Over the last few weeks three interviews from prominent cardinals have appeared. The first was released by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller to Christian Geye and Hannes Hintermeier for the Frankfurter Allgmeine Zeitung on October 28th 2017; the second was given by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to Edward Pentin on November 14th for The National Catholic Register; the third, to Cardinal Müller, appeared on November 26th in the Corriere della Sera, by Massimo Franco.
Cardinal Brandmüller revealed his anxiety concerning the possible beginnings of a division in the Church. “ The fact alone that a petition with 870,000 signatures addressed to the Pope asking him for clarification has still not been answered and likewise the 50 scholars of international ranking have yet to obtain a reply – raises questions. This is truly difficult to understand .” “Addressing some dubia, i.e. doubts and questions to the Pope, has always been an absolutely normal way to dissipate ambiguities. Simply speaking, the question is the following: Can something that was considered a sin yesterday be good today? Further, we now have the question whether there are actually acts – as has been the constant teaching of the Church – that are always and in all circumstances morally reprehensible? Such as in the case of killing an innocent person or adultery for example? This is the point. If there should be in effect a “yes” response to the first question and a “no” to the second, this would be a de facto heresy, and consequently a schism. A split in the Church.”
Cardinal Burke, who confirmed that he was in constant communication with Cardinal Brandmüller, advanced a fresh warning “on the gravity of the situation which continues to worsen” and reaffirmed the need to shed light on all the heterodox passages in Amoris laetitia. We are in fact faced with a process which constitutes “a subversion of the essential parts of Tradition”. “Above and beyond the moral debate, the sense of sacramental practice in the Church is being increasingly eroded, in particular as regards Confession and the Eucharist.”
The cardinal once again addresses Pope Francis and the entire Church, by stressing “ how urgent it is for the Pope, in the exercise of the ministry he has received from the Lord, that he confirm his brethren in the faith, by expressing clearly the teaching on Christian morality and the importance of the Church’s sacramental practice.”
Cardinal Müller, for his part, confirms that there is the danger of a schism inside the Church and the responsibility of this division does not belong to the Dubia Cardinals of Amoris laetitia, nor the signatories of the Correctio filialis to Pope Francis, but the Pope’s “magic circle”, which is blocking open and balanced discussion on the doctrinal problems raised by these criticisms.
“Caution: If the perception of an injustice is given by the Roman Curia, it could inevitably set in motion a schismatic tendency, difficult afterwards to recover from. I believe that the cardinals who expressed their doubts on Amoris laetitia, or the 62 signatories of an even excessive letter of criticism to the Pope should be heard, not liquidated as “Pharisees” or grumblers. The only way out of this situation is through clear and frank dialogue.” “Instead, I have the impression that in the Pope’s “magic circle” there are those who are mainly concerned about snitching on presumed adversaries, thus blocking open and balanced discussion. Classifying all Catholics according to the categories of “friend” or “enemy” of the Pope, is the gravest damage they are causing in the Church. One remains perplexed if a well-known journalist, as an atheist, boasts of being the Pope’s friend; and on a parallel a Catholic bishop and cardinal like myself is being defamed as the Holy Father’s opponent. I don’t believe that these people can give me lessons in theology on the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.”
According to his interviewer; Cardinal Müller, has yet to digest the “hurt” of his three collaborators being dismissed shortly before his non-renewal as head of the Congregation last June. “They were good, competent priests who had worked for the Church with exemplary dedication”, is his judgment. “People cannot be sent away [like that] ad libitum, without evidence or procedure, simply because someone anonymously reported that one of them made some vague criticism of the Pope …”
Under what kind of regime are people treated this way? Damien Thompson in The Spectator wrote about it last July 17th. (https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/07/ pope-francis-is-behaving-like-a-latin-american-dictator-but-the-liberal-media-arent-interested/).
The dismissal of Cardinal Muller’s collaborators “brings to mind his most authoritarian predecessors – or, indeed, some Latin American dictator who hugs the crowds and advertises his ostentatiously humble lifestyle while his lieutenants live in fear of his rages.” This aspect of Pope Francis’ Pontificate is now the object of a book, recently published with the significant title The Dictator Pope (https://www.amazon.it/Papa-Dittatore-Marcantonio-Colonna-ebook/dp/B077M5ZH4M
The author is an Oxford-educated historian who hides under the name of “Marcantonio Colonna”. His style is sober and documented, but his accusations against Pope Bergoglio are numerous and strong. Many of the elements he has based in the formulation of his accusations are well-known, but what is new is the accurate description of a series of “historical pictures”: the intrigue of Pope Bergoglio’s election, piloted by the “St. Gallen Mafia”; Bergoglio’s Argentinean behavior and actions before his election; the obstacles Cardinal Pell encountered after having attempted a financial reform of the Curia; the revision of the Pontifical Academy for Life; the persecution of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the decapitation of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The mass-media, always ready to lash out with indignation at any episode of bad government and corruption, are silent about these scandals. The foremost merit of this historical study is having brought them to light. “Fear is the dominant note of the Curia under the law of Francis, along with reciprocal suspicion”. It is not only about informers who are seeking to obtain advantages by reporting a private conversation – as Cardinal Müller’s three members of staff discovered. In an organization where morally corrupt people have been left in place and even promoted by Pope Francis, underhanded blackmail is the order of the day. A priest in the Curia said ironically: “The saying goes that it is who you know that counts not what you know. In the Vatican, here’s how it is: what you know counts more than who you know.”
Marcantonio Colonna’s book, in short, confirms what Cardinal Müller’s interview conceals: the existence of an atmosphere of espionage and delation which the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith attributes to a “magic circle” conditioning the Pope’s choices, whereas the Oxford historian reports it as Pope Francis’ modus gubernandi and compares it to the autocratic methods of the Argentinean dictator Juan Peron, of whom the young Bergoglio was a follower.
One might respond that nihil sub sole novum (Ecclesiaste 1, 10). The Church has seen many other deficiencies in government. However, if this pontificate is actually bringing about a division among the faithful, as the three cardinals highlighted, the motives cannot be limited to the Pope’s way of governing, but have to be sought in something which is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the Church: the separation of the Roman Pontiff from the doctrine of the Gospel, which he has, through Divine mandate, the duty to transmit and guard. This is what is at the heart of the religious problem of our times.