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The 1978 Investigation into Vatican Freemasonry, pt. II

Above: Albino Luciani, John Paul I. 

Read part I here.

Some light at the end of the tunnel shone with the more positive reception of Archbishop Gagnon’s evidence, with the next Pontiff, John Paul I. The new Holy Father did not waste time and did not put off Gagnon’s request to present his report. Unlike the previous Pontiff, the new Holy Father cut to the chase and said what needed to be said, after seeing Gagnon’s evidence:

Freemason bishops? Any Catholic—lay or cleric—who enters Freemasonry, incurs automatic excommunication. Canon 2335.

The following are more excerpts to illustrate the contrast between Paul VI and John Paul’s response:

Archbishop Gagnon: “Archbishop Bugnini directed the liturgical reform… creating new liturgical and sacramental rites. He welcomed Protestant scholars to take part… a renewal that seems rather to be a reinvention. Liturgical ‘experimentation’ has been rampant, making a plaything of the most solemn rites of the Church. And he presided over this revolution.”

John Paul: “We are aware.”

Archbishop Gagnon: “The gravity of allowing Sebastiano Baggio, Cardinal and Freemason, to continue as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops was simply and completely intolerable.”

But even Cardinal Benelli himself seemed to also compromise and cower as evident in Pope John Paul’s move to seek Gagnon’s advice: “Cardinal Benelli suggests I appoint Baggio to Venice… He says it’s the only way Cardinal Baggio will go quietly… Cardinal Benelli is concerned that his brother cardinal is in a unique position to blackmail any number of important and key people.” Cardinal Benelli’s advice is similar to Paul VI’s resolution to the Bugnini problem, of which Fr. Murr himself says, “Why they sent him to Iran instead of straight to hell makes no sense to me.” To which, Archbishop Gagnon answered, “It was done to avoid further scandal… at least was the answer I received when I asked the very same question you just asked—the very same question Cardinal Staffa asked… and Cardinal Oddi asked… and Benelli asked.” Hence, to John Paul I’s question, Archbishop Gagnon gives a most interesting response that allows him to only very subtly rebuke his most valued mentor, Benelli:

If Cardinal Benelli says, ‘Send him to Venice!’ then I would send him to Venice. Furthermore, if Cardinal Benelli were to tell me that I confront the man myself and hand him his walking papers, then I would tell him where to go—and the fastest way to get there. In other words, Most Holy Father: You, Pope John Paul, must confront the evil in person; You… must rid Rome of the evil.

John Paul’s response, “Exactly what we feared you would say.” But then again, we can only speculate or surmise, based on John Paul’s reaction, it was a mere rhetorical test as both John Paul and Benelli knew what Gagnon’s answer would be. Considering the Pontiff was new and an outsider to the Curia, to his credit, he immediately met with Gagnon and recognized the inevitable for Freemasons (automatic excommunication), and then asked Archbishop Gagnon for his recommendation. The pope immediately met with Baggio on the same day. No one else was present and the only testimony about the encounter came via the grapevine in the days after from the Swiss Guards on duty, who later reported voices were raised. The next day, October 16, 1978, the Holy Father was dead, and John Paul II was elected pope.

It was 1979, three months into the papacy, and Archbishop Gagnon had not been called to present the results of his investigation, in spite various attempts by Cardinal Benelli to procure a meeting with the new Pontiff. Meanwhile, Baggio was still in charge of the world’s bishops and Villot remained Secretary of State. Father Murr recognized reality:

The evidence seemed conclusive that both Archbishop Bugnini and Cardinal Baggio were Freemasons… How could this state of affairs have been allowed to go on for so long… and in the case of Cardinal Baggio, this was still the case. Prelates? They were excommunicated Catholics.

Father Murr recalls a conversation he and Father Marini had regarding the new pope, who had kept both Villot and Baggio and reconfirmed every member of the corrupt Vatican government as ‘unpardonable stupidity.’ As efforts to get a meeting with the new pope continued to fail, Father Murr asked Gagnon:

Where is Cardinal Benelli in all of this? Why wasn’t he rattling a few cages? Wojtyła was his man… So where is Benelli? Why hasn’t he stepped up to the plate and helped you?

Archbishop Gagnon responded:

We met. We talked. We agreed: this pope is off to a very bad start… Reappointing every Curial department head to his same position—a major mistake. He told me to phone Cardinal Villot and to insist on an audience with the Holy Father. ‘Alone,’ he cautioned. I have phoned his office several times. Left messages. Nothing.

