It happens to just about everyone. You start out loving everything he does, but then your efforts at denial are backed by weaker and weaker arguments, until, one day, you, well, just can’t deny it anymore, you’ve become “red-pilled”, realizing that there’s something wrong.

But you don’t end your process of coping with first-level misgivings. Your arguments continue to take you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of explanations, deeper down the iceberg. You can’t stop. You will get more red-pilled.

But lest you fear over where this process of coping will take you, never fear, at least you know where it’s headed. Everyone follows the same general path. So wherever you are on the process of “coping”, “becoming red-pilled”, or the like, here’s the full process outlined for you to figure out where your views are headed next!

1. He’s awesome and will singlehandedly save the Church:

Lasts a few years.

2. Oh, liberal media are at it again making up things the Pope said. Even more reason to support him:

They’re just, uh, making up a false “spirit of Pope Francis.”

3. Well, he said… something… but he’s being misinterpreted:

Hmm, maybe he does need to be more careful, but there’s no real problem here.

Ok, but then there’s this week’s interview…

4. He must be tired. Oh, why does he bother to give interviews like that? Doesn’t he know that doing that when you’re tired is ambiguous:

They’re just off-the-cuff remarks. Don’t pay attention to those. Only pay attention to these over here…

But then you make the mistake of picking up a written formal document, an encyclical in the Pope’s name… And your dreams are dashed again.

5. Well, that thing I don’t like was written in his name, but he probably didn’t write it personally. The Church is a massive bureaucracy:

The things we don’t like couldn’t possibly be his fault. There was surely a ghostwriter behind everything we don’t like. Surely? Please let it be so!

This argument works for you, until, again, you make the mistake of listening to another interview with the Pope that you can’t explain away as someone else’s words.

6. He’s a good man with bad advisors.

Just like with King George or Donald Trump it’s really parliament or the Presidential Cabinet (or here the Curia) that’s to blame. Fix them and they’ll stop interfering with the good intentions of the King or President (err Pope).

This is a really comfortable take. You want this one to be right. You want the Pope to be a simple, easy man to understand, with everything you don’t like being easily explained away by reference to a blurry “bureaucracy” that was behind everything you don’t like. But sometimes you’re forced to consider that the Church is in a more complex environment. There are internal politics yes, but there are also more complex external politics.

7. He’s being purposefully ambiguous but for very good reasons:

But in such a way as to not “really” be responsible. He probably has some “misguided”, but at least partially justifiable reason, like preventing the German bishops from “officially” going into schism or something. He’s like a modern day Emperor Charles V the last time the Germans went into schism, trying to preserve unity in the Church with compromising wishy-wash like the Augsburg Interim.

He may have removed Bishop Strickland, but at least he also warned the German bishops not to go down the road they’re accelerating down…

He’s balanced. He’s uhh, trying… trying really hard…

Or so one could hope…

But this position is untenable to hold for very long. It’s now on to a very very traditional take for traditionalists…

8. It is a product of the time in which he was ordained but it isn’t really his fault. He was taught wrong. DOWN WITH VATICAN II!

This stage is a popular one for traditional Catholics to take. Pope Francis is a good well-intentioned man shaped by very poor circumstances. He was, uhh, taught wrong…

And this take might keep you here awhile in this position. But, eventually, you get restless. You want to really know what’s happening. And so, you log on to for a little history lesson.

9. The issue is ultramontanism and the false spirit of Vatican I. DOWN WITH VATICAN I!

Now your research goes further. You think you’ve finally found the real root of the Church’s current problems. It’s not Vatican II alone that’s our problem. Vatican II was a continuation of Vatican I, meaning that its problems found their root a century earlier.

Specifically, you say, Vatican I did the terrifying thing of defining papal primacy and infallibility which lead directly to… Err, let me avoid using Protestant words, uhh, err… “I’m not being a Protestant, it’s different, even though I’m on the cusp of calling into question and complaining about the Papacy itself,” you say. “At the freakin least don’t be a HYPERPAPALIST like that radical Dom Prosper Gueranger!”

Well, where were we?

Well, Vatican I was a centralizing council, you now surmise. Pope Francis’s centralized, “micromanaging” power, you could conclude, was thus only possible because of Vatican I. Therefore, if there were no Vatican I, there would be no problems in the Church today.

Not even worthwhile to read Vatican I’s documents or look further, you think. Don’t bother with Pastor Aeternus… “We have our case. The cause of our problem is Vatican I. Down with Vat…”

Err, wait, there must have been a root cause of these “issues” Vatican I. Let’s look further, you’re now led at this moment to think.

10. The Final Step

And what comes after this?

Of course, for some, the step is becoming Orthodox, joining the S.S.P.X, or the like, but that’s not an intellectual step, which shows that they’ve taken the anger stage of coping with grief a little too far…

But theologians and podcasters are quickly working on figuring out a good next stage in this progression of coping with the Pope. Perhaps now that we’ve blamed the false spirit of Vatican I and are willing to not just criticize , we’ll now blame the false spirit of Trent?

But that stage will only last a year or two before Catholic personalities “discover” that it’s really the “false spirit of the council of Constance.”

Or in this somewhat hopeful but perhaps also ironic take given the particulars of his own situation by Bishop (?) Mar Mari perhaps the real issue was the Council of Ephesus, that is the false spirit of Ephesus!

And maybe it is.

But the scapegoat blame game doesn’t solve the root of the problem

And then you eventually discover, that in your concern with Pope Francis, and microanalysis of his motives, you’ve been distracted from truly practicing your faith.

And maybe that’s the real conspiracy by the evil one…

It’s right to be concerned, but study Church history even a little bit and you’ll realize that we’re actually in pretty good times. Hey, it was once a famous adage that the Church was doing alright when even the Pope’s kids were Catholic.

The Pope is not preventing you from achieving holiness.

Sure, it may be harder in some ways. Sure there are causes of confusion and scandals for others, but were most of us really trying ten years ago before Francis?

Are we trying today?

If yes, and if more than ten years ago, then we’re doing quite well and maybe the confusion we’ve encountered in the Church helped us realize the need to try harder.

If we’re not trying, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.