The glue that holds them together is their aversion towards Francis.
world of Francis dissenters ranges from Lefebvrians who have decided to
“wait for a traditional Pope” before renewing their communion with
Rome, to catholic regionalists who compare Francis to his predecessor
Ratzinger and promote the campaign “Benedict is my Pope”.
there are the ultra-conservatives of Fondazione Lepanto – a foundation
that aims to protect the principles and institutions of the Christian
civilization – and websites that share sedevacantist positions, adamant
that the Catholic writer Antonio Socci was right to argue that
Bergoglio’s election is invalid, simply because a vote was cancelled
without a scrutiny in the march 2013 Conclave.
This was because one of
the cardinals mistakenly placed an extra ballot in the ballot box.
voting resumed immediately to wipe away any doubts and without any of
the cardinal electors raising any objections. Prelates and
traditionalist intellectuals have signed appeals or protested against
the Argentinian Pope’s open pastoral attitude with regard to communion
for remarried divorcees and dialogue with the Chinese government.
to the Pope unites people and groups that are very different among
them: soft criticism is expressed by online newspaper La Bussola
Quotidiana and monthly newspaper Il Timone, directed by Riccardo
Cascioli. The Argentinian Pope is also reproached almost on a daily
basis by L’Espresso’s former Vatican affairs journalist Sandro Magister.
Then there are the revelatory and mocking comments made by Maria
Guarini in Italian blog Chiesa e Postconcilio and the harsher criticisms
made by ultra-traditionalist and sedevacantist groups, those who
believe there has not been a worthy Pope since Pius XII.
newspaper La Stampa visited the places and
protagonists of this opposition to Francis which is contained in terms
of numbers but widespread on the web. Those behind this opposition, use
the Internet and private meetings between clerics, combining frontal and
public attacks with more articulate strategies.
Alessandro Gnocchi, who
writes for the Riscossa Cristiana and Unavox
websites, is on the frontline of web criticism against the Pope:
“Bergoglio is systematically surrendering the Church to the world, the
Church is becoming worldly. His pontificate is based on the brutal
handling of power. Never has the faith been so debased.”
Lepanto, located between the paleochristian walls of St. Balbina
Basilica on the Aventine Hill is one of the cultural power houses of
anti-Francis sentiment. The foundation’s books combined with the
Corrispondenza Romana news agency and the meetings held in the sitting
room on the first floor, make it one of the headquarters of the
“The Church is going through one the biggest
moments of chaos in its history and the Pope is one of the causes of
this,” says historian and President of Fondazione Lepanto, Roberto De
Mattei. This chaos is above all to dow itht he Pope’s magisterium.
Francis is not the solution but part of the problem.” Opposition, De
Mattei added, “is not just being expressed by these so-called
traditionalist circles extends to bishops and theologians who were
trained according to the Ratzinger and Wojtyla schools of thought.”
Mattei prefers to refer to it as “resistance” rather than “dissent”.
This resistance was recently expressed by 45 Catholic theologians and
philosophers who criticized the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”
and by 80 figures – who gradually turned into several thousand –
including Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians, who made a
declaration of “loyalty to the unchanging magisterium of the Church”.
One of the hotbeds of resistance, the historian underlined, “is the John
Paul II Institute for the family, whose heads were recently removed by
Bergoglio”. Traditionalists are also targeting Francis for the part his
migration policy is playing in destabilizing Europe and obliterating
attack against Francis is global. “There is a strong geopolitical
element in the circles that oppose Francis,” observes Agostino
Giovagnoli, Professor of Contemporary History at the Università
Cattolica and expert on dialogue with China. They are accusing
Bergoglio of not proclaiming the truths of the faith with sufficient
vigour but in reality they are blaming him for not defending the West’s
primacy. This opposition has political motivations that are masked by
theological and ecclesial questions”. China is an example of this.
“There is an alliance between Honk Kong circles, sectors within the US
and Europe’s right-wing: they are accusing Francis of putting the goal
of uniting the Church in China before the defense of religious freedom,”
he continues. Such positions are often expressed by Catholic news
agency Asianews. These critics say the Pope
should affirm religious freedom as a political argument against Beijing
instead of seeking dialogue through diplomatic means”.
- which also finds backing in the Curia –is also being voiced by
clerics with Vatican connections, such as the liturgist and theologian
Fr. Nicola Bux, a consultant to the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Office of Liturgical
“Today, there are quite a few lay people, priests and
bishops are asking themselves where we are headed,” he tells La Stampa.
In the Church, it has always been possible to express one’s opposition
to ecclesiastical authorities, even the Pope. Cardinal Carlo Maria
Martini notoriously put his opposition to the reigining Pope in writing
too but John Paul II never removed him from his post as Archbishop of
Milan, nor did he consider him a conspirator.”
The Pope’s job, Bux
continued, is “to safeguard ecclesial communion, not to favour division
and rivalry, siding with progressives against the conservatives”.
Pope upheld a heterodox doctrine, cardinals in Rome could declare his
fall from office”.
In a rippling crescendo, researcher Flavio Cuniberto
- who has authored a book criticising the Pope’s social magisterium, is
a scholar of René Guenon and of traditionalism close to the esoteric
right - recently launched a protest in Italian newspaper Il Giornale.
