10

PopeWatch: The General Who Wants to Win Without Fighting

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

1 Corinthians 14:8

PopeWatch has commented on how Pope Francis seems very reluctant to champion Church teaching under attack by elites throughout the West.  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa in a post entitled Bergoglio, the General Who Wants to Win without Fighting, explains why this is the case:

ROME, March 10, 2014 – Víctor Manuel Fernández is the first Argentine to be made a bishop by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, two months after his election as pope.

He was and continues to be the rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina, a role he took on after the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires overcame the hostility of a formidable group of opponents outside and inside the Church.

But for years he has also been Bergoglio’s most trusted collaborator in the writing of his major texts, from the Aparecida document in 2007 to the 2013 “Evangelii Gaudium,” the action plan of the current pontificate.

The book-interview “Il progetto di Francesco. Dove vuole portare la Chiesa” – recently released in Italy – in which Fernández explains and comments on the papal program is therefore a good guide for understanding it more thoroughly.

*

There is a passage in the book in which Fernández refers to the metamorphosis that Bergoglio went through before and after his election as pope:

“When he was archbishop he was gradually withdrawing and preferred not to appear in public very much. Moreover, there were too many campaigns of persecution orchestrated by some very conservative sectors of the Church, and I believe that this worried him a great deal. Now that he has become pope, with the new gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon him, he has abandoned those fears and has allowed his best features to emerge. This has renewed his enthusiasm and his energy.”

In another passage Fernández explains the reserve of the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires:

“There were sectors that were putting a strong emphasis on doctrinal certainty, on the honor of the Church and its self-preservation, and that felt that they were represented by a few ecclesial authorities. The sectors that had a plan even slightly different from these latter, like Cardinal Bergoglio and many others, were very respectful of these choices, or at the very least met them with silence.”

Fernández does not say any more. But to find out more about that tormented period of Bergoglio’s life there is another book, released a few months ago in Argentina and Italy, written by the vaticanista Elisabetta Piqué, who is the best informed and most reliable biographer of the current pope: “Francesco, vita e rivoluzione”.

On the side opposed to Bergoglio were the prominent Vatican cardinals Angelo Sodano and Leonardo Sandri, the latter being of Argentine nationality. While in Buenos Aires the ranks of the opposition were led by the nuncio Adriano Bernardini, in office from 2003 to 2011, with the many bishops he managed to get appointed, almost always in contrast with the guidelines and expectations of the then-cardinal of Buenos Aires.

 On February 22, 2011, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Bernardini delivered a homily that was interpreted by almost everyone as a harangue in defense of Benedict XVI but in reality was a concerted attack on Bergoglio.

The nuncio placed under accusation those priests, religious, and above all those bishops who were keeping a “low profile” and leaving the pope alone in the public battle in defense of the truth.

“We have to acknowledge,” he said, “that there has increased year after year, among theologians and religious, among sisters and bishops, the group of those who are convinced that belonging to the Church does not entail the recognition of and adherence to an objective doctrine.”

Because this was exactly the fault charged against Bergoglio: that of not opposing the secularist offensive, of not defending Church teaching on “nonnegotiable” principles.

And to some extent this was the case. The then-archbishop of Buenos Aires could not bear the “obsessive rigidity” of certain churchmen on questions of sexual morality. “He was convinced,” writes Elisabetta Piqué, ” that the worst thing would be to insist and seek out conflict on these issues.”

There was one episode that exemplifies Bergoglio’s approach:

“In 2010, at the height of the episcopate’s battle of to block the legalization of marriage between persons of the same sex in Argentina, there emerged the idea of holding a prayer vigil [in front of parliament]. Esteban Pittaro, of the ‘Università Australe of Opus Dei, sent an e-mail to the chancery of Buenos Aires, telling them about the event. The following day he saw that he had missed a phone call and realized that it was a number of the archdiocese. Esteban called back and Bergoglio answered in person. ‘It seems like a wonderful thing to me that you should pray. But the fact that you want to spend all night in the plaza . . . It will be cold, go home, pray at home, as a family!” the cardinal told him. ‘He supported the march, but he was right to discourage the vigil, because the following day there were demonstrations in fa for of homosexual marriage. And he wanted to avoid the contrast,’ Pittaro recounts.”

