Over the last few days there has been a lot of speculation over the Pope's reaction to a new book about to be published by Ignatius Press. The book consists of a series of essays, a number by Cardinals, which defend Church teaching on divorce, remarriage and access to the Eucharist. Rumours circulating around Rome, and now around the world, cite that the Pope is infuriated with the book's publication particularly given the proximity of the Synod on marriage and the family.
Now these are only rumours, so we need to be careful, and as we know since Francis took office a great division has emerged in the Church and all sides in that divide have their own view of Francis and those views colour how those in those camps perceive what the Pope does and what he says. So, as one of my mentors always says: prudence!
Now, is the Pope furious with the publication of this book? I don't know. If he isn't, no worries there, it's just the Roman grape vine stretching itself. If he is, no worries either, he'll get over it if he has any sense. As I would advise any of my spiritual children: deal with it, bring it to prayer, there are more important things to be doing. I haven't seen the book so I cannot comment on its contents, but if the advance publicity is faithful to the content, and Ignatius Press are excellent anyway, the book should be a welcome addition to our understanding of the sacrament of marriage and the issues which surround it.
And the Synod? Is the Pope's anger an indication that he wants to change Church teaching and he is attempting to quash all opposition to the plans he has hatched with Cardinal Kasper? I don't know. Is it likely? Perhaps, perhaps not. In the history of the Papacy we have had some right rogues who conspired with other rogues to get their own way. However I would be careful in applying this caricature to Pope Francis: he has revealed himself to be a man of principal and of faith, and even if people feel uncomfortable with his style, I don't think we can doubt his sincerity and his goodwill.
I would also be careful of what Cardinal Kasper has said about him - in a recent interview the Cardinal claims that he and the Pope had discussed his views, that the Pope agreed with them all and his presentation at that infamous consistory was planned by both. The Cardinal is an old man, he has strange views, now he is in the limelight again and he is enjoying it. He may be not entirely objective or correct in his assessment of how Francis is reacting to his views.
All that said: should we fear for the Synod? There are times when I get anxious and wonder where the Church is going, and I see the shadows of 1968 appear again. And perhaps history is going to repeat itself. I have already said that it may a message from God that Pope Paul VI is being beatified at this very moment - not the so called "canonisation of Vatican II" but an example, a helper and patron for the orthodox in a time of crisis. We shall see.
But in faith I have to say: don't worry, God is in charge, whatever happens, in the end all will be well. We may have to suffer, we may to fight (metaphorically speaking), but good will come out of all this. For one thing we have the guarantee of Papal infallibility, the Pope will be guided by the Holy Spirit and will not formally teach error. This gift to the Church is not one to raise the Pontiff to the heights, it is given to protect the Church and in a sense warn a Pope. The Holy Spirit will use many ways to guide the Pope, including surrounding him with solid, orthodox people to advise him, perhaps even have books published at a time that may seem awkward to him or others. And yes, the Holy Spirit had to do the unthinkable once in Pope Sixtus V's case.
So trust. Keep calm and trust in the Holy Spirit. And pray for the Pope.