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August-September 2015

As Synod II approaches: have the inmates taken over the asylum, or is Francis getting exactly what he wants? Two commentaries on his dual strategy of stealth and force. Our titles and sub-titles.

1. The Velvet Glove


It is not true that Francis was silent during the two weeks of the [October 2014] synod. In the morning homilies at Saint Martha’s, he hammered away every day at the zealots of tradition, those who load unbearable burdens onto men, those who have only certainties and no doubts, the same against whom he lashed out in the farewell address with the synod fathers.

He is anything but impartial, this pope. He wanted the synod to orient the Catholic hierarchy toward a new vision of divorce and homosexuality, and he has succeeded, in spite of the scanty number of votes in favour of the change of course, after two weeks of fiery discussion.

In any case, he will be the one who ultimately decides, he reminded the cardinals and bishops who may have had any doubts. In order to refresh their memory on his “supreme, full, immediate, and universal” power, he brought to the field not a handful of refined passages from Lumen Gentium, but the rock-solid canons of the code of canon law.

On communion for the divorced and remarried, it is already known how the pope thinks. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he authorized the curas villeros, the priests sent to the peripheries, to give Communion to all, although four-fifths of the couples were not even married. And as pope, by telephone or letter he is not afraid of encouraging some of the faithful who have remarried to receive Communion without worrying about it, right away, even without those “penitential paths under the guidance of the diocesan bishop” projected by some at the synod, and without issuing any denials when the news of his actions comes out.

This is one of the ways in which Jorge Mario Bergoglio exercises his absolute powers as head of the Church. And when he pushes the whole of the Catholic hierarchy to follow him on this road, he knows very well that Communion for the divorced and remarried, numerically insignificant, is the loophole for a much more generalised and radical sea change, toward that “second possibility of marriage,” with the consequent dissolution of the first, which is admitted in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and which he, Francis, just shortly after his election as pope said “must be studied” in the Catholic Church as well, “in the context of pastoral care for marriage.”

It was in July of 2013 that the pope made these intentions public. But in that same interview on the plane back from Brazil he opened a construction site on the terrain of homosexuality as well, with that memorable “who am I to judge?” universally interpreted as an absolution of actions that have always been condemned by the Church but no longer are, if they are committed by someone who is “seeking the Lord and has good will.”

A turning point on this matter did not have an easy time at the synod. It was invoked in the assembly by no more than three fathers: by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, director of La Civiltà Cattolica, and by the Malaysian Archbishop John Ha Tiong Hock.

Hock supported himself with a parallel drawn by Pope Francis between the Church’s judgment on slavery and that on the conception that the man of today has of himself, to say that just as the first changed so also the second judgment can mutate.

While Fr. Spadaro brought up the pope’s example of a girl adopted by two women to maintain that these situations must be treated in a new and positive way.

Then, for having inserted into the mid-discussion working document three paragraphs encouraging the “affective growth” between two men or two women “integrating the sexual
dimension,” Archbishop Bruno Forte, brought in as special secretary of the synod at the pope’s behest, was publicly disowned by the cardinal relator, the Hungarian Péter Erdõ. And the subsequent discussion among the synod fathers ripped the three paragraphs to shreds, which in the final “Relatio” were reduced to just one without anything new in it, not even reaching a quorum of approval.

But here as well Francis and his lieutenants, from Forte to Spadaro to Argentine archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, have hit their target of getting this explosive issue onto the agenda of the Catholic Church, at the highest levels. The result remains to be seen.

Because this is how Bergoglio’s revolution proceeds, “long-term, without obsession over immediate results.” Because “the important thing is to initiate processes rather than possess spaces.” Words from Evangelii Gaudium, the program of his pontificate.

Acknowledgements to L'Espresso, October 2014.

* * *

2. The Iron Fist


I have seen increasing coverage in the mainstream press over the last few weeks of the conflicts that are apparent even to secular observers within the pontificate of Pope Francis. And even some of these secular observers normally inclined to think it a good thing that the Church “modernise” a bit are beginning to express concerns over some of these things they’re seeing.

Pontifical Commissar

A case in point: you might recall the post I did a few weeks ago on the bitterly hostile invective directed at Catholic family groups by Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS), upon receiving some quite mild questions regarding the suitability of giving major pro-aborts and population control zealots a platform to speak at the Vatican.  One of Sorondo’s choicest lines:

The Tea Party and all those whose income derives from oil have criticized us…. Ban Ki Moon and Jeffrey Sachs don’t even speak of abortion or population control.... They speak of access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights....

Anyone with a brain and even a toenail in the pro-life movement knows that this means… abortion and population control. Family planning is the euphemism for population control, and “reproductive rights” always means abortion. In fact, [US neo-conservative magazine] First Things studied some UN documents to prove, without a doubt, that when Ban Ki-Moon speaks of family planning, he means population control, and quite draconian population control at that.

Soronder’s rhetoric was flippant, disrespectful, dismissive, and far beneath his exalted station. It was, however, thoroughly progressive.

Functionary of the Commissariat

When Margaret Archer, President of the Pontifical Council on Social Sciences saw the criticism in First Things, she absolutely exploded in what can only be termed a unhinged diatribe revealing both a very ill-intent and a thoroughgoing and radical progressive inclination. (I quote at length: the diatribe takes the form of loaded questions directed back at First Things):

The nature of your questions [the questions from First Things] raises some very serious questions about your understanding of Catholic Social Doctrine.

1. Is your sole concern with human dignity confined to the period between conception and live-birth?
If so, this is a travesty of Catholic Social Teaching, whose concern is not confined to the newborn but extends to the development of all those potentialities and powers that exist only in potential at birth

OK, straight off, this is ridiculous. It is very possible to be concerned about both abortion and contraception AND all these other matters she introduces. But having concern over a “living wage” and all the rest doesn’t mean we have to traffic with abortion-promoters or pretend they are “on our side” when they promote such manifest evils.

2. Why are you so totally uninterested in vicious practices, such as human trafficking that are an offence to the human dignity and right to life that you purport to defend?

……..Of course, your comments imply that you are a climate change denier, but I had to laugh at 18 years being cited as a reasonable period in which to measure such change. The most recent statistics now do show that 95% of natural scientists accept the contribution of emissions, attributable to human doings, as responsible.

Well, I find it laughable that you can find a link between supposed “climate change” and human trafficking. What makes female sexual slavery possible? Could it be abortion and contraception? There is a far firmer link between human trafficking and those evils, than there is with purported climate change. Notice the language – this woman is a thoroughgoing and radical Modernist progressive, and yet she holds a high office at the Vatican? Mind, it gets much, much worse.

3. Why do you direct a hate message to Bishop Sánchez Sorondo alone? [HATE message! To the modern left, to simply question them, let alone oppose them, is all the indication they need that you HATE them. This woman is a child.]

Various Cardinals were present at different meetings. Instead, blame me, blame PAS. [Umm……because HE is the CHANCELLOR overseeing the organization, HE is the one Church hierarch who ultimately holds responsibility in the Church for the behaviour of this organization.]

4. Why are we not allowed to speak to Jeffrey Sachs or the Secretary General of the UN?

Professor Jeffrey Sachs concentrated his talk on how we (PASS) could influence the Sustainable Development Goals about to be re-designated by the UN…….We should never forget that every Social Encyclical since Vatican II is addressed to ‘All people of goodwill’ – and that he showed himself to be. [Well, we could talk forever about the nature of the post-conciliar “social” encyclicals, and how they comport with the pre-conciliar encyclicals, and even the potential for disorder in those. But this is all appeal to authority and a logical fallacy. She never addresses a single one of the actual questions raised. Her entire response can be reduced to: “Who are you to ask US, the exalted bearers of high positions in the Church, peon?”]

... The Secretary General is to be shunned too! Well, that was not the attitude of Pope Francis who invited him to a private Audience, immediately prior to our joint PAS/PASS meeting on 28 April – to discuss climate change and human trafficking. Do you really have a higher moral standard than the Pope? Or is your own minimalistic version of the Creed, consisting of the single item: ‘’We believe in the ethical depravity of abortion’ considered to be an improvement? [Again, I am shocked by the utter lack of reason contained in this response. Asking questions as to the wisdom of giving people who hold numerous views (and more than just abortion) antithetical to the Doctrine of the Faith a platform to speak from the Vatican, without correction or counter-presentation, providing them with enormous moral authority and seeming to praise them unequivocally, is indication of a “minimalistic version of the Creed?” She is basically shouting: “I’m a FAR better Catholic than you, who are you to question ME?”]

She signed off with a sneer: "I am appointed by the pope and responsible directly to him. I’m afraid that leaves you and your cohort out in the cold."

1968 Revisited

Well, I think that sums up the new attitude in the Church! Get on board with the progressive paradigm, or shut up.(1)

So much for the empowerment of the laity post-Vatican II! Oh, they just love to empower us, provided we are fully on board with their program, otherwise it’s go frank yourself, pewsitter, just pray, pay, and obey.

One of the "secular observers" to whom I initially referred closes his piece with this: “But right now, Pope Francis looks like a substitute teacher, barely aware of the unseemly machinations in the back of his classroom — or barely in authority to stop them.”

Is that it? Is all this really occurring somehow either in opposition to Pope Francis, or is it occurring behind his back and beyond his control? Or was it Pope Francis who told progressives to “make a mess” in the Church? Is it Pope Francis, through his numerous insults directed at those who adhere to the pre-revolutionary practise of the Faith ("sourpusses", "neo-Pelagians", "prometheans", those who adhere to a certain liturgical "fashion," etc.) who is creating the environment in which a haughty, dismissive, and utterly disrespectful attitude is displayed towards the most faithful Catholics?

As Dr. Archer notes, she was appointed by this Pope.  Archbishop Sorondo Sanchez was appointed by John Paul II; he’s been around a long time, so read into that what you will.  Even if all this sudden proliferation of extreme progressive views within the Vatican really is occurring beyond the Pope’s control, it certainly does seem that those progressive elements feel enormously liberated and empowered by this pontificate, in comparison to their behaviour over the period 1978-2013. It’s 1968 all over again, and they are beside themselves with excitement.

Thanks to, 12 June 2015.



(1) Editor's Note: This was Archbishop Vincent Nichols' precise response to those who objected to radically unrepentant sodomites instrumentalising his "gay" Masses. See “Triumph, Tragedy, and Stardust: The Papal Visit in Perspective”, November 2010.



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