OnePeterFive is pleased to present this exclusive interview of Professor Roberto De Mattei, President of the Lepanto Foundation, with Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli – one of the Italian journalists who helped publish the Vigano testimony in August 2018. As usual, Professor de Mattei offers frank and thought-provoking insight and analysis.
Aldo Maria Valli: Professor De Mattei, not a day passes without this pontificate causing new confusion and doubts for many of the faithful. The declaration about other religions made at Abu Dhabi has provoked a great amount of concern. It seems there is no way of avoiding the fact that it is problematic. How do you interpret it?
Professor Roberto De Mattei: The Abu Dhabi declaration made on February 4, 2019, signed by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar affirms that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” This affirmation contradicts the teaching of the Church, which says the one true religion is the Catholic religion. In fact, it is only by Faith in Jesus Christ and in His Name that men can attain eternal salvation (cf. Acts 4:12).
On March 1, during the ad limina visit of the bishops of Kazakhstan to Rome, Bishop Athanasius Schneider expressed his perplexity to Pope Francis about the Abu Dhabi declaration. The pope replied to him that “the diversity of religions is only the permissive will of God.” This answer is deceptive, because it seems to admit that the plurality of religions is an evil permitted by God but not willed by him, but the same is not true of the diversity of sexes and races, which are positively willed by God. When Bishop Schneider expressed his objection to him, Pope Francis admitted that the phrase “could be understood erroneously.” Yet the pope never corrected or rectified his affirmation, and in fact the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, at the request of the Holy Father, directed all bishops to see to the widespread diffusion of the Abu Dhabi declaration so that it “may become an object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of education and formation.”
The interpretation which is thus being spread is that the plurality of religions is a good thing, not an evil that is merely tolerated by God. It seems to me that these deliberate contradictions are a microcosm of the entire pontificate of Pope Bergoglio.
How would you, as a historian of the Church, summarize the past six years?
As years of hypocrisy and lies. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen because he appeared to be a bishop who was “humble and profoundly spiritual” (thus did Andrea Tornielli salute him in La Stampa), one “who would reform and purify the Church.” But none of this happened. The pope did not remove the most corrupt prelates either from the Roman Curia or from individual dioceses. He has done so only when, as in the McCarrick case, he was forced to by public opinion. In reality, Francis has revealed himself to be a political pope, the most political pope of the last century. His political persuasion is that of left-wing Peronism, which detests, in principle, every form of inequality and is opposed to Western culture and society. When transferred into the ecclesiastical realm, Peronism joins with liberation theology and leads to an effort to impose synodal democratization on the Church, which strips her of her essential nature.
The summit on sexual abuse seems as though it has already been forgotten. It was full of nice-sounding expressions which the mainstream media trumpeted, but it did not lead to anything new. In general, how do you judge the way in which the Holy See is addressing this crisis?
In a clearly contradictory way. The anti-abuse norms that have just been approved by Pope Francis circumvent the real problem, which is the relationship between the tribunals of the Church and the civil courts, or, seen more broadly, the relationship between the Church and the world. The Church has the right and duty to investigate and judge those accused of crimes that violate not only civil laws but also ecclesiastical laws, established by canon law. In this case, it is necessary to open a regular penal trial in a Church tribunal that respects the fundamental rights of the accused and is not conditioned by the results of any civil trial.
Today, instead, in the case of Cardinal Pell, the Vatican has said it will open a canonical trial, but first it needs to “wait for the outcome of the [civil] appeals process.” In the case of Cardinal Barbarin of France, condemned to six months in prison with probation and also awaiting an appeals process, there has similarly been no announcement of any canonical trial. When Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was called to testify in the Barbarin case by the judges in Lyon, the Vatican invoked diplomatic immunity, but it did not do this for Cardinal Pell. This policy of different standards for different people is part of the climate of ambiguity and duplicity we are living in.
During this pontificate, new norms have been introduced for monastic life, and in particular for the cloister. Some monastic communities are very worried, because they consider these new norms a threat to contemplative life. Do you share this concern?
Yes, it seems as though there is a plan to destroy contemplative life. I very much appreciated the articles you have dedicated to this theme on your blog. The constitution on women’s contemplative life Vultum Dei Quaerere of June 29, 2016, and the Instruction Cor Orans of April 1, 2018, suppress every form of juridical autonomy and create federations and new bureaucratic organisms as “structures of communion.” The obligation to be part of these structures means that monasteries lose, de facto, their autonomy, which is dissolved into an anonymous mass of monasteries that are all moving toward the dissolution of traditional monastic life. The modernist “normalization” of the few monasteries that still resist the revolution would be an inevitable consequence. The juridical suppression of contemplative life we are moving toward does not, however, signify the end of the contemplative spirit, which is becoming ever stronger in response to the secularization of the Church. I know monasteries that have succeeded in securing juridical indepedence from the Congregation for Religious Life and maintain monastic life, supporting the Church in this crisis with their intercessory prayer. I am convinced that, as it once was said, the prayer of the cloisters rules the world.
