One hundred years ago, Our Lady of Fatima mysteriously warned us of the danger that the then-unspecified “errors of Russia” would somehow come to spread throughout the whole world if Russia would not first be adequately and solemnly consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Such a consecration, moreover, was prophesied to attain Russia’s own fuller conversion to the Catholic Faith and, thus, to the genuine incarnational life and culture of the Faith.
But, what, then, are the “errors of Russia” as they were developing at the time of the Bolshevik-Russian Revolution shortly after the Fatima apparitions? It would seem that they include, among other things, the following list of characteristics:
- A reductively atheistic materialist world-view which aims at undermining anything Christian in society;
- An ideology that is disconnected from Truth and reality;
- A cultural Marxism that later permeated also the West with the help of the Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci’s ideas;
- A revolutionary socialistic spirit that undermines especially major aspects of family life – especially with the help of feminism, divorce and abortion;
- A Hegelian dialectic philosophy, along with dialectic materialism, which claims that strife and ongoing contention in society are necessary in order to bring about higher and unfolding forms of life; such an approach essentially denies and purportedly transcends the principle or law of non-contradiction.
- A form of governing “revolutionary socialism” that is also constitutionally called “Democratic Centralism,” the latter formulation meaning that things have the appearance of being openly democratic, yet they are all centrally organized and managed in the background (Dr. Robert Hickson recently applied this principle to the current situation in the Church – especially with regard to the Family Synods – here);
- A disregard for tradition and for the traditional institutions of society (or now of the Church, such as the Curia?) as “counter-revolutionary forces”;
- A deceitful misuse of language with the intent to manipulate the public;
- A method of branding one’s own opponents with sweeping and demeaning epithets that abstractly categorize them as “right-wing” or “counter-revolutionary”;
- An approach to ongoing revolutionary changes where there is both “a slow path” and “a fast path” of the Revolution; such is “the Dialectic” and the “dialectical process”;
- Toward more moderate and compromising opponents, one first tries to incorporate them into the professed new system so as to use them as Lenin’s “useful idiots” in the sense that they help give to the world the illusory idea that nothing has really changed;
- As a last element – but of course a very important and painful one for those who lived under Communism – there is a constant sense of distrust and fear, unto the imprisonment and killing of one’s intransigent opponents.
For some months now, a certain expression has recurrently come back to me in my reflections: “The errors of Russia have reached Rome!” Let me attempt to explain why this insight may be so.
There have come to us now several witnesses who speak of an atmosphere of fear and suppression of free speech in Catholic Rome. Just very recently, Edward Pentin, a Rome Correspondent with much inside knowledge, revealed in an interview just how fearful people in employment at the Vatican now are:
The reaction [to the dubia] has been interesting so far: almost all the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia have remained silent, neither supporting the cardinals, nor, more importantly, coming out in support of the Pope and his decision not to respond. If silence is taken to mean consent for the dubia, then one could therefore argue that the vast majority are in favor of the four cardinals. That can only be speculative of course, but it could conceivably be true as for months one has heard from one significant part of the Curia that they feel great unease about what is happening. The phrases “reign of terror” and “Vatican martial law” are frequently bandied around.
