Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Pas d’ennemis a gauche at the Vatican?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 19, 2022

This week Pope Francis has expressed his concern about the war in Ukraine, the famine in Somalia, and the fire in a Coptic church in Egypt. Last week he spoke about the rights of Canada’s indigenous peoples, the war in Ukraine again, and a fire in Cuba.

But on one noteworthy public issue the Pope has been silent: the arrest of a Catholic bishop in Nicaragua.

Inside sources in Rome say that the Vatican has been working quietly, diplomatically, to secure the freedom of Bishop Alvarez, since police of the Ortega regime surrounded his chancery building two weeks ago. But in that is the case, we could add “ineffectively” to that list of adverbs, because today the police staged a pre-dawn raid and took the bishop into custody. Prompting this immediate response from the Vatican:


Pope Francis is not shy about promoting his favored political causes, such as immigration and climate-change action. But he has been remarkably quiet about overt repression of Catholicism, and even assaults on Catholic prelates, by certain regimes. The embattled Catholics of Nicaragua are crying out for public support from Rome, and to date have received none. The neighbors in Venezuela have been making the same pleas to Rome for years, as the government there does battle with the Catholic hierarchy. Again the Vatican has preferred the softer, diplomatic approach. And in China, the loyal Catholics of the underground Church—and their great champion, Cardinal Zen—have pleaded for the Pontiff at least to hear their complaints. No such luck.

Is it a coincidence that in each of these cases, the Vatican has avoided public criticism of a leftist regime? Is there any case, in the past nine years, when the Vatican has issued a tough public scolding of a Marxist government, or eschewed public criticism of a rightist regime? Even in the case of the Ukrainian war, Pope Francis has never condemned Russian aggression.

Pope Francis condemns capital punishment. But the world’s foremost practitioner of the death penalty—China—is never a focal point of Vatican statements on the issue. The Pope speaks often against human trafficking, but does not refer to the country most infamous for the use of slave labor—China, again. The Pontiff exhorts nations to curb carbon emissions, but does not address the immense problems created by the world’s most egregious polluter: China. Instead a close papal ally makes the preposterous suggestion that China is the best example of Catholic social teaching in action!

We American Catholics could not avoid noticing that for four years, many papal statements on immigration seemed to be crafted as subtle (or in some cases unsubtle) jabs at the Trump administration. Now we are waiting for similar public challenges to the Biden administration, as it promotes unrestricted abortion, escalates the gender wars, and threatens the existence of Catholic institutions.

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.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: ewaughok - Aug. 22, 2022 11:13 AM ET USA

    Yes, Mr. Lawler, Francis doesn’t want any enemies on the left. And as for Vatican criticism of totalitarian leftist regimes… don’t hold your breath…

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Aug. 20, 2022 2:06 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis may start to criticize leftist regimes after he answers the dubia.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Aug. 20, 2022 5:41 AM ET USA

    And the latest news says that even the UN has recognized the slavery the Chinese government has forced on the Uyghurs. Might be a good idea if the Vatican would give control of the appointment of Bishops to the UN for the entire world.

  • Posted by: CorneliusG - Aug. 20, 2022 5:22 AM ET USA

    Phil, you keep writing these essays under the assumption that PF is a spiritual leader who has the interests of the Catholic Church foremost. He isn't and doesn't. His is a leftist secular voice, scarcely different from any other political figure - though perhaps with an extra dash of duplicity and hypocrisy. Keep your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.

  • Posted by: Montserrat - Aug. 19, 2022 7:16 PM ET USA

    We've had 492 weeks of Francis since his election on March 13, 2013. It seems we've had at least that many reasons to gravely bemoan something he did, said, or failed to do. It gets tiresome, to say the least. As soon as we think it can't get worse, it gets worse. We continue to "mourn and weep in this valley of tears."

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Aug. 19, 2022 6:49 PM ET USA

    In many things as for example, synodality: the Pope talks the talk but does not walk the walk. In the case of communist regimes he does not even talk the talk. His focus seems to be on an agenda which centralizes power in himself and and which accords with the secular pc world. Hence the Church remains in deep crisis. Quo vadis Petre?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Aug. 19, 2022 5:59 PM ET USA

    No surprise. He comes from a locale noted for dictatorships; it's in his dna.