Pope Benedict respected this convention. [Probably too much. It undermined his ability to effect any change – if he even wanted to.] Liberals who were worried that the ‘Rottweiler’ would harbour ancient grudges watched in amazement — and relief — as he turned into a virtual hermit. This created the factional chaos that led to his resignation — but right up until the end, Benedict was always ‘the Holy Father’.
That title has almost dropped out of use inside the Vatican under Francis, at least in everyday conversation. And, when you hear it, there is an edge of sarcasm. For example: ‘As the Holy Father so wisely says, we all have a natural tendency to eat shit.’
The priest in question is no fan of Francis. But the fact is that the Pope did say it — in public. Last month, he told the media to stop spreading fake stories because ‘people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia’. Which means eating excrement.
Why did he say it? The traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli suggested that ‘ageing or an underlying medical issue’ was responsible for his ‘persistent anger, rancour, vituperation, use of uncouth words (which is known to be increasingly frequent in private)’. [Nah. It’s just who he is. It’s who he’s always been. This is a severely intemperate man. This is a man who is not in control of his appetites. Humility is what gives us the moral strength (and grace) to practice penance and limit our appetites. Francis may or may not limit his physical, material appetite, but his appetite for more ethereal things like obeisance and the gathering of power appears voracious.]
Again, this is an opponent speaking. There is no evidence that the Pope is mentally ill. However, plenty of Vatican employees will testify to his outbursts of temper, rudeness towards subordinates and vulgar language. [Again, intemperance. Intemperance also speaks to a lack of solid interior life driven by humility and devotion to prayer.]
He can also be genial, funny and compassionate. But this side of his personality is increasingly reserved for his inner circle and his allies.
All popes have inner circles, it goes without saying. What distinguishes Francis from his recent predecessors is the nature of the alliances he forms. He is far more brutal in the exercise of his power than, say, Pope John Paul II, who certainly had an authoritarian streak in him. [Indeed. Some say Francis is even more authoritarian than Pius XII, the supposed epitome of the “bad old Church.”]
‘Bergoglio divides the church into those who are with him and those who are against him — and if he thinks you’re in the latter camp then he’ll come after you,’ says a priest who works in the curia. [Think that had much impact on the Franciscans of the Immaculate?]
‘Bergoglio’, note: he doesn’t even call him ‘Francis’. Tellingly, this priest used to be a fervent supporter of some of the Pope’s administrative reforms and he doesn’t look back nostalgically at the reign of Benedict, whom he blames for neglecting his papal duties.
But, like so many Vatican employees, he’s sick of Francis’s habit of telling the entire Roman curia that they are modern-day Pharisees — an analogy that casts the Argentinian pontiff in the role of Jesus. [Convenient, that.]
Clearly Francis believes that relaxing the rules on communion for Catholics in irregular marriages is an act of Christlike compassion. [Could there be more to it than that? As a point of attack against the entire moral edifice of the Church, a more insidious one could hardly have been chosen. I don’t think that’s accidental in the slightest.] This is also the view of the venerable liberal cardinals who campaigned to elect him. It is often said that he is enacting their agenda — and it’s true that Francis is well disposed to liberal demands for women deacons and married priests. [Thus the upcoming terror of Synod 2018. Lord, please prevent this from taking place.]
He is not, however, their instrument. In the words of a Vatican observer who held an important position in Rome for many years, ‘He hasn’t taken on the old progressive mantle so much as created his own personality cult.’ Theological niceties bore him. Personal loyalty obsesses him — ‘and if the cardinal electors had done due diligence they would have discovered that he was an extraordinarily divisive figure among the Argentinian Jesuits’.
It’s not hard to detect a Latin American flavour to the deal-making and settling of scores that has become blatant over the past year. Most Catholic bishops had thought Francis was a plain-spoken and perhaps touchingly naive reformer. Instead, they are confronted by a pope who is simultaneously combative, charming, bad-tempered, idealistic and vengeful……..