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A Failing Papacy

photo: thegreatcourses.com

The current regime in Rome will damage the Catholic Church. Pope Francis combines laxity and ruthlessness. His style is casual and approachable; his church politics are cold and cunning. There are leading themes in this pontificate—mercy, accompaniment, peripheries, and so forth—but no theological framework. He is a verbal semi-automatic weapon, squeezing off rounds of barbed remarks, spiritual aperçus, and earthy asides (coprophagia!). This has created a confusing, even dysfunctional atmosphere that will become intolerable, if it hasn’t already.

Every pope sets a particular tone, a party line. Benedict made no secret of his desire for the Church to recover the dignity and transcendent orientation of the old ways of worship. But he was measured and never denounced or insulted those who prefer guitars and casual liturgies. St. John Paul II’s great intellectual project was to redeem the promise of mid-century Catholicism’s turn toward cooperation with secular humanism. He sought to fuse the modern turn to the subject and freedom with a full-spectrum affirmation of the doctrinal tradition. One can judge his project a success or a failure, but it is beyond dispute that his intention was to span the gap between today’s individual-oriented ethos and Catholicism’s theocentrism.

Pope Francis, by contrast, is quick to denounce, widening gaps rather than closing them. More often than not, he targets the core Catholic faithful. He regularly attacks “mummified” Christians and “rosary counters.” On many occasions, Francis has singled out doctrinally orthodox priests for ridicule. The same holds for those who favor the Latin Mass, whom he derides as suffering from a “rigidity” born of “insecurity.” Early in his pontificate, his Christmas sermon to the curia recited a litany of condemnations.

Continue reading at First Things.