Can the Pope Praise an Unrepentant Mass Murderer?

Niels Larsen Stevns, “Christ and Zacchaeus” (1913)
Niels Larsen Stevns, “Christ and Zacchaeus” (1913) (photo: Public Domain)

A reader writes:

I read much of your March 5th, 2016, article about Pope Francis and Emma Bonino. I do not know if Pope Francis knew about Emma Bonino’s history regarding abortion, nor am I judging anyone’s soul.

I did want to present the following scenario to you:

At a 100-person family reunion, a man murders every member of that family except for one 12-year-old child. The murderer gets off on a technicality and never publicly apologizes for the murder.

Some time later, a pope:

1. Receives this murderer at a public audience;
2. Speaks highly of this murderer because he regularly gives food to a soup kitchen;
3. Does not mention one word publicly condemning this man’s murderous past.

To make this a little more personal, imagine you were that 12-year-old child (now an adult).

And the questions asked:

1. How would you feel?
2. Would you think this fictional pope made a wise decision or an unwise decision?

The above scenario is not meant to perfectly correspond to the Pope Francis and Emma Bonino situation.

I have a scenario of my own for this reader.

Some time in the future, Catholics are living in persecution and oppression in the United States. They also suffer grave poverty, and one of the reasons for this is that some of their fellow Catholics have gotten rich by charging them interest at usurious rates, and by helping the nation’s rulers to confiscate their property. Many have gone to debtor’s prison for being unable to pay the usurious interest. The conditions in these prisons are abhorrent, but the law protects, and rewards, Catholics who act against their own. One of the most treacherous of such persons is a man I will call Mr. Z. And yet the president has created a veneer of normalcy, and portrays the Catholic minority as a rebellious people, hard to keep under control, but not a persecuted one.

At this time, a future pope comes to visit Washington in order to speak to the nation’s leaders about the plight of these oppressed Catholics. Let us call him Pope Leo XIV. While in Washington, swarms of Catholics crowd around Leo. Mr. Z, who happens to be among them, can not get close enough. And so he retreats into one of the many hotels he owns in order to go out on a balcony and see this Pope Leo XIV who is so loved by the Catholics he (Mr. Z) has cheated.

Pope Leo, who spots Mr. Z on the balcony, calls to him and says, “Good man, I must have your company at dinner tonight.”

Mr. Z accepts, but the cardinal archbishop of Washington tells the pope, “Your Holiness, how can you call Mr. Z ‘good man’? You cannot dine with him. It would be scandal. He is notorious for his contribution to the condition of Catholics here. He has stolen from his own brothers and sisters and gotten rich off of their labor.”

The pope responds, “True, but have patience. I will dine with him. He will be my guest of honor.”

And during dinner, the pope says not one word in condemnation of Mr. Z’s grave sins.

How would you feel about this?

Note: This is not meant to correspond perfectly to the Jesus and Zacchaeus situation.