Thursday, October 20, 2016

Catholics who are anti-Francis but love Putin

The glue that holds them together is their aversion towards Francis. 

The 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”.

Then 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. 

The 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.

Opposition 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. 

Italian 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.”

Opposition headquarters

 
Fondazione 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 anti-Bergoglio front. 


“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.”

De 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 western civilization.

Political-theological opposition

 
The 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”.

Opposition - 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 Celebrations. 


“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”. 

“If a 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 sphere.” 

The Pope praises recycling and thus “the virtues of the good late-modern consumer become the new evangelical virtues”.

Theories about the two Popes

 
On 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. 


Ratzinger 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. 

The theory 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 two?” 

He went on to write: “One contrasts love and the truth (Bergoglio), while another sees them united in God (Benedict XVI)”.

Among 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”. 

On 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”. 

The opposition comes from the more conservative side of the spectrum but also finds a voice among some disappointed ultra-progressives.

Such 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 publications.

Risk of a schism?

 
Among 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. 

Then 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 opposition.

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