Pope Francis: Mystery



It is astonishing that a man who has been Pope now for more than two years still remains such a deep mystery:

His word choice reveals that the man on the Chair of St. Peter has less experience with Western-style social economics and social encyclicals in the Catholic Church than he does with poor Latin American neighborhoods. When he was elected pope, Bergoglio was 76 years old — and had previously spent almost his entire life in Argentina. That might best explain why this pope is so different.

“Jorge, don’t change.” Bergoglio told his biographer Elisabetta Piqué that he had made this resolution right after his election in Rome. He has taken into consideration that there is a danger that he will repeat the “old mistakes” in his new position. But a man of his age makes himself look silly, he argued, if he tries to reinvent himself. In Rome, consequently, he now acts according to a model that harkens back to his time in Argentina: The Francis principle.

Bergoglio himself claims that even when he was a Jesuit Provincial Superior he made “decisions in very abrupt and personal ways.” Back then, at the age of 36, he had been named the highest-ranking Jesuit in the country. As Jesuit priest Carlos Carranza stated for the record, Bergoglio’s strict rules meant that despite his selfless mission, “he and his way of leading the province” encountered hostility.

It’s been documented that in 1986, in a time of “great inner crisis,” as Bergoglio describes it, he was transferred for disciplinary reasons to the city of Córdoba. The exact reasons have remained secret. Another witness of the period claimed that some Jesuit monks considered Bergoglio to be crazy. Even his mail and his phone were monitored.

His reputation for being pious, uncomfortable and inscrutable remained when he became the rector of a theological college and the archbishop of Buenos Aires. Argentinian Nobel Prize winner Pérez Esquivel publicly pleaded to the Holy Spirit that the “ambiguous” and politically hard-to-categorize Bergoglio should not become pope. Eight years later, it happened anyway.

‘Create Confusion’

Since then, Bergoglio has continued to follow his old principle: “Hagamos lio” — “create confusion” — and trusts that the processes that he puts into motion will spur positive changes. “He himself doesn’t know where they will lead, he trusts the Holy Ghost,” suspects Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi. For Francis, he claims, what counts is a “church in movement.”

Conservative US Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the top Vatican jurisdiction, has been witness to this movement firsthand. A week after Burke criticized his church as a “ship without a rudder” in an interview, Francis pushed him into a post with the Order of the Knights of St. John. When it became known shortly thereafter that the commander of the Swiss Guard was also being pushed out, Vatican insiders reacted with outrage: “This is worse than in the Islamic State,” one of them reportedly said.

The clean-up work in the Vatican is a long way from being finished — the fundamental reform of the Curia is still ongoing. A committee — which also includes German Cardinal Reinhard Max, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising — is considering suggestions. In Francis’ eyes, he and the other eight members share one main advantage: They are outsiders, they barely know the Curia and act as foreign invaders disturbing the court’s immune system.

Francis’ opinions about the Curia became clear on Dec. 22. A storm was unleashed in Clementine Hall, emptying itself over dozens of moiré-silk-clad skullcap-wearing cardinals, as well as the bishops cowering behind them. In any normal business, it would have been considered a vote of no-confidence against its leaders.

Not so in the Vatican, where Francis first complained about “spiritual petrification” and “existential schizophrenia” in the Curia — then made a smiling round and received loyal addresses of discipline. And this from all those who voted for him in the 2013 Conclave so that he may bring order to things with a strong hand.

In the meantime, the angry whispering in the church has grown. Even lower-ranking Curia colleagues complain of a lack of sensitivity — especially toward the low-earners in the Vatican who had their overtime hours cut, and this by a pope who sermonizes about charity. They must now survive on wages of around €1,000 ($1,094) a month.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch suspects that at the heart of the confusion surrounding this Pontificate is the fact that there is no master plan.  Like his interviews this is an ad hoc Papacy where the Pope acts on impulse, and the Vatican officials are left scrambling behind him.

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  1. “For Francis, he claims, what counts is a “church in movement.””

    Perhaps, the plan is that a Church “in motion,” like matter in motion, will mirror the dialectic of history: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

  2. Confusion and lack of an orderly plan? It is hard to merge that with the concept of the creation by an infinitely knowing and loving God.

  3. For Francis, he claims, what counts is a “church in movement.”

    Which is funny because it was Jonah Goldberg’s father (a secular Jew) who said:

    “We need more rocks in the river,” my dad explained. He was saying that change comes so fast, in such a relentless torrent, that we need people and things that stand up to it and offer respite from the current.

    And Jonah who added:

    The church’s position is that the truest notes are those that not only celebrate life and love but cut through the whitewater racket of devouring time. As those notes become harder to hear, the answer isn’t to stop playing them but to turn up the volume.

    (and I won’t even start on how John Derbyshire laid into the Church this weekend)

    We live in strange times indeed when those outside of the Church seem to have a better idea of what it’s supposed to be than the very Pope himself.

  4. Since then, Bergoglio has continued to follow his old principle: “Hagamos lio” — “create confusion” — and trusts that the processes that he puts into motion will spur positive changes.
    Considering the facts that reveal a disproportionate and direct contempt for those upholding tenets and traditions of two millennia, a lack of teaching what Peter was given to do, and statements of supporting the ambiguous poor while specific blood flows at the hands of political agents, weighting his advisors and functionaries who undermine God’s Divinity and creation ; it seems that there may be a master plan. What became of Argentina and its native people may be a message for the Church.

  5. Michael PS I need to see the look on your face and hear the inflection of voice when you say: “Perhaps, the plan is that a Church “in motion,” like matter in motion, will mirror the dialectic of history: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.”

    My reaction to his throwing up lots of things and seeing where the dust settles is that it reminds me of proof of God argument
    (throwing up all the parts of a watch and hoping it will land assembled ). Just not gonna happen.
    So what is the reason for all the dust in the air ? could be ineptitude, could be cover for feelings of inadequacy, could be part of nefarious plot…,
    when the Church survives all of this– yes– that survival WILL be proof of God.

  6. His reputation for being pious, uncomfortable and inscrutable remained when he became the rector of a theological college and the archbishop of Buenos Aires.

    …actually, I kind of LIKE to hear a summary like that… pain in the tail, but I’ll take “well, he’s obviously pious, but I don’t know what to make of him and he makes me uncomfortable” over the various other forms I’ve seen in the media. (Buddy Christ II: The Pope)

  7. The “acting on impulse” thing also actually makes me worry less– I think his instincts are mostly bad, but bad instincts supporting an impulsive reaction beat really good plans built on a false set of assumptions.

  8. For shooting from the hip the Red Rider with lever-action 150 bb capacity is the preferred choice of 8 year old’s.

    If your over seventy years of age, shooting from the hip will most likely
    result in foot injury. It’s best to aim at a target through the sights.

    Prayers haven’t ceased for our Holy Father. Nor will they. It’s what were expected to do.

  9. “He has taken into consideration that there is a danger that he will repeat the “old mistakes” in his new position. But a man his of his age makes himself look
    silly, he argued, if he tries to reinvent himself.”

    I recall when shortly after Benedict XVI was elected Pope, he was spotted returning
    to his old Roman apartment to collect his things and say goodbye to his neighbors.
    The press and a crowd gathered outside the apartment building, and eventually an
    obviously embarrassed and uncomfortable Pope emerged, waved to the crowd, and
    stepped into a waiting car to be driven to his new home. The reporters present asked
    a few people present for their impression of the new Pope, and some expressed
    displeasure that while they had waited outside to see him, he hadn’t lingered to speak
    to the crowd. They wanted to see their new Pope– a Pope who was embarrassed by
    all the attention.
    Obviously Benedict XVI later forced himself to get past his natural shyness and self-
    effacing manner. In short, he reinvented himself because he understood that his new
    position demanded he change. No one would ever mistake him for someone with
    St. John Paul II’s charisma or Francis’ chatty nature, but Pope Benedict clearly tried
    hard to overcome his shyness out of a sense of love and duty. And in the end, I
    think people recognized that humility– by the latter half of his pontificate, his weekly
    Wednesday addresses in St. Perter’s square were drawing crowds larger than those
    regularly seen by either Popes Francis or St. John Paul II. No one thought he looked
    If Pope Francis is making himself look silly, it’s not because he has decided out of
    humility to change things about himself in order to better exercise his new office.
    Rather, it’s because he’s decided that there’s nothing about himself that needs
    changing, and he’ll say whatever pops into his head and hagan as much lio
    as he pleases– now that’s what’s making him look silly.

  10. “Create confusion,” and its companion, “make a mess,” may be an approach that has a chance for positive outcome, if, and only if, there is a solid foundation of faith to work from. If not, forces may very well seize the resultant confusion and mess to further their own agenda, which is often ideological and political.

    We must trust, and pray, that the Holy Spirit will guide us through these turbulent times.

  11. At least we don’t have to worry about Pope Francis being a consistent follower of some philosophy we don’t like. And, of course, if the Holy Spirit allows the election of a possibly defective Pope, perhaps with a slight neurological disorder, He will assist his chosen leader to make sure God’s Will will be done. Possibly this will cause some “Oh ye of little faith” people to pray more for the Holy Father and trust more in God.

  12. I agree, Mary Ellen. As I said to my worried & fretting mother… Just hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I don’t think I’ve ever repeated, “Jesus, I trust in You” more than in these last 2 years. The main problem I face is when protestants ask me, “What do you think of this pope?” Or “What do you think the church needs to do to give itself a better impression to the world?”

  13. At the risk of repetition—but some are not aware of this matter—I mention this observation — an observation that early on, was concealed by the general media:

    Bergoglio’s theological education, from the outset was limited: an M.Div. from a not-well-known theologate (San Miguel, in Buenos Aires) in the late 60’s, a time known for a general breakdown worldwide in Jesuit theological education. It is true he had earned a licentiate in philosophy (Phil.L) earlier, prior to his Jesuit regency: but Jesuit priests from the old days will tell you, “lf you showed up for classes for an extra two years, you got the licentiate.”

    He had no known significant advanced education until his ill-fated attempt to obtain a Ph.D in the mid-80’s at a “tough” theological center, the Jesuit Sahnkt Georgen theologate in Frankfurt, Germany. The most notable alumnus of recent years from that school—the liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino, a matter that would have certainly attracted Bergoglio, given his predilection for the radical theologians (he of course personally chats on occasion with Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutierrez on the friendliest of terms). However, Bergoglio—in contradiction to what the public media trumpeted when he was named as pontiff—washed out of his doctoral program there, never finished his dissertation, and in fact (as far as I can ascertain, but no one there is talking) never took his comprehensive exams.

    Here is my point: P John Paul Ii: two advanced degrees in theology: one from the Angelicum, an advanced one later at the Jagiellonian U. on the phenomenology of Scheler (he may have become interested in Scheler’s phenomenology and ethics due to Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, being a student of Husserl), and then taught for several years at the Jagiellonian, the principle Catholic theology school of Krakow.

    Pope BXVI: same trajectory: Ph.D at Munich (1953, St Augustine’s ecclesiology), advanced Ph.D (Bonaventure’s theology), even habilitat and career teaching at top theology graduate schools in Germany (Bonn, Munster, Tubingen), and years, like JP2, interacting with and defending his ideas as a teacher against inquisitive graduate students.


    Enter Bergoglio: It is like a man with a GED running Harvard. He proved definitively in Evangelii Gaudium that his thinking is impulsive, confused, jargonistic (“Money should not rule”. Jah, aber..), and his career shows an authoritarianism that is not concerned with deep evaluation and getting all the facts — “just act, and act now,” is much more his modus operandi, which appears to be cathartic for him. This article gets at what others have said—that something happened in 1986, and he may have had a breakdown of sorts. It happens: that is no crime. But is that the person, one who relieves stress by impulsive decisions (e.g. what happened with the Franciscans of Mary Immaculate), who should be running the Church? Ummm. No.

    Well, two years into this pontificate, we have the Council of Marx et Kasper running the Church, since nature abhors a vacuum. Expect more flamboyantly madcap decisions from the man: it is all there in his history.

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