The Times reported (2/3/17) that a group of cardinals who had supported the election of Pope Francis are worried that his controversial reforms are leading the Catholic Church towards a schism and are planning to appeal to him to step down. Similar reports were carried in The Spectator, 11/3/17.
Antonio Socci, a leading conservative Vatican-watcher, wrote in the Italian newspaper Libero, “A large part of the cardinals who voted for him is very worried and the curia . . . that organised his election and has accompanied him thus far, without ever disassociating itself from him, is cultivating the idea of a moral suasion to convince him to retire.”
The conservative Catholic author and journalist said that the election four years ago of Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been backed by progressive German cardinals and a curia faction impatient with the rule of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
It was the latter faction who now believed that the Pope should resign and who would like to replace him with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, Mr Socci said. He believed that the group numbered around a dozen, “but the importance of the members counts more than their number”.
“Four years after Benedict XVI’s renunciation and Bergoglio’s arrival on the scene, the situation of the Catholic church has become explosive, perhaps really on the edge of a schism, which could be even more disastrous than Luther’s (who is today being rehabilitated by the Bergoglio church),” Mr Socci wrote.
What was significant, he said, was that the doubters were not the conservative cardinals who had been in open opposition to the Pope since early in his reign.
Putting pressure on a pope to resign is a crime punishable under canon law, Mr Socci added, so it was unclear how the moral suasion might be exercised. “The cardinals are worried that the church could be shattered as an institution. There are many indirect ways in which the pressure might be exerted.”
The Pope’s openings to modernity on sexual morality, communion for remarried Catholics and friendly relations with other religions have opened a gulf between progressives and traditionalists.
“A good number of the majority that voted for Bergoglio in 2013 have come to regret their decision,” one expert on the Vatican said, “but I don’t think it’s plausible that members of the hierarchy will pressure the Pope to resign. Those who know him know it would be useless. [He] has a very authoritarian streak. He won’t resign until he has completed his revolutionary reforms, which are causing enormous harm.”
Antonio Pelayo, a Catholic priest who covers the Vatican for Spanish television, said that there were between ten and twenty conservative cardinals openly opposed to the Pope’s reforms, but only two or three who had voted for him and who now regretted it.