Steve Skojec, as well, has reported on similar details concerning the atmosphere of fear in the Vatican:
I have heard reports that the Vatican is like an occupied state. Certain sources I’ve spoken with have a fear that communications with Vatican officials are being monitored; some have even reported suspicious anomalies in their telephone conversations in which, after a dropped call, the audio of the last moments of their conversation has played over and over again on a loop, as though they are hearing a recording. Some individuals who work within the Vatican are advising their contacts on the outside not to share sensitive information via email or their Vatican-issued cell phones. [emphasis added]
The recent intense responses against the Four Cardinals’ dubia – to include threats and insults thrown at them, instead of properly responding to the substance of their fundamental questions – is another hint of the increasingly suffocating ideological atmosphere in Rome. Not the substance matters, but whether you are in line with the pope’s own methods and procedures and ambiguous proposals. Those who at all disagree with the new line of thought are being intimidated (or removed from office, as was Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke). Just as in earlier Communist times, those who oppose the regime of subversive or coercive novelties are called “right-wing” and “being backwards.” For example, one leading figure in this detraction and method of labeling people is Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J, who just recently came out mocking those “balanced” blogs who report on the Vatican but who have so suddenly, in his eyes, now turned into “right-wing propaganda machines.” Here is his full “tweet”:
After #dubia many so called “balanced” blogs about Church are taking off their mask showing themselves as right wing propaganda machines! [my emphasis]
This tweet by one of the closest friends and advisors of the pope shows how the atmosphere in the Catholic Church has been constricted and politicized under the pontificate of Pope Francis. This is also what Edward Pentin himself has extensively observed in his recent above-mentioned interview:
The Pope’s reaction, of going so far as to question the [Four] cardinals’ mental state, has been read as a manifestation of his own anger at having his agenda taken off course. And instead of taking the four cardinals at their word (they have said they are acting primarily out of charity towards the Holy Father, justice and deep pastoral concern), they are seen as adversaries. I understand he has also been working behind the scenes to ensure his agenda is not thwarted. From strategically placed articles in L’Osservatore Romano to equivocations from those who publicly criticized the dubia when asked if the Pope had asked them to do so, Francis has been acting, as one observer put it, like a “behind-the-scenes political lobbyist.” In the three weeks after the dubia were published, the Pope gave three interviews to the world’s media, each of them aimed at legitimizing his position while denigrating his critics.
Lastly, it’s important to point out that simply by matching facts with words coming from the Pope and his allies, it’s clear there is significant lying and deceit taking place, as well as calumnies and the besmirching of reputations of those labeled to be “on the right” just because they are publicly critical of Amoris Laetitia, or merely report on such criticism. It genuinely pains me to say all this, because as a Catholic journalist one doesn’t wish in any way to diminish the Petrine Office, but I feel I have an obligation to report the facts on what is happening. [my emphasis]
Not only do Pope Francis and his allies use a typical leftist rhetoric against their opponents, but they have now also shown, in general, more sympathy toward left-wing and liberal personalities and politicians, as well as for progressivist themes, such as environmentalism and anti-Capitalism.
One very troubling event that took place under Francis’ pontificate is that a Vatican conference discussed the question as how to use children as “change agents” with regard to implementing an ecological world-view in the world.
In light of all of these grave and fundamental changes in the permeating atmosphere and in the preponderant themes that are now being promoted in Rome, it might be worthwhile to consider Pope Francis’ own recent words about conflict and strife. It seems that the pope himself knows that he is causing strife – instability and insecurity – in the Church, and that he regards such strife (i.e., struggle and dialectical oppositions) as something positive and “constructive” and “creative.” Francis recently said that “oppositions help” and added: “Human life is structured in oppositional form. And that is also what is happening now in the Church. Tensions need not necessarily be resolved and regulated. They are not like contradictions.” His unofficial spokesman, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J said on 9 December 2016 the following about the pope’s attitude toward conflicts: “The pope knows very well that the reform process in the Church – if it is effective – creates and develops tensions and that it is good if they somehow find expression.” [my emphasis] Does this view as expressed here with regard to the positive aspects of conflict remind us perhaps of the positive view upon conflict within the Hegelian-Marxist world-view?
All these new developments, to include the new atmosphere in Rome, remind some of the current major Catholic witnesses of their own prior experience in Communist Russia. There is, for example, the witness of Bishop Athanasius Schneider himself who grew up under the terror of Soviet Communism. He himself recently described the atmosphere in Rome as being comparable to that in the former Soviet Union. According to LifeSiteNews:
“The reaction to the dubia is a proof of the climate in which we actually live in the Church right now,” Bishop Schneider said. “We live in a climate of threats and of denial of dialogue towards a specific group.”
Schneider went to say that “dialogue seems to be accepted only if you think like everyone else – that is practically like a regime.”