On the pope’s move to retain Villot and Baggio, Archbishop Gagnon replied, “a terrible misstep… grave mistake. It’s as if he considers the Church’s central government to be of tertiary importance.” There’s a startling similarity with Paul VI’s reaction to Moro’s death vs. Gagnon’s ‘damning report.’ The similarity is further revealed in Gagnon’s response as to what he thought were the new Holy Father’s primary and secondary concerns – “Poland’s liberation from Communism… a noble cause… but not the reason he was elected Pastor of the Church universal” and “traveling… He leaves for Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas in two weeks… already doing the preliminaries for a trip to Poland.” Traveling and patriotism and freedom for Poland (versus the Church universal) can safely be judged to have been deemed more pressing (based on the choices made and actions taken) than Freemasons running the Vatican. But at last, on February 6, 1979, Archbishop Gagnon would finally meet the new pope to present the results of his investigation.

But Gagnon’s meeting with the pope “had been a disaster.” So much so, the Archbishop decided to leave Rome and the Vatican the next day, declaring, “Let them wallow in their corruption if that be their will… I will not be a part of it one day longer.” Archbishop Gagnon went to Columbia but was asked to return to the Vatican after the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1982. The pope instructed Cardinal Casaroli to look for him as he earlier informed John Paul II of an attempt on his life during their last meeting, prior to Gagnon leaving Rome for Columbia. John Paul II asked him to rejoin the Roman Curia, to which Gagnon responded with two conditions—the removal of Cardinal Baggio from the Congregation for Bishops and of Bishop Paul Marcinkus from the Vatican Bank.

John Paul II made him Cardinal in 1985. He passed away in 2007. Baggio was relieved of his position in 1984 and was named President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. While a ‘demotion’ indeed, to have a Freemason linger just as Bugnini was allowed to linger (both retaining positions) is another illustration of this triumvirate problem with effeminacy, naivete, and pacifism. It is safe to declare, in reality both were excommunicates. Baggio died in 1993. Bugnini stayed on as nuncio in Iran and died in 1982. Cardinal Benelli was asked to become Vatican Secretary of State in 1982; but ten days after his private audience with the pope, he died of a heart attack.

There is no further mention of the damning evidence and whatever happened to Cardinal Gagnon’s report; and how damning it must have been because earlier on in the investigation, when Cardinal Benelli first verified the evidence provided by Cardinals Oddi and Staffa, Benelli had said, although Baggio and Bugnini were heavyweights in the scandal, they were just “the tip of the iceberg.” If Benelli’s findings were but a tip of the iceberg, one can only imagine the contents of Gagnon’s report. And yet, to this day in 2023, Catholics world over have not been given the contents of this report; and in spite of Freemasonry being the central culprit in Gagnon’s report, the pope who made Gagnon Cardinal in 1985 changed the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 2335 into a watered-down version with Canon 1374. The move is very similar to the choices the popes made with Bugnini and Baggio. Given the threat posed by Freemasonry and its infiltration into the Church, was this watering-down and shall we say effeminization and pacification of the prohibition and condemnation of a movement diametrically opposed to Catholicism not at least naïve?

Meanwhile 39 years have passed since Cardinals Oddi and Staffa brought their allegations and evidence to Paul VI, followed by Cardinal Benelli’s project to verify and Archbishop Gagnon’s investigation, we see the rotten fruits of the damning evidence (of which we have never been told), unveiling and giving life to the evidence itself that remains unreported and secret. This quote from Father Charles Theodore Murr himself, back then seems to have aged well (well in terms of proof, that is):

The battle for the Church’s future would be colossal and brutal. Either the Church would remain Catholic or—God forbid—be usurped by the likes of Sebastiano Baggio and Jean Villot, and their barbaric band of Masonic sympathizers and Marxists!

Like the Synod on Synodality, we remain asking for an investigation and review, talking, expressing, debating, and still figuring it all out. But what about unearthing those documents and making them all public, as Father Murr himself requests. At the same time, we argue the revelation of the evidence isn’t necessary to establish, shall we say, a murder in the 33rd degree of the Catholic faith and liturgy.

As the crisis in the Church is unveiled and accelerates, “separating the men from the boys in the episcopate,” we see this pernicious and slow ‘murder in the 33rd’ as a consequence of the grave errors of our time—effeminacy, naivete, and pacifism.

Less words, more action.

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