The Spanish-language news outlet Religion Digital published an interview this week with Cardinal Baltazar Porras, who had just been named Archbishop of Caracas earlier that day. Named a Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, the 78-year-old prelate had been the archbishop of Mérida since 1991, but served as the apostolic administrator of Caracas beginning in 2018. He was not formally appointed as archbishop in Caracas due to a stalemate between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the Vatican over the appointment. This interview on the state of the Church and the recent Vatican controversies is interesting because it provides the perspective of a Latin American cardinal and a longtime collaborator of Pope Francis. Given the recent attacks by Cardinals Pell and Müller on the pope and the synod, as well as the book by Archbishop Georg Gänswein and the anti-papal interview with Archbishop Charles Chaput, it is refreshing to see a level-headed and well-informed cardinal from another part of the world speak directly to their scandalous behavior and paint a clearer picture of the situation in Rome.
Since it does not appear in English elsewhere, here is an abridged translation of the interview:
Q: Have you read Georg Gänswein’s book and what do you think of it?
Porras: To announce the publication of this book amidst the funeral planning denotes a lack, first, of civility; second, of failure to fulfill the secretarial function, which, as its very name indicates, is obliged to be discreet and to keep confidentiality; third, in another context, the differences that were pointed out between the two Popes can be interpreted in an appropriate way, it is reasonable to have differences, which does not necessarily indicate a conflict; fourth, there is an absolute lack of the most basic discernment, since he is a servant of the Church and is not a servant of a particular person. And it indicates infidelity, since some expressions can be classified as contrary to the current Pontiff.
Q: What about the memorandum of the late Cardinal Pell? What do you think he was looking for by publishing those writings under a pseudonym?
Porras: Cardinal Pell’s memorandum, like Cardinal Müller’s book, not to mention others, is an indication that they believe themselves to be holders of the truth, above good and evil, without accepting any argumentation against what they think. It is a bad example and in this case, writing under a pseudonym, has no purpose other than to make the person spoken about look bad. May he rest in peace.
Q: Some speak of a sort of plot against Pope Francis to secure his resignation as soon as possible. Is the hypothesis plausible?
Porras: It is what a few people want, because they think that Benedict should not have set such an example… They have no other intention but to find a new pope who will reverse the reform [of Pope Francis], which seeks only to be faithful to Vatican II and to the demands of today’s world.
Q: Do you think that Francis is becoming more and more isolated in the Vatican? Are the critics growing, but the supporters are increasing?
Porras: That is the perception they want to impose. The powerful networks have enormous resources, but the weakness and fragility of which Jesus — child, adolescent, and adult — gave us an example until the cross, but on the way to the resurrection, is more powerful. Like the disciples of Emmaus, let us feel the warmth of the Lord’s nearness and let us return to Jerusalem to announce that in Peter’s successor is the loving hand of the Lord.
Q: How do you think all these criticisms, attacks and betrayals affect the Pope’s morale?
Porras: The strong Jesuit spirituality of Pope Bergoglio is the best shield and martyrial witness that Francis gives us, without bitterness and with the joy and hope that gives the grace of state.
Pope Francis, in a merciful spirit, does not close the doors to his critics, on the contrary, I know that he calls them or interviews them privately. His rule is not to use “authority”, for that would be to fall into the usual ‘I’m the one in charge, you do what I say’. He prefers the path of dialogue, of encounter, to understand that it is about a higher good and not a personal altercation.
Q: In his writings, Cardinal Pell lashes out against the Synod on Synodality, which he calls a “toxic nightmare.” Is it possible that this important assembly could become the latest hobby horse against its great proponent, Pope Bergoglio?
Porras: Whoever has not assimilated the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes, mainly, is not capable of understanding the evolution of communion and participation, of walking together, in which the wheat grows together with the weeds, but should not be uprooted, but should form and mature an authentic spirituality, which involves careful, slow discernment, which seeks in the signs of the times to give reason for the signs of God, of the Gospel of Jesus.
Q: There is talk of a possible schism… Is it that serious?
Porras: Patience and constancy can do everything, the great mystics tell us. To accompany, to dialogue, to mature criteria, to correct and, with humility, to return to the fold is the task of every believer in every time and even more so in ours, in which the compass of the transcendent is obscured. Authority proposes, not imposes, so that faith may grow in the hope of the unseen, but with the direction of following the Lord Jesus.
Image: Cardinal Baltazar Porras. By Romanuspontifex – https://www.flickr.com/photos/193775089@N04/51779409255/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120205361
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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.