In US, Spain and Italy, the pope is making bishops re-think
Will they persist with campaigns that may be out of step with the papacy?
Picture: AFP/Filippo Monteforte
Pope Francis is showing that he has very clear in his mind both the battles that he wants to fight and those for which he sees no need to do so. Both "ad intra," meaning within the ecclesial body of which he has become the supreme pastor - and in the Roman curia in particular - and "ad extra," in the world.
With regard to the latter, pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said loud and clear, in the interview with "La Civiltà Cattolica," that he does not see as a priority the battles over anthropological issues like the questions “connected to abortion, homosexual marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.”
This undoubtedly constitutes a change of stance with respect to the last pontificates: not only of Benedict XVI and of John Paul II, but also of Paul VI, the pope of “Humanae Vitae" and of the strenuous resistance against the introduction of divorce in Italy.
It is a change of stance, this of Pope Francis, who although he has not yet eliminated even one iota of doctrine has nonetheless raised widespread expectations among the more progressive sectors of Catholicism around the world.
But it is also a change of stance that has backed into a corner those episcopates - of Italy, of Spain, of the United States - which in the past were considered models in their way of addressing on the public stage the anthropological challenges present in the contemporary world, but which now find themselves singled out as "scarcely in line" with the new papal leadership.
In Spain, one signal has come from an editorial on the website "Religión Digital" that begins with this rhetorical question: "Is the Spanish hierarchy in harmony with Francis and with the new wind that is blowing from Rome?"...
In the United States, the liberal magazine "National Catholic Reporter" has emphasized the extent to which the words pronounced by Francis against "the current pastoral 'obsession' with gay marriage, abortion and contraception" manifest an "imbalance" between the pope and the U.S. bishops that goes so far as to "undermine" also the vigorous campaign for religious freedom undertaken by the latter ...
In Italy, finally, in the newspaper "La Stampa" the vaticanista Andrea Tornielli has presented it as a certainty that with Pope Francis comes "the end of an era" ...
The Spanish, the American, and the Italian therefore seem to be three episcopates under fire, in this new ecclesial season.
The effects of this new situation, unimaginable until eight months ago, will soon be apparent.
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