Francis: Ten Years of His Pontificate in Ten Questions (4)
Pope Francis in 2015
On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope and took the name Francis. Ten years later, the anniversary of this election was celebrated in a particularly discreet way. The Pope celebrated a private mass with the cardinals present in Rome, in the chapel of St. Martha’s House, which is his residence.
The assessment of the Vaticanists can be summed up in interrogatories or ten essential questions. We considered the first three in previous installments.
4. Is this a Jesuit mode of governance?
Contrary to those who think that the Francis’ style of government is similar to that of Juan Peron, the Argentine president who Jorge Bergoglio supported, Fr. Raymond de Souza affirms in the March 18 National Catholic Register that he exercises “his authority like a Jesuit superior who, after hearing those he chooses to hear, makes his own decision.”
For the Canadian priest, “Pope Francis implemented the Jesuit model immediately upon election, convoking his own ‘council of cardinals’ who had privileged access to him, bypassing all the usual structures for consultation. He listened to them and then decided what he would do.”
Fr. de Souza gives a series of facts, among which: “Pope Francis has removed local bishops’ authority to approve new religious communities in their dioceses, changed canon law so that he has the authority to fire bishops and, famously regarding the Traditional Latin Mass, removed a bishop’s authority to determine what happens in his parish churches – including how their bulletins are written” [traditional Masses are not to be advertised there. Ed].
“Now, instead of the long-standing Vatican practice of cajoling local bishops into a voluntary resignation, Pope Francis can simply dismiss them, as he has done in Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Memphis, Tennessee.”
“Closer to home, in a new constitution for the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis sidelined the cardinal vicar and mandated that a new pastoral council meet three times a month in his presence, with the agenda sent in advance.”
“It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Pontiff will actually attend such meetings, but law that is the default position. New parish priests in Rome can no longer be appointed by the cardinal vicar; the pope will now do that himself, just as approve seminarians for ordination.”
“More broadly in Italy, Pope Francis reorganized all the marriage tribunals in the country. He has appointed special commissioners to govern religious houses. After years of the Italian bishops making clear that they saw no use for a national synodal process — like Germany or Australia — Pope Francis forced them to do it anyway.”
“In the Roman Curia, he has rather unceremoniously demoted or dismissed no fewer than five Curial cardinals from their posts: Cardinals Raymond Burke, Gerhard Müller, Angelo Becciu, Fernando Filoni and Peter Turkson. They joke amongst themselves that they are part of the ‘throwaway Curia’” [in reference to the concept dear to the pope of a “culture of waste”].
The Canadian priest concludes: “The Roman Curia itself is entirely bypassed in most of the Holy Father’s initiatives, issued via motu proprio — on “his own initiative.” On more than one occasion major changes in jurisdiction were discovered by the relevant department heads when they read the daily press bulletin of the Holy See.”
Is this concentration of power in the hands of the pope crowned with success? Alas replies Fr. de Souza: “The paradox of this pontificate is that, despite power being asserted always and everywhere, there is a spectacular failure in great crises. The Holy Father is openly defied in the Syro-Malabar Church in India, where his liturgical directives have not brought resolution.”
“In Nigeria, he threatened all the priests of a diocese with suspension unless they accepted a new bishop. He backed down and transferred the bishop. And in Germany, with the Synodal Way, despite the Holy Father’s repeated initiatives to shut it down [with a vigor tempered by contradictory declarations and gestures. Ed.], defiant bishops have produced a crisis that will most likely consume whatever is left of the pontificate.”
(Sources : National Catholic Register/Dici n° 431 – FSSX.Actualités)
Illustration : Presidencia El Salvador from San Salvador, El Salvador, América Central, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons