Cardinal Farrell: Pope Francis’ critics are wrong. He’s no autocrat.

By Cardinal Kevin J Farrell, 29 March 2023
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. Image: Vatican News


The 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election earlier this month has received the media attention that any papacy, much less one as popular as this one, would be expected to draw. Many columns in mainstream and Catholic media have been devoted to both what Pope Francis has already done as the Catholic Church’s chief pastor and speculation about where he will lead the church in the future.

These evaluations have ranged from praiseworthy to highly critical to a blend of the two. In the category of the most critical are some essays that demand a response because they make questionable claims about the impact of the Holy Father on the Curia, his official family here in Rome, where I serve as the prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.

The cardinals who elected Pope Francis did so with the expectation that the reform of the Roman Curia should be at the top of his agenda. Many in church governance had come to the conclusion that only a significant intervention into the governance and functioning of the Curia could redeem what had become a sclerotic, ineffective bureaucracy. Francis was faithful to this conviction from the start, which has led to a revised governing document for the Curia with a renewed vision for the role of the Curia as a whole and its individual offices.

The present makeup of the Curia guarantees that there will be a variety of opinions represented within it. While Pope Francis did not begin the process of making the Curia an international body that is more representative of the global church, he has remained faithful to the concept of drawing from all over the world for its personnel. Further, he has expanded that concept by not limiting the Curia to those with the kinds of résumés who, in the past, typically received Curial appointments. This has led to a liveliness and openness in the discussions of this varied group—a liveliness and openness that I have experienced firsthand, and that hardly leaves the impression of people hesitating to speak until they are told what Pope Francis thinks.

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Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell is the prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.

With thanks to America and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, where this article originally appeared.


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