In an informal exchange aboard the papal plane, Pope Francis told Nicolas Senèze that he is “honored that the Americans attack me” when the French Catholic journalist presented him with a copy of his book How America Wants to Change the Pope (Comment L'Amérique veut changer de Pape) on the flight from Rome to Maputo, Mozambique, on Sept. 4.
The book describes how a wealthy and often traditionalist sector of the American Catholic church—both clerical and lay—attacks Pope Francis and notes that it is already working, with projects such as the “Red Hat Report,” to ensure that the cardinal elected pope at the next conclave is to its liking. It was clear from the context that Pope Francis was referring specifically to that sector of the U.S. church that is mentioned in the book and not to anyone else.
The pope said he had tried to get a copy of Mr. Senèze's book, but it was not yet available for sale. He then handed the book to an aide and commented with a smile, “This is a bomb!”
Francis thanked Mr. Senèze, a journalist for the French Catholic daily, La Croix, for the book and told him that he had read an article about it in the Rome daily, Il Messaggero. The pope said he had tried to get a copy of it, but it was not yet available for sale. He then handed the book to an aide and commented with a smile, “This is a bomb!”
Shortly after, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni told journalists that “in an informal context, the pope wished to say that he always considers criticisms as an honor, particularly when they come from authoritative thinkers, and in this case from an important nation.” The pope’s comments indicate he remains aware of the attacks against him from Catholics who disagree with his magisterial teaching and his statements on the economy, climate change, the death penalty, divorced and remarried persons and L.G.B.T. Catholics, as well as efforts by some traditionalist U.S. Catholics to delegitimize his teaching and undermine his pontificate.
Mr. Senèze’s book details the opposition to Pope Francis—which Senèze says comes from “a small minority”—including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (the former papal nuncio to the United States), as well as from wealthy lay people like Tim Busch and some U.S. Catholic authors like George Weigel, together with a sector of the U.S. Catholic media.