A Tough Week for Pope Francis

Every leader has stretches he or she probably would like to forget. Mid-August, for instance, was one of those times for US President Joe Biden, as the chaos of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan sent his poll numbers into a death spiral from which he still hasn’t recovered.

For Pope Francis, though not quite on the same level of magnitude, this past week probably won’t go down as one of his most cherished moments either.

Consider:

  • A hearing in the Vatican’s ongoing “trial of the century” suggested a previously unknown exchange between Francis and prosecutors in the case, throwing a Watergate-esque spotlight on what the pontiff knew about a failed $400 million London property deal when he knew it.
  • Pietro Orlandi, the activist brother of a 13-year-old girl named Emanuela Orlandi who disappeared in 1983 and whose family lived on Vatican grounds, accused the Vatican of “betraying” the family in its quest for the truth, and charged that Pope Francis “more than anyone else” has refused to come clean.
  • Father Julián Carrón, the broadly popular leader of the Communion and Liberation movement in the Catholic Church, resigned two years short of the end of his mandate, ostensibly to make way for new leadership. Many observers have speculated that Carrón stepped down under Vatican pressure, citing, among other things, a recent decision to put the Memores Domini community affiliated with Communion and Liberation under Vatican supervision.
  • A self-described ex-gigolo named Francesco Mangiacapra made the rounds of Italian TV promoting his new book, in which he presents himself as a conservative gay man disowned by the “gay lobby.” Among other things, Mangiacapra claimed to have presented a dossier to the Vatican with the names of 50 priests among his former clientele with whom he’d had sexual relations, suggesting that Pope Francis and his aides have done nothing with the information.
  • Traditionalist Catholics are once again upset with Francis and his team, in part for new rules from the Diocese of Rome barring the use of the older liturgical books during Holy Week, in part for comments from Francis’s top liturgical official suggesting that it’s time for everybody to get on board with the post-Vatican II Mass.

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