Rorate Caeli

"The New Pope": What Will Be the Tasks of the Next Pope? - by Archbishop Héctor Agüer


Archbishop Héctor Agüer
Abp. Emeritus of La Plata, Argentina
August 24, 2023

The College of Cardinals has acquired an unusual breadth. How far we are from some pontifical elections, decided by a handful of members of this traditional protagonist of the high point of ecclesial life! History is more than eloquent. It is not possible to dwell too much on the search for models. Just one example: in the conclave of 1458, Enea Silvio Piccolomini -an expert in Latin verses-, thwarted the arrangements of an ambitious Frenchman, and without wanting or looking for it, he himself was elected: Pius II; there were 18 cardinals. Today, the exorbitant number of red hats makes it impossible to foresee a name as the future Successor of Peter. Several friends ask me to outline what the pontificate that succeeds the languishing Francis should be like, taking into account the very serious situation of the Church, disguised by Vatican propaganda.

Here is the attempt. 

First of all, it is necessary to ensure the Truth of the authentic Catholic doctrine, to overcome the progressive myths that undermine it, and that the current Pontiff raises as his agenda. The Light comes from the New Testament, which bears witness to the apostolic work that the Twelve - and, above all, St. Paul - transmitted as a mandate to their immediate successors, and which designs the organization of the Church, the source of nascent Christianity.

The Apostle Paul commends his disciple Timothy: "I charge you (diamartyromai) before God and Christ Jesus, who is to come to judge the living and the dead, by his epiphany and by his Kingdom: preach the Word of God, urge with occasion or without occasion, argue, rebuke, exhort, with unwearied patience, and zealous teaching. For the time will come when men will no longer endure sound teaching, but according to their lust they will seek out teachers to flatter their ears, and turn their attention away from the truth and be converted to myths" (2 Tim 4:1-4). St. Paul goes on to exhort, as the Church will do throughout the centuries: "Be vigilant in everything"; this is what the Inquisition did in the face of heresies and schisms. This task makes the work of evangelization, of fulfilling the ministry (diakonia) to perfection, burdensome. One of the progressive arguments is to disqualify this endeavor as if it were contrary to Christianity. This is the confrontation of the New Testament with the worldly conception of the Church, to the point of the current Pontificate's misguidance. What the Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his Diary in 1848 applies to this case: "Just now, when there is talk of reorganizing the Church, it is clear how little Christianity there is in it". The same author describes this situation as "unfortunate illusion".

 The new Pope will have to steer the Church in the direction indicated by that Pauline exhortation; it is what the mystical Bride of Christ did in her best times. It is essential to vindicate the Truth of doctrine, which has been undermined and neglected by relativism. Progressive approaches have left the Church enclosed in the enclosure of Practical Reason, whose moralism has replaced the contemplative dimension that is proper to the Faith, and to the proposal of the fullness to which all the faithful are called, according to the vocation to holiness that springs from Baptism.

Together with the doctrinal recovery, the restoration of the Liturgy should be sought, which, according to its nature, must be exact, solemn and beautiful. This motto refers especially to the Roman Rite, which has been ruined by the improvisation that abominates the ritual character of the liturgical mystery. Francis' motu proprio Traditiones custodes arbitrarily imposes the opposite of what Benedict XVI had reoriented, and of the spirit of freedom recovered according to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum; the recovery of the mystical and aesthetic dimensions of the sacramental character of the Liturgy is desired. The Eastern Rites are also called to strengthen their respective traditions, overcoming the contagion of the desacralization that directly affects the Roman Rite.

The above-mentioned tasks can only be carried out through the enlightened zeal of bishops and priests worthily formed in the spirit of the great Catholic Tradition, which can still be found in the decrees Christus Dominus and Presbyterorum Ordinis, of the Second Vatican Council. Recent history shows that the worldwide imposition of progressivism had as its germ the corruption of the traditional Seminary, made mundane by a deficient theology, and an "opening" under the spell of a supposed "aggiornamento". The misunderstanding took shape under the pretext of evangelization: instead of converting the world to the Truth, and to the Grace of Christ, the Church was converted to the world, losing her essential identity. With these erroneous criteria, several generations of priests were formed. This process of decadence must be reversed. The institution of the Seminary is still valid; at the time alternatives have been tried but have not obtained the expected solution. A recovery of the Seminary does not imply a copy of what it was before the general disruption. The institution can adapt, since it is not bad in itself, to the new situation and to the new needs. These have to be recognized with sobriety and discretion, avoiding an exhibition that would allow the progressive officialdom -which will not disappear immediately- to activate its resources of proscription, until the new pontificate is fully established.

