“Opposition to the pope is not new, but what is new is the level and intensity that is there…It’s the insidiousness of the opposition movement that I think is scandalous for us.”
Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the new archbishop of Washington, DC, made that statement last week during a panel discussion at Georgetown University. At first glance, this may seem unnecessarily polemical or dramatic. An archbishop talking about a powerful and insidious movement against the pope, really?
It can’t be denied that over the past six years, the level of opposition and suspicion directed at Pope Francis has become part of the air that American Catholics breathe, so much so that it’s sometimes difficult to notice. And if you step back for a second and look at the state of Catholicism in the United States, the situation that Archbishop Gregory describes becomes clear. There is a cardinal who travels to speaking appearances across the country and regularly voices disagreement with and disregard for the pope’s magisterial teachings. There are multiple bishops who made public statements supporting the character and integrity of Archbishop Viganò after he wildly and irresponsibly called for the pope to resign. We have once-respected publications like First Things that now frequently publish articles questioning the orthodoxy of the pope. There is an entire industry of reactionary media outlets like LifeSite News, Taylor Marshall, and Church Militant with substantial influence over both laity and clergy. Finally, there’s EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, which uses its tremendous platform to promote ideas and individuals that are openly opposed to the pope. This network and its affiliates are perhaps the greatest contributors to the culture of suspicion against Pope Francis today. These and many others have manufactured a culture of opposition towards Pope Francis among American Catholics with real-life consequences.