Rorate Caeli

For the Church, it is the End of an Age:

In the Covid-19 crisis, Pope Francis has forgone the transcendental approach of his predecessors: for the Church, it is the End of an Age: it has de facto abandoned its relationship with the Divinity

Domenico Cacòpardo
April 8, 2020
Among the many things archived by the Corona virus, there is one which is rather dramatic, but possibly temporary: it is the Catholic Church.  The resulting impression is that it will have difficulty in recovering from this shock. I write this as an unbeliever, though for family reasons, I have been a frequenter of  priests, friars and the Vatican.  

The Christmas festivities of 1981 come to mind. 

One evening I was crossing St. Peter’s Square with my uncle, my mother’s brother, a Monsignor of the Holy Office, at that time, a Canon of St. Peter’s.  We encountered a diminutive priest carrying a folder in his hand, all alone. They greeted each other, then my uncle introduced me in the customary manner: “This is my nephew, Domenico”.  After they had exchanged a few words in German (my uncle had studied and taught theology in Fribourg), we continued on our way. Not without a comment from my relative though: “An excellent German theologian; finally we have a good theologian at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”  This was the name the Holy Office had adopted.

It was none other than Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger. The second Pope I have met: the first was Albino Luciani, the Patriarch of Venice when I was the President of the Water Authority there.  In short, I was part of a family from religious circles and I respected them as I still do today, all the while keeping my agnosticism intact. 

Well then, over the past few weeks the Corona Virus has led to the egress of the transcendent and the magical in religion.  Reproducing what happened in Milan on Tuesday June 11, 1629  has not crossed anyone’s mind.   That day Cardinal Federico Borromeo led a solemn procession asking a grace from St. Charles Borromeo (another uncle). The procession proceeded impressively through Milan’s main streets and all the citizens who were still able to stand on their feet took part in it, but infection, due to the amassing, spread the plague in an even greater way and the sick increased at an astonishing rate.  

And it is a fact, that the Church has accepted the secular choice of isolation which resulted in the artistic depiction of its defeat in that ceremony officiated by Pope Francis, alone and powerless, in St. Peter’s Square. Not even recourse to the Christ of the Plague (which had in the 17th century, performed the miracle) stirred up the faith, imagination or superstition of a population now secularized and incapable of belief.  

We have to say however, that this phenomenon so desolating for the Church-hierarchal, for the Church-community, for the Church-terminal of interests, is connected to the change of lifestyle introduced by liberal, or at any rate, modern societies, and the style introduced by Pope Francis himself. By transferring his magisterium internal to contemporary political thought, by proclaiming assertions all of which internal to society and the sociological, he has, de facto, discarded the bond with the transcendent, so vigilantly cared for by his predecessors and from which they drew strength for their pastoral authority.  Yesterday, in fact, he made a declaration that gave ( on what grounds?) a ‘report-card’ on the governments’ ways of handling the pandemic crisis.

For that matter, Francis’ Church is an implacable, fluid church, in no way mediatrix between man and the Divinity.  Francis’ Church hasn’t even dealt with the modernist reforms;  those, according to many exponents of religious contemporaneity, that were pressing: women priests and married priests: a way to get back into society without abandoning the hieratic re- composition of the Body of Christ constituted by His Church spread throughout the world. As has happened to many reformists on many levels, Bergoglio, the Reformist  has come to a definitive halt, faced with the dimensions of the necessary reforms. Pope John XXIII had dealt with the question by having recourse to a Council – a collective instrument for the redefinition of the Church. 

Now, at the present moment, apart from the usual expected words (predictably the same from the North to the South Pole) of  earthly consolation for the deceased (given that the meadows of Paradise are beautiful imagery that few hearts are open to in our times) he has said nothing about the tragedy that has hit the world: he hasn’t been able to accuse humanity because of its sinfulness. He hasn’t been able to accuse the Devil since nobody thinks he exists and is active. He hasn’t been able to invoke the Faith as an emotional device to combat the disease; that Faith which in many instances in past times, made it possible to accept death as a manifestation of the unfathomable will of God. 

He confined himself to the tacit liturgies of a Pope who seemed, (and perhaps he really is) overwhelmed by fate. In other words, the shepherd has left his flock in the sheepfold, knowing well he doesn’t have any earthly instruments – and most importantly any heavenly ones -  to lead them to pasture away from the Covid -19 wolves. 

The absence of the Church on the spiritual and civic level has been made evident by the awkward attempt at substitution by Matteo Salvini, a person ontologically far from Tridentine, Catholic traditional values, as updated by Vatican II. 

In any case, the problem remains, given that once the Corona Virus is archived, nobody from St. Peter’s Square or from the balcony in the sacred palaces will be able to vindicate their roles when the pestilence is over. The former People of God, Catholicism, has already ushered in the “free all” for some years now, since the arrival of Bergoglio.

Domenico Cacòpardo is a magistrate, writer and radio-broadcaster.

Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana