PopeWatch: Consistency


Sandro Magister notes that our frequently inconsistent Pope is inconsistent in his opinion when it comes to two convicted Cardinals:

In the case of Cardinal Pell, sentenced in Australia to six years in prison, the Holy See has made it known that it wants to open a canonical process on him with the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

Neither the timing nor the modalities of this process are known. In any case, it has been stated that in Rome they will await, before making any pronouncement, the result of the appeal requested by the cardinal.

But in spite of this, “by way of precaution” and “to guarantee the course of justice,” the Holy See has confirmed the two measures taken against Pell upon his return to Australia: the prohibition of the “public exercise of the ministry” and of “contact in any way or form with minors.”

Measures that are now both incomprehensible, as the cardinal finds himself in an isolation cell with no possibility of celebrating Mass. But perfectly acceptable to the champions of “zero tolerance,” to be exercised always and by way of precaution even against those who – as it says in regard to Pell in the Vatican statement – “have reiterated their innocence and have the right to defend themselves to the highest degree.”


But in the case of Cardinal Barbarin, given a suspended sentence in France of six months in prison, he too awaiting an appeal, the Holy See has not announced any canonical process.

Nor has it taken measures against him analogous to those it has imposed on Pell.

Not only that. Pope Francis has rejected the resignation as archbishop of Lyon presented to him by the cardinal, received in audience on March 19.

How did Francis justify this behavior of his? It was Barbarin himself who reported the pope’s words, in an interview with the French Catholic television station KTO:

“The pope told me that when there is a judgment that will be given in appeal, there is the presumption of innocence. As a result, if I accept the resignation, it means recognizing that you are guilty. I cannot do this.”

After returning to Lyon, Barbarin confirmed his withdrawal from the leadership of the diocese, entrusted on a provisory basis to the vicar general. But he emphasized that this was a matter of his own personal decision, for which the pope reportedly expressed his “understanding,” adding that “it is not up to Rome to intervene in this kind of thing.”

As can be noted, therefore, unlike in Pell’s case in the case of Barbarin Pope Francis did not abide by the criteria of “zero tolerance,” but instead by those principles of due process that he himself had brought to the attention of the February 21-24 Vatican summit in the 21 “points of reflection” delivered to the participants, in the first place “the natural and canonical law principle of the presumption of innocence until the accused is proven guilty.”

No surprise, therefore, to see the indignant reactions of the proponents of “zero tolerance” to this behavior of the pope. As also the defenses of his actions, on the due process side.

Among the many voices in the one camp and the other, exemplary are two that expressed themselves in the columns of the French Catholic newspaper “La Croix.” Of two non-Catholic scholars.

The first is Dominique Wolton, author of the most successful book-length interview published so far on Pope Francis, and selected by him as a member of his entourage on the trip to Panama last January.

Wolton defends the due process stance adopted by the pope in the Barbarin case, but – as the communication theoretician he is – he criticizes his communicative naivety, because, by keeping quiet on and putting off to the future any decision, Francis exposes himself without defense to the “madness” of those who want the processes done immediately and in public instead of in the halls and according to the timetables of justice.

Wolton writes:

“I do not believe that Pope Francis’ slowness to react is proof of bad faith. Just because he refuses to say something right away does not mean that he is ‘hiding’ something. Quite simply, he is refusing to enter into the logic of immediacy that dominates public opinion today. This media pressure, which is based on social media’s falsely democratic perspective, has become impossible. Just because millions of people express their opinion that Cardinal Barbarin is a scoundrel, that doesn’t mean he is one! The Church is now being asked to immediately pronounce a moral judgement. Faced with a generalized suspicion of bad faith, the Church is no longer able to make itself understood, and the pope’s explanation seems like a retreat with regard to his position to put an end to clericalism.”

But decisively more critical – again in the pages of “La Croix” – is the sociologist of religion Danièle Hervieux-Léger, of the “École des hautes études en sciences sociales” and author in 2003 of a book that caused a stir: “Catholicisme, la fin d’un monde,” in which she upheld “exculturation,” meaning the total expulsion of Catholicism from the culture of today.

For Barbarin – Hervieux-Léger says – “it was perhaps legitimate to resort to appeal as citizen, but not as bishop.” As bishop he had to accept the verdict, and the pope had to accept his resignation. And instead Barbarin “deceived the pope, who today no longer appears to be consistent with the ‘zero tolerance’ that he wants to promote. This state of confusion is terrible because it leaves in public opinion the disastrous image of an institution that is protecting itself, that is not fulfilling its promises. The Church is no longer anything but an object of indignation. That seems irremediable to me. The Church has definitively lost its trust capital and this is particularly terrible for the priests over the age of 75 who have wagered everything on this institution whose world is collapsing. Today the only thing possible – but the pope will not do it – would be to completely redefine the priestly ministry. Not only by ordaining married men – something that one day will certainly be done – but above all by rethinking the place of women in the Church. Because the capital question is this. The clericalism to which all the present tendencies are attributed has its root in their exclusion.”

It is curious that both Wolton and Hervieux-Léger conclude their harangues by blaming everything on “clericalism,” the fixed target of Pope Francis.

Go here to read the rest.  When it comes to people the consistency  of treatment of persons by the Pope is whether the Pope views the person as being an ally or an adversary.  The Pope has long regarded Cardinal Pell as an adversary

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  1. To be honest, I no longer know who to believe or trust when reports of the Pope doing this and doing that, saying this or that comes out. Back in the day (60+ years ago)when the Vatican would say or do something it would take months or years for the laity to hear about it if it was somewhat important and sometimes you would not even hear about it unless you were privy to certain publications or sources.

    Now, with the proliferation of the media on cable, networks, printed and the internet one cannot help but find something somewhere that either agrees with ones sentiments about the Pope and Church or it does not. There are so many contradictions in stories and news reports when it comes to the Pope that it is enough to make ones head spin out of control. He’s a heretic, no he’s not. He wants to change doctrine, no he doesn’t…on and on it goes and I don’t know where it will end.

    I do know however that when I now read something that has come out of Rome that is not up to snuff and then another piece contradicts the first I always come away feeling as if I fell into a cesspool of lies, unable to discern what is the truth and what is not. I am a faithful Catholic and I am absolutely disconcerted by these ‘reported’ so-called shenanigans of Rome. God save us for no one else will.

  2. “[W]hen there is a judgment that will be given in appeal, there is the presumption of innocence”

    This is trite law, for Ulpian says in the Digest, “Eum accipiemus damnatum, qui non provocavit: ceterum si provocet, nondum damnatus videtur – We understand him to have been condemned who has not appealed; if, however, he should appeal, he is not yet considered to be convicted.” (Dig. Ulpianus 48 ad ed.)

    Marcianus, too, says “Si quis damnatus appellaverit et pendente appellatione decesserit, bona eius non publicantur: nam ita posterius quoque testamentum eius ratum est. idem est et si appellatio non recepta est – When anyone who has been convicted appeals, and dies while the appeal is pending, his property is not confiscated; for even a second will, if he should make one, will be valid. The same must be said even if the appeal is rejected.” (Dig. 48.20.11pr. Marcianus libro de publ. iudic.) for if the appeal is not determined before his death, his innocence is presumed.

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