The bishop should be directly responsible for the Seminary, although he should make use of the collaboration of well-formed priests who are prepared to sincerely assume the orientation that the bishop wishes to implement in the diocese.

 St. John Paul II has bequeathed to the Church a vast magisterium on the family. When it was pronounced and -in good quantity- written, the "gender perspective" had not yet reached the cultural prominence that it acquired shortly afterwards. Pope Wojtyla presents the natural and Christian constitution of the male-female reality; children as the most natural thing in the world, that which is, and, therefore, must continue to be. Benedict XVI adds a reflection on the metaphysical concept of nature. This abundant and profound magisterium must be taken up again, and projected on the new social and cultural problems: the Family founded on marriage has been replaced by "the couple", which is by no means indissoluble and, therefore, can be changed successively. I omit, now, to speak of the wrongly called "same-sex marriage". Marriage as a reality of civil value has disappeared; the sacramental one does not imply any fatigue for those who should bless it, as is their duty. I do not believe that Catholic engaged couples are aware that they are called to be the ministers of a Sacrament that they give to each other (because Marriage is a yoke!).

Closely related to the question of the family is the value of human life; this issue is a very important chapter of Christian morality. The next pontificate will have to face a more than necessary task: to overcome the negative legacy of the "aggiornamento", crowned by the current progressivism. It will have to rescue moral theology from the relativism that holds it hostage; in this endeavor it will have to resolve the drama of Humanae Vitae. This encyclical, published on July 25, 1968, was not accepted by vast sectors of the Church: several Episcopal Conferences pronounced themselves against it; they were encouraged by the unanimity of journalism, which incarnated "public opinion". A great confusion arose among the faithful, so that many of them justified the practice of using the means that the encyclical of Paul VI declared objectively immoral. Rome will have to take up again the arguments of that text to show its truth, taking into account the fulfillment of the provisions of Humanae vitae. The crisis unleashed by this encyclical carried over into the new millennium. The misunderstanding produced a situation analogous to the crises unleashed by dogmatic questions at the beginning of Christianity. The next pontificate will have to untie this knot. The appeal to the intercession of the Untier of Knots is unavoidable. Mary is indeed the one who "unties the knots". There is something apocalyptic in the drama of Humane vitae.

The problem I have just dealt with is a chapter of a larger question: the relationship of the Church with the so-called "modern world", which was not resolved with the Second Vatican Council, but on the contrary, was aggravated by it, victim of the illusions that concealed the spread of a new gnosis. The doctrines of Karl Rahner and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin monopolized the attention of Catholic theology: the Rahnerian theory of the "anonymous Christian" and Teilhardian evolutionism, which was itself a religion, had an undeniable influence on 20th century Christian thought.

 With regard to this question of the Church's relations with the contemporary world, it is opportune to recall that in the preparation of Vatican II, the so-called Schema 13 became important and created expectations, an antecedent that would become the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, a text that together with the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, on the Church, were the most relevant documents of the Council. There is an event that explains the tone of how the aforementioned question of Church-world relations was conceived. John XXIII wanted the participation of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church as observers of the Council debates. Cardinal Eugène Tisserant was in charge of the negotiations necessary to ensure this participation; the following agreement was reached: the Orthodox would attend on condition that the Council refrained from condemning communism. Two Russian Orthodox prelates (who were probably spies for the Kremlin) actually participated. This episode is eloquent in showing the spirit in which Vatican II approached Church-world relations. We should add a naïve optimism, inspired from the beginning by Pope Roncalli, who in his opening speech severely charged against the "prophets of calamity". Of course, he was the "good Pope".

In this note I have gathered together some of the problems that constitute swamps in which the Church is bogged down. They are not the only ones, but those that I consider priorities that the current reality will impose on the efforts of the next Pontiff. In short, to free the Church from the deadly plague of progressivism.