The Pope’s Coming Vatican Showdown with American Conservatives

By Paul Elie, 25 September 2023
Pope Francis during the General Audience on 15 February 2023. Image: Vatican Media


Francis’s recent journeys ahead of the October synod may be signals about the future direction of the Church.

Pope Francis’s “apostolic journey” to Mongolia earlier this month had the unexpected consequence of bringing Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a singular and controversial French Jesuit scientist who died nearly seventy years ago, into the news cycle. As it turns out, Teilhard’s theology of cosmic spiritual progress is a useful way to understand the challenges that Francis is currently facing, as he and the Church prepare for a global synod next month in Rome. There, three hundred and sixty-three clerical and lay leaders representing two rival conceptions of the Church will encounter one another for several weeks of behind-closed-doors dialogue—a process that is meant to be amicable but may lead to open conflict prior to a second session next October.

Not only has this first Pope from the Americas shown no special regard for the U.S.; the American Church has become the church that stands between Francis and his vision of Catholicism. That vision is dedicated to the poor and determined to go to the world’s margins, and devoted to the God of “nearness, proximity,” confident that, as Teilhard put it, “God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle—and my heart and my thoughts.” The rise of traditionalist American Catholicism, that is, has met with the rise of a progressive Latin American Pontiff, whose vision is focussed on the Global South.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Paul Elie is a senior fellow at Georgetown University. His forthcoming book, “Controversy,” is about religion and the arts in the nineteen-eighties.

With thanks to The New Yorker, where this article originally appeared.


Read Daily
* indicates required