The presentation of the document “The Bishop of Rome” on June 13 was occasion for a a rare exercise in parrhesia (candor) when Cardinal Kurt Koch responded to a question about the ecumenical impact of Fiducia Supplicans. It was a reasonable question, since the Coptic Orthodox Church decided to suspend theological dialogue over the document.

That fact alone was potentially very telling, since dialogue between the Coptic Orthodox and the Catholic Church was going very well until it wasn’t. The leader of the Copts, Pope Tawadros of Alexandria, had even appeared alongside Pope Francis at a general audience while visiting – among other things – for the historic recording of the Coptic martyrs of Libya in the Roman martyrology.

When Cardinal Koch was asked about this, the response was that “Fiducia Supplicans has also raised concerns within the Catholic Church.” Koch noted, “It had never happened that all of Africa stood against a document.” Then he said that the Coptic co-president of the Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Commission had immediately asked for clarification and that he was not satisfied with Cardinal Fernandez’s written clarifications. Cardinal Fernandez then went to Egypt, but there still needs to be news of a resumption of theological dialogue.

Why are Koch’s words a rare exercise in parrhesia? Because they were candid, they pointed the finger at an internal problem of the Church and of document structuring; they did not hide the problems. And it is, after all, rare at a time when the Pontificate of Pope Francis is defined through narrative.

What Koch said about Fiducia Supplicans rather belies the official narrative that resistance to Pope Francis exists only within the Catholic Church. Above all, it breaks a climate that wants to pretend everything is alright when it’s not.

Pope Francis decides, and he does so autonomously, which is legitimate for a Pope. However, it is not certain that these decisions will be well received, and large crowds will not change the internal situation.

In some ways, Cardinal Koch also gives reason to think. Different interpretations are needed to understand the pontificate. Maybe there’s something we missed.

Ultimately, this pontificate will probably be characterized between what was before Fiducia Supplicans and what was after. The question is decisive because, on the one hand, there is this decision to open to all – todos!todos! todos! – as Pope Francis says; on the other, there is the apparent contradiction of a Pope who wants to welcome but who then does not fail to use expressions that are not in keeping with papal style to talk about the problem of homosexuals in the clergy.

Not only did Pope Francis reportedly use a nasty Italian word, frociaggine, behind closed doors during the meeting with the bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference, but he did it again when meeting the priests ordained between 39 and 11 years ago last June 12 at the Pontifical Salesian University.

Again, the discussion should have been behind closed doors. But how do you keep a speech confidential to more than 150 people?

The point is that on June 14, Pope Francis received Father James Martin and – in the words of the Jesuit himself – confirmed him in the ministry for LGBTQ+ people, praising his openness.

Obviously, it is easy to interpret: Pope Francis does not close the doors of pastoral care; he wants everyone to be welcomed. At the same time, he closes the doors of the seminaries, confirming a prudential line desired by previous Popes. Yet all this does not coincide with the violence and brutality of the language used by Pope Francis.

So, how do you interpret Pope Francis?

The Pope is, first of all, a builder of narratives. They say that when he learned of two journalists preparing a book about his years in “exile” in Cordoba, central Argentina, Pope Francis called them and offered them material and background – the journalists said he was open to respond to a series of 60 questions, and somehow the book is considered as “approved” by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis knows that opening seminars to everyone would be considered problematic by many. But he also knows that not showing signs of openness to the LGBT community would effectively burn the capital gained with the “Who am I to judge?” episode from 2013, on which his pontificate has traded – fairly or unfairly – for more than a decade.

In short, Pope Francis acts pragmatically, sometimes contradicting himself but always seeking the best for the narrative.

The second key to interpretation is that—despite the request for a change in the Church’s mentality—Pope Francis is a Pope of the ego.

The Pope never talks about studies, discussions, or conversations that particularly affected him. Pope Francis says what he thinks and repeats it endlessly, and his thoughts become the line of interpretation.

Pope Francis is doing something completely legitimate. The men of the Church take from the papal magisterium and develop their teachings, starting from it and trying to enhance it.

However, the fact that Pope Francis makes the ego predominate has its drawbacks.

Let’s take ecclesial movements. Another Pope would have made a very nuanced speech, underlining the pros and cons of situations and trying to give direction without personally intervening. In the meeting with the moderators of the ecclesial movements on June 13, Pope Francis said in a brutal manner that “a closed movement is not ecclesial; it must be closed.” The Pope did not consider that this could be read as an indictment of the movements. He wanted to give a signal.

The third key to interpretation is that Pope Francis no longer has filters and so his collaborators have more freedom than before. The Pope does not hesitate to intervene in debates when necessary but tends to stay on the sidelines. He is a man, as the writer Borges, that the Pope loves so much would say, solitary and final.

But with all this centralization, this spoken but not practiced synodality, how do they keep Pope Francis in contact with people? How much, however, did a court surround him, filter him, give directions, and decide the lives and deaths of the people around him?

These vital questions lead to the pontificate being read by different eyes. After all, many of the Vatican’s great human resources have decided to leave the Vatican, and this is a sign that should be understood.

However, no one dares to talk about this situation openly.

Nobody within the papal favor, that is, except Cardinal Koch. And he made it possible to open the treasure chest of secrets of this pontificate, in which everyone will claim the right to have obtained something. It will be interesting.


One Response to Pope Francis, another key to understanding

  1. Australia scrive:

    You write : <>
    A point to say the least, debatable, because it has been one long, frightful, demoralising train-wreck. A narcissist who talk from both sides of his mouth, whilst shuffling the cards under the table.
    As for me, the “Pachamama” incident was THE low-point amongst many disedifying moments; for how do you get around the commandment : “Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.” ?

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