Again, these sorts of warnings concerning a reigning pope from at least two cardinals, and I know there are more, are unprecedented in the modern history of the Catholic Church.
Anxiety abounds in a certain segment of the Church ( I think most laity are oblivious). Things are more dire now than in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II and Humanae Vitae.
Tomorrow, Crux will print an interview with Cardinal George conducted by my favorite John Allen.
Today Crux gives us a tease and yes it is a BOMBSHELL!
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago will turn over the reins to his successor, Archbishop Blase Cupich, on Tuesday. George has long been seen as a leading intellectual light among America’s Catholic bishops, and even now, as he fights for his life, his mind remains remarkably nimble.
As it turns out, one thing occupying his mind these days is Pope Francis.
Now 77, George is currently undergoing experimental treatment intended to stimulate his immune system to fight off the cancer spreading from his bladder, liver, and kidneys through the rest of his body. If it fails, he’ll likely be looking at palliative care ahead of the inevitable.
George sat down for an exclusive interview on Friday. A fuller account will appear Monday on Crux, but for now, one fascinating element is this: If time and health allow, George would really, really like to have a heart-to-heart with Francis.
Aside from the sheer fun of knowing what one of America’s best Catholic minds wants to ask the pope, George’s dream Q&A has political relevance because he remains a point of reference to the Church’s conservative wing. These aren’t just his questions, in other words, but what a large and influential Catholic constituency would like to know.
To begin, George said he’d like to ask Francis if he fully grasps that in some quarters, he’s created the impression Catholic doctrine is up for grabs.
Does Francis realize, for example, “what has happened just by that phrase, ‘Who am I to judge?’ ”
(Francis uttered the line in 2013, in response to a question about a Vatican cleric accused of gay relationships earlier in his career.)
“That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness,” George said.
“Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t,” George said. “I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise doubts in people’s minds.
“The question is why he doesn’t he clarify” these ambiguous statements, George said. “Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear the burden of trying to put the best possible face on it?”
He said he also wonders if Francis realizes how his rhetoric has created expectations “he can’t possibly meet.”
“That’s what worries me,” George said. “At a certain moment, people who have painted him as a player in their own scenarios about changes in the Church will discover that’s not who he is.”
At that stage, George warned, “He’ll get not only disillusionment, but opposition, which could be harmful to his effectiveness.”
Second, George said he’d like to ask Francis who is providing him advice — which, he said, has become the “big question” about this pope.
“Obviously he’s getting input from somewhere,” George said. “Much of it he collects himself, but I’d love to know who’s truly shaping his thinking.”
Third, George noted that Francis often makes references to the Devil and the biblical notion of the end-times, but said it’s not clear how that shapes his vision and agenda.
Among other things, George recalled that one of Francis’ favorite books is “The Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson, a converted Catholic priest and son of a former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s an apocalyptic fantasy, written in 1907, culminating in a showdown between the Church and a charismatic anti-Christ figure.
George said he’d like to ask Francis a simple question: “Do you really believe that?”
“I hope before I die I’ll have the chance to ask him how you want us to understand what you’re doing, when you put [the end-times] before us as a key to it all,” he said.
Perhaps, George said, the sense that the end is near explains why Francis “seems to be in a hurry.”
So far, George said, he hasn’t been able to talk these things out with the new boss.
“I didn’t know him well before he was elected, and since then I haven’t had a chance to go over [to Rome] for any meetings because I’ve been in treatment,” he said.
Getting some quality time, as George describes it, wouldn’t be just about indulging his personal curiosity, but also being a good bishop.
“You’re supposed to govern in communion with the successor of Peter, so it’s important to have some meeting of minds,” he said. “I certainly respect [Francis] as pope, but I don’t yet really have an understanding of, ‘What are we doing here?’ ”
Here’s hoping America’s Ratzinger eventually gets that heart-to-heart with Pope Francis … and, for the record, I’d pay serious money to be a fly on the wall if he does.