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What Should Pope Francis Do Now?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 2, 2018: I don't recall ever learning how to play chess. But I know that a game of chess involves two sides. The two sides include kings, queens, bishops, knights, and pawns. Sounds medieval, eh? The Roman Catholic Church was part of the medieval world in Europe, and it is still around today.

It strikes me that today retired Archbishop Carlo Vigano is playing something like a game of chess with Pope Francis and other Vatican officials. Both men are of Italian descent. But Pope Francis was not born and raised in Italy, as Vigano was. Pope Francis was born and raised in Argentine, a country in which male machismo is cultivated.

Now, whatever games Trump is playing at any given time, I get the impression that Vigano is a wee bit better at playing his game with the pope and his allies than Trump is at playing his games. But journalists report Trump's verbal games and Vigano's verbal games with the pope, because that is what journalists get paid to do. Editorial writers and op-ed commentators write responses to Trump's games, and some editorial writers and op-ed commentators have written commentaries about Vigano's verbal games with the pope -- including me in my two OEN commentaries. Thus far, however, Pope Francis has not yet responded to Vigano, except to say that he would not respond at the present time. Perhaps he understands that Vigano knows how to play chess, so to speak.

Remember that Trump's lawyers have warned him not to testify to Special Counsel Robert Muller, because Trump's lawyers fear that the vocal Trump might be trapped in perjury. Similarly, Pope Francis needs to be wary of letting Vigano trap him. Similarly, Vigano also needs to be careful not to get trapped by the pope or his allies.

One further point about Trump is worth mentioning. He often does not act presidential -- whatever that may mean in a given context. By contrast, on the world stage, Pope Francis characteristically acts publicly in ways that many people admire -- presidential, as it were, for a religious leader.

Now, in my previous two OEN commentaries about Vigano's statements, I have discussed two sides within the contemporary Roman Catholic Church: (1) Pope Francis and his allies, and (2) so-called Catholic traditionalists, who tend to see themselves as the out-of-power group since Pope Francis was elected pope in 2013.

In general, the Catholic traditionalists in the United States and in the Vatican look back to the Catholic thought-world before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The Catholic thought-world before Vatican II is nicely expressed in the title of Philip Gleason's book Contending with Modernity: [American] Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1995). Simply stated, contending with modernity calls forth the cultural-warrior spirit -- the culture-warrior spirit that the American Catholic bishops incited after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

By contrast, Pope Francis and his allies in the United States and in the Vatican tend to look at Vatican II for their inspiration. As an alternative to the culture-warrior spirit, Pope Francis has urged Catholics to engage in encounter and dialogue. But the church opposes legalized abortion. For Catholic traditionalists, there can be no encounter and dialogue about this! For them, Pope Francis is not a good culture-warrior, to put it mildly. Consequently, Vigano has found a pretext for calling on Pope Francis to resign. Let's review.

First, Vigano issued his 7,000-word open letter calling on Pope Francis to resign because he was allegedly part of the cover up of disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's sex life with young seminarians and priests (i.e., not minors). Remember that at long last Pope Francis finally removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals because of credible allegations that he had sexually abused minors.

See my first OEN article about Vigano:

Journalists reported Vigano's allegations in his 7,000-word letter -- and the fact that he provided no evidence to support them. Sounds like Trump, eh? However, subsequently, Vigano challenged a certain characterization of him made by the journalists -- and provided supporting evidence to back up his side of certain events:

See my second OEN article about Vigano:

At the very least, Vigano's documentation shows that he was making certain points that his auditors did not grasp -- points that journalists, in turn, did not try to understand because they took Vigano's auditors to be reliable sources of information.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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