Most of us have at least a passing familiarity with the oft-quoted opening stanza of William Butler Yeats’ apocalyptic poem, “The Second Coming“:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats‘ imagery entered the realm of cultural cliché long ago, but that is because it draws on ideas that have a universal resonance. The first line, in particular, pulls us in: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre . . .” The gyre, or vortex, is in this case a metaphor representing the loss—or rejection—of a centre of authority and order within a hierarchical structure. In such a situation, this loss of centre creates a vacuum, into which the fragments of the hierarchical order are drawn by centripetal force as they break apart.

Yeats was talking about the chaotic situation in Europe after World War I, but this metaphor of the gyre/vortex may also be applied to current world events, and especially to our current media-environment. Political instability and social media has proven to be a volatile mix, and we see all around us the formation of whirlwinds or vortices of politicized information. Such vortices can have a very real power of attraction for the gullible and discerning alike. We see hyper-partisan messaging creating new political realities at a terrifyingly rapid pace, producing adherents who are, to put it charitably, “full of passionate intensity.” Each media-vortex may appear, in its incessant rotation, to be a manifestation of a new order, but closer inspection always reveals an empty centre and an absence of value—a cipher.

The Church has not remained unaffected by these cultural developments, particularly since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis—which happened to coincide with the ascendancy of Twitter in the social media landscape and the beginnings of a new burgeoning of populist politics in the West. As a result, a sizeable minority of Catholics, especially in North America, have entered into a vortex of confusion and conflict fueled by social media and political turmoil. I do not mean to suggest that the Church is coming apart in any fundamental way. No matter what challenges it may face, that will not happen. The particular vortex I am referring to exists in the minds of those Catholics who have stopped listening to or simply deny the authority of the Supreme Pontiff.

The symptoms of the vortex are the same as they were in Yeats’ time, even if the context is very different. First comes a fragmentation of reality and a loss of spiritual and intellectual discernment that result in the development of conspiracy theory. What inevitably follows is scapegoatism and apocalypticism.

When one has taken the “red pill” (to use a popular motif) and begins to reel from its effects, where should one turn? One looks for sympathetic voices, and in the Catholic world these are easy to find: extreme traditionalists, sedevacantists, disgruntled priests, a wide variety of angry and politicized mainstream Catholics, and perhaps even some voices in the Church hierarchy. These voices, collectively, form a new medium, processing and distributing information, delivering a daily flurry of out-of-context snippets of news. When a new news item appears, it is immediately chopped and spun, and becomes yet another part of the vortex. New patchwork narratives are constructed, and become stabilizing points of reference. The result, most often, is conspiracy theory. For those drawn into the vortex, a cause for the perceived loss of order and authority must be found, and it must be tangible and traceable. Thus, over the last four or five years, some Catholics have discerned the outlines of a conspiracy within the Church—a supposed pattern of subversion. Terrible crimes have been committed, and although they have not all come to light, they are legion. But who is responsible? A favourite phrase of the conspiracy theorist is “cui bono?” or “who benefits?” The resulting discourse is permeated with what Richard J. Hofstadter famously described in 1964 as the “paranoid style.” Hofstadter was referring to the popular conspiracism that regularly blossoms in American politics, but his term applies equally well to much of the politicized discourse within the Church today.

With the development of the vortex of conspiracy theory we enter into the realm of the accuser and the scapegoat. The empty centre of the vortex demands a sacrifice. The scapegoats, for those who have fallen into the anti-Francis vortex, are homosexuals, Modernists, baby boomers, “cafeteria Catholics,” ‘liberal’ members of the Church hierarchy, and of course Pope Francis himself. At the centre of the vortex, the former normative hierarchy and all that it is associated with takes on the appearance of the cipher—a visible manifestation of the absence of good. The figure of authority is now a puppet, imposter, monster or antichrist. The apocalyptic moment has arrived. Already we see this happening in the anti-Francis vortex. The pope is regularly ridiculed and demonized. Priests and bishops who support the pope are described without qualification as “bad,” and those who resist him as “good.” We even see, given the extraordinary circumstance in which we have a Pope Emeritus, some distinguishing between a good pope, forced into retirement, and a bad pope, who has been lifted to power by conspirators. Those who have been granted this apocalyptic vision feel there can now be no dialogue, but only uncompromising battle against demonic forces that must be eliminated.

