The Key Decision for Pope Francis in His Standoff With Conservatives

When Cardinal George Pell, once the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church, died last week, Pope Francis mourned the man as a “faithful servant, who unwaveringly

followed his Lord.” Pell, a member of Francis’ close circle of advisors, had worked closely with Francis to institute financial reforms. But secretly, he had also been

working to undermine him. The day after Pell’s death, the Catholic world was shocked to discover that an anonymous memo—written last year under the pseudonym “Demos”—that

blasted Francis’ papacy as a “disaster” and “catastrophe,” had actually been written by Pell. On the same day, the conservative magazine The Spectator published an article it

claimed Pell had written. That article lambasted one of Francis’ central reform efforts as a “toxic nightmare.” These revelations proved one thing: Before his death, the

conservative Pell had been undercutting Pope Francis, all while he publicly worked to appear united with him. And Pell wasn’t alone in making moves against Francis and his

allies; last month, just days after the death of the retired Pope Benedict XVI, it was revealed that Benedict’s private secretary, Georg Gänswein, was set to publish a book

avenging the late Benedict by exposing “the blatant calumnies and dark maneuvers” of Benedict’s antagonists. Despite the fact that Gänswein is still the prefect of the papal

household—meaning he works directly for Francis—his recent interviews and leaked passages from the book indicate he means to come out swinging against the current

pope.