*

If these are the precedents, it comes as no surprise that Bergoglio, as pope, should dictate this same line of conduct  for the whole Church.

It is the line of conduct that “Evangelii Gaudium” has laid bare to the world. and that the book-interview of Bishop Fernández makes even more explicit, with the showy confidence of one who demonstrates that he thoroughly understands the pope’s thinking.

For example, on the following points.

“NONNEGOTIABLE” PRINCIPLES

Pope Francis is not naive. He is asking us to immerse ourselves in the context of today’s culture in a very realistic way. He is inviting us to recognize that the rapidity of communication and the selection of content proposed by the media present a new challenge for us. [. . .] When the Church talks too much about philosophical questions or about the natural law, it is presumably doing so in order to be able to dialogue on moral issues with the nonbelieving world. Nonetheless, in doing this, on the one hand we do not convince anyone with the philosophical arguments of other times, and on the other we lose the opportunity to proclaim the beauty of Jesus Christ, to “make hearts burn.” So those philosophical arguments do not change anyone’s life. Instead, if it can be managed to make hearts burn, or at least to show what there is that is attractive in the Gospel, then persons will be more willing to converse and to reflect also with regard to a response concerning morality. [. . .]

For example, it does not do much good to speak out against sexual marriage, because people tend to see us as if we were resentful, cruel, persons who have little sympathy or even exaggerate. It is another matter when we speak of the beauty of marriage and of the harmony that is created in the difference resulting from the covenant between a man and a woman, and in this positive context it emerges, almost without having to point it out, how inadequate it is to use the same term and to call “marriage” the union of two homosexual persons. [. . .]

There are two factors that are driving the pope to ask us not to speak “always” and “only” about certain moral principles: in order not to wear others out, overloading them and obtaining an effect of rejection, and above all in order not to destroy the harmony of our message. Continue Reading

19

PopeWatch: Pressure

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

One of the biggest mistakes thus far of the current pontificate is those idiotic questionnaires which were ordered in preparation for the synod on the family in October, at least, judging from what Sandro Magister at Chiesa is reporting, that might well be the private assessment of Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri:

Finally, on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th of February there will be a meeting of the council of the general secretariat of the synod of bishops, coordinated by the new cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.

That assembly will begin to evaluate the responses to the questionnaire concerning the upcoming extraordinary synod in October, also dedicated to the pastoral care of the family.

The episcopal conferences of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have already seen to spreading all over the world, through detailed press releases, the responses that have come to them, tipped very much out of balance toward the progressive side.

But this diffusion has been judged as a “unilateral initiative” and “not correct” by Baldisseri, who reiterated in an interview how the publication of these materials, which were supposed to have been sent “confidentially” to the Vatican, were by no means authorized.

Not only that. The new cardinal – also in the same interview published in the “Quotidiano Nazionale” on February 11 – also defined as “a possible interpretation” that which sees the release of the data as a form of pressure for influencing the work of the synod. Continue Reading

3

PopeWatch: Cash Cow

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Sandro Magister at Chiesa draws attention to the enlistment by Pope Francis of some rather expensive firms in his efforts to revamp Vatican operations:

It may be “poor and for the poor,” the Church dreamed of by Pope Francis. Meanwhile, however, the Vatican is becoming the cash cow of the most exclusive and expensive firms in the world of management and financial systems.

*********************************************

Another big name recruited by the Vatican is Promontory Financial Group, based in Washington. Since May, a dozen of its analysts have been set up in the offices of the IOR sifting through the accounts of the institute one by one, hunting for illicit operations. And they are doing the same with the accounts of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

Not only that. Top-level managers of Promontory have become part of the permanent leadership of the IOR. One former Promontory officer is Rodolfo Marranci, the new director general of the Vatican “bank.” And the senior advisers of the IOR include Elizabeth McCaul and Raffaele Cosimo, who at Promontory were respectively the heads of the New York and European branches. Also coming from across the Atlantic is Antonio Montaresi, called in to manage the risk office, a role that did not exist at the IOR before.

