A Catholic Deacon notes, "Pope Francis has strongly criticized Catholics who brag that they are perfect followers of the church’s teachings but then criticize or speak ill of others in their faith communities, saying they cause scandal and even offer a 'counter-witness' to Jesus.
'We all know in our communities, in our parishes, in our neighborhoods how much hurt they do the church, and give scandal, those persons that call themselves ‘Very Catholic,’ the pontiff said Sunday.
'They go often to church, but after, in their daily life, ignore the family, speak ill of others, and so on,' he continued. 'This is that which Jesus condemns because this is a Christian ‘counter-witness.’"
Of course, not all criticism is bad or evil. There is, as Pope John Paul II reminded us, room in the Church for constructive criticism or what is popularly known as fraternal correction.
Plato, in his Laws, Bk. 1, 635a, says: "We invite you to criticize our institutions without reserve. One is not insulted by being informed of something amiss, but rather gets an opportunity for amendment, if the information is taken in good part, without resentment.” – Plato, Laws, Bk. 1, 635a
It is important, especially for Christians, to be truthful in every communication. This because it is only by testifying to the truth that Christians can spread the truth of the Gospel and do their part to build up the Kingdom of God. All men have an obligation to seek the truth. Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council teaches that, “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2).
I wonder if Pope Francis isn't confusing criticism with condemnation. Dr. Montague Brown explains the difference between the two nicely: “Criticism is the honest appraisal of the value of ideas or actions…Pursued in the right spirit, it is a positive undertaking whose purpose is to gain an accurate understanding for the sake of growing in wisdom and virtue….Condemnation goes beyond evaluation of an idea or action to a declaration of the worthlessness of a human being. It is never fair and is a wholly negative judgment, referring only to weaknesses. Because condemnation is unreasonable, it serves no purpose in our quest for wisdom and virtue.” (The One-Minute Philosopher, pp. 28,29).
The Pope who loves to boast of praying three rosaries each day and fasting from all television for more than twenty years has engaged in the latter. Can it honestly be said that the pope's referring to his brothers in the Episcopate as "sick," "spiritually and mentally hardened," "enslaved to idols," "boastful and arrogant," "cowardly," "indifferent," "gloomy," and "sterile," not to mention a litany of other charges, in a public forum, was merely an exercise in fraternal constructive criticism? See here.
Is Pope Francis guilty of offering a "Counter witness" to Jesus? Does the Holy Father consider himself to be a Pharisee?
Or is that particular charge aimed only at those of us who engage in that fraternal correction Pope Saint John Paul II spoke so highly of? At those of us who are concerned about the upcoming Synod and who have challenged some of this pope's strange statements and actions?