The story has all the elements of a Dan Brown novel: secret meetings, falsified information, and a magisterial cover-up sure to shock faithful people around the globe.
It all started when Nathan Paduka, a mid-level Vatican Aide II, questioned the installment of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis back in March 2013 and was met with a semi-official gag order.
“At first nobody listened to me when I tried to warn them that Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t really qualified for the papacy,” Paduka said, “but they’re sure listening now.”
Francis’ time in office has precipitated a wide array of change since his election, winning both public support and the attention of social media. He has taken selfies, washed the feet of prisoners, auctioned off his Harley for the homeless, spoken well of other faiths, embraced a man with a severe skin disorder, shared his stage with a wandering child, invited many strangers into the pope mobile, declined to speak ex cathedra, and refused to pass judgement on gay people. He even carries his own luggage.
These changes, however, have fueled growing concerns within the College of Cardinals about the legitimacy of last year’s election. Paduka tried to warn several cardinals about candidate Bergoglio as far back as February; “I told them that we needed to further vet him before the vote. I had seen something in his eyes that told me he wasn’t one of them, that he didn’t quite belong. Again, nobody listened.”
Many Church leaders now suspect the validity of Francis’ credentials. “We were all in such a rush to get that white smoke up, we should have been more careful. It’s all too obvious now that we elected an everyday variety Christian who takes Jesus’ metaphorical commands too seriously,” Cardinal Raadbam, a recent detractor, said. “That’s really the issue here. His hermeneutics (methods for interpreting Scripture) and application of the Christian tradition just don’t reflect the highest caliber.” According to Raadbam, the surprise resignation of Benedict and pressure to find a successor led to a “half-baked” election. Various leaked documents demonstrate a level of ambivalence and reservation that many cardinals withheld from conclave proceedings.
A leaked email from one unidentified cardinal opines, “I just didn’t want to look like a racist, not voting for the South American guy.”
Francis’ latest addition to the litany of his papal acts, in which he fired all but one cardinal from the Vatican Bank, has many Church leaders seconding Paduka’s initial fears and adopting Raadbam’s quiet disdain for the so-called “Papal Plebian.”