Respected Vatican journalist John Allen reports today his speculation that Pope Francis just does not like America or Americans.
One major clue lies in the Pope’s periodic condemnation of “doctors of the law” and “traditionalists.”
But who are these vaguely-defined groups? After asking many people in and around the Vatican to identify those groups, “the answer I got most was ‘Conservative Americans,” Swiss-born Bishop Bernard Fellay of the renegade Society of St. Pius X, said in an interview with journalist Edward Pentin.
One might suspect Fellay was deflecting, except for this: He’s absolutely, one hundred percent right about what one typically hears in Rome on the subject of who leaves this pope cold. By now, it’s clear that one defining feature both of Francis’ personality and his approach to governance – which shouldn’t be at all surprising, when you think about it – is a distinct ambivalence about the United States and about Americans.
Allen says the Pope’s dislike of America and Americans springs from his Latin American origin and the fact that the “resentment of the U.S. is sort mother’s milk across the region.” Allen cites various coups engineered by the the U.S. in Honduras, Chile, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.
There is likely a fair bit of jealousy that Latin America has always stood in the religious, political and economic shadow of the United States. When U.S. presidents are not overthrowing leftist Latin American regimes, they tend to forget that Latin American even exists. This certainly must rankle even Catholic Bishops.
Allen also cites the criticism the Pope has received since his elevation and that most of it comes from conservative American circles. Rush Limbaugh called him a Marxist. American Cardinal Raymond Burke was an outspoken critic of the Vatican powers-that-be and was demoted by Francis.
Americans used to hold many positions of power in the Vatican. An American was the long-time head of the Papal Household, and the number two man at the Secretariat of State was Oklahoman Peter Wells, who is now Nuncio in South Africa.
Francis was the only Pope in the last 80 years, except John XXIII, to have never set foot in the U.S. prior to his elevation to the Papacy.
Though hundreds of thousands of Americans turned out for the Pope’s visit in September and, except for the massive fumble related to the private visit with Country Clerk Kim Davis, the visit was judged a huge success. Even so, there has been a steady chorus of criticism from US-based Catholic intellectuals and activists over many of the Pope’s utterances and seeming shifts in Catholic teachings, like communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.
At best, there is an uneasy relationship between Pope Francis and an important strata of believers in the United States.