A high-profile English convert to Catholicism has raised concerns about an “intellectual deficiency” in Pope Francis’s papacy, saying that the Pontiff may be causing “confusion” in the Church.
Charles Moore, a journalist, author and former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator, told an Italian magazine: “My anxiety about Pope Francis is that he may not be as intellectually powerful as Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St John Paul II.”
“For me his encyclical Laudato Si’ is not well argued,” Moore said. “It is rather loosely put together.
“One thing I value about Catholic teaching is a strong theological and intellectual thread through the argument, allowing you to determine whether you agree with it or not,” he said.
“I think this intellectual deficiency in his papacy may also be causing some organisational deficiencies and a slight sense of confusion.”
Moore, the author of the official biography of Margaret Thatcher, made his comments in an interview for the July-August edition of the Messenger of St Anthony, an Italian magazine published by the Franciscans in Padua.
In 2015, Moore objected in his Daily Telegraph column to Laudato Si’, saying that the encyclical was overly pessimistic about the global order: “Any Christian is naturally shocked by the disparity between the advantages God gives us and the mess we make of them; but it should be acknowledged that modern industrial society does many things better than any previous form of social organisation.”
In the recent interview, however, Moore said that he thought the College of Cardinals made the right choice in electing Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope in 2013.
“He is good at restating obvious things that people forget,” said Mr Moore. “For instance, it was a very good thing to have a Year of Mercy, to think about mercy, because it reminds us about how we stand to Jesus and how we stand in relation to one another.”
Moore’s criticism comes at a time when deep divisions are opening up within the Church over other aspects of Francis’s papacy – and most notably his approach to divorced and remarried Catholics.
Four cardinals last year sent Pope Francis a dubia to request a clarification over whether the conclusions of Amoris Laetitia, his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation on the family, was aligned with Catholic teaching because of the way the issue of divorce and remarriage was left open to interpretation.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose the funeral last week of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, one of the cardinals who signed the dubia, to warn Catholics of a crisis in the Church.
Using the metaphor of the Church as the “barque of Peter”, Benedict said “the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing”.
Mr Moore was one of the most high-profile Anglicans to convert to the Catholic faith when he joined the Church in the early 1990s following the decision to admit women for ordination in the Church of England.
He told the Messenger of St Anthony that “what really upset me about the Anglican decision was that it was anti-ecumenical”.
“It indicated to me that the Anglican Church was more sectarian than it realised,” Mr Moore continued.
“It thought it was doing the modern thing, but it disregarded the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. I thought this was a bad way of doing things.
“Finally, this issue focused my mind on what I recognise as the authentic Church, and I recognise this authentic Church as the Roman Catholic one.”