Sadly, this is an old story within the Church. In just the last century, the Church was shaken by both the Action Française and Lefèbvrist vortices. Yves Congar, in Challenge to the Church (1976), describes the discourse typical of these movements:

Here we have a set of characteristic attitudes and procedures: sticking disparaging labels on one’s opponents, while never admitting that one might be in error oneself; gathering everything that one detests under an umbrella term which arouses unqualified emotional repulsion; insisting that one is right, while sometimes displaying a pettifogging spirit in so doing; being convinced that there is a wicked plot, that a ‘Judaeo-Masonic’ or communist conspiracy has infiltrated the Church, is working inside it, and is fomenting internal subversion.  (16)

Sound familiar? We can expect to see more of this in the months and years to come.

I say all this not as a call for an intensification of the culture war within the Church, but as a simple plea for sanity. Those who have entered the anti-Francis vortex are not stupid or irredeemable. I have studied conspiracy theory in an academic context, and I know that it can grip people of even great intelligence. In my research on the (literary) modernist author Wyndham Lewis, I looked at the aspects of his thought that pushed him perilously close to the realm of anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi conspiracy theory in the early-to-mid 1930s. Even though Lewis later modified his views significantly, rejecting anti-Semitism unconditionally and embracing a cosmic and universalist vision that drew him toward an appreciation of Catholicism, his period of near-paranoia in the 1930s still casts a shadow over his career. He bitterly regretted his lapse in judgement. Later, I studied the work of bestselling British author Douglas Reed, a prolific and gifted journalist and political commentator who, during the course of World War II, managed to convince himself that Adolf Hitler was the puppet of a Jewish world conspiracy. His bizarre conviction, once it had solidified and become unalterable, eventually led him into self-exile and obscurity in Rhodesia. His is a tragic story of intelligence wasted.

Of course real-life conspiracies do happen, but they are usually far less clever and coordinated than conspiracy theorists imagine. Conspiracy theorists, though, are not interested in the mundane, awkward, and often chaotic realities of political and institutional life. They need to posit a great and terrible enemy in the shadows with which they can do battle. They want a narrative in which they can situate themselves—one which will clear up all confusion and invest their actions with significance. The conspiracy theory functions as a narcotic, easing pain and providing an artificial stimulation that gradually poisons the soul. It is hard to watch someone suffer its effects and do nothing to help. It is also distressing to see what is left after the effects of the “red pill” wear off, or after it has taken an irreversible toll.

What is the solution? It’s next to impossible to defeat conspiracy theories through argument. Those who have fallen prey to them can only exit the vortex by rekindling their faith in the promise that Christ made to Peter: that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. Against all their instincts, they must put their trust in the pope, because they can be assured that any change he brings to the Church and its practices will not lead anyone astray. If blind faith is required, so be it. No pope is impeccable, and the Church hierarchy is comprised of sinners, but the Church is still the Barque of Peter and will not sink or become stranded, no matter how rough the waters.

I respectfully ask those in the anti-Francis vortex to listen to the plea of one of the earliest popes, St. Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians, who had become engaged in controversies that led to rebellion against Church leaders:

“Why do we divide and tear in pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” (Romans 12:5) . . . Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.

. . .

Who then among you is noble-minded? Who compassionate? Who full of love? Let him declare, “If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away wherever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it.” He that acts thus shall procure to himself great glory in the Lord; and every place will welcome him.”

Leaving the anti-Francis vortex does not mean capitulation or defeat. We can still disagree among ourselves while remaining members of the Mystical Body of Christ. It means renouncing pride, for the sake of the Church. For those who have the bravery and humility to do this, the rewards will be great, and “every place will welcome him.”

