Francis: Ten Years of His Pontificate in Ten Questions (8)

May 15, 2023
Pope Francis in 2019 in Abu Dhabi

On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope and took the name Francis. Ten years later, the anniversary of this election was celebrated in a particularly discreet way. The Pope celebrated a private Mass with the cardinals present in Rome, in the chapel of St. Martha’s House, which is his residence.

The assessment of the Vaticanists can be summed up in interrogatories or ten essential questions. Here is the eighth:

8. How can we judge this pontificate by its fruits?

If we follow the Gospel precept which asks to judge the tree by its fruits, the judgments made on the current pontificate are alarming. Here are two, one from the United States, the other from Rome.

In the New York Times on March 15, taken up by Il Sismografo on March 16, the American journalist Ross Douthat writes: “there are the grim numbers for the Francis-era church, like the accelerated drop in the number of men studying for the priesthood worldwide, which peaked around the beginning of Francis' pontificate and has been declining ever since.”

“Or the unhappy financial picture, now bad enough that the Vatican is charging higher rents to cardinals to compensate for years of deficits.”

He notes: “The pope who preached decentralization and diversity embraced a micro-managerial cruelty [a fussy authoritarianism], attempting the strangulation of Lantin Mass congregations through such merciful gestures as forbidding their masses from appearing in parish bulletins.”

Ross Douthat is not far from seeing Francis as a kind of “greatest common divisor”: “At its 10-year milestone, then, this pontificate hasn’t just faced inevitable resistance because of its zeal for reform. It has needlessly multiplied controversies and exacerbated divisions for the sake of an agenda that can still feel vaporous, and its choices at every turn have seemed to design to create the greatest possible alienation between the church’s factions, the widest imaginable gyre.”

The other testimony comes from a Roman cardinal who confides, on March 13, on the blog Silere non possum, without giving his name. He tries to give an explanation for this general confusion that everyone deplores. Asked about the next synod on synodality, he answers:

“I don't think anything significant will come of it. Smoke, nothing more. But the goal is achieved: to create confusion. Francis is convinced of all this, and this is what Marxist philosophy has always affirmed. Renewal is only possible after confusion, after conflict. Then comes peace.”

  – According to the revolutionary dialectical scheme: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. In addition, one can read with interest the article by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize “Solve et coagula,” in the January 2023 Courrier de Rome n°660.

Later the cardinal confesses: “While in these hours, some bishops speak of a pope who brings down the walls, the impression, unfortunately, is quite different. Francis seems to have exacerbated the divisions, and the liturgical question is just one of them.”

“Even within the Curia there is a sense of depression and discouragement. There are many priests asking to leave the Secretariat of State and other departments. They are tired. They do not feel valued and the climate inside has become unbreathable.”