What Happened at the 2015 Synod Part HH by Fr. Fred Scinto, C.R.

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Father Fred Scinto

November 11, 2016

Fr. Fred Scinto, C.R




            Here we will continue what we started to look at in PART GG of this series and that is the present opposition to our Holy Father and what he is doing and saying.  The material comes from an article in the Italian newspaper, La Stamps (a Jesuit paper) from the October 16, 2016, issue; the article was written by Giaromo Galeazzi and Andrea Torniello from Rome.  It deals with Catholics who are anti-Francis (who turn out to be more numerous than I have thought!).  Unfortunately, my source as I have it here has no title; so I am sorry I cannot give you that!


            The opposition, unfortunately, is very real and a lot of the criticisms about the Pope shocked me!  They are really eye-opening and for me, as a papal observer, many seem incredible but I leave that to your own judgment.


            The article is a good description and detailing of the journey to the world of Francis’ opponents, “where regionalists, Ratzinger nostalgics, and enemies of the Council [Vatican II] are joined by a common disapproval of the current Pope: ‘There is chaos in the church because of the Pope.’” (ibid.)


            And “the glue that holds them together is their aversion towards Francis.  The world of Francis dissenters ranges from Lefebvrians [followers of Bishop Marcel Lefebvre – the Society of Saint Pius X] who have decided to ‘wait for a traditional Pope’ before renewing their communion with Rome [recall what we have already seen about them in these Consortium materials], to Catholic regionalists who compare Francis to his predecessor Ratzinger and promote the campaign ‘Benedict is my Pope.’” (ibid.)


            There are “websites that share sedavacantist positions [the idea that the papal chair remains empty/vacant because Francis is not a real pope].  These are adamant that the Catholic writer Antonio Socci was right to argue that Bergoglio’s [Francis] election is invalid simply because a vote was cancelled without a scrutiny in the March 2013 Conclave.  This was because one of the cardinals mistakenly placed an extra ballot in the ballot box.  The vote resumed immediately to wipe away any doubts and without any of the cardinal electors raising any objections… The opposition intensifies on the web, with people letting all fury loose protected by their computer screen … The ‘messainitaliano’ website, which promotes the old liturgy but also publishes vitriolic comments on the Pope, speaks about the ‘tedious ideological monotony of the current pontificate.’  On the web, one comes across comments about the Church eventually dissolving into some kind of a United Nations of religions with a touch of Greenpeace [a pro-ecological organization] and a hint of a trades union organization, given that ‘today, moral sins are downgraded and Bergoglio established social or socialist) sins as well.’” (ibid.)


            Traditionalists, conservative prelates, and conservative intellectuals have signed protests or appeals about Francis’ open pastoral attitude with regard for the Eucharist for remarried divorcees and dialogue with the Chinese government; we have already seen some of what these are in the Consortium material already.


            “Opposition to the Pope unites people and groups that are very different among them” (ibid.).  More gentle criticism, for example, comes from La Bussola Quotidiana, an on-line newspaper and the monthly newspaper Il Timone.  “The Argentinian Pope is also reproached almost on a daily basis by LˊEspresso’s former Vatican affairs journalist Sandro Magister.  Then there are the … mocking comments made by Maria Guarini in the Italian blog Chiesa e Postconcilio and the harsher criticisms made by ultra-traditionalist and sedevacantist groups, those who believe there has not been a worthy Pope since Pius XII.” (ibid.)


            The opposition to Pope Francis is quite widespread on the internet.  “Those behind this opposition use the Internet and private meetings between clerics, combining frontal and public attacks with more articulate strategies.  Alessandro Gnocchi, who writes for the Riscossa Cristiana and Unavox websites, is on the frontline of the web criticism against the Pope: ‘Bergoglio is systematically surrendering the Church to the world, the Church is becoming worldly.  His pontificate is based on the brunt handling of power.  Never has the faith been so debased.’” (ibid.)


