February 24, 2017
By Andrew Parrish
The Vatican appears to be coming to a boil these days: the pace of strange and alarming announcements from Rome has increased ever since the release of Amoris Laetitia in April of last year. It is easy to lose sight of the overall trend of a news story as individual headlines are released; Pewsitter is releasing the below report, which is a timeline of most directly Vatican-related events since April 2016, in the belief that it clearly demonstrates the unusual nature of these continuing developments. This timeline will be periodically updated with new material.
We encourage other journalists to use this timeline as a resource and encourage the submission of any announcements we may have missed in the comments box below or via email.
April 2016: Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love,” an apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life, is released.
July 12th, 2016: In a Motu Proprio statement, the Vatican financial accountability office is stripped of much of its power of oversight. The move is criticized as counterproductive in the ongoing effort to reform Vatican finances.
July 28th, 2016: In his remarks to those gathered for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, the Pope called on Poland to “open its borders to refugees” and declared that “religion has nothing to do with war.”
September 5th, 2016: An Argentinian blogger leaks the contents of a private letter sent by the Pope to the bishops of Buenos Aires, in which Pope Francis approves their take on Amoris Laetitia’s already-controversial Chapter 8: “There is no other interpretation.” The Buenos Aires bishops have approved communion for the divorced and remarried. The Vatican later confirms that this document is legitimate.
September 19th, 2016: The four cardinals privately send their “dubia” statement to the Pope.
October 4th, 2016: During trip to Republic of Georgia, Pope says it is a “very grave sin against ecumenism” for Catholics to try and convert the Orthodox.
October 6th, 2016: Theme for the 2018 Synod announced: Young people, faith and vocational discernment.
October 19th, 2016: Pope calls proselytism “poison” in meeting with Lutheran visitors. “It is not licit that you convince them of your faith,” he declares.
October 24th, 2016: Pope Francis praises the German theologian Bernhard Haering, a prominent dissenter from Humanae Vitae, saying that he found a way to “help moral theology to flourish again.”
October 25th, 2016: Pope is photographed in the Vatican with a chocolate statue of Martin Luther, while receiving an ecumenical delegation from Sweden. In this meeting, the Pope claims that “lukewarmness” is when Catholics “are keen to defend Christianity in the West on the one hand but on the other are averse to refugees and other religions.”
October 27th, 2016: Pope opens the JPII Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family academic year himself, after announcing that Cardinal Sarah would not give the opening speech as planned.
October 31st, 2016: Pope Francis arrives in Malmo, Sweden, and “heaps praise” on Luther and the Reformation. On this day the joint declaration is published, which says we must “cast off historical disagreements” and “transform our memory of the past.” Lutheran-Catholic intercommunion is explicitly declared to be the goal of dialogue.
November 2nd, 2016: On return flight from Sweden, Pope gives interview declaring that John Paul II had “the final word” on ordination of women.
In the same interview, the Pope takes a moderate position on immigration, saying that countries need to be “prudent” and avoid the danger of ethnic ghettos.
November , 2016: High-level, anonymous Vatican source alleges that Pope is “boiling with rage” over the public opposition to Amoris Laetitia.
November 10th, 2016: The Pope holds a private meeting with Cardinal Burke, the Vatican patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, in which, it is later revealed, the Pope is “deeply disturbed” by Burke’s account of contraceptive distribution with the Order’s participation. The Pope orders Burke to “clean Freemasonry out of the Order.”
November 14th, 2016: The four cardinals, Burke, Brandmuller, Meisner, and Caffarra, release publicly their letter of September 19th, asking five yes/no questions about moral ambiguities raised in Amoris Laetitia’s wording, a letter which becomes known as “the dubia” or “the dubia statement.” The letter calls on either the Pope or Cardinal Mueller, head of the CDF, to respond publicly. The cardinals had previously received an acknowledgement of their letter but no answer from the Pope.
November 15th, 2016: Cardinal Burke gives interview with Edward Pentin in which he declares the possibility of a “formal act of correction” of the Pope if the letter is not formally answered.
