Christmas was this week, and as such, Pope Francis gave some speeches, led some Masses, blah, blah, blah... You know, the typical Catholic thing.
During a Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Francis spoke before thousands of people. One of the things that Francis said that has gotten a lot of attention is, "You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things... but the Lord continues to love you." Some believe this may be a reference to the Catholic Church's ongoing sexual abuse scandal. You know, the thing that Francis has yet to make any meaningful progress addressing.
"Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us. To me, to you, to each of us, he says today: 'I love you and I will always love you, for you are precious in my eyes,'" Francis added.
The Mass included children from countries including Venezuela, Iraq and Uganda. Mark Lowen, the BBC's correspondent based in Rome, believes that this was meant as a reference to migrants and victims of war in those particular countries.
Pope Francis spoke again on Christmas Day, this time from the Vatican balcony. During his annual "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) speech, he enjoined Catholics to embrace the "light of Christ" to help end conflict and injustice around the world.
Francis spoke of places like Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Syria, Venezuela, and Ukraine, and called for Catholics to work towards peace.
"There is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still," Francis said before thousands of people who had gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"There is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater. There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ," he added.
Francis's remarks about countries in West Africa were especially focused on the persecution of Christians in those areas. In Burkino Faso, for example, at least 35 Christians were killed by Islamic insurgents on Christmas Eve.
My main criticism over Francis's remarks echoes criticisms I have had with him before, in both the church's sexual abuse crisis, and the more recent financial scandals. The criticism is simple: he does not really offer anything substantial or meaningful. He just says the same kind of Catholic platitudes we are used to hearing from every believer.
"The light of Christ" is greater than any darkness in personal, family, or social relationships. Uh... OK, great. That does nothing for children suffering from abusive parents, or women being beaten by abusive husbands. "The light of Christ" is greater than economic, geopolitical, and ecological conflicts.
Sure, but Jesus has yet to come down from heaven and actually end wars, or solve the climate crisis, or help any of those Christians in West Africa currently being persecuted.
So what the hell is he offering? Nothing. With Francis, and the Catholic Church as a whole, it is always empty promises, meaningless platitudes, and promises of future action that never come. The church is, at best, useless, and at worst, a dangerous criminal organization.