This is smiling Pope Francis’s declaration of war against the legacies of the institutional theological reactionaries who preceded him in office. Both John Paul II and Benedict salted the world’s dioceses with hardbars like Bishop Raymond Burke, guaranteeing that their ideas would plague us long after they died or, in Benedict’s case, retired. Francis has wasted no time in rooting out these nasty walking land mines. Monkeying with the Congregation for Bishops is a serious business. It is a clear attempt to restructure the entire Church bureaucracy to fit your ideas, and it’s what good Pope John did 50 years ago.
American conservative Catholics who defend Pope Francis keep saying that Francis is truly orthodox, despite the fact that the liberal US media love him. Maybe they’re right. But the further we go into this pontificate, the more I wonder if liberals understand something about Pope Francis that conservatives do not. The Advocate‘s editors, for example, probably don’t expect Francis ever to endorse same-sex marriage, or even gay sexuality; if they do expect this, they’re delusional. But they have every reason to hope that Francis will undermine the Church’s formal opposition to same-sex marriage and the broader gay-rights agenda. I think the Advocate made a savvy choice, frankly.
David Gibson look ahead:
In February, Francis will have two more important opportunities to make his mark: His Council of Cardinals will give him a blueprint for reforming the Curia, and a few days later, he will appoint his first batch of new cardinals — some of the men who may one day gather to elect Francis’ successor and chart a new course or follow the one he is laying out.
(Photo: New cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis, receives the biretta cap from Pope Benedict XVI in Saint Peter’s Basilica on November 20, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. Burke was just removed from Pope Francis’ Congregation of Bishops. By Franco Origlia/Getty Images.)