Pope Francis has a lot of enemies at the gate Western People July 28th, 2020
It’s hard to believe but there are people who argue that the whole COVID-19 crisis isn’t a crisis at all. There’s no coronavirus, no deaths, no need for a vaccine. It’s just a flu. The people who are dying would be dying anyway because of some underlying condition. It’s all a conspiracy put about for XXXXXX reasons.
Depending on the conspirators, you fill in the XXXXXX blank: China taking over the world, heretics taking over the Catholic Church, people with agendas proposing ‘fake news’ or whatever your local conspirator is having himself.
It’s hard to believe because the evidence for it is so obvious: a world-wide pandemic; 15 million confirmed cases and 617,000 deaths. With the worst will in the world and juggling the figures to suggest the best (as Trump does in America) it demands a spectacular leap of faith to conclude that this is not happening at all. Fake news.
All the money being spent to control the virus, all the economies in difficulty as a result, all the excitement about possible vaccines, are all unnecessary because politicians, medical experts and almost everyone else can’t see what’s obvious to the conspiracy theorists.
Of course, there’s no arguing with a conspiracy theorist. They exist in an alternative world, where what makes sense to most people never makes sense to them. And, as Nature abhors a vacuum, television stations, publications and other media move in to create a ‘conspiracy industry’ and to indulge its very strange disciples.
With religion, of course, we’re in even stranger territory. Since Pope Francis was elected pope and has sought to implement the reforms envisaged by the Second Vatican Council, (side-lined so effectively by his predecessors), a lively debate on his unexpected reform programme has spawned a series of theories as to what’s going on and why.
The explanation takes different forms: he’s not the real pope (Benedict is); he’s not like Popes Benedict and John Paul II; he’s an old man who has lost the run of himself; he doesn’t know any better; he’s doing what he’s told by XXXXXX; he’s a communist in league with XXXXXX; and, finally, he’s a heretic.
It’s all nonsense, of course, as most Catholics can see for themselves.
To most people two things are obvious: (i) the documents of the Second Vatican Council – voted through overwhelmingly in a General Council by the pope and bishops of the world-wide Church and thus officially ‘Catholic teaching’ – constitute the officially designated text-book for the Catholic Church into the future; and, (ii), Francis is shaping his reform around them and, it’s clear, has the over-whelming support of Catholics around the world.
But here’s the thing. There is, in fact, a real conspiracy at work here. Those who oppose the Francis reforms (from a range of different perspectives) are clearly organising a campaign to ensure that the next pope is made in their own image and likeness, a Benedict or a John Paul figure rather than another Francis.
No official announcement of the launch of a campaign has been made because unlike a few cardinals who have no problem in criticising Francis, others seem to be skirting the edges of this campaign, furtively (though progressively less furtively) adding their support if not their public voices.
The campaign has two points of convergence: the Vatican and the USA.
Francis has long criticised the culture of ambition and clericalism (or precedence) of the Roman Curia and is taking steps to introduce wide-ranging reforms. He set up a group of eight cardinals to advise him and the word in Rome is that he is about to announce his reforms within a matter of weeks.
The Catholic Church in America, from this side of the Atlantic, often seems to see itself as supporting values that curiously seem out of sync with Christian ideals: wealth as God’s blessing, poverty as the fault of the poor, a culture of violence, a refusal to accept that capital punishment is against Catholic teaching and a worrying level of Catholic support for Trump’s strange and sometimes immoral agenda.
The Vatican/American axis seems to be the fulcrum around which a campaign is in train to ensure that Pope Francis is not succeeded by a like-minded reforming pope. Part of the process is profiling possible cardinal successors, investigating their conservative or liberal credentials and sharing the data with cardinal-voters.
Part of the problem for this group is that they have little purchase on either reality or substance.
Their leaders are not widely respected.
Archbishop Vigano regularly excoriates Francis in public pronouncements (as when he released the letter attempted to embarrass Francis on the flight home from Ireland last year) and those in the know say he is unhappy that he hasn’t made more progress in the Church. Cardinal Muller‘s term as the head of an important Vatican congregation wasn’t renewed by Francis.
Cardinal Sarah seems out of touch with the realities of church life (as evidenced by his efforts to get priests to say Mass facing east).
Cardinal Dolan upset a lot of people by his recent fawning admiration for the ‘leadership of President Trump’.
The ‘Catholic television network, EWTN, in a recent interview with Trump, failed to clarify the record when Trump said that a recent letter of support from Vigano was an endorsement from the Catholic Church! And a representative of Fox News, a great supporter of Trump’s ‘fake news’ nonsense, signed a recent letter of Vigano supporters.
When Benedict was pope, cardinals were falling over themselves hanging on to his every word, delivering reprimands to those who questioned papal tactics and giving sermonettes on loyalty and obedience to the pope. Now with a pope singing from a different hymn-sheet, for some of his cardinals loyalty and obedience seem to be less important.
Along the lines of the old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you, Francis clearly believes that even though his critics dishonour him in their disloyalty and disobedience, he insists on honouring them with the courtesy of his silence.