Ettore Gotti Tedeschi: “The Devil Has Retired”
Because today many are going into the fires of hell on their own, and this may be the very reason for global warming… Reflections more serious than ironic from the former president of the IOR, on the state of the Church and the world
by Sandro Magister
ROME, February 1, 2016 – Right from the title, the latest book-length interview with Ettore Gotti Tedeschi has at least one thing in common with the preaching of Pope Francis: the centrality of a figure that also has a leading role in the Bible, that of the “prince of lies”:
Paolo Gambi intervista Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, “Un mestiere del diavolo”, Giubilei Regnani, Cesena, 2015, pp. 260, euro 15.00.
Gotti Tedeschi is very much a banker “sui generis,” a fervent Catholic and a humanist. A bit of a loner, reluctant to join the team. When he was called to the Vatican in 2009 to head the Institute for Works of Religion, he espoused the post with the absolute of dedication of one who “becomes a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven,” in this case to lead the dissolute quasi-bank back to virtue.
And they drove him out in short order, in 2012. He doesn’t say who did it, in the book. Because ultimately this is a secondary matter. What is not at all marginal is the stone guest that looms over every page, the devil, whom Gotti Tedeschi calls “the great pensioner,” because now he is so besieged by fans that he doesn’t even need to exert himself anymore to fill up hell.
The true roots of global disorder – Gotti Tedeschi says – are moral and ultimately theological. The disasters of the economy and environment are not causes, but effects. But there is nothing sad or resigned in his words. Because if the devil is taking it easy, there is always someone who continues to work and illuminate and in the end to win, and this is Divine Providence, thanks to which mysteriously but infallibly all things “cooperantur in bonum.”
The dialogue between Gotti Tedeschi and the interviewer is interwoven with reflections that are unconventional, ironic, surprising. But the material is substantial: economy, environment, Church, Catholic faith. With dissonant points in terms of the narrative – often unfaithful – that universally envelops Pope Francis.
To whom he pays tribute of filial respect and obedience, without concealing however that at the summit of the Church today the “spiritual figures” he most admires are cardinals Robert Sarah, Carlo Caffarra, Gerhard Müller, Raymond Burke, George Pell, this last – he emphasizes – “as a theologian.”
Below are two excerpts from the book, on two delicate points: expulsion from the IOR and the encyclical “Laudato si’.”
From “A devil’s trade”
Interview with Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
ON HIS OUSTER AS PRESIDENT OF THE IOR
Q: What would make you happy?
A: A conversation with Thomas More, with Antonio Rosmini. . . Saint Thomas More is a saint of reference for my life. I would have been happy to end up in as transparent a manner as he did, on the scaffold for my convictions, rather than ending up defamed and exposed to the defamation of churchmen without so much as a trial, which Saint Thomas More at least had the privilege of having (even enjoying himself, as I would have enjoyed myself).
Another is Blessed Antonio Rosmini, recognized as a man of faith and full of love for the Church only 120 years after his humiliation. I, certainly without wanting to compare myself and my travails with those Rosmini underwent for having written “The five wounds of the Church,” have to wait another 117 years. . . Even Blessed Toniolo was discredited and persecuted, in spite of the fact that he had served the Church with faith, competency, and passion.
Q: Yet bitterness can be read in your words. Is it truly possible to forgive those who do evil to us? And, if I may ask, have you always forgiven?
A: Of course we can forgive those who do evil to us: we must imitate Christ, or better, seek to imitate him. I cannot say if it is easy or not, I know only that we must struggle our whole life to do it. Of course, on our own it is rather difficult: I suggest making use of the help of a spiritual director who knows how to conduct confession, lead meditation, teach prayer. I suggest returning to the practice of constant recourse to our (forgotten) guardian angel, asking him for suggestions. The grace will come.
No, I have not always forgiven. In the specific case to which you refer without citing it, the problem is complex. Very complex. I can say, however, that I have forgiven some, others not yet. But what is true forgiveness? It is the remission, the absolution of an offense, of a sin: this is the Church’s purview. The forgiveness that an offended person is able to give to those who have stained themselves with an offense is something different. It can mean seeking to excuse their behavior, not to bear rancor, hatred. True forgiveness may lie in knowing how to pray for those who have offended, for their good. Now this I have been able to do, but not without constantly striving to bring the truth out. [. . .]
Q: You worked with a person as unique and extraordinary as Pope Benedict. Is there anything you would like to say with regard to the events related to your presidency of the IOR and your leaving it? What Christian testimony have you received from it?
A: My testimony is twofold. First: where there is great good there is always great evil as well. But the saints are always with us, just like the cloistered sisters who pray for the Church, and they are the ones who give us hope. So I have followed the advice of one holy sister, a Benedictine mother abbess, who once told me: “Your desire for truth and justice is legitimate, but there is greater merit in mortifying it and offering it to God for his Church.” I have chosen this second alternative.
Second: one reflection that I still make today is that within the Church it can be easier to do evil than good. Now, this is a reflection that I would have liked to have proposed to Pope Francis, if he had been willing to see me. Something that never happened.
Benedict wanted an exemplary Church. If it had not been for events and persons that I would rather forget, his pontificate would have been defined as that of Benedict XVI “the Great.” But this will happen anyway: the Holy Spirit is a great publisher, even if he publishes when He wants, without taking his cues from the secular-progressive press.
ON THE ENCYCLICAL “LAUDATO SI’”
Q: What do you think of the encyclical of Pope Francis “Laudato si’”?
A: I think that it is not easy to understand who is supposed to be responsible for the environmental degradation depicted in it. I hope to have the opportunity in the near future to comment on this encyclical in clerical-academic circles. I will begin with this question: “In your view, who is responsible?” It will be fun.
Q: Let’s start the fun right now: who is responsible?
A: I realize that what I say will seem paradoxical to the reader who is poorly informed or sensitive to these problems, but I’ll try. What is responsible is the gnostic, neo-Malthusian and environmentalist culture that now presumes to ask the pope to get involved.
By environmentalist culture I mean that which, with a naturalist and pantheist vision, considers man the cancer of nature who damages it with his unrestrained consumption and his indifference to the pollution that he himself produces, above all if gets married (to a woman) and has children. And the more children he has, the more he produces causes of environmental degradation.
This environmentalist culture makes a cozy couple with the neo-Malthusian culture that in the 1970’s and ’80’s, in the wealthy Western world, produced that sentiment of anti-procreation whose consequences we are enduring today.
But why do I blame this environmentalism? Because by discouraging procreation without bringing about a collapse in the growth of GDP, it automatically spurred individual consumption. In order to satisfy this, however, the West outsourced production to Asian countries in order to keep prices down, increase the purchasing power of consumers, and therefore bring about more and more consumption. These Asian countries were, let’s say, much less sensitive to and technologically prepared for environmental problems; as a result, with the excuse of protecting the environment its degradation was worsened. In order not to pollute by having children, more pollution was produced by increasing consumption to compensate for the collapse of birth rates.
But what surprises me the most is to see that neo-Malthusian environmentalists were called to work on the encyclical itself. Fortunately the spirit of the magisterium remained intact, even if it took no little effort for most observers to find it, or rather, to give the benefit of the doubt that it was there.
The last lines presented above revive Ettore Gotti Tedeschi’s dispute with the neo-Malthusian environmentalist Jeffrey Sachs, who in fact was repeatedly brought to the Vatican during the months in which the encyclical “Laudato si’” was being written.