The Curia Strikes Back

You may think that Pope Francis is a simple man of the people, eschewing the fancy trappings of office out of devotion to the poor and a rejection of papal monarchism. No way, says veteran vaticanista Sandro Magister.

Wikimedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ihs-logo.svg

Wikimedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ihs-logo.svg

You may think that Pope Francis is a simple man of the people, eschewing the fancy trappings of office out of devotion to the poor and a rejection of papal monarchism.

No way, says veteran vaticanista Sandro Magister in yesterday’s post on his blog, Chiesa.

His reticence in attributing to himself the name of pope and his preference for calling himself as bishop of Rome have made champions of the democratization of the Church rejoice.

But theirs is a blunder.

According to Magister, the man in white is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s Bergoglio the Jesuit, playing by the rules of his order, governing as if were superior general of the Society of Jesus, the autocratic “Black Pope.”

The evidence? To reform the Vatican bank Francis has brought in a manager from the “mysterious” McKinsey management consulting company. And instead of relying on the existing structures of church authority, he’s appointed his his own group of eight cardinals to reform the curia.

In early October the eight will be gathered around the pope. They will deliver to him a sheaf of proposals. He will be the one to decide. Alone.

I’m no Vaticanista, but I know a media hit when I see one. And this is how the curiales are fighting back.

It’s pretty clever to play the Jesuit card the way they have. For centuries, the Jesuits were emblems of Catholic deviousness — the elite operatives who grabbed the money, pulled the international strings, playing fast and loose with the rules of morality. Forget Dan Brown and Opus Dei. The Great Jesuit Conspiracy against truth, justice, and democracy is back!

But there’s another way Jesuits figure in the history of the Church, and one more relevant to the struggle at hand. In 17th-century France, it was them against the Jansenists, Augustinian puritans who believed in a Catholicism of the Chosen, zealots who in the name of opposing centralized Roman authority worked for a smaller, more rigid Church.

Thus, in the name of democracy, Magister gives voice to the neo-Jansenists in the Vatican, those eager to tighten the screws of orthodoxy and to bar the door against anyone who does not meet their standards of conduct. They are no friends of democracy in the Church, and they don’t like Francis’ traditional Jesuit message of inclusion and advance. They feel the levers of power slipping from their fingers. And they’re scared.