Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, greets Pope Francis during his audience with cardinals in 2013 at the Vatican. Pell passed away Tuesday night in Rome, unexpectedly, after undergoing surgery for a hip replacement. He was 81. (CNS photo).

    “Letter #14, 2023 Thursday, January 12: Cardinal George Pell

    Here’s the situation all Rome is talking about:

    1) an anonymous text was circulating at the beginning of this year, signed “Demos” (the text is below) (link)

    2) the respected Vaticanist Sandro Magister revealed in a piece he wrote yesterday (link) — following Pell’s death Tuesday night in Rome at the age of 81 — that “Demos” was, in fact… Cardinal George Pell.

    So the “Demos” text suddenly took on heightened importance.

    This was an “insider” text at the highest level, for those of you interested in such things…

    What was Pell saying in his anonymous text, circulating among his fellow cardinals?

    Essentially, that the Church needed strong leadership which would teach clearly and fearlessly the Church’s doctrine.

    The document also was taken to be Pell’s way to begin to form a consensus on what “type” of man would be the man best suited to… be elected Pope after Francis.

    A kind of “preliminary platform” for the next Pope.

    Thus, the document was, in effect (so it now seems), Pell’s attempt to prepare for the next Conclave, and the election of a strong, fully orthodox Catholic Pope.

    3) Pell also published a different, final essay before his death, which just appeared in The Spectator (link), and is also posted below.

    The key point in this essay is that the current “synodal process” underway in the church should be stopped because it is “toxic” and will not lead toward greater fidelity to the Christian faith, but to a departure from the Christian faith.

    And so everyone in Rome is talking about this dramatic “last word” of Cardinal Pell.

    Pell himself, God rest his soul, is now forever silent.    

    The funeral of Cardinal Pell will be celebrated Saturday in Rome by Pope Francis.—RM        

    ‘Catastrophe’: Cardinal Pell’s secret memo blasts Francis (link)


    VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will deliver a final send-off for Cardinal George Pell during a funeral Mass on Saturday, the Vatican said, as revelations emerge of the Australian prelate’s growing concern about what he considered the “disaster” and “catastrophe” of the papacy under Francis.

    The Vatican on Thursday said the dean of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, would celebrate Pell’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. As is custom for cardinal funerals, Francis will deliver a final commendation and salute.

    Pell, who had served as Francis’ first finance minister for three years before returning to Australia to face child sex abuse charges, died on Tuesday at a Rome hospital of heart complications following hip surgery. He was 81.

    He had been dividing his time between Rome and Sydney after he was exonerated in 2020 of allegations he molested two choirboys while he was archbishop of Melbourne. Australia’s High Court overturned an earlier court conviction, and Pell was freed after serving 404 days in solitary confinement.

    Pell had clashed repeatedly with the Vatican’s Italian bureaucracy during his 2014-2017 term as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, which Francis created to try to get a handle on the Vatican’s opaque finances. In his telegram of condolence, Francis credited Pell with having laid the groundwork for the reforms underway, which have included imposing international standards for budgeting and accounting on Vatican offices.

    But Pell, a staunch conservative, grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction of Francis’ papacy, including its emphasis on inclusion and canvassing of the laity about the future of the church.

    He penned a remarkable memorandum outlining his concerns, and recommendations for the next pope in a future conclave, that began circulating last spring and was published under a pseudonym, “Demos,” on Vatican blog Settimo Cielo.

    The blogger Sandro Magister on Wednesday revealed that Pell indeed was the author of the memo, which is an extraordinary indictment of the current pontificate by a onetime close collaborator of Francis.

    The memo is divided into two parts — “The Vatican Today” and “The Next Conclave” — and lists a series of points covering everything from Francis’ “weakened” preaching of the Gospel to the precariousness of the Holy See’s finances and the “lack of respect for the law” in the city-state, including in the current financial corruption trial underway that Pell himself had championed.

    “Commentators of every school, if for different reasons … agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe,” Pell wrote.

    Also Wednesday, the conservative magazine The Spectator published what it said was a signed article that Pell wrote in the days before he died. In the article, Pell described as a “toxic nightmare” Francis’ two-year canvassing of the Catholic laity about issues such as church teaching on sexuality and the role of women that is expected to come to a head at a meeting of bishops in October.

    Referring to the Vatican’s summary of the canvassing effort, Pell complained of a “deepening confusion, the attack on traditional morals and the insertion into the dialogue of neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalization, the voiceless, LGBTQ as well as the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, redemption.”

    Pell’s anonymous memo, however, is even harsher and takes particular aim at Francis himself. While other conservatives have criticized Francis’ crackdown on traditionalists and mercy-over-morals priorities, Pell went further and devoted an entire section to the pope’s involvement in a big financial fraud investigation that has resulted in the prosecution of 10 people, including Pell’s onetime nemesis, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

    Pell had initially cheered the indictment, which stemmed from the Vatican’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate deal, given it vindicated his yearslong effort to uncover financial mismanagement and corruption in the Holy See. But over the course of the trial, uncomfortable questions have been raised about the rights of the defense in a legal system where Francis has absolute power, and has wielded it.

    Pell noted that that Francis had issued four secret decrees during the course of the investigation “to help the prosecution” without the right for those affected to appeal. The defense has argued the decrees violated the suspects’ human rights.

    Pell also came to the defense of Becciu, whom Francis removed in September 2020 before he was even under investigation. “He did not receive due process. Everyone has a right to due process,” wrote Pell, for whom the issue is particularly dear given his own experiences.

    “The lack of respect for the law in the Vatican risks becoming an international scandal,” Pell wrote.

    [End AP article]

    The Catholic Church must free itself from this ‘toxic nightmare’ (link)

    11 January 2023

    Shortly before he died on Tuesday, Cardinal George Pell wrote the following article for The Spectator in which he denounced the Vatican’s plans for its forthcoming ‘Synod on Synodality’ as a ‘toxic nightmare’. The booklet produced by the Synod, to be held in two sessions this year and next year, is ‘one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome’, says Pell. Not only is it ‘couched in neo-Marxist jargon’, but it is ‘hostile to the apostolic tradition’ and ignores such fundamental Christian tenets as belief in divine judgment, heaven and hell.

    The Australian-born cardinal, who endured the terrible ordeal of imprisonment in his home country on fake charges of sex abuse before being acquitted, was nothing if not courageous. He did not know that he was about to die when he wrote this piece; he was prepared to face the fury of Pope Francis and the organisers when it was published. As it is, his sudden death may add extra force to his words when the synod meets this October. 

    —Damian Thompson, The Spectator

    By Cardinal George Pell, for The Spectator

    The Catholic Synod of Bishops is now busy constructing what they think of as ‘God’s dream’ of synodality. Unfortunately this divine dream has developed into a toxic nightmare despite the bishops’ professed good intentions.

    They have produced a 45-page booklet which presents its account of the discussions of the first stage of ‘listening and discernment’, held in many parts of the world, and it is one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome.

    While we thank God that Catholic numbers around the globe, especially in Africa and Asia are increasing, the picture is radically different in Latin America with losses to the Protestants as well as the secularists.

    With no sense of irony, the document is entitled ‘Enlarge the Space of Your Tent’, and the aim of doing so is to accommodate, not the newly baptised —those who have answered the call to repent and believe — but anyone who might be interested enough to listen. Participants are urged to be welcoming and radically inclusive: ‘No one is excluded’.

    The document does not urge even the Catholic participants to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), much less to preach the Saviour in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

    The first task for everyone and especially the teachers, is to listen in the Spirit. According to this recent update of the good news, ‘synodality’ as a way of being for the Church is not to be defined, but just to be lived. It revolves around five creative tensions, starting from radical inclusion and moving towards mission in a participatory style, practicing ‘co-responsibility with other believers and people of good will’. Difficulties are acknowledged, such as war, genocide and the gap between clergy and laity, but all can be sustained, say the Bishops, by a lively spirituality.

