Pope Francis and the civil war in the Church
On August 5, the Italian newspaper Il Foglio published a letter from a group of laypeople addressed to Pope Francis. The letter, elaborating on the title of Andrea Riccardi’s latest book, “La Chiesa brucia,” wanted to highlight a profound distress that is being experienced in the Church. Transformed – say the authors of the letter – into a “field hospital” through the many injuries it has caused. The authors also denounce the failure of the outbound Church.
It is a letter that recalls different situations of opposite sign: from the lack of answers to the cardinals who questioned Pope Francis on Amoris Laetitia to the story of Enzo Bianchi, who had seemed to be one of the Pope’s favorites, passing through the marginalization of many other characters, above all cardinals Pell, Sarah, and Burke.
The letter concludes with a bitter observation: we are faced with a climate “that has become heavy, almost unbreathable,” and “the mother Church seems more and more a stepmother, imposes anathemas, excommunications, commissariats, at a continuous pace.”
The authors of the letter, therefore, ask the Pope to put an end “to this civil war in the Church, as a Father who looks to the good of all his children, and not as the head of a clerical current that seems to want to use its monarchical authority, all the way, often beyond the confines of canon law, to realize a personal ideological agenda.”
These are grave accusations leveled against the Pope. They nevertheless represent a widespread feeling, something that is heard in the corridors. What is striking is that it is a general feeling both among those who differ from Pope Francis and those who have always supported him.
The Pope’s lack of institutional sense, his personalism, and his speeches on social rather than theological-centered issues had given the progressive world hope that Pope Francis would change the Church. But, of course, not everyone has always supported this, and even among the supporters, some occasionally raised polite doubts about the effectiveness of the reforms.
There was no doubt, however, that the Pope embodied the reforms they wanted to be made. In summary: less clericalism, or less centrality of the priesthood; less doctrine, more pragmatism in dialogue; less Christian identity, in favor of a greater adaptation to the world.
Pope Francis did not only disappoint them from a doctrinal point of view, because in the end, the doctrine of the Church has not changed. Pope Francis disappointed them when he showed he didn’t care about any parties involved. The exile imposed on Enzo Bianchi, forced to leave the house he had founded without the possibility of an appeal, was an alarm bell, perhaps definitive. But it wasn’t the only one.
And so, the civil war in the Church has become a concrete reality. The motu proprio Traditions Custodes, which abolishes the liberalization desired by Benedict XVI of the Mass in the ancient rite, has put the debate within the Church back at the center. Two worldviews collide, as always happens when things are particularly important. One of these worldviews is undoubtedly a more secular and secularized vision, the other a more spiritual one. It is a titanic struggle, which can only be resolved with synthesis, certainly not with confrontation.
Incredible but true, John XXIII was looking for a synthesis. And so was Paul VI, who, during the drafting of Humanae Vitae, arrived at the final draft by listening to everyone, without exclusion, trying to incorporate everyone’s thoughts.
John Paul II wanted reconciliation, so much so that even the latae sententiae excommunication of four newly consecrated Lefebvrian bishops without the consent of Rome was only the last recourse, after countless unsuccessful attempts at dialogue.
The same was done with Liberation Theology, which was not condemned in toto but was recognized in some of its positive aspects. This is to give some examples.
Benedict XVI continued along this line. He had done it, for example, precisely on the theme of the Mass with the ancient rite. In practice, the oppositions were disarmed, granting what was lawful to grant, but asking for everything that had to be asked in terms of fidelity.
The approach of Pope Francis is different, on the other hand. For the Pope, it is a question of establishing rules that everyone must follow in the act of centralization that does not seem to align well with the synodality he has preached.
Pope Francis does not want to avoid conflicts or make them useless. On the contrary, he wants to win them. For this, he imposes his will at a certain point, with the means he can, in the way he knows. In this way, the Civil War in the Church has not only begun again but will hardly see an end.
But is this good for the Church? The Catholic Church has never been divided because there has always been plurality within it. However, sometimes there is a lack of that continuity with the Pope that makes Catholics feel pushed aside, marginalized, unable to understand.
The Civil War, in short, is destined to remain unless the Pope lays great bridges of reconciliation. Unless the Pope finally decides to change his approach.
This is a great service to the Church so to expose the dictatorial and uncanonical manner of our chief Pastor. Keep it balanced, and keep it up! “Synodality” involves VOICE, dialogical VOICE, and engagement WITH the Church rather than lording it over the Church, a Church that has breadth and inclusiveness in faithfulness to the Founder, Christ the Lord. Rev Dr P A McGavin, Australia
Luke 22:27 just came to my mind:
“I am among you as one who serves.”
