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Is unity the essential ingredient that we are missing in the Church?

Updated: Feb 29

I wonder increasingly at the ever-growing rift I see in the Catholic Church today. Over the last eleven years or so, this rift appears to have grown into a mighty chasm, exacerbated by the Pope himself, singling out various groups of Catholics and attacking them with name calling and even canonical censure.


In the wake of the various divisions stirred up by Pope Francis’ novel approach to the papacy, we have found numerous “bannermen” rise up, prepared to defend, or, in the worst examples, completely overlook, the clear and obvious problems with the Bergoglian papacy.


Rather awkwardly, 'team Francis' seem to consistently choose incredibly unqualified people to do their dirty work and then toss them aside when they are no longer useful and their incompetency is unmasked – Father Thomas Rosica for example, a Basilian priest born in America who ministered in Canada. Rosica served as the Vatican's English language spokesperson for the transition in the papacy during February and March, 2013 and as media advisor at the Vatican for the October 2015 Synod of Bishops, the Synod on the Family. Very quickly, questions arose about whether Rosica was controlling the narrative using his role as English-speaking spokesman to stress those contributions that pushed a so-called “progressive” agenda. Rosica had a rather startling, fawning adulation of Pope Francis which went beyond saying that Francis is like Jesus, that would be one thing, but he literally, made it sound as though he was describing Jesus Himself:


Since 2015, Rosica was regularly accused of plagiarism in his publications, blog postings, and speeches. In June 2019, he stepped down from the position of CEO of Salt & Light TV. Later that same month, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that it had retracted Rosica's works published by the CCCB because the works "failed to provide all the appropriate citations, as well as bibliographic references, and did not acknowledge a number of original sources". Rosica took full responsibility for the "lack of oversight."

In 2020, Rosica's plagiarism was found to extend to text that he ghostwrote for Cardinal Marc Ouellet.


In 2022, new plagiarism accusations were brought against Rosica concerning two new articles published in Il Sismografo, a Vatican-based news aggregator.

This is just one example you may have forgotten. There is a huge cast of embarrassing individuals associated with the papacy of Pope Francis.


Notorious anti-theologian & Francis apologist Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who, it has now been revealed, was actually present at a homosexual drug-fuelled party raided by the Vatican police in the summer of 2017 at which his secretary, Monsignor Luigi Capozzi, was arrested. Just as Cardinal Ouellet was wheeled out to defend Francis against Archbishop Viganò, so Cardinal Coccopalmerio was wheeled out to defend Francis against criticism of Amoris Laetitia. The only difference was the inept Cardinal failed to turn up to his own presser. (Coccopalmerio retains his Vatican apartment, unlike faithful Cardinal Raymond Burke).


Father Antonio Spadaro, who famously said 2 + 2 = 5, and who, if he didn’t instigate the war between the Vatican and US Catholics, has certainly fanned the flames. Despite his embarrassing contributions, he was recently appointed as the undersecretary for the Dicastery for Culture and Education by Pope Francis, a position the Jesuit priest will take after over a decade leading an influential Catholic journal in Rome. 


Father Spadaro will assume office on Jan. 1, 2024, the Vatican said in an announcement. The priest had previously served as the editor of the Jesuit-run La Civiltà Cattolica for 12 years. 


Honestly, I could write a book, ex-Cardinal MCarrick was rehabilitated by Pope Francis, a fact that was celebrated by progressive Catholic media outlets like the National Catholic Reporter before he was exposed and defrocked (see here). Gustavo Zanchetta, now behind bars, Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga the man known as “the vice pope”, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, promoted to camerlengo at the same time that his mentor Theodore McCarrick was defrocked, Cardinal Godried Danneels rehabilitated by Pope Francis and selected as one of his personal choices for the 2014 Synod on the family; Monsignor Battista Ricca, reportedly Francis’s “eyes and ears at the Vatican Bank.” Ricca was widely known for engaging in affairs with men at different posts during his clerical career. He was attacked in an area of Montevideo known for cruising, and he had to be rescued from an elevator in which he was trapped with a rent boy. (It was a question about Ricca that Francis made the occasion of his headline-grabbing statement “Who am I to judge?”). Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia who commissioned a homoerotic mural in his former Italian cathedral in which he is portrayed as clasping a semi-naked man. While Catholic critics have called the work “blasphemous," "disgusting," and even "demonic,”  Paglia explained the mural was meant to be an “evangelising” tool. Right-o Vincenzo!


