Pope Francis and his struggle with the Vatican

Vatican: Bishops, priests main obstacle for Pope Francis

Pope frustrated

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On the heels of one controversial Vatican article alleging an “ecumenism of hate” between conservative Evangelicals and Catholics in America, another potential eyebrow-raiser emerged Saturday claiming that the “main obstacle” to implementing Pope Francis’s vision is “closure, if not hostility” from “a good part of the clergy, at levels both high and low.”

The term “high and low” suggests the author had in mind clergy ranging from senior bishops to ordinary parish priests.

“The clergy is holding the people back, who should instead be accompanied in this extraordinary moment,” said the article by Italian Father Giulio Cirignano, a native of Florence and a longtime Scripture scholar at the Theological Faculty of Central Italy.

The piece appeared in the weekend edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, under the headline of “The Conversion Asked by Pope Francis: Habit is not Fidelity.”

It comes a little over a week after the publication of an essay by Italian Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Argentine Protestant Marcelo Figueroa, two close friends of Pope Francis, in the Jesuit-edited journal La Civilità Cattolica.

In it, Spadaro and Figueroa described what they see was a “Manichean vision” underlying growing closeness in America between Evangelicals and “Catholic Integralists.”

Cirignano’s piece didn’t focus on the United States, and appeared to be more concerned with Italian realities, though he didn’t specify which country or region he was addressing.

“The main obstacle that stands in the way of the conversion that Pope Francis wants to bring to the Church is constituted, in some measure, by the attitude of a good part of the clergy, at levels high and low … an attitude, at times, of closure if not hostility,” Cirignano wrote.

“Most of the faithful have understood, despite everything, the favourable moment, the Kairos, which the Lord is giving to his community,” Cirignano said. “For the most part, they’re celebrating.”

“Despite that, the portion [of the community] closest to little-illuminated pastors is maintained behind an old horizon, the horizon of habitual practices, of language out of fashion, of repetitive thinking without vitality,” he said.

Cirignano offered several factors to explain what he sees as “closure” and “hostility” from the clergy towards Pope Francis. Continue reading


Here is further evidence, from the local Catholic Press, of the division between Pope Francis and many of the clergy he exercises authority over, in this article outlining the chasm that has opened up between the old and new horizons on Church doctrine and its proper application to pastoral accommodation.

Hostility towards the Pope’s suggested reforms reminds us all of the reluctance of the “Old Guard” in the Vatican to bring about the reforms begun by the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John XXIII at Vatican II.

Under the previous 2 Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVi, the implementation of the reforms suggested by the outcome of Vatican II has been severely restricted. The once hopeful laity, who had expected a much more eirenic opening up of their Church to the exigencies of modern life and the more radical reform of pastoral and liturgical practices promised by Vatican II, have either moved on in their personal rejection of the outdated moral imperatives of the Church, or have simply left the Church.

With the unexpected election of the Argentinian Jesuit Pope Francis, whose choice of name reflects his own personal preference for the poor; his projected reforms – including that of restoring their access to the Eucharist of previously outlawed divorced and remarried people – has angered and dismayed those clergy and hierarchy who have relied on sacramental discipline as a way of disciplining errant Catholics, without opening up the prospect of rehabilitation to their fullness of access to the sacramental life of the Church – which Pope Francis believes is the underlying mission of the Church.

Father Ron Smith, christchurch, New Zealand (currently in Amsterdam)

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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