Ominous Power Grabs

Ominous Power Grabs – Part I


by Christopher A. Ferrara
June 8, 2016

In a new “apostolic letter” published in Italian and signed simply “Francesco,” Francis has in his motu proprio (on his own impulse) laid down “new norms” for the swift removal of bishops by Vatican decree. Presented by the Vatican and the media alike as a measure directed at bishops who shield “pedophiles” (i.e. homosexuals who prey on boys) or fail to act against them promptly when their crimes are discovered, the letter is actually far broader in scope than that — and far more ominous.

The tipoff comes in the first two paragraphs (my translation). Paragraph 1 provides that a governing bishop, “even with a temporary title,” can “legitimately be removed from his office if, through negligence, he places or omits actions which have caused grave damage to others, whether it involves physical persons, a community or both together. The damage can be physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial [i.e. financial]

Paragraph 2 provides that a bishop can be removed under the vague formula in Paragraph 1 “if he has objectively lacked in a serious way the diligence which is required of his pastoral office, even without serious moral fault on his part.

Call me overly suspicous, but the quoted language sounds to me like a recipe for the removal of any prelate whose governance is considered harmful to the “community” because he is “divisive” — meaning he has made decisions taking a “hard line” on Church teaching or restoring liturgical tradition and has thus aroused angry protests against him.

My suspicion is not without immediate historical context that warrants it. Since March of 2014, based on some colorable claim or other falling far short of the scandals under such wolves as Mahony, Gumbleton and various currently reigning liberal bishops, Francis has ordered the removal of no fewer than five prelates who all fit the same profile: perceived as doctrinally and liturgically conservative, friendly to the traditional Mass, able to attract vocations, and thus the subject of demands for punitive measures by liberal agitators. They are:

March 2014 – Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elstm, Bishop of Limburg, Germany.

September 2014 – Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, Bishop of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay (who has since died).

March 2015 – Mario Oliveri of the Albenga diocese in northern Italy.

April 2015 – Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri.

June 2015 – Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis.

There is more: Father Lombardi all but admitted an ideological motive for the removal of Bishop Livieres. The reason, said Lombardi, was not alleged financial mismanagement or the appointment of an accused child molester as diocesan vicar — a priest the Vatican itself had recommended! — but rather what Lombardi called “relations within the episcopacy and in the local church, which were very difficult….” For one thing, Livieres’ seminary was full while the rest of Paraguay was bereft of vocations.

Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press reported what was already obvious to traditionalist observers:

[T]he removal underscored the deep ideological shift in the Catholic Church with Francis in charge. Vatican watchers say it is highly unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI would have removed either Livieres or the “bling bishop,” [Tebartz-van Elstm] since both had strong supporters among the more conservative prelates in Rome who appreciated their firm orthodoxy in the face of opposition from more progressive parts of the church…. Francis has made clear his disdain for traditionalist Catholics, finding them self-absorbed retrogrades who are out of touch with the church’s evangelizing mission today.
Indeed, to date Francis has not ordered the removal or demanded the resignation of a single theological or liturgical liberal in the entire world episcopate, even though many are much more deeply involved in scandal than the five whose heads have rolled.

Quite the contrary, to the dismay of his own “sex abuse panel” at the Vatican, Francis installed as Bishop of Osorno, Chile, the notorious Juan Barros, a close associate of the even more notorious Fr. Fernando Karadima, found guilty in a trial at the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing boys and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. Barros (already a bishop) was installed despite multiple allegations linking him to Karadima’s crimes, including witnessing and doing nothing about them. As The New York Times reported, Francis would not be dissuaded from his decision even by “weeks of protests, candlelight vigils and letters to Pope Francis” or the attempt by members of the faithful physically to prevent Barros’ installation in the local cathedral. Rather, Francis mocked the objectors to this outrage as “dumb.”

Worse, if that were possible, Francis infamously appointed to his laughably misnamed “Synod on the Family” the disgraced Cardinal Godfried Danneels — a member of the “St. Gallen’s mafia” that lobbied for Francis’ election as Pope. Francis did so despite massive evidence, including a tape-recording, of Danneels’s deliberate cover-up of hundreds of instances of homosexual molestation of boys by Mgr. Roger Vangheluwe when Danneels was Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium from 1979 until 2010.

The appointment of Danneels to a Synod on the Family must rank as one of the major disciplinary farces of the postconciliar epoch, which is saying a great deal. Danneels, declared the Rorate Caeli blog, “is a one-man symbol of all that is wrong and wicked with the Hierarchy, the epitome of the worst meaning of the word ‘clericalism’, the opposite of anything that could represent authentic reform and restoration — a man who abused the spirit and annihilated Belgian Catholic families, and protected those who abused the bodies of children, a man who after leading Catholicism in his country into the ground should have been relegated to degradation and penance for the rest of his life yet still receives papal honor to influence a Synod on the Family!”

