I applaud this initiative that seeks to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would only be a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would have been only a theoretician of theology that understood little of the concrete life of a Christian today.
The little volumes rightly show that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation and they help therefore to see the internal continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences of style and temperament.
Consider, first of all, the absurdity—one of the innumerable absurdities of the post-conciliar epoch—of a “retired” Pope commenting on the “style and temperament” of his successor, as if to assure the shareholders of a publicly held corporation that the new CEO, despite his disturbing behavior, will maintain company policy and the value of the company’s shares. Is this for real?
That aside, how did the ailing 90-year-old “Pope Emeritus” find the time and energy to read eleven volumes, even “little” ones, on “the theology of Pope Francis”? In fact, Benedict hasn’t read them. In the leaked integral text of the letter, which Sandro Magister’s blog has done us the favor of publishing in the original Italian, we find the following admission, concealed by the Vatican:
However, I don’t feel I can write a brief and dense theological passage on them because throughout my life it has always been clear that I should write and express myself only on books I had really read. Unfortunately, if only for physical reasons, I am unable to read the eleven volumes in the near future, especially as other commitments await me that I have already assumed.
[Tuttavia non mi sento di scrivere su di essi una breve e densa pagina teologica perché in tutta la mia vita è sempre stato chiaro che avrei scritto e mi sarei espresso soltanto su libri che avevo anche veramente letto. Purtroppo, anche solo per ragioni fisiche, non sono in grado di leggere gli undici volumetti nel prossimo futuro, tanto più che mi attendono altri impegni che ho già assunti.]
Quite amusing is Benedict’s observation that he will not be able to read the eleven volumes in “the near future,” not only because he is physically weak, but because of “other commitments” that have priority. Evidently, the schedule of the “Pope Emeritus,” who pronounced himself too feeble to be an actual Pope, remains so busy he cannot devote his attention to the theological views of the very man who succeeded him on the Chair of Peter—the same successor for whom he has nothing but praise. He did, however, find time and energy to attend his own birthday party, at which he quaffed eine kräftige Tasse Bier in the midst of an apocalyptic Vatican-orchestrated assault on faith and morals of which he seemed blissfully unaware that Roman afternoon in the Vatican gardens:
Antonio Socci asks: “Why has the Vatican not made public the whole letter?” Answering his own question, he writes (with appropriate derision):
Now it is all clear. The great Sandro Magister… has published in its entirety the letter from Pope Benedict that the Vatican on Monday had not distributed to the press, and thus we discover that in the second part—with subtle sarcasm—Benedict makes known how to interpret the “toll” he had to pay in the first part
In substance, the Pope Emeritus explains that he had no time to write a comment on the “formidable” theological thought of Bergoglio (as he had been asked), and not even the time to read “the eleven little volumes,” by various authors, which unfold all the Bergoglian wisdom. They would have been useful to illustrate the thought of the Argentinian pope, but he, Benedict, lets it be known that he has not read them and does not even have the intention of reading them because he has other things to do. Get the hint? A few words to the wise (it seems to me an elegant and sublime mockery) [emphasis by Socci; translation mine]
Up to its usual tricks, many of which were deployed to obfuscate the Third Secret, the Vatican published only a photo of the letter, whose second page, containing the damning admission, is hidden under a pile of the same eleven volumes Benedict hasn’t read:
Photo distributed to press by the Vatican Press Office
Worse, as the AP’s Nicole Winfield reports, the Vatican has been caught digitally altering the last two lines on the letter’s first page, which begin the paragraph in which Benedict reveals he never read the volumes his purported letter endorses:
The Vatican admitted to The Associated Press on Wednesday that it blurred the two final lines of the first page where Benedict begins to explain that he didn't actually read the books in question. He wrote that he cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis as requested by Vigano because he has other projects to do.
A Vatican spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, didn’t explain why the Holy See blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.
Winfield points out that “Most independent news media, including The Associated Press, follow strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos. ‘No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph,’ read the AP norms, which are considered to be the industry standard among news agencies.” With exquisite irony, she concludes: “Vigano heads the Vatican’s new Secretariat for Communications, which has brought all Vatican media under one umbrella in a bid to reduce costs and improve efficiency, part of Francis' reform efforts. The office’s recent message for the church’s World Day of Social Communications denounced ‘fake news’ as evil and urged media to seek the truth.”
