Perhaps the biggest problem with the profile of the next Pope provided by Demos II is that it seems to be part of a disembodied world. Just as Pope Francis is elusive in his decisions, Demos becomes less concrete when he – and the debate he is trying to steer – should be concrete.

The anonymous cardinal who styles himself Demos II is afraid of coming out into the open, despite or perhaps because he expresses views shared by many in the Sacred College. That tells us much about the times, perhaps, but it leaves a question: Who is Demos II?

Well, Well, a document signed by Demos circulated among the cardinals in 2022, which highlighted the critical issues of the current pontificate in an effort to give the cardinals a basis for discussion. It turned out that Demos was none other than Cardinal George Pell, as Sandro Magister later revealed after the Australian cardinal’s sudden death.

On 29 February, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana published a new document written by a cardinal who calls himself Demos II, which it says is the expression of many in the Sacred College and outside, grappling with the need to photograph today’s reality to understand what the future of the pontificate will be like. Taking that at face value, then, Demos II is a cardinal with his finger on the pulse of the College.

What does Demos II say?

Demos II is a short document that asks to reaffirm the truths of faith and doctrine that have been adulterated with deleterious notions of compassion, to recover a hermeneutic of continuity, and to implement true collegiality in decisions.

Demos II complains that the Pope has often legislated by motu proprio and that the cardinals have rarely been able to discuss matters of a general nature together. The result is that a future conclave will be reached without the cardinals knowing who sits next to them, with all the difficulties that the election of a new pontiff implies in this case.

They are all widely debated themes, put down in black and white and in an authoritative, doctrinally impeccable form, demonstrating that these are shared themes.

The reason why documents like those of Demos I and Demos II come out at all is easy to understand. The cardinals were burned by the experience of Pope Francis, elected in an emergency, on the wave of emotion given by an unprecedented resignation and media pressure, with the desire to boost the narrative of the Church. The choice of Pope Francis was apt to give the Church some breathing space, to allow the Church to gain some ground in public opinion.

The cardinals wanted someone who would implement structural, but not revolutionary, reforms; a candidate to put the government and the image of the Church back on track, first of all.

Francis, however, has interpreted his reform mandate in an entirely personal way, just as his government has been personal so far. He brought his spirit and his ideas but imposed them with force, often intervening personally in matters where he could have not intervened (such as the reform of the Order of Malta). Francis created a clear break between the former Church and the Later Church. Francis divided, caused discussion, and expressed himself in that authoritarian manner that Demos II speaks of.

Therefore, these documents are a necessary first piece of information, a sort of direction for the debate that will take place in the general congregations or in the pre-conclave meetings. Why are these documents needed?

First of all, those who write them fear the discussions will be manipulated. Pope Francis emerged almost immediately as a strong candidate who also attracted the cardinals of North America in terms of personality and geographical area. Not all of the North American cardinals liked him, but many did. After eleven years of pontificate, the desire not to repeat history – or the mistake, as some call it – is evident.

There is a fear that Pope Francis will change the rules of the conclave, above all that he will change the rules of discussions in the general congregation, cutting out the cardinals who will not be able to vote in the conclave and perhaps asking that the cardinals gather in groups directed by a moderator.

This document serves to overcome any possible orientation of the Conclave by Pope Francis’ “guardians of the revolution.”

Finally, there is disappointment, and it is a disappointment that arises above all in the Anglo-Saxon world. Demos was Cardinal Pell, and Demos II (not surprisingly, from his name is in continuity with the previous document) seems to come from the same Anglo-Saxon environment.

This mentality permeates the text; it goes so far as to ask for a new organization and true transparency for finances; it asks for a Papacy less involved in international travel and more committed to putting the government and finances of the Church in order. The Church, the document underlines, is neither a democracy nor an autocracy; she cannot be read with sociological but divine criteria.