This roster is still inchoate, and I haven’t even mentioned the laymen: Stephen Walford (remember him?), Austen Ivereigh, Rich Raho, MJ Lewis. It's nothing short of embarrassing when these individuals they try to engage with people who have actually studied.

In a recent column, Where Peter Is founder MJ Lewis opines:


“But on the whole, if we Catholics are serious about reforming the Church — healing wounds, evangelizing, going out to the periphery, clearing out rot and corruption in our clerical structures — we cannot allow ourselves to be held back by those who are trying to shift gears into reverse.”


The degree of myopia and wilful blindness required to come to the conclusions Mike does in this article is, frankly, mind-boggling! Pope Francis is certainly trying to reform the Church, it's just that the reforms he is trying to push through, in such an authoritarian way, are certainly not what Mike suggests they are!


"Healing wounds," Pope Francis has reignited the liturgy wars, locked faithful Catholics out of their churches, attacked seminarians, fired bishops without due process - there's a list as long as your arm of the wounds he has caused!


"Evangelizing," Pope Francis has failed miserably on this front - Catholicism is in decline in the West and he has contributed to an exodus to Orthodoxy, in the Middle East he signed a document with Islam saying God wants “a plurality of religions”, the whole continent of Africa, the place where the Catholic Church is growing fastest, has formally rejected him and in the Far East, he sold out faithful Catholics for money. Just where has he promoted a growth in people following Jesus?


"Going out to the periphery" I still don't even really know what this actually means or why we would want it? For Francis, it appears to mean appointing cardinals from tiny, far away non Catholic countries like Brunei and constantly signalling that sin doesn't matter.

"clearing out rot and corruption in our clerical structures" is he serious? As the preamble above demonstrates, Pope Francis has introduced the rot and corruption!

I’m sure we all want to heal wounds, evangelise and clear out the rot (not so sure about the peripheries) but after eleven years, you have to look at the Pope Francis project and say that if these were its goals, it has failed on every conceivable metric!


Earlier Lewis declares dialogue a complete failure, stating:


“The damage done by the people in the indietrist movement is real, but no individual can stop it. The only way they’ll ever change is if they respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. The painful truth is that we can’t dialogue with the devil. And much of the opposition to the teaching of Pope Francis is straight from the bowels of hell.”  


If he was paying attention, he would have recognised a major theme of Francis' papacy is that opponents of the Church are bearers of the Imago Dei to be dialogued with rather than an amalgamation of bad ideas to be recognised and condemned. Indeed, in Amoris laetitia 35, the Pope says we should not "try to impose rules by sheer authority" (rather ironic given his own actions I know), but rather to make a "responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations". Which is a reminder that demands to obey have their place, but they aren't actually dialogue. How ironic then that one who would claim his mantle should insist on doing the opposite?


With all this going on, how can we achieve any kind of unity? How can we evangelise and convince others that the Catholic Church stands as the singular bastion wherein truth and wisdom find their ultimate abode when there is so much division and incoherence about what that truth and wisdom is within the Church herself?


So many people who say they are Catholic cannot agree on what being a Catholic means. So many Catholics attacking each other more vehemently than they defend the Church against the important external threats we as a Christian civilisation face today. Such confusion can only come from the devil, diabolos, the scatterer, the divider.


My honest experience is that this division has been introduced under this papacy and the pattern is one I recognise. The progressives have finally been given the power to effect the edifice and the reality is that they cannot bring their vision to fruition. Something is blocking them. Could it be the Holy Spirit? The result is frustration, alienation, confusion, division.

