Cardinal sins mean a long hot summer for the Pope
Pope Francis has a multitude of problems on his hands, not just for the summer but for the long term. The sins of some of his cardinals may or may not be forgiven by the Almighty, but the Pope has a very real challenge right here on Earth
The weather has been hot since April, and Italians have been getting away to the seaside whenever possible, at weekends, saints’ days and sometimes pulling a crafty sickie.
But now the holidays proper are approaching, the two, three weeks, often a month spent showing off your beach body and chatting with the friends you always chat to at this time of year, under your reserved umbrella.
Not so, however, in the Vatican. Of course, the Pope has refused to use his summer house, Castelgandolfo in the Alban Hills (now a tourist venue), but there is no shortage of places to go. It’s just that there is a lot to do and, seemingly, not many people to do it. Beach body ready priests and monsignors are having to stay at the office.
Where to start? Australian Cardinal George Pell, who heads up the Vatican’s finances, has returned to Australia to face some historic child abuse allegations. He says he is innocent, and many Vatican observers believe him to be so.
Not that George Pell is a great loss to Francis. The Australian is a conservative, one of a number of cardinals who signed a letter to the Pope saying that there was progressive interference in the Synod on the Family. It was, of course, Francis himself who was interfering.
If Pell is innocent, people will suspect that someone has been stirring up trouble for him, and that someone will almost certainly be of the pope’s progressive faction.
Things are not going too well for Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Last month police were called to a disturbance in a flat occupied by one of his senior aides, Luigi Capozzi. They found what has been described as a homosexual orgy.
Cardinal Coccopalmerio had proposed the aide for promotion to bishop, but an investigation by a newspaper came up with evidence that the Monsignor has been treated twice for drug overdoses.
The flat in question belonged to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), the section which defends and promulgates dogma of the Church, and all is not well there, either. Cardinal Gerhard Muller, until recently head of the department, has been told by the Pope that his five year mandate will not be renewed.
This is rare, almost outlandish. The CDF is one of the nine congregations of the Curia, the offices through which the pope governs the church. Some of the old boys in this club have had their five year mandates renewed three, even four times.
And this is not for the usual crime of molesting young boys. Muller had been head of the Regensburg school where the Emeritus Pope Benedict’s brother has been accused of improper practice, but it was long before his time.
Muller is being chased out by Francis because he is a conservative. Where you have to have sympathy with Francis is that whilst other senior figures can have minor doctrinal differences with the pope, the Curia is the pope’s private office and its members are expected to agree consistently with the Holy Father’s teaching.
And Muller doesn’t, on the matters of divorcees or homosexuals receiving communion.
There are other absences: newly appointed Cardinal Zerbo of Mali was found to have millions of dollars in HSBC Private Bank in Geneva. He is in hiding.
Muller’s replacement at the CDF, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, is accused of covering up sex crimes by a priest in southern Italy.
Then there is the archbishop discovered by a newspaper to have a ‘vizietto’ (little vice). Apparently he liked to stand outside the Porta Sant’Anna touching up the Swiss Guard and the occasional passing tourist.
On his dismissal, Muller let slip an interesting detail of his conversation with the Holy Father. Francis apparently told him that none of these five year mandates would, in the future, be renewed.
This means that there will be over the next couple of years a whole raft of new appointments. It represents a massive upheaval in the Church, caused in part by Francis’s liberal doctrinal changes, which do not quite create to a schism but are not far off.
In part also, the upheaval is caused by the traditional vices of greed and perversion, which John Paul II seemed almost not to believe, which Benedict shied away from tackling and which are left with Francis to resolve.
He will be praying that he lives long enough to succeed. For myself, I sometimes fear the tasks may be too great for anyone.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
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