The media insists that Jorge Bergoglio is the pope of the common man even as he turns his nose up at populist movements, hobnobs with celebrities, plots with UN elitists, and slaps the hand of a ropeline enthusiast. The last controversy — a sour Francis was captured on video hitting the hand of a woman who grabbed his hand and then barking at her — was unseemly enough to generate a papal apology the next day.
The pope’s mask of benignity has fallen before. For my money, his cruelest and most telling encounter was with an innocent altar boy who held his hands together piously. The pope mocked the bewildered boy, asking him if his hands were “stuck together.” Only a liberal Jesuit would crack a joke like that at the sight of youthful reverence.
Another ugly moment was the time he upbraided concerned Catholics in Chile for complaining about abuse cover-ups. He called them “dumb.” That too required an apology.
Jorge Bergoglio is not so much the pope of the common man as a friend to the globally powerful. He disdains the most devout members of his faith, labeling them “rigid,” while rolling out the red carpet for thugs and pagan celebrities. Not a week passes without the pope meeting and greeting some enemy of the faith.
The media, for the most part, continues to serve as his PR agents. Witness its burbling over The Two Popes, a movie as fictional as its news coverage. It might as well have been called “The Reactionary and The Reformer.”
But what exactly has Pope Francis reformed? Not the Vatican, which remains a font of scandal. Its finances look as corrupt as ever. Last year was a horror show of bad loans, bad investments, and mismanaged charities. Meanwhile, the pope’s cronies keep getting ensnared in this or that squalid affair.
Instead of uprooting the creepy ecclesiastical culture that produced the rapist Theodore McCarrick, Pope Francis has reinforced it, throwing plums to many of McCarrick’s “nephews,” such as Kevin Farrell, whom Francis has selected to serve as camerlengo at the next papal conclave.
According to National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters, a confidante of Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Cardinal Blase Cupich, Pope Francis is likely to promote even more McCarrick cronies in 2020.
Winters expects, approvingly, one of them to be added to the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which advises Pope Francis on the selection of bishops.
“There are really only two candidates at the moment: Cardinal Joe Tobin, who lives 10 minutes from the airport in Newark, New Jersey, and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who is already in Rome as prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life,” he writes. “Either one would be an excellent choice as both are champions of Francis and neither is an alumnus of the North American College. It is imperative that the nuncio and the congregation look beyond the walls of the North American College for candidates.”
Farrell lived with McCarrick for five years or so in Washington, D.C., while Tobin benefited from McCarrick’s string-pulling in Newark.
In other words, it is business as usual at the Vatican. The pope still hasn’t produced his long-promised report on the McCarrick scandal, who remains at a Kansas friary, where he continues to receive support from the Capuchins. The tardiness of the report is explained by the pope’s own role in the scandal. He had been told about McCarrick’s predation, ignored it, and permitted him to travel the world as a papal envoy.
To the woman in the crowd the other day, the pope gave the front of his thumping hand. But to Catholics aghast at his pontificate, he continues to give them the back of it.