Rorate Caeli

The Pope's Strength: Does it Come from God or from "the People"?
"Progressives" Make a Pope In Their Own Image

Jacques-Louis David
Le Serment du Jeu de Paume le 20 juin 1789 [The Tennis Court Oath on June 20, 1789], c. 1791
Musée Carnavalet

The ultra-"progressive" founder of the interreligious community of Sant'Egidio, and also former (unelected...) minister of the Italian government, Andrea Riccardi (more about him here), is one of those ideologues who have never received a vote in their lives but think they can better describe what "the people" want.

In an interview to French weekly L'Express published this Friday, he reaches the height of "progressive" populism. In his view, the strength of the Pope comes not from God, but "the people."

"The strength of Pope Francis is the people"
On which allies can the Argentine pope count?

His strength is the people. In my view, he has achieved an alliance, not with the Church's hierarchy, but with the faithful, to whom he gives orientations, but without decreeing to them, "You must do like this, or like that." He appeals to the liberty and responsibility of Christians, who come by the way massively to Saint Peter Square to see him. In the Anglo-Saxon world, his glow is particularly strong. A well-known American journalist has told me, "He's become our new Mandela." He has conquered Germany, that had turned its back on Benedict. Among you, in France, he does even better than John Paul II, who had connections, such as Jean-Marie Lustiger. Francis raises enthusiasm by himself. He is not submitted to the media, it is the media that turns towards him.

It must first be made clear that this was never said by the Pope, who was not elected by "the people," but by a very restricted and exclusive Church structure -- revolutionary populism is what "progressives" want to make the Pope look like, a Pope in their own image.

This populism must be denounced from the outset.

First, as much as we criticize the horrid crisis of Bishops which is the central crisis of the Church, it is anti-Catholic to separate Pope, Bishops, and Faithful. Second, the Bishops are also Christian faithful: the lay faithful are not a separate people. Third, if he wants to insist on an identification of the people as a separate entity, then Riccardi and similar "progressives" must remember that when the "people," as an entity separated from God and His hierarchy, chose anything away from the strength that comes from God, the people chose wrongly -- be the people's choosing of Korah over Moses, of the Golden Calf, of Barabbas over Our Lord, demanding His death. But this has always been the epitome of revolutionary thought: create a people that agrees with them, they who are the "avant-garde", and manipulate this revolutionized people, separating it from the order established by God for His Church.

What is even more harrowing is that what Riccardi, and the numerous "progressive" circles he represents with his words, proclaim is the absolute opposite of what Our Lord Jesus Christ himself said:

Woe, when all men speak well of you, for after this manner did their fathers to the false prophets. (Lk 6:26)

Riccardi's program, the "progressive" program, has a name, and it's revolutionary: it's the Sillon, that French Catholic social movement gone frightfully bad, and which displayed a particularly pernicious and interreligious aspect of Modernism.

Our dear pope of most holy memory, Saint Pius X, whose centennial of death we are celebrating on August 20, had much to say on this in a letter to the Bishops of France that is well known -- and if you have never read, we highly recommend it, Notre Charge Apostolique:

For the rest, if the people remain the holders of power, what becomes of authority? A shadow, a myth; there is no more law properly so-called, no more obedience. The Sillon acknowledges this: indeed, since it demands that threefold political, economic, and intellectual emancipation in the name of human dignity, the Future City in the formation of which it is engaged will have no masters and no servants. All citizens will be free; all comrades, all kings. A command, a precept would be viewed as an attack upon their freedom; subordination to any form of superiority would be a diminishment of the human person, and obedience a disgrace. Is it in this manner, Venerable Brethren, that the traditional doctrine of the Church represents social relations, even in the most perfect society? Has not every community of people, dependent and unequal by nature, need of an authority to direct their activity towards the common good and to enforce its laws? And if perverse individuals are to be found in a community (and there always are), should not authority be all the stronger as the selfishness of the wicked is more threatening? Further, - unless one greatly deceives oneself in the conception of liberty - can it be said with an atom of reason that authority and liberty are incompatible? Can one teach that obedience is contrary to human dignity and that the ideal would be to replace it by “accepted authority”? Did not St. Paul the Apostle foresee human society in all its possible stages of development when he bade the faithful to be subject to every authority? Does obedience to men as the legitimate representatives of God, that is to say in the final analysis, obedience to God, degrade Man and reduce him to a level unworthy of himself? Is the religious life which is based on obedience, contrary to the ideal of human nature? Were the Saints - the most obedient men, just slaves and degenerates? Finally, can you imagine social conditions in which Jesus Christ, if He returned to earth, would not give an example of obedience and, further, would no longer say: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”?
In the first place, its brand of Catholicism accepts only the democratic form of government which it considers the most favorable to the Church and, so to speak, identifies it with her. The Sillon , therefore, subjects its religion to a political party. We do not have to demonstrate here that the advent of universal Democracy is of no concern to the action of the Church in the world; we have already recalled that the Church has always left to the nations the care of giving themselves the form of government which they think most suited to their needs. What We wish to affirm once again, after Our Predecessor, is that it is an error and a danger to bind down Catholicism by principle to a particular form of government. This error and this danger are all the greater when Religion is associated with a kind of Democracy whose doctrines are false. But this is what the Sillon is doing. For the sake of a particular political form, it compromises the Church, it sows division among Catholics, snatches away young people and even priests and seminarians from purely Catholic action, and is wasting away as a dead loss part of the living forces of the nation.
[L]et not these priests be misled, in the maze of current opinions, by the miracles of a false Democracy. Let them not borrow from the Rhetoric of the worst enemies of the Church and of the people, the high-flown phrases, full of promises; which are as high-sounding as unattainable. Let them be convinced that the social question and social science did not arise only yesterday; that the Church and the State, at all times and in happy concert, have raised up fruitful organizations to this end; that the Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances, does not have to free herself from the past; that all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the true workers for a social restoration, the organisms which the Revolution shattered, and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new environment arising from the material development of today’s society. Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.

May the Pope be received by exactly what he says, and by exactly how he acts -- we have no further need of revolutionary distortion of what he himself never said or did. Quite the opposite, he has more than once recalled the Ignatian concept of the Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church. As a man quite familiar with the Bible, as all his faithful predecessors, and as all his future faithful successors, we are sure he would not hesitate to reaffirm that his strength is not "in the people," but that he, as we all, is "strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of His power." (Ephesians 6:10)


One further note: it is pretty impressive, and quite typical "progressive" modus operandi, that Riccardi practically dismisses Benedict XVI as a leper -- the "Church in Germany," he says, for instance, "turned his back on him." Which may be true -- but there is absolutely no sign that this improved at all in 2013, despite the impact of the election and of Pope Francis' words and acts, beginning already in the first quarter.

Yet, it must be recalled, Benedict XVI did everything Riccardi and Sant'Egidio asked of him. He missed no meeting, no meal. And, most importantly, he even put himself in an untenable position, considering his well-known criticism of aspects of Assisi I, by doing all that Riccardi and Sant'Egidio asked of him in the third interreligious meeting of Assisi (Assisi III, 2011), a Riccardi production from start to finish. This is how Church progressives pay the favors done to them by Papa Ratzinger! "Progressives" in the Curia abandoned him to the lions (remember Regensburg, and how the Pope was abandoned then?), "progressives" in the Curia and in the world set him up, despite his serene acceptance of all their requests. Now, he is a pariah. Quite a warning, and not the first one in history.