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The ‘hands-on’ Pontiff, and what that implies

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 15, 2018

In an interesting Crux column, John Allen argues that Pope Francis is a remarkably “hands-on” Pontiff, who keeps himself extremely well informed about what is happening in the universal Church and especially inside the Vatican walls. To illustrate his point, Allen cites a revealing story about a Vatican official who inquired about a guest at a papal audience, and within hours received a call from the Holy Father himself—who had heard about his inquiries.

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As Allen acknowledges, this sort of incident can be interpreted in radically different ways. The Pope’s enthusiastic supporters conclude that he is remarkably conscientious and careful of details; his critics say that he worries too much about office gossip. Allen concludes, however: “What nobody disputes is the fact of the situation, which is that Francis just flat-out knows what’s going on.”

Allen goes on to draw an important inference. In the past, critics of Vatican policy have frequently blamed those policies on the people surrounding the Pontiff, hinting that if the Pope himself knew what was happening, he would set things right. That line of reasoning may or may not have explained some of the problems of past papacies, Allen observes. With Pope Francis, that argument doesn’t fly.

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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