 

CITATIONS:

Congar, Yves. Challenge to the Church: The Case of Archbishop Lefèbvre. First published 1976. Trans. Paul Inwood. Collins Liturgical Publications, 1977.

St. Clement of Rome. “Letter to the Corinthians (Clement).” Translated by John Keith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm>.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Tony Correia says:

    D. W. Lafferty, I agree that Catholics need to respect the office of the Pope and pray for him, he is our Holy Father. However, you should not make assumptions regarding the intentions and concerns of Catholics who are very troubled by Pope Francis and his seemingly statements that contradict centuries of dogma and doctrine.

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      Tony, if you read my post from yesterday, “Why the Nichols Letter is different,” it is addressed to the many Catholics who don’t seem to grasp what the signatories are actually proposing. They certainly appear to be caught up in a Vortex, where “anti-Francis” means “good,” and “pro-Francis” means “bad.”

      They might have concerns, real or imagined, but in all honesty it appears they’ve swallowed the anti-Francis narrative, with or without knowing the details, and this certainly suggests that they’ve been swept up into a movement, not that they’ve researched this carefully and come to these conclusions based on serious analysis of the issues.

    • Avatar ONG says:

      Tony Correia,
      we pray both *for* and *with* the Holy Father in an ecclesial community of believers.

      What truths, or dogmas, or doctrines (teachings) have *seemingly* been violated in your opinion, than just the promotion of a deeper understanding of them in today’s modern culture of the third millennium, and to have developed proper evangelical ways to reach out and bring disillusioned and hopeless in- and outsiders back into the forgotten riches of Christ for the best of both themselves, ourselves and every single one in any society we all “humans” live in and/or become part of?

    • Avatar Faith Germaine says:

      It seems to me the author of this piece is merely noticing that every move of Pope Francis is scrutinized and even vilified. We need not look far for actual empirical evidence of this: various websites, youtube channels, EWTN personalities, and among our family and friends who take every opportunity (no exaggeration) to question the Pope’s motives. As a faithful Catholic myself I have been ridiculed and challenged for my simple belief that the teaching of Pope Francis can be seen in line with perennial tradition. This movement that Lafferty is addressing in this article is not just troubled and concerned; it is for all intents and purposes shredding the Body of Christ. Will the center hold indeed.

    • Avatar Terry says:

      I agree with you 100%

  2. Avatar Chris dorf says:

    My own personal witnessing of Christianity in the United States for the past 40 years has been a progression into a form of historical materialism which is shown pointedly in the actions of Steve Bannon and Mike Pence and their attack on the teachings of Pope Francis which confront their major errors of the progression of Western Christianity in the world and it’s physical manifestations of civilization constructs up and against the teachings of Jesus Christ about personal sanctification and our way of working out our salvation in the world.

  3. Avatar Anne Lastman says:

    Tony, the great problem we have is that those who disagree with the Holy Father have become virulent. There is not a skerrick of mercy to be found there.
    Tony the Church is a Holy Seed it does not remain dormant or stagnant but grows. Whist the original seed remains the same the blooms change from season to season. Small changes but changes so its beauty is appreciated by all.
    This Pope Francis has gone out into the vineyard and hired those who no one would hire.
    The so called skilled already were in the vineyard earning an income but there were those who no one would hire. This is a parable of Jesus.
    HH Pope Francis went out and brought into vineyard so that they too would be members of the vignerons labourers
    These so called “Catholics” would leave out snd build a wall to keep out the marginalised unwanted.
    Pope Francis saw the cry of the ostracised and said” come you also into my vineyard “

    • Avatar Tony Correia says:

      Anne, I agree that some Catholics do “virulently” criticize Pope Francis and that is not right. He is our Holy Father and the vicar of Christ on earth.
      However, if he as a man expresses opinions and ideas contrary to the Deposit of Faith, the Faithful have a right to object with charity.
      Holy Mother Church does call all sinners to repentance. All are welcome and continue to be welcome. But they are called to conversion. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that He did not condemn her but then said, “…go and sin no more…”
      Amoris Leatitia presents very ambiguous language which has already led to allowing persons in the state of adultery to be allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist, which is a grave sin of sacrilege. This is one example of Pope Francis’ teaching which contradicts centuries of doctrine and moral teaching, that greatly troubles faithful Catholics. God bless.

