During a major summit of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that will end this weekend, a senior conservative bishop took the floor inside the Vatican’s assembly hall and promptly charged his liberal peers with doing the devil’s work.
The three-week gathering, known as a synod, has erupted into a theological slugfest over Pope Francis’s vision of a more-inclusive church, and it has displayed the most bitter and public infighting since the heady days of Catholic reform in the 1960s.
Archbishop Tomash Peta of Kazakhstan captured the magnitude of the divide, raising eyebrows — and a few incredulous laughs — as he decried some of the policy changes floated at the meeting as having the scent of “infernal smoke.”
It was just another day at a gathering that, more than any event since Francis began his papacy in 2013, has highlighted how the pontiff’s outreach to once-scorned Catholics has triggered a tug of war for the soul of the Catholic Church. More important, it underscored just how hard it may be for the pope to recast the church in his image.
The pushback by traditionalists has been so strong that the chances of fast changes on contentious family issues — whether to offer Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics or to craft more-welcoming language for gays and lesbians — have substantially dimmed, if not died