Francis Fights a “Preconciliar Mentality” in the Church

July 01, 2022

In an interview given to the Corriere della Sera on May 3, 2022, in addition to the war in Ukraine and his health problems, Pope Francis returned to the ecclesial questions that regularly concern him.

The sovereign pontiff has let it be understood that the implementation of the guidelines given by the Second Vatican Council was “perhaps more difficult” in Italy than in Latin America or Africa: “I often found a pre-conciliar mentality that disguised itself as conciliar.”

He nevertheless points out the qualities of many Italian priests, parish priests, nuns and lay people, and assures that he does not wish to change the bishops too much within the episcopal hierarchy. The pope, however, does want “the renewal os the Italian Church” by appointing simple priests directly to the head of large dioceses, as recently in Turin with the theologian Roberto Repole, or in Genoa in 2020 with the Franciscan Marco Tasca.

As for the episcopal conference, from which Cardinal Bassetti must leave as president, the pope hoped to find a cardinal “who wants to make a nice change.” Since this interview, he has named Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the Archbishop of Bologna, the perfect prototype of the “Bergoglian” prelate, and spokesman for the Sant ‘Egidio Community, which was at the origin of the interreligious meeting of Assisi in 1986, and those that followed.

Francis also expressed his attachment to the figure of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the Jesuit Archbishop of Milan from 1979 to 2002, who died almost ten years ago, and who was the central figure of the progressive wing of the Italian episcopate during the pontificate of John Paul II.

The Italian Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica published on June 14 a long interview granted by the Holy Father on May 19 on the war in Ukraine, the renewal of the Church, the Synodal Path in Germany, judged by many as “heretical,” and on the evangelization of young people. He describes on this occasion the temptations of “restorationism” which has come “to gag the Council.” We quote here some significant passages, published by Vatican News this same June 14.

“It is very difficult to see spiritual renewal using old-fashioned criteria. We need to renew our way of seeing reality, of evaluating it. In the European Church, I see more renewal in the spontaneous things that are emerging: movements, groups, new bishops who remember that there is a Council behind them. Because the Council that some pastors remember best is that of Trent. What I'm saying is not nonsense.”

“Restorationism has come to gag the Council. The number of groups of ‘restorers’ – for example, in the United States there are many – is significant. An Argentine bishop told me that he had been asked to administer a diocese that had fallen into the hands of these ‘restorers.’”

“They had never accepted the Council. There are ideas, behaviors that arise from a restorationism that basically did not accept the Council. The problem is precisely this: in some contexts the Council has not yet been accepted. It is also true that it takes a century for a Council to take root. We still have forty years to make it take root, then!”

“Signs of renewal are also the groups that through social or pastoral assistance give a new face to the Church. The French are very creative in this regard.”

Does this hated “restorationism” refer to St. Paul’s verse in Eph. 1:10: Omnia instaurare in Christo, ‘restore all things in Christ,’ taken by St. Pius X as the motto of his pontificate, in his first encyclical E Supremi Apostolatus (October 4, 1903)?

On this subject, Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, in his book The Second Vatican Council: A Debate That Has Not Taken Place (Courrier de Rome ed., 2011), wondered “if all the Council Fathers truly realized that they were objectively in the process of tearing themselves away from that centuries-old mentality which until then had expressed the fundamental motivation of the life, the prayer, the teaching, and the government of the Church.”

“In all, they proposed again the modernist mentality, that against which St. Pius X had taken up a very clear position, expressing his intention of ‘instaurare omnia in Christo,’ restoring all things in Christ’ (Eph. 1:10).  It was thus clearly a manifestation of gegen-Geist,” (a counter-spirit of the Council).