Perhaps my suspicion is ill-founded, despite the clear evidence of a double standard outlined here, evidence even the secular press has noted. Perhaps Francis will take action against liberal bishops who would readily fall under the broad langugage of his new removal provision. But I would wager that we will see no such thing, and that this new papal document is but another step in consolidating an overall strategy that amounts to governing the Catholic Church as if it were a banana republic: protection and even advancement for El Supremo’s friends, no matter how bad they are, but persecution for those on the “enemies list,” no matter how good they are.

Indeed, there is another new measure from Rome which supports this inference. That will be the subject of my next column.

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4 comments on “Ominous Power Grabs

  1. Ominous Power Grabs – Part II

    Vatican Places Roadblock in Path of New Traditional Diocesan Orders

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    June 10, 2016

    In my last column on this subject I discussed the new apostolic letter whose language is broad enough to warrant the immediate removal of any bishop deemed “divisive” — i.e., too conservative — by the Vatican. In support of my suspicion in this regard I cited the string of conservative bishops whose removal Francis has ordered since March of 2014, while liberal prelates around the world are left alone and even honored and promoted (e.g., the infamous appointment of Cardinal Danneels to the disastrous “Synod on the Family”).

    Another Vatican measure, which went into effect on June 1, has the same potential for assisting the process of converting the Church into a banana republic whose climate is favorable to the likes of Cardinal Kasper, “the Pope’s theologian,” and other friends of Francis, but toxic to conservative dissenters from the program of “the God of surprises” and “the Spirit.”

    I am referring to a rescript from the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which purports to “clarify” Canon 579 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. In fact, the rescript alters the Canon radically by providing that on account of the supposed need to “avoid that new Institutes be erected in the diocesan level without the sufficient discernment that will confirm the originality of the charism,” no bishop may erect a society of consecrated life in his diocese without “prior consultation of the Holy See,” and that this consultation shall be understood as necessary ad validitatem [for the very validity] for the erection of a Diocesan Institute of Consecrated Life, under pain of nullity of the Decree of Erection of the Institute itself.”

    Translation: no bishop can erect any diocesan society of consecrated life according to the power he possesses unless the Vatican bureaucracy says so. The prior “consultation,” which was required under the original canon, has now effectively been converted into a prior permission by the imposition of nullity in the absence of the consultation. The Vatican need only withhold a reply to the request for consultation in order to veto the erection of any diocesan society of consecrated life the Vatican bureaucracy, infested with Modernist friends of Francis, does not like.

    Note the tipoff: under the rescript, the Vatican must be sure of “the originality of the charism” — meaning that the new society is sufficiently novel rather than boringly traditional. For novelty is what the regime of novelty has demanded since Vatican II.

    I quite agree with the assessment at Rorate Caeli:

    If this had been the case in the past, many of the Traditional Catholic institutes and congregations first established as Diocesan foundations might never have seen the light of day… It is the centralization (and bureaucratization) of a very important part of Diocesan Life, a grievous wound on the autonomy of Particular Churches in ascertaining the needs of their own spiritual lives. The Vatican affirmed that it is not a “permission”, but a mere “consultation”… This may convince the gullible, but any individual who has ever had contact with a stifling bureaucratic apparatus knows that the intent here is to promote centralization in an area that has always been under the great autonomy of each individual Ordinary, who has himself “divinely conferred authority.”

    Francis talks the talk of collegiality and decentralization in the Church, as in Evangellii Gaudium, where he calls for “the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”. But he walks the walk of a dictator in the process of consolidating his control over every aspect of the life of the Church in an effort to remake it according to his personal vision, set forth in the same document: “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”

    Yes, we have a Pope who thinks there is an opposition between evangelization and the Church’s self-preservation. And every move he makes tends to demonstrate that he is little concerned with preserving the integrity of faith and morals as opposed to doing whatever he pleases according to his “dream” of what the Church should be.

    May God rescue His Holy Church from the rising tempest of this pontificate. Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us!

  2. Translation: no bishop can erect any diocesan society of consecrated life according to the power he possesses unless the Vatican bureaucracy says so

    Why did Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ come to mind when reading this?

  3. Ominous Power Grabs – Part III. Francis Attacks the Cloistered Convents

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    July 25, 2016

    In Part I of my series under this title I reported on the creation of Pope Francis’ Handy-Dandy Bishop Removal Machine via a motu proprio that declares any bishop can be removed for any reason Francis and his collaborators deem sufficient. That action confirms juridically a situation that has already seen the summary removal/forced retirement of six consecutive conservative bishops (most recently Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba), sacked for alleged scandals that are nothing compared with the endemic corruption, including homosexual activity, in the dioceses of liberal bishops around the world. Indeed, Francis has appointed as the very head of his papal household a notorious homosexual predator, Monsignor Battista Ricca (found trapped in an elevator with a young male object of his “affections”).

    In Part II of the series I reported on a rescript from the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which in essence would block the formation of any new traditionally-oriented society of diocesan right by local bishops sympathetic to Tradition unless the Vatican was satisfied with the “originality” of its “charism,” failing which any attempt to erect the society would be void and without effect.

