Volume > Issue > The Great Deformer

The Great Deformer

ON THE FINAL PHASE OF FRANCIS'S TURBULENT PAPACY

By Pieter Vree | July-August 2022
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR.

Hagan lío, he said. “Make a mess.”

When Pope Francis said this to a crowd of millions at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013 — a mere four months into his reign — it seems he wasn’t merely making a novel suggestion; he was also describing the modus operandi of his papacy.

As anybody who’s read our commentary over the past nine years knows, that’s precisely what this Pope has done: make a mess. (For those who haven’t been reading that long, you can check out what we’ve said by browsing our online dossier “Pope Francis”: newoxfordreview.org/topics/pope-francis.)

Francis was ushered into the Chair of Peter with the hope that he would reform the curia, modernize its infrastructure, and streamline procedures that have long caused the Church to move at a glacial pace. It was hoped that he would reaffirm the Church in the soundness of her doctrine, refocus the Church on her social teachings, and reignite her missionary fervor.

It hasn’t quite gone that way.

Early on, ours was a lone voice in the wilderness, warning of the ambiguities, discrepancies, contradictions, insults, and, frankly, absurdities issuing forth from Francis’s mouth. As time marched on, and Francis’s words and behavior became more erratic and, at times, inexplicable, others began to take notice as well. Things were clearly amiss.

And now, at this late stage, if a mysterious “memorandum” circulating around the Vatican is to be believed, the watching world has reached a consensus about this papacy (save, of course, for those holdouts who’ve come to be known collectively as Team Francis). “Commentators of every school,” it states, “if for different reasons, with the possible exception of [Italian journalist] Father Spadaro, SJ, agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.”

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