proceed to undercut the mission of that office, we must assume that he’s not very smart. Otherwise, why would he claim that gender theory is a dangerous ideology and then turn around and elevate LGBT advocates to influential positions? Why would he fail to see that a connoisseur of erotic art like Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is not the right man to head the Institute for Marriage and Family? And why does he lack the smarts to realize that a man like Cardinal Fernandez shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith?

The obvious answer is that Francis is not dumb. He knows perfectly well that the people he appoints will work to undermine the Church. That’s why he appoints them.

I don’t think Francis is a genius, but I do think he is of above-average intelligence. And when it comes to church politics, he seems uncannily shrewd—even Machiavellian. Therefore, I think it only logical to conclude that he does not love the Catholic Church, and that he does seeks its destruction.

I don’t mean to suggest that Francis always knows what he is doing. Despite his shrewdness, he seems almost laughably naïve when it comes to topics such as the sexual revolution, climate change, communism, Islam, and immigration. And although his streak of sentimental idealism serves to make him more popular with many, it also serves to make him more dangerous. But that is a subject for another article.

Pictured above: Pope Francis

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