My nephew Christopher in Arizona was musing on Facebook about Pope Francis’s latest off-hand comment approving of the idea of gay civil unions. (Note: multiple sources indicate that the Pope’s remarks were made to a filmmaker who then proceeded to heavily edit them.).

My nephew was — being something of a wag — wondered what impact this would have on the U.S. Supreme Court. He wasn’t serious, of course — at least I hope he wasn’t — but he implied that a court now “packed” with Catholics — and another one on the way — would make it awkward for justices to overturn gay marriage.

I chose to respond to Christopher’s antic surmise.

First of all, I note the assumption — dead since the days of JFK — that Catholic public officials take orders from the pope. As for this latest “Francis Flash” — most Popes issue encyclicals. Francis issues Confuse-o-Grams. Thank God, like Donald Trump, he doesn’t have a Twitter account ( Or does he?)

No denying, Francis continues to be a problem for faithful, meaning orthodox, practicing, or “conservative” Catholics, if you will (though Catholicism, rightly conceived of, is by its nature, conservative.)

Under this pontiff, Vatican foreign policy, among other things, has taken a historically tragic turn. He and his Secretary of State have inexplicably cut the legs out from under the long-suffering Chinese underground Church which has stayed loyal to Rome through persecution, torture and murder, since the Communists took over. This has caused enormous suffering of both underground priests and the faithful, leaving them naked to their powerful enemies. And, needless to say, it’s caused tremendous confusion, which seems to be Francis’s special pastoral style. And — again, inexplicably – he has renewed this secret — yes, secret — deal with the Chinese regime. I like to think he’s just susceptible to bad advice. The Vatican refuses to release details.

Then you have the very deep scandals and intrigues besetting Vatican finances. Francis also scandalously reinstated arch sex abuser and fraud Theodore McCarrick, now defrocked, once powerful former D.C. Cardinal, who proceeded to do enormous mischief. All very unamusing. As for Church teaching on marriage, it hasn’t and won’t change, under him or any Pope. This is just Francis being Francis. He’s capable of clearly, compassionately setting out the Church’s reasoning across a range of vexed issues. But he prefers to open closed issues, create false hopes among some critics and Church enemies, and confusion and alarm among the faithful, all, apparently in some wrongheaded effort at “dialogue”. Then he’ll reverse himself and slam the door shut again; a door he never should have opened in the first place. Quirky, Kooky Frankie The First. What a piece of work! God help us! (And, of course, I man no disrespect to my shepherd. The next time I make a pilgrimage to Rome, I’d be humbled to have him hear my confession.

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