Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing tells us that questions about the current pontificate are not restricted to blogs:
I reported on some of the pope’s harshness towards upholders of tradition in yesterday’s Synod Report, an odd homily that might be taken to mean all those over the centuries who had upheld the indissolubility of marriage were somehow authoritarians and self-serving legalists. But the responses to the pope in private – again, beyond the usual conservative suspects and into more neutral, mainstream figures – has been equally tart: “a Latin dictator,” “a Peron,” someone who likes to be center stage in the limelight. And perhaps the most shocking comment of all from more than one person: “His health is bad, so at least this won’t last too long.”
The directives at the start of a meeting like this often betray not where the organizers believe things are going, but where they fear they will not. The pope’s talk about a spirit of openness Monday may fall into that category. There are knowledgeable figures in Rome who believe that if real openness occurs, heads will roll. Some already have.
Then there was Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő who, in an opening statement, proposed to take doctrinal questions off the table and deal solely with pastoral questions. That’s a consummation devoutly to be wished, but easier said than done. Many of us remember that Vatican II was a pastoral council, or so we were told. How did so many people get the impression it had also changed doctrine and, in fact, did do so in many Catholic institutions?
It’s important to see all this in perspective. Normally, a bunch of bishops gathering to discuss a handful of well-worked theological matters is of no interest to the world and little interest even to most Catholics. A Catholic journalist said to me just this weekend that he wasn’t much of a “court follower,” meaning he didn’t pay much attention to intrigues within the Vatican. A good attitude – when it comes to petty gossip about who’s in or out, up or down. But as we know from the history of Vatican II, given the modern media environment, what happens in Rome and how it gets reported can affect Catholic life around the globe in incalculable ways. Theologians and moralists may then waste decades that might have been better spent on other subjects just trying to correct simple errors.
“Xavier Rynne” (i.e., Fr. Francis X. Murphy) famously produced a series of polarizing Letters from Rome in The New Yorker during the Council, which virtually created in America what Benedict XVI called the “Council of the Media” as opposed to the real Council, which the young Ratzinger attended, applauded, and help shape. A Church concerned to carry out its proper teaching function today cannot fail to recognize the importance of assuring that its work is perceived as clearly as possible – in an age when every word of a pope, president, prime minister, even sports figures gets merciless scrutiny. Further, social media is everywhere – even the pope takes selfies now, and they get sent around.
All that may be regrettable, but whatever the intention of the primary actors, people inside and outside the Church now believe, given media spin, that questions that were settled and largely known to be such during the past two papacies are now regarded as “open” again. And the unholy conspiracy between the heterodox and media outlets who smell a big story will make sure it’s hard for the Vatican to keep the message focused.
Go here to read the rest. There have been popes before that have stirred strong opposition within the Church, including the College of Cardinals. Of course the difference now is instant global communications, and masses of Catholics having forums like this to make their views known. To paraphrase Betty Davis, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy pontificate.