Why did Pope Francis call some priests “animals”?

As reported by The Tablet in the U.K. as well as other Catholic publications, Pope Francis made some extemporaneous remarks on priests who refuse to baptize the infants of single mothers:

Pope Francis has described priests who refuse to baptise children of single mothers as “animals”, while stressing that the moral teaching of Church is based on love not rigidity.

‘Reflecting on his experience as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis said that priests refusing to baptise the children of single mothers were taken by a sense of “individualism” in following comfortable and moralistic guidelines — they were refusing to “look at the ‘other.’ ”

Pope Francis was criticized for this remark. Essentially, the criticism is not that priests should refuse to baptize these infants, but that no priest should be termed an animal. I disagree with this criticism.

First of all, as every good student of Saint Thomas Aquinas knows, “man is an animal”. We are like the lower animals, in that we have bodies and souls. However, our souls have the ability to reason abstractly (an intellective soul) and free will. Our souls are immortal. So while we are a type of animal, we are a special type of animal; we are so much more than the lower animals because we can understand transcendent truths, such as good and evil, and we can choose to love God and neighbor. But we are a type of animal.

Secondly, Jesus himself used some harsh metaphors when criticizing sins against religion, especially the sin of Pharisees. And so also did John the Baptist:

{3:7} Then, seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees arriving for his baptism, he said to them: “Progeny of vipers, who warned you to flee from the approaching wrath?”

Jesus called Herod (Antipas) a “fox” (Lk 13:32), and not in a good way. Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees whitewashed tombs, blind guides, hypocrites, foolish, sons of Hell, and then He said:

{23:33} You serpents, you brood of vipers! How will you escape from the judgment of Hell?

Truly, some priests today are comparable to the liberal Sadducees or to the conservative Pharisees, whom Jesus criticized by comparing them to vipers (a type of animal).

Now, you might object to this argument, saying that priests who refuse baptism to certain infants are perhaps not as bad as all that. They are simply making a mistake. Well, that mistake pertains to the eternal salvation of completely innocent babies. And the error is essentially to put the things that are of men — a criticism of the parent unjustly applied to the child — above the things that are of God: the universal salvific will. Recall what Jesus said when Saint Peter made that type of error:

{8:33} And turning away and looking at his disciples, he admonished Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan, for you do not prefer the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.”

Jesus called Peter “Satan”, comparing him to the adversary of God and mankind.

So the use of the term “animals” by the Pope to rightly criticize priests who refuse the gift of salvific grace to innocent infants is entirely in keeping with the examples of John the Baptist and Jesus himself.

I should also point out the blatant hypocrisy of the mob of papal critics on this point. For they complain bitterly that the Pope used a harsh word of correction against priests who committed this grave error. Yet they have no qualms in using all manner of negative rhetoric to belittle and demean the Supreme Pontiff. But while he has every right to supervise and criticize these priests, who are certainly under his authority, these papal critics have no role to instruct or correct the Pope.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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3 Responses to Why did Pope Francis call some priests “animals”?

  1. thelionofjudah123 says:

    I think it was wrong to call priests, “Animals.” They are already under attack by the secular world! By speaking of priests this way, it gives the secular world more “license” to attack and disrespect them even more!

  2. janet333 says:

    Lion….It is the Pope who is being attacked. I agree with Francis…. God help those who refuse to baptise these little ones!

    God Bless You.

  3. Francisco says:

    Jesus said:

    {7:6} Do not give what is holy to DOGS, and do not cast your pearls before SWINE, lest perhaps they may trample them under their feet, and then, turning, they may tear you apart.

    {7:15} Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous WOLVES.

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