Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Endgame for a papacy of contradictions

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 26, 2024

Two important pieces appeared online over the past weekend. Each one summarized a major difficulty facing Pope Francis. Taken together these two short essays convey the impression that the contradictions of this pontificate may be reaching a critical mass; the Pope’s credibility is tottering.

Dead Synodality, by Father Raymond de Souza, appearing on The Catholic Thing, is a sweeping tour of the horizon, touching on the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles, the sacrilegious ceremony in St. Patrick’s cathedral, and fitting these episodes into the broader discussion of “synodality.” Along the way Father de Souza has some withering comments on Father Martin, Cardinal McElroy, and Cardinal Fernandez.

But the high point of the article may be the observation that for all the talk about synodality and consultation, the Vatican has shown very little interest in actually consulting with the world’s bishops. Take Fiducia Supplicans, for instance: a document released without any prior notice. The question of same-sex unions had been discussed at the October 2023 meeting of the Synod, but the directive that suddenly appeared in December bore no relation to that discussion. Father de Souza predicts: “The super-consultative synodal process will never recover.”

Not that the process actually was super-consultative. Father de Souza reports: “The were embarrassed last year when it turned out that they forgot to invite any parish priests to the October assembly. They won’t be invited this year either…”

Nor was the process open and transparent; reporting on the Synod discussions was severely limited, with the organizers carefully parceling out information and controlling the spin. Father de Souza concludes: “The rickety ship Synodality has been taking on water.”

Pope Francis’s “all-out battle” against clerical abuse has been a failure announces Christopher Altieri in Catholic World Report. Here too the papal rhetoric contrasts sharply with papal policies, and Altieri runs through the long list of cases in which the Pontiff has protected abusers and cold-shouldered their accusers. (There are helpful links for those who do not remember the episodes.)

But what of the perception (helpfully perpetuated by the mainstream media) that Pope Francis has been a reformer, dedicated to transparency and accountability? It is a myth, Altieri demonstrates. “He has issued paper reforms—including one major piece of procedural legislation—and refused to use them except very sparingly, selectively, and never transparently.”

Altieri finds a single quote from the Pontiff that crystalizes the problem:

”Accountability” under Pope Francis finds its most eloquent expression in his remark to the Associated Press about the impossibly sordid matter of Fr. Marko Rupnik: “I had nothing to do with this.”

But of course the Pope’s interventions in the Rupnik case have everything to do with the scandal. The reforms are on paper—and paper thin. The corruption is much deeper.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: ewaughok - Mar. 28, 2024 4:24 PM ET USA

    A good roundup, Mr Lawler, of the recent unremitting slide of Bergoglio’s term on the throne of St Peter. The honest conclusions that should be drawn from these facts can’t be expressed here, since they go into questions that only the future will decide, and might seem unfitting to draw while he is still the Supreme pontiff …

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Feb. 27, 2024 3:50 AM ET USA

    Nice to see the omerta cracking, but the capo di tutti capi has his methods.