Schneider brought up his experience in Russia, where he was born in the time of the Soviet Union. His parents were sent by Stalin to work camps, or “Gulags,” after the Second World War. “If you didn’t follow the line of the party, or you questioned it, you couldn’t even ask. That is for me a very clear parallel to what is happening now in the reactions to the dubia – questions – of the Cardinals.”
Another eye witness of Communism has also recently given us further proof that the current anti-family and gender ideology – which finds increasing acceptance in Vatican circles, to include the pope himself – has troubling similarities to historical Communism. Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, a Catholic medical doctor and participant at the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, recently gave an interview to Edward Pentin where she says the following (I shall also print here in italics some of Pentin’s own specific questions put to Dr. Cernea):
Would you say your and others’ experience of communism in Central and Eastern Europe has a lot to offer, in terms of tacking this crisis in the Church?
Yes, for us, also, it’s easier, because we went through this for decades. … Now, we’re in a better position to fight this aggression. We are better placed to fight, those of us interested in this. We are more familiar with real Marxism than our brothers and sisters in the West.
You see more clearly what’s happening?
Yes, and there’s no doubt that it is Marxism. In our country, when you visit some internet pages, if there’s a new article about political correctness, you can see people commenting, and they’re saying it [political correctness] is communism, and asking, “Don’t you people realize it’s communism?” It is communism, and the people who make such comments tend to have a very clear intuition. They are correct.
Dr. Cernea says that it is a form of cultural Marxism and of Gramscianism that stands behind the current crisis of the family. Now, with the more permissive laxity appearing in the Church’s moral teaching on marriage and the family, it seems that this same ideology is also seeping into, and sometimes even flooding into, the Catholic Church. I remember conducting an interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider during the 2015 Synod on the Family and asking him about the new language of “inclusion” and “diversity” that was then coming up and infiltrating into the debate. He answered, in general, and then specifically drew an important parallel to his upbringing under Communism:
This is again to use language without content to make and express an accumulation of letters with beautiful sound, but without sound substance. This is a perversion of language, in order to achieve an aim which is against the Word of God. And this is typical Gnosticism. […]
I grew up in Communism, I went five years to Communist schools, and I remember very well this seductive language, and quite completely; for, they used the same terms, concepts, but in a perverted manner, when they spoke of “peace.” They said: “Oh we are promoting peace,” but we knew that in that Communist time that they were not promoting peace by exporting weapons to Cuba, to Angola, and so on; and, so, this was “the peace.” And this is cynical and is likewise perverting the true meaning of the words [such as mercy?].
For example, I remember as a child in the Communist school, that we had to learn a famous Communist song, quite famous at that time, and it goes like this: our country is a beautiful country with trees and forest, and I don’t know another country where people can breathe so freely. Freely! I had to sing this song again and again. A country where you can breathe so freely – and, in actuality, it was a country filled with prisons and with concentration camps. It is very sad that now this innovative group of bishops in the Synod are using a perverted language to promote an anti-Christian agenda. [my emphasis]
It is worthwhile to present this extended quote because I believe that all of us Catholics should learn from the experience of those members of the Church who have had to live under some form of Communism and its “cultural hegemony” – and who might help us now to “come out from under the rubble,” and “not to live the lie” (two expressions of the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who, like Dostoievsky, is much beloved by my own husband).
Another example of a prelate who grew up under Communism and who now has had the courage to stand up against the new stifling ideology in Rome is Cardinal Joachim Meisner. As we just reported, he wrote a most beautiful little text where he mentions his upbringing in Communist East Germany – where Catholics had to suffer variously and very much for their Faith – and where he even chooses to quote a prayer he often prayed as a young man. This prayer may now be of help to all of us, as well. It reads:
“Lord, let me stand
where the storms are blowing,
and do not spare me.
The child has to disappear,
and the man has to appear:
do not be afraid!”
May this prayer also inspire those prelates within the Catholic Church who are now holding back from their private and, if necessary, their own public fraternal correction of Pope Francis – those such as Cardinal Robert Sarah and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, both of whom are Prefects of Congregations under Francis. May they consider the extent to which their loyalty toward Francis should effectively stand above their prior loyalty toward Christ.
