Bishop Mark Davies issues warning in homily to Union of Catholic Mothers

Catholics should be wary of the way Pope Francis is being interpreted by the media, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has said.

In a homily at a Mass for the Union of Catholic Mothers on Tuesday, Bishop Mark Davies said the Holy Father had become “the focus of fascination” in the press, partly because of his “evident goodness”, “informal style” and “Christian simplicity”.

But this has been used by some commentators to further their own agenda of seeking a change to Church teaching, the bishop said.

He went on to remind the congregation gathered for the National Council meeting of the UCM in Swanwick, Derbyshire, that the loyalty and love that Catholics shared for the Pope flowed principally from his office as Successor of St Peter and his responsibility as the chief shepherd of Christ’s universal Church.

It is only from the supernatural perspective of faith that the ministry of Pope Francis can be properly understood, the bishop said, adding that the simplicity Catholics see in Pope Francis “leads us not towards abandoning the demands of the faith, as some commentators might hope or suppose, but directly to those demands in their most radical, beautiful and uncompromising essence”.

“I can’t remember how many times I have been asked, everywhere from radio stations to petrol stations, whether I liked the new Pope. To the Catholic mind this is a strange question as the loyalty we owe to the Pope is not based upon personal ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’. My invariable reply is that ‘We love the Pope whoever he is’. This may seem just as puzzling to my questioners,” he said.

“Those long experienced in the media warn of something we may already see taking shape and will require of us the very supernatural perspective Pope Francis urges. They tell of how a public personality can be built up in the media. In this case, it is based on the Pope’s evident goodness and an informal style which is then contrasted even with his most saintly predecessors.

“Expectations are subtly or less subtly raised that this is the man who will change the Catholic faith itself in accordance with the commentator’s own wishes and agenda.”

He said that when a Pontiff fails to conform to “false expectations a souring begins to take place”, adding: “I noticed only last week a concern being expressed in our national media that our Holy Father is proving as ‘hard-line’ as his predecessors,” he said. “We know, as Catholics, that the loyalty we owe to the Pope is greater than the passing loyalties people give to political figures or celebrity personalities.”