Vigano “never intended for the full letter to be released” because—is anyone really surprised? —both the letter and the eleven hastily produced volumes it falsely appears to endorse are part of an elaborate fake news operation designed to promote the fictional narrative that Bergoglio’s theology is wholly orthodox. We are expected to believe this despite an endless torrent of disordered, offensive, insulting, scandalous, heretical or proximately heretical utterances and outrageously twisted interpretations of Scripture, compiled here by a group of diocesan priests who, in order to avoid the long arm of Bergoglian mercy, must remain anonymous.
Benedict’s obvious slighting of “the theology of Pope Francis” does indeed lend itself to reading the letter as a whole thus: “I am saying what I am expected to say, but I want you to know that I cannot vouch for it.” And yet Benedict was still willing to subscribe to the claim that eleven volumes he hadn’t read “rightly show that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation,” thus providing the Vatican PR machine with a handy blurb for a work of which he knows practically nothing. This bespeaks either undue influence upon him or his own lack of candor. Which, I cannot say for certain.
Socci notes, by way of comparison, the laudatory preface Benedict provided to Cardinal Robert Sarah’s “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise”—a book that Benedict has read. In that preface, entirely “composed in his diminutive handwriting during Easter Week,” we read the following:
As I was reading the new book by Robert Cardinal Sarah, all these thoughts went through my soul again. Sarah teaches us silence—being silent with Jesus, true inner stillness, and in just this way he helps us to grasp the word of the Lord anew….
From this vantage point, he [Sarah] can then see the dangers that continually threaten the spiritual life, of priests and bishops also, and thus endanger the Church herself, too, in which it is not uncommon for the Word to be replaced by a verbosity that dilutes the greatness of the Word…. Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us…. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.
Benedict provided this preface even though he cannot have failed to notice that Cardinal Sarah’s book launches a veiled but devastating broadside against the entire Bergoglian regime, with Amoris Laetita in the bull’s eye, as indicated by the following quotations (collated by the indispensable Life Site News):
I will untiringly denounce those who are unfaithful to the promise of their ordination. In order to make themselves known or to impose their personal views, both on the theological and the pastoral level, they speak again and again. These clerics repeat the same banal things. I could not affirm that God dwells within them.
But they talk, and the media love to listen to them in order to [reveal] their ineptitudes, particularly if they declared themselves in favour of the new post humanist ideologies, in the realm of sexuality, the family, and marriage.
These clerics consider God’s thinking about conjugal life to be an “evangelical ideal.” Marriage is no longer a requirement willed by God, modeled and manifested in the nuptial bond between Christ and the Church. Some theologians in their presumptuousness and arrogance go so far as to assert personal opinions that are difficult to reconcile with revelation, tradition, the centuries-old Magisterium of the Church, and the teaching of Christ.
Bishops that scatter the sheep that Jesus has entrusted to them will be judged mercilessly and severely by God.
And yet, for two millennia, what a surprising paradox it has been to see so many garrulous theologians, so many noisy popes, so many successors of the Apostles are pretentious and infatuated with their own arguments.
During conclaves, the spirit points out God’s choice to the Cardinals; the latter must submit to his will and not to human political strategies. If we thwart the Holy Spirit by miserable, petty human calculations, secret meetings, and media consultations, we run headlong into tragedy and we are gravediggers of the divine nature of the church.
Some pretentious, cynical ideologues threaten the truth of Jesus. Confusion, relativism, and chaos point toward to be fatal prospect.
The impression is given that sin no longer exists; adultery, divorce, cohabitation are no longer to be considered serious sins. They are failures or stages along the way to a distant ideal.
The Church today is going through unprecedented exterior and into interior trials. Something like an earthquake is seeking to demolish her doctrinal foundations and her centuries-old moral teachings.
It is necessary to revive staunch adherence to the Catholic faith, it is necessary to proclaim the consistency of the Church at the heart of a world that is in complete upheaval and threatened with collapse.
