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Why Pope Francis Is Seeking Reconciliation with European Fascists

The head of the notorious Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, met with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Sept. 23, 2014, “with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation” with the Catholic Church. Known by its acronym, SSPX, the society “does not have a canonical status in the church [and] its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the church.” Nevertheless, a French SSPX priest was allowed to say mass in St. Peter’s Basilica a month earlier.

The Vatican initiated “non-official” contact with the SSPX leading to an “informal meeting” between Fellay and church officials on Dec. 13, 2013, despite SSPX offering to hold the funeral Mass of a convicted Nazi war criminal the previous October and disrupting a November ceremony in Buenos Aires marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust.

Former S.S. Captain Erich Priebke had said he wanted a Catholic burial. Like thousands of other war criminals, he had escaped Europe via one of the Vatican ratlines and lived quietly in Argentina for the next 50 years until he was exposed by an ABC News investigative team. Priebke was extradited to Rome and convicted in 1997 of participating in the 1944 Ardeatine Massacre of 335 Italian resistance fighters but remained unrepentant. He was put under house arrest due to his age where he died at age 100 on Oct. 11, 2013. When both Catholic Church and civil authorities refused to bury him, SSPX offered to hold the funeral Mass but was prevented from doing so when “protesters surrounded the car which was carrying the body to their church.” Priebke was buried in an Italian prison cemetery.

In Buenos Aires, Catholics, Jews and Protestants hold an annual ceremony in the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral “to mark Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led mob violence in 1938 when about 1,000 Jewish synagogues were burned and thousands of Jews were forced into concentration camps, launching the genocide that killed 6 million Jews.” SSPX members disrupted the Nov. 13, 2013, ceremony by shouting the rosary and the “Our Father” and distributed pamphlets stating, “followers of false gods must be kept out of the sacred temple.” Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, leader of the SSPX in South America, said his organization had the right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a Catholic cathedral.

With praise-worthy compassion for migrants, Pope Francis went to Lampedusa, Italy, in July 2013 to show sympathy for the thousands of Africans who have died at sea trying to reach Europe. “Although no one should be denied emergency medical aid (when it can be given), the Masonic plot to create a multicultural society must not be underestimated, particularly by the pope, who is responsible for protecting the faith,” was the judgement rendered by the Italian chapter of the SSPX.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its June 2012 report European Extremist Movements (“In Europe – western civilization’s heartland – hate movements are once again on the march.”) named SSPX as influential within the French far-right, anti-Semitic party.

In January 2012, it was noted that British fascism “might draw strength from the assiduous networking” of the SSPX. “Further connections are being built among the elite of British fascism, where far-right Catholics associated with the Society of St Pius X are increasingly active.”

According to a Spiegel article in 2010:

The SSPX is becoming increasingly powerful despite the controversy and is attracting more and more supporters. The Catholic brothers in Stuttgart showed their aggressive side against gays by staging a protest against the city’s Christopher Street Day parade, which celebrates gay pride. The priests held up signs that read “Save Children from Perversion,” and one of them condemned the event as “moral pollution.”

In 2009, the Southern Poverty Law Center kept SSPX on their “Hatewatch” list because of the virulent anti-Semitism of its leaders. “SSPX publications suggest a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy has destroyed the Catholic Church and describe Judaism as ‘inimical to all nations.’

SSPX was founded in 1970 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre because he rejected changes in the Church occurring after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) including a declaration that Jews weren’t guilty of deicide. “The society claims to have 600,000 supporters. It maintains six seminaries, 14 districts, 161 priories and 725 mass centers and is active in 1,000 locations worldwide. The society is growing in the United States, Asia and Africa.” At last count (2009), SSPX “has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers and 164 religious sisters.”

“SSPX’s American operation, headquartered in Kansas City, Kan., [in 2006] claims 103 chapels and 25 schools, in addition to the Kansas City-based Angelus Press. Scholar Michael Cuneo has estimated SSPX has up to 30,000 U.S. adherents.” The first American priest ordained into the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Gregory Post, arrived in San Jose, California, “dressed in the full regalia of an SS German army officer, complete with helmet, boots and swastika arm band.” In SSPX schools, American children learn that “Good government comes to fruition in the anti-Semitic dictatorship of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler is metamorphosed into a type of Christian King.”

During World War II, Lefebvre supported the Vichy government and opposed an Allied victory, describing it as “the victory of Freemasonry against the Catholic order of Petain. It was the invasion of the barbarians without faith or law!” Vichy Premier Marshal Philippe Pétain was subsequently convicted of treason and collaboration with Nazi Germany. In 1989, police arrested fugitive French war criminal Paul Touvier who had been hidden for years in an SSPX monastery in Nice, France. Touvier was convicted of ordering the execution of seven Jews in 1944.

SSPX “is imbued with the historical dream of a restored Catholic Monarchy, allied with pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic fascism.” Archbishop Lefebvre called the French Revolution’s principles “Masonic and Anti-Catholic.”

France is still the society’s largest and most important operation with 100,000 supporters and 4,000 children attending its schools. Pope Francis will make an “apostolic visit” to France in 2015.

Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988 by Pope John Paul II for ordaining four SSPX priests as bishops without his permission. The four new bishops were also excommunicated and the Society was declared to be schism with the church.

Back in the day of critical reporting about a Roman pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI was widely criticized for lifting their excommunication on Jan. 21, 2009, the same day an interview with SSPX bishop and Englishman Richard Williamson was broadcast on Swedish television. (The suspension of bishops and priests from the exercise of ministry within the Catholic Church remained in force.) Williamson had repeated his opinion that “no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps…not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.” Williamson issued an apology on Jan. 28, 2009 but did not indicate that he had changed his views.