    The image of the Church as an expanding tent with the Lord at its centre comes from Isaiah, and the point of it is to emphasise that this expanding tent is a place where people are heard and not judged, not excluded.

    So we read that the people of God need new strategies; not quarrels and clashes but dialogue, where the distinction between believers and unbelievers is rejected. The people of God must actually listen, it insists, to the cry of the poor and of the earth.

    Because of differences of opinion on abortion, contraception, the ordination of women to the priesthood and homosexual activity, some felt that no definitive positions on these issues can be established or proposed. This is also true of polygamy, and divorce and remarriage.

    However the document is clear on the special problem of the inferior position of women and the dangers of clericalism, although the positive contribution of many priests is acknowledged.

    What is one to make of this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will? It is not a summary of Catholic faith or New Testament teaching. It is incomplete, hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition and nowhere acknowledges the New Testament as the Word of God, normative for all teaching on faith and morals. The Old Testament is ignored, patriarchy rejected and the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, is not acknowledged.

    Two points can be made initially. The two final synods in Rome in 2023 and ’24 will need to clarify their teaching on moral matters, as the Relator (chief writer and manager) Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich has publicly rejected the basic teachings of the Church on sexuality, on the grounds that they contradict modern science. In normal times this would have meant that his continuing as Relator was inappropriate, indeed impossible.

    The synods have to choose whether they are servants and defenders of the apostolic tradition on faith and morals, or whether their discernment compels them to assert their sovereignty over Catholic teaching. They must decide whether basic teachings on things like priesthood and morality can be parked in a pluralist limbo where some choose to redefine sins downwards and most agree to differ respectfully.

    Outside the synod, discipline is loosening – especially in Northern Europe, where a few bishops have not been rebuked, even after asserting a bishop’s right to dissent; a de facto pluralism already exists more widely in some parishes and religious orders on things like blessing homosexual activity.

    Diocesan bishops are the successors of the apostles, the chief teacher in each diocese and the focus of local unity for their people and of universal unity around the Pope, the successor of Peter. Since the time of St Irenaeus of Lyon, the bishop is also the guarantor of continuing fidelity to Christ’s teaching, the apostolic tradition. They are governors and sometimes judges, as well as teachers and sacramental celebrants, and are not just wall flowers or rubber stamps.

    ‘Enlarge the Tent’ is alive to the failings of bishops, who sometimes do not listen, have autocratic tendencies and can be clericalist and individualist. There are signs of hope, of effective leadership and cooperation, but the document opines that pyramid models of authority should be destroyed and the only genuine authority comes from love and service. Baptismal dignity is to be emphasised, not ministerial ordination and governance styles should be less hierarchical and more circular and participative.

    The main actors in all Catholic synods (and councils) and in all Orthodox synods have been the bishops. In a gentle, cooperative way this should be asserted and put into practice at the continental synods so that pastoral initiatives remain within the limits of sound doctrine. Bishops are not there simply to validate due process and offer a ‘nihil obstat’ to what they have observed.

    None of the synod’s participants, lay, religious, priest or bishop are well served by the synod ruling that voting is not allowed and propositions cannot be proposed. To pass on only the organising committee’s views to the Holy Father for him to do as he decides is an abuse of synodality, a sidelining of the bishops, which is unjustified by scripture or tradition. It is not due process and is liable to manipulation.

    By an enormous margin, regularly worshipping Catholics everywhere do not endorse the present synod findings. Neither is there much enthusiasm at senior Church levels. Continued meetings of this sort deepen divisions and a knowing few can exploit the muddle and good will. The ex-Anglicans among us are right to identify the deepening confusion, the attack on traditional morals and the insertion into the dialogue of neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalisation, the voiceless, LGBTQ as well as the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, redemption. Why the silence on the afterlife of reward or punishment, on the four last things; death and judgement, heaven and hell?

