Editor recommended: Francis’ opposition

by Dennis Coday

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Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has a must-read essay over at Commonweal, The Italian Job: Can Pope Francis Manage His Local Opposition? Read the full piece, but here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:

Francis’s first year has been characterized by a carefully coded fight for the ground between the old guard and the new. An abstract debate about the “continuity or discontinuity” of Vatican II has been replaced by a conversation about concrete issues such as poverty and inequality. …

In Italy, for example, the old guard seems especially recalcitrant. …  the most powerful and visible Italian bishops have little to say about Francis’s agenda. …

As a whole, the German bishops conference has taken seriously Francis’s call for a “poor church that is for the poor.” … But Francis seems to sense that he has his work cut out for him in Italy. …

A group of Italian publications give voice to the resistance … They often warn readers about Francis’s populist streak, especially on questions of immigration and economic justice. …

Tensions between Francis and the old guard will linger because the bureaucratic culture of the Catholic Church is resistant to change. Bishops don’t have much experience with demotions—other than the old promoveatur ut amoveatur. But they’ve seen Francis move against the “bishop of bling,” along with bishops who have been tainted by financial scandal. The pope has even said he’s weighing the “punishment” for a bishop who was found guilty in a case related to sexual abuse. That hardly eases the anxiety of bishops who are wary of Francis. ….

In other words, Francis has no shortage of opponents. … The situation is comparable to the one John XXIII faced after he became pope.

Faggioli is author of the 20012 book Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning from Paulist Press and most recently John XXIII: The Medicine of Mercy from Liturgical Press.

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