  4. Avatar Ralph says:

    Learning to think critically about information is important. One of the problems with social media and other new media platforms is that anyone can become an expert or authority. I know conspiracy theorists existed before the Internet but the Internet has dramatically enhanced the power and reach of conspiracy theorists. With the Internet you have more access to quality information but you also have a lot of ideological material as well and it tends to be more exciting and emotionally satisfying than more “moderate” sources.

  5. Avatar Guest says:

    My own experience with sedevacantism convinces me that conspiracy theories have a political purpose. The fear they raise convinces you to act in a way you normally wouldn’t. For example, the Son of God Himself tells us to love all people, even those different from our own. Yet fear of invaders/terrorists terrify people into not loving their neighbor, and people even deny the plain words of Christ, trying to find exceptions and loopholes.

  6. Avatar carn says:

    “Those who have fallen prey to them can only exit the vortex by rekindling their faith in the promise that Christ made to Peter: that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. Against all their instincts, they must put their trust in the pope, because they can be assured that any change he brings to the Church and its practices will not lead anyone astray.”

    Did you just claim,

    that in 2000 years the 266 Popes never ever in any way did

    bring any change

    to the Church

    OR

    to its practices

    lead ever even a single one of the billions of catholics living and dying in these 2000 years astray?

    That would be a bold claim.

    One has to just think of Peter himself at some time telling some people that they need get circumcised although there was no need. How do you know that none of them was lead astray to be circumcised although that was a wrong path?

    Also one can think of Pope Urban II; he certainly brought in a change of practices, namely that Popes could call for crusades. Considering the history of the crusades and that JPII offered some apology that some things were less than optimal then, i think it risky to proclaim that no one partaking in these crusades went astray along the way, in which case Pope Urban II introducing the practice of Popes calling for crusades would at least have been one element which probably together with other elements caused that someone to go astray.

    Or in other words:

    I never heard such a drastic interpretation of the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail.

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      Carn, you are misinterpreting what he’s saying. DW’s point is that no one who trusts and follows the pope and his teachings can be led astray.

      Certainly, many Church teachings repel people. The question is whether a Catholic who follows the teachings of the pope can be led (by those teachings) away from the Truth.

      Many who oppose Pope Francis argue that we are morally obligated to reject or disobey his teachings, and claim that following his teachings will lead people to hell.

      • Avatar carn says:

        “DW’s point is that no one who trusts and follows the pope and his teachings can be led astray.”

        I would consider it possible, that some people trusting Pope Urban II and following his words to go on a crusade thereby came into situation that might have been somewhat astray.

        “The question is whether a Catholic who follows the teachings of the pope can be led (by those teachings) away from the Truth.”

        The claim was not only about teachings; there i would not have said a word. But the claim is clearly also about issues which are not necessarily teaching of the Pope.

        E.g. that Pope Francis decided not to wear red shoes and the other stuff when going on the balcony after being elected was a change of practices brought to the Church by the Pope. Yet, this is not in any sense any teaching of the Pope.

        While i guess that change of practice did not lead anyone astray, by claiming that all changes of practice brought to the Church by Popes are somehow covered by the promise to Peter, one – at least in my view – interprets the promise a lot wider than it was interpreted so far.

        Words do matter; it is relevant if one claims teaching of the Pope can lead no one astray or that teaching and all changes to practice brought of the Pope can lead no one astray.

      • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

        I suppose he could have tightened up his language but the meaning was clear. While I don’t speak for DW, what such statements specifically mean are “no one who adheres to the pope’s official teachings on faith and morals can be led astray.”