    So far the synodal way has neglected, indeed downgraded the Transcendent, covered up the centrality of Christ with appeals to the Holy Spirit and encouraged resentment, especially among participants.

    Working documents are not part of the magisterium. They are one basis for discussion; to be judged by the whole people of God and especially by the bishops with and under the Pope. This working document needs radical changes. The bishops must realise that there is work to be done, in God’s name, sooner rather than later.

    Read Damian Thompson’s article on Pell’s final public statement here.

    WRITTEN BY Cardinal George Pell

    Cardinal Pell’s Last Writings. And those prison diaries of his so dear to Benedetto (link)

    By Sandro Magister

    January 11, 2023

    On the evening of Tuesday 10 January, the feast of Saint Gregory of Nissa, Cardinal George Pell died in Rome. His last public appearances were on January 5 the Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the funeral of Benedict XVI and on January 6 and 7 the preaching of a spiritual retreat in San Giovanni Rotondo.

    Between him and Joseph Ratzinger there was a strong proximity of vision, soothed for both by a thread of irony, despite the diversity of character. In the forthcoming book of the deceased pope’s secretary it is written that in the last period of his life, in the evening, after the recitation of vespers, he loved to have articles or books read aloud to him. And “among the texts that Benedict appreciated so much were the memoirs of Cardinal George Pell on the trial and imprisonment in Australia”.

    Pell was the author of that memorandum signed “Demos“, very critical of Francis’ pontificate, which circulated among the cardinals last spring, in view of a future conclave, published by Settimo Cielo on 15 March.

    And he was equally drastic with regard to the ongoing synod on synodality, in his latest writing published today in “The Spectator” with the sharp title: “The Catholic Church must free itself from this ‘toxic nightmare'”, translated into Italian in the blog by Aldo Maria Valli.

    Of his prison diary, here is a small anthology, very revealing.


    (Monday 4 March and Saturday 15 June 2019)    

    In the Breviary, Job’s troubles continued and worsened, as Satan was permitted to infect him with malignant sores. But Job did not condemn God, even though his embittered wife urged him to “curse God and die”. Job did not utter any sinful words. “If we accept good from God, why should we not accept evil?” (Job 2, 9-10).

    On many occasions, when asked about undeserved suffering, I have replied that even “the Son of God, Jesus, did not go smoothly.” For Christians, this always leads them to stop and reflect, and I have sometimes asked them to remember moments of blessing as well. […]

    I’ve never liked writers, even great Christian writers like St. John of the Cross, who emphasize the essential and necessary role of suffering if we are to get any closer to God. I’ve never read much of his work, finding it a bit frightening, while I managed to finish “The interior castle” [1588] of Saint Teresa of Avila, which nevertheless followed a similar robust Spanish theology.

    My approach is more like Jude Chen’s grandfather, […] who cried out to God for little troubles, because without them he would have become proud and thanks to them he wanted to avoid bigger troubles. […]

    My time in prison is not a picnic, it becomes a vacation time compared to other prison experiences. My good friend Jude Chen, originally from Shanghai and now living in Canada, wrote to me about his family’s imprisonment under the Chinese Communists.

    In 1958, Jude’s brother Paul, a seminarian, and sister Sophie, a high school student, were incarcerated for being Catholics and spent thirty years in two different prisons, for Sophie in the cold of northern China. The family was allowed a fifteen-minute monthly visit when they were in a Shanghai prison, and a hundred-word letter a month over three decades.

    Jude’s grandfather Simon, who was wealthy and had built a parish church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, had all his possessions confiscated. Jude loved him and they lived in the same house for nine years until the old man’s death. Jude recounts that when asked about his confiscated property, he replied: “Everything came from God and will be returned to God.”

    After the Cultural Revolution began in the spring of 1966, the Red Guards raided their home and were disappointed to find their grandfather Simon dead. They then destroyed his grave, looted the house and forced Jude’s mother to burn all their religious objects. Jude’s father was fired as a teacher and reduced to being a janitor.

