Loved by both Catholics and non-Catholics, Pope Francis is faced with the biggest challenge ever. Reforming the Church’s old ways into the new ways fit for the 21 century.
Things have escalated since Marie Collins left the commission that investigated the sexual abuse of children in the church, but also the biggest complains are against his policies for gay marriage, divorce and family.
After two synods on the issues in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis produced the document Amoris Laetitia, in which in effect he told the church’s bishops to make local decisions about the divorced and remarried and their receiving of communion.
Traditional church teaching says that a Catholic who remarries after divorce can receive communion only if the church has also annulled his or her first marriage. Some bishops have seen Amoris Laetitia as a direction to compassionately welcome people without annulments to receive the eucharist. The conservatives were not happy with this.
Pope Francis stated that he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality after his first trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2013
- Communion for divorced and remarried people
In April 2016 the pope issued his apostolic exhortation in response to the two synods of 2014 and 2015 on marriage and the family. Footnote 351 indicated it might be possible for the divorced and remarried to receive communion and moved decisions on this to local bishops and priests. “Communion is not a prize for the perfect,” he said. Six months later, four of his fiercest critics, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, issued a “dubia”, a document challenging Francis over his thinking on communion.
- Cleaning up the Curia
After being elected on a reform mandate by the College of Cardinals in March 2013, Francis immediately started his reform of the Roman Curia, the church’s bureaucracy, with efforts to clean up finances and streamline departments. In December 2016, Francis accused the leaders of the Curia of malicious and hidden resistance to reform, a resistance that was a sport that “sprouts in disturbed minds”.
- Child protection and the sex abuse scandal
Pope Francis created a Commission for the Protection of Minors, under his close ally, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston. In June 2015 the commission proposed a tribunal that would hold bishops to account for failing to deal with reported cases of child sex abuse. Francis gave it his backing, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found it had unspecified legal problems. The commission has stalled ever since.
- Luther had a point
Francis went to Sweden in October 2016 to mark the quincentenary of the Reformation. During a service in Lund Cathedral he praised Martin Luther for restoring the centrality of scripture. “There was corruption in the church, worldliness, attachment to money and power,” he said. Some conservatives were unimpressed by this display of ecumenism.