Cardinal Müller has now – in obedience to Pope Francis’ order – explicitly declined to comment on the case of the Four Cardinals. However, his demurral to comment upon the dubia of the Four Cardinals can unfortunately now also be interpreted in such a way as to imply his adverse criticism of them. None other than the prominent German newspaper Die Zeit has even made such an inference. In a 8 December 2016 article for its sub-section Christ & Welt, the author Christine Rietz says the following with regard to the Four Cardinals’ Letter:
For this open attack on Amoris Laetitia, they are now being sharply criticized by high-ranking curial cardinals and theologians. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Müller, already showed, for now, the instruments [for a possible intervention] and commented, correspondingly: well, we would intervene and “mediate” if we received the [pope’s] marching order… If the Holy Office wants to “mediate” something, things become interesting.
That is to say, Cardinal Müller’s own hesitancy to come to the rescue of the Four Cardinals might even be used as a further instrumentality against these very cardinals with whom he has worked so closely in the recent past, especially in order to defend the fuller Catholic teaching on marriage and the family! Do we now need also to receive from him a further “clarification”?
Cardinal Müller and other prelates who might likewise aim at remaining somewhat quiet in order to “survive” this pontificate would perhaps do well consider a recent article from John L. Allen. In this article, Allen presents well the method of Pope Francis: his ignoring those prelates in the Church who are opposing his reform and doing it by often bypassing them and by promoting other prelates to places that are above them in rank, importance, or at least to be more deferred to in practice.
Allen gives an Italian example of this method, with reference to the Italian Bishops’ Conference which is currently run by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco who is reputed to be considerably more conservative than Pope Francis. Allen – who is by no means himself a conservative Catholic journalist – describes the pope’s dealing with this “personnel” problem, as follows:
One option for the pontiff would have been to remove Bagnasco and [to] name someone else as president of the conference. Instead, he’s chosen to leave Bagnasco in the job, while putting his own man in the number two slot and making it so clear that Nunzio [Galantino] enjoys his favor that everyone understands he’s the real papal point of reference in the Italian episcopacy. [emphasis added]
Is this not also what Pope Francis has effectively now done with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, leaving him in his office but putting above him as an effective doctrinal authority Cardinal Christoph Schönborn?
In light of the theme of this article – namely, that there is a growing similarity between the current crisis in Rome and the techniques used by Communist regimes and their Nomenklatura in Russia and its Satellites (but for the network of Gulags) – some of our current prelates might also well consider the history of the Communist takeover in Russia and elsewhere: how the Mencheviks softened up and further prepared things for the more coercive Bolsheviks. To give a small example, Dr. Cernea said in a very important May 2016 talk:
[In the face of the silence of many Catholic bishops with regard to Communism,] No wonder that Christian-Democrats not only failed to oppose communism in Latin America, they even became instruments of the communist take-over of their countries – Salvador Allende took power in Chile thanks to the support of Eduardo Frei. Rafael Caldera was Hugo Chávez’s godfather, both in the literal and the political sense. [my emphasis]
In general, those well-meaning politicians (mostly social democrats and progressive socialists) in emerging Communist countries were then soon removed from their offices of power, in spite of their attempts to make accommodations with the new and more coercive system for the sake of “doing something good from within the system.” These politicians might also not have been sufficiently aware of how their own collaboration – as “useful idiots” (Lenin) – was useful to the new regime from the beginning by giving enough cover and credibility to it so as not to awaken undue alarm and provocative suspicion too soon. The people had to be tranquilized.
Thus we may continue to pray for those who have not yet spoken up – or sufficiently woken up. May they all come out and help all of us to come out from under the asphyxiating rubble. Christ’s truth, we trust, shall set us free! May also the Blessed Mother – who warned us nearly 100 years ago against the spreading of the “errors of Russia” – help us now to fight against these subtle (and sometimes blatant) errors back in Rome. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Dr. Maike Hickson, born and raised in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, LifeSiteNews, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.