Responding to a mini-fracas set off by his recent declaration that he considers it “an honor when Americans are attacking me,” Pope Francis told reporters during an inflight news conference Tuesday that the U.S. is not his only source of heartburn.
“Criticism comes not only from the Americans, they’re coming from all over,” Francis said.
The comment got me thinking: If we take the U.S. off the table, what are the other countries where criticism of this pope seems most robust?
Herewith, a rundown of the Top Five countries other than the U.S. where this pope seems to bring things to a boil.
Africa tends to be a mixed bag for Francis. The African Church is dynamic, extremely loyal to the papacy, and it resonates with the anti-corruption and social justice message of a “third world” pope. Yet it also tends to be conservative on matters of faith and morals, leery of some of the winds blowing today.
Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, is a good example.
A year after Francis issued his cautious opening to Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church in Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja declared that “in a world going down the drain through widespread moral laxity, the Church of God cannot abdicate her responsibility to uphold the high standards of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Poland, any pope starts with a deficit simply for not being John Paul II, and some Poles see Francis rolling back aspects of John Paul’s legacy.
When the Polish bishops finally released guidelines for implementation of Amoris Laetitia in June 2018, they side-stepped the Communion issue but stressed that Amoris has to be read in continuity with previous papal teaching.
Beyond intra-Church issues, many Poles are also leery of Francis’s environmental agenda, especially his advocacy of reducing use of fossil fuels as outlined in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’. Poland is the second-largest coal producer in Europe, and coal provides 88 percent of the power grid.
There’s a strongly conservative-to-traditional wing in Italian Catholicism which, from the beginning, has been skeptical of this maverick pope.
In 2016, the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, another perceived leader of the conservative wing of Italian Catholicism, was among the four cardinals who submitted dubia, or critical questions, to Francis in response to Amoris Laetitia.
Let’s also not forget that although some see accusations against Francis of a cover-up of sex abuse charges regarding ex-cardinal and ex-priest Theodore McCarrick as an American operation, it was an Italian cleric who leveled them, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, whose own writings on the subject are about as Italian as such things come.
Recently Crux’s Inés San Martín spent time back home in her native Argentina, among other things looking for evidence of a “Francis effect”. What she found, she reported, was a mix of enthusiasm and deep affection in some quarters with “vitriol, disappointment, hatred, frustration and finger-pointing” in others.
Aside from the grumbling about Francis one could find anywhere – he’s either too liberal or not liberal enough, for instance – San Martín found a couple of reactions that are uniquely Argentinian.
First, Argentines are angry Francis hasn’t yet come home after six years in office. By way of contrast, John Paul II visited Poland within seven months of his election in 1978, and Benedict XVI was in Germany within four months of taking over in 2005.
Second, Argentines (and especially the Argentinian media) tend to assume that absolutely everything the pope says and does is directed at them, which means they assume he’s forever taking sides in their political and cultural debates. All the divisions that run through society therefore are applied to the pope.
1. Vatican City
It’s well known that many in the Vatican’s “old guard” opposed early attempts at financial reform under Francis, and they’ve proven resilient in fighting them off.
Off the record, you’ll find some Vatican officials on fire with enthusiasm for the direction Francis is leading and driven to get as much of his agenda accomplished as possible. Others will complain of an internal climate of intimidation and fear, low morale, and chronic confusion.
Full story at Crux.com.