He stated that “Bergoglio has not updated Catholic doctrine, he’s
destroyed it and acts as though he is a Catholic but is in fact not:
the distorted idea of poverty elevates old pauperism to the dogmatic
The Pope praises recycling and thus “the virtues of the good
late-modern consumer become the new evangelical virtues”.
Theories about the two Popes
his official Facebook page, Antonio Socci claims that Benedict XVI did
not really want to resign but still considers himself Pope and wants in
some way to share the “Petrine ministry” with his successor.
himself has denied this interpretation outright on more than one
occasion between February 2014 and the recent interview-length book
“Final Conversations”, confirming that his resignation is completely
valid and publicly demonstrating his obedience to Francis.
was fueled by the interpretation drawn from some words pronounced last
may by the Prefect of the Papal Household and Benedict XVI’s secretary,
Archbishop Georg Ganswein.
During a book presentation, Fr. Georg stated:
“There are not two Popes therefore but an extended ministry, with an
active member and a contemplative member.”
Socci published Bergoglio and
Ratzinger’s photos next to each other with the caption: “Which of the
He went on to write: “One contrasts love and the truth
(Bergoglio), while another sees them united in God (Benedict XVI)”.
the many comments to these remarks, Paolo Soranno wrote: “Francis I
seems to be serving God Rainbow (who does not impose religious and moral
principles) and not the Catholic God.”
The opposition intensifies on
the web, with people letting all fury loose protected by their computer
screen, as was apparent from some comments beneath the articles posted
on social networks.
The “messainitaliano” website, which promotes the
old liturgy but also publishes vitriolic comments on the Pope, speaks
about the “tedious ideological monotony of the current pontificate”.
the web, one comes across comments about the Church eventually
dissolving into some kind of a UN of religions with a touch of
Greenpeace and a hint of a trades union organization, given that “today,
moral sins are downgraded and Bergoglio established social (or
socialist) sins as well”.
Maria Guarini’s ultra-traditionalist blog
“Chiesa e Postconcilio” publishes titles such as: “If the next Pope is
Bergoglian, the Vatican will become a Cathomasonic branch”.
opposition comes from the more conservative side of the spectrum but
also finds a voice among some disappointed ultra-progressives.
is the case of the Ambroasian priest Fr. Giorgio De Capitani, who
relentlessly attacks Francis from the left and does not therefore be
included in the groups described so far. He tears the pontificate to
pieces and feeds it to the wolves.
“How many useless and obvious words.
Peace, justice and goodness. The Pope is really getting on our nerved
with all these tear-jerking words and gestures. Francis is a victim of
his own consensus and all he is doing is creating illusions, pulling the
wool over our eyes, steals some applause and fills some nincompoop
journalists who know nothing of the faith, with rapture”. Journalist
Giuseppe Rusconi reflected: “is our Shepherd really above all “ours” or
is he not showing that he favours the indistinct global flock, thus
being perceived by non-Catholic public opinion as a leader who responds
to the wishes of contemporary society? Is he doing it as part of a
Jesuit strategy or out of personal choice? And when the shepherd returns
to the pen, how many sheep will be bring with him? And how many of
those lost will he find?”
This mixed opposition has identified some
bishops and cardinals as reference points.
On his blog, Magister put
Guinean cardinal Robert Sarah forward as a papal candidate. Sarah is
currently Francis’ liturgy minister and is much loved by conservatives
and traditionalists who often quote him on their websites and
Risk of a schism?
those considered pole stars, are first and foremost US cardinal Raymond
Leo Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the
Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Athanasius Schneider.
But beyond the
amplified stories present on the web, there do not seem to be any
further schisms on the horizon, after Bishop Marcel Lefebvre’s in 1988.
Sociologist Massimo Introvigne is adamant about this: “There are more
than 5000 Catholic bishops in the world, only about ten of them are
active in their opposition, many of whom are retired, which shows that
it is not substantial.”
Introvigne claims that this opposition
“is present both on the web and in real life and is overestimated: there
are dissidents who write comments on social networks using four or five
different pseudonyms, to give the impression there are many of them”.
According to the sociologist, the movement “is not successful because it
is not united. There are at least three different kinds of opposition.:
the political opposition of American foundations, the opposition of
Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini who are not particularly interested in
liturgical or moral issues – they often do not even go to church – but
in immigration and the Pope’s critiques against turbo-capitalism.
there is the opposition expressed by those who feel a nostalgia for
Benedict XVI but do not contest Vatican II.
And there is the radical
opposition of the Society of St. Pius X or the likes of De Mattei and
Gnocchi. This form of opposition rejects the Council and everything that
came after it.
Despite support from the odd Church figure, the
contradictions between the three standpoints are destined to explode and
a common front has no chance of lasting.”
Introvigne pointed out a
surprising trait that many of these circles share: “It is the mythical
idealization of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is presented as a
“good” leader in contrast to the “bad” leader, the Pope, because of his
stance on homosexual people, Muslims and immigrants. Russian foundations
that have strong ties with Putin co-operate with the anti-Francis