“The Civil War, in short, is destined to remain unless the Pope lays great bridges of reconciliation. Unless the Pope finally decides to change his approach.”
Whilst nothing is impossible to God, on human level, one cannot see any evidence that this could happen. It will be up to the next Pope to build reconciliation within the Church, when the present Vicar of Christ is but an unhappy memory and a model of how NOT to be Vicar of Christ.
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I believe that PF means well but like all of us, he is the product of his environment and experience. His notable shortcoming is the difficulty he has with navigating between religious traditionalists and the neo-modernists who want to infuse secular values into theology and morals. It is simply not possible to use the Greek “Golden Mean” to govern the Church. One thing certain is that this too shall pass.
There is No civil war in the Church. This is another criticism leveled at a pope who carries a heavy cross. He has not, and will not, change any catholic doctrine. He made minor restrictions to the Latin Mass at the REQUEST of several Italian bishops. The latin mass continues in most dioceses. The only conflict in the Church is between radical modernists that want a revolution, and the pharisaical traditionalists who reject the 2nd Vatican Council, and accuse pope Francis of heresy without showing any respect. Our Lord was crucified on the Left and Right hand, this is happening today in his mystical body. It is wise and good to abide in His Sacred Heart (at the center)and engage in silent prayer.
What interpretation of Vatican II are we all suppose to believe and follow? This is the problem. Do we listen to those who actually wrote documents and participated in the Council? Or do we listen to those who were not at the Council, and tell us those who were at the council are interpreting it all wrong? And what Novus Ordo Mass is there? Which of the thousands of different interpretation of the New Mass are to follow? It’s like trying follow a mirage. One person says it’s over there, and another person say it’s somewhere else. If the leaders of the Catholic Church cannot come to any conclusions on the Council, or the Mass, how are the little sheep suppose to figure it all our? This is the main problem, the leaders can’t agree on it. Maybe the ambiguity of the Council is the problem. It decided nothing.
Let us pray fervently for this pope, for the courage of lord cardinals to speak the truth, for the organization of orthodox cardinal electors and their allies, and for the wisdom and tenacity of the next conclave. Let us also pray for the wisdom and tenacity of laity, priests, ordinaries, religious superiors, and canon lawyers in these times.
If I could advise the Holy Father personally by some means and with due indulgence for my defects, this is what I would say. I think Fr. Benedict’s direction on continuity has a deeper aspect and we should be open to it. Which is that of a piety, that ordinarily it is not necessary to be acting in apposition to the times or in a mode that sets apart as distinctive. And that the extraordinary can more often than not be encountered and provided for in the same mien.
That there are some very extraordinary things that shouldn’t be overlooked either -too.
Then, quickly I would tell him, bear with others as you do with me. We react to many things coming at us quickly and do not have the resource or presence of mind to check into all of them. That all the same even if he were to set up the cause of too much adaptations, whether he intended it or it came about by accidents, our Good God will straighten our way in the future; when we will still be praying for him and hoping for his best in the Divine Providence.
The audience I thus got would end quickly in 3 minutes or so and I would kiss the ring and depart.
OK Father, that is 3 strikes from you against the Pope. I don’t think Cardinal Pell would agree with your rash criticism of P Francis.
You could have said 3 hail Mary’s for him instead – I will now…
I was surprised to read the comment “There always has been a plurality in the Church.” I wonder if this is true? If it is true, perhaps that is why doctrine has stayed true and how it’s protected. Lately, it seems to me as if the plurality is of the liberal side. Is this because the hierarchy is predominantly liberal? From my 70 or so years of attending weekly mass, 99% of homilies are non confrontational. Is that a left leaning style? Or are most priests afraid to say anything that would hurt someone’s feelings, or get them in trouble?
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There’s a civil war brewing beause this Pope was elected by European Socialists partial to pedophiles and other leftist ilk.
He is more concerned with his standing with anti-Catholic cosmopolitan elites than he is in standing with LOYAL Catholics.
The Latin Mass is just one issue among many.
Out of duty, not boasting, I pray for the Holy Father daily and it isn’t just 3 Hail Mary’s. It is not possible to travel to see the Pope, but when I pray for him I imagine an invitation to visit could arrive at any time if and when heaven thought it were needed, so that I invest the conviction of my prayers that way. I am content to be satisfied with this because it is all I can do and it is not part of any strife, civil war or hidden or other obstinacy; and I can thank God. I believe I am not alone in this kind of approach to the Holy Father and I am writing to let him know that people try to remain faithful and close for the sake of love and for the Glory of God.
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