Pope FrancisMarco Tosatti writes for ChurchMilitant.com — Yes, he has done it again.    Dear friends and especially enemies of Stilum Curiae, the frenetic activity of these past few days prevented me from writing a comment on the recent affairs of the Vatican and the Pope and placing them in the context of repeated behavior.

There is an Arab proverb that says “adaa Alima ya ‘iadatiha al qadìma,” which means, “Alima has returned to her old habits.” And just like the proverbial Alima, the reigning pontiff has returned to his old habits twice in the last few days, and in a sensational way. We are referring to two specific episodes.

First Episode

The first was the announcement of the creation of a new dicastery that will have oversight of all — truly all — of the employees of the Holy See (about 4,000 people). This is not just a rumor. On March 6 the official Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office published a long statement on this topic:

In response to the proposal advanced by the Council of Cardinals and the Council for the Economy, His Holiness Francis has arranged for the institution of the “General Directorate of Personnel” at the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

The statement goes on to give particulars and details about the powers that will belong to this new office of personnel, and it concludes saying: “This is a step of great importance on the path of reform initiated by the Holy Father.” The initiative certainly began with Cdl. Reinhard Marx (who is the head of the Council of Cardinals for the economy) and Cdl. Óscar Maradiaga (the head of the C6, the committee of cardinals that has been working now for years — like a new Fabric of St. Peter — on the reform of the Curia).

Wow! We have said it all. This is serious stuff. Something along the lines of what was commissioned by Cdl. George Pell, years ago, but that did not happen.

But on the very next day, March 7, the Holy See Press Office sent out its counter-order comrades:

With reference to yesterday’s announcement regarding the institution of the General Directorate of Personnel, it should be noted that at present it is a proposal presented to the Holy Father by Cdl. Reinhard Marx, president of the Council for the Economy, and Cdl. Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of the Council of Cardinals, to establish such a structure.


The Holy Father will study the proposal and, if he deems it appropriate, in due time he will institute the structure in the manner he decides with a relevant motu proprio.

This was a total 180. But since it is unthinkable that the two viceroys of the Vatican, Marx and Maradiaga, would have put out an official declaration of this nature without an imprimatur from the pope, we have to conclude that the two greatest counselors and influencers of the pope were sent out by Francis himself, only to be refuted the very next day.

Second Episode

On March 12 the pope’s vicar for the city of Rome, Cdl. Angelo De Donatis, issued a directive in which he ordered the closing of all the churches to the faithful. The closure was not only for Masses, which had been abolished by the Italian Bishops’ Conference under pressure from the government, but also for individual prayer.

De Donatis is the vicar, but the bishop of Rome is the pope. Would it be possible to close all the churches of his diocese without his consent? I think not.

But on the very next day, March 13, De Donatis announced the reopening of the all of the parish churches of Rome, with a letter to the faithful that began with these words: “Yesterday, March 12, in an unprecedented decision, having consulted with our bishop Pope Francis, we published the decree that required the closing of our churches for three weeks.”

De Donatis, who may be the vicar but is not a fool, immediately clarified that the first decision, the one to close all the churches, was made by his superior. This was an innocent clarification. But knowing the Vatican court all too well (full of both cheerleaders and sycophants), and that all the usual suspects were already blowing their horns saying that the good Pope Francis had corrected the harsh decision made by his vicar for Rome, it is apparent that De Donatis preferred to share the burden for the decision to close all the churches with the Pope.

And so once again Bergoglio sent one of his men forward with a decision, only to go back on it.

A Pattern of Behaviour

Uncertainty, waffling behavior, an about-face? Perhaps. But we have already seen Bergoglio behave in this way in the past on more than one occasion.

Cdl. Pell

Cardinal Pell

Without stretching our memory, poor Cdl. Pell comes to mind, who as a good Australian bull had thrown himself headfirst into the reform of the Vatican finances, with the strong encouragement of the pope (“go ahead, have no regard for anyone’s opinion … “), only to find himself deprived, rescript after rescript, of all of his powers except that of post-clearance control.

We also recall the case of the Order of Malta, of the way in which Cdl. Raymond Burke was encouraged to clarify the ambiguities over the Order’s distribution of condoms, only to be essentially dethroned.

Cdl. Sarah

Cardinal Sarah

And as for Cdl. Robert Sarah, with his exhortation to celebrate Mass ad orientem? Sarah always said that he spoke with the Pope and had his assent, only to be blatantly denied. In short, it is not age, in our opinion, and it is not uncertainty. It is a proven pattern of behavior.

If we were standing in front of a door, and the pope said to me, “Please, go ahead,” I believe that I would respond: “After you, Your Holiness.” Not out of malice, as they say in Rome, but you know how it is …

Categories: Vatican Watch