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A French Vatican observer ponders the ‘end of the regime’

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 16, 2022

My old friend Jean-Marie Guénois, the religion editor of Le Figaro, published a typically insightful appraisal of this pontificate last week, with the headline: “Challenged, deaf to criticism: the solitary ‘end of the regime’ for Pope Francis.” The Rorate Caeli site has a fine translation, but if you read French I strongly recommend the original, to capture the subtleties of Jean-Marie’s thoughts (not to mention the elegance of his prose style).

Among the noteworthy observations:

  • “Visions of the Church are opposed to each other and openly fight each other under this pontificate,” Guénois remarks. That in itself is not news; we all know that this is a controversial pontificate. But pause for a moment, and reflect on the fact that factions are openly fighting now, whereas in the past there has always been at least a polite façade of consensus. It is remarkable that the Pope’s critics no longer hesitate to say that he is undermining the faith, and still more remarkable that he returns fire, repeatedly blasting those critics in his public speeches.
  • The Pope’s health has become an issue. While doctors are reasonably confident that they can alleviate the debilitating pain in his knee, Guénois gives us reason to believe that there is more to the problem. Pope Francis has limped for years, and sciatica in his hip has caused him to compensate by changing his stride, aggravating an inflammation of his knee ligaments. The pain became excruciating, and the Pope resisted the use of crutches or a wheelchair. But Guénois reports: “The idea of surgery was considered, but it seemed too risky.” Why? Knee surgery would not ordinarily be “too risky” for a healthy patient, and Pope Francis had a more invasive sort of surgery—the removal of a foot of intestine—just last summer. But perhaps that is the point. Guénois reports: “The Vatican is buzzing with the most alarming rumors” about the surgery last July, from which the Pontiff recovered slowly. The rumors will continue to spread, unless or until a full medical report is issued.
  • While he speaks often about collegial governance, Pope Francis continues to make decisions without consulting his own advisers. When he made several provocative comments about the war in Ukraine, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, he caught his top diplomats by surprise. A draft of the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, restructuring the Roman Curia, had been on the papal desk for months, yet when he issued the document, Guénois tells us, “it was a text full of errors and substantive mistakes that was published, much to the dismay of Vatican lawyers. Even the Vatican communications department was caught off guard.”
  • And while he admonishes others to show mercy, to reach out and “accompany” those who disagree, Pope Francis shows no such patience to traditionalist Catholics. When a group of thirty French women, mothers of traditionalist priests, walked to Rome, covering nearly 1,000 miles, to attend a papal audience and plead for the continued use of the Latin liturgy, the Pope allowed just one of them to speak with him, for one minute.

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: aitch-em - May. 21, 2022 7:04 PM ET USA

    "...reflect on the fact that factions are openly fighting now, whereas in the past there has always been at least a polite façade of consensus." Wait, politely *pretending* we all agreed was better? I'm not saying there are no legitimate criticisms of this pontificate. Certainly, there are. But I'm just thinking maybe we really do need to fight it out, and I'm personally no promoter of living lies, even "polite" ones. The truth really does set us free.

  • Posted by: ewaughok - May. 20, 2022 8:15 PM ET USA

    If only it would end! As Dr Mirus always says “oh Lord, how long? “

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - May. 17, 2022 11:00 AM ET USA

    Is it too early for you to write a sequel to "Lost Shepherd"? It isn't so late that I can't more heartily recommend it all the readers of Catholic Culture.

  • Posted by: feedback - May. 17, 2022 10:47 AM ET USA

    There are prelates for whom this messy papacy is the best thing since sliced bread. The enemies of the Church, who have always attacked the Pope and the Vatican, seem quite content with Francis.

  • Posted by: frjt - May. 16, 2022 10:14 PM ET USA

    Dominus flevit!