            Fondazione Lepanto is a foundation that tries to protect the principles and institutions of Christian civilization.  It is one of the cultural powerhouses of anti-Francis sentiment.  “The foundation’s books combined with the Corrispondenza Romana news agency and the meetings held in the sitting room on the first floor, make it one of the headquarters of the anti-Bergoglio front.  ‘The Church is going through one of the biggest moments of chaos in its history and the Pope is one of the causes of this,’ says historian and President of Fondazione Lepanto, Roberto De Mattei.  ‘This chaos is above all to do with the Pope’s magisterium.  Francis is not the solution but part of the problem.’  Opposition, De Mattei added, ‘is not just being expressed by these so-called traditionalist circles but extends to bishops and theologians who were trained according to the Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] and Wojtyla [Saint Pope John Paul II] schools of thought.” (ibid.)


            We now come to the thorny question of the (retired) Pope Benedict XVI and (active) Pope Francis.  We have already met Antonio Socci (above).  “On his official Facebook page, Antonio Socci claims that Benedict XVI did not really want to resign but still considers himself Pope and wants in some way to share the ‘Petrine ministry’ [the papacy], with his successor; Ratzinger himself, however, has denied this interpretation” (ibid.).  Benedict XVI has denied this interpretation more than once and has confirmed that his resignation is totally valid and has publicly shown his obedience to Pope Francis!


            Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, has complicated the situation because publicly he has said that there are not two popes but an extended ministry, with an active member (Francis) and a contemplative member (Benedict).  Socci has added that “one contrasts love and the truth (Bergoglio), while another sees them united in God (Benedict).”  “Among the many comments to these remarks, Paolo Soranno wrote: ‘Francis I seems to be serving God Rainbow [?] (who does not impose religious and moral principles) and not the Catholic God.’” (ibid.)  What does this garbage mean?  If you can figure it out, please let me know!


            People like De Mattei prefer to call their opposition “resistance” rather than “dissent.” “This resistance was recently expressed by 45 Catholic theologians and philosophers who criticized the apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and by 80 figures – who gradually turned into several thousand – including Catholic cardinals, bishops, and theologians, who made a declaration of ‘loyalty to the unchanging magisterium of the Church.’  One of the hotbeds of resistance, the historian [De Mattei] underlined, ‘is the John Paul II institute for the family, whose heads were recently removed by Bergoglio.’  Traditionalists are also targeting Francis for the part his migration policy is playing in destabilizing Europe and obliterating western civilization.” (ibid.) Oh, come on, now!!


            “The attack against Francis is global” (ibid.)  There is a strong geopolitical element in this, according to Agostino Giovagnoli, Professor of Contemporary History at the Università Cattolica.  “They are accusing Bergoglio of not proclaiming the truths of the faith with sufficient vigour but in reality they are blaming him for not defending the West’s primacy.  This opposition has political motivations that are masked by theological and ecclesial questions.  China is an example of this.  There is an alliance between Hong Kong circles, sectors within the United States and Europe’s right wing: they are accusing Francis of putting the goal of uniting the Church in China before the defense of religious freedom … These critics say the Pope should affirm religious freedom as a political argument against Beijing [China] instead of seeking dialogue through diplomatic means.” (ibid.)


            Opposition to Pope Francis also exists in the Curia, as we saw in earlier Consortium materials.  This also finds voice in clerics with Vatican connections, e.g., the liturgist and theologian Father Nicola Bux who is a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Office of Liturgical Celebrations.  Father Bux has stated “today, there are a few lay people, priests, and bishops asking themselves where we are headed … The Pope’s job is to safeguard ecclesial communion, not to favour division and rivalry, siding with progressives against the conservatives.”  More, a researcher who is very traditional, Flavio Cuniberto wrote a book criticizing Francis’ social magisterium and recently launched a protest in, the Italian newspaper, Il Giornale where he stated that “Bergoglio has not updated Catholic doctrine, he has destroyed it and acts as though he is a Catholic but is in fact not: the distorted idea of poverty elevates old pauperism to the dogmatic sphere.  The Pope praises recycling and thus the virtues of the good late-modern consumer become the new evangelical virtues.”  Parenthetically, I hope by now you have noticed how often these opponents of Francis disrespect the Pope by using his last name (“Bergoglio”) to designate him!!  And I had a very hard time inserting Cuniberto’s nonsense into these materials because his comments are so biased and make no sense within any Christian/Catholic context!


