Rorate Caeli

The Sunset of a Papacy. Pope Francis also has his fans against him. By Antonio Socci


Antonio Socci


June 16, 2021

What is happening in the Catholic Church? Are we on the verge of an earthquake? There are lots of signs that would induce us to think so, and the article by Alberto Melloni from the columns of “La Repubblica” yesterday, is really quite sensational, revealing, as it does, the severe split on the part of some progressive Catholics from Pope Francis, whom they used to support enthusiastically.

Melloni, symbol of the “School of Bologna” and the “progressive wing of the Church – initiates his indictment by highlighting that the German Cardinal Marx, in his recent letter of  resignation, “was in effect asking for the Pope’s resignation”.

Marx is the leader of the powerful and affluent German Episcopate, which, through its Synod, seems to want a revolution. The German bishops are historically the supporters of Bergoglio, but their undue haste is not endorsed by him, and now they are plainly disappointed.

Melloni then cites other recent episodes, like the Papal Decree limiting to ten years “the mandate  of the leaders and bodies of lay ecclesial movements”. A norm – according to Melloni – that “constricts the rights of the faithful” and “establishes  the liquidation of the leaders presently serving, in the name of an ideologically defined good.”

Moreover, this is about the leaders of the movements, who are very much aligned to the Bergoglian Papacy and who, these past years, have practically faded away: you no longer see their vitality, nor their public appearances (and [therefore] in my view, the decree has some positive aspects).

Then Melloni criticizes the banishment of Enzo Bianchi from his community, which he in fact retains  “harmful to the ecumenical credibility of the Church”.

He then attacks the inspection of the Congregation of the Clergy, ordered by Bergoglio –an “action” Melloni says “that is unprecedented and useless…illustrating what roughness those who have served the Pope loyally are treated with– for example, the retiring Prefect, Cardinal Stella,

It should be borne in mind that Cardinal Stella is thought to be one of the strategists in Bergoglio’s election of 2013, therefore this is another serious rupture in the Pontiff’s world.  Melloni criticizes likewise “the audit of the Vicariate of Rome” arranged by Bergoglio, who is charged with giving ‘credence to chatter”.  

Melloni is extremely harsh about the entire Cardinal Becciu affair. In his view it is likely that “the indictment is still extremely fragile” and we would want to “avoid  a pointed defense which would send world-wide, a trial of the central government.”

Behind these and other episodes, Melloni explains: “some see the excessive influx of coarse advisors; others his authoritarian attitude […..…].  But the increase in such cases, according to the progressive intellectual, “is preparing for a tempest”.

It is not the first “missile” raining down on Bergoglio from the clerical left. But now his increasing isolation appears clear: it’s enough to consider the cases listed by Melloni (Cardinal Marx and the German Bishops, the lay ecclesial movements, Enzo Bianchi, Cardinal Becciu, the Vicariate) to realize that they are all figures and worlds supporting him.

The Argentine Pope is a complex personality, at times difficult to decipher. Some of his initial  emphases on Jesus  touched deep cords like the need for mercy for modern man, but the Gospel says the Good Shepherd is also the Truth made Flesh and asks for conversion.  

In his present solitude, the Pope finds himself having to acknowledge bitterly that his Papacy, for some time now, has been precipitating towards painful failure.

Even the historical leader of the Community of St. Egidio, Andrea Riccardi, for whom the Vatican is a second home, published a book entitled: “The Church is burning: the crisis and future of Christianity”, where he envisions an apocalyptic scenario: “the end of Catholicism” and “a world without the Church”.

If you consider how Bergoglio was acclaimed at the very beginning by the ecclesiastical world (the dream was: a triumphant “Bergoglio effect” ) you can understand how intense the disillusionment is today.

After these past eight years – the Church – has not flourished, but appears annihilated.  Religious life is in a comatose state. The Church’s central government, in the Vatican, is in permanent chaos.  Confusion, even doctrinal, reigns supreme in the entire ecclesial community. The balance of Sunday Mass attendance is devastating and vocations are now in free-fall (among other things, with the collapse of sacramental marriages). The clergy and the bishops seem to have gone adrift.

Those who thought that breaking with the great pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI would have assured a bright future, are today disproved.  Those –like Bergoglio -  perhaps with the best intentions –  who were under the illusion that the Church, by immerging itself in the world, could be invigorated, today are witnessing a historical defeat.  

On the other hand, the sociologists of religion – like Rodney Stark – had demonstrated this for years (after all, the Gospel says that if salt loses its flavor it becomes unusable).

Today the voice of the Church cannot be distinguished from that of the United Nations.  The voice of Peter does not counter the dominant, secular, leftist ideologies;  actually it is often in harmony with them  - and -  with such politicization – generates bewilderment in the faithful and enthusiasm for the all-time enemies of the Church.

Apart from rare interventions from Benedict XVI, you no longer hear a Catholic voice directing believers and  all peoples, in continuity with the constant Magisterium of the Church. Never has the Church been so conformist and so irrelevant in the world on questions of enormous importance for all of mankind.

They have created a “desert” and called it “revolution”. But every revolution devours its children and now there has been a rupture between Bergoglio and his supporters.

The current crisis might induce him into resigning (probably not) or carry on desperately, awaiting the “tempest”  announced by Melloni.

In conclusion, there is a third possibility: Pope Francis could acknowledge that the attempt to give a future to the Church by adapting it to a worldly mentality has failed and the right road is that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It seems impossibile -  like miracles.  But they can happen.  

Today great courage is needed of course to recapture the heroic way of Popes Wojtyla and Ratzinger, because this is a time of persecutions.   Benedict XVI, in his last intervention, affirmed that “the real threat to the Church, and thus for the Petrine Service, comes from the universal dictatorship of ideologies apparently humanistic; contradicting them involves exclusion by the basic consensus of society.”  

Ratzinger listed the dogmas of these ideologies, underlining that “today those who oppose them are socially excommunicated….  Modern society” he added “ intends formulating an anti-Christian credo: those who contest it are punished by social excommunication.  Being afraid of this spiritual power of the Anti-Christ is all too natural.”

But Francis (besides God) would have Benedict XVI at his side and all the remaining faithful Catholics of the world -  and there are many. In this way the Church could truly help in the freeing and freedoms of people.


Translation: Contributor, Francesca Romana