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The Rise and Fall of the Humble Pope

Fatima Perspectives #1268

The current pontificate began with a fanfare of praise from the mass media, which were happy to promote the Vatican Press office’s narrative of the “humble Pope”: Look! He paid his own hotel bill!  Look! He took the bus with all the other cardinals! Look! He refuses to live in a “palace” or wear red shoes like those other Popes! Look! He rides around in a Ford Focus, not a fancy car!

After all, this was the same Pope who said “Who am I to judge?” respecting the flagrant homosexual he had made head of his very household, whose familiarity with the new Pontiff was discomfiting, to say the least, as we see in this infamous photograph:

And this was the same Pope who was determined to shatter the Church’s so-called taboos respecting sexual activity outside of marriage by admitting the divorced and “remarried” to Holy Communion, declaring that outrage to be “authentic Magisterium,” while opining that people who merely cohabit have valid “marriages” whereas most Church weddings are invalid; the same Pope who, in all his “humility,” incessantly denounces orthodox Catholics as hypocritical neo-Pharisees, guilty of “Promethean neo-Pelagianism.” And the same Pope who declares capital punishment immoral in every case, flatly contradicting 2,000 years of Church teaching.

But the humble Pope narrative is collapsing as it becomes apparent to more and more Catholics that it is not humility but hubris that motivates Francis’ “dream” of “transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” Nor is it humility that explains his undisguised contempt for practicing Catholics he caricatures as villains who “trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” and whose “supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism…”

At this stage in Francis’ pontificate there are few, if any, soundly orthodox Catholics who are willing to defend the “humble Pope” narrative, which has been buried by his indefensible departures from prior Church teaching and practice and a mountain of scandals, both financial and sexual, among his closest collaborators. Now even once resolutely hyper-papalist sources are adding to a deluge of criticism never seen from the “mainstream” respecting any other Pope, not even during the most turbulent years of the pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II.

Thus, for example, even Church Militant, whose previous position was that no one may criticize Francis publicly, now openly decries “the Pope’s history of surrounding himself with homosexual and homosexualist clerics,” while the organization’s head declares: “He [Francis] should resign” because “In the arena of prudential exercise of his judicial authority, he is helping to erode faith in the church as a divine institution.”  And at First Things, the Editor R.R. Reno is unsparing in his assessment of what Francis has wrought:

“I have the impression that the majority of the cardinals and other churchmen in positions of responsibility are increasingly aware the Francis pontificate is a failure. This judgment need not indicate theological disagreement. Indeed, part of the concern stems from the growing realization that Francis has no theology. (‘Reality is superior to the idea,’ as he puts it.) Authority without principle and rule without law run on intuition and discernment, which means either tyranny (the authority of one man’s intuitions) or anarchy (the authority of everyone’s discernments). Either way, the Church loses her specific gravity, and the world and its principles invade and advance to take territory.”

Francis may cling to the papacy for another ten years, attempting to impose his novelties upon the Church by the naked exercise of raw power. But in one sense, barring a miraculous change of course in the direction of Tradition, this pontificate is already over. The acts of Pope Francis are increasingly a collection of errors a successor will have to undo — probably at the same time Russia is, at long last, consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


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