John L. Allen Jr.
If all you had to go by in judging Catholic reaction to Pope Francis were press treatments and social media, you'd think it's an all-or-nothing war between devoted supporters and fanatical critics. In the trenches, however, what you find is a spirit of root enthusiasm and loyalty, tempered with a critical edge on specific points depending on what's most important to a particular person.
Saturday, Romans awoke to find a provocative image staring out from their neighborhood newsstands. On the cover of the latest issue of the magazine Millennium, published by the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, was a traditional depiction of St. Sebastian with arrows protruding from his body, but with the head of the pope, under the title, “The Enemies of Pope Francis: Here’s Who Wants to Force Him to Resign.”
This is hardly the first time an Italian publication has offered a run-down of the pontiff’s supposed enemies, both inside the Vatican and in the hierarchy, but the rhetoric this time was especially breathless.
The title on the inside of the piece was, “Too many enemies for a pope alone: Behold who’s plotting to force Francis to resign,” while a press release by editor Peter Gomez referred to a “true and real war” being waged against the pontiff by “powerful cardinals, screaming ex-Masons and politically connected opinion-makers.”
For the most part, the piece was a run-down of already well-documented episodes, such as Francis’s intervention with the Knights of Malta and the “Vatileaks 2.0” affair, with a Machiavellian undertone that they’re all expressions of subterranean opposition to the pope calculated to make his life so difficult that he eventually decides to walk away.