Pope Francis, Biden and “post-institutional” Catholics

by Roberto de Mattei at the Lepanto Foundation

What will be the effects of Joe Biden’s election on the life of the Church?

Biden is the second Catholic President in the history of the United States after John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but as Massimo Faggioli  notes in his recent book Joe Biden e il cattolicesimo negli Stati Uniti (Scholé, Brescia 2021), he finds himself in a reversed situation. Kennedy had the problem of reconciling his religious faith with a country in which the upper-class had always been Protestant and Catholics were considered an external body, tending to be poorly educated and more faithful to the Pope than democratic liberty. Today, on the contrary, Catholics are incorporated into the establishment, from the Government to the Supreme Court and Biden’s problem is that of dealing with the division existing inside the Catholic world, polarized by two political and religious spectrums. This polarization was accentuated after the defeat of Hilary Clinton in 2016, when Pope Francis became the icon of the international left and Donald Trump was forced to present himself as an alternative figure to his papacy.

Now Trump is out of the picture and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who gave voice to American Anti-Bergolianism,  is weaker, while Pope Francis’s position has been reinforced and the new President, Biden, no longer has an enemy but an ally. Therefore Francis’s recent declarations are not surprising and though they might herald new condemnations for his internal opponents, they also raise many questions.

In his audience of January 30, 2021, while addressing the members of the Catechetical Office of the Italian Bishop’s Conference, Pope Francis affirmed that the Second Vatican Council “is the magisterium of  the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church. We must be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated.”

By these affirmations we have the impression that according to Pope Francis, those who criticize the Second Vatican Council put themselves outside the Church. However, today the criticisms about the Second Vatican Council do not come from an obstinate minority of traditionalists, but from a growing sphere of Catholics, who have recognized the catastrophic consequences of Vatican II. Massimo Faggioli writes in his book that “since the ‘80s and 90s in the U.S.A (and not only) there have been a growing number of Catholics critical about the Second Vatican Council and its apertures”;  “a new generation of  Catholics is reexamining what happened in the Church between the ‘50s and ‘70s  and is reacting against the theology produced by the Second Vatican Council.” (p.64). Is this sphere of thought the contentious objective of Pope Francis?

Furthermore, regarding the traditionalists, a letter from the Ecclesia Dei Commission dated March 25, 2017, signed by Cardinal Gerald Müller, communicated Pope Francis’s decision to grant all the priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X “ the faculty to administer validly the Sacrament of Penance to the faithful such as to ensure the validity and liceity of the Sacrament,” and authorized local bishops with “the possibility of granting faculties for the celebration of marriages of the faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society.” How do we reconcile this benevolence towards the Fraternity of St. Pius X, the religious institute which has more decisively than any other rejected the Second Vatican Council, with declarations in which those who criticize Vatican II are outside the Church?

Moreover, what does “follow Vatican II” mean? Adhering strictly to its documents? Yet these documents are widely disregarded, starting with the indications in liturgical matters from the constitution Sacrosanctum concilium. Other council documents are unclear and are open to opposing interpretations. Does Pope Francis share Pope Benedict’s “hermeneutic of continuity” whereby these documents should be interpreted in coherence with the Tradition of the Church, or should the documents be interpreted according to the “spirit of the Council” as the School of Bologna would like? In this second case should also Benedict XVI’s hermeneutic be considered outside the Church?

In his declaration of January 30, Pope Francis said that opposition to Vatican II made him think of “of a group of bishops who, after Vatican I, left, a group of lay people, to continue the “true doctrine” that was not that of Vatican I: “We are the true Catholics”. Today they ordain women. The strictest attitude, to guard the faith without the Magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin. Please, no concessions to those who try to present a catechesis that does not agree with the Magisterium of the Church.

Pope Francis’s historical reference is to the so-called “old Catholics” who in 1870, rejected the dogma of papal primacy, were excommunicated and left the Church.  However some ultra-progressive theologians like Andrea Grillo, did not appreciate Pope Francis’s criticism of those dissident Catholics.* Grillo opposes their disobedience with the “obedience” of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who accepted instrumentally the position of Vatican I, to better control the German bishops.