    At eleven and in elementary school, Jude was forced to confess to his forty classmates that he was a criminal from a crime family. He still remembers his teacher telling his fellow students to stay away from him.

    At seventeen, Jude himself was sent to a labor camp in a suburb of Shanghai for eight years. As he was about to leave, his parents gave him this instruction: “Jude, do not keep hate in your heart but only love.” This is the sacred fuel that powers the Church.


    (3 March, Ash Wednesday, and Saturday 23 March 2019)

    I am still continuing to read the Letter to the Hebrews, a great text, which develops Paul’s central objective of explaining the role of Jesus in the Old Testament or in Jewish categories; which completes the work and message of the first Covenant. Fidelity to Christ and to his teaching remains indispensable for any fruitful Catholicism, for any religious awakening. This is why the “approved” Argentine and Maltese interpretations of “Amoris laetitia” are so dangerous. They go against the Lord’s teaching on adultery and St. Paul’s teaching on the dispositions necessary to adequately receive Holy Communion. […]

    The first reading of the breviary is always taken from Exodus, chapter 20, and reports the promulgation by God of what we have rearranged in the Ten Commandments. As an adult, and even as a child, I have always considered them essential. Fifty years ago I remember reading that Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist philosopher, said that the Ten Commandments were like a final exam of ten questions, of which you only had to answer six. Smart, but too comfortable. […]

    At the two Synods on the Family, some voices loudly proclaimed that the Church was a field hospital or a port of refuge. But this is only an image of the Church and it is far from being the most suitable or relevant, because the Church must rather show how not to get sick and how to escape shipwreck, and here the commandments are essential. Jesus himself taught: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (Jn 15:10).

    (In an editorial footnote, regarding interpretations of “Amoris laetitia”, it is explained that “pastoral guidelines” which “allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion under certain circumstances” were published in Argentina and Malta and “Pope Francis approved the Buenos Aires guidelines in a letter to the bishops of the region in September 2016”, while “the publication of the Maltese guidelines in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, the newspaper of the Holy See, in January 2017 was also seen ‘it by some as an official endorsement of those guidelines”).


    (Saturday 29 June 2019, feast of Saints Peter and Paul)

    I am in favor of the age-old tradition that popes do not resign, that they continue until they die, because this helps maintain the unity of the Church. Advances in modern medicine have complicated the situation, allowing the popes of today and tomorrow to likely live longer than their predecessors, even when their health is greatly weakened. […]

    However, the protocols on the role of a pope who has resigned need to be clarified, in order to strengthen the forces of unity. While the retired pope may retain the title of “pope emeritus,” he should be reinstated in the college of cardinals so that he is known as “Cardinal X, pope emeritus,” should not wear the white papal cassock, and should not teach publicly. Out of reverence and love for the pope, many will feel reluctant to impose such restrictions on someone who once held the see of Peter. Such measures would probably be best introduced by a pope who has no living predecessor.


    (Monday 1 July 2019)

    An Australian priest informed me that he had just welcomed six Muslims into the Catholic Church, baptized and confirmed them, and that two had been ostracized by their families. He asked one of them why she was so determined to take this step, and she simply replied that she “wanted to love Jesus, no matter what.” The same priest then commented: “I suppose that for all of us this should be our only reason and goal.” These are part of a constant underground stream of Muslim converts.


    (Monday 6 May and Wednesday 26 June 2019)

    Israel Folau is a brilliant rugby player, originally from Tonga and a devout man, of simple Christian faith, an old-fashioned Protestant, who has no time for the Catholic holidays of Christmas and Easter, much less for devotion to the Madonna.

