Here’s a guest column “Is Pope Francis a Fraud?” on the new pope by Andrew O’hehir from SALON. I’ts the best commnetary on the the papacy, the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church and religion in general I’ve read in a long time.
After a right-wing coup crushed the reforms of Vatican II, one scholar says the last two popes are illegitimate
It’s easy — maybe too easy — for people with progressive political views to dismiss the Roman Catholic Church as a vile anachronism, a nightmarish patriarchy of aging pedophiles, woman-haters, homophobes and/or closet cases that can offer nothing of value to the contemporary world. When it comes to the church hierarchy, and especially the Roman Curia, the corrupt and labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy that makes the Soviet-era Kremlin look like a model of transparency, that point of view seems more than justified.
But the church is not just the hierarchy, and as the spectacle of the last several days has demonstrated, there are millions or billions of people around the world — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — who wish the newly elected Pope Francis well and yearn to see in him the possibility of hope and renewal for this ancient, powerful and heavily tarnished institution that claims direct succession from the apostles of Jesus. As the first Latin American pope and the first Jesuit pope, Francis represents a break with tradition in several ways. Both the name he has chosen and his personal modesty and humility are meant to recall St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most adored figures in the Christian tradition, and no doubt also St. Francis de Sales, a 17th-century mystic, author and ascetic known for his devotion to the poor.
But the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerges from a Jesuit order that has been largely purged of its independent-minded or left-leaning intellectuals, and his reputation at home in Latin America is decidedly mixed. While Francis seems to be an appealing personality in some ways — albeit one with a shadowy relationship with the former military dictatorship in Argentina, along with a record on gay rights that borders on hate speech — it’s difficult to imagine that he can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation. His papacy, I suspect, comes near the end of a thousand-year history of the Vatican’s global rise to power, ambiguous flourishing and rapid decline. It also comes after 40 years of internal counterrevolution under the previous two popes, during which a group of hardcore right-wing cardinals have consolidated power in the Curia and stamped out nearly all traces of the 1960s liberal reform agenda of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. A handful of intellectuals, both inside and outside the church, quietly believe that means Pope Francis isn’t a legitimate pope at all…