Bismarck’s position, according to Grillo, “indicated a possible shift: that of  reducing all authority in the Church to the Pope. Something that, almost a century later, Vatican II took great care to revise.” “Here then is the point. Obedience to Vatican II –  is the structural  acquisition of its “pastoral nature”. That is to say, a difference between “the substance of tradition” and “the developing of  its position”.  The great season inaugurated by the Second Vatican Council –  which we are just at the beginning of – involves profound rethinking of the “institutional forms” in relationship to “the substance of tradition”. “So we might discover that a few of the elements that led some people 150 years ago “not to accept” Vatican I, today, in the light of Vatican II, may have become common patrimony.

The “rethinking of institutional forms” that Grillo is hoping for, is the same one Faggioli criticizes in his book, denouncing the losing strategy of those he defines as “post-institutional Catholics”. Both Grillo and Faggioli belong to the ranks of the Catholic Left, but Faggioli rejects “the post-institutional option” in American progressivism and hopes that Biden may bring back liberal Catholicism into the institutional riverbed to curb the advance of the conservatives.

“Post-institutionalism”, however, is a dead end not only for the progressives, but also for the conservatives and traditionalists. As long as the critics of the Second Vatican Council respect, in form and substance, the Church’s hierarchy, their condemnation cannot go beyond a mediatic chiding.  For a canonical censure the logical prerequisites are missing, even before those of a juridical nature. It would be a different case with those wanting to assume an extra-institutional position, by inciting open revolt against the ecclesiastic hierarchy. In this case, it would not be difficult to find the pretexts for a condemnation, which, despite being limited canonically to the act of disobedience, on the mediatic level, it would be falsely extended to all the opponents of the Second Vatican Council.

The reason we must respect the institutional dimension of the Church is not political, but supernatural. It is legitimate, on certain occasions, to correct filially the men of the Church, including the Pope, but in the Mystical Body of Christ, the soul cannot be separated from the body; the spiritual element cannot be separated from the juridical aspect, the invisible from the visible. This is the profound but life-giving mystery of the Catholic Church.


Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana

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1 Response to Pope Francis, Biden and “post-institutional” Catholics

  1. Anyone reading this article which is a fabulously done effort to speak to the Truth; please bear with me in going on, but, if you have the time it may be worthy to you I pray!

    I want to declare from the start that I’m nowhere near as well versed as many others in the matter of The Second Vatican Council. That said I want to attempt to speak here to this matter plainly and from strictly a layman’s position sensibly and use basic fundamental principles to seek the basic truth about the matter. We know that Jesus has had to face the Devil from the beginning. Obviously it could have been ended at any moment but hasn’t been because God allows this battle to ensue as part of the overall plan. There must be free will and a dichotomy of goodness on the one side with evil and all that is bad or wrong on the other. Simple enough and to me the purpose of this is to allow God’s family to grow out of a position of love that can only come from a completely free spirit and appreciation of that which love is given or it would be robots, zombies and things that do one thing or another but are really mindless not having true genuine individuality and thus creativity of a self-expression to actually create from one’s own perspective a unique offering from an individual unique being; likened to say how each snowflake is different than all the others; no two the same.

    But here we talk about very complex thinking multifaceted beings! What a beautiful end result family God will have from such a plan! Then the Devil having been in the formative process from the start will of course have wanted to stop this from ever being accomplished and so he being that master of all lies and the father of all lies within all darkness or deceptions is from the start messing with his plan continually! We’ve all heard how adversity and sticking with something is a test of character and indeed we can see how this conflict can work to God’s advantage in fulfilling His will and plan but how it can also work to our advantage as individual children if we follow Jesus being put to the test yes, but, if we are vigilant and genuinely faithful it will have to help shape us as individuals to become precious individual jewels being shaped if you will in the fire of this material realm of continuous conflict, hardship, suffering and trial. So to me it’s all good and going as it should but how the end result or final capstone to God’s plan will be brought about is quite over all of our heads; though Jesus did bring to this world with Himself our roadmap to follow or the continuous lessons we need to learn along the way in order to not be off wandering in the darkness or running rampantly with self-will doing anything our flesh desires and toss our great opportunity down the drain straight into Satan’s clutches!

