Features > It’s inside the Vatican, and among a number of fellow bishops, that Francis faces his biggest critics, says Christopher Lamb

12 May 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

It’s inside the Vatican, and among a number of fellow bishops, that Francis faces his biggest critics, says Christopher Lamb


The stalling of the release of an audit into the financial affairs of the Holy See is another sign of challenges to Pope Francis’ efforts to reorganise the Vatican

He is feted by world leaders, adored by the crowds and praised by journalists. Even though his popularity took a fall this week, according to YouGov’s 2016 list of world leaders, Pope Francis remains the most popular pope of modern times.

But it’s inside the Vatican, and among a number of fellow bishops, that Francis faces his biggest critics, with many of them deeply opposed to his project of reform and renewal. For a long time this dissent largely took the form of muttering from a small group of hardliners. Now, more than three years into his papacy, his opponents are more numerous and increasingly happy to break cover.

Broadly speaking, the opposition can be broken down into three categories. First are the mid-ranking Vatican officials, suspicious of a Pope they see as impulsive and who has attacked them for “diseases” such as gossip and operating cliques. Many in this group are happy to bide their time until a new man in white occupies the throne of St Peter and matters return to normal. But it means that many of them are disaffected and try to block a Pope who wants to overhaul his central administration.


Subscribe to The Tablet from just £19.99 quarterly
3 options available

Share this story

Article List

Post a Comment

You can post as a subscriber user...

User Comments (6)

Comment by: Louise
Posted: 21/05/2016 11:42:22
I agree with Christopher Lamb that Pope Francis is a missionary but is it not time now for the roadblocks to reform within the Vatican to be moved aside? They are presenting serious obstacles in the way of Francis' vision and there is no more time to lose. After over thirty years of having their way, the reactionaries in the Church are going to have to change their ways or be relocated.

As for those dissenting Bishops, it is embarrassing and a disgrace that they criticise the Pope and his teachings so openly and which such disdain.

It is probably time they too were sent away to do something else and replaced by those who will implement faithfully Francis' vision. For the good of the Church.

Please God, may it be so.

Comment by: Jim Scott
Posted: 18/05/2016 19:56:46
Perhaps if someone from London were to remind Christopher Lamb that, notwithstanding the massive esteem of politicos, the adulation of crowds and the praise of hard-bitten professional journalists, Pope Francis's role is to be the visible head of a church, THE church according to "neanderthal arch-conservative fundamentalist backwoodsmen (sic)," then his future contributions might be more balanced, both in tone and in choice of language, than this one? Why he then might even pick up on the fact that at least one of Pope Francis's hand-picked elite has brought very considerable shame on all Catholics, yet has confidently asserted that he will continue to rule the Vatican roost beyond retirement age!
Comment by: Monk
Posted: 15/05/2016 01:56:16
I find it interesting that during the past two pontificates bishops of a more moderate and liberal bent (admittedly not numerous) basically refrained from publicly criticizing the pope, today those from the conservative camp seem to feel that criticizing Pope Francis publicly is acceptable. Is it perhaps that they were in charge for 35 years and aren't used to being challenged?
Comment by: LB1966
Posted: 14/05/2016 15:00:50
"... the Jesuit Pope has decided to take his message to lay Catholics, and to the world." - Agreed. However, unless the Pope radically reforms the Curia, his message may well be forgotten by the Curia if his successor should be an arch-conservative. Or, if his successor is a "Franciscan", that poor man may find himself straightjacketed by an ever-more intransigent Curia determined to stop another Francis in his tracks. These cardinals and prelates who refuse to support the Pope and whose opposition has pretty much degenerated into open disrespects - if not open dislike - should be removed from the Church's center of power. How can anyone think of them as "alter Christus" when they defy or disobey the Vicar of Christ himself?

I hope this essay can be made accessible to all of the Tablet's readers. More people should be allowed to read it.
Comment by: kla2
Posted: 13/05/2016 18:33:35
Within mature institutions, especially those past their sell by date, where self interest is 'dogma' it is naive to think that change can come from the inside. To be inside is to be part of the problem. The fact that papal authority as the vicar of Christ is so easily compromised, watered down, even ignored within the vatican bureaucracy, itself strongly suggests that the catalyst for real change may not even exist within the this ancient institution. Observing the current state of the 'church' I certainly see nothing that would encourage me to return to that organization or move from my current apostate position.
Comment by: Ishvara
Posted: 13/05/2016 14:12:26
There seems to be a issue of identity at the Vatican. The servants imagine themselves to be the master. The solution is at hand for those willing to take it. It is for the Pope to transfer out of the Vatican all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and the priests to the dioceses they came from. Replace them with women religious immediately. Roma locuta, causa finita.

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here