Still, the document appears to focus on matters for specialists. It is true that the conclave would be something for specialists; therefore, it should not be an inappropriate text for those who read it. Yet, scrolling through the text, something seems to be missing.

At this point, we realize that the randomness of Francis’ government is countered with a different randomness. Demos II offers what sound and perhaps appear to be concrete examples and concrete choices: clarity in doctrine, to name one.

Nevertheless, Demos II’s profile seems detached from reality.

Demos II asks the Pope to travel less, for example, or to start again from the hermeneutics of continuity and the theology of the body. From a certain point of view, it is easy enough to get behind those sorts of proposals.

Then, however, one wonders whether a now global and globalized pontificate can do without travel to govern the Church? Whether this government of the Church, always controlled, is no different from that of Francis?

If talking about the theology of the body is not reductive —and it is true that we also talk about grace, about Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, about doctrine as a help for the faithful — the problem now lies nonetheless in the proclamation.

The real question is whether such a text is not defeatist and whether, instead of a harsh, specialistic, detailed, and casuistic analysis, a text that looked positively at the future, at reconstruction, at the possibility of the Church would not have been better. Not to deny the existing problems but to overcome them, look beyond, and begin rebuilding.

When the text talks about the reorganization of the Church, it uses the same terminology as Pope Francis, the same social terminology, I dare say, only seen from the opposite perspective. They are two worlds that do not meet, yet they are two worlds present and alive in the Church, and both must be reconciled in some way.

So, who should be the next Pope?

A man of faith, without a shadow of a doubt. A man who believes in Jesus Christ and his saving presence. May he put the proclamation of the Gospel first. Let him be someone who does not consider the past as something just to be thrown away in the name of a new world, but who knows how to make the best of all the experiences of the Church?

Even the cardinals who will meet in the conclave will probably look at positive announcements rather than negative ones. They will try to add rather than subtract. Perhaps they will look first to the one who will demonstrate the charisma to overcome every practical rant with a good dose of faith and conscience.

In the final analysis, Demos II has only highlighted what many attentive observers of the pontificate have highlighted for some time. At the same time, however, the document should not influence the next conclave too much.

Next one, whenever it will take place, will probably be a conclave of surprises.


6 Responses to Pope Francis and the Pope to come

  1. [...] Gagliarducciwww.mondayvatican.com4 mars [...]

  2. James SCOTT scrive:

    This text has a major failing, unrelated to the analysis of the content of the document in question.

    It does not criticise the fact that DemosII calls himself DemosII; a necessary criticism based, not on the choice of a classical Latin allusion of greater or lesser erudition by Cardinal Pell (a prelate whose ministry in Australia, I for one, found less than exemplary/ inspiring) but rather on the issue of anonymity.

    The next conclave seems likely to be in less than 5 years time; it may even become necessary before this post is eventually put on display. It may also, more improbably, be more than 5 years away.

    (I by all accounts may very well not live to see that conclave.)

    The idea, explicit in the option for anonymity, that only after Pope Francis is dead (and buried[?]) can these issues be addressed openly is surely mistaken. Badly mistaken.

    Given the iron hand of the current Pontiff who has resolutely refused to allow any meaningful meeting of the current 129 Cardinal-electors for the next conclave, even if Pope Francis sees fit not to interfere in the actual structure, which on past form is not a bet which any Catholic would accept, the conclave seems destined to be, at best, a chaotic assembly.

    At worst ‘a pig-circus.’ Of which Catholics have already suffered not a few organised by Pope Francis.

    The idea that Cardinals can begin to meet/ discuss/ debate these crucial issues of faith and morals subsequent to that death with the election itself, using 2005 as a template, beginning 16 days after the death of Pope Francis [since resignation is, for him, evidently quite unthinkable] strikes me as ridiculous.

    Only if Cardinals are willing now to set out boldly and publicly, in manifest social defiance of an unstated obligation of silence which The Vatican seems determined to enforce unilaterally, can Catholics view the coming Conclave with equanimity.