    He paraphrased and modified St. Paul’s list of those who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God”, posting his warning on Instagram: “Drunkards, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. Hell awaits you. Repent.” Well, rugby union officials sacked him for hate speech. […]

    This case will create important precedents in the fight for religious freedom, and the Australian Christian Lobby has shown good judgment in supporting Folau. While I’m not in favor of condemning people to hell, because that’s God’s business, Folau is simply restating the teachings of the New Testament when he lists activities that are incompatible with belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven. What is strange is that no complaints arise from idolaters, adulterers, liars, fornicators, etc., in protest against their exclusion. I wonder how many of those hostile to Folau are Christians and how they can believe in heaven and hell. Those who are secure in their beliefs are not too concerned about the expression of different or opposing viewpoints, especially if they consider them nonsensical. Instead the increasingly crude forces of political correctness do not accept that all people be treated with respect and love, but demand, in the name of tolerance, not only that homosexual activity be legal as are same-sex marriages, but that all must approve such activities, at least publicly; and that everyone should be prevented from espousing Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality in any public space. This would be precisely the end of religious freedom. […] and that everyone should be prevented from espousing Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality in any public space. This would be precisely the end of religious freedom. […] and that everyone should be prevented from espousing Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality in any public space. This would be precisely the end of religious freedom. […]

    We are entering a new world of ideas, with the collapse of monotheism. […] Western civilization has made us who we are and one of the reasons for its successes is the creative tension between Athens and Jerusalem. Both cities are under attack. Jerusalem and its ally Rome bear the brunt of this assault, frontal assaults, but the weakness of both makes it difficult to defend Athens. When God is lost in a fog, be it the fog of lust or possession or power, the defenses of reason and truth are violated.

    [End Magister article]    

    And here is the “Demos” text, published last March (2022) by Sandro Magister:

    A Memorandum on the Next Conclave Is Circulating Among the Cardinals. Here It Is (link)

    By Sandro Magister

    March 15, 2022

    (sm) Since the beginning of Lent the cardinals who will elect the future pope have been passing this memorandum around. Its author, who goes by the name of Demos, “people” in Greek, is unknown, but shows himself a thorough master of the subject. It cannot be ruled out that he himself is a cardinal.



    By Demos

    Commentators of every school, if for different reasons, with the possible exception of Father Spadaro, SJ, agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.

    1. The Successor of St. Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, a major source and cause of worldwide unity. Historically (St. Irenaeus), the Pope and the Church of Rome have a unique role in preserving the apostolic tradition, the rule of faith, in ensuring that the Churches continue to teach what Christ and the apostles taught. Previously it was: “Roma locuta. Causa finita est.” Today it is: “Roma loquitur. Confusio augetur.”

    (A)   The German synod speaks on homosexuality, women priests, communion for the divorced. The Papacy is silent.

    (B)   Cardinal Hollerich rejects the Christian teaching on sexuality. The Papacy is silent. This is doubly significant because the Cardinal is explicitly heretical; he does not use code or hints. If the Cardinal were to continue without Roman correction, this would represent another deeper breakdown of discipline, with few (any?) precedents in history. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must act and speak.

    (C)   The silence is emphasised when contrasted with the active persecution of the Traditionalists and the contemplative convents.

    2. The Christo-centricity of teaching is being weakened; Christ is being moved from the centre. Sometimes Rome even seems to be confused about the importance of a strict monotheism, hinting at some wider concept of divinity; not quite pantheism, but like a Hindu panentheism variant.

    (A)   Pachamama is idolatrous; perhaps it was not intended as such initially.

    (B)   The contemplative nuns are being persecuted and attempts are being made to change the teachings of the charismatics.

    (C)   The Christo-centric legacy of St. John Paul II in faith and morals is under systematic attack. Many of the staff of the Roman Institute for the Family have been dismissed; most students have left. The Academy for Life is gravely damaged, e.g., some members recently supported assisted suicide. The Pontifical Academies have members and visiting speakers who support abortion.

    3. The lack of respect for the law in the Vatican risks becoming an international scandal. These issues have been crystalized through the present Vatican trial of ten accused of financial malpractices, but the problem is older and wider.

    (A)   The Pope has changed the law four times during the trial to help the prosecution.

