I apologise to those readers who were shocked by my last post if it bore the hallmarks of an over-reaction or somewhat 'over the top' reaction to a media report that has the flavour of Roman gossip about it.
If this report is false, then I retract it in its entirety because it is unnecessary. If it is true and plans are afoot to 'replace' a Pope with another, I stand by every word. Perhaps unwisely, the post was based entirely on this 'IF'.
With that said, Catholics cannot be blamed for being somewhat sensitive right now. The last conclave was dogged by rumours and public records hinting very strongly that the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis may have been in some way compromised in a manner that the Church regards as illegal, with such consequences that entail automatic excommunication upon those persons who may or may not have been involved in 'vote-canvassing' for a particular candidate. This is due to laws fashioned during the reign of St John Paul II that forbade it under pain of just such a penalty.
This controversy is a matter of public record and I find it difficult to rule out the possibility that this controversy has ramifications for the papacy and the Church that are still with us today and may be with us for quite some time.
Not only is a controversy over the last conclave well within the public domain, but further controversies emerged in the wake of the 2013 election that suggested that it may even have been the case that 'pressure', of an unknown kind, could have been applied to Pope Benedict XVI in order to get him to step down. Again, this is not a fact, but a controversy that persists. I make no judgement on these matters, for how can I? I am only a lay person. It is for a competent authority to judge the truth of these matters at a time when it can be assessed in its fullness.
However, while these controversies persist and have never been emphatically laid to rest, it seems completely beyond my comprehension how a 'group of Cardinals' could be reported in the mainstream press to be considering both:
a) pressuring the current Pope to resign and
b) replacing him with a pre-determined candidate who we must assume would already have accepted the pre-determined nature of the role
I heed advice given to me to remain calm, in the likelihood that this report in The Times is false. I hope and pray it is false. I reserve the right to be seriously not calm if - and I stress if - that report is true. If it were true, it would have grave ramifications for the Church. Both a) and b) are, in fact, illegal within the Church.
If the report were to be true, then all law and order in the Church would have broken down and the papacy is simply at the mercy of powerful men with no interest for the good of the Church, but rather for the strength and respectability of their party or faction within the Church. Or should we no longer be shocked by this possibility because we are numb after four years of doctrinal mayhem and disdain for Church laws and even the Law of God Himself?
I then went on to discuss that the only way to remove a Pope is by deposition. A Pope cannot be deposed by force or external pressure, but only by an unprecedented and extraordinary tribunal held by the competent authorities, after a trial in which the Supreme Pontiff has been found to have ceased, or never to have possessed, authority over the People of God, either by not possessing, teaching or believing the Catholic Faith himself, or by the tribunal concluding that his election was invalid and that he reigned as an anti-Pope. Or both. If Cardinals were trying to oust or 'persuade' Francis to go without recourse to some sort of legal framework, that would have serious ramifications for the validity of the next conclave (should that come about) as Church laws would have been abrogated in an arbitrary manner, possibly not for the first time, for the sake of nothing but expedience. Whatever one may think of Francis and his own attitude to laws, they are there for the protection of the Church and they should be observed.
Perhaps, you might say, these things simply should not be discussed and, if so, they should be discussed in an objective and sober manner. I apologise for the general tone of my last post. I was angry and shocked at the media report. I could scarcely believe it and yet, I could believe it. I can believe quite easily that a cabal of Cardinals are frightened that Pope Francis is leading the Church to an inexorable path of destruction and that his complete unpredictability is a liability both for that cabal and for a wider circle of Cardinals who believe that something must be done. Perhaps these things should not be discussed, but if the report is true then they are being discussed in the highest parts of the Church.
Those who say these things should not be discussed may very well be right in that belief, in which case may the number of Cardinals and Bishops faithful to the Truth of Jesus Christ be emboldened and give as much possible support, in public and private, as they can to the four Cardinals and to their dubia, so that, far from 'pressuring' Francis to resign, the Princes of the Church may insistently ask Pope Francis to teach the perennial Faith of the Church and, if he will not give answer, explore the legal avenues within their sphere of influence to begin a process which may result in an assembly which can ascertain whether the Pope is, indeed, a Catholic, one who professes and holds the Faith of Christ, a necessary prerequisite to reigning as a legitimate Pope.
There is justification for calling an assembly of just this kind, since Pope Francis refuses to answer five simple questions concerning immutable Catholic doctrine. If Pope Francis does not wish such a process to be a possibility, he can of his own volition either a) answer the dubia and teach the perennial Catholic Faith or b) resign, thereby leaving known or unknown the motives for his resignation. If he didn't want to give his true motives in his resignation, he could always suggest that he was growing older and more frail and the Church needed a younger and fitter man for the demands of an Office with such grave responsibilities. Such a process would be completely legal, faithful to the laws of the Church and respect both Pope Francis and his august and esteemed Office.
But like I said, if the media report is false, then I apologise for my over-reaction to a false rumours spread in the international press.
And no, I am not drunk.