Conservative backlash against Francis?

This has been an uncomfortable time for the Catholic Church, in particular the Bishop of Rome, Francis, who is fresh from a trip to Ireland.

Sep 07, 2018

ByAnil Netto
This has been an uncomfortable time for the Catholic Church, in particular the Bishop of Rome, Francis, who is fresh from a trip to Ireland.

Conservative voices have highlighted reports of child abuse within the Church and are apparently putting pressure on Francis to resign.

Francis has not been popular in some of these circles for his strong positions on behalf of the poor and his criticisms of an unjust global economic system.

He has spoken out against a system that puts the interests and profits of the wealthy over the many, especially the middle-income group who find themselves in trouble.

In recent years, the Church, in particular, Francis, the Bishop of Rome, has been at the forefront pointing out the human, social and environmental cost of this relentless march of a certain type of development.

Along the way, he has exhorted humanity to consider the enormous toll on humanity, especially the marginalised groups, and the planet.

Francis has also pointed to huge accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few while sounding the alarm on climate change. This has not gone down well among those who would rather not think about such issues or who are in denial. They would much rather he focus on dogmatic issues.

But Francis thinks otherwise. He has looked at those who put enormous burdens on the people – whether the law or through policies that favour the rich. He has highlighted the impact of environmental degradation or climate change on marginalised communities.

This approach has not endeared him to the conservative groups who would rather the Bishop of Rome stick to traditional “churchy” stuff and leave the social and economic spheres free to be plundered. Already speculation has surfaced that the criticism of the Church, especially Francis, over the child abuse scandal, was timed to coincide with his visit to Ireland. While the scandal is indefensible, it is by no means confined to the Church.

That Francis should bear ,,the brunt of the criticism — compared to his more conservative predecessors — when this is a long-standing issue, raises many questions.

Whether he could have done more on this issue is of course open to debate. But it is a fact that at every step of the way of his reforms, he has had to face resistance, criticism and apathy not only from outside the Church but from some within the Vatican bureaucracy and elsewhere within the Church.

This is especially for those reforms which give real meaning to what the Second Vatican Council had envisioned — the Church reaching out to the modern world and empathising with those on the margins of society.

So we can only wonder, as many have speculated, if the negative media publicity against Francis is part of the right-wing conservative backlash on the Bishop of Rome unhappy with his path-breaking positions on social and environmental issues, Vatican II reforms and his blistering critiques of capitalism. Either way, under Francis’ stewardship, a breath of fresh air, has blown across the Church, allowing for the reforms under Vatican II to continue.

While the child abuse scandal must be tackled, we should also not let up on the new insights and progress that have been made in analysing the socioeconomic and environmental challenges of our time.

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