There was a brief golden period early in Francis’ papacy when mainstream media looked to be trying hard to report on Catholic matters in a genuinely informed and informative way. Not in Ireland, of course, but in Boston, where John Allen was signed by bostonglobe.com and in New York, where Frank Rocca has been plying his trade at wsj.com, and even at time.com, where Elizabeth Dias did superb work on the 2014 Synod of Bishops.
The above are still doing fine work, albeit for an independent cruxnow.com and for nytimes.com in the cases of Allen and Dias, but the momentum has slipped more generally, just as squabbling amongst the Catholic commentariate has threatened to squander the gift that Francis’ papacy has been.
All the more refreshing, then, to read an editorial last week at theguardian.com entitled ‘The Guardian view on Pope Francis: a voice in the wilderness’.
“Pope Francis remains determined to reorient the church towards the global south, where it is still growing at impressive rates, especially in Africa, and to place it on the side of the poor,” the editorial observes, in a fashion unimaginable for an Irish mainstream newspaper.
“In Mozambique and Madagascar, he has argued for reconciliation between competing factions,” it continues. “In Mauritius, he has denounced the use of the islands as a tax haven, calling it ‘an idolatrous economic model’, and appealed to the government to ‘promote an economic policy focused on people and in a position to favour a better division of income’.
“However little the Church seems to matter in the developed world, there is no spiritual leader making these arguments against unrestrained capitalism and environmental destruction as forcefully and to such an audience as Francis does in the global south today.”
It’s not a perfect article by any means, but nonetheless it’s an encouraging piece of writing, all the more so, really, given how it followed on the heels of an absurd piece in the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, entitled ‘If there’s a Cardinal Sin to be made, count on the Catholic Church’.
An offensive enough diatribe which sneers at the Scottish tour of relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux as “a grim little Vaudeville act”, it could hardly be more hackneyed or less informed, and it should provoke no shortage of eyebrow-raising in its description of Cardinal Raymond Burke as “perhaps the most powerful Catholic churchman after Pope Francis”.
On the cardinal, it really is well worth reading and reflecting on the wherepeteris.com post entitled ‘Cardinal Burke: “This is the opinion of Pope Francis as a man”’, which maps in impressive detail how the cardinal has publicly denied the teaching authority of the Pope to whom he has sworn an oath of constant obedience, such that it has become increasingly difficult to see how he retains his position as a cardinal.
Despite hysterical and incessant claims to the contrary from the Internet’s Little Brothers and Sisters of Perpetual Outrage, Pope Francis is anything but a ‘dictator Pope’, as his indulgence of Cardinal Burke’s posturing opposition to him makes very clear. Still, with some saying that Burke could – especially if deprived of the red hat – become a focus for formal schism in the Church, it is worth reading what Pope Francis has had to say in the last fortnight about the possibility of schism, which can be done by consulting vaticannews.va.
In what papal biographer Austen Ivereigh – @austeni on Twitter – has described as “an important development” and “a great service”, vaticannews.va published a full official translation of Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference on his way home from southern Africa, accompanied by a recording of the press conference. This long-overdue move pre-empts the usual cycle of misleading stories based on snippets and badly translated off-the-cuff comments, and should prove utterly invaluable for Catholics who want to be honestly informed about Pope Francis.
To wrap up, it’s great to see that after a three-month hiatus, riskingenchantment.podbeam.com is back in play. Looking this week at freedom and moral integrity in the writings of Jane Austen, and with a handful of fascinating links, it’s an edifying must.