Lent is with us, and so is the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ ascent to the papal throne — an appropriate conjunction, since these are days of tribulation for his papacy.
There is the two-front war that Rome finds itself fighting on doctrine and liturgy, trying to squash the church’s Latin Mass traditionalists while more gently restraining the liberal German bishops from forcing a schism on Catholicism’s leftward flank.
There is the latest example, in the grim case of the Jesuit priest-artist Father Marko Rupnik, of well-connected clerics accused of sex abuse who seem immune to the rules and reforms that are supposed to put limits on their ministry.
And then there are the grim numbers for the Francis-era church, like the accelerating drop in the number of men studying for the priesthood worldwide, which peaked around the beginning of Francis’ pontificate and has been declining ever since. Or the unhappy financial picture, now bad enough that the Vatican is