    Now it’s the cloistered nuns’ turn to come under the dictatorial thumb. With his apostolic constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere (“Seeking the face of God”) (VDQ), dropped like a blockbuster bomb during his vacation, Francis mandates sweeping changes in every cloistered convent in the world, requiring the adoption of new constitutions and “forms of cloister” to be approved by the Vatican and centralizing control over all local cloisters. The liberal La Stampa approvingly summarizes the document as a whole, thus: “Francis mandates wide changes for contemplative women religious, requests revision of all constitutions.” Catholic News Agency hails the “new norms focused on prayer, centralization.”

    VDQ also repeals all prior papal legislation mandating the strictness of the major and minor “papal enclosures” of nuns, which imposed severe penalties for leaving or admitting outsiders to the enclosure without permission and grave reason, including Pius XII’s Sponsa Christi and Inter Praeclara (1950) and John Paul II’s Verbi Sponsa (1999). Referring to further norms to be promulgated, VDQ clearly contemplates the routine coming and going of nuns from their enclosures for such things as “specific courses on formation outside their monastery.” Also recommended is use of the Internet by cloistered nuns for their “formation” and “cooperation” with other convents, limited only by “due discretion,” whatever that means.

    VDQ further mandates that even papal enclosures be opened to the public for Eucharistic adoration, which is clearly used an as excuse to breach the ancient sanctity of the enclosures: “Each monastery, in elaborating its plan of community and fraternal life, in addition to carefully preparing its Eucharistic celebrations, is to set aside appropriate times for Eucharistic adoration, also inviting the faithful of the local Church to take part.”

    In a devastating blow to the autonomy of the cloisters, to which VDG pays cynical lip service, the document mandates that they immediately join “federations” to be governed by Presidents and Councils. The prior papal legislation under John Paul II and Pius XII merely permitted cloisters to federate, while insisting that their individual autonomy in no way be diminished by the existence of any such voluntary federation. Most of the existing federations (new ones are to be formed where needed, evidently) are sinkholes of Modernist corruption, “social justice” enterprises aligned with liberal politics, or both. But that is precisely the point: the few holdout traditionalist convents, such as the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, which has already been placed under a liberalizing Vatican commissariat, will be required to bend to the “spirit” of the liberalized federations they are now compelled to join, and new traditionalist orders of nuns will be smothered in their cribs.

    Incredibly enough, the Pope of the Peripheries now forbids that monasteries admit candidates from other countries (such as Africa or the Philippines) in order to insure their continuation: “recruitment of candidates from other countries solely for the sake of ensuring the survival of a monastery is to be absolutely avoided.” The word “solely” will have little or no meaning in practice, and thus transnational recruitment as such will de facto be banned. But what does the national origin of a nun have to do with her freedom to join a convent if she has a vocation? Absolutely nothing. Yet the Pope of the Peripheries, who is constantly harping on “inclusion,” now insists on exclusion in the form of discrimination based on the national origin of candidates. The death of many cloistered convents is thus insured. Insane!

    Even more incredibly, the elderly pontiff demands age discrimination in the cloisters, declaring: “Juridical autonomy needs to be matched by a genuine autonomy of life. This entails a certain, even minimal, number of sisters, provided that the majority are not elderly…” What does the age of the nuns have to do with their autonomy in cloister? Again, absolutely nothing. This is just another ploy to insure the liberalization of tradition-leaning conventual holdouts.

    If the conditions for “autonomy” are not met — including a majority of non-elderly members! — then “the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will study the possibility of establishing an ad hoc commission made up of the ordinary, the president of the federation, a representative of the federation and the abbess or prioress of the monastery. In every case, the purpose of this intervention is to initiate a process of guidance for the revitalisation of the monastery, or to effect its closure.”

    The staid Catholic Herald describes this provision as “a regulation outlining the criteria needed for a monastery to retain juridical autonomy or else be absorbed by another entity or face closure.”

    So much for the Church of the Peripheries. Francis is once again consolidating all power in his own hands. Like any dictator, he preaches freedom while he practices tyranny, overturning anything his predecessors have done that stands in his way — not only here, but with respect to the teaching of his predecessors on the divorced and “remarried,” especially John Paul II in Familiaris consortio.

    Yes, of course, the Pope has plenary power in the Church. But this Pope pays no heed to the limits on that power enunciated by the very Pope he unexpectedly replaced under such mysterious circumstances:

    The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to His Word. 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 Francis, God help us, we have a Pope who habitually disregards virtually every word of Benedict’s admonition. May God save His Holy Church!

    P.S. The Vatican advises that no similar measures are contemplated for the male orders. Don’t count on it.

  4. This reminds me of the Protest Revolt with the current crop of high ranking prelates replacing Henry VIII, Cromwell, and company. The bishops and lay folk are following that path pretty well too. And just in time for Pope Francis to join the Lutherans for the 500th anniversary of their man-made version of “christianity”.

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