        If you want to be more pedantic, go ahead, but that’s irrelevant to the discussion.

      • DW Lafferty DW Lafferty says:

        I made that remark in the context of the current debates around Pope Francis, which were helpfully summed up in the recent accusation of heresy. These debates encompass the allegedly heretical propositions implicit in his teaching, but also words and actions that supposedly support these propositions. Criticisms of Pope Francis began as legitimate doubt or confusion and descended into a “hermeneutic of suspicion” which has more recently become a “hermeneutic of conspiracy.” Once someone has become possessed by a hermeneutic of conspiracy, it is nearly impossible to argue them out of it, or for them to argue themselves out of it. They’ve painted themselves into a corner. They must take a leap of faith and learn to trust again. I’m not saying that this applies universally in every situation, or that every decision a pope makes is wise, but nobody can remain in the Church if they think the pope is out to destroy the faith or lead people astray. Accepting, even if through a leap of faith, that Pope Francis is not a destroyer and not dangerously incompetent and misguided, is the first step toward leaving the vortex.

      • Avatar carn says:

        Thanks for the answer.

        “Accepting, even if through a leap of faith, that Pope Francis is … not dangerously incompetent …, is the first step toward leaving the vortex.”

        Then i would have problems leaving any vortex i might be caught in.

        Cause even if i managed in a leap of faith to exclude the possibility of Pope Francis being dangerously incompetent, i would constantly run the risk of reading some words or texts of him, which have a high probability to bring the possibility of incompetence back to my mind.

        Also the semi-official site of my the Church in my home country would be a minefield, cause some texts of theirs would raise the possibility of dangerous incompetence in the hierarchy in Germany, which would reflect back on the Holy Father, since he seems to be quite positive towards part of German hierarchy. Also i should probably skip anything my bishop says for similar reasons.

        So i would not only have to make that leap of faith, but also keep anything innercatholic away from my eyes which happens above my parish priest.

        I do not see currently that God is calling me to do that.

  7. Avatar Frank E Mattimoe says:

    Is Francis being subjected to an unfair media campaign by irresponsible elements of the extreme right as you clearly assert?

    Or is he proving an unprecedentedly ambiguous and thereby unsatisfactory pope?

    My answer is “look at the evidence.”

    Clerical sex-abuse is the single biggest immediate problem he faced on election. “Yesterday,” as I write, he introduced some significant changes. I have not yet read them in details so I will not comment, save to say that 6 years to address such a major scandal is not very impressive. Well not to me.

    In his previous 6 years, he has gone out of his way to downplay homosexuality as an issue here and to replace it with what he calls “clericalism.”

    In the interim, 2 of the 9 cardinals he personally selected to form an inner cabinet have been forced to resign over very closely related issues; Pell and Arrazuriz.

    A further member of the group, its leader, Madariaga, has had multiple accusations of turning a blind eye to homosexual practice in the house where he lives. He has also been the subject of allegations of financial malpractice both in taking money from a local Catholic university and by the widow of a former close friend on a more personal level.

    Pope Francis has been proven wrong on several occasions in this field both over Bishop Barros in Chile whom he defended to the hilt and over Don Mercedes in Italy whom Pope Francis released from a canonical punishment only to have his excessive exercise of mercy thrown back in his face by the priest in question. To mention but 2 of several significant “own goals” in this most serious and sensitive area which was always going to be a major test for him.

    It only takes a moment to state and remember the above.

    Then there are the various US scandals in this field. At the very highest level. With Viganò, a former Nuncio in washington, no less, accusing the Pope of complicity.

    Then there are all those sackings in the Vatican; from Cardinal Müller down.

    The gutting of a large number of Vatican commissions of one sort or another; as though Francis were a US mayor determined to replace all the political opponents whose tenure had just been terminated in the last election. Ignoring the fact that he is boss (sic) not of an american town but of the Church of Christ.

