Blind to the Crisis of the Church: Lamentations of Father Cavalcoli

November 20, 2019

Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, an Italian Dominican, wrote a page on his blog titled: Non habemus papam, “we have no pope.” The author specifies that he is not a sedevacantist; this sensational title is meant to attract attention. He presents himself as a conservative and fits in the line of the hermeneutic of continuity of Pope Benedict XVI, of whom he is an admirer.

The article signed by the Dominican from Ravenna focuses on the personality and actions of Pope Francis. He shows the distress they cause in him and many good Catholics. He tries to explain the damage this papacy is causing to the faith of the faithful by putting forward several explanations.

The Pope’s Imprudence

The first explanation presented by the religious is the “pastoral imprudence” inherent in Pope Francis, characterized by “modernist reformism and a poorly understood dialogue with the world.” This way of doing things would be the cause of a “chaotic ecclesial situation” that has become unmanageable.

Fr. Cavalcoli laments that the Pope maintains “friendly contacts with all major international powers hostile to the Catholic Church, without criticizing them: the Protestant world, the communist world, the Jewish world, the Islamic world, Freemasonry.” Is this criticism just? For once, it seems that the Dominican has been struck with amnesia. Who regularly went to meet Protestants? Who was the first pope to officially enter a synagogue? Who told the Muslims that we had the same God? Was it not Pope John Paul II? Then Benedict XVI in his wake?

In the same way, Fr. Cavalcoli complains about the confusion that has entered into the Church, for lack of clear teaching, of precise condemnations, of sanctions taken against those who err in the faith. No doubt, but this situation is not new. It does not date from this papacy.

Attempted Explanations

The Dominican then ventures to understand the “soul” of Francis. He discovers four factors “that disturb and render even his intense apostolic actions counterproductive or illusory.”

The “moral factor” is the first to be considered, i.e., a too-great preoccupation with wanting to please the world. This accusation of seeking to engage in demagoguery is not new; Cardinal Bergoglio had already been criticized on this point in Argentina. But why reproach Pope Francis for wanting to please the world, when openness to the world is precisely the original sin of the Second Vatican Council? What happens subjectively to the Pope is one thing, but he is objectively pursuing an essential end of the Council. Ascribing this attitude as a personal fault of the reigning pope is easy, but it amounts to not facing up to reality.

There is then the “cultural factor,” which Fr. Cavalcoli describes as a “repugnance” towards abstract activity, which is systematically replaced by a rhetoric of simple affirmations, slogans, emotional impulses, irony, or joking. What we have here is a description of the pope’s anti-intellectualism, which probably comes from modern Jesuit formation. No doubt the pope’s style in this area contrasts with his two immediate predecessors. But it is also a mark of the new theology, condemned by Pius XII, rehabilitated by John XXIII, and which still animates the world of contemporary theologians, with few exceptions.

Thirdly, he presents the “psychological factor,” which is actually a “lack of psychic balance” (sic). Fr. Cavalcoli gives two signs: first, there is a “bipolar” aspect that characterizes Pope Francis. No doubt he is not speaking about a diagnosed medical pathology, but what psychology would call a personality “trait.” Then, the Dominican hazards, there seems to be the “suspicion...of occasional mental confusion” at the root “of sentences which, taken literally, would materially be heresies or close to heresy.” Now, he says, “a pope cannot be formally and intentionally heretical.” So, there is no other explanation than temporary insanity. Fr. Cavalcoli’s analysis is easy here, but it is also reckless and outrageous, unless he has access to information from Pope Francis’ medical records, which is doubtful.

Moreover, the author clearly ignores ecclesiastical history. Certainly the pope cannot teach a heresy for the whole Church. But Pope Honorius I was condemned, after his death, by the 3rd Council of Constantinople in 361, for having supported the Monothelite heresy. And Pope John XXII, one of the Avignon popes, was forced by his confessor, a Dominican, to retract on his death bed a teaching close to heresy that he had given as a personal opinion.

Fr. Cavalcoli’s explanation is poor. Thus, the sedevacantists say: the Pope cannot be wrong, but he speaks error, so he is not pope. Those who support Francis say: the Pope cannot be wrong, so the errors he teaches are not errors. Our Dominican takes refuge in a third dead-end: Pope Francis goes through moments of temporary insanity. It is a simplistic way of getting rid of the difficulty which confronts every Catholic today.

The fourth explanatory factor advanced by Fr. Cavalcoli is in the same vein: the Pope sometimes gives way to diabolical temptations. This completely gratuitous statement does not deserve any other comment.

The Ecclesial Deviations of Pope Francis

The Dominican father also complains about the universal welcome the pope reserves to everyone, while forgetting to protect his own house, the Church in his care. He complains bitterly about it, explaining that there is a treasure to protect and that it can only be done by sheltering it behind walls. In addition, he accuses Francis of reducing the Church to “economic, social, political, populist, ecological, earthly, humanistic” goals. He reproaches him with mingling with the world, of taking and receiving from it. He accuses him of “living with other religions,” without wanting to convert their faithful.

Has the author spent 40 years in hibernation or isolated in a hermitage, cut off from the world? However, it was Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who explained in 1985 that “the problem of the sixties was to acquire values ​​better expressed by two centuries of liberal culture.” It is also Romano Amerio’s masterful thesis, in his powerful book Iota Unum, which shows that since Vatican II, the men of the Church have been devoted to a “secondary Christianity,” i.e., to the elements of Christian culture, more or less neglecting the supernatural end, the struggle of grace and the necessity of the divine and Catholic faith. Finally, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, both promoted by the Council and conscientiously implemented by John Paul II, have made the Church forget that she must be missionary because she is the only true religion.

Final Lamentations

Fr. Cavalcoli also laments that it is those he considers as “disqualified”—the traditionalists and especially the “Lefebvrists”—who are the most opposed to the excesses of Pope Francis. Then he wonders about the silence of bishops and cardinals. He imagines them frightened, fearing the anger of the Pope, degradation, the loss of a cardinal’s hat, or an episcopal seat, and even the disapproval of the modernists and Freemasons.

Perhaps they are animated by one or other of these fears. And there are those who act by servility; there have always been some in the Church. But we must open our eyes: the vast majority of prelates agree with the Pope, or follow him blissfully. The worsening of the crisis that Fr. Cavalcoli sees today is nothing more than the product of a generation of Vatican II bishops. It is the fruit of the Council itself. The search for other causes, putting forward factors or more or less absurd explanations leads nowhere. Not going back to the real cause, that of the destructive dynamic of Catholicism implemented by Vatican II, is to risk blindness to the point of not being able to find the solution.

On the contrary, and this is a positive sign in the current debacle, several cardinals and bishops are presenting analyses and now accept certain questioning. Without getting to the root, they approach it at the price of a certain courage.

It remains to hope that the healing of this blindness will not be delayed any further, in order to hasten the implementation of adequate means for the Church to recover her Tradition and eliminate, finally, all the corruptive germs introduced by the Council.