Pope Francis has shaken things up, and he has some of the bishops and cardinals mightily unnerved. The Vatican bureaucrats, known as the Curia, are unhappy with this pope.
On matters of faith and morals, Francis is mostly winning so far.
Francis is comfortable with “speaking truth to external power”: demanding governments pay attention to refugees and asylum seekers, to growing economic inequality, and to climate change.
Francis is also at ease with a less-than-certain church, particularly when it comes to questions of human relationships and moral prescriptions. Unlike his predecessor, the current pope is insistent that issues like birth control, divorce and remarriage are not black and white issues.
Earlier this year Francis released a document Amoris Laetitia, (On Love in the Family), in which the pope encouraged Catholic priests to confront the reality that human lives are messy and complex. He asserted that complicated moral issues that arise in human relationships must be responded to not with hard and fast rules, but rather by making conscientious decisions in the sight of God.
As Francis put it, the church is there to form consciences, not replace them.
This approach hasn’t sat well with some. Four cardinals recently sent Pope Francis a letter demanding yes or no answers to five questions they say he has left unanswered in Amoris Laetitia.
It’s unlikely Francis will give them the certainty they want. He wants them to get used to uncertainty, and discern the right approach in these modern times.
However, there is one area where Francis is ceding ground to the cardinals and the Curia: ordination. [More]