Pope Francis “has changed the image of the church so much that prestigious graduate schools of business and management are now using him as a case study in rebranding.” That’s according to Father Thomas Rosica, the priest who assists the Vatican Press Office with English-speaking media. Father Rosica added that “Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we ‘Catholics’ have turned the Internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!”
Speaking at the Diocese of Brooklyn’s observance of World Communications Day on May 11, Father Rosica noted, “The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around.” He observed that, “If we judged our identity based on certain ‘Catholic’ websites and blogs, we would be known as the people who are against everyone and everything!” He went on to say that “If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something, something positive that can transform lives and engage and impact the culture.”
Referring to the change wrought in the public image of the Church by the Pope, Father Rosica recalled that “Prior to Pope Francis, when many people on the street were asked: ‘What is the Catholic Church all about? What does the pope stand for?’, the response would often be, ‘Catholics, well they are against abortion, gay marriage and birth control … they are known for the sex abuse crisis that has terribly marred and weakened their moral authority and credibility,’” he said.
What do they say about us now, he asked? “People are speaking about our leader who is unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us.” He said, “We have a pope who is concerned about the environment, about mercy, compassion and love, and a deep passion, care and concern for the poor and for displaced peoples roaming the face of this earth.”
Father Rosica observed that “Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners! In reality they are deeply troubled, sad and angry people.” He concluded by stressing that “We must pray for them, for their healing and conversion!”
Father Rosica’s words are a good reminder of the Gospel message: Your every act should be done with love. (1 Cor. 16:14) And this includes dissent.