    So, then I see that continuous plots against the God and Jesus have been in motion to really attack His Mystical Body, the Church! The Church then being the means by which we God’s children can be brought into His kingdom but that being the case the Devil will do anything he possibly can to ruin or convert the Church into something false which is what I see happening now and all along, but, today this process or continuous attack is happening in earnest. Many changes to the Catholic Church were instituted with The Second Vatican Council.

    Indeed throughout the centuries many Popes warned through the Church Magisterium of “conspiracies” against the Church, even specifically referring to “secret societies” that were and would be plotting to harm the Mystical Body of Christ. Very logical that this is the thing Satan would do and we in fact see happening with the schism of recent times within the Church in ways I never imagined growing up would be happening in my lifetime! Outright blasphemes and transgressions by many in the Church hierarchy with in fact the false Pope Bergoglio taking the cake as it were in terms of radical a departure from the traditional and sound teachings of the Church he has strayed and to do what we should ask. To me if he is the False Prophet that even Archbishop Vigano has stated he is, and I happen to agree with not just by what he says but by my own personal experiences that involved me writing to this character Bergoglio with zero response and then some evil things that happened to me afterward.

    So I have no problem seeing the inherent evil in that man just like I see this same evil in Scranton Joe the Installed Puppet POTUS not elected of America, who by the way if you haven’ already heard are cozy buddies! Then, my point becomes this, the battle has been ratcheted up like no other time in History since the time that Jesus Christ walked on this earth, and with the high technology and instantaneous world wide web of digital communications coupled now with the cloud and AI, an artificial non-human intelligence far exceeding human standalone capability which is being I believe unified with Satanic demonic entities; we are in for the shocker of all time right up the road!

    And now then, to the potential arguments here one way or another I see it all as moot in the face of the harsh REALITY before our eyes and rather than challenge each other or even more sadly attack one another which is just what Satan desires of you to do we should be speaking plainly now, because the hour; is getting late! Bob Dylan in the 60’s wrote music lyrics to that effect I quote here!
    “There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
    “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
    Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
    None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

    “No reason to get excited”, the thief, he kindly spoke,
    “There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
    But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
    So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”.

    “All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
    While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

    Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
    Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.” Bob Dylan

    I’ve highlighted what I see staring me right in my face as words written and spoken by poetic artists many decades ago that speak to the present time! A huge storm is approaching as the wind does begin to Howl while the Cat or fierce Lion is out there in the world growling, as he waits for his opportunity to grab those who are not weary and paying heed to the words given from above… Yes the Hour is getting Late, so let’s not be talking falsely now or be so full of deceptions and lies, even the criminal thief or the minions of the evil one can obviously see this, but the one who comes like a thief in the night (Jesus) who speaks kindly is saying here, not to be getting excited or have no fear! But, He goes on to point out how there are those who are haughty, like the many American Democrat Politicians and others full of themselves, that are treating life and humanity like a joke as they continue on their path to annihilation or perdition blaspheming not just life, but by doing so they mark the Creator and seal their fate; but those of us who can see this be rejoicing, that you are not counted among the many who run toward the precipice and subsequent abyss that awaits them. But we know the hour is getting late so we must reprove ourselves and seek the kingdom of God as He is sending out His messengers on horses fast approaching to reveal truth that your Salvation awaits; you who hold fast to His words!

    Satan is seeking eternal demise of all souls or children of God’s

    So we can see examples of concerns and actual attacks upon the Body of the Church all the way back and here just one example of concern: Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century decreed that “if any clerics or monks are found to be either forming a conspiracy or a secret society or hatching plots against bishops or fellow clergy, [they are to] lose their personal rank completely” (Canon 18, 451).

    These concerns have been and are so serious and genuinely based on Truth that major counter moves by the Church but moreover directly from heaven have taken place in tandem with the Devil’s strikes and plotting moves against the Church or Mystical Body of Jesus Christ! Reflect if you will on this long prayer of Saint Michael the Archangel in facing this real challenge.

