Pope Francis’ Reported Words: “I Might Go Down in History for Having Split the Catholic Church”

Today, DER SPIEGEL, a very influential German publication, published an article about the manifest current crisis in the Church, to include a growing resistance to Pope Francis’ proposed and actual reforms. At the end of this article its author, the Spiegel’s Correspondent in Italy, Walter Mayr, reveals an important new leak:

In a very small circle, Pope Francis is said to have self-critically further explained himself as follows: “It is not to be excluded that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.” [my emphasis]

In light of this self-revealing comment, it is worth quoting some other parts of this article which shows just how much open and smoldering indignation Pope Francis has caused within the Catholic Church. Mayr describes the atmosphere in the Vatican with critical words, as follows:

It is Saturday morning last week, shortly after eight, in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican. A group of fifty cardinals now living in Rome – purple elegant robes and purple caps as far as the eye can see – has appeared in order to honor Pope Francis with a common concelebrated Mass, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. As they sit there under the fresco of Michelangelo depicting the crucifixion of Peter, the dignitaries have their eyes on the powerful man to the left of the altar – and the estrangement can nearly be palpably grasped with one’s hands. “Be assured that we are close to you,” says the cardinal deacon [Cardinal Angelo Sodano] to Francis – but this reassurance sounds strangely hollow.

As the article’s author also says, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, who lives in Rome, had excused himself from this celebration, however, due to his frailty; but he had sent Pope Francis a congratulatory letter.

In the following, Mayr also describes the events surrounding the dubia of the Four Cardinals, with Pope Francis’ decision not to respond to the letter containing their doubts concerning his promulgated document Amoris Laetitia. The author even calls the pope’s decision not at all to respond his own “highest penalty.” In Mayr’s eyes, Pope Francis apparently feels wounded by all these events, as became quite discernible when he spoke at his address to the Roman Curia yesterday about those “evil forms of resistance” that aim at accusing him personally by way of specious reference to traditions and formalities.

With reference to Edward Pentin, the well-known Vatican specialist, Mayr says: “The pope is boiling and fuming.” Mayr also quotes Cardinal Brandmüller himself whom he visited in his apartment next to the Vatican:

Speaking in his apartment next to St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller said in truth “it is about all or nothing” [“es geht um die Wurst”], to speak in colloquial terms; that is to say, it is about the kernel of the whole, about the teaching of Doctrine.”

Moreover, Mayr adds, Pope Francis – together with Cardinal Walter Kasper – wishes to “soften central precepts of the Catholic Faith and to leave up to the local bishops and priests the task of interpreting them for the daily lives of the people.” This new approach, according to Brandmüller, attacks the very foundation of the Universal Church:

“Whoever thinks that persistent adultery and the reception of Holy Communion are compatible is a heretic and promotes schism.” Holy Scripture, according to Brandmüller, is not a place where everybody can pick what he likes: “We are, according to the Apostle St. Paul, administrators of the mysteries of God, but not holders of the right of disposal.”

In Mayr’s eyes, as well, “much is at stake.” For him, “Francis seems to be increasingly isolated” and also “worn down.” A confidant of the pope tells Mayr: “Many do not recognize any more in the Francis of the year 2016 the man whom they elected in 2013.” The journalist also describes how the Year of Mercy “has kept everything open” and it “did not at all fulfill the expectations.” The curial reform does not advance, either; and, “from some dicasteries, there now come reports of ‘total chaos’.” According to Mayr, Francis’ “volubility causes additional problems”; his comments about the media and their tendency toward “coprophagy” have even caused indignation among his own sympathetic followers.

According to DER SPIEGEL, Pope Francis is “still fighting for his legacy.” He is up working from 5 o’clock in the morning. “There is not much time left to him,” says Mayr. But, Pope Francis might still have some surprises for us. And, then, the DER SPIEGEL article closes with above-quoted words recently attributed to Francis: It is not to be excluded that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.”

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