A similar multiplication of roles and personnel at the Vatican also concerns the Financial Information Authority, created at the end of 2010 by Benedict XVI, today directed by the Swiss René Brülhart, an expensive international star in this area who will soon be doubling his staff.

The balance sheets of the IOR are certified by Ernst & Young, to which the Vatican has also entrusted the verification and modernization of the finance and management practices of the governorate of the tiny state.

And another renowned multinational, KPMG, has been called to bring up to international standards the accounting practices of all the institutes and offices based in Vatican City.

In spite of the boasts of transparency, no information is coming out about the costs of this recourse to external contractors, costs that are presumed to be enormous, particularly those charged to the IOR.

As if this were not enough, the Vatican “bank” has had to spend 3.6 million euro to cover part of the debt of 28.3 million, calculated by Ernst & Young, for the world youth day in Rio de Janeiro.

And it has had to use roughly ten million euro to cover half of the chasm left in the diocese of Terni by its former bishop Vincenzo Paglia, the current president of the pontifical council for the family. Continue Reading

33

PopeWatch: Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

PopeWatch has noticed that the closer one pays attention to the day to day operations of the Vatican the more one becomes convinced that the Roman Catholic Church is the True Faith.  Why?  Well for the same reason that a Jewish merchant converted to Catholicism in the Renaissance.  He had expressed an interest in converting to a Catholic merchant friend of his.  He announced to his friend that he was going to Rome to see the operation of the curia up close.  His friend who knew the corruption at Rome was aghast and assumed that his friend would lose all interest in converting.  Instead his friend came back and announced that he was being baptized in a month.  His friend was happy, but asked him why.  “At Rome I saw how the curia operates.  If I operated that way I would be bankrupt in a week.  The Church however has been going strong in spite of this for sixteen centuries.  It must be from God!”

An example of the loopiness that one often sees in close observation of the Vatican may be summed up in Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui.

Francesca Chaougiu

Continue Reading

10

PopeWatch: Untier of Knots

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Sandro Magister on his blog Chiesa notes that Pope Francis has a special devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots:

Mary-Untier-of-Knots-1

 

 

In Augsburg, in the church of the Jesuits, dedicated to Saint Peter, there is a venerated Marian image: the Blessed Mother “untier of knots.”

In it Mary is depicted untying the knots of a ribbon held out to her by an angel, which another angel is receiving from her with no more knots. The meaning is clear. The knots are all that complicates life, difficulties, sins. And Mary is the one who helps to untie them.

Bergoglio was deeply struck by this Marian image. When he returned to Argentina a few months later, he brought with him a good number of prayer cards with the Blessed Mother “untier of knots.”

His doctoral thesis was abandoned at its birth, and even the thought of Romano Guardini did not leave a lasting imprint upon Bergoglio. In the interview with Pope Francis in “La Civiltà Cattolica,” in which he dedicates ample space to his authors of reference, Guardini is not there.

But in exchange, thanks to his stay in Germany in 1986, Bergoglio unknowingly brought a new Marian devotion to birth in Argentina.

An artist to whom he had given one of the prayer cards acquired in Augsburg reproduced the image and offered it to a parish of the working-class Barrio de Agronomía, in the center of Buenos Aires.

On display in the church, the image of Mary “desatanudos” attracted a growing number of devotees, converted sinners, and marked an unexpected growth of religious practice. To such an extent that after a few years there was a well-established tradition of a pilgrimage to the image, from all over Buenos Aires and from even farther away, on the 8th day of every month.

“I never felt myself so much an instrument in the hands of God,” Bergoglio confided to a Jesuit confrere who was his disciple, Fr. Fernando Albistur, now a professor of biblical studies at the Colegio Máximo di San Miguel in Buenos Aires.

Fr. Albistur recounts this in a newly released book edited by Alejandro Bermúdez, with interviews with ten Jesuits and ten Argentine laymen who are longtime friends of Bergoglio.

And he is not the only one. In the same book, Fr. Juan Carlo Scannone, the most authoritative of the Argentine theologians and a former professor of the young Jesuit Bergoglio, also relates the same episode.