    “The persecution of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church, is also well attested to by the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel which Pope Leo XIII promulgated on May 18, 1890, as part of a larger “Exorcism against Satan and the Apostate Angels” (note in particular the parts highlighted in bold red):
    “O GLORIOUS ARCHANGEL St Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places. (Eph 6.) Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. (Wis 2, 1 Cor 6.)
    Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. But that cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with all his angels.” (Apoc 12.)
    “Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of man has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of his Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
    These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions.
    In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.
    Arise then, O invincible prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and bring them the victory.
    The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of this world and of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude.
    Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”
    The original Latin text with the decree of promulgation can be found in the Acta Sanctae Sedis XXIII (1890-91), pp. 743-747. The English translation has been taken from this source. A shortened version of this St. Michael prayer can be found in the Church’s official collection of indulgenced prayers, the Raccolta, n. 446 (approved for an indulgence of 500 days by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, May 4, 1934).

    Here are just a few quotes from past Popes to let us be reminded that we are dealing with powers and principalities that we mere children of God have so little true understanding of let alone ability to resist on our own and therefore we need the Truth and due diligence to take our place in this spiritual battle or warfare we taking place eight now and will build to a fever pitch moving forward!
    Pope Pius VII
    • “Therefore, omit no watchfulness, diligence, care, and effort, in order to ‘guard the deposit’ of Christ’s teaching whose destruction has been planned, as you know, by a great conspiracy.” (Encyclical Diu Satis, n. 11, 1800)
    Pope Leo XII
    • “The princes know what conspiracies have everywhere arisen to weaken both the sacred and civil law in this holy matter.” (Encyclical Quod Hoc Ineunte, n. 12, 1824)
    • “…We forbid forever under the same penalties which are contained in the Letters of Our Predecessors already reported in this Our Constitution, … all secret societies, those which now are and those which perhaps will afterwards sprout out, and which propose to themselves against the Church and against the highest civil powers those things which We have mentioned above, by whatever name they may finally be called.” (Encyclical Quo Graviora, n. 7, 1826)
    Pope Pius VIII
    • “When this corruption has been abolished, then eradicate those secret societies of factious men who, completely opposed to God and to princes, are wholly dedicated to bringing about the fall of the Church, the destruction of kingdoms, and disorder in the whole world. Having cast off the restraints of true religion, they prepare the way for shameful crimes.” (Encyclical Traditi Humilitati, n. 6, 1829)
    Pope Gregory XVI
    • “If the right hand of God had not given Us strength, We would have drowned as the result of the terrible conspiracy of impious men.” (Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 1, 1832)
    • “In this you must labor and diligently take care that the faith may be preserved amidst this great conspiracy of impious men who attempt to tear it down and destroy it.” (Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 8, 1832)
    • “Now, however, We want you to rally to combat the abominable conspiracy against clerical celibacy. This conspiracy spreads daily and is promoted by profligate philosophers, some even from the clerical order.” (Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 11, 1832)
    • “In the individual rural chapters, they spread the same ideas and aroused a wicked conspiracy. Moreover, now and again, they produced a pamphlet with many additions and dared to print it under the bold title: ‘Are reforms necessary in the Catholic Church?’” (Encyclical Quo Graviora, n. 3, 1833)
    • “Finally, it [our encyclical letter Mirari Vos] concerned that freedom of conscience which should be thoroughly condemned and the repulsive conspiracy of societies enkindling destruction of sacred and state affairs, even from the followers of false religions, as We have made clear by the authority handed down to Us.” (Encyclical Singulari Nos, n. 3, 1834)

    No friends this is no time to argue or fight and certainly not waste precious time when we must seek and adhere to the truth like never before. We of the faith and who know and love Jesus Christ are going to make it to the promised land, and we are definitely going to overcome anything the Devil can dish out; but, we know the truthful basics of how to do that and that is our starting point and focus or should be, because its clear the hierarchy of the Church is now corrupted like never before, just as I see my own Nation’s once outstanding Great Government System based on the “laws and concepts” of our God above, that we humans have God given inalienable rights, and even that this nation was never perfect nor could any earthly system ever be; but even so, because it derived its core strength from God Almighty and the Republic’s Laws were fashioned in this manner into the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, it was a very decent system until the evil and corruption entered into it full force to bring it to where it is now; a watered down version or facsimile of the original which is now being manipulated toward outright communism, and this is a sign; of the hour is getting late when this nation is joining with other earthly corrupted powers to rule over all the peoples with totalitarian control! This is the stage being set for the antichrist to make his appearance and to take ownership of God’s children here as the capstone of the Devil’s desire; being fulfilled!

    Thank you for your time and God bless you all!
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III


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