Rorate Caeli

Press summary: The dangerous dilemma of the two living popes

In the English-speaking media, there is an almost unanimity around the events of the current pontificate. As French blog Riposte Catholique reports, this attitude is certainly not the case in the media in other languages, mainly in the nation of the papacy itself - a sign that English-speaking religious correspondents are not doing their job properly. And the words of the main correspondent of French liberal religious magazine La Vie are almost terrifying in what they imply.

An emerging portion of the Ratzingerian iceberg, Sandro Magister, a journalist at L'Espresso, a star among Vaticanists, releases in his blog chiesa every week, and at times every day, severe criticisms of Pope Francis: "Martini Pope. The Dream Come True," on October 15; "Encyclicals have a new format: the interview," on October 7; "Ricca and Chaouqui, two enemies in the house," on August 26; "The Francis transformation", on October 3; among not few others.

But he is not alone: "Francis is in the process of founding a new religion opposed to Catholic magisterium" (Mattia Rossi, Il Foglio, October 11); "We do not like this pope" (Alessandro Gnocchi and Maria Palmaro, in Il Foglio on October 9 - they were removed from the staff of Radio maria [because of this article]); "Flock before doctrine? We risk losing both" (Rino Cammilleri, Il Giornale, October 10).

The coalition of media praise surrounding Pope Francis is as of now far from being unanimous in Italy. Not only in the media. It is necessary to understand that Italian journalists often "act" for the Curial prelates, some of whom in very high positions, who give them very reliable pieces of information and ask them in return to pass on this or that message. The Church authorities are themselves very mindful of the opinion expressed by these journalists and, on their side, pass on messages within the world of the dicasteries. In fact, one may even speak, especially on the level of the great ones, such as Sandro Magister, of informal groups in which churchmen and media men analyse [matters] at the same level.

Is Francis attentive to this phenomenon that has taken a relevance that goes beyond the small classic revolts? This is not clear. A pope coming from the peripheries, he "works", brightly anyway, with governing and communication methods that he tried in Argentina. Differently from his predecessor, who lived cloistered, he meets each day, in multiple formal audiences, and in a multitude of different contacts at Santa Marta, [and] over the phone, a number of different interlocutors. But is he better informed because of this? It is not clear that he has a great capacity to listen and view beyond certain patterns. One could not, anyway, require of a 76-year-old man, despite a breathtaking energy, to reorganize all the categories of analysis and reading schemes that he forged and used all through his existence.

Jean Mercier, [correspondent] of La Vie [the main liberal religious periodical in France], is also somewhat troubled. In an article published on September 18 in his blog, "Is the Pope a demagogue?", he said: "Charismatic and popular, Francis does not hesitate to make gestures that hit their targets and to release statements that create a buzz. Isn't he overdoing it?" On October 4 ("Malaise in communication"), [Mercier] came back to the subject: "Francis multiplies the shock interviews, raising perplexity regarding his communication strategy. The problem of the different levels of his words is raised, and noticeably when the intimate words are taken as elevated to official words." And based on what he hears in the Eternal City, he sounds the alarm: the new order is even more risky "since the Pope Emeritus is still living and some could be tempted to burst the sound of 'Give us back Benedict XVI!' Nothing would be more dangerous than a kind of latent schism between two sensibilities, the one nostalgic of the Pope Emeritus, the other enthusiastic for the new Pope."

Precisely. Instead of comparing, as it was always done under a new pontificate, a living pope and his deceased predecessor, which was done with no risk for the legitimacy of the former, one can today compare two popes who are very alive.