A Pope too many: Does Pope Francis have a mutiny on his hands?

Emeritis Pope Benedict

The opulent Roman salon of a wealthy German princess is the location for regular gatherings of a group of ultra-conservative Catholics — including Steve Bannon, former White House strategist once favoured by President Donald Trump — where they plot their campaign to undermine the Papacy of Francis.

She is Princess Gloria of Thurn and Taxis, famously dubbed Princess TNT by Vanity Fair in 1985 because of her explosive personality, a devout if very traditionalist Catholic.

She hosts meetings attended by a number of senior Cardinals as well as Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the long-time personal secretary to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

This group — and this is what is most controversial — is appealing to and seeking to use the legacy of the retired 92-year-old Pope, who is resident in the Vatican, to lend legitimacy to their anti-Francis campaign.

What is not clear at this stage is the extent to which, if at all, Benedict is aware and approving of their efforts. Further light may be thrown on this later in the year when Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, publishes his new book. This is entitled Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Reform the Catholic Church, and is due out in November.

The author has already given voice to his misgivings about what’s happening in Rome in an article in the current edition of The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly.

The article has drawn the support of the editor, Brendan Walsh, in a very trenchant editorial under the heading “Rome Cannot be Home to Two Popes”.

The cover of the magazine shows Francis and Benedict together under the heading “One Pope Too Many?

The opening paragraph of the editorial captures the essence of the difficulty of having two Popes in the Vatican — an unprecedented situation in the modern Church.

“Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign as Pope on 13 February 2013 and to live silently in the Vatican thereafter is beginning to cause problems.

Opponents of Pope Francis’ reforms have begun to treat Benedict as the true Pope, suggesting the papacy of Francis is somehow invalid.

“There is even a popular T-shirt with a slogan ‘Benedict is my Pope’, which Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister, has been seen wearing”.

This was a controversy waiting to happen.

The big mistake was made in the immediate aftermath of Benedict’s bombshell resignation. Back in 1294, when Celestine V became the last Pope to resign voluntarily, his successor immediately banished him to a remote castle.

Nobody would dare suggest that Benedict should have faced a similar fate, but it ought to have been quietly but firmly signalled to him that he shouldn’t plan on spending his retirement in Rome.

There were plenty of institutions in his native Germany that would have been happy to accommodate him, including the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, where he was professor of theology before becoming Archbishop on Munich in March 1977.

Allowing Benedict to stay on in Rome as Emeritus Pope was always pregnant with risk. Continue reading

  • Image: KathPress
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.