giovedì 16 marzo 2017

Vaticano
Is the pope Catholic? Francis is facing down opposition from traditionalists and Vatican bureaucrats
The Economist
--But on clerical sex-abuse, he seems weak --  
The Pacific island of Guam is more than 12,000km from Vatican City. Yet it was in this far-flung American territory that last month the two most contentious issues facing Pope Francis—the scandal of clerical sex abuse and a rebellion by traditionalists—intertwined. Cardinal Raymond Burke spent two days on Guam presiding at the church trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who is accused of molesting altar boys. The archbishop is the highest-ranking Catholic cleric to be tried on sex-abuse charges. The proceedings could last years. Cardinal Burke, an arch-conservative, is the pope’s most outspoken critic.
The defiance of papal authority by a minority of senior Catholic clergy has become more brazen in recent months than at any time since the 1970s, when the late Archbishop Marcel François Lefebvre refused to disband his arch-traditionalist Society of St Pius X. Last month Vatican officials received in their e-mail what appeared to be a digital version of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. On opening it they found a perfect facsimile ridiculing the man Catholics are told is God’s representative on Earth. The headline was “He’s Replied!”—a sarcastic reference to the pope’s refusal to answer a letter from four cardinals, including Cardinal Burke, last September (and, most unusually, made public by them in November). The letter challenges Francis to state that passages in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), conform with established doctrine. In the fake-news Osservatore, all four replies were “Yes and No”. Less than a week earlier, posters had appeared in Rome calling on the pope—disrespectfully addressed in Roman dialect as Francé (“Frankie”)—to say how his vaunted advocacy of mercy squared with his forthright treatment of Catholic institutions including the Roman Curia, the church’s central administration.
Rock of ages
As the protests showed, discontent within the church comes from two sources and two overlapping camps. The first is the most obviously conservative. It includes those, inside and outside the Vatican, who seek clarity and certainty from their religion and think the rules cannot be altered without forsaking the essence of Catholicism. They are appalled by what they see as Francis’s lack of interest in theology, and his abandonment of principle in the name of a nebulous requirement for mercy.
Last year Anna Silvas, an Australian scholar, charged the pope with writing “tracts of homespun, avuncular advice that could be given by any secular journalist without the faith—the sort of thing to be found in the pages of Readers Digest”. The conservatives’ biggest gripe is with Amoris Laetitia, which in a footnote opened the way for some remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the very body of Christ. Polls suggest that the faithful in Europe and the Americas strongly back the change. But critics see it as legitimising adultery. They will scarcely have been reassured when Francis last month encouraged a gathering of priests to show understanding for parishioners who were living together before marriage. On March 10th he again shocked traditionalists, suggesting that the church might ordain married men to help lessen an acute shortage of priests.
A second, much smaller band of critics is made up of Vatican-based clerics, whose objection is to the pope’s treatment of his officials. It is no secret that he has little sympathy with the Vatican. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was repeatedly frustrated in his dealings with its bureaucrats. Soon after his election as pope, he formed a team of cardinals to advise him on how to reform the Roman Curia, pointedly choosing most of them from among pastoral leaders beyond the Vatican’s high walls. Acting on its recommendations, he set up two new “super-ministries”, or secretariats, one for the Vatican’s finances and the other for its media operations, and merged six smaller “ministries” into two.
That alone would have earned Francis enemies in an organisation as notoriously resistant to change as the Roman Curia. But it is style as much as substance that has rankled. A Jesuit, Francis comes from an order founded by an ex-soldier, St Ignatius of Loyola, which supplied the Counter-Reformation with its shock troops. The Jesuits’ first pope is a humble and humorous man—but also a blunt and ruthless one. “The Holy Father is not a person who works easily with an institution,” remarks someone who has witnessed his uncompromising decisiveness at close quarters.
During the year after Francis’s election, he appalled the Vatican’s highest-ranking officials by listing 15 faults to be found in their ranks. One, he told his ageing listeners, was “spiritual Alzheimer’s”. Most recently, the pope intervened in a dispute among the leaders of the Knights of Malta, an ancient military and religious order. Though they no longer govern territory (or take up arms to defend Christians in majority-Muslim countries), and largely devote themselves to good works, the order still wields the sovereignty it enjoyed when it ruled the island of Malta. It has many of the trappings of a state, maintaining diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries and holding observer status at the UN. It is legally separate from the Holy See. Yet on January 24th Francis demanded its grand master’s obedience and resignation. He later named a trusted associate to sort out the dispute from inside.
When Francis expects resistance from Vatican diehards, he sidesteps it. He ordered outsiders to draft changes to the rules on marital annulment (a declaration that a marriage was never valid; not to be confused with divorce, which the church does not sanction). He is said to have set up a commission to review new translations of liturgical texts, cutting out the relevant Vatican department, which is headed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, a conservative.
Unto the least of these my brethren
The biggest mystery surrounding this man, who combines toughness and compassion, is why he has not applied his rough-house tactics to the issue that most cries out for action: clerical sex abuse. It is more than just a moral matter. The priority of all the church’s recent leaders has been to halt the secularisation that began in its European heartland and is spreading through the Americas. Top of the list of reasons why many Catholics have abandoned their faith is disgust at the ever-mounting evidence of rape and molestation of minors by priests, which has been repeatedly overlooked, indeed covered up, by the offenders’ superiors. The Vatican continues not to require bishops to report allegations of abuse to the police, unless doing so is compulsory under civil law (which in many countries, including Italy, it is not).
In 2014 Francis set up a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Doubts about its efficacy have circulated ever since. One member complained that it was under-funded. And last month it suffered a blow to its credibility with the resignation of the lone remaining abuse victim on the panel, Marie Collins from Ireland (the other victim, Peter Saunders, a Briton, was suspended without his knowledge last year). Ms Collins said that what decided her was the failure of the responsible Vatican department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to reply to victims’ letters. She has also spoken of the commission being “hindered and blocked by members of the Curia”.
Two of the commission’s most important recommendations have come to nothing. A tribunal to handle cases of bishops accused of failing to act on abuse claims was buried, and guidelines for dioceses on how to prevent, detect and respond to abuse have not been distributed. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, protested that obstruction by the Vatican of efforts to curb child sex-abuse was merely a “cliché”. But he also remarked that he had never met Ms Collins.
Pope Francis has battled to force his church to reckon with a world in which many Catholics break church teaching by using artificial methods of contraception and cohabiting before marriage. A shrinking proportion share their religious leaders’ view of homosexual activity as sinful. But there is a growing danger that this pontiff may be remembered less as a valiant reformer and moderniser than as a pope who shrank from being as tough on predatory paedophiles and complicit bishops as he was with fogeys in the Vatican.

The Economist