Last year, Archbishop Viganò alleged that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’s handpicked secretary of state, was “complicit in covering up the misdeeds” of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Despite that grave accusation, Antonio Socci says that meetings of cardinals about a possible conclave have been taking place, with Parolin as the clear frontrunner.
A year ago, Parolin was also named as the likely successor to Pope Francis in reports about a “plot against the pope.” As Damian Thompson put it:
Antonio Socci, a leading conservative Vatican-watcher, says that cardinals once loyal to Francis are so concerned about a schism that they are planning to appeal to him to step down. He predicts that the rebellion will be led by about a dozen moderate cardinals who work in the curia.
Their favored candidate is understood to be Cardinal Pietro Parolin[.]
Why Parolin? According to Marco Tosatti, Parolin is a progressive diplomat with ties to a curial faction that was led by Cardinal Achille Silvestrini of the St. Gallen mafia. Other Vatican-watchers call Parolin a clear “reformer” — a “pastor open to dialogue,” in line with Pope Francis’s “winds of change.”
Parolin is, in short, a revolutionary without the wild liability of Francis. To stay papabile, he has been “distancing himself from some of the more questionable aspects of Pope Francis’s reign,” according to Tosatti. Sandro Magister has likened Parolin to a fireman, carefully controlling the blazes of this pontificate with his diplomatic prowess.
Parolin is said to have been previously shipped off to Venezuela because of a falling out with Cardinal Bertone, Pope Benedict’s secretary of state. Francis, who had spoken positively about Parolin before becoming pope, soon replaced Bertone with Parolin — who began loyally implementing Francis’s will.
The pope, in turn, lavished Parolin with power, as Thompson reported last year:
Parolin is unusually powerful because the Pope indulges him. Power has drained from other Vatican departments toward the secretariat of state. It is Parolin who is pushing the church towards an accommodation with Beijing that, critics say, would betray faithful Chinese Catholics; it was also Parolin who moved against the leadership of the Order of Malta, which had sacked one of his well-connected friends.
And it was Parolin who worked to thwart Cardinal Pell’s financial reforms, moving to suspend an external audit of the Vatican. One source claimed: “They’re afraid of the audit uncovering information they don’t want uncovered[.] … What they want is to get rid of Cardinal Pell.” Just weeks after Pell predicted a “moment of truth” on the reforms, he was called away on sexual abuse charges that, critics argue, remain implausible, despite his recent conviction.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Zen has emerged as Parolin’s new great antagonist, calling for Parolin’s resignation over his “incredible betrayal” in the deal with communist China. Zen says Parolin “got rid” of him and calls Parolin “arrogant and despotic, interested more in diplomatic (worldly) success than in the triumph of the Faith.”
Certainly, Parolin has seemed alarmingly friendly with cultural Marxists and other worldly elites. In 2018, he was the first Vatican official to ever attend the Bilderberg Meeting — a secretive summit with an “alleged globalist agenda” of “open borders and a one world government.” Parolin has also joined Pope Francis in promoting the U.N.’s menacing 2030 agenda. While Parolin has dutifully stated that the agenda must respect life in “all its stages,” pro-life leaders warn that the Vatican’s collaboration with the U.N. will, in practice, extend abortion and contraception — both smuggled into the agenda via coded language on “reproductive health.”
Parolin’s remarks on contraception, in fact, seem calculatingly subversive. Last year, Parolin helped present Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo’s The Birth of an Encyclical — a book that attempts to re-read Humanae Vitae in light of Amoris Laetitia. According to Marengo, Pope Paul VI was a prophet of Amoris Laetitia’s moral “paradigm shift”: he was interested above all in “accompanying” couples, who are merely “invited” to “progressively” observe Church teaching on sexuality.
Echoing Marengo’s “pastoral” slant on Humanae Vitae, Parolin said Paul VI rejected a draft that was “limited to a rigorous reaffirmation of doctrine” requiring assent “without reservation.” Emphasizing “mercy,” Parolin said Humanae Vitae’s moral principles “cannot be imposed in an abstract way” but must be harmonized with “pastoral” wisdom.
Notably, it was Parolin who first announced that Amoris Laetitia inaugurates an audacious “new paradigm.” That bold “paradigm shift” is now being executed by “Francis bishops” identified by Parolin and the other kingmakers on the Congregation for Bishops. According to Viganò, Parolin issued the “peremptory order” to reserve San Diego’s see for Robert McElroy — a leading crusader for “LGBT” causes and conscience-sanctioned adultery under Amoris Laetitia.
In 2017, Parolin further cemented his revolutionary credentials with a speech on the topic “The Council: A Prophecy that Continues with Pope Francis.” Repeatedly asserting that Vatican II initiated an “irreversible” process, Parolin quoted a theologian who boasted: “Absolutely nothing will be as it was before!” Parolin then praised the new “seeds” of “synodality” — a term that, under Pope Francis, has become synonymous with permanent revolution.
So Parolin is supposed to sweep forward this “irreversible” sea change — “correcting [Francis’s] lurches without betraying his spirit,” as Magister puts it. While it is said that Parolin has lately lost favor with Francis, Magister believes he is the only whispered-about candidate for pope with any real chance of being elected. Cardinal Sarah is too traditional; Cardinal Tagle is too reminiscent of Francis. Parolin — still accused of covering up for McCarrick — is the smooth revolutionary, the master collaborator with worldly powers.
“I don’t think he has faith. He is just a good diplomat in a very secular, mundane meaning,” Zen says of Parolin. It is an alarming spiritual indictment of the man who could well be the next pope.
Julia Meloni writes from the Pacific Northwest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale and a master’s degree in English from Harvard.