|And it's goodnight from him...|
Will the Catholic world soon have three popes in the Vatican?
That was the clear implication of Pope Francis' strong hint again that he might retire early like his immediate predecessor Benedict XVI. In an interview with the Mexican TV station, Televista, to mark his second anniversary he said he longed for anonymity and a private life and even hinted that his retirement might be very soon.
The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognised, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza,... I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief: four or five years; I do not know, even two or three. Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation. Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won't be disappointed and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more... But it is a feeling. I always leave the possibility open.
Curiously, or maybe not when one realises the power of the Curia and their role in Benedict XVI's 'decision' to retire, which appears to have been a surprise even to him, Francis seems to hint that the timing of his 'retirement' might well not be his either. He is clearly not finding being infallible and having achieved the pinnacle of any Catholic cleric's career ambition, quite to his liking and has been seen to be struggling to cope or even to understand his role.
He has been unable to stop himself blurting out things which are clearly contradictory in themselves and contradictory even to Church dogma and centuries of teaching, criticising couples for both not having enough children, calling them selfish, and breeding like rabbits when they obey the Church's dictats and let nature take its course, often at the expense of them and their family's welfare and chance of a better life. Then he famously appeared to be excusing violent religious extremism and abandoning the official Christian teaching, supposedly coming from Jesus, to forgive your enemies and turn the other cheek, when he excused the Charlie Hebdo murders by saying those who insult religion should expect a punch.
Francis inherited a Church racked with scandal compounded by the way it had tried to cover them up, a corrupt and self-serving Curia, a corrupt and criminal banking and financial (mis)management department and a Vatican where rent boys were as common as nuns and served much the same purpose. Amid crocodile tears and expressions of anguish and regret, he promised he would sort out the Church, put an end to corruption, break the power of the Curia, put an end to the institutionalized sexual and physical abuse of children and vulnerable adults by priests and nuns, and ensure their victims got the compensation, help and support they needed and deserved.
To date, two years on, almost nothing has changed. After the first person he put in to sort out the banking scandal, Monsignor Battista Ricca, was caught in a lift with a rent boy, Cardinal Pell who replaced him immediately began using the money for his own aggrandizement and comfort. Despite Monsignor Battista Ricca having a history of hypocrisy and double standards, Francis apparently had the wool pulled over his eyes by the gay lobby in the Vatican and thought he was ideal for the job.
In 1999 Ricca went to Uruguay as a Vatican diplomatic and promptly moved in his lover, Patrick Haari, a captain in the ceremonial Vatican Swiss Guard, to live with him. Following the scandal, Captain Haari was forced out by the hardline Polish nuncio Janusz Bolonek in 2001. Pope Francis appears to have been unaware of this or unconcerned by it, despite being the senior Catholic Cleric in neighbouring Argentina, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Self-confessed child abusers are allowed to live out their lives in fully-paid 'gardening leave' until retiring on a nice fat pension, as are the senior clerics who facilitated it. Archdiocese across the world are still refusing to cooperate with authorities investigating allegations of abuse, Bishops and Archbishops fight tooth and nail, using any devices and delaying tactics available to them to avoid paying compensation to their cleric's victims. Clerics who hide church funds in 'trusts' to put it out of the legal reach of their victims are rewarded with promotion instead of being sacked, and Francis is reduced to calling the Curia names and accusing them of being mentally ill - but no-one is sacked. Even an attempt to make the Church look slightly less bigoted and homophobic and a little more tolerant and inclusive was unceremoniously vetoed by the bishops.
Francis may have set out determined to rehabilitate the Church and restore some of its moral authority in the world, but he is finding he has no real power without his civil service, his bankers and his cardinals and they are the very people responsible for the mess the Church is in in the first place, because that's the way they want it. The Byzantine and impenetrable power structure is not by accident; it's by design. None of them is going to give up the power and the privileges, and no one is going to set in motion a root and branch purge of corrupt and abusive clerics that might well expose their own murky past and find the skeletons in their own cupboards. Only insiders who play the game and know when to turn a blind eye, how to use confidential information and when to stab in the back, float to the top of this particular cesspit.
Pope francis could have used his power and authority to begin this clean-up by gathering around himself a team of like-minded people with the power and authority to purge the Church, and so make his mark as one of the great reforming Popes of all time, but maybe there just weren't people of sufficient moral character with the necessary management skills, or maybe Frankie just isn't up to the job and doesn't have sufficient grasp on the problem to know where to begin.
No wonder Francis, the smiling 'peoples' Pope, who was put up as the front man to give the Church a human face in contrast to the odious Pope Benedict, would love to throw in the towel and retire into obscurity; to be able to go out and get a pizza without being recognized, and more importantly, to not be sitting there bewildered in the midst of a corrupt cesspit not knowing which way to turn to make the stink go away and not even sure what his role is. This isn't going to happen, of course. When the Vatican power-brokers decide it's time for Francis to retire, he too will have a nice little apartment in the Vatican, well away from public view.
Whoever takes over from him, and it will almost certainly be another Vatican insider, will quickly find he is nothing more than a puppet who might as well be like Pope John Paul II and just read the speeches and be held up to a window while having his hand waved for him, for all the power he has. No-one is ever going to manage to polish this particular turd.
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