I have largely kept silent during Francis' pontificate. I have ignore most controversies that have arisen. I broke silence when Cardinal Daneels was named as a pontifical appointee to the Synod of the Family. I easily expected having to deal with those like Kasper, but Daneels appointment shattered my trust in the pope's prudential judgment. I was accused of being a Martin Luther for criticizing bishops and cardinals!
I could always come up with some plausible understanding of what the pope was doing. I don't always, or even usually, agree with said reasoning, but it allowed me not to be troubled in spirit and to give a reasonable response to those who were troubled and answer those who let such controversies cast doubt or support denial of real Catholic doctrine. On this issue, I was and am still flummoxed. I can only throw up my hands and give up on plausible rationalizations. There isn't one. I can only hope for an implausible reason to show itself later.
How can I avoid criticizing prelates when one promotes a catechism that encourages docility on the part of children to sexual assault and battery by adults and the other considers the miracles of Jesus mere stories, not history?
Enough of those nasty bits. There will always be some among the shepherds who are really wolves, always those that lack fortitude in keeping the faith. We can only pray that their example does not lead us to ape them in lack of fortitude via a different route, of anger and disappointment.
Those of us that saw Benedict XVI as a turning point have experienced much disappointment. While it was before my time, I am sure many felt that way with John Paul II, who did, during his first decade, significantly change the atmosphere of the Church and institute many important reforms. For myself, remembering what John Paul II had done and looking at Benedict XVI, I saw them both as steps along the path to recovery. Only to find, much to my dismay, that the old factions that had so much sway in the past haven't really declined and are able to return to the forefront now, and that deeper than any liturgical problems or canonical questions, the crisis of faith, of really believing and taking seriously what it means for the faith to be true, is as deep as ever.
I am not going to even attempt to analyze various theologies and ideologies. I am even going to refrain from mentioning many symptoms. Whatever one thinks of say the liturgical debates, or sacramental discipline, or any other number of issues, no one, can with a straight face, deny the Church is in crisis. I believe we have been declining for far longer than just after Vatican II, with fluctuations for a few centuries. This decline has only crystallized as a crisis with Vatican II. Perhaps we can say that it is like a deck that has long held up, while slowly its posts and support beams have rotted. It gets pressure washed and re-varnished, and it looks healthy, until one day your foot goes through a board. The long time rot has now become a point of urgency.
John of the Cross speaks of the dark night of the soul, which we undergo when God wants to purge us from attachments- in the first sensual, in the 2nd spiritual. I think of the crisis rather like that. Intellectually, morally and even spiritually there has been a long history of "rot", while the external appearance had at times looked far rosier. To purge us from these spots of rot, God has permitted the auto-destruction we have witnessed. God may not choose the pope the way many Catholics seem to think (cf. +Ratzinger's comments on the Holy Spirit not selecting the pope), but in His providence He does give us the leadership that serves His purposes. Whether competent and holy, or destructive and wicked or anything in between, we get a pope that serves His ends. Even if this be our castigation. Moments of reversal can be seen, then, as analogous to the occasional spiritual consolations God gives to the soul suffering aridity, as reminders that He still is with us and to help strengthen us for further aridity.
Have I just compared the reign of Francis to another period of aridity? Perhaps. But what are we to do about it? The same prescription is called for as in the dark night. Recourse to prayer, fasting and firm attachment to the sacraments. Those in a position to fraternally correct bishops and even the pope of course should do so, as St. Thomas Aquinas says (assuming it is real fraternal correction). For most of us, we can only see that the crisis of the Church has a root in the spiritual rot of her faithful. In short, if we want the Church to be strong, its members must be.Pray then for the pope and the bishops, especially the wolves. Witness the faith, and turn a deaf ear to those, even those with titles and authority, who would challenge it. But most of all, strive for holiness in yourself, and in doing so the effects will ripple out.