And unity plays a central role in the Church as it is considered essential to her essence. The Church is described as one because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in believers, uniting them intimately in Christ (CCC 813). This unity is not only a gift from Christ but also a duty that springs from the very nature of the Christian community: a community which listens carefully to its Master’s divine Word and carefully discerns what it is being asked to do, always with love at the centre of every decision. The unity of the Church is a great gift that needs to be maintained, reinforced, and perfected through prayer and work (CCC 820) and presently seems so battered and tarnished by the misuse of fallible men.


All this is visible in the Ecclesia in Mundo, on a macrocosmic scale, and we see it in Vatican wranglings, but, interestingly, it is closely mirrored in the paradox between the "edifice" of the Catholic Church and what you might call "awake" Catholics we see microcosmically in our local dioceses and parishes.

 

By the "edifice" of the Catholic Church I mean the bishops and the structures as well as the people who go to Mass on Sundays but don't engage with Catholic news. I don’t want to divide people into meaningless groupings but you know exactly what I mean; the Sunday Catholics or the cultural Catholics who turn up, go through the motions, but probably don’t know how many tribes of Israel there were or what the fifth commandment is. Those awaiting evangelisation, let’s call them.


Awake Catholics are the Catholics we all should really trying to be: Engaged with the process of Theosis; they are trying to be disciples. Catholics who pray at home with their children, Catholics who care passionate about the Blessed Sacrament as the source and summit of our faith. Catholics who read something other than The Tablet or the National Catholic Reporter. (I say this because I see such publications as agitators seeking to bring about a kind of change which seeks to alter the fundamental dogma of belief). Who engage with the faith as an antidote to the sickness we see in the secular culture.


The edifice is crazy about Pope Francis in a way I've never seen with any previous Pope (see Father Rosica’s tweets above). If you look at their websites or Twitter feeds, they are drenched in quotes, news and ecological messages. Cardinal Vincent Nichols recent pastoral letter is an excellent example, it is replete with mentions of the Holy Father, as if every syllable uttered has to be connected with Pope Francis and bishops have no authority to teach apart from Jorge Bergoglio.


Northampton Diocese has gone Migrant and ecology crazy:

 

 

 My own Diocese of Brentwood only posts about these issues on their social media, this is just this morning's offering:

 

 

 

No one is interacting with this stuff they are pumping out and I honestly believe this is what they want. It is uncontroversial, inoffensive, it doesn't engage with anyone and no one engages with it. They've been doing this for decades now and, as a result, very few Catholics can tell you even the basics of faith. There are fewer and fewer vocations, there is less and less money, but the dioceses are still asset rich, so as they run out of clergy to run parishes and parishioners to pay for Church buildings, the next part of the plan is to start selling off the assets.


Even a perfunctory interaction with any of these "mainstream" contact points would leave one thinking that Catholicism was about saving migrants and the planet and that Pope Francis is the infallible god-king of Rome. An objective view is that, in the words of Roland, Stephen King's protagonist in The Dark Tower, "they have forgotten the face of their Father".

Meanwhile, in the Awake Catholic world, EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE!!

 

There are hundreds of producers with hundreds of thousands of supporters and they are talking about the stuff that matters to awake Catholics. 


Over the last couple of weeks literally everyone is talking about whether Pope Francis is the Pope, whether he has deposed himself by teaching heresy, whether he is a bad pope we have to put up with, whether we need to resist, etc etc etc. The contrast with the image portrayed by dioceses could not be greater.


It's not just crazy lay people, bishops and cardinals are talking about this as well! Even the secular world has caught on and are discussing "is the Pope Catholic?", yet our dioceses seem absolutely determined to ignore this, even as the Vatican threatens to remove good bishops from their posts for daring to tell the faithful to stick to the Catholic faith in the face of the Synod on Synodality and initiates yet another cover up of abuse regarding the case of disgraced Jesuit Marko Rupnik.