The sixth anniversary of the election of Pope Bergoglio has passed, even if it felt a bit subdued. One has the impression that even people who once supported him are beginning to distance themselves from him. Is this impression mistaken?
We know that there are forces that want to destroy the Church. Freemasonry is one of these. Yet an open battle against the Church is never productive, because, as Tertullian wrote, the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. And this is why, for at least two centuries, a plan was formulated by anti-Christian forces to conquer the Church from within.
We know that in the 1960s, the Soviet Union and communist regimes of Eastern Europe infiltrated many of their men into the seminaries and Catholic universities. Some of these climbed the ladder and became bishops or even cardinals. But such intentional complicity and activity is not necessary to contribute to the self-destruction of the Church. It is also possible to become unknowing instruments of someone who manipulates from the outside. In this case, the manipulators chose the most suitable men, men who displayed doctrinal and moral weakness, influenced them, conditioned them, and at times even blackmailed them. The men of the Church are neither infallible nor impeccable, and the Evil One constantly places before them the temptations which the Lord renounced (Mt 4:1–11).
The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio was directed by a clerical lobby, behind which may be seen the presence of other lobbies or strong powers. I have the impression that the ecclesiastical powers and powers outside the Church that worked for the election of Pope Bergoglio are not satisfied with the results of his pontificate. From their point of view, there have been many words but few practical results. Those who sponsor Pope Francis are ready to abandon him if radical change does not take place. It seems he is being given one last chance to revolutionize the Church in the Amazon Synod this coming October. It seems to me that they have already sent signals indicating this.
What signals are you referring to?
To what happened after the summit on pedophilia, which was an obvious failure. The large publications of the international press, from Corriere della Sera to El País, did not hide their disappointment. It seems to me that the announcement made by the German Bishops’ Conference by its president, Cardinal Marx, that they will convoke a local synod that will make binding decisions about sexual morality, priestly celibacy, and the reduction of clerical power, should be understood as an ultimatum. It is the first time that the German bishops have expressed themselves with such clarity. They seem to be saying that if the pope does not cross the Rubicon, they will cross it themselves. In both cases we would find ourselves facing a declared schism.
What consequences would such a separation have?
A declared schism, although evil in itself, could be guided by Divine Providence toward the good. The good that could arise is the awakening of so many people who are asleep and the understanding that the crisis did not begin with the pontificate of Pope Francis but has developed for a long time and has deep doctrinal roots. We must have the courage to re-examine what has happened in the last fifty years in the light of the Gospel maxim that a tree is judged by its fruits (Mt 7:16–20). The unity of the Church is a good that should be preserved, but it is not an absolute good. It is not possible to unite what is contradictory, to love truth and falsehood, good and evil, at the same time.
Many Catholics feel discouraged as well as betrayed. Our faith tells us that the forces of evil will not prevail, and yet it is difficult to see a way out of this crisis. Humanly speaking, it seems that everything is collapsing. How will the Church come out of this crisis?
The Church is not afraid of her enemies, and she always wins when Christians fight. On February 4 at Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis said there is a need of “demilitarizing the heart of man.” I believe, on the contrary, that there is a need of militarizing hearts and transforming them into an Acies Ordinata, like the one who stood in prayerful protest at Piazza San Silvestro in Rome on February 19 and confirmed the existence of a Catholic resistance against the self-destruction of the Church. There are many other voices of resistance that have made and are making themselves heard.
I believe we must overcome the many misunderstandings that often divide the forces of good people. Instead, we must seek a unity of intention and action among these forces, while maintaining our legitimate different identities. Our adversaries are united in their hatred of the good, and so we ought to be united in our love for the good and for the truth. But we must love a perfect good, a good that is whole and without compromise, because He Who sustains us with His love and power is infinitely perfect. We ought to place all our hope in Him and only in Him. This is why the virtue of hope is the one we ought to cultivate the most, because it makes us strong and perseverant in the battle we are fighting.
This interview was translated for 1P5 by Giuseppe Pellegrino. The original in Italian can be found at Aldo Maria Valli’s blog.To find more articles and podcasts by Professor De Mattei and to subscribe to his newsletter defending Christian civilization, go to https://www.patreon.com/