Is Benedict orchestrating the opposition to Francis?

This is a strange, and extremely interesting, time in the Catholic Church. Two things I have been reading about recently have caught my attention in particular.

Both have in their separate ways to do with the opposition to Pope Francis, which has been building up in recent times. I have lived through most of my adult life during the time when popes were traditional and conservative, and when there was  a concerted effort to row back on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. This began with Humanae Vitae in nineteen sixty eight, and in some ways reached its most blatant expression with the imposition of that dreadful new translation of the Mass. During all those years, while many of us disagreed with various things that popes said and did, there was never such virulent opposition to the Pope as there is now to Francis.

The most recent expression of this opposition is the effort to get signatures for a document that calls out Francis for ‘heresy’.  A response to this has been going around recently, looking for signatures from people who support the Pope. I have decided not to sign it.  It isn’t that I don’t support Francis.  I think he is doing a wonderful job in so many ways, and that he has remarkable bravery and energy for a man of his age. I have decided not to sign this campaign because I think it gives far too much significance and importance to the opposition. It gives the impression that there is real division in the Church over Francis, whereas his opponents are only a small, though noisy, segment of the Church membership.  In this I agree with Massimo Faggioli, who, though a distinguished writer and theologian and a great supporter of Francis, has decided not to put his name to the campaign.


Another writer on Church affairs that I have great time for is Robert Mickens. He wrote for The Tablet for years, and they made a major mistake in dropping him over some trivial matter, the nature of which I forget. But I haven’t forgotten the quality of his articles, and how much I miss them from that publication, which hasn’t been the same since he left.

He recently wrote an article on Pope emeritus Benedict, which I found really interesting. He points out that when Benedict retired he assured the Church that he would go into silence and prayer. Mickens suggests that he has not kept his promise. He has been quite active and public in various ways, in writing, giving interviews, and receiving people. Mickens shows how those who publicly oppose Francis often quote from Benedict, and that he must be well aware of this, and yet does nothing to stop it.  He has, according to Mickens, been visited by some of those critics of Francis, which would seem to indicate that he may be encouraging, rather than disowning, them.


It was good that Benedict retired, but he should not have stayed living in the Vatican. He should have gone back to Germany, and allowed Francis to get on with his agenda as Pope.  Without the encouragement of Benedict’s presence, the critics of Francis would have less credibility. And this also raises the question; if Benedict outlives Francis, which is quite possible, what part will he play in influencing the decision of the next conclave? A lot, I would suggest.