I am not coming to you with answers on any of these questions. I just feel incredibly sad that this is happening at all, although I am glad that it is. It needs to happen, because it demonstrates that the Catholic Church is full of people who are passionate about the Gospel and are striving to live according to the Magisterium. The Pope and certain Vatican elements may have thought we weren't paying attention or did not care, but we are and we do and the clamour on Twitter (or X), Youtube, Facebook etc is the clearest example of that reality. The discord being created by Pope Francis should be evidence enough - whatever side of the divide you are on - that we have a massive problem in this pope and the direction he is taking. He is soft on abuse, he is averse to doctrine and the Magisterium, he dislikes Tradition, he insults the faithful.


The fact that Catholic dioceses continue to cite him as if it gives them some sort of imprimatur only demonstrates how out of touch they really are with the feelings and interests of engaged, awake Catholics - not just lay people - priests as well. This malaise is increasingly worrying. It seems Catholics no longer consider Scripture as instructive for life, that the Church's moral teaching has no relevance in a world of pornography, broken relationships and transgenderism. Few Catholic schools teach the faith, fewer families come to Mass. We don't teach our children about mortal sin, confession and the powerful help available from Holy Communion received in a state of grace. We don't care about getting to heaven - everyone goes there anyway according to most people! 


But awake Catholics know the faith does make a difference and they talk and act like the Catholic Church has the powerful, real answers for all the crises our culture is experiencing. The disconnect is killing us. I had a long talk with a twenty-something year old brought up Catholic but baffled by working for the bishop's conference and finding that none of the bishops acted like they believed the Catholic faith or what the Church teaches. She had been unable to find anyone to talk to about her concerns and questions despite a Catholic education. Catholic formation simply does not take place in too many parishes and even where it does, it stops after Confirmation. This young lady's biggest obstacles to embracing her faith are hypocrisy and authenticity: the deficit between what she reads the faith is and the way she sees it being lived out. This should not be shocking news to us! So when are we going to start acting like we mean it?

 

 

 

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9 Comments


Mark, excellent analysis! That said, division in the Church has been greatly expanded and prioritized under this papacy, and the pattern is that of a Marxist revolution. Haven't we noticed that Francis is on both sides of every moral issue? Many, too many examples... Abortion is homicide, but naught is ever taught, nary a word said. Bless same sex couples and sic "Fr" Martin upon us, and then the tell the bishops that there is too much "faggotry" in the seminaries. Confusion is the operational way of a terrorist, not of a teacher. Pray for a return to Holy Bible, Apostolic Tradition and the Authentic Magisterium!



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Dear Mark, I agree with every word you wrote, because it’s the truth. For your own sanity I would follow the advice of the truly blessed Father James Mawdsley who says of Pope Francis, ‘Ignore him!” I am a Scot living in Pennsylvania and I am very lucky to be surrounded by friends and parishioners who firmly believe that the Magisterium and all the Church Father and Doctors are preserving the core of our faith. We belong to an FSSP parish which is run by my idea of the perfect Pastor. Everything is done with the utmost reverence. The CCD program is excellent. There is a class for adults on Sundays. There is a class for inquiring Catholics on Saturdays.…

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Old salt from the days of the USN in Holy Loch here. The Governor of Connecticut is Ned Lamont, so perhaps he has a family connection back to Dunoon and that terrible time of 1646.

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Thank you Mark, an excellent and thought provoking article.

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You've brilliantly summed up the awful situation in our Church and I live in Germany, one of the very hardest places to be Catholic thanks to our bishops. I have for some time been considering leaving the official German church - whilst never renouncing my faith - but this would bar me from receiving the sacraments and a Catholic burial. As I'm nearly 70 I'm still pondering and praying.

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Thanks for expressing what essentially is the lay of the land 11 years into this pontificate.

I continually ask myself what can I do?

Yeah I pray, attend traditional Catholic parish, but what else?

And I think this may be the issue.

Asking what else?

Prayer should be enough. Praying to have the courage to live like a Saint.

So the question is, how much do I truly believe the power of prayer to be in effecting change? Is this something we all need to reflect upon?


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