Did Pope Francis just diss apologists? 9 things to know and share

Did Pope Francis just diss apologists?
Did Pope Francis just diss apologists? (photo: Register Files)

If he did then, as an apologist, I’d be severely annoyed.

But wait! Could this be yet another case of people taking the pope out of context?

Yes. Yes it can.

And it is.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .


1) What’s being claimed?

It’s being claimed that Pope Francis said the Church doesn’t need apologists or crusaders.


2) Where did he allegedly say this?

In a speech to the Congregation for Bishops.

It isn’t yet online in English, but it’s in Italian here.


3) What did he say?

According to the Washington Post:

He exhorted them to find “authentic” pastors who display “professionalism, service and holiness of life.”

Bishops, he continued, should be “guardians of doctrine, not to measure how far the world lives from the truth it contains, but to fascinate the world, to enchant the world with the beauty of love, to seduce it with the free gift of the Gospel.”

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles,” he added, “but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”


4) Why is that not a diss on apologists?

Because he wasn’t talking about apologists. He was talking about bishops.

Specifically, he was talking about the attitude that bishops should bring to their jobs.

He said that bishops should be “humble and faithful sowers of the truth” rather than “apologists for their own agendas” or “crusaders for their own battles.”

In other words, they should focus on sowing the truth rather than getting caught up in personal agendas.


5) Has that sentence been translated another way?

Yeah. As you’ll see it in some places, it’s been translated:

The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power.

The difference is whether the “causes/agendas” and “battles” are those of the bishops or the Church.

The Italian original is:

La Chiesa non ha bisogno di apologeti delle proprie cause né di crociati delle proprie battaglie, ma di seminatori umili e fiduciosi della verità, che sanno che essa è sempre loro di nuovo consegnata e si fidano della sua potenza.

Either way, he’s not talking about apologists. He’s talking about bishops who act like apologists for particular causes.


6) Don’t apologists defend the faith? What is this talk about “causes” or “agendas”?

The word “apologist” is used more than one way. In some circles, it’s used to refer to a person who defends the faith, but it also has other uses.

For example, if you watch political shows, you will often hear the word “apologist” being used (negatively) for a person who defends a particular political cause (often to the point of using deception).

Here Pope Francis is using the term in something like the latter sense: a person who defends a cause or agenda with great zeal, not a person who defends the faith.

He’s using the word “crusader” the same way. He’s not talking about the guys who put on chainmail and sailed for the holy land. He’s using it the way people today talk about a “crusading activist.”


7) So what’s he really saying?

He’s saying that the Church needs bishops who are focused on humbly spreading the truth—not agenda-driven activists.


8) Can you offer evidence that Pope Francis supports apologetics?

Sure. He’s talked about the importance of defending the faith any number of times:

The word “Confirmation” then reminds us that this Sacrament brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: it unites us more firmly to Christ, it renders our bond with the Church more perfect, and it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith… to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of his Cross [General Audience, January 29, 2014].

How many of you pray for Christians who are being persecuted? How many? Everyone respond in you heart. Do I pray for my brother, for my sister who is in difficulty because they confess and defend their faith? It is important to look beyond our own boundaries, to feel that we are Church, one family in God! [General Audience, 25 September 2013]. 


9) I won’t believe he’s not dissing apologists unless you show me a quotation where he actually uses the word “apologetics” in a positive sense! Can you do that?


Proclaiming the Gospel message to differ­ent cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles. This means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics which would encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all [Evangelii Gaudium 132].

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