It’s called cracking down on . . . persecutors of the church? defiers of the Ten Commandments? deniers of the Real Presence in the Eucharist?
Nope. The target is a growing community of priests who pack worshipers in at Sunday masses.
Pope Francis’s personal intervention to dissolve a small but flourishing community of priests in Belgium has deep divisions seething below the surface of the Church.
Catholics in Belgium, an ecclesial desert where the practice of Islam is overtaking Christian church attendance, are angry about the pope’s shutting down a top level Vatican court case in which the Priestly Fraternity of the Holy Apostles was fighting for its life.
The group, established by the former Archbishop of Brussels Andre Leonard in 2013, had grown to six priests, with one about to be ordained and 22 more junior seminarians, an impressive achievement in a nation were applicants to train for the priesthood are rare.
The community was filling the churches in the two parishes it staffed in Brussels, at a time when fewer than 10 per cent of Belgian Catholics attend Mass and less than half the children born to Catholic parents are baptised.
The new archbishop, like Chicago’s Cardinal Cupich, is a protege of Francis, who elevated and cardinalized him. The new man in Brussels is additionally under the wing of Cardinal Danneels, who tried to convince the Belgian king to endorse abortion. Quite a crew, operating apparently under the same “new paradigm” embraced by Cupich. I’d call it runaway pragmatism.
Reeling from the new archbishop’s “ruthless crackdown,” because, as the cracking-down cardinal said, it had “too many French members,” the new community appealed to Rome. Francis himself ordered a squelching of their case, deciding the matter before it had been heard by the relevant Vatican court.
It was not a first for him as regards a successful religious community that did or does not fit into the paradigm. One other,
the Franciscans of the Immaculate, a growing international order with about 200 priests and 300 brothers, was placed under the direct control of a Vatican commissioner and its members barred from saying the traditional Latin Mass . . . . In 2015, the Vatican closed the Franciscans’ seminary outside Rome.
Church politics ain’t beanbag, you might say, but Francis and his minions seem to be carving out new dimensions for it.