Williamson returned to Argentina but was removed as the head of the seminary in La Reja where he had been for five years. In February 2009, the government of Argentina asked Williamson to leave the country over irregularities with his visa and his blatant anti-Semitism.

Williamson was charged with Holocaust denial by a German court and hired the former head of the banned neo-Nazi group Wiking Jugend (Viking Youth), as his German lawyer and a British attorney who once represented former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in his fight against extradition. Williamson was eventually convicted in May 2011 and ordered to pay a $13,500 fine.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Williamson was expelled from the SSPX for “refusing to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors” but still writes an online weekly column using the title “bishop.”


When the last powerful Catholic monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was defeated in World War I, the Vatican sought new alliances. Democracy and communism were rejected (Pope Pius X, for whom the SSPX was named, had declared Enlightenment ideals i.e. “Modernism” and “Americanism,” to be heresies. Bolshevism was both atheist and anti-capitalist.) and the church turned to fascism. In fact, every fascist country and movement in Europe at one time had been supported by the Vatican. Even Hitler had Catholic/Vatican support until he broke terms of the Reichskonkordat which he had signed with Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

At the end of that World War II, two Vatican ratlines helped an estimated 9,000 Nazi war criminals escape to South America – an estimated 5,000 to Argentina.

“Jewish groups in Argentina saw a continued Nazi influence in the armed forces and the police long after the first Peron government. They claimed there was persistent anti-Semitism at an official level, and that neo-Nazi propaganda was rife. Speculation and myths about the extent of this influence – and the amounts of money transferred from Nazi Germany into German front companies in Argentina – grew with the years…..The whole truth will never be known.”

As regards the savagery of the military dictatorship (1976-1983) against its own people:

The Nazi influence was very much a part of this story. Pictures of Hitler hung in torture chambers and the torturers sometimes played Hitler speeches while torturing. While Argentina had the largest concentration of Jews in Latin America, Argentine society, particularly the Church and the military, were bastions of anti-Semitism.

When negative reporting by the mainstream media on the new Pope Francis was still allowed, there were many articles when he was first elected in March 2013 accusing Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of cooperating with the junta while head of the Argentine Jesuits. Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, called these reports “defamations from anti-clerical leftists.” A good summation of these allegations can be found in an article by University of California, Berkeley, Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes resulting from her research for a new book on what became known as the Dirty War.

Additionally, Bergoglio is responsible for a statement made in November 2012, just five months before he became internationally famous, confirming his sympathies with the junta.

Human rights activist Emilio Mignone’s book Witness to the Truth and investigative journalist and human rights activist Horatio Verbitsky’s book The Silence, among other reports, had documented the close alliance between the junta and Catholic Church and the active participation of hierarchs who knew about the junta’s “depravity.” This was always denied by Catholic officials.

When a member of the junta, General Jorge Videla, was in prison (an Argentine court had sentenced him to 50 years for orchestrating the theft of babies born in captivity to women subsequently murdered by their military captors), he confirmed the “open collaboration of the Catholic Church in the Dirty War” during an interview made public in July 2012. Videla admitted that his “relationship with the Catholic Church was excellent, very friendly, honest and open.” Videla also explained, “We had to remove a large set of people who could not be brought to justice nor shot…Each disappearance can be understood as masking, the concealment of a death.” Videla said this was necessary to install a market economy. “[The hierarchs] advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation [of the ‘disappeared’],” Videla said. He had “many conversations” with Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta and meetings with other leading prelates including Pope Paul VI’s nuncio to Argentina, Archbishop Pio Laghi.

After Videla’s interview was made public, Argentina’s bishops had little choice but to respond. Finally, the bishops’ conference issued a conditional apology displaying a lack of genuine contrition. As cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was the leader of the Argentine church and a statement of this importance would have his approval if not direct input.

Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, “acknowledged the church’s failure to protect its flock during the 1970s.” The bishops admit on one hand “we have been, at various times in our history, tolerant of totalitarian attitudes.” But on the other hand, they absolve the church from any guilt: “We have the word and testimony of our elder brothers, the bishops who preceded us, about whom we cannot know how much they personally knew of what was happening. They tried to do everything in their power for the good of all, according to their conscience and considered judgment….” They refer to Videla’s charges that bishops were complicit as being “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.” They equate “state terrorism” with “the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence.”

Some Argentines responded that not only did the bishops wait far too long to apologize for the church’s failures, but they also objected to their equating the brutally crushed opposition with the actions of the dictatorship as well as the bishops’ self-righteous and inaccurate defense of the church. The bishops “also have yet to identify those responsible for the many human rights violations that the church was aware of at the time.” The activists were angry over the positions Bergoglio had taken in recent years. “Some say he’s been more concerned about preserving the church’s image than providing evidence for Argentina’s many human rights trials.” “There’s hypocrisy here when it comes to the church’s conduct, and with Bergoglio in particular,” said Estela de la Cuadra, whose family has been seeking full disclosure and justice for the “disappeared” for more than three decades. “There are trials of all kinds now, and Bergoglio systematically refuses to support them.”

Meanwhile, the SSPX reported that Cardinal Bergoglio responded to a request by Fr. Christian Bouchacourt (who led the disruption of the Kristallnacht remembrance last November) to help him with “a visa problem of permanent residency” because “it is necessary to have the signature of the bishop in order to reside in the country.” The papal nuncