FEB 13th 2017 By Deacon Nick Donnelly GB
Xl screen shot 2017 02 14 at 00.52.19

The Tablet, the English Catholic "progressive" newspaper, has published an article by its Rome correspondent, Christopher Lamb, reporting concerns about Pope Francis becoming a "divisive" figure, and making a comparison with Pope St John XXIII, the "kind reformer":

'While Francis enjoys widespread popularity among ordinary Catholics, one Church source said he could be “alienating his core audience.” “John XXIII showed it was possible to be kind (sic) reformer,” the source explained. “There is a danger Francis is becoming divisive” '

These comments concluded Christopher Lamb's article on the pastiche of L’Osservatore Romano that was distributed in Rome last week satirically commenting on the Holy Father's lack of response to the dubia. Christopher Lamb reported:

'A spoof front page of the Vatican’s newspaper mocking the Pope is being circulated inside the Roman Curia in another example of hostility against Francis on his own doorstep. 

The realistic mock up of L’Osservatore Romano imagines the Pope responding to the questions about his family life document submitted by four cardinal critics and which require yes or no answers, with Francis being criticised by conservatives for refusing to answer the queries.  

In the fake news page Francis replies to each of the queries - known as “dubia” with “yes and no” under the headline: “He answered!” A number of papal critics say that Amoris Laetitita undermines Church teaching on marriage by opening up the possibility of giving remarried divorcees communion.    

Other articles on the page poke fun at Jesuit priest Fr Antonio Spadaro and Cardinal Walter Kasper, both key allies of the Pope, and Lucetta Scaraffia one of the newspaper’s few female writers but in this version is described as the editor. 

While the source of the front page is so far unknown, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported that it been widely circulated among cardinals and influential lay Catholics.

Its emergence comes after a series of anti-Francis posters were put up in around 40 locations around Rome, with protests against a Pope in Rome highly unusual in a city where the papacy is respected as a quasi-monarchy.  

The mock L’Osservatore Romano is not first (sic) piece of satire aimed at the PopeL a (sic) YouTube video critiquing Francis’ family life text which is set to the music of “That’s Amore” with the line: “When will we all be freed from this cruel tyranny, that’s Amoris.”'

Comment

This is not Rorate Caeli or One Peter Five reporting disquiet over Pope Francis's reforms but the leading English language newspaper of "progressive" Catholicism. It is noteworthy that The Tablet has published concerns about Pope Francis becoming "divisive" at a time when the Holy Father is being publicly challenged in Rome through posters and satirical spoof newspapers.

It is even more striking that The Tablet has chosen to highlight a comparison between the "kind reform" of Pope St John XXIII" with the reform of Pope Francis, described in terms of "alienating" and "divisive". The anonymous source refers to Pope St John XXIII as exemplifying  "kind reform". What does kind reform look like? His opening address at the Second Vatican Council is held up as an seminal example of balancing the need for continuity and reform. Here's an excerpt:

The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of good will. 

Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries.

Here we can see Pope John XXIII making the case for reform in a way that seeks to engage his "core audience", not alienating them, by showing a genuine concern for safeguarding the doctrines of the Church, while at the same time engaging with the modern world.  It would be helpful to hear more from The Tablet's anonymous Church source, even better with a name attached.