But there is a third alternative: that Francis, sad to say, is incompetent to exercise the papal office. Whether by reason of mental deficiency, psychological disorder or personality defect (which he constantly attributes to others, including young people attracted to the traditional Mass), a profound lack of proper theological formation or a combination of all these factors, Francis is incapable of comprehending his duties as Pope and the corresponding limitations on his authority. He would be operating under the delusion that the Pope’s authority over the Church is not merely supreme but absolute, and that he is no mere guardian or custodian of Tradition but an active vessel of what he calls “the Spirit” whose every decision is God’s command: “I have no plan. Things happen. I simply let myself be led by the Spirit. The Church is the Gospel, it is not a journey of ideas.”
That is, for Francis it would literally be the case that neither doctrine nor discipline pose the least impediment to his agenda. These are mere “ideas,” whereas he is an instrument of the divine will whose words and deeds are the embodied Gospel as it is to be understood today. The delusion in question is a kind of megalomania that replaces the essentially conservative mission of the Petrine office, which Francis views as the “rigid” and “legalistic” business of simply defending and protecting “ideas.”
This would be the most charitable explanation for Francis’s behavior: that he is so deluded as to think he is serving the Church’s mission according to the continuing will of God, who directs his every move. If it were otherwise, then he could only be viewed as a willful enemy of the Church, acting with premeditation and according to plan.
In any case, it is becoming clear to a rapidly growing number of Catholics that we have a Pope who is unhinged. As the respected Vaticanist Edward Pentin reports, in the wake of the publication of the four cardinals’ letter “I do understand from sources within Santa Marta that the pope is not happy at all. In fact, he’s... boiling with rage. He’s really not happy at all with this.”
As Sandro Magister wrote on November 14, at the consistory of the world’s cardinals now underway “the whole college of cardinals will meet in Rome…. And inevitably the appeal of the four cardinals will become the subject of animated discussion among them.” Francis, however, was not interested in any such discussion. He cancelled the traditional pre-consistory meeting with the cardinals. The respected Vaticanist Marco Tosatti reasonably surmises that had the meeting been held the four cardinals’ dubia would have been presented to him personally “not only by the signatories of the request for clarification, but also perhaps by other cardinals, eager for a decisive word from the Pope.”
Venting his fury at the four cardinals obliquely on the pages of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishop’s conference, Francis all but named them in yet another demagogic outburst against the “legalism” that was supposedly overcome during the mythical Great Awakening at Vatican II, when the hidebound Church finally rediscovered her true nature:
At the Council the Church felt the responsibility to be in the world the living sign of the love of the Father. With Lumen gentium, the Church returned to the sources of her nature, to the Gospel. This moves the axis of the Christian conception away from a certain legalism, which can become ideological, to the personality of the Godhead, who became mercy in the incarnation of the Son.
Some—I am thinking of certain replies to Amoris Laetitia—continue not to understand—either black or white—even if in the flux of life one must discern. The Council has said this. Historians say that a Council, to be absorbed well by the body of the Church, needs a century… We are halfway there.
So we have a Pope who clearly thinks he has the power to declare, in the name of “mercy” and “the Spirit,” a revision of the entire moral order to which Christ Himself demanded our uncompromising adherence. Francis declares the elimination of “black and white” in favor of his notion of “discernment” in “the flow of life.” The delusion is boundless while the sentiment expressed, to be perfectly frank, exhibits an alarming degree of moral degeneracy, not unlike the pop ethics of Oprah Winfrey. And Francis purports to find this degraded moral sentiment somewhere in the miasmic penumbras of “the Council,” that all-purpose gnostic talisman of the post-conciliar Modernist uprising in the Church whose latest phase is “the Francis revolution.”
Later in the interview, Francis lambasted critics who, as the interviewer noted, “say that you want to ‘Protestantize’ the Church.” Indulging yet again his penchant for armchair psychoanalysis and demonization of orthodox Catholics who object to his abuses of power, he replied:
I don’t lose any sleep. I proceed on the road that preceded me. I follow the Council…. When there is not a bad spirit, they [critics] can assist the journey. Other times, one sees immediately that the critics take as their justification a position already assumed; they are not honest; they act with a bad spirit to foment division. One sees immediately that certain rigorisms are born of a failing, the will to hid behind the armor of their own sad dissatisfaction. If you watch the film Babette’s Feast, you will see this rigid behavior.
Incredibly enough, the Church is now suffers under the tyrannical reign of a Pope whose view of orthodoxy is represented by a Danish movie, based on a story written by an agnostic. The film portrays the spiritual enlightenment of two Lutheran spinsters by the culinary genius of Babette, a refugee from the French counter-Revolution, whose feast opens them up to the joy and grace they had lost on account of their arid religiosity, imposed upon them by their minister father. This is how Francis views orthodox Catholics concerned about the integrity of the saving Faith for which generations of martyrs gave their lives: as cinematic caricatures in need of liberation from the chains of their joyless pietism. Francis’s bizarre pontificate is a continuing insult to faithful Catholics and the legions of saints who parted with their lives rather than deny one iota of the truth that makes us free. As Francis would have it, however, perhaps Saint Thomas More needed a Babette to free him from his “rigorist” fixation on the indissolubility of marriage rather than suffering a pointless death to defend it.
God bless the four cardinals for having had the courage to make their salutary provocation public, thus helping to elicit from Francis ever more dramatic revelations of the extent to which a dangerously disordered conception of the Church’s teaching and mission, and of his own authority, animate his unparalleled pontificate. Francis is unhinged. Whoever did not know this before has no excuse for not knowing it now. Suitably armed by the knowledge of what we are dealing with, we members of the laity have a duty to demand of the hierarchy that they take action to address the threat of a papacy unhinged.
Catch Chris Ferrara's latest in the new print-edition of The Remnant, to 'hit the stands' Monday morning.