Rorate Caeli

What does "irreversible" mean here? Michael Charlier on the latest moves at the Vatican

Michael Charlier
July 5, 2023
(source in German)

Since taking office, Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed his desire to make the "reforms" he has decreed irreversible.

With the deterioration of his health and the prospect of a new conclave, efforts to that end have intensified. The appointment of his old friend Fernàndez as head of the former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is, after all, only the latest and most scandalous step in this direction to date. Before that, he launched the Synod Express, gave the Curia new rules of procedure, and the Vatican State a new fundamental order. In ten years of reign, he has issued more than 50 motu-proprios over and above Traditionis Custodes, most of which have come about without the participation of the theoretically competent curial authorities and almost always without the involvement of expert opinion. Most of them are nothing but an expression of his unconditional will to put his, Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J.'s, personal stamp on the Church of Christ.

Then there is the personnel policy. The majority of cardinals have been appointed by Francis -- admittedly according to often incomprehensible criteria and almost all without Roman experience and background. In addition, he has appointed notoriously progressive mid-fifties as bishops for a number of important episcopal sees in Europe and the United States, where they are to work in his spirit for decades to come.

Does this mean it's all over? Will Bergoglianism determine the future of the Church?

The Roman Jesuits and the St. Gallen Mafia would like it to be so, but whether they will actually get their way is rather more uncertain today than it was perhaps two or three years ago. The merciless brutality with which Francis & Co. try to enforce their will has not only alienated the majority of the employees in the Roman offices, who have been "working by the rules" for years but otherwise wait for the doom to come to an end. Perhaps less in Germany, but still in quite a few countries, and certainly in North America and Africa, there are, in addition to the laity, many priests, bishops, and yes, even cardinals, who watch the demolition effort with horror, who try to limit the misery at the lower level as far as they can -- but simply do not know how, as a Catholic, to oppose a pope who more and more often gives rise to the question: "Is this still Catholic at all?"

This question is not only on the minds of traditionalists of various degrees of hardness, but also on the minds of many clergy and laity who certainly feel at home in a Church shaped by Vatican II, but who can no longer recognize in the present regime even the recent past [that of John Paul II and Benedict], let alone the older tradition. If this has so far led to more or less open revolt in only a few cases, that is for two reasons: first, Francis and his entourage have made it clear that they do not shy away from unlawful impeachments in order to eliminate recalcitrant or even merely inconvenient prelates. Secondly, of course, because here, too, the age and state of health of the presently so unhappily-reigning pope nourish the expectation that the Lord may soon recall him to his deserved reward and open the way for the election of a new one.

Although the majority of future papal electors have been appointed by Francis, it is simply impossible at this time to predict how the College will behave. In terms of Church politics, most of the new appointees are blank slates, appointed by Francis' apparatus not so much for an ideological orientation known and loved in Rome but for less in-depth reasons, such as, in the first place, to strengthen the "periphery" against the hated "centers," or on the basis of personal acquaintance (mostly superficial), and also to "get one over" on older but unpopular bishops who are therefore passed over when it comes to "promotions." With at least a part of these unknown cardinals, one can assume that they recognize that the course of Francis must necessarily lead to a weakening, if not even to a division, in the Roman Church. So, though appointed by Francis, they will not want to have a "Francis II" and even less a Francis-Plus (like Fernàndez), but will look for a compromise candidate.

Of course, Friedrich von Logau already knew that "in danger and great need, the middle way brings death," so that, according to the situation, only limited relief can be hoped for from a "man of compromise." It will take a lot of help from the Holy Spirit before a future College of Cardinals decides to elect a man for whom, once more, the old joke question "Is the Pope Catholic?" is not a fatuous one.

If and when such a pope then takes office, he will find -- thanks to Francis -- a rich set of instruments to reverse all the unspeakable things that the megalomaniac caudillo tried to impose on "his" church (misunderstanding whose church it actually is). That a pope should unquestioningly repeal the laws of his predecessor and turn his teaching into their opposite -- well, Francis offers the precedents! How to send bishops who defy Roman directives into the desert without much trouble? Look it up in Bergoglio's book. How to react without or against the law in case of need? The Argentinean has demonstrated it.

And precisely there -- the last sentence makes it clear -- lies the great danger and the real catastrophe of Bergoglio's legacy for the Church: the secularist theology of the progressive Jesuits and the despotic official conduct of Jorge Bergogli have damaged the institutions of the Church and the papacy in particular in a way that will be difficult to reverse without falling into the very errors that must be remedied.

Reforms, orders, and personnel decisions "from Rome" can at best improve the conditions for a return; the actual conversion must take place on a much broader basis. No opposition between "below" and "above" is meant to be asserted by this comment, but rather, conversion must grow from below, in breadth, and be encouraged and nurtured from above. It must not spurn the blessing from above, but ask for it. There is, after all, more to be restored and overcome than just the ruins of the one pontificate in which the collapse has become unmistakable.