It’s no secret that the mainstream media cherry pick Pope Francis’ words to suit their agenda while generally ignoring his pro-life statements and other issues that fail to coincide with their secular outlook.
The Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, was a case in point: Amplified were his comments in support of anthropogenic climate change and environmental concern; overlooked were his remarks condemning abortion, population control, and gender ideology.
But is the media the only reason for a filtered and weakened papal message reaching the masses?
Countless times Francis has condemned abortion in the context of a “throwaway culture,” and he has been particularly vocal against gender ideology — the imposition of a growing secular idea that sexual orientation is the main criterion of human identity.
The ideology, he has said, seeks to undermine the proper understanding of marriage as well as human sexuality. He has gone even further, calling it “demonic,” compared it to the educational policies of Adolf Hitler, and said it fails to recognize “the order of creation.”
So strong has Francis been in fighting this ideology that hundreds of thousands of Italians — most of them families — protested in Rome last Saturday against it, and particularly the teaching of the ideology and homosexuality in schools.
In this area, too, the Pope has been strong. In April 2014, he said the “horrors of the manipulation of education” have not disappeared but are now under “various guises” and, with the “pretense of modernity, push children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of ‘only one form of thought.’”
More recently, Francis has insisted on the “complementarity of man and woman,” saying it is essential to marriage. The differences between men and women, he explained, do not suggest “opposition or subordination,” but are meant for “communion and procreation, always in the image and likeness of God.”
Many Catholics and others welcome such statements, especially as countries legislate in favor of redefining marriage. But there is a sense that the force of the Pope’s words could be being undermined not just by selective media coverage by an inconsistency in his own actions.
This primarily involves his appointments, particularly of bishops, which are becoming increasingly seen as the main interpretive key of this pontificate. Pope Francis’ tendency has been to appoint moderate, or liberal, bishops, while at the same time sidelining those committed to upholding the Catholic faith.
To take a few examples:
- Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American former head of the Vatican’s highest court known for his commitment to church teaching, was first taken off a committee for selecting bishops and then demoted to being patron of a chivalric order.
- Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, also known for his orthodoxy, had his resignation on grounds of age swiftly accepted earlier this month with no one to replace him.
- A relatively large number of junior and middle-ranking Vatican officials supportive of Benedict XVI’s conservative vision of the church have been removed.
- Several orthodox-leaning bishops, such as Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City and Archbishop John Nienstadt of Minneapolis-St. Paul, had their resignations accepted after mismanaging sexual abuse cases. By contrast, retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who has voiced support for same-sex unions, was invited to last year’s Synod on the Family and is granted private papal audiences. Danneels once ordered an abuse victim to remain silent.
True, Pope Francis has appointed some prominent orthodox-thinking bishops: he put Australian Cardinal George Pell in charge of Vatican finances (though his position has been partially weakened by three papal decrees), and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah in charge of liturgy. But most of his appointments have been liberal churchmen who, it’s safe to conclude, were chosen to be interpreters of the Pope’s message.
Some of these include:
- Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, who once instructed Catholic priests and seminarians not to hold demonstrations in front of abortion clinics. Francis bypassed normal channels to appoint him directly.
- Bishop Heiner Koch, newly appointed to Berlin, who supports church recognition of same-sex unions.
- Cardinal John Dew of Auckland, New Zealand, who supports communion for remarried divorcees (Dew is one of a number of prelates supportive of a pastorally reformist agenda whom Francis has also elevated to cardinal).
Such an agenda, which critics contend is a modernist heresy ultimately inconsistent with church doctrine, is being pushed at the upcoming Synod on the Family, most notably by the prelate Francis put in charge, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.
Francis’s other appointments for the synod have also generally been questionable, such as Archbishop Bruno Forte, thought to have been the principal author of the meeting’s interim report that pushed for greater acceptance of homosexual relationships in the church.
The Pope is often lauded for his preaching. The question is whether he could be far more effective if he appointed churchmen whose views cohered less with secular modernity and more with the church’s traditional teaching and practice.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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