‘If only the Pope knew’—a familiar argument that falls short today

‘If only the Pope knew’—a familiar argument that falls short today

By Phil Lawler | Feb 01, 2018

For the first time in this pontificate, Vatican spokesmen are backpedaling in the face of criticism from the mainstream media. This week the Vatican press office has been fighting defensive PR battles on two fronts: over the reports of efforts to oust ‘underground’ bishops in China, and over the tardy decision to investigate charges against a Chilean bishop. Responding to the ruckus, an AP news analysisexplores the possibility that these problems arise because the Pope’s aides are not keeping him properly informed.

Loyal Catholics should recognize the argument; many of us have made similar suggestions in the past, to absolve a Pontiff of blame for decisions that we considered unwise.

In this case, unfortunately, that line of argument is less compelling. First, because the Vatican statement on the China imbroglio emphasizes precisely that the Pope is fully briefed on the situation. Second, because as John Allen observed a few weeks ago, in an unusually prescient column, Francis is undeniably a “hands-on” Pope. Regarding the internal politics of the Roman Curia, America’s top Vatican-watcher said: “What nobody disputes is the fact of the situation, which is that Francis just flat-out knows what’s going on.”

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