(Image: Palace of the Holy Office; Headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)
Marco Tosatti, the well-informed and well-respected Italian Vatican specialist, has just revealed another quite troubling development in Rome. On 26 December, Tosatti reports on his own website Stilum Curiae that Pope Francis had just ordered the Prefect of one Vatican dicastery to dismiss three of his priests from their duties in their congregation.
My own research has shown that this incident occurred at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and that it was Cardinal Gerhard Müller himself who now has to obey these peremptory new orders. Additionally, I was able to discover that the three priests involved are, respectively, of a Slovakian-American, French, and Mexican nationality. (One of my sources is a friend of one of these three theologians.) However, the last of these three might now, after all, be able to remain a little longer in his current position at the Congregation.
Let us now consider some of the specific details of what Marco Tosatti himself has perceptively gathered for us. He starts his article with a reference to Pope Francis’ usual rebuke of the Roman Curia at his Christmas address to the Curia and detects the pope’s obvious anger in his words and gestures. When looking over to the Curia itself, however, Tosatti perceives something else than a reciprocal anger to be present among the curial members: “It is not about their resistance, but about their fear, their discontent, and a kind of feeling that belongs to another context altogether.”
Tosatti then refers to a credible source who told him several recent episodes occurring at the Vatican. Two of them appear to be of great importance and might also give us some additional glimpses into Pope Francis’ own authoritarian methods as well as his somewhat indirect way of ruling the Church. But, we should now first concentrate on the new personnel matter at the Congregation for Doctrine, which Tosatti himself says is “decisively sadder.” Here is Tosatti’s report:
The head of a dicastery has received the order to remove three of his employees (all of whom have worked there for a long time), and it was without any explanation. He [the Prefect] received these official letters: “….I request that you please dismiss ….” The order was: send him [each of them] back into his diocese of origin or to the Religious Family to which he belongs. He [the Prefect of the Congregation] was very perplexed because it was about three excellent priests who are among the most capable professionally. He first avoided obeying and several times asked for an audience with the pope. He had to wait because that meeting was postponed several times. Finally, he was received in an audience. And he said: “Your Holiness, I have received these letters, but I did not do anything because these persons are among the best of my dicastery… what did they do?” The answer was, as follows: “And I am the pope, I do not need to give reasons for any of my decisions. I have decided that they have to leave and they have to leave.” He got up and stretched out his hand in order to indicate that the audience was at an end. On 31 December, two of the three [men] will leave the dicastery in which they have worked for years, and without knowing the why. For the third, there seems to be a certain delay. But then, there is another implication which, if true, would be even more unpleasant. One of the two had freely spoken about certain decisions of the pope – perhaps a little bit too much. A certain person – a friend of a close collaborator of the pope – heard this disclosure and passed it on. The victim received then a very harsh telephone call from Number One [i.e., the pope]. And then soon came the dismissal.” [emphasis added]
In this passage, Tosatti piercingly speaks about an “autocratic fever that seems to have broken out in the Vatican.” [my emphasis] And he concludes his report with the following words:
Thus it is not so astonishing when the atmosphere behind the walls and in the palaces is not really serene. And one may now ask oneself what kind of credit this fact gives altogether to all the elaborate and sustained fanfare about mercy. [my emphasis]
Thus Tosatti adds another piece of the puzzle concerning Pope Francis’ manner and methods of governance through which he seemingly aims at removing – or marginalizing – orthodox prelates, priests, and laymen from positions of formative influence in the Vatican.
Moreover, with specific regard of the Congregation for Doctrine, another source had told me the following, more than a month ago:
One source in Rome says that all those who work for the Holy See are afraid to talk about anything for fear of being chopped because of the presence of informants everywhere. He compared it to Stalinist Russia. He said two priest friends of his, good men, have been fired from the CDF because they were accused of being critical of Pope Francis.
This same Rome source, who is personally very honest and well informed, reports that these two priests here mentioned (who are some of the same ones who are involved in the recent three personnel cases) fear that they will not be the only ones to be removed. They see their own removal to be just the beginning of a “massive overhaul” [my emphasis] within the Doctrine Congregation, “not unlike what happened recently to Cardinal Sarah’s Divine Worship Congregation.” (Here we might be reminded of the fact that it was Marco Tosatti himself who had earlier called these recent changes at the Congregation for Divine Worship a “Purge.”)
We have also recently reported about the pope’s earlier decision to remove the members of the Pontifical Academy of Life, which is widely known for its strong stance in defense of human life. Here is what one well-informed source had reported to me then about this incident:
At the end of 2016 the Pontifical Academy for Life was closed and all its members dismissed. The Academy will be reconstituted in 2017 with new statutes and the Academy will be repopulated. The process for naming new members of the Academy is not known.
During this forthcoming year of 2017 – the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima – may the Blessed Mother increasingly be our help and our trustworthy refuge. May she help us with those graces we shall need to defend the truth more fully and to manifest Christ’s love, as well, even in the face of fear.
This post has been updated.