    But that brings us to his explanations of the status of Catholicism within the world we live in.

    Not to mention his use of synods where he has packed the membership to reach the conclusion he wants.

    And that without the unprecedented concerns expressed by a large number of Cardinals over the past 6 years.
    None of which has merited a serious reply from this humble pope. Who is however at pains always to answer the questions of the international press core. No matter how trivial or impertinent the question.

    Then there is his taste for media stunts. As when he “married” i.e. witnessed publicly in accordance with the decrees of the Council of Trent, a Catholic wedding administered by the couple themselves

    Does the above summary prove that Pope Francis is a heretic?

    Patently not.

    Does it prove that he is a very troubling (and troubled?) Pope?

    I submit that it does give strong prima facie evidence to this effect.

    • Avatar Tony Correia says:

      Frank Mittimeo, excellent response and I totally agree with you. God bless you and keep the Faith.

    • DW Lafferty DW Lafferty says:

      Previous popes struggled with the abuse crisis, and Pope Francis is continuing this struggle. JPII and BXVI were criticized and accused of coverup too, but that criticism tended to be from the liberal media or the liberal wing of the Church. For example, they were accused of focusing on punishing doctrinal transgressions while networks of abusers or clericalist criminals like Father Marcial Maciel were running wild. Pope Francis has not been perfect on the abuse issue, but accusations of coverup generally rely on the “hermeneutic of suspicion” or conspiracy that has developed on the right. There is no one magic solution, it’s an incredibly complex and difficult problem, and every pope has their own approach. Clericalism, properly understood, is a major issue and I’m glad Pope Francis is focusing on it. I don’t think he is ignoring the homosexuality issue—he’s just refusing to make it the focus, in order to avoid unjust scapegoatism. Regarding the various sackings, these are entirely within the authority and purview of the pope, and all popes rearrange things to better reflect the goals of their papacy. It’s hard on the egos of those who are demoted or shuffled around, but that has always been the case. Lastly, when it comes to Pope Francis answering his critics, he is under no obligation to do so, especially if he feels he is being trapped or led into debates that will be unproductive or harmful to the Church.

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Frank- You don’t mind if we have a go at your last six years, to see if you ever were misled by friends, or possibly said something that those who dislike you accused you of something you never meant, or ever tried to tackle a major problem and had Monday morning quarterbacks telling us where you went wrong, etc, etc, etc. He is the Vicar of Christ, how in the world you and others justify scrutinizing him the way you do is beyond me. Perhaps, instead, you could spend some time assuming he is teaching the faith and morals that Christ himself promised to protect. You might be surprised what you discover,

  8. Avatar Chris in Maryland says:

    Mr. Lafferty –

    One can take the words and acts of men, say for instance such a man as Godfried Danneels, or Theodore McCarrick, or Pope Francis, as indicators that can be probed when desiring to know the “reality” of our Catholic Church in 2019. And to thes one can take the observations of others about such men, as more evidence to probe for a sense of reality.

    If we try to grasp better Jesus’ declaration about “the Gates of Hell,” we might come to the conclusion that he was not offering consoling assurances that all will be well inside the Church, because nothing fundamentally serious can “compromise it from within.” A very different understanding might emerge that Jesus was encouraging Peter and The Church to “stay of offense” (to make a warfare analogy) by preaching The Gospel in all seasons, and if faithful to its mission, Jesus promises and expects that the Church will be knocking down the gates of Hell.

    On another note, if your observations about a lack of “cleverness” and “coordination” are typical of authentic conspiracies, I am sure that many of “the poor souls” succumbing to “the vortex” might respond that your observation in under-cutting your argument.

    In any case, as long as there are 2 or 3 gathered in his name, there is the Body of Christ, and Jesus is the head of the Body.

    And no matter how embarrassing it feels to be a Catholic right now, we can take solace in recognizing that we have had some really bad, and evil men as pope down through the ages.

    And as we muddle on through this present twilight, Jesus asks every Catholic: “When The Son of Man comes, we he find faith on earth?”