    (B)   Cardinal Becciu has not been treated justly because he was removed from his position and stripped of his cardinalatial dignities without any trial. He did not receive due process. Everyone has a right to due process.

    (C)   As the Pope is head of the Vatican state and the source of all legal authority, he has used this power to intervene in legal procedures.

    (D)   The Pope sometimes (often) rules by papal decrees (motu proprio) which eliminate the right to appeal of those affected.

    (E)   Many staff, often priests, have been summarily dismissed from the Vatican Curia, often without good reason.

    (F)   Phone tapping is regularly practised. I am not sure how often it is authorized.

    (G)   In the English case against Torzi, the judge criticised the Vatican prosecutors harshly. They are either incompetent and/or were nobbled, prevented from giving the full picture.

    (H)   The raid by the Vatican Gendarmeria, led by Dr. Giani in 2017 on the auditor’s (Libero Milone) office on Italian territory was probably illegal and certainly intimidating and violent. It is possible that evidence against Milone was fabricated.

    4. (A) The financial situation of the Vatican is grave. For the past ten years (at least), there have nearly always been financial deficits. Before COVID, these deficits ranged around €20 million annually. For the last three years, they have been around €30-35 million annually. The problems predate both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.

    (B)   The Vatican is facing a large deficit in the Pensions Fund. Around 2014 the experts from COSEA estimated the deficit would be around € 800 million in 2030. This was before COVID.

    (C)   It is estimated that the Vatican has lost € 217 million on the Sloane Avenue property in London. In the 1980’s, the Vatican was forced to pay out $ 230 million after the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. Through inefficiency and corruption during the past 25-30 years, the Vatican has lost at least another € 100 million, and it probably would be much higher (perhaps 150-200 million).

    (D)   Despite the Holy Father’s recent decision, the process of investing has not been centralized (as recommended by COSEA in 2014 and attempted by the Secretariat for the Economy in 2015-16) and remains immune to expert advice. For decades, the Vatican has dealt with disreputable financiers avoided by all respectable bankers in Italy.

    (E)   The return on the 5261 Vatican properties remains scandalously low. In 2019, the return (before COVID) was nearly $ 4,500 a year. In 2020, it was € 2,900 per property.

    (F)   The changing role of Pope Francis in the financial reforms (incomplete but substantial progress as far as reducing crime is concerned, much less successful, except at IOR, in terms of profitability) is a mystery and an enigma.

    Initially the Holy Father strongly backed the reforms. He then prevented the centralization of investments, opposed the reforms and most attempts to unveil corruption, and supported (then) Archbishop Becciu, at the centre of Vatican financial establishment. Then in 2020, the Pope turned on Becciu and eventually ten persons were placed on trial and charged. Over the years, few prosecutions were attempted from AIF reports of infringements.

    The external auditors Price Waterhouse and Cooper were dismissed and the Auditor General Libero Milone was forced to resign on trumped up charges in 2017. They were coming too close to the corruption in the Secretariat of State.

    5. The political influence of Pope Francis and the Vatican is negligible. Intellectually, Papal writings demonstrate a decline from the standard of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Decisions and policies are often “politically correct”, but there have been grave failures to support human rights in Venezuela, Hong Kong, mainland China, and now in the Russian invasion.

    There has been no public support for the loyal Catholics in China who have been intermittently persecuted for their loyally to the Papacy for more than 70 years. No public Vatican support for the Catholic community in Ukraine, especially the Greek Catholics.

    These issues should be revisited by the next Pope. The Vatican’s political prestige is now at a low ebb.

    6. At a different, lower level, the situation of Tridentine traditionalists (Catholic) should be regularised.

    At a further and lower level, the celebration of “individual” and small group Masses in the mornings in St. Peter’s Basilica should be permitted once again. At the moment, this great basilica is like a desert in the early morning.

    The COVID crisis has covered up the large decline in the number of pilgrims attending Papal audiences and Masses.

