I had been blowing a little time that afternoon, as I often did, down in the monks’ shop, hanging about the portineria, shooting the breeze and receiving my admonitions from Br. Ignatius. This young nun walked in and asked to be shown the crypt of the Basilica of San Benedetto, the ancient underground chapel that was originally the family home of the twins, Benedict and Scolastica.
After she came back, sporting the facial glow that people usually had after that visit, I offered to walk her around the city for a bit and point out some of the sights. In truth, my journalistic curiosity was raging; here was a habit I’d never seen before, the story behind which I was burning to know.
It turned out that this American sister had been a Poor Clare in Mother Angelica’s community, but she had been called out and set on a path to found a new community under a good American bishop who wanted highly visible sisters in his diocese as a witness. A witness to what? On a most basic level, perhaps only that, as Sam Gamgee said, there is some good left in this world, and that it’s worth fighting for. A sight like that young nun, dressed as she was, is like a bright light suddenly flashing in a darkness, recognisable even by those who have all but forgotten the names of Christ and His immaculate Mother.
Her visit was in the summer, and in that town every summer there was a music festival. Many of the old churches that remained locked the rest of the year (on orders from the bishop) were opened to be used as venues. Very close to the basilica is the little church of San Lorenzo, built early in the 5th century and thought to be the place where the twin saints had been baptized in 480 AD. Sister was delighted to see this holy place, even if it had not been used for Mass in decades.
When we arrived of course Sister’s habit caught everyone’s attention and one of the organisers came over and introduced himself and asked if she could play. When she answered that she not only played but had composed a song in honour of Our Lady, she was ushered over to the piano. I sat and listened, and carefully watched the reaction of the obviously secular people, all from out of town. It was as if they had seen some magical creature, a being from an ancient and almost forgotten, legendary time come to life.
When Sister had finished playing and singing and we were ready to go, the polite organiser escorted us to the door and thanked her again. At the last moment, and with obvious reticence, he asked her, “If you don’t mind my asking, are you a Catholic?” Sister, obviously taken aback, replied, “Well, yes. Of course. I’m a Catholic nun.” Then she asked, “Aren’t you a Catholic?” The man looked embarrassed and said, “Well, my mother is Catholic...”
As we strolled about town, Sister told me how the plan for her community had come about, of the need on university campuses in the United States for a visible Catholicism. After decades of priests and sisters going incognito young people needed to see that there were still believers. After the impression she had made on the sophisticated young Italian neo-pagans, I was not going to argue. And it was obvious to me that she was indeed called to do this work, simply of being seen to be Catholic, one of the spiritual works of mercy. Later I was happy to meet the two young ladies travelling with her who were considering joining her enterprise. I was sad to see them go as they went off at the end of the day to Assisi. I remember praying, “If only there were more.”
After reading two articles today, one by Steve Skojec for One Peter Five about the “research group” commissioned to “examine” the “history” of Humanae Vitae, and the other by Chris Ferrara in the Remnant naming the group of men Pope Francis has gathered around himself who are promoting the homosexualist agenda in the Church, I found my mind reaching back to the afternoon with Sister, as though in a kind of alarm of stinging thirst. The comparison between the two images could not be more stark; the contrast between the truth, beauty and goodness represented by that young nun and the abhorrent, deceitful evil, an anti-real anti-Church, now making itself known in Rome.
These petty, grinning, small-minded crooks and shysters in the Vatican, their tawdry, shrunken little minds busily grubbing over their boring fantasies of power, money and sex, have nothing to offer the world that the world doesn’t already have too much of. They have simply joined the world, thrown themselves headlong into its dreary, monotonous pursuits. In point of fact, since the election of this pope, we have seen that the only interest the world has in them is the incredible spectacle of their open betrayal of the Faith and its divine Founder. At least we can say that the world, in ignorance, simply threw away the pearl of great price; these men, knowing its value, have sold it in exchange for a few nights in a low-rent brothel – a German specialty.
Think for a moment about the priorities of the current cabal in the Vatican. Foremost, as our friend Chris pointed out the other day, we have had the systematic assault on the Sixth Commandment. As the centrepiece of the Francis pontificate we have Walter Kasper’s promotion of adultery as a morally legitimate lifestyle, the eleventh-hour triumph of his life’s work which will certainly be what history remembers best about this pontificate. Now, as was inevitable, we have prelates like Bruno Forte and Joseph Tobin, Reinhard Marx, Christoph Schonborn, James Martin et al, coming right up behind, exalting sodomy and ushering in the Church of Holy Gayness, a goal that seems already to be enthusiastically lived out by the underlings of the pope’s closest collaborators.
On the financial end of things, we have the former head of the Franciscan Friars Minor, a person of interest to Interpol over a massive financial scandal involving a suspected embezzlement from the order on an epic scale. This was one of Francis’ very first appointments, the man he put in charge of all the Church’s religious orders and whose first task was the attempted looting of the bank accounts of the lay associations of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate for an estimated 30 million Euros. Shortly after, we had a similar bit of fraud – in reality an assault – over reportedly roughly the same amount, against the Knights of Malta. And lest we imagine that the two fronts of the war are distinct, we recall that the winning faction of the Knights of Malta scandal was originally copped for handing out condoms to prostitutes in Asia. And I know that much, much worse information about the financial skulduggery in the Vatican is shortly to come to light.
Do I really need to recite the entire rap sheet? It has more or less the same two running themes throughout. That is, until you reach the top. With Francis himself it seems more personal. Not for him the seething and squelching pursuits of money and the flesh. He has made it clear in the last few years that his interest is more purely one of power. He has used these men and their lesser goals to grasp and hold onto what is, in reality, the most powerful office on earth. Judging from his never-ending stream of blasphemous invective against holy things, Pope Francis Bergoglio’s aims are a good deal higher than those of the men he has collected around himself.
Indeed, it is this that has perhaps tickled the ears of the God-hating world the most. The only thing that has made this pope at all newsworthy has been the endless stream of filth – heresy, blasphemy, insults to the Faith, the Church and God, and his expressions of hatred for faithful Catholics – that pours daily like a sewage outlet from his mouth. He has delighted a world that already hates the Faith and the faithful by his never-ending expressions of solidarity with them and all they hold dear; he thinks as they do, and they love him for it.
The secularists and haters of the Faith – including those who still like to call themselves Catholic – have followed closely all his actions and decisions as governor of the Church, by which he has one by one taken a pickaxe to the bastions, (and attempts at reform,) his two immediate predecessors put in place to prop up an already half-ruined edifice.
Even if one had never read anything Francis has said, his appointments have spoken volumes; the known homosexuals, embezzlers, simoniacs and frauds, Marxists and blatant heretics and those who loathe the traditions of the Faith. His assaults on the Church’s teachings on marriage and sex now more or less complete, the usual mechanism of “leaked” rumours have started telling us that his next target will be the liturgy. So-called “liberal Catholic” journalists have burbled blissfully over all his signals, all while castigating traditionalists and conservatives for “conspiracy theories”.
From people who have dealt with him in his South American past, who are now also witness to his current behaviour, we know that he is a collector of information about men with large things to hide, a manipulator who does not hesitate simply to destroy his opponents. His love of ambiguity, deflection and confusion speak to his duplicity – even his most enthusiastic journalistic collaborators have been caught calling him “sly”. He is a demonstrated liar and has surrounded himself with liars, but in Bergoglio’s case lying is paired with a calculated ruthlessness and a thuggish, vengeful rage at anyone who would dare to uphold not just the ancient Catholic Faith, but ordinary human decency. His real nature is no longer a secret, though speculation grows about its true origin.
For many of us, following the progress of this pontificate is a mentally and emotionally painful chore akin to investigating the criminal underworld. It has the effect of slowly grinding you down, while at the same time engulfing all your thoughts and attention. The sheer horror of it all unfolding like an unstoppable nightmare at once rivets the attention and creates a deadening sense of helpless outrage.
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That afternoon, I took Sister for tea and asked her why she was considering founding a new religious community in such times as these. It seemed like an invitation to be targeted in an atmosphere where the true Faith is no longer even barely tolerated within the institutions of the Church. I know how hard it has been for founders of communities, even under the comparatively benign previous pontificates. Sister was far from naïve; she knew that the men in the Vatican are specifically looking for authentic expressions of Catholic faith and devotion to squash.
But she shamed my cowardice with her answers. “What better time could there possibly be?” She was simply going forward in faith and trust, obeying a summons to do a work that needed doing.
I’ve often said that we are past the point of worldly activism being a useful or proportionate response to the tidal wave now bearing down on us. But it’s also too easy to adopt a bunker mentality, especially among traditionalists who are accustomed to their separation from “mainstream” Catholicism. The urge to head for the hills and hide, to keep one’s head down and wait for the storm to pass is natural. And that’s just the problem, of course, since it is naturalism fuelling this entire catastrophe.
Here was this young nun, knowing all that, and showing us the heroism that is actually now a mere requirement. Throwing her entire lot in with a cause that in the natural sense seems lost already. We are looking for ways to put it out of our heads. We want to do anything but face up to the probability that there is nothing ahead but destruction. We look for a bishop or cardinal to come galloping in at the last moment and save the day. We comb through the names of the College of Cardinals to find someone who might save us at the next conclave. Anything but face the terrifying possibility that no one is coming. That we’re too far gone, and there is no safe haven left.
A valley of dark shadows is ahead, and we have no other path. But we don’t refer to the “tragedy” of the Cross, or the “defeat” of the Cross, but the Triumph of the Cross, the Victory of the Cross.