  9. Avatar Frank E Mattimoe says:

    Thank you for replying to my previous post and I apologise for some errors of presentation there.

    To answer your reply, section by section:

    i) “Pope Francis is not the only pope to have been proved inadequate over this vile issue.”

    Absolutely.

    JPII seems to have been incredibly lax over Maciel as you rightly point out. To name but one.

    However the problem for/ with Francis is that his ardent supporters (of which there are many) would have us believe that he is an especially wise, insightful, dynamic, reforming [sic] pope.

    Well not in this area. Or at least, till yesterday, he hasn’t yet been. And indeed his record as I pointed out previously is, how shall I phrase this, far from wonderful.

    ii) Clericalism is real.

    Agreed.

    Though in a church with a priesthood, some degree of clericalism seems inevitable. Well at least to me it does.

    Whereas Pope Francis’s resolute insistence on regularly highlighting this issue seems to be a deliberate manoeuvre to minimise the issue of homosexuality.

    Which latter problem he resolutely refuses to address.

    iii) “Regarding the various sackings, these are entirely within the authority and purview of the pope, and all popes rearrange things to better reflect the goals of their papacy.”

    Here I do not agree at all.

    Can you cite any other modern pope, let’s say since 1958 when J XIII was elected, who has made such wholesale changes in the personnel and in the structures of the Vatican Commissions etc?

    I claim that you cannot.

    iv) “Lastly, when it comes to Pope Francis answering his critics, he is under no obligation to do so……”

    To the best of my knowledge, Pius XII, pope when I was born, never once answered a critic.

    But he too, as best I have learned, never left the Vatican, barely walked in the Vatican Gardens, never once gave a press conference.

    Also, very importantly, he never received a single public criticism from a Cardinal, I would assert.(Which is obviously not to say that he never deserved such, since indeed he did, I believe.)

    Still less detailed and prima facie credible criticism from a fair number of Cardinals. A final figure of “at least a dozen cardinals” who have publicly questioned and criticised Pope Francis, I would say.

    That figure is unprecedented in my lifetime. Perhaps throughout the history of the papacy.

    Whereas Francis travels the world and makes a point of being interviewed whether by the Vatican press pack or by miscellaneous tv interviewers. Not to mention regular sessions with an elderly journalist who do not take notes but who then write up the pope’s remarks as “authorised.”

    In these circumstances, Francis has for me lost the “right to silence” and his deliberate tactic of snubbing the many many Catholics, lay and clerical, wise and foolish, famous and unknown, both of the right and of the left, who criticise him is, for me, gravely mistaken.

  10. Avatar Robert says:

    While I am no theologian I know my catechism and have lived long enough to compare papacies from Pope Pius 12th to the present. While all popes have their faults, I have never seen anything like the faults, weaknesses, ambiguities, and yes, heresy clearly apparent in the current papacy.

    I am grateful that various groups have appealed either to the pope himself or to the Church’s wider leadership for a return to clear, unambiguous teaching. Most of these, if not all, have been very respectful and have been motivated by the need to repair the doctrinal confusion that is tearing the Church apart.

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Robert, if you know your catechism, you might want to read this over again: Part One, Section 2, Ch 3, article 9,

      881 “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

      How can you possibly ignore this? It is the foundation of Catholicism, and without it, there is no Church.

      • Avatar Terry says:

        Obedience, true…but not at the expense of the faith, which is what many will argue that this Pope is compromising. There is a higher authority than the Pope.

  11. Avatar Chris dorf says:

    If you want to see a compendium of an anti Pope Francis person from a blogger’s point of view this site is just wow oh wow.
    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2389530333077823143&postID=2450219148971566375&page=1&token=1557857635802
    If you want to see an exhaustive 1500 pages or so of anti Pope Francis theological arguments just look at the denzinger bergoglio report here:
    https://en-denzingerbergoglio.com/
    I know many older priests that are just getting worn out by this war against Pope Francis