Benedict’s preface declares: “We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church…. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.” But, as Magister mordantly observes: “It is no mystery, however, that Jorge Mario Bergoglio confined Cardinal Sarah to that post in order to neutralize him, certainly not to promote him. In fact he has deprived him of all effective authority, has surrounded him with men who are workingagainst him, and has even disavowedin public his proposals for a ‘reform of the reform’ in the liturgical field.”
Then there is Benedict’s statement for the funeral of Cardinal Meisner, one of the four “dubia cardinals” Bergoglio has refused to answer, wherein Benedict praises the late cardinal for his “deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”
The fact remains, however, that Benedict has lent his name and signature to the fraudulent claim that Bergoglio exhibits a profound philosophical and theological formation, even though he has spent the past five years engaged in shallow mockery of “the theologians,” whom he would consign to a desert island, while shamefully misrepresenting the teaching of Saint Thomas as supportive of his campaign to admit public adulterers to Holy Communion. What Bergoglio exhibits, rather, is crude demagoguery in aid of what even Philip Lawler is constrained to call “a deliberate effort to change what the Church teaches.” That effort that includes a non-stop jeremiad against the defenders of Catholic orthodoxy by a Pope that Lawler’s own bestseller describes as a “Lost Shepherd” who is “misleading his flock.”
Despite its contrary signaling, therefore, Benedict’s letter to Vigano must be seen as cooperation in a scheme to rescue Bergoglio’s imploding papacy from itself, no matter what Benedict’s subjective intention may have been in going along with the ruse. The letter’s claim of an “internal continuity” between his pontificate and Bergoglio’s is a transparent evasion of the truth. “Internal continuity” is just another way of saying “apparent lack of continuity.” Nor can the apparent lack of continuity be reduced to “differences of style and temperament.” There is not an even arguable continuity between the two Popes regarding the dominant theme of Bergoglio’s pontificate: an absolutely unparalleled attack on the Sixth Commandment and even the natural law, far more dramatic than Bergoglio merely trudging along the path of “ecumenism,” “dialogue” and “liturgical renewal” established at Vatican II. Bergoglio has jumped the divider into an express lane to final disaster, leaving even the conciliar Popes in the rear-view mirror.
Surely, Benedict would know that Cardinal Sarah’s book, while it avoids naming Bergoglio, reflects the reality that his pontificate is one long campaign to overturn the teaching of Benedict himself, John Paul II and all of Tradition on the absolute impermissibility of intrinsically evil behaviors, including adultery and contraception, and thus the “intrinsically impossible” admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion on account of their “permanent and public adultery”—a norm to which “the conscience of the individual is bound without exception” because it is “a norm of divine law” the Church “has no discretionary authority” to alter.
Benedict would have to know in particular that Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia reduces the Sixth Commandment, an exceptionless precept of the divine and natural law, to a mere “rule” and an “ideal” that does not bind strictly in certain “complex circumstances,” thereby smuggling into the life of the Church, under the guise of “authentic Magisterium,” precisely the evil of situation ethics that John Paul II condemned as follows in Veritatis splendor:
The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts….
The Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments. As we have seen, Jesus himself reaffirms that these prohibitions allow no exceptions: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments... You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness" (Mt 19:17-18).
Francis, in short, is the one and only Pope in 2,000 years who has dared to attempt a flat contradiction of all prior teaching of the Magisterium on a matter of basic morality that binds all men without exception, and then label this outrage “authentic Magisterium.” The only way Benedict would not be aware of this catastrophe is if he has lost the capacity for reason since his abdication, or else has been kept from seeing or even hearing about the pertinent Bergoglian texts and oral utterances.
The latter scenario is certainly at least somewhat plausible, given that Benedict resides in a monastery building, has not left the Vatican enclave since his abdication and a brief sojourn at Castel Gandolfo, and is not even allowed to appear at public events unless invited to do so by Bergoglio. The Atlantic Monthly aptly describes this living arrangement as “the Pope in the attic” who is “an autoclaustrato, a self-cloistered contemplative in an order with a membership of one,” and is confined to a “cell of his own making, committed not to travel and pledged not to speak out against his successor.” I doubt Benedict is surfing the Web to sample the rising worldwide opposition to his successor’s dictatorial insanity. As for print publications, we can be certain he is not provided with anything even remotely critical of Bergoglio.
