There was an early stage in this pontificate when the Holy Father was convinced that all good men and true knew, deep down, that the Church's marriage discipline needed changing. All that was needed was for the Synod Fathers to speak boldly the Bergoglian Truth that was really in all their hearts. During this period, Papa Bergoglio made incessant calls for Parrhesia: for courageous boldness in speaking out. This was the period in which his friend and ghostwriter 'Tucho' Fernandez was memorably heard to say "He means, Mueller [then Prefect of the CDF] won't come after us".
Mind you, some of Bergoglio's highly-placed supporters knew that the Spirit of Parrhesia was going to be needing a bit of a helping hand, in the shape of deft and careful management of process. Someone in the upper reaches of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, on hearing that some 450 of the English clergy were preparing to sign a public Letter calling for adherence to orthodoxy and orthopraxis, put a lot of pressure on the organisers to discontinue their project. Or so the Catholic Herald reported. The line was: there were perfectly adequate private channels for the clergy to make their views privately known to ... their, er, bishops. Exactly. Beautiful. That dodge is neatly laid out on page 665 of the much-thumbed manual How to be a successful Church Manager. Happily, and bravely, the organisers ignored the pressures.
Then we had the Letter of the 45. This was followed by deplorable episodes of intimidation, some of it immensely cruel and very wicked, in various parts of the world. You will understand that I cannot break confidences by saying who leaned on whom and how. But I assure you that Bully A did lean on Intermediate Bullies B and C to put their gloves on and to go and sort out D and E.
And now, as I write this in August 2017, similar episodes of intimidation are coming to light.
Whatever has happened to all the need for Parrhesia? Why has that word suddenly done a runner from the Papal Vocabulary? Has Bergoglio suddenly forgotten his Greek?
Again, for an answer you need only turn to How to be a successful Church Manager, this time to page 666: "Shut the inferior clergy up until you've fixed your Synods and confected your post-synodal Exhortations, then use the big stick of Papal Magisterium to keep them permanently quiet. Most of them are a pretty scared and pathetic lot anyway, and you'll only need to make a public example of a few of the louder troublemakers. Don't forget to make clear to any seminarians you may have, that the seminary gates are wide open. And there is never any harm in allowing the sweet fragrance of the words Excommunication and Suspension to linger suggestively in the air. Our Father Below is very keen on rigorous ecclesiastical discipline."
Like Parrhesia, Mercy is now so very Yesterday, isn't it?