I was honored this week to join Colleen Dulle of America Magazine on the Inside the Vatican podcast, which is one of my essential listens — the show is billed as a weekly deep dive that goes behind the headlines of the biggest Vatican news stories. With America’s Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell away this week, Colleen and I discussed two recent decisions by Pope Francis, the removal of Bishop Joseph Strickland from his position over the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and the news that Cardinal Burke will soon lose his cardinal’s stipend and be required to pay rent on his over 4,000 square foot luxury apartment near St. Peter’s square.

We also spoke more generally about the harsh criticism of Pope Francis from many of his critics, particularly in the United States, as well as the reasons behind it.

[Listen and subscribe to “Inside the Vatican” on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.]

From the show notes:

Mike and Colleen discuss how these tensions have played out across debates over issues like Amoris Laetitia, the Latin Mass, the Covid-19 pandemic, and recently, the Synod on Synodality. They also explore Francis’ moves against certain critics in the hierarchy, including Cardinal Burke and Bishop Strickland. Colleen points out that the Vatican said these were administrative decisions, which complicates the narrative of Francis “showing us where the line that cannot be crossed is,” even though “some might interpret that as Francis looking for a reason to remove them while actually wanting them out because they’re critical.” It’s a strained, polarized relationship, and Mike argues that there are steps Francis could take to help bridge this divide. “I don’t doubt the sincerity of Pope Francis’ critics in the U.S.,” Mike explains, and lays out steps the Pope could take to “start a dialogue and to lay out some common ground.”

On the same topic, veteran Vatican journalist Christopher Lamb — who recently left The Tablet to become CNN’s Vatican correspondent — has his own writeup of the pope’s most vocal American critics. In it, he quotes a number of experts on the unprecedented open opposition to Pope Francis by prominent members of the clergy, including WPI contributor and theologian Dawn Eden Goldstein:

Goldstein, the DC theologian and canon lawyer, has met the cardinal on a number of occasions and says there “are people and organizations that would like to see Burke’s vision of the church become the dominant one because it would make the church more useful to political interests.”

The cardinal wrote the foreword to a book criticizing the synod, which was supported by a group opposed to Catholic teaching on questions such as care for the poor, the environment, indigenous populations and migrants, she pointed out. The cardinal seeks to create an aura around himself that gives the “illusion of a return to a former era” and Francis has been tolerant of attacks, Goldstein said.

Yet, as Goldstein said, such dissent is novel in recent years and would have been unimaginable in the last few papacies.

Read it all.

Image: Adobe Stock. By Madrugada Verde

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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