Thursday, February 29, 2024

Anonymous cardinal publishes rebuke of Pope Francis, lays out what next pope should focus on

The College of Cardinals

A document written by a member of the College of Cardinals is making waves for arguing that the Church under Pope Francis is “more fractured than at any time in her recent history.” 

It also lays out seven “practical observations” intended to “guide much needed conversations about what the Vatican should look like in the next pontificate.”

Published on Thursday, February 29 by the Daily Compass under the pseudonym “Demos II,” the essay is similar to an article released in March of 2022 titled “The Vatican Today” by “Demos I,” who was later revealed to be George Cardinal Pell of Australia.

The Vatican Tomorrow” assesses the alleged strengths and “shortcomings” of Pope Francis while arguing that “the next pontificate must … be one of recovery and reestablishment of truths that have been slowly obscured or lost among many Christians.”

The author firstly contends that Francis has helped emphasize “compassion toward the weak, outreach to the poor and marginalized, concern for the dignity of creation and the environmental issues that flow from it, and efforts to accompany the suffering and alienated in their burdens.”

At the same time, the document observes that Francis has an “autocratic, at times seemingly vindictive, style of governance.” 

He also possesses “a carelessness in matters of law; an intolerance for even respectful disagreement; and – most seriously – a pattern of ambiguity in matters of faith and morals causing confusion among the faithful.”

In explaining why it was published under a pseudonym, the essay notes that in “today’s Roman environment, candor is not welcome, and its consequences can be unpleasant.” 

The document also observes that there has been an “emergence of a small oligarchy of confidants with excessive influence within the Vatican – all despite synodality’s decentralizing claims.”

Among the seven observations made by the article’s author, there is a repeated emphasis placed on the need for sound governance, doctrinal clarity, and renewal of the Vatican’s institutions by the next pope.

“The Pope is a Successor of Peter and the guarantor of Church unity,” the essay observes. “But he is not an autocrat. He cannot change Church doctrine, and he must not invent or alter the Church’s discipline arbitrarily. He governs the Church collegially with his brother bishops in local dioceses.”

“From the start, the current pontificate has resisted the evangelical force and intellectual clarity of its immediate predecessors,” it continues. “The dismantling and repurposing of Rome’s John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and the marginalizing of texts like Veritatis Splendor suggest an elevation of ‘compassion’ and emotion at the expense of reason, justice, and truth. For a creedal community, this is both unhealthy and profoundly dangerous.”

The author then shares further criticisms of Francis. “Among the marks of the current pontificate are its excessive reliance on the motu proprio as a tool for governance and a general carelessness and distaste for canonical detail.” 

It also notes that “one of the key flaws in the current pontificate is its retreat from a convincing ‘theology of the body’ and its lack of a compelling Christian anthropology … precisely at a time when attacks on human nature and identity, from transgenderism to transhumanism, are mounting.”

While arguing that “global travel” was well suited for John Paul II due to his “unique personal gifts” and the era in which he lived, the circumstances in the world and Church have changed. 

“The Church in Italy and throughout Europe – the historic home of the faith – is in crisis. The Vatican itself urgently needs a renewal of its morale, a cleansing of its institutions, procedures, and personnel, and a thorough reform of its finances to prepare for a more challenging future. These are not small things. They demand the presence, direct attention, and personal engagement of any new Pope.”

The author also worries about the current state of the College of Cardinals. “The College of Cardinals … requires men of clean character, strong theological formation, mature leadership experience, and personal holiness,” the document reads. 

“It also requires a Pope willing to seek advice and then to listen. It’s unclear to what degree this applies in the Pope Francis pontificate.”

“The current pontificate has placed an emphasis on diversifying the college, but it has failed to bring cardinals together in regular consistories designed to foster genuine collegiality and trust among brothers,” it continues. 

“As a result, many of the voting electors in the next conclave will not really know each other, and thus may be more vulnerable to manipulation. In the future, if the college is to serve its purposes, the cardinals who inhabit it need more than a red zucchetto and a ring. Today’s College of Cardinals should be proactive about getting to know each other to better understand their particular views regarding the Church, their local church situations, and their personalities – which impact their consideration of the next pope.”

The document concludes by hoping that the “cautionary reflections noted here may be useful in the months ahead” and that they will “help guide much needed conversations about what the Vatican should look like in the next pontificate.”