Pope Francis was attacked over the weekend with dozens of inflammatory posters showing him stern-faced plastered in central Rome, condemning his actions against some conservative Catholics and asking, “Where is your mercy?”
The anonymous protest alleged a series of misuses of papal power, including ignoring cardinals, removing priests and “beheading” two Catholic organizations.
Written in Roman dialect under the picture of the frowning Pope was; “Hey Frankie, you have gutted Congregations, suspended priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… Where is your mercy?”
The hundreds of posters were immediately pulled down or papered over within hours and no one has yet claimed responsibility for the anti-pope propaganda, while the Italian police have been combing through surveillance video footages in an effort to apprehend the culprits behind the hundreds of posters.
On the day the posters appeared, the Pope finalized a months-long battle with the Knights of Malta by appointing a Special Delegate from the Vatican and giving him “all necessary powers” to help renew the traditional Catholic Order.
The Knights of Malta have a unique “sovereign” standing within the Catholic Church, similar to that of a separate country, and they had contested the legality of the Pope’s intervention into their order.
While, last month the Pope forced the resignation of the head of the Knights of Malta, former Grand Master Matthew Festing, who had publicly opposed him.
On the other hand, most Vatican insiders and followers of the papal press have surmised that it has something to do with American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a man who would allegedly impeach the pope if he could.
Burke, an ultra-conservative who seems fond of the good old days when cardinals could condemn sinners for even the slightest infraction while living large at the Church’s expense, is the frugal pope’s most vocal opponent. He and three other conservative cardinals are behind the filing of what are called dubia or doubts about the pope’s interpretation of Catholic doctrine.
In a letter signed and delivered to Francis last November, the four threatened to launch a “formal act of correction of a serious error” against the pope for his perceived leniency to divorced and remarried Catholics, gays and other previously taboo topics.
In response, the pope said he “wasn’t losing sleep over it” and had no intention of responding formally. That issue has divided many in the Catholic Church and has left bishops around the world arguing about the Pope’s intentions and how to implement the directive.
Burke was the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura under Benedict XVI, a lofty post that oversaw all matters of Vatican law that afforded him respect and more than a little power. But when Francis was elected he cleaned house, and clerics like Burke, who would often be seen roaming around Rome in opulent attire like velvet capes and ornate hats, were marginalized and replaced by men with ministry, not diplomatic, experience.
It was then that Burke was sidelined to oversee the Sovereign Council of Knights of Malta where, under his guidance, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor was canned over a condom distribution “scandal” aimed at helping to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission. Francis intervened and asked for the resignation of the Knights’ Grand Master Matthew Festing.
Burke and other conservatives reportedly tryed to get Festing to refuse to resign since the Knights of Malta enjoy sovereign status and are one of the oldest Catholic orders around. Festing did resign and Francis put one of his own men in place, who quickly reinstated von Boeselager as Grand Chancellor and effectively replaced Burke as the liaison between the order and the Holy See.
Once again, the Pope effectively sidelined Cardinal Burke on Saturday by appointing Archbishop Angelo Becciu as his “special delegate” to the Knights and his “exclusive spokesman” in relations between the order and the Vatican.
Though there is no proof that Burke is involved in this poster scandal, it has been insinuated that the anonymous protests were concocted, paid for, and posted by a very shady, rich and powerful network.