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Francis: The Pope Without a Curia

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 27, 2017

Whatever happened to that “reform of the Roman Curia” that was supposed to be the very reason Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope? It seems the promised reform has given way to a de facto abandonment of the Curia, which still exists on paper and is still staffed by officials, but has effectively been replaced by the circle of friends that surrounds Francis as he proceeds to do essentially whatever he pleases.

Chief among these friends of Francis are two ultra-progressives: the papal mouthpiece and fellow Jesuit, Antonio Spadaro, and Víctor Manuel (“Tucho”) Fernández, the chief ghostwriter involved in three Bergoglian documents the likes of which the Church has never seen: Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Laudato Si’ (LS) and, of course, Amoris Laetitia (AL). The elevation of “Tucho” (author of “Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing”) to the status of titular archbishop of a non-existent diocese (the titular See of Tiburnia) was one of Francis’ first acts of governance.

In EG, Francis reveals his “dream” of “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”

In LS, Francis lends the prestige of his office to the pseudo-science and ideological claims of the environmentalist fanatics, condemning supposed “global warming,” the excessive use of air-conditioning, the loss of mangrove swamps, the threat to plankton and worms, the acidification of the oceans, and the extinction of various plants and animals, which is denounced as an offense to God. Contraception is never mentioned as an offense to God, while the abominable crime of abortion is discussed only late in the encyclical and then only in terms of a failure “to protect a human embryo,” when in fact abortion is the brutal mass murder of innocent human beings, even at the very moment of their birth.

And in AL, Francis opens wide the door to Holy Communion for divorced and "remarried" public adulterers, relativizing morality itself by depicting exceptionless negative precepts of the natural law, including the Sixth Commandment, as “general rules” and “objective ideals.” Refusing to respond to the historic dubia which he thus prompted from the four cardinals, Francis watches mutely as the Church divides over whether its bimillennial Eucharistic discipline should now be overthrown.

The Roman Curia, and in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, no longer serves as a check on potential papal error or abuse of power. Regarding the CDF in particular, the respected Vaticanist Sandro Magister summarizes an unprecedented situation:

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in particular, should guarantee that all the acts of the magisterium are impeccable, inspecting them in advance word for word. This was what happened between John Paul II and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, Joseph Ratzinger.

“But with Francis this balance has gone haywire.

“The current pope increasingly shelves his written speeches and prefers to improvise. And when he has to write an encyclical or an exhortation, here too he goes his own way, with the help of his ghostwriters Fernández and Spadaro, assembling as he pleases the materials made available to him.

“And then, as a matter of routine, he sends the draft of the document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and [it is sent] back to him with dozens or even hundreds of annotations. But he systematically ignores these.

“This is what happened with ‘Evangelii Gaudium,’ the agenda-setting document of his pontificate, and with ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ the exhortation on marriage and divorce that is dividing the Church on account of the conflicting interpretations that it has unleashed.”

Indeed, as Magister has shown, “entire paragraphs of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ were copied from articles published ten and twenty years ago by Fernández. In whom Francis has by no means lost faith.”  And it is Fernández who “is the most ferocious critic of Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, the sidelined prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, against whom he levels the unheard-of charge of wanting to ‘control’ the pope’s theology.”

In truth, writes Magister, the Curia is something Francis has “never loved and has very little interest in reforming organically.”  He has simply dispensed with its function as he governs the Church from Santa Marta with the help of his patently heterodox collaborators. And the parlous results have included the three papal documents — EG, LS and AL — that stand alone in the entire history of the papacy in terms of novelty and departure from the constant teaching of the Magisterium, including the teaching on the divorced and “remarried” by the very Pope that Francis himself declared a saint.

Francis, to quote the title of Magister’s article, is “the lone man in charge to the crowd’s acclaim.” We are witnessing nothing less than an attempt to subject the entire Magisterium — the teaching office of the Church — to the crowd-pleasing opinions of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, opinions that elicited a swarm of urgent corrections from the Vatican’s own doctrinal congregation, now effectively neutralized along with the rest of the Curia.

It must be said in all candor that this pontificate constitutes a one-man crisis within the ecclesial crisis of the past half century. Only God knows when it will end in the inevitable restoration of the devastated vineyard.