Francis: Ten Years of His Pontificate in Ten Questions (2)

May 06, 2023
Pope Francis in 2013

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 Vatican broadcast a simple interview with Francis. But Vaticanists have been trying to take stock of the past ten years. More than an assessment, it is a series of doubts and questions that can be reduced to ten essential questions. The first was formulated: “Is there a pope of the media (sympathetic) and a real pope (authoritarian)? (See first article). Here is the second:

2. Is Francis above all a man of his time?

In La Verità of March 15, Marcello Veneziani considers that “the tenth anniversary of Bergoglio’s pontificate was celebrated with a certain discretion: few comments, very few praises, only chilly articles.” Nevertheless, he is looking for the trait that best characterizes the pope during the past decade:

“What is the specific trait that has characterized him during these years? He has been perceived as a son of his time more than of the Church, a son of globalization more than of tradition. But a reverse globalization, coming [not from the West, but] from all the countries of the southern hemisphere, from all the peripheries, a globalization of welcoming poverty.”

“A Pope open to the furthest away, who loves his furthest neighbor, open to Muslims before Christians, to Protestants before Catholics, to the poor more than to the faithful. At least that is how it appeared to public opinion and how it was presented by the media. All this has been ennobled by a return to the original Christianity.”

“And this has aroused the consensus and sympathy of those who are furthest removed from the Church and the Christian faith. And the distrust, even opposition, of those who are most attached to our Holy Mother, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church.”

However, with this guideline, Bergoglio's Pontificate must face, according to Marcello Veneziani, “three factors of crisis that go beyond it: the eclipse of faith and religion, the decline of Christian tradition and civilization, and the small influence of Catholics in politics.” The Italian journalist specifies:

“The origins of the first phenomenon is not to be found in Francis’ pontificate, but in a secular process. It is the dechristianization of the world, western irreligion, the loss of faith, the perspective of the otherworldliness, and religious practice.”

“But this historic process has become accentuated and accelerated in recent times, as evidenced by the decline in devotion, vocations, the number of faithful attending Mass and the weakening of religious feeling. Cardinal Bergoglio’s accession to the papacy did not stop, slow down, or reduce this decline, but rather coincides with its acceleration and worsening. This is not a good pastoral result, it is a religious defeat.”

“The second phenomenon follows directly from the first, it is the extinction of tradition, common sentiments, Christian identity and civilization. The Church of Pope Bergoglio is not ecumenical but global, with no spiritual or identity link with Christian civilization. It is at the point of appearing in some cases like a large NGO, a kind of Emergency [Italian NGO, comparable to “Doctors Without Borders” Ed.] in a cassock, losing the living link with tradition.”

The third phenomenon “concerns Italy more closely”: “For years, political elections have recorded the insignificance of the Catholic vote. And I am not just talking about the role of parishes and sacristies in guiding believers, but religious questions or questions relating to themes dear to the Church.”

“Religious consciousness has disappeared at the ballot box. For the first time in our civil history, Catholics play no role in political orientation.” – This remark concerns the Catholic Church in France as well, with a very consensual episcopate vis-à-vis political representatives, and religious practice at 5%.

In conclusion, Marcello Veneziani returns to Francis's famous response on the plane on the return from the World Youth Days in Rio (July 2013), concerning a presumed homosexual prelate, a response which gave a destabilizing aspect to the whole pontificate: “The pope took refuge behind Christian humility and said, ‘Who am I to judge?’”

“We would have to answer him: ‘You are the pope, the Holy Father, and you have not only the right but the duty to judge, to guide, to exhort and to condemn. Otherwise, you are failing in your pastoral duty, in your evangelical mission.’”

“Conversely, who is he to judge, even relativize and erase Catholic tradition, the thoughts of popes, theologians and saints, doctrine, life, the ordo missæ, the example of the martyrs, and witnesses of the faith? Why bend the truth to time and the millennial tradition to present day uses and phobias?”

This question brings us back to the starting point: Pope Francis appears as a son of his time more than of the Church, a son of globalization more than of Tradition. “And to note painfully in fine: ‘The Pope has more success with atheists and non-believers than with believing and fervent Christians. It’s nothing to celebrate, especially because this sympathy does not translate into the conversion [of atheists and non-believers].”