On the other hand, if Benedict is aware of the Bergoglian Debacle, then the conclusion that he is knowingly aiding and abetting it is inescapable. In that case, the letter to Vigano would be just another example of how the conciliar Popes have presided over an epoch of deception that the Vatican has been orchestrating for more than fifty years. The half-century of lies emanating from a manifestly less-than-holy Holy See began with the Big Lie that Paul VI had juridically banned celebration of the Church’s immemorial received and approved rite of Mass, despite the lack of any definitive papal pronouncement so stating.
That fraud upon the Church was finally exposed by Benedict himself in Summorum Pontificum. Yet even Summorum kept the fraud going on some level by means of the shifty rhetoric that has enabled the post-conciliar revolution from its inception. Quoth Benedict:
The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite….
Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.
So, according to Summorum, the Mass of the ages is now “extraordinary” while the New Mass, the most extraordinary—and destructive—novelty the Church has ever seen, is the “ordinary” form of Catholic worship. The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s Oceania has nothing on the post-conciliar Vatican apparatus and the Popes who have headed it, Benedict included. Nor can we overlook that the very author of Summorum conspicuously refused ever to celebrate in public the traditional Mass the post-conciliar revolution had overthrown.
Here, and in so many other places throughout Joseph Ratzinger’s long ecclesiastical career, we see an evidently conflicted theological liberal, a “moderate” Modernist who was instrumental in the Council’s disastrous departure from its traditional schema. Yet he later had the intellectual honesty to admit the failure of the post-conciliar aggiornamento, especially where the new liturgy is concerned, while invoking the utopian hope in a future realization of “the true Council” by way of a “hermeneutic of continuity” that he was never able to explain and should never have been necessary in the first place. And, quite unlike his successor, as Pope he had enough respect for the Petrine office to declare at the outset of his pontificate that “The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law…. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.” In fairness to him, we can say that he kept his word in that regard, at least materially.
But who can provide a definitive diagnosis of the mind of Ratzinger, his subjective intentions for the Church over some sixty years, or the reasons for his mysterious abdication? Certainly not this writer. This much is clear, however: Pope Benedict’s abdication and the rise of Bergoglianism mark the end of the line for neo-Catholicism and its ruinous attempt, assisted too often by Ratzinger himself, to reconcile Tradition with the spirit of the age. As I observed on these pages back in 2002:
The neo-Catholic phenomenon in the Church, therefore, parallels the political mobilism of secular society, in which the term “conservative” no longer means what it did forty years ago. A Democrat of the 1950s would view today’s “conservative” Republican as a liberal savage. In like manner, today’s “neo-conservative Catholics”… are progressives who embrace novelties that Saint Pius X could not have imagined in his worst nightmare. Not only do they embrace these novelties, they attack the “paleoconservative” traditionalists as “schismatics” for declining to follow suit.
Sixteen years ago, in commenting in particular on the inadequacy of Cardinal Ratzinger’s ambiguity-laden Dominus Iesus as a “conservative” antidote to the rise of the fatal heresy of indifferentism in the Church, my co-author and I wrote:
Dominus Iesus has not proven to be the answer to the postconciliar crisis. No Vatican document will be. It is our conviction that the only way out of the crisis is the full restoration of Roman Catholic ecclesiastical tradition, classical theology, classical preaching and Scholastic philosophy. That is, a restoration of the Church to her basic condition a mere forty years ago. We are also convinced that such a restoration is no nostalgic dream, but an inevitable provision of God’s providence, for the current abysmal state of the Church’s liturgy, preaching and general discipline cannot possibly serve as the foundation for her mission in the future. Sooner or later, God will intervene, if those who govern the Church will not do what has to be done to bring her back to health.
The unprecedented and untenable division of the Church into traditionalist, “conservative” and liberal branches, with Bergoglio now clumsily attempting to saw off the first two branches, signals an historical turning point at which it seems only divine intervention of the most dramatic sort will be able to restore the Church to the path of Tradition from which her human element so tragically deviated at the Council.
That day of divine reckoning seems almost to be upon us. But whenever it comes, and in whatever circumstances it takes place, our abiding faith in the Church’s indefectibility allows us confidently to predict an ultimately decisive defeat of what Pope Pius X, the sainted foe of Modernism in all its guises, denounced as the “unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.”
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