Roman Catholics were just entering the critical weekend of their Easter celebration – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, perhaps the most important commemorations in their religion – when Pope Francis threw another of his religious bombshells into the lives of his followers.

Just before Holy Thursday dawned, an interview with the pope was published in La Repubblica. It was written by the founder of the left-wing publication, Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian atheist.

In the article, the 93-year old journalist claimed the pope told him hell does not exist because people are not punished. If they do not repent and go to heaven, they just “disappear.”

According to Scalfari, the pope said, “There is no hell – there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

Inasmuch as that’s a refutation of a core belief of Catholicism, when word of the interview got out, it spread like wildfire, in religious and mainstream publications.

Criticism was widespread, from The Drudge Report to the New York Times, to say nothing of the international press. There was consternation among clergy, and the average churchgoer was at a loss as to what was going on.

The Italian press acknowledged the pope had met with Scalfari five or six times in the past for lengthy “interviews” and that the journalist does not take notes, nor does he record any interviews. As a result, there clearly were doubts raised as to the accuracy of what he claimed were Francis’ statements. In fact, this was not the first time such questions have been raised about his “interviews” with the pope.

The Vatican also jumped to respond – but not forcefully. Its reaction didn’t deny what the pope said, but also didn’t affirm it, saying essentially that some of the words were not those of the pope.

Uh, exactly, what does that mean? The problem is that his statements are indeed heretical, so what now?

Apparently, nothing. Francis goes his merry way leaving bits and pieces of his Church and doctrine fraying around the edges and thoughtful clergy beginning to be angry.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke is greatly concerned about what is happening with this pope, saying that by not clarifying what was said, he only “feeds the confusion.”

Burke is a well-known canon lawyer and the former head of the highest Vatican court. He didn’t mince any words, saying that what Pope Francis said “went beyond what is tolerable” and is “a source of deep scandal.”

The whole situation has left many questions, and it appears that there will be no answers, at least not yet. Either Pope Francis is the most naive of men or an individual dedicated to shaking up the lives of Catholics for a purpose he hasn’t revealed.

To the layman, it would appear he’s intent on undermining Catholic beliefs and watering down Church doctrines to suit some ulterior motive.

Regardless of which, it’s dangerous territory and could threaten to tear apart a Church already losing membership and clergy. There are those who believe the Church faces the possibility of collapse during this generation.

And speaking of church destruction, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who is the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, is furious with how the pope has handled dealing with China and Catholic Church activities in that country. He’s blasted the deal, which he says, appeases China by agreeing to have the government choose Church leadership. He says that will be the annihilation of the “underground church,” which is, in fact, a church that follows traditional Catholicism.

He should know: He spent seven years teaching in China’s official, state-approved church and said he “know[s] that the church is completely enslaved to the government.” Remember, it’s a Communist government.

But there’s more. Over time, it’s been clear Francis veers left on most of his public positions on world affairs, from war to the environment to the family to borders and refugees.

And there he is again – this time, equating protecting the lives of the unborn to protecting the lives of migrants and their rights. In his latest “guidance for Catholics,” published just last week, Pope Francis said that Christians must care for immigrants just as they care for the unborn.

In his text, “Gaudate et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), he said all human lives matter, and he went on to enumerate everything from the living, the sick, slaves, victims of trafficking and anyone rejected for any reason. While he reaffirmed the Church’s position of the sinfulness of abortion, he criticized those who see it as more important than migration.

He said the defense of the “innocent unborn'” should not supersede the defense of the poor or migrants.

Again, just what does that mean? Here he’s dealing with the issues of borders and massive migrations across Europe and North America. The pope has spoken out before that migrants have rights that supersede the sovereign rights of countries. Now that he is putting the burden of “sin” on those who oppose open borders, the picture, for Catholics, at least, has changed.

But there’s even more: The pope has just released a written apology to the bishops of Chile for a long-standing child abuse situation.

There are 64 victims in New York and Chile involving a cover-up by Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, a man the pope has supported over the years. Despite the allegations of abuse, the pope continually denied knowing of their validity and said he’d never heard from any of the victims.

The recent Vatican investigation, as reported on LifeSite, finally forced the pope to admit that “he made grave errors” in this case. In his written note, he asks “the forgiveness of all those whom I offended over the years,” blaming it on a lack of true information.

He omitted any call for justice against those who committed the abuses. Just an “I’m sorry.”

So Pope Francis is human and made a big mistake. Now what?

It’s not common for Catholics to criticize a pope – but it is the opinion of this cradle Catholic, and I suspect I am not alone, that he’s used up his “passes.”

It’s time for Pope Francis to step aside and spend time in deep reconciliation with his faith and God – thus putting an end to his reign of Catholic confusion.

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