Pope Francis is selectively inscrutable. He can be unmistakably clear when he wants to be. When it comes to capitalism, global warming, illegal immigration, and the death penalty, you don't have to read the tea leaves to divine his position. It's only on certain social issues that he's muted or equivocal.
And that, of itself, tips his hand. It's easy to see why a pope with liberal tendencies would send mixed signals. Far less easy to see why a conservative pope would do so.
Take one illustration of his modus operandi. When he spoke to Congress, he sounded like a candidate for the Green Party. The Catholic faithful were deflated.
A few days later, word leaked out that he had a private meeting with Kim Davis. The Catholic faithful momentarily rallied. At least he was supporting their cause behind-the-scene.
But then the Vatican began to minimize the significance of that meeting. It did not connote agreement with her position.
And on top of that, the next leak involved how Francis went out of his way to arrange a meeting with a "gay couple." In fact, the story has a transgender element, to add eye of newt to the witch's brew.
Every time he makes a conservative gesture, that's diluted by a liberal gesture.
Likewise, some of the faithful took comfort when the Vatican fired Monsignor Charamsa. Color me underwhelmed.
To begin with, this isn't the only high profile critic the Vatican demoted. Consider the twice-demoted Cardinal Burke. And that's because Burke is to the right of Francis.
Moreover, although he lost his job at the Vatican, Charamsa is still a priest. Compare that to the treatment of Padre Cutié.
If a priest is caught with a boyfriend, he's given a demotion; if a priest is caught with a girlfriend, he's given an ultimatum.
If you sodomize an altarboy, you will be transferred; if you have a girlfriend, you must either dump her or be defrocked. The priorities are very revealing.
Indeed, in the official Vatican statement, Charamsa wasn't fired because he's an active homosexual; rather, his public statement "subjected the Synod assembly to undue media pressure."
And even then, the Vatican expressed sympathy for Charamsa's plight: "notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue."
How limp-wristed (pun intended) can you get? Charamsa's behavior was intolerable, not because of what he did, but what he said. He was indiscreet. Once he spoke to the press, it was too late to be hushed up.
Are we to suppose his coworkers at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were unaware of his extracurricular activities? It's also striking that he began working there when Ratzinger was still the Prefect for that Congregation. Was he just out of the loop?
According to reports, the synod is window-dressing anyway, because a special task force began drafting the official findings before the synod fathers ever arrived. And they don't have a vote. So the synod seems to be a way to retroactively legitimate a fait accompli.
The Catholic clergy looks like an organization in which aging queens are policing young queens–with predictable results.