The following comes from a November 25 First Things article by Padraig Wynne:
Back in the 1980s, the National Catholic Reporter ran a cartoon image of the throne of Peter: a toilet with the papal keys under a ceremonial awning. For the Reporter, it was standard fare. The publication’s chronic snarkiness toward Rome during the long Wojtyla/Ratzinger decades — and even earlier — was as reliable as the sun rising in the east.
Then came Francis. With him, the paper had a Lourdes-like healing, at least on matters papal. Having trashed America’s “conservative” bishops for years, the Kansas City paper suddenly seemed to find an ally in the most unlikely place. And the irony was almost too rich. Here was a pope who might hoist “culture-war” Catholics on their own petard and lead the faithful to more progressive pastures, based on their own paradoxical loyalty to … the pope.
As a Latin American, Francis has been formed by legitimate urgencies very different from those that prevail in Europe. His actions reflect this. If he seems to dislike the United States (as rumors suggest), his attitude is hardly unwarranted, given hemispheric history. If he also seems to resent the long European intellectual dominance of the Church (as his behavior suggests), it’s not an unreasonable reaction to northern condescension.
In an age of confusion and ambiguity, Francis has repeatedly complained of Pharisees, rigidity, and legalism in the Church. The desire for clarity in complex moral issues seems to annoy him. Instead of encouraging priests, his documents and remarks are full of glancing criticisms. Faithful Catholics who have made real sacrifices to live the hard teachings of the Church feel themselves lumped in with the hard-hearted elder brother in the prodigal son parable.
Cardinals who offer unwelcome counsel, even in private (like the Synod Thirteen), are resented; witness Francis’s intemperate closing remarks at the 2015 Synod on the Family. The cardinals who recently and publicly questioned Francis on issues related to Amoris Laetitia (after being ignored privately for months) were equated with the loathsome Wormtongue of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in a tweet by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, one of the pope’s closest advisers. The tweet was quickly taken down, but the ugliness of its content is instructive. On matters related to Amoris Laetitia, Rome seems focused on intimidation, despite numerous expressions of concern about its impact on the sacramental integrity of marriage and the Eucharist.
In the United States, the reservoir of affection for the pope — any pope — runs very deep among faithful Catholics and their bishops. It very much includes Francis. American Catholics love the pope, want to love the pope, and Francis deserves their love and fidelity.
But to the degree Catholics also really know their faith, love the Church, and seek to live her teachings, many are also increasingly uneasy.
The resistance in the United States and elsewhere to the problematic elements of Amoris Laetitia does not arise from Wojtyla/Ratzinger nostalgia, or from leadership style, or from a question of textual interpretation that the passage of time will resolve. It is a matter of doctrinal substance. It is worth fighting about. The problems in the document may be smoothed over for a while, but they will not go away. And the appointment of new cardinals who act as Roman salesmen will not obscure them.