November 18th, 2016: In interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Pope criticizes the “legalism” of the four cardinals who have written a letter asking for clarification of Amoris Laetitia. In the meantime, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia has published guidelines declaring that the divorced and remarried cannot receive the Eucharist, and Cardinal-designate Farrell has publicly criticized these guidelines.
November 18th, 2016: Pope dismisses the entire staff of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Republished statutes for the organization indicate that the members will no longer be required to sign a declaration of their pro-life beliefs.
November 23rd, 2016: Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Pell officially removed from Congregation for Divine Worship.
December 1st, 2016: The Pope writes a letter to Cardinal Burke, in which he reiterates his concerns about the Order of Malta and Cardinal Burke’s duty to see to the “spiritual health” of the order.
December 6th, 2016: Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, grand chancellor of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, is ordered to resign his office at a meeting in which the Order’s head, Fra’ Matthew Festing, accused him of supervising the distribution of contraceptives in Malaysia. Von Boeselager refuses to step down at the meeting, breaking his vow of obedience.
December 7th, 2016: Pope Francis, in a widely publicized interview with a Belgian Catholic newspaper, alleges that media which spread misinformation are guilty of coprophagia, a psychological term for those who are sexually aroused by the act of eating excrement.
December 12th, 2016: According to inside Vatican sources, von Boeselager approaches Cardinal Parolin in the Vatican, and tells him that, according to Burke, the Pope had ordered von Boeselager to be fired. Cardinal Parolin writes a letter on this date to Fra’ Festing in the Pope’s name, saying that the Holy Father requests “dialogue” to resolve “methods and means contrary to the moral law.” Fra’ Festing requests a meeting with Cardinal Parolin; Parolin asks to institute a Vatican investigative committee and Festing refuses, citing the international sovereignty of the Order.
December 13th, 2016: In an internal announcement, von Boeselager is suspended of all his duties in the Order of Malta.
December 14th, 2016: Cardinal Walter Kasper, one of the Pope’s closest advisors, considers intercommunion with mixed-marriage Lutherans to be “inevitable.”
December 15th, 2016: Cardinal Parolin appoints von Boeselager’s brother to the board of the IOR, the “Vatican bank.”
December 16th, 2016: Co-founder of LifeSiteNews releases an editorial stating: “The climate of fear at the Vatican is very real”. This corroborates December reports from anonymous sources of Edward Pentin, Marco Tosatti, Steve Skojec, etc.
December 19th, 2016: In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Cardinal Burke, considered the “spokesman” of the four cardinals, claims there is a timeline for the “formal correction” of Pope Francis and that this will take place some time in January, 2017 (around the Feast of the Epiphany).
December 22nd, 2016: Pope gives customary Christmas address to the Roman Curia on reform, which has been the topic for three years running, and blasts “resistance” which hides behind “self-justification” and takes refuge in “tradition.”
December 22nd, 2016: An independent watchdog, the Lepanto Institute, releases compiled reports indicating that Malteser International, while under von Boeselager’s direct supervision, distributed more than 300,000 condoms in Malaysia as well as oral contraceptives, and was widely recognized by other NGOs for this accomplishment.
December 22nd, 2016: A letter to the Order of Malta, and Burke, indicates that the Pope has appointed a commission to investigate the removal of von Boeselager. The Pope’s instructions in his Dec. 1st letter are to be suspended.
Preliminary investigation into the five members of the committee, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, Jacques de Liedekerke, Marc Odendall, and Marwan Sehnaoui, reveals that all five are known allies of von Boeselager and the “German wing” of the Order of Malta. Furthermore, Odendall, Sehnaoui and Archbishop Tomasi are, with Boeselager, connected to a mysterious donation from a French resident deposited in a Swiss bank account, worth at least $118 million. Cardinal Parolin is understood to have been aware of the bequest since at least March 2014.
December 23rd, 2016: Von Boeselager publishes a statement in which he declares his suspension violated the procedures of the Order, that no valid grounds existed for his suspension, and that Fra’ Festing’s attitude was “authoritarian.”
December 26th, 2016: Pope orders Cardinal Mueller to dismiss three priests at the CDF for unspecified reasons. In the leaked letter making this declaration, he states: “I am the pope and I do not need to give reasons… they have to go.”
