What kind of a pope hath the Catholic Church today? A liberal? A modernist? A Lutheran? A charismatic? A liberation theologian? A socialist? A Catholic? A phenomenologist? We see all of these strains and more in the writings, homilies, interviews, and actions of Pope Francis. The only consistency is a nasty impatience with Catholic doctrine, and the absolute priority of human experience over any other consideration. The rest is, quite frankly, an incomprehensible mess.
This baffling incoherence is leading some to question whether Pope Francis is actually of sound mind. Open speculation about the Holy Father possibly suffering the early stages of dementia arose within several months of his election. He seems not to be aware that he contradicts himself (and the Church) continually, and embarrassingly.
For my part, I am aware that Pope Francis has been educated under Modernist influences from his earliest years in seminary; that Modernism is a flight from reality; and that a mental habit of fleeing from reality eventually destroys one’s rational faculties. So, I’m not yet convinced that Pope Francis is suffering from a biologically-induced mental decline along the lines of dementia. It seems more likely that his intelligence has suffered because of the contradictions in his theological worldview, and his habitual avoidance of difficult or painful truths.
Nevertheless, the dementia hypothesis is gaining traction and may one day be vindicated. The prospect should move every good Catholic to a sentiment of compassion for the Holy Father. Blogger Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill gives expression to this concern:
“Is Pope Francis okay? I mean, is he okay? I know that we can all quite happily overlook our own sins and bothersome personality traits. We can all be a bit hypocritical and recognise in others more quickly those faults that are our own, but I agree with Veneremur Cernui that there is something about Pope Francis’s homilies and speeches that almost demands some call for a papal ‘reality check’ …
The way in which papal homilies are going nowadays indicate a Pope who does not have a healthy relationship with reality and I say that as someone who enjoys escaping reality a great deal.”
“I am so confused by this Papacy I don’t have a clue what is going on, where the Pope really stands on anything. I’m still left a little confused. In fact, every day I find his comments and the lack of transparency in Rome confusing. I’m confused at the ‘de-Ratzingerisation’ of the Vatican. There is nothing terribly clear about this papacy. It’s like driving in a dense fog. Even when his opinion is made clear on something, you still have a nagging feeling that that is simply the opinion (life imprisonment, the death penalty, the Big Bang, evolution etc) of Jorge Bergoglio, the man, rather than that of the more hitherto carefully constructed and balanced positions of the Catholic Church.”