Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope for the ostensible reasons of stemming the flow of the faithful away from the Church (particularly in South America), and cleaning up the Church’s finances and sexual abuse scandals. However, on these counts – and so many others – Francis’ papacy has been a litany of failures.
In his Magazine piece on February 26, Kevin Andrews wrote about the Vatican’s silence regarding the persecution of Catholics, along with that of those of other denominations and faiths. In 2018 the Vatican signed a provisional agreement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the appointment of Catholic bishops. When renewing the secret agreement in 2020, the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the pact was ‘only a starting point’ for better relations between the two. As Andrews stated, when the former Bishop of Hong Long, Cardinal Joseph Zen, flew to Rome to discuss the issue with the Vatican, Pope Francis refused to meet with him. Others, including many Catholic legislators and public officials from around the world, have sought to engage Pope Francis about the grave situation for believers in China, but he has refused the requests. He has declined to meet the Dalai Lama.
In March 2020, Pope Francis announced that the theme for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would be ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission’. This ‘Synod on Synodality’ will take place over two years. It commenced in October last year and will conclude in October 2023.
In opening the Synod, Pope Francis called for the Catholic Church to ‘encounter, listen and discern’, and to become ‘a different Church’ while avoiding any mention of the Church’s God-given mission of teaching the faith, and doctrinal adherence. In particular, the Pope called for a ‘living expression of being Church’, and asked that Catholics ‘not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. So often our certainties can make us closed. Let us listen to one another’. Just like he listened to Cardinal Zen and the Dalai Lama.
The Synod is nothing more than finding more excuses to ‘modernise’, even though this insistence on modernising has led to dwindling congregations – except in parishes and orders that are faithful to tradition, doctrine, and the Church’s Magisterium.
The Church’s fundamental mission has always been a counter-cultural one. As St Paul stated in 1 Corinthians (4: 10), we are fools on Christ’s account. In his letter to Titus (2: 11-14) St Paul stated even more categorically the need for the Church to be counter-cultural:
‘The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus. It was He who sacrificed Himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse for Himself a people of His own, eager to do what is right.’
It is evident that being counter-cultural – that is, adhering to tradition and not seeking to dispose of it – is the key to ‘revitalisation’, since that is what sets the Church apart from the modern world and makes it ‘a living expression of being Church’.
It is reasonable to surmise that the fact the only areas of growth in the Church are those that are faithful to the Church’s tradition and teaching is a source of great irritation to Pope Francis and his fellow travellers, hence the recent draconian crackdown on tradition.
Last year, the Pope issued the motu proprio entitled Traditiones Custodes, calling for the restriction of the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. A further document addressing its implementation, the Responsa ad Dubia, outlined these restrictions, which mean that many priests will be banned from saying the Traditional Mass, and it will only be able to be celebrated in limited settings, all in the name of fostering ‘unity’ in the Church.
Ironically, it is this Pope that is causing division, seemingly with the aim of driving pious and devout Catholics, who want nothing more than to remain members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, out of it.
His apparent support for relativism, which Bergoglio’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, spoke out against in the strongest possible terms, was evident in Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia in 2017. Following its promulgation, nearly 70 leading laity and clerics signed a statement known as the Filial Correction. This is the first time such an action had been taken since the Middle Ages.
Following his election as Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla made his first international visit to his native Poland. Benedict XVI made sure a trip to his native Germany was a priority. However, Pope Francis has never been back to Argentina. Why?
As reported by Church Militant in January, Francis’ conspicuous refusal to visit Argentina cannot be separated from what Bishop Sergio Buenanueva, coordinator of the Pastoral Council for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults of Argentina’s bishops’ conference, has called Argentina’s ‘gravest’ crisis of modern times: clerical sex abuse.
Speaking with La Nación, Argentina’s biggest daily newspaper, Buenanueva said the Church in Argentina doesn’t yet have a registry of abusive clergy. Buenanueva also criticised the ‘sick system within the Church that covered up or that didn’t favour the abuses coming to light and ended up favouring the criminal’. Critics allege then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was part of that sick system, pointing out that Bergoglio has allegedly been active in protecting convicted paedophile priests or promoting those who have covered up clergy abuse in the past. These allegedly include Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, convicted on February 21 of sexual abuse of two seminarians. Unlike Cardinal George Pell, who stood aside from his post as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy until he was finally cleared unanimously by the High Court in April 2020, Zanchetta retained Francis’ protection. In 2017, Francis appointed Zanchetta Assessor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See after Zanchetta resigned as bishop of Orán, citing ‘health reasons’.
This, in spite of the fact that in 2016, five priests – including three of Zanchetta’s vicar generals – and two monsignors formally accused the bishop of financial mismanagement, authoritarianism, and sexual misconduct.
Then last week it emerged that the Pope has relieved Bishop Fernandez Torres of Puerto Rico for speaking out against the vaccine mandate there. Given that the coronavirus vaccines available at present have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience. As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s teaching authority where faith and morals are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.
While Papa Begroglio has time to inform nuns that they should ‘fight’ against sexism in the Church, as he did in a recent Twitter post, he is voiceless about the persecution of millions of believers, active in his alienation of traditional Catholics, and feckless in facing the scourge of sexual abuse by clergy. All betrayals of the values of the Gospel. Much like his friend Joe Biden, he calls for unity while constantly provoking division. Pope Francis has no alternative, for the good of the Church, but to resign.
Dr Rocco Loiacono is a Senior Lecturer at Curtin University Law School. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University.
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