January 3rd, 2017: Von Boeselager’s replacement, Fra’ John Chritien, writes a letter to the Knights of the Order telling them they cannot collaborate with the papal commission because its existence is a violation of the order’s sovereignty.
January 4th, 2017: Archbishop Tomasi, of the Malta investigative committee, responds to the previous day’s announcement and says that the question “is not the sovereignty of the order, but the reasonable claim of questionable procedures and lack of proven valid cause for the action taken,” echoing the statement of von Boeselager himself.
January 5th, 2017: A document is published by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches, commanding Catholics to “recognize Luther as a witness to the Gospel.”
January 10th, 2017: Knights of Malta again publicly defend their right to dismiss von Boeselager, for breaking his vow of obedience to Festing.
January 10th, 2017: In daily homily, Pope criticizes “doctors of the law” as incoherent, hypocritical, clericalist, and lacking in real authority.
January 12th, 2017: The Vatican invites notorious abortion extremist Paul Ehrlich, author of debunked 1970s book The Population Bomb, to Vatican conference on “Biological Extinction.”
January 17th, 2017: The Holy See issues a second statement in response, declaring its “faith” in the commission the Pope has appointed.
January 19th, 2017: Pope declares that it was “Luther’s intention to renew the Church, not divide her.”
January 20th, 2017: Pope declares that “every country has the right to defend its borders.”
January 20th, 2017: Pope, in morning homily, criticizes “lazy,” “egotistical,” “constantly condemning,” “parked Christians.”
January 21st, 2017: Pope gives an address to the Roman Rota in which he declares it is “urgent practically to implement that which was discussed in Familiaris Consortio.” The Holy Father calls for parishes to develop programs to help newlyweds grow in faith and remain attached to parish life.
January 24th, 2017: The Pope calls Festing to the Vatican to hold a secret meeting of which no one can know. In this meeting, the Pope tells Festing to write his resignation letter on the spot, and to explicitly declare in the letter that Cardinal Burke had asked for von Boeselager to be dismissed.
January 24th, 2017: Fra’ Festing resigns his position as Grand Master of the Maltese Order.
January 25th, 2017: Cardinal Parolin writes in a letter to the Maltese Order that the Pope has declared all of Fra’ Festing’s actions “null and void” since the Dec. 6th meeting where von Boeselager’s resignation was demanded. Parolin further announces that the Pope will appoint a “personal delegate” to the Order, with “powers that will be defined.” These actions are in violation of the legal sovereignty of the Order.
January 25th, 2017: Pope declares that ecumenism must look to the future, not “fixate” on the past.
January 25th, 2017: Archbishop Scicluna of Malta, infamous for the Communion guidelines he coauthored, declares in a homily that “anyone looking to discover what Jesus wants” should “look to the Pope. Not the previous Pope, not the one before that. This Pope.” He has previously stated that in his guidelines “we are following the Pope’s directives.”
January 26th, 2017: Pope orders review of Liturgiam Authenticam. The text of the current Latin-English Mass translation is alleged by certain bishops to be too “rigid” and “excessively centralized”, according to America Magazine.
January 27th, 2017: The Pope gives a lengthy homily at Santa Marta in which he states that those who focus too much on “obeying the commandments, all of them” commit the sin of “cowardliness”, and are unable to “take risks” and “move forward.”
January 28th, 2017: The Pope, according to a press release of the Knights of Malta, writes a letter to them “stressing their sovereignty.”
January 28th, 2017: The Council of the Knights of Malta votes to accept Festing’s resignation and the Pope’s declaration of nullity.
January 30th, 2017: The Pope, at the Angelus, says “voracious consumerism kills the soul.”
January 30th, 2017: The Pope meets with Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the chair of the Council of Protestant Churches in Germany and with Cardinal Marx. In this meeting Bedford-Strohm expresses the importance of a common communion for interfaith couples.
January 31st, 2017: Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary of the Synod of Bishops, confirmsthat the female diaconate will not be discussed at the 2018 Synod on vocations.
February 1st, 2017: Pope calls on local Catholic churches to “mobilize” and fight climate change.