    The Holy Father has little support among seminarians and young priests and wide-spread disaffection exists in the Vatican Curia.

    The Next Conclave

    1. The College of Cardinals has been weakened by eccentric nominations and has not been reconvened after the rejection of Cardinal Kasper’s views in the 2014 consistory. Many Cardinals are unknown to one another, adding a new dimension of unpredictability to the next conclave.

    2. After Vatican II, Catholic authorities often underestimated the hostile power of secularization, the world, flesh, and the devil, especially in the Western world and overestimated the influence and strength of the Catholic Church.

    We are weaker than 50 years ago and many factors are beyond our control, in the short term at least, e.g. the decline in the number of believers, the frequency of Mass attendance, the demise or extinction of many religious orders.

    3. The Pope does not need to be the world’s best evangelist, nor a political force. The successor of Peter, as head of the College of Bishops, also successors of the Apostles, has a foundational role for unity and doctrine. The new pope must understand that the secret of Christian and Catholic vitality comes from fidelity to the teachings of Christ and Catholic practices. It does not come from adapting to the world or from money.

    4. The first tasks of the new pope will be to restore normality, restore doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, restore a proper respect for the law and ensure that the first criterion for the nomination of bishops is acceptance of the apostolic tradition. Theological expertise and learning are an advantage, not a hinderance for all bishops and especially archbishops.

    These are necessary foundations for living and preaching the Gospel.

    5. If the synodal gatherings continue around the world, they will consume much time and money, probably distracting energy from evangelization and service rather than deepening these essential activities.

    If the national or continental synods are given doctrinal authority, we will have a new danger to world-wide Church unity, whereby e.g., the German church holds doctrinal views not shared by other Churches and not compatible with the apostolic tradition.

    If there was no Roman correction of such heresy, the Church would be reduced to a loose federation of local Churches, holding different views, probably closer to an Anglican or Protestant model, than an Orthodox model.

    An early priority for the next pope must be to remove and prevent such a threatening development, by requiring unity in essentials and not permitting unacceptable doctrinal differences. The morality of homosexual activity will be one such flash point.

    6.   While the younger clergy and seminarians are almost completely orthodox, sometimes quite conservative, the new Pope will need to be aware of the substantial changes effected on the Church’s leadership since 2013, perhaps especially in South and Central America. There is a new spring in the step of the Protestant liberals in the Catholic Church.

    Schism is not likely to occur from the left, who often sit lightly to doctrinal issues. Schism is more likely to come from the right and is always possible when liturgical tensions are inflamed and not dampened.

    Unity in the essentials. Diversity in the non-essentials. Charity on all issues.

    7. Despite the dangerous decline in the West and the inherent fragility and instability in many places, serious consideration should be given to the feasibility of a visitation on the Jesuit Order. They are in a situation of catastrophic numerical decline from 36,000 members during the Council to less than 16,000 in 2017 (with probably 20-25% above 75 years of age). In some places, there is catastrophic moral decline.

    The order is highly centralized, susceptible to reform or damage from the top. The Jesuit charism and contribution have been and are so important to the Church that they should not be allowed to pass away into history undisturbed or become simply an Asian-African community.

    8. The disastrous decline in Catholic numbers and Protestant expansion in South America should be addressed. It was scarcely mentioned in the Amazonian Synod.

    9. Obviously, a lot of work is needed on the financial reforms in the Vatican, but this should not be the most important criterion in the selection of the next Pope.

    The Vatican has no substantial debts but continuing annual deficits will eventually lead to bankruptcy. Obviously, steps will be taken to remedy this, to separate the Vatican from criminal accomplices and balance revenue and expenditure. The Vatican will need to demonstrate competence and integrity to attract substantial donations to help with this problem.

    Despite the improved financial procedures and greater clarity, continuing financial pressures represent a major challenge, but they are much less important than the spiritual and doctrinal threats facing the Church, especially in the First World.


    Lent 2022

    [End, Demos text]

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