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Is Pope Francis purging conservative prelates?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 29, 2015

Many traditionalist Catholics have complained that the bishops who have been forced to resign during this pontificate (Finn, Livieres Plano, Tebartz-van Elst) and the cardinals who have been removed from influential Vatican posts (Burke, Piacenza) all are identified as conservative. In a characteristically balanced commentary on that phenomenon, John Allen of Crux observes that there are two possible explanations. Either the Pope is conducting an ideological purge, or he is trying to reform the episcopate and the Vatican, and it’s coincidental that conservative prelates have been the first ones removed. Allen continues:

If that’s the case, Francis might need to find an occasion to explain in his own voice why he’s going after the people and groups that find themselves in his sights. Otherwise, the risk is that a good chunk of the Church may conclude that if the pope sees them as the enemy, there’s no good reason they shouldn’t see him the same way.

John Allen is not the first observer to point out that the Pope runs the risk of alienating tradition-minded Catholics. Ross Douthat of the New York Times, for instance, has made a similar point on more than one occasion. But Allen’s comment is significant precisely because he is not one of the Pope’s conservative critics.

This isn’t just a question of paranoia on the Catholic Right—although, frankly, there’s more than enough of that to go around. It’s a real problem that the Pope should address.

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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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: mwean7331 - Oct. 28, 2016 10:13 PM ET USA

    Yes thus political show piece should be abandoned. It is too political and it is ALL about money' Let the fat cats donate to the Church as they should (tithe) without all this opulent scene. Of course Bishop Dolan just loves all this limelight, It is right up his alley. Very sad

  • Posted by: Travelling - Oct. 28, 2016 7:20 PM ET USA

    The dinner is the epitome of what my good Catholic friend calls "social Catholicism", basically, sucking up the the "establishment". We are supposed to be in the world but not of the world. This dinner is an embarrassing, public escapade into the world.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 27, 2016 2:40 PM ET USA

    I agree that the gathering did not look like a field hospital for the spiritually ill.

  • Posted by: thomas28899 - Oct. 27, 2016 7:50 AM ET USA

    Please add to my previous sound off. "Agree strongly with you Phil that we should stop feeding their egos... because it's the christian thing to do".

  • Posted by: thomas28899 - Oct. 27, 2016 7:46 AM ET USA

    So they raised $6,000,000 from the Al Smith dinner for charity. I commented to my wife that would be a lot of money for us, but for all those wealthy people who attended the dinner, it would be like us putting one dollar in the collection basket. Not much of a sacrifice in my opinion. Seems like they are feeding their egos more than the poor.... JMHO

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Oct. 26, 2016 3:02 PM ET USA

    Phil, I could not agree more with you on this. Kudos. In no way is the money raised for charity worth the cost.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Oct. 25, 2016 8:51 PM ET USA

    My criticism of the Al Smith Dinner goes back to 2002, when the Cardinal Egans's pick was Colin Powell, at that time, Secretary of State. He was then and is now a pro-abortion Episcopalian. The defense given then by the Archdiocese would probably be the same as now: what could replace the money the dinner raises for Catholic Charities if we stopped?

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Apr. 29, 2015 11:23 PM ET USA

    I've been reading Cdl. Robert Sarah's "Dieu ou rien" and I'll say, Cardinal Sarah is refreshingly conservative and speaks with great affection of Pope Benedict XVI. Among other points he is quite critic of Marxism (His homecountry underwent a red dictatorship) and is very critical of certain Vat II misinterpretations. And he has been nominated by the Pope for the Congregation for Divine Worship which, I must assume, has a great role in liturgical matters. So there's more than meets the eye here.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Apr. 29, 2015 7:42 PM ET USA

    It seems worth pointing out that Allen's editorial was published almost six months ago. Bishop Finn's recent removal may make it relevant again, but it is not something Allen just wrote.