Volume > Issue > Note List > A "Climate of Fear" in the Vatican?

A “Climate of Fear” in the Vatican?

Several independent reports out of Rome paint a troubling picture of the working situation at “headquarters.” Indications are that the Eternal City is on edge. And in the midst of the palpable sense of unease, anxiety, and, yes, even fear, one man looms large. That man is Pope Francis.

Much, though not all, of the distress radiates from a remarkable development: Four high-ranking prelates have publicly challenged the Pope over Amoris Laetitia, his murky and verbose apostolic exhortation in which he seems to suggest that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can be admitted to Holy Communion. On November 14 cardinals Raymond Burke of the U.S., Carlo Caffarra of Italy, and Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner of Germany made public a dubia, a set of five short yes-or-no questions addressed to Pope Francis about passages in Amoris Laetitia that, they say, have caused “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

The cardinals decided to go public with the dubia after submitting it to Francis privately in September — and then waiting two months for a reply that never came. The dubia calls on the Pope, “with profound respect,” to “dispel ambiguity” and “resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity.”

So far, not only has Francis refused to respond privately to the cardinals’ request, he has also refused to respond publicly. In fact, he’s made only one public comment about the dubia. In an interview in Avvenire, an Italian Catholic magazine (Nov. 18), Francis referred obliquely to “a certain legalism” that wants to see everything as “black and white,” and he wondered aloud whether such criticism doesn’t come “from an evil spirit” or “the desire to hide one’s own dissatisfaction under armor.” Yes, you read that correctly: Francis actually suggested that the men who asked him to make specific some of his (intentionally?) ambiguous ramblings might be under the influence of demons!

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