Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church
By Austin Ivereigh
Henry Holt and Company, 2019, 401 pp.
When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy in 2013, conservative Catholics did not know what they were in for. However, by 2016 it was crystal clear that Bergoglio was on a mission to steer the Roman Catholic church towards a progressive/liberal ideology. In that year, pope Francis guilefully overturned the ban on communion to remarried divorcees via a couple of footnotes in his “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical, and conservative opposition to Francis has been on the rise ever since.
Books critical of pope Francis by Catholic authors began appearing in late 2017 and have continued to be published. See here for details. There is disappointment and frustration with Francis among some conservatives that borders on outright rebellion. Discussions of schism are held in check by hopes that the next pope returns the church to pope John Paul II-style conservatism.
British journalist, Austin Ivereigh, answers Francis’ conservative critics with this very flattering apologia of the current pope. The problem, according to the author, is not Francis’ attempts to make the church more relevant, “pastoral,” and appealing in an era of rising secularism and an increasingly disaffected membership, but, rather, the problem is the intransigence of rigid conservative Catholics who are rooted in “clericalism” and doctrinalism at the expense of compassion and mercy.
In this book, Ivereigh covers all of the sturm und drang of Francis’ controversial papacy, including such topics as…
- The fight with conservatives over control of the Order of Malta
- The ongoing Vatican Bank financial scandals
- Reform of the corrupt Vatican Curia
- The ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal including Francis embarrassing mishandling of the situation in Chile in early-2018.
- How Francis is adapting the “Aparecida” movement (focus on the poor, social justice, etc.) of Latin American Catholicism to the entire church.
- Francis’ elevation of environmental concerns and climate change to the forefront.
- The “Amoris Laetitia” controversy including the dubia sent to the pope by the resistant right-wing cardinals.
- Francis’ method to orchestrate liberal change through synods rather than by papal decree.
One of the greatest ironies of our era is watching conservative Catholics line up in opposition to their own pope!
This book will give the reader a good understanding of the pro-Francis progressive viewpoint in this ongoing feud between liberal and conservative Catholics. Except for a brief account of Francis’ bumbling accommodations to Argentina’s murderous dictatorship as head of the country’s Jesuit order in the 1970s, the pope is portrayed with embarrassing adulation. This book reminded me, no exaggeration, of the fawning Catholic saint hagiographies of yesteryear.
Please keep in mind that neither the conservative Catholic doctrinalists or Francis and his progressive allies proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers who are interested in the current internecine tug-of-war within Catholicism.
Postscript: Here’s a question for Catholics regarding the title of this book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic church boasts that it is the “one, true church” and that it is Semper eadem, always the same. Why then is pope Francis trying to convert it?