What Pope Francis thinks, or how he reasons, can be understood above all when the Pope speaks off the cuff, raising his eyes from the paper. Sometimes he inserts phrases into a prepared text; other times, he breaks himself completely loose and delivers real, impromptu speeches.
On January 29, at the end of his address to the judges of the Roman Rota for the inauguration of the Judicial Year, Pope Francis gave an example of this “improvised teaching,” by concluding the prepared speech with an informal greeting to Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota and close to retirement.
Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff speech is interesting for two reasons: it indicates what the Pope means by resistance to reforms, and it points to how the Pope looks at the history of the Church.
What did Pope Francis say? First of all, [he] applauded Monsignor Pinto for “the tenacity he had in bringing about the reform of marriage processes.”
There were two main points in that reform: overcoming the double-compliant sentence [streamlining the process] and the instruction on the short trial for causes of matrimonial nullity.
For a nullity declaration to be considered valid, there was a need for a double compliant sentence. The ecclesiastical court’s nullity sentence of the first instance had to be confirmed by the ecclesiastical court of appeal. Instead, Pope Francis wanted the first sentence to be already enforceable and for the marriage to be declared null and void . . .
. . . by the local bishop, without confirmation by the Vatican canon lawyer.
Pope Francis wants the bishop to be the first judge — the bishop . . . is the one . . . to decide on the nullity of marriage.
However . . .
. . . bishops [often] do not feel sufficiently versed in canon law, and they benefit from the fact that canonists [pronounce] nullity with the appropriate juridical instruments. . . . the double compliant judgment [bishop plus canonist] served to prevent declarations of nullity from being granted lightly. [This the streamlining.]
. . . there have also been objections dictated by special interests, because humanity is also made up of corruption.
“I received many letters, almost all [from] notaries who were losing their clientele. There is the problem of money. In Spain, they say the monkey dances for money. And I also saw in some dioceses, with sorrow, the resistance of a judicial vicar who, with this reform, lost some power, because he realized that the judge was not himself, but the bishop.”
The idea that those who have raised criticisms may have done so genuinely, worried about the reform’s functioning, has not been considered at all. Those who object to a decision by the Pope are immediately seen as standing in resistance.
. . . there are no motivations other than those relating to special interests. Thus everything is reduced to a certain human pettiness.He reacts this way when dealing with internal investigations and there is the suspicion of corruption: he attacks harshly, paying no attention to procedural guarantees, starting from the assumption that he is the first judge – and he is, even in civil matters, in the Vatican.His words [reveal] his vision of the world. Theology has little to do with it. He is a pragmatist, he wants pragmatic solutions . . .
. . . focused on the good of the family, highlighting the difficulties of the spouse who suffered from the nullification and asking judges for a pastoral awareness, giving the example of children who may see their father unable to receive communion because he entered a new relationship.
In the end, the impression one gets is that, for him, what matters above all is his point of view, his way of seeing things, and that all discernment must be done through that point of view.
Pope Francis seems to interpret the Papacy as proof that God [considers] his thoughts the correct ones [and] there is no point in disagreeing because he sees any different point of view as resistance.
“Fr McGavin” (the Australian theologian, Fr Paul-Anthony McGavin?) commented with acerbity, analyzing Francis inside and out:
Autocratic personality traits. There are certain behavioural characteristics that alert us to this personality type. These are now outlined.
Unqualified statement. Whether he goes on for great length, or is short and punchy, the language of autocrats tends to baldness – to unqualified statement.
Immoderate statement. Unqualified statements tend to be blunt and unsophisticated. But it is the unwarranted use of superlatives and exaggerations that characterise the language of autocrats – their language tends to be immoderate.
Restricted emotional expression. The emotional expressions of autocrats generally show a lack of depth and also tend to be diffuse and lack adequate specification.
Diminished affectionate and individuated personal relations. The autocratic person adopts a role identification and relates with people in terms that he sees as serving his dominating role. Personal affection and personal rather than functional and self-serving relations are generally absent. When a person ceases to serve the cause of the autocrat, he is discarded without emotional angst. Over time, the autocrat becomes more remote and handles people “administratively” and at-distance through apparatchiks.
Absoluteness of emphasis. Autocrat can use few words or be quite rambling, but their key statements will typically have an absoluteness about them – their words tend to be diktats.
Predominant reference to extreme values. Life usually occurs along a continuum, and the challenge typically is to find a balance in a dichotomous situation. For autocrats, persons and issues tend to be dichotomous, “one thing or another”, with little tolerance for “in between” that arises where thinking, feeling, and evaluation are extended.
Inconsistencies between general and specific behaviours. The simplistic mind and the simplistic rhetoric of autocrats gives rise to a tendency for inconsistency between their rigid and conventional generalisations and the features of more specific behaviours. It is difficult to “tie down” the autocrat on such points, both because open questioning is rarely admitted, and because resort to confusing rhetoric is often used to cloud inconsistencies. Because autocrats are not introspective, they are untroubled by their own mental inconsistencies and by the inconsistencies between what is espoused and what is practised. If “religious”, they thus can seemingly blithely maintain inconsistent religious espousal and practice.
Stereotypical language. The language of autocrats displays patterns of denial, stereotypical use of cliché, small variability in response and lack of shading, and much repetition. This should be identified as stereotypical language, rather than language that is insightful or expressive of the situations being engaged.
Intolerance of ambiguity. There is an over-lap in these indicators, for behaviour congruent with language usage as captured in the sub-headings just given implies an intolerance of ambiguity. The world of autocrats tends to be “flat”, rather than “multi-valenced”, simplistic and unrefined. They seek unswerving or unambiguous allegiance. They build around themselves organisations of “Yes men”, of minions who police non-conformity and questioning.