During the press conference held on the plane that took him to Mozambique, Pope Francis alluded to a conspiracy theory funded from the United States, which aimed to destabilize the Argentine sovereign pontiff.
Certainly, the papal journeys are rich in air turbulence. The latest air pocket was that of September 4, 2019, when Pope Francis, in route to Mozambique, threw out a somewhat humorous comment, “for me, it is an honor that Americans attack me.”
A short sentence immediately “defused” by the Vatican press spokesman who made assurances that there was no malice in the words. “In an informal context, the Pope wanted to say that he always considers criticisms an honor, particularly when they come from authoritative thinkers and, in this case, an important nation,” commented Matteo Bruni, with the consummate art of rhetoric.
It's a Bomb
The intervention of the Holy Father took place in a specific context: the presentation by Nicolas Senèze, the La Croix correspondent to the Vatican, of his latest opus entitled How America Wants to Change the Pope. Having learned of the upcoming release of the book, Pope Francis received a copy on the plane directly from the author. “It's a bomb,” assured the Pope, entrusting the book he had just received to his colleagues: could we hope for a better advertising promotion?
Is the book explosive at this point? It supports a conspiracy theory which, through the media attacks against the pope regarding his management of the abuses, was to lead to an attempted coup by obtaining the resignation of the Argentine pontiff. This conspiracy would have its puppet masters: the rich circles of the “ultra-right” Americans who seek to discredit a pope whose repeated remarks against neo-liberal capitalism and the “power of money” they find to be disturbing.
Having failed, their next plan would be to prepare for the next election by “profiling” all members of the Sacred College through a program called the Red Hat Report, that is currently being promoted by the internet site Better Church Governance.
A Complete Myth
However attractive the thesis developed in this book, it appears to be simplistic. Indeed, is it not prejudice to limit the current pontificate to a purely political reading? According to Céline Hoyeau in the September 5, 2019 edition of La Croix, Nicolas Senèze’s book “is more of an analysis than a field survey,” not to mention the fact that “certain facts seem a little over-interpreted.”
On the other hand, Edward Pentin, a renowned Vaticanist with the National Catholic Register (NCR), reacts with common sense, saying it was “a complete myth that there is a conspiracy to bring down the pope…There are just people who are genuinely concerned about the direction taken by the pontificate.” How could it be otherwise when problems such as homosexuality, the communion of the “divorced and remarried,” and married priests, seem to have become open questions, within the hierarchy and episcopal conferences?
The conspiracy theory against the Holy Father—which Nicolas Senèze seems to want to qualify—at least holds a dialectical aspect: how to issue a criticism, even measured and constructive, on several disturbing aspects of the current pontificate, without being ipso facto accused of conspiracy? Would any discussion touching on a restoration of Tradition in the Church, or any questioning of certain aspects of Vatican II become impossible?
On December 22, 2014, in a memorable address to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis described the “fifteen diseases that weaken our service to the Lord.” Among them, “the disease of divinizing the leaders.” Medice, cura teipsum ... physician, heal thyself.