Rorate Caeli

"God is Father and Mother": as Jubilee of Mercy nears, Francis calls for "revolution of tenderness" and criticizes his own Church.

ZENIT has published an English translation of Pope Francis' interview with "Credere", the official magazine of the Jubilee of Mercy. We are posting the most important sections here; emphases ours. At the end of this article is our commentary on the extreme danger posed to Catholicity by the Pope's assertion that God is "Father and Mother". And then there is the, by now, depressingly familiar line about how the Church "excludes people" and is too legalistic, following a "hard line", "stressing only the moral rules." 

The Italian text of the interview was published on the Vatican website yesterday, December 2, 2015. We repeat: the original of this interview is on the VATICAN WEBSITE. 

Q: Holy Father, now that we are about to begin the Jubilee, can you explain what movement of the heart drove you to highlight precisely the subject of mercy? What urgency do you perceive in this regard, in the present situation of the world and of the Church?

Pope Francis: The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, since Pope Paul VI. John Paul II stressed it strongly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonization of Saint Faustina and the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it is somewhat a desire of the Lord to show His mercy to humanity. Therefore, it didn’t come to my mind, but rather the relatively recent renewal of a tradition that has however always existed.

My first Angelus as Pope was on God’s mercy and, on that occasion, I also spoke of a book on mercy which was given to me by Cardinal Walter Kasper during the conclave; also, in my first homily as Pope, on Sunday, March 17, I spoke of mercy in the parish of Saint Anne. It wasn’t a strategy; it came to me from within: the Holy Spirit wills something. It’s obvious that today’s world is in need of mercy, it is in need of compassion, or to begin with (compassion). We are used to bad news, to cruel news and to the greatest atrocities that offend the name and life of God. The world is in need of discovering that God is Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way, that condemnation isn’t the way, because the Church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of stressing only the moral rules, many people are excluded.

There, came to my mind that image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle; it’s true, how many people are wounded and destroyed! The wounded are taken care of, helped and healed, not subjected to analyses for cholesterol. I believe this is the moment of mercy. We are all sinners, we all bear interior burdens. I felt that Jesus wishes to open the door of His heart, that the Father wishes to show his deepest mercy, and therefore sends us the Spirit: to move us and to deter us. It is the year of forgiveness, the year of reconciliation. On one had we see the arms trade, the production of arms that kill, the murder of innocents in the most cruel possible way, the exploitation of persons, minors, children: a sacrilege – permit me the term – is being carried out against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. See, the Father says: stop and come to me.” This is what I see in the world.


Q: According to the Bible, the place where God’s mercy dwells is the womb, the maternal insides of God, which are moved to the point of forgiving sin. Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an occasion to rediscover God’s ”maternity”? Is there also a more “feminine” aspect of the Church to appreciate?

Pope Francis: Yes, He himself affirms it when He says in Isaiah that perhaps a mother can forget her child, a mother can also forget her child ... “I, instead, will never forget you.” Here God’s maternal dimension is seen. Not everyone understands when there is talk of “God’s maternity,” it’s not a popular language – in the good sense of the word – it seems a language that is somewhat chosen. Therefore, I prefer to use <the word> tenderness, proper to a mother, the tenderness of God, tenderness born from the paternal insides. God is Father and Mother.

Q: Always with reference to the Bible, mercy makes us know a more “emotive” God than that which we sometimes imagine. Can the discovery of a God who is moved and has compassion for man also change our attitude towards brothers?

Pope Francis: To discover it will lead us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994, during the Synod, in a meeting of groups. it was said that a revolution of tenderness should be established, and a Synodal Father  -- a good man, whom I respect and love – then very elderly, said that it wasn’t appropriate to use this language and he gave me reasonable explanations, from an intelligent man, but I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness because justice stems from here as does all the rest. If a businessman who takes on an employee from September to July, says to him, <to take his leave for vacation in July, to then take up his work again> with a new contract from September to July, thus the worker has no right to identity, or to a pension, or to social security. He has no right to anything. The businessman doesn’t show tenderness, but treats the employee as an object – so much to give an example of where there is no tenderness. If one puts oneself in the shoes of that person, instead of thinking of one’s need for a bit more money, then things change. The revolution of tenderness is what we have to cultivate today as the fruit of this Year of Mercy: God’s tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say: “I am an unfortunate man, but God loves me thus, so I must also love others in the same way.”
Q: Can you anticipate to us a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to give testimony of God’s mercy?

Pope Francis: So many gestures will be made, but on a Friday of every month I will make a different gesture.

Regarding the Pope's description of God as "Father and Mother" - we are on extremely problematic territory here

It is one thing to use feminine metaphors or imagery to describe God's actions towards men, or to compare Him and His love to a mother and her love for her offspring (as we sometimes find in Sacred Scripture, notably in the Book of Isaias). It is quite another thing to directly refer to Him as "Mother" - something for which there is absolutely no warrant in both Scripture and Tradition. 

It is true that a handful of medieval Western devotional authors referred on occasion to God, or Christ, as "Mother"; Julian of Norwich and St. Anselm of Canterbury are the most-cited examples. There is also Pope John Paul I's reference to God as "He is our father; even more he is our mother", during one of his audiences, which has remained (until now) an isolated case in the vast body of papal teaching.

Nevertheless, one cannot reach far into the Church's past, pick isolated instances of a peculiar practice, and use this extremely thin body of evidence to declare that this practice is therefore beyond question. Far more powerful is the fact that the Church has never referred to God as "Mother" in her liturgies, her creeds, and her doctrinal documents, not to speak of the overwhelming evidence in the practice of Catholics through the centuries of referring to God as "Father" but never as "Mother". Furthermore the medieval mind is worlds apart from the (post)modern mind; what might have been a harmless idiosyncrasy centuries ago is today a weapon in the hands of modernist, feminist and radical "theologies" that seek to tear apart and destroy the authentic Tradition of the Church.

By adopting this language the Pope, whether he realizes it or not, encourages the many feminists and liberals who have been pushing precisely for God to be addressed as "Mother", while humiliating the many orthodox Catholics who have spent much effort to block feminist and inclusive language from the liturgy and from spiritual exercises. In the abusively "ultramontane" (or pseudo-ultramontane) atmosphere of the Franciscan papacy, where liberals and their conservative fellow-travelers defend everything that falls from the mouth of Francis as pure orthodoxy, one does not have to be very imaginative to realize how much the enemies of the faith will make use of this erroneous expression. Keep in mind that the Pope affirmed, in this interview, that the Jubilee of Mercy will be an occasion to "rediscover" the "maternity" of God. 

As of late, not a week has passed without an ambiguous or problematic expression coming from the Pope and causing immense confusion and difficulty for the already-besieged, outnumbered, and often-demoralized defenders of Catholic orthodoxy. It would seem that during the Jubilee of Mercy, things are about to get even worse.