As predictable as a Baltimore Orioles loss, anti-Francis Catholics celebrated Corpus Christi with a misleading story about Pope Francis, of the “Look at how this foolish man is undermining the faith now” sort. It popped up in my Facebook feed, thanks to my disparate collection of Facebook friends.
A German Catholic site claimed in the headline, “Pope: Jesus did not multiply bread—he taught people to share.” (That’s the Google translation, which the Facebook posters used.) The subhead said: “The so-called ‘bread multiplication’ is one of the most famous miracles of Jesus: Five small loaves fill 5,000 people. But a real increase did not take place, says Pope Francis.”
Francis wouldn’t say that, you may be thinking. He’s never shown the slightest skepticism about the supernatural. If anything, he’s been a little more enthusiastic about it than Benedict. I don’t remember John Paul II or Benedict talking as much about the Devil, in as personal and familiar a way as Francis does. He talks about the Blessed Virgin with a simpler piety than the more philosophical John Paul II and more theological Benedict.
His critics think differently about this. As I pointed out a few years ago, they always read him as unscrupulous prosecuting attorneys. Among the comments I saw on one posting were: “So instead of believing God is faithful in providing for His children, our Pope wants us to believe that God promotes Socialism?” Another commenter said: “Impressive. I don't know how many people could deny the miracle of the five loaves and then turn it into a mini-diatribe against greed and capitalism.” Someone even accused him of Bolshevism: “The dialectic materialism of Lenin is strong with this one.” The same person accused Francis of heresy: “If what Zenit said is correct, then he is at least speaking of Christ in an almost Arian manner, since he denudes Christ of the ability to effect miracles, instead attributing it to trust in the Father. It’s bizarre exegesis.” And “It worked out so well the first time that Peter denied Our Lord I’m sure it will be okay this time.”
A few commenters tried to point to what the pope had said. That included a very conservative writer, who was trying to be fair, though she had (of course) to finish by blaming Francis for being “unclear.” The other commenters and the original poster ignored his defenders. The poster even added later, “You know what else people use the term ‘magic trick’ about, when they want to plant doubt in the faithful person’s mind? The Eucharist.”
It took me less than a minute to find the homily, search “magic,” and find out what the pope said. And—surprise!—that German newspaper headline is misleading and the subhead wrong. Here’s what Francis actually said. His critics could have found this out for themselves, but since they assume Francis is always wrong, why would they?