Pope Francis, rightly or wrongly (wrongly I would argue), is the darling of self-styled “progressives” who like to see him as a model of the “change” they have been waiting for. The secular media in particular style him as moving the Church dramatically in the directions that please them. But in order to do this, they must apply a filter that ignores a great deal of what he actually says and does. As a Catholic and as Pope, Francis is not going to fit into the media’s (or anyone’s) neat little categories. He is more complex than such convenient little boxes permit.
Pope Benedict too, despite the label of “conservative,” disappointed many conservatives with his views on the economy (as expressed in his last encyclical) and with some of his notions regarding Hell and whether anyone really went there (Benedict tended to be in the camp of Von Balthasar who “dared” to hope that most would be saved). And for all his generosity toward the Traditional Latin Mass, for the record, he never said one publicly as Pope.
Pope Francis, for all the talk of his being “liberal” or “progressive,” has some pretty tough things to say about sin, Hell, and the devil. In his daily homilies, which are not widely published (since they are not per se part of his “official” teaching), the Pope can be quite blunt:
- He has indicated that failing to acknowledge and pray to God puts us in the Devil’s camp: When one does not profess Jesus Christ—I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy—“Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil. 
- He has denounced our smug, modern attitude toward sin or the need for salvation: Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. …Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us. …This is the starting point. 
- He is dismissive of the Church building on any foundation other than Christ: We can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. 
- He speaks of the increasing denial of religious liberty and of the secularism of the West as a form of apostasy: It will do us good to think about this general apostasy which is called a ban on worship and ask ourselves: ‘Do I worship the Lord? Do I adore Jesus Christ the Lord? Or do I in some measure play the game of the prince of this world?’ 
- In very “un-modern” terms he says that shame needs to be rediscovered: But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human. …You need to stand in front of the Lord “with our truth of sinners.” …We must never masquerade before God. …This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness. …I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country [Argentina] those who are never ashamed are called “sin verguenza.” This means “the unashamed,” because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. …Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ. 
Allow these examples to suffice to show that Pope Francis can speak in very pointed and decidedly “un-modern” ways. But many in the wider culture and the media prefer to have him filtered so as to make him fit their label of the “change” Pope. The real Francis cannot be so easily pigeon-holed. A scanning of the summaries from the Vatican on the Pope’s daily homilies is a good place to start in order to discover “Francis Unplugged,” i.e., the real Pope Francis, who while stylistically different from Benedict, cannot be so easily categorized theologically.
In Sunday’s Washington Post however comes a column that describes Pope Francis as no “modern” when it comes to the Devil. He is clear to state that the Devil is no allegory. He is very real and he is after you and your children and ought to be taken seriously. In this matter, Pope Francis has the “old time religion.” Note what the Post reports. (My comments are in plain red text.)
A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone. [Note how the filter is described. As seen above and as any true perusal of Francis’ sermons shows, to say that “Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone,” is a filtered perception and not the fuller reality. He does speak a good bit about sin, using strong terms like apostasy and pride, and also speaks freely of Satan and Hell. The article now goes on to describe the truer reality of “Francis Unplugged” on the subject of Satan.]
[Yet] after his little more than a year atop the Throne of St. Peter, Francis’s teachings on Satan are already regarded as the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI. …Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces of evil at his beck and call. …
A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”…
Since its foundation, the Church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. [Sadly, this is true. Many of the same generation of clerics were too ready to consign every possible case of diabolical obsession and possession to the psychiatric community. To be sure, there are times when the real issues are psychiatric. But other times this is not the case, and many times there is overlap. Too easily have we, for over a generation, dismissed diabolical incursion and reneged on our duty to pray for the deliverance of people in crisis and to do our part, in partnership with the psychiatric community.] Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will.
Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a lofty German theologian, often painted evil with a broad brush. [I’m not so sure about this. To some extent it is true that Pope Benedict had highly refined and scholarly ways of speaking, lots of distinctions, etc., but at the end of the day, I never doubted he knew the devil was real.]
“Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant,” said one senior bishop in Vatican City who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. “Had Pope Benedict done this, the media would have clobbered him.”
Some progressive theologians complain, the pope is undermining his reputation as a leader who in so many other ways appears to be more in step with modern society than his predecessor. “He is opening the door to superstition,” said Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian and writer. [Again, filter alert! Pay attention, “progressive” theologians, Francis does not fit your little mold and is not a shill in your program. Pope Francis, like any good Catholic, doesn’t fit into worldly boxes and categories.]
[These are excerpts from the Post article. The full article is here: Modern Pope, Old School on the Devil.]
It’s good to get a little of this bigger picture out there. I have not said a lot about Pope Francis directly on this blog because I am afraid that too many bring polarized notions about him to the discussion, notions driven not by the real “unplugged” Francis, but rather by a “spun” Francis, a “filtered” Francis.
Debates can surely continue about whether and how Pope Francis’ tendency to speak off the cuff is helpful or not, whether or not he is being played by the media, etc. I will leave these prudential notions to others. But for our purposes here, it probably helps to see at least some evidence that the real Pope Francis, unfiltered and unplugged, is a bit more complex than the categorizers understand. Those of us who strive to be loyal Catholics do well to look a little past the headlines, a little deeper, and listen and pray more than we react. After all he is the Vicar of Christ. And Jesus doesn’t fit into secular boxes or categories either.
I would value your contributions, especially about things that Pope Francis has said that don’t fit the mold, sayings that surprise and cut across secular categories.
By the way, who is in the photo at the upper right? Yup, that’s Pope Francis saying Mass Ad Orientem.