ELEISON COMMENTS DCCLXXXI (July 2, 2022) : FRANCIS FIGHTS ON
Here follows the summary of a recent article by a French journalist, Jean-Marie Guénois of Le Figaro in Paris, France. He paints a persuasive picture, alas, of how Pope Francis is not at all changing course.
Rome is in turmoil. A climate of high-tension reigns in the Holy See, in contrast to the image of good will conveyed to the world. The Roman Curia, once feared, is regularly bypassed by Francis. In 2013 Francis launched a vast reform of the Curia which will take effect at Pentecost this year, when the new Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium comes into force.
The most important change places all the ministries of the Roman Curia on the same level. This means an abolition of hierarchies within the Vatican ministries. All are considered equal. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was the highest ministry in dignity and importance, is relegated to a position behind that of the dicastery of Evangelization and just before a new dicastery dedicated to charity and humanitarian action. This is the Pope’s new spirit : before talking about doctrine, the Church must be “pastoral” -like a shepherd caring for his flock, and not like a teacher of virtue correcting his students.
Another key point, imposed by the Pope, is the fact that a lay person, male or female, can now lead a Vatican ministry. This office was previously reserved for bishops and cardinals, for fundamental theological reasons related to the very constitution of the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Constitution also promotes decentralization. The Vatican remains the Vatican, but it is at the service of the Episcopal Conferences, the national structures of the Church in the world, and no longer stands over them. Except for questions of “doctrine, discipline or the communion of the Church”, the Episcopal Conferences will be able to decide on local matters without referring to Rome.
Francis sums up his reform as “the synodal spirit”. This is a “democratic” and “collective” spirit inspired by the governance of the Orthodox and Protestant churches. Francis wants to instil this spirit at all levels of the Catholic Church. To this end, a special Synod on “synodality” has been launched which will take place in all dioceses in 2022. Francis has appointed the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Hollerich, to the key position of Reporter of the next Roman synod on “synodality”. Hollerich, a Jesuit, has repeatedly spoken out in favour of a change in the Church’s discourse on homosexuality, stating that “the positions of the Church on the sinfulness of homosexual relationships are wrong.”
The Pope confided to Slovak Jesuits at a recent meeting in Bratislava that he was “suffering” at seeing the “ideology of going backwards” in the Church. It was the fight against this “ideology of going backwards” that also motivated his decision to put a regulatory stop to the development of parishes according to the Tridentine rite. “I will continue in this way,” he told the Jesuits, as he spoke out against young priests who, “as soon as they are ordained,” ask the bishop’s permission “to celebrate in Latin.” They must be made to “come down to earth.”
The lists of papabili are beginning to circulate in Rome. They are only speculation. They have never contributed to the election of a pope. However, one thing is certain. With the next batch of Cardinals that Francis will name, this Pope will have chosen two-thirds of the Cardinals in the next Conclave. That is the majority needed to elect a successor. Francis is controlling everything, down to the last detail.
Like it or not, the Church still comes through Rome.
Faith lacking there can only make us groan.