An Irish priest has taken down conservative critics of Pope Francis, denouncing that “they have little purchase on either reality or substance”.

– “A real conspiracy” against Francis on a par with talk of COVID-19 plots

“Those who oppose the Francis reforms (from a range of different perspectives) are clearly organising a campaign to ensure that the next pope is made in their own image and likeness, a Benedict or a John Paul figure rather than another Francis”, Fr. Brendan Hoban alerted in a July 28 column in the Western People newspaper reproduced on the website of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.

Hoban – a priest for 47 years who is currently serving in Moygownagh, Co Mayo – called the campaign against Francis “a real conspiracy” on a par with tinfoil-hat COVID-19 thinking.

He warned that some Catholics are accusing the current pontiff of not being “the real pope”, “not like Popes Benedict and John Paul II”, “an old man who has lost the run of himself” and someone who “doesn’t know any better” or who is “doing what he’s told”, not to mention a “communist” and a “heretic”.

Hoban even included cardinals in the anti-pope crowd, warning that beyond the usual suspsects “who have no problem in criticising Francis”, other prelates are “progressively less furtively… adding their support if not their public voices” to the push to destabilise this pontificate and stage-manage a succession.

– A “Vatican/American axis” of resistance

In his column, Hoban warned that the opposition to Pope Francis is coming from two places above all.

The Vatican, where careerist officials feel threatened by Francis’ constant criticisms of the “culture of ambition and clericalism (or precedence) of the Roman Curia” and his promise of “wide-ranging reforms” in the Church’s headquarters, and the USA, where the Church has been accused of “supporting values that curiously seem out of sync with Christian ideals”, including “a worrying level of Catholic support for Trump’s strange and sometimes immoral agenda”.

“The Vatican/American axis seems to be the fulcrum around which a campaign is in train to ensure that Pope Francis is not succeeded by a like-minded reforming pope”, Hoban deplored.

He cited as evidence for that claim the infamous ‘Red Hat Report’ in which self-appointed reactionary inquisitors have taken it upon themselves to inform on cardinals’ conservative or progressive leanings in an attempt to influence the outcome of the next conclave.

– “For some of cardinals loyalty and obedience seem to be less important” under Francis than under Benedict

Though Hoban admitted that Pope Francis “has a lot of enemies at the gate”, he showed himself confident that the anti-pope campaign – which he described as “nonsense” – won’t finally triumph, and that much for two reasons.

The first, the fact that “most” Catholics are convinced that the modernising documents of the Second Vatican Council “constitute the officially designated text-book for the Catholic Church into the future”, and that “Francis is shaping his reform around them” with “the over-whelming support of Catholics around the world”.

And the second, that the leaders of the opposition to Francis like Cardinal Robert Sarah “seem[] out of touch with the realities of church life”.

“When Benedict was pope, cardinals were falling over themselves hanging on to his every word, delivering reprimands to those who questioned papal tactics and giving sermonettes on loyalty and obedience to the pope. Now with a pope singing from a different hymn-sheet, for some of his cardinals loyalty and obedience seem to be less important”, Hoban decried.

In the face of the disrespect critics are showing him, however, the priest observed that “Francis clearly believes that even though his critics dishonour him in their disloyalty and disobedience, he insists on honouring them with the courtesy of his silence”.

Indeed, apart from that courtesy he is showing them, Pope Francis may even be smiling at the resistance fighters to his pontificate.

That is, at least, what Vaticanist Elisabetta Piqué wrote August 10 in Argentina’s La Nación newspaper, where quoting a source inside the Holy See Piqué said that the Pope is “amused” by all the opposition and the talk of who will come after him as pontiff, “because he knows that it will be the Holy Spirit who will indicate his successor, not the lobbies”.

More on Novena on the opposition to Pope Francis:

Cardinal Scola calls attacks on Pope Francis “a decisively negative phenomenon” that should be “eradicated as soon as possible”

Italian nun accuses Viganò of “throwing pearls before swine” by providing Catholic cover for Trump

“The Pope is the Pope”: Italian cardinal denounces “increasingly harsh and insolent attacks” on Francis

Vatican expert denounces up to 30% of global Church against Pope Francis, “hard core” of cardinals “already trying to influence” next conclave


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.