John Allen Jr.: Can anything burst Pope’s media bubble? Nah, probably not

(Crux) Right now there’s a fascinating drama unfolding in the Diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria, where Pope Francis has thrown down one of the most authoritarian gauntlets we’ve seen any pope fling in a long time. He’s threatened every priest of the diocese, no matter where they are in the world, with suspension unless they write to apologize for spurning a bishop appointed five years ago because he doesn’t come from the dominant ethnic and linguistic group.

Crux’s Inés San Martín reports that the letters the pope demanded are trickling in, though it’s far from clear they’re going to resolve the situation.

What all this got me thinking about is the following: Had any other recent pope done such a thing, howls about abuse of power and over-centralization probably would have been deafening, especially from the press, where the rebel priests likely would have become folk heroes. Francis, however, gets more or less a free pass. (This is quite apart from the merits of the Ahiara case, which are mind-bendingly complicated and elusive.)

Yes, some coverage has been more critical of late, especially Francis’s handling of the sexual abuse scandals in the wake of the criminal indictment of one of his top aides, Cardinal George Pell, in Australia. Even then, however, the tone tends to be, “Francis is such a great guy, so why is this area lagging behind?”

Naturally, I’m referring here to the mainstream secular media. Intramural Catholic discussion is a different animal. [More]