Popes Benedict and Francis

Papal biographer: Benedict’s court “doing a lot of damage”, needs to be “controlled”

Biographer of Jorge Mario Bergoglio Austen Ivereigh has denounced a “shrill and powerful” opposition in the Church to Pope Francis.

A group, Ivereigh says, that “involves various cardinals and very rich and powerful organisations in the United States”, and is led by Carlo Maria Viganò, former papal ambassador in the US, and by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, ex-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican.

Driving the news

Ivereigh was speaking in an interview with the Chilean newspaper La Tercera about his new book on Pope Francis, The Wounded Shepherd.

Referring to this Church opposition to the Pope, Ivereigh said the conspirators saw the 2018 sex abuse crisis in Chile as an opportunity, and decided to attack a “weak” Francis with an “unheard-of ferocity”.

“Some people close to the Pope say that this group is very well-organised and that it has decided to launch a missile every month, with the aim of discrediting” the Pope, Ivereigh, former spokesman of English cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, denounced.

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The big picture

In terms of the make-up of the opposition to Francis, Ivereigh pointed the finger directly at Cardinal Müller, the ex-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed by Pope Benedict XVI whose five-year term was not renewed by Francis when it expired in 2017.

Opposition “leader” Müller’s tactic “is to make people believe that there’s confusion in the Church that only he can clean up”, said Ivereigh.

“He [Müller] is trying to recover the role he believed he should have had under Francis, but that Francis didn’t allow him to exercise. Now that he’s free, he’s pretending to be the watchdog of doctrine. But in the end he’s an emeritus official Curia, that is, he has no position in the Church”, the British journalist explained.

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Benedict’s meddling only encourages anti-Francis conspirators

Go deeper

For Ivereigh, although Popes in the past have faced accusations of heresy, “what’s unprecedented is that an ex-Curial official attacks a Pope so openly”.

The journalist explained that, for him, the “ferocity” of the “shameless” attacks on the Pope are unparalleled.

“It seems that some conservative Catholics have forgotten that the traditional Catholic respects the papal magisterium”, lamented Ivereigh.

As to why the opposition to Pope Francis came about in the first place, Ivereigh pointed to the Synod on the Family in 2014, where the Pope “created a space and opened the possibility for a change” in Church practice.

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What was created at the Synod “was a mechanism of discernment that established that if in the end there was a consensus, the Pope would respect it”, explained the journalist.

“That caused fury to some who thought they owned the doctrine of the Church. Since then they feel helpless and furious”, lamented Ivereigh.

What’s next

Ivereigh concluded the interview pointing out that the opposition to Pope Francis isn’t coming from Pope Emeritus Benedict, whom he sees as being “always faithful” to Francis.

The two Popes “are closer than people think”, Ivereigh explained.

But by the same token there is a “court” around Benedict that “is doing a lot of damage, because they are manipulating the figure of the Pope Emeritus”, the journalist said.

“We have to find a way to control his court, which is now a source of scandal and division”, Ivereigh denounced.

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