            “The opposition comes from the more conservative side of the spectrum but also finds a voice among some disappointed ultra-progressives” (ibid.)  If you know anything about Maria Guarini, an ultra-traditional blogger, you would expect an inane statement like “if the next Pope is Bergoglian, the Vatican will become a Cathomasonic branch”!  However, some of the ultra-progressive opponents also say very harsh things about Pope Francis.


            A good example is the case of the Ambroasian priest, Father Giorgio De Capitani, who is relentless in his attacks from the left.  “He tears the pontificate to pieces and feeds it to the wolves.  ‘How many useless and obvious words.  Peace, justice and goodness.  The Pope is really getting on our nerves with all these tear-jerking words and gestures.  Francis is a victim of his own consensus and all he is doing is creating illusions, pulling the wool over our eyes, steals some applause and fills some nincompoop journalists who know nothing of the faith, with rapture.’


            “Journalist Giuseppe Rusconi reflected: “is our Shepherd really above all ‘ours’ or is he not showing that he favours the indistinct global flock, thus being perceived by non-Catholic public opinion as a leader who responds to the wishes of contemporary society?  Is he doing it as part of a Jesuit strategy or out of personal choice?  And when the shepherd returns to the pen, how many sheep will he bring with him?  And how many of those lost will he find?’” (ibid.)


             In the above material, you will have noticed that most of the people discussed who oppose Francis are Italian; this does not mean that the controversies are restricted to Italy because that is not true – the opposition is found in many many parts of the world.  Below is one example from the United States.  More examples could be used but this suffices for our purposes.  The implication and “aura” of the following is that we today have a Church that has gone to the dogs and the leadership (including the Pope by implication) has let all this happen!


            The article is “Two Countries, Two Churches: America is now two countries – and the Church has been split in two as well,” no author given but the group is called Church Militant, October 24, 2016 at http://www.churchmilitant.com/ ).  Church Militant has a Facebook page with 183,000 followers; it also has a twitter site with 11,000 followers, and a YouTube site at https://www.youtube.com/user/ChurchMilitantTV  with 28,000 followers.


            The author wishes his father, Russ Voris, a happy birthday on this day.  Russ has seen a lot in his day, being born in 1929.  He converted to the Catholic Church in the 1950s and now he tells his son that the Church to which he converted is barely recognizable anymore.


            His son, the author, sees the United States (as shown in the 2016 presidential race) has split into “two countries” and “the Church has been split into two as well” (ibid.)  “When my dad made his profession of faith and was confirmed, he took the name of Pope Saint Pius X. [Then]

  • The Church prayed in Latin

  • The Mass was oriented toward God

  • The central theme of the Mass was sacrifice

  • There was great reverence for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament

  • Our Blessed Mother was given great honor

  • Three out of every four Catholics attended Mass at least once a week

  • Bishops and priests defended the Faith publicly

  • There were enormous numbers of voations

  • Parishes had four, five, six or more priests

  • People believed in the Real Presence and received Holy Communion on their tongues while kneeling

  • There were large lines for confession

  • Catholics had large families

  • The devotional life of Catholics was vibrant

  • Archbishop Fulton Sheen had the #1 rated TV show in America.

    “Today 60 years later, not one of those things is true any longer – not even close.  Today, the common experience is of an entirely different Church.

  • Rampant homosexuality among the clergy

  • A wide-spread cover-up of sexual abuse of teenage boys by homosexual priests

  • A Mass now man-centred where the emphasis is on people and their feelings

  • The central theme of the Mass is now a meal

  • A lack of reverence for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, even a disbelief

  • An almost-complete ignoring of devotion to Our Blessed Mother

  • Dismal Mass attendance rates bordering on only one-fifth attending Mass once a week

  • Bishops shrinking from their duties and even betraying the Faith and faithful

  • An implosion of religious vocations – 90% decrease

  • One priest now ministering to multiple parishes

  • People receiving Holy Communion in their hands standing

  • A massive drop-off in Catholics going to Confession

  • A complete embrace of contraception and total silence on its evil from the hierarchy

  • Absence of anything remotely resembling a devotional life, much less a vibrant one

  • And the days of bold preaching – non-existent, replaced by PC (Politically Correct) language.

    And of course, this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.” (ibid.)