    The role of the Holy Spirit in this?

    In the light of the depraved hypocrisy regarding clerical sexual abuse which has been the hallmark of the current papacy, I leave that vital parameter to those more qualified than myself in such matters.

  3. [...] in Rome, there’s been some speculation that the memo’s author, like that of the original Demos memo, comes from the Anglo-Saxon [...]

  4. [...] in Rome, there’s been some speculation that the memo’s author, like that of the original Demos memo, comes from the Anglo-Saxon [...]

  5. william bill scrive:

    I have not read Demos II, so I am not commenting on the document, but only on the author guarding his anonymity. There could be good reasons for his choice in this regard, the same as there might have been when Cardinal Pell made the same decision.

    Maybe, whoever Demos II is, he does not want to become personally involved in public controversy. Perhaps he is choosing to communicate with fellow cardinals, not with anyone else as such. If so, that seems right and proper. The choice of the next pope, or any pope for that matter, is not a public election: the Cardinals alone will be the electors.

    So, the conversation is between them, and does not have to engage the rest of us directly. Indirectly, yes, for because it is for the good of the whole flock that the Chief Shepherd is elected. He is to serve us all.

    On the assumption that Demos II sent his letter to all the Cardinals, it can be presumed he does not want to be identified as belonging to a faction, or some kind of lobby group, within the college, nor does he want to be identified with one party rather than another. We are surely permitted to believe that he simply wants to get a conversation going, moreover in a way – let us presume – in which all the members of the College can freely participate.

    I cannot say for sure that that is what Demos II is doing, but it is surely a possibility. If so, there would be nothing wrong with it. Why should we think the worst, or attribute devious motives, when the contrary and the best remain a real possibility?

    I also do not know who leaked the document to the press, but while it could have been any one of the cardinals who received it, it could also conceivably have been Demos II himself. If the latter turns out to be the case, although it is not at all sure that it will, why would he have done that, especially in view of what I have said above? It could be that putting the letter into the public domain, even in this surreptitious way, was intended to initiate some kind of discussion among the faithful. Any Cardinal worth his salt, and taking his responsibilities seriously, should have his ears to the ground, to hear what all kinds of other people may be saying or thinking about the present papacy and about the kind of papacy they are hoping for next, once the current one is over.

    As future electors, Cardinals have to be thinking of the good of the whole church. This will mean trying to pick out the candidate best equipped to strengthen his fellow bishops and all of us, in our life of faith. The whole crew is affected by the steersman, and the Pope has an explicit responsibility to steer the ship forward in a way that will avoid shipwreck, striking a clear path through the rocks on either side of it.

    We need a Pope who cares tenderly for the unity of the Lord’s Church, in the service of the maintenance and deepening of her holiness, catholicity and apostolicity, steering her forward in the midst of the vicissitudes and possibilities and openings of our times.

  6. James Scott scrive:

    “Why should we think the worst, or attribute devious motives, when the contrary and the best remain a real possibility?”

    In that I am the one who criticised the cardinal’s use of a nom-de-plume, I will reply:

    i) Nowhere did I attribute ‘devious motives’ to the decision. Though I did perhaps, implicitly if not explicitly, imply lack of courage.

    ii) Your many reflections, whilst broadly valid, fail, in my opinion to reflect the current disastrous situation adequately.

    A situation where, to deal with only one of many strands of papal inadequacy, after decades of appalling cases of sexual abuse by clerics of every stripe we now have a pope who has no compunction in showing near boundless ‘mercy’ to such people thereby spurning the concept of justice for their victims.

    In that context, the article above and many many weekly articles previously have highlighted a pontificate, that of Pope Francis, which is at best seriously dysfunctional. very seriously.

    My criticisms of the choice of anonymity were based on the idea that the current pontificate has hugely damaged the Church and that in these circumstances, candour and courage rather than discretion must be the order of the day.

    That requires, in my opinion, the use of the cardinal’s name.

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