According to the research of NCR columnist Jamie Manson, Pope Francis’ apparent penchant for simplicity in dress, and for rejecting certain aspects of Vatican ceremonial tradition that emphasized his superiority over the other Cardinals, should not be mistaken for a desire for a more collegial view of authority. Far from it! As a long standing supporter of the movement, Comunione e Liberazione, or Communion and Liberation (CL), Francis apparently favors the view that the Church’s authority is the authority of God and cannot be wrong, rather like the view held by fundamentalist Protestants regarding the Bible. And, moreover, this authority, which is best expressed by the pope, is binding not only on the consciences of Catholics but on all of society. Doctrinal fundamentalism at a whole new level.
This new information is unsettling; comparisons of CL to Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ are chilling. But let’s not mourn the future of the Church just yet. A commitment to evangelization is not in itself a bad thing and neither, certainly, is a commitment to the poor. But anyone expecting a broader commitment to collegiality, equality, and justice, or a decentralizing of authority, may have to wait for another papacy.