I am a lucky chap; Leila and Philip Lawler have very kindly sent me a copy of Philip's fine book Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is misleading his flock. You may be thinking that this is rather like London buses; you wait for half an hour and then a couple come along together ... because last Monday was the publication day of Henry Sire's magnificent The Dictator Pope (about which I have just written a rave review for a monthly periodical). I hope you have already procured and devoured your copies of that volume! Later today, I will reprint my earlier comments on this book. Although, of course, there are some overlaps between these two books, it is remarkable how comfortably they sit together on the bookshelf. Obviously, there is such a glut of material, that two authors can write books which are complementary rather than identical! Philip's book is, I think, perhaps a tadge gentler than Henry's in as far as it is clear that Philip hoped against hope that things would come right with this pontificate ... that, as we say, it wouldn't come to this ....
I think it "came to this" the very moment PF trudged out to greet the People of God (and the tourists) with an unhappy face, refusing to share the simple joy of the Lord's Flock committed to his charge; when he indicated his determination to mark out the discontinuities of his pontificate by not dressing like a pope and by taking a strange name.
Philip begins his book by observing that every day the pope issues another reminder that he does not approve of Catholics like us ..."day after weary day ... the pope upbraids me..." That's exactly how I feel. So many of us started by doing our best to put the best possible gloss on this pontificate, and have been mercilessly driven to the realisation that this is not possible. As I wrote recently, every day there seems to be a new provocation, either from PF or from one of his sycophantic cronies. In self-examination, I have asked myself again and again whether I have fallen into self-absorbed obsession in so often defending Truth against what flows from the man who, after all, does sit on the cathedra Petri. But, when I was priested on June 9 1968, Bishop Harry Carpenter asked me "Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word...?" and I replied "I will, the Lord being my helper." If I had instead had the joy of being ordained according to the old Tridentine Pontificale, the Pontiff would have said to us, rather mixing his metaphors, "Sit doctrina vestra spiritualis medicina populo Dei ... ut praedicatione ... aedificetis domum, id est, familiam Dei ..." So what choice do I have?
Is there an alternative to all this open warfare? Could there be an armistice? Could PF stop stinging us into continuous reaction? Is he a big enough man to do that? Could we stop this endless series of criticisms of the pope? I, for one, would be overjoyed to be able to do so. I think the first essential proviso would have to be the appointment of someone to the Congregation for Bishops who would be given the power to ensure that the episcopate were rebalanced, and who would confer with PF about redressing the balance in the Sacred College. For orthodox Catholics, perhaps the biggest worry of all concerns a future which PF is clearly trying to fashion in his own likeness by the unfortunate appointments he makes. Cupich a Cardinal, indeed!! Additionally, it would be necessary for PF to refrain from uttering into a public forum or a scalfari anything to which the CDF had not given its previous OK. PF has so grossly enlarged the amount of material which comes to us with Papa dicit attached, that the the entire genre needs to be radically pruned and carefully controlled.
Meanwhile, get The Lost Shepherd to sit beside The Dictator Pope!