In Scannone’s judgment, the instance of the Blessed Mother “untier of knots” helps us to understand more deeply the “pastoral” profile of Pope Francis and his accentuated attention to the “people.” Continue Reading

17

PopeWatch: A Liquid Message

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

On Sandro Magister’s website, Chiesa, he has a post by Professor Pietro De Marco who analyzes the messages being communicated by the Pope:

Pope Francis shows himself to be the typical religious of the Society of Jesus in its recent phase, converted by the Council in the years of formation, especially by what I call the “external Council,” the Vatican II of militant expectations and interpretations, created by some episcopates, by their theologians, and by the most influential Catholic media outlets. One of those churchmen who, in their conciliatory and pliable tone, in their undisputed values, are also the most rigid “conciliars,” convinced after half a century that the Council is yet to be realized and that things should be done as if we were still in the 1970’s, in a hand-to-hand with the “pacellian” church, neoscholastic theology, under the influence of the secular or Marxist paradigm of modernity.

On the contrary: that which the “conciliar spirit” wanted and was able to activate has been said or tried over the decades and today it is a question in the first place of making a critical assessment of the results, sometimes disastrous. Even the tenacious proclamation in Pope Francis of the divine mercy corresponds to a pastoral attitude now widespread among the clergy, to the point of that laxity which the pope moreover censures. Not only that. The theme of sin has almost disappeared from catechesis, thereby liquidating the very need of mercy. Rather than promoting generally merciful behaviors, this is a matter today of reconstructing a moral theology less made up of words and again capable of guiding clergy and faithful in concrete cases. Also in moral theology the road to the true implementation of the Council has been reopened by the magisterial work of Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger.

Some maintain that Francis could be, as a postmodern pope, the man of the future of the Church, beyond traditionalism and modernism. But the postmodern that most thrives in him – as liquidation of forms, spontaneity of public appearance, attention to the global village – is superficial. With its pliability and aestheticism, the postmodern is hardly plausible in a bishop of Latin America, where until recently the intelligentsia was dominated by the Marxist Modern. Bergoglio’s solid core is and remains “conciliar.” On the road undertaken by this pope, if confirmed, I see first of all the crystallization of the dominant pastoral conciliarism in the clergy and in the active laity.

Of course, if Bergoglio is not postmodern, his worldwide reception is. The pope pleases right and left, practicing and nonbelievers, without discernment. His prevalent message is “liquid.” On this success, however, nothing can be built, there can only be remixed something already existing, and that not of the best.

There are worrying signals of this “liquid” appearance for anyone who may not be prone to the relativistic chatter of this late modernity:

a) the concession to set popular phrases like “everyone is free to do…” “who says that things must be this way…” “who am I to…” allowed to slip out in the conviction that they are dialogical and up-to-date. Presenting himself as a simple bishop to justify hardly formal behaviors, do not cover up and cannot cover up the different weight and different responsibility that instead belong to his words, any word, since the bishop of Rome and the pope are one and the same;

b) the lack of scrutiny on the part of persons of trust, but wise and cultured, and Italian, of the texts destined to be circulated, perhaps in the papal conviction that there is no need for this;

c) a certain authoritarian inclination (“I will do everything to…”) in singular contrast with the frequent pluralistic propositions, but typical of the democratic “revolutionaries,” with the risk of imprudent collisions with tradition and the “sensus fidelium”;

d) moreover, there remains incongruous in Pope Francis this constant taking of individual public communication initiatives and this wanting to be without filters (the symptomatic image of the papal apartment as a bottleneck), which reveal the unwillingness to feel himself a man of governance (something more difficult than being a reformer) in an eminent and “sui generis” institution like the Catholic Church.

His is, at times, the conduct of a modern and informal manager, one of those who concede a great deal to the press. But this clinging to persons and things on the outside – collaborators, friends, press, public opinion, even the apartment in Santa Marta is “outside” – as if the man Bergoglio were afraid he would not know what to do once he were left alone, as pope, in the apartment of the popes, is not positive. And the thing could not last. Even the media will get tired of supporting a pope who needs them too much. Continue Reading