                The two Churches, for this author, then, are the actual Church and the “new” Church which he calls “the Church of Nice.”  For him, the hierarchy as it is now constituted does not have what it takes to restore authentic Catholicism.  The bishops are spending too much time appeasing the culture, and do not seem to have the slightest clue about the depth of crisis in the Church [understood here as caused by today’s Pope, Pope Francis].  Or if they do understand the depth of the crisis, they have come up with ways to address it that are dead on arrival… There are indeed two Americas and two Catholic Churches in America.  In each case, the fake version is winning the battle for control, indeed, in many instances has already won… But the Church does not belong to anyone except Almighty God, and it will go the way God wants it to go – with or without the current leadership [understand here also the inclusion of papal leadership] undermining it.” (ibid.)


                 To all of the above, please also bring the range of papal opposition from American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke all the way to the extremist Fatima Crusaders to which we have been introduced by past materials issued by our Consortium: there is no need to review these here.  One last comment here now.  Today’s culture has come to know about this opposition and thus feels free in its comedy/comedies to use this for its purposes.  The one example I think of right now is the HBO new television fictional series called “The Young Pope” that has very recently made itself available for “your viewing pleasure.”  The main character is a young pope who allows practically everything to be considered okay, e.g., gay marriages.  I have not seen much of the series but the little I have seen makes me very sad because it seems to be satirical and a take-off on Pope Francis.


                What are we to make of this opposition to Pope Francis within the Catholic Church today?


                First of all, is there any risk of schism somewhere within the Church?  “There do not seem to be any further schisms on the horizon, after Bishop Marcel Lefebvre’s in 1988 [Lefebvre left the Church over Vatican II and we usually know his group as the Society of Saint Pius X].  Sociologist Massimo Introvigne is adamant about this: ‘There are more than 5000 Catholic bishops in the world, and only about ten of them are active in their opposition, many of whom are retired which shows it is not substantial.’” (the above La Stampa article) Thank God!  That is truly reassuring.


                “Introvigne claims that this opposition ‘is present both on the web and in real life and is overestimated; there are dissidents who write comments on social networks using four or five different pseudonyms, to give the impression there are many of them.’ According to this sociologist, the movement ‘is not successful because it is not united.  There are at least three different kinds of opposition: the political opposition of American foundations, the opposition of Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini [two far right political leaders who are anti-immigrant and share ideas with Donald Trump, one in France and one in Italy] who are not particularly interested in liturgical or moral issues – they often do not even go to church – but in immigration and the Pope’s critique against turbo-capitalism.  Then there is the opposition expressed by those who feel a nostalgia for Benedict XVI but do not contest Vatican II.  And there is the radical opposition of the Society Saint Pius X or the likes of De Mattei and Gnocchi [see above].  This form of opposition rejects the Council and everything that came after it.  Despite support from the odd Church figure, the contradictions between the three standpoints are destined to explode and a common front has no chance of lasting.’  Introvigne pointed out a surprising trait that many of these circles share: ‘It is the mythical idealization of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is presented as a “good” leader in contrast to the “bad” leader, the Pope, because of his stance on homosexual people, Muslims [there it is again – Islamophobia!] and immigrants.  Russian foundations that have strong ties with Putin co-operate with the anti-Francis opposition.” (ibid.)  Let us hope and pray that Introvigne is correct in his overall assessment of the anti-Francis opposition!


                Much of the reality described in the above commentary/reflections scandalized me because I really like our present Holy Father and see him truly as God’s great gift to us.  Some of this reality may have scandalized you too and I am sorry if it did.


                Allow me to make a few concluding remarks now!


                I have lived and ministered in the “old” Church (the one Voris above calls the “actual Church”) and the “new” Church (the one Voris calls the “Nice Church”).  Here are my contrasts of the two and I would like to state that these contrasts are shared by many others who lived in both Churches.

  • The “old” Church tended to be and act like an outdated monarchy from the past.

  • Whenever this Church spoke, everyone (in the Church) jumped to attention.

  • Often this Church kowtowed to the rich and the elite.

  • It operated in an authoritarian way and it was so very judgmental in so many areas and it came across as a “know-it-all”.

