The Dubia ... the Filial Correction ... how shy the clergy were about associating themselves with these initiatives.
But, with Viganogate, a number of bishops have been very willing to call for a proper investigation.
Why the change?
Of course, the major difference is that by softening the Church's witness against Adultery, PF was moving in the direction of fashionable assumptions held in the World. The Media, for the most part, would be overwhelmingly in favour of such a 'modernising' stance. The same is likely to be true of any softening of the Church's witness on homosexuality. And PF's views on the Death Penalty fit comfortably with the liberal Western Zeitgeist.
In these matters, the pope was easily seen as moving in line with a 'soft' consensus. And one has to admit that the so-called 'modernising' views are held by very many Catholics.
The problem now is clerical sexual abuse of minors or of the vulnerable, accompanied by a veritable industry of prelatical cover-ups. These are not subjects with which the Media are comfortable and relaxed. Nor is child-abuse nearly as acceptable and agreeable to the laity. "Giving a second chance to people whose first marriages have broken down" ... that seemed kind, merciful, and modern. Not so sex abuse, cover up, pay outs, and silence clauses.
And in the secular sphere, it is commonplace for 'investigative journalism' to hunt down 'cover-ups' and 'hypocrisy'. The Vigano event plays into this culture and these assumptions.
So, all of a sudden, PF has lost the PR initiative, which has passed to his critics. This, surely, is why there is such incandescent rage among his cronies. They have been suddenly cast into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position. Riding on the crest of a 'Francis is Merciful' campaign was rather fun. Being asked why their pope is so shy, so unwilling to answer questions about a rather horrible sexual scandal, is not at all what they thought they were signed up to.
And it is easier for bishops to call for 'transparency' and 'full disclosure' than it was for them to 'split hairs' in the realm of moral theology, and to discuss the finer points of the 'doctrine' of 'Development'. In Amoris laetitia and his Synods, PF followed his declared policy of 'creating a mess', of getting others to create facts which he would then be able to interpret and push forward. This immensely civilised PR policy for advancing heresy is unavailable now that the PR imperative is to distance PF from sex abuse and cover-ups. PF, and his rabble of shifty time-servers, find their backs right up against the wall; room for manoeuvre there is none.
In this abuse crisis, schmaltzy Viennese smiles and condescending advice to go away and read Newman will not solve the problems of an angry (albeit hypocritical) world, or of a bewildered and highly distressed laity.
(Maybe this would not quite be the moment for Archbishop Fernandez to produce a new and augmented Second Edition of his Manual on Kissing with a commending preface by PF.)
Yet the teaching found in Amoris laetitia, and the immorality disclosed out by Archbishop Vigano's 'Testimony', are essentially the same. The completely and radically flawed 'lenient'and laxist ethical casuistry proposed for the comfort of German adulterers could, with perfect logic and fairness, be called in aid by paedophiles. After all, there have been human societies in which paederasty and ephebophilia have been socially acceptable and on public display. They attracted their own extensive and distinctive romantic literature. I, of course, and my readers, will regard such ideas and such cultures with visceral disgust or with reasoned contempt. But the Vigano 'Testimony' has left PF and his faction without a leg to stand on.
Perhaps they do not read Hesiod in Argentine schools; maybe young Jorge never heard about Pandora and her pithos. But it will be as difficult as ever it was to get the poma back on the pithos.
We shall have much characteristically Bergoglian bluster. We may again see the sort of bullying which raised its ugly head after the Correctio even in 'civilised' countries like Austria and Britain.
But this must, surely, be ... if not the Beginning of the End, at least the End of the Beginning.
Because, at last, a hitherto largely quiescent episcopate is showing signs of becoming restive and audible. Extreme measures, even extreme language, against bishops who call for Facts and Accountability and who want to find out Who knew What When, would hardly chime with the public mood.