February 1st, 2017: Cardinal Mueller, head of the CDF, declares that Communion for the divorced and remarried is “against God’s law.” The Maltese bishops’ bombshell statement that Communion is open to anyone who “feels at peace with God” was released twenty days prior. On this same day, the German council of bishops approves communion for the divorced and remarried.
February 2nd, 2017: The Pope calls on religious not to be “professionals of the sacred.”
February 2nd, 2017: Bishop Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, defends the invitation of Paul Ehrlich by saying that the Vatican is interested in his scientific reputation and not his private opinions: “What matters is the conclusions we will draw.”
February 4th, 2017: Posters appear overnight in Rome naming a group of incidents, including the Maltese case, and asking, “Where is your mercy?” A picture of the Pope is included. The Vatican police, as well as the Roman police, open an investigation into this incident.
February 4th, 2017: The Pope names Archbishop Becciu of the Secretariat of State as his delegate to the Order of Malta.
February 7th, 2017: The Vatican hosts its Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism over two days, inviting the Chinese “organ czar” Huang Jiefu to speak despite ongoing and credible allegations that the Chinese government harvests organs from executed prisoners, and possibly others.
February 8th, 2017: A stunning editorial in La Civita Cattolica opines that ordination of women may be possible in the future. The paper is approved by the Vatican before publication and Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Pope’s closest confidante, is the editor in chief.
February 8th, 2017: A 51-page booklet is published by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, purporting to explain definitively the meaning of Amoris Laetitia’s Chapter 8. Reviews of the book indicate that it defends an extremely permissive interpretation of the document.
February 9th, 2017: Pope meets with staff of La Civita Cattolica and praises their work, urging them to be “restless” and “stay out on the open sea.” Fr. Gioncarlo Pani, deputy editor and author of the women’s ordination piece, is present. No mention of the question is made.
February 12th, 2017: The Vatican announces its police force is investigating a satirical front page of the L’Osservatore Romano with the headline “Pope Answers the Dubia.” The satirical newsletter was widely circulated in the Vatican via email.
February 13th, 2017: Council of Cardinals issue statement declaring their total support for the Pope. Vatican sends email blast dedicated solely to this announcement.
February 14th, 2017: Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican’s “legal theory” body, declares that a “desire to change” is enough for the valid reception of Communion.
February 14th, 2017: Cardinal Coccopalmerio fails to attend his own press conference for his booklet on Amoris Laetitia, which is generally understood to represent a chance for an official Vatican “answer” to the dubia statement. He states via social media that he had another engagement he had forgotten about. At the conference, the head of the Vatican publishing house says that the booklet is “not an answer” and the “still open debate is encouraged.”
February 15th, 2017: Cardinal Burke sent to Guam to supervise Vatican trial of Archbishop Apuron, involved in a clergy abuse scandal.
February 17th, 2017: Cardinal Mueller, head of the CDF, states that bishops cannot give “contradictory interpretations” of Amoris Laetitia.
February 17th, 2017: Pope releases a letter dated February 10th to the Meeting of Popular Movements in California, in which he says, among other things, that we must “defend Sister Mother Earth”, that “the ecological crisis is real… time is running out. We must act now”, “Muslim terrorism does not exist”, and that global capitalism is “gangrenous”.
February 18th, 2017: Speaking to the press about the “highly unusual” public vote of confidence in the Pope, Cardinal Marx says that the support for the Pope is “substantial.”
February 20th, 2017: Cardinal Mueller, head of the CDF, releases a new book on the Papacy. He declares that not even a pope is able to alter the “substance of a sacrament,” marriage being used as the example.
February 21st, 2017: Cd. Coccopalmerio announces that there is “no doctrinal confusion” over Amoris Laetitia in an interview with Crux. He also states that gay couples still cannot receive Communion.
February 21st, 2017: Pope declares it a “moral duty” to “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate” refugees. The opposition to this duty is “rooted chiefly in self-centeredness” and encouraged by “populist demagoguery.”
February 22nd, 2017: Parolin, Secretariat of State, announces that the Vatican will be using “systematic surveillance” to monitor misuse of the Pope’s image and the official Vatican symbols, “so that his message may reach the faithful intact.”
February 22nd, 2017: The Pope, in his daily remarks, says that “When human pride explodes, it destroys and exploits nature. Think of water.”