Tuesday, February 06, 2024

A Wearying Pontificate Nears Its End

We are approaching eleven years since Jorge Bergoglio was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. While most of us knew almost nothing about the man when he walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, now most Catholics wish they knew less than they do. From pedophile-enabling Cardinal Danneels joining Francis on that balcony to the pope’s recent endorsement of same-sex couple blessings, controversy has surrounded this pontificate from beginning to end; a week doesn’t seem to go by without the pope stirring the pot with some papal appointment, document, or off-hand comment.

I think I speak for a lot of Catholics when I say that the whole circus surrounding Francis has become wearisome. Probably nothing Francis could do or say at this point would surprise us, although he still desperately makes every effort to do so. We repeat a tiresome cycle:

Step 1: The pope says or does something controversial.
Step 2: Conservative and Traditional Catholics criticize his actions (traditionalists directly, conservatives more obliquely).
Step 3: Progressive Catholics rejoice and take the pope to mean exactly what he says.
Step 4: Non-progressive popesplainers storm social media to explain that the pope doesn’t actually mean exactly what he says.
Step 5: Return to Step 1.

Read the rest here.

Broadly speaking I agree with the substance of this rather brutal indictment. But I respectfully disagree on one important point. Far from being relegated to a footnote in the history of the papacy, I think this pontificate will be remembered as among the worst and most destructive. The damage and scandal caused by Francis will take quite some time to repair, if it is even fixable. There are documents that are going to need to be formally withdrawn and repudiated. And all of this will depend on who the next pope is. Given how the College of Cardinals has been stacked, I am less than sanguine. 

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