  • This Church was really only concerned about Catholics and had little use for our Protestant brothers/sisters and the “perfidious Jews” (Good Friday prayer in the liturgy of the old Church).

  • Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, etc. seemed to be its major concern.

  • This Church did not face its internal sins, e.g., sexual abuse by clergy and the frequent putting down of women and their roles.

  • This Church did not have much of a relationship with the rest of the world; it really did not give a “darn” about it.

  • This “old” Church was dominated thoroughly by Its clerics/clergy; the lay people’s role was “to pay/pray/obey” whereas the clergy appeared as those who had cornered the market on what it meant to be Christian.

  • It was a rare occurrence for the Pope to have any real impact on the world.

  • There was a lot of game-playing in this Church; it was often that the Church would say, “here is the proper way and right way to interpret this religious matter’ and I and so many priestly colleagues searched out (liberal) Catholic theologians whose interpretation made the Church’s statement more livable and at times more human and do-able.

  • In this Church, certain charisms were noted and stressed and others fell by the wayside.

  • The emphasis was on “the soul” – so much so that our spiritual anthropology saw man/woman as a soul slapped unto a material component called the body (which was not very important in terms of our ultimate values).

  • This Church was always neat and tidy and had no loose ends.

  • Important decisions were always made at the top and there was no subsidiarity.

  • Etc., etc.


    Now we look at the “new” Church today.

  • Today we see the Church as a large loving family.

  • Under Pope Francis, the Church is becoming a place of dialogue and conversation where we do not have to “hide” our theological and religious positons.

  • Today the Church, under Francis, is trying to be a Church of the poor and for the poor (and thus more evangelical in the root meaning of that word).

  • Today the Church is certainly concerned about Catholics but also about all God’s children.

  • Today’s Church remains to be a teaching Church but it is also a learning Church.

  • Today’s Church is really trying to face Its internal sins and do something about them.

  • In today’s Church, we are trying to celebrate the charisms of all and every member.

  • The approach today is not based on the (antiquated) soul-splashed-on-the-body image but it is more holistic (wholistic).

  • Things are not as “neat and tidy” today as they were in the past in the Church and today’s Church has more fuzzy areas but is more real.

  • In the new Church, Pope Francis has rightly and brilliantly put conscience formation and conscience decision to the fore; he reminds us in “Amoris Laetitia” that the clergy’s job is not to make conscience decisions for people but to help them make proper conscience decisions.This is putting this question at the right level in the Church and hence is an excellent example of subsidiarity.This is really needed in the church!

  • The Church today is a Church were the members can relax more as human beings: I do not believe God has beautifully and fully created us as total human beings and then wills that we should be uptight!Being believers is a joyful thing – not something about which we should grit our teeth and clench our fists in order to march on.Francis has often stated that being followers of Christ invites us to a joyful journey!However, the Church today challenges us more than it did in the past and we do not have simple distinctions of the past, e.g., the difference between mortal sins and venial sins.(I recall growing up with this distinction among persons who also lived by it: mortal sins were to be avoided at all costs because they send you to hell!The consequence of this type of thinking was that one did not really have to worry about venial sins!I still remember the casuistic living out of these thoughts, e.g., how much can I steal from a company where I work before it becomes a mortal sin?Another example that I am sure will make you laugh!Do you remember the Friday fasts from meat?It was a serious sin to eat meat on Friday.A number of us discovered that 3 ounces of meat eaten on Friday constituted serious/mortal sin according to Church guidelines.So a bunch of us would order hamburgers on Friday but asked the waitresses to make them with only 2 ½ ounces of meat!) What a sham!

  • Today’s Church is much more a Gospel Church.In the old Church, this kind of language was hardly ever used!

  • Etc., etc.

    Much of the improvements of the newer Church are the result of the hard work of Pope Francis!  We thank him for this!


                My final point is three-fold:

  • Really back up our Pope in every way you/I can!

  • We need to challenge any critical disrespectful comments or acts that are in opposition to Francis.

  • Pray for our Pope; pray long and hard.And pray for our Church too.


    May the Risen One strengthen Francis to continue his reforms. Amen.


    Father Fred Scinto, C.R.,

    Resurrection Ministries,

    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


    (519-885-4370 or toll free 1-877-242-7935)