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.

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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Jan. 23, 2018 2:07 PM ET USA

    So he gives thoughtful consideration to criticism of his junk theology? So why can't he refute it? Why can't he point out the harm it does and how his theology prevents harm and preserves the will of God? Why is what he scorns as the "mechanical application" of moral law, which prevents the taking of innocent life, inferior to a discernment that allows the taking of innocent life?

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Jan. 15, 2018 5:53 PM ET USA

    So then you're saying he knew about the drugs and orgies going on? Better than it happening behind his back, like things are out of his control in some way. God, help us.