Rorate Caeli

Influential Italian Vaticanist, bewildered, reaches shocking conclusion:
"In the Catholic Church, it's now Open Season on Conservatives"

That is the title of the most recent post of the most experienced, and of the most influential, Vaticanists in Italy -- Marco Tosatti, the senior religion writer for La Stampa.

Church: Open Season on Conservatives



We hope to be mistaken, as it often happens, fortunately; but the impression we have from a series of small signs is that, in reality, the Church of Pope Francis has opened hunting [season] on "conservatives"; a word that, as always in such cases, is sufficiently generic to be used against a wide range of persons.

The most striking case remains that of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, an order intervened by [higher] authority with extremely harsh procedures, and without clear motives ever having been given, except a generic indictment of a Traditionalist drift.

I confess that, before their decapitation, the Franciscans of the Immaculate did not have a position of any relevance in my life; good Catholics, people -- certainly not traditionalists -- linked to the Church now speak well of them to me; others signal certain eccentricities, or excessive personalisms of the founder (but how many order founders, ancient or recent, do not display these excesses?).

In short, in the absence of serious and weighty reasons, I must think that what happened was an internal war, fought out in the name of the Pope, with the cruelty that is typical of closed environments, and all that is related to the liturgy. Under the appearance of mercy. But in addition to the hallmark case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, there is a proliferation of single cases, small and not so small things, that make one who is skilled in the ecclesiastical world ponder that a process has been set in motion, that is undeclared but no less effective for this reason. It is thought that the Pope does not like anything that is traditionalism, in particular in the liturgy; that, even if he officially defends the decisions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in this field, choices that were clearly ones of openness to that world, deep down he has different sensibilities

Czech bishop Jan Graubner, speaking about the audience of past February 14, declared to Vatican Radio: "When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. "When I search more thoroughly - the Pope said - I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: 'móda']. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us."

There could be some argument on this point. Also by observing which religious orders gather more favor among the young, from the point of view of vocations. But what matters to us only is to observe that perhaps those who ascribe to the Pope little fondness for that world are not mistaken. And, in the Curia, which is nevertheless always a Court, even if the Sovereign, instead of living in his Apartments, lives in the barracks of the King's Musketeers, there is great ability in sensing this atmosphere. And to act accordingly.

Therefore, there are reports of priests judged too conservative by their own orders to whom it was not granted to profess those particular vows typical of their own order; promotions -- and demotions -- in the dicasteries of the Curia, judged based on the "progressivism" or "conservatism" of those interested. Even reaching possible decisions at a much higher level, related to the relocation of Cardinals considered "conservative" to mid-level dioceses, instead of greater positions [lit. ad maiora].

One of the latest news comes from New York, where a South African priest, attaché to the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, deeply attached to the Mass according to the Ancient Rite (the Mass in the Extraordinary Form), delivered a sermon in which he underlined the need to have priests who had love and sensibility for the Ancient Rite. The homily appeared on the Internet. After which the priest was dismissed from all his Mass-celebrating obligations, and it seems he will soon return to South Africa.

Small things, but which when woven together form a fabric. The impression is that the work accomplished by Benedict XVI to give citizenship back to various sensibilities within the Church is about to be cancelled. What a shame! It was in fact Vittorio Messori, a long time ago, that the Catholic Church is based on the et-et [and-and: and the one, and the other], on the living together of Catholics who are diverse, but united, while the sects are the ones that practice the aut-aut [either-or: either the one, or the other]. Pope Bergoglio certainly does not want a Church of the aut-aut; but perhaps there is a problem of "Bergoglistas", by conviction or by opportunism, who think they will meet his favor.


Rorate note: We emphasized above what is the essential conclusion: whatever may be the sensibilities of the Pope, what he or any other Pontiff will never be able to end is the spirit of Court life. The spirit of Court life is not related to monarchical or republican sensibilities (it is certainly much stronger in today's White House, for instance, than in the court of Saint Louis), to living in a palace or in a cupboard -- it is a general spirit related to knowing where power lies, and trying to meet the favor of the man in power, most often than not by being as crass as possible in the defense of what the Courtier thinks is his master's preference, whether or not it is so. And if the man in power is truly powerful and centers all major decisions in himself, then the adulation of his Courtiers, and their decisions to meet his favor, become more and more extreme. It falls upon the Sovereign to see that a balance is found -- what is true, in any event, is that, at no moment in the past 60 years, or even earlier in the past century, has there been a greater truly Court-like atmosphere in the Vatican, even if it is a "Progressive" Court. Because the Court spirit that matters for history is not that of marbles, jewelry, apartments, draperies, tapestries and...butlers, but that of power, misguided flattery, strong decisions, rancor, and tragic overreaching. (Why, we are now reaching the 100th anniversary of a conflict that could have been avoided if these Court-like characteristics had been toned down by more cautious Sovereigns.)

[Source: Marco Tosatti in La Stampa - in Italian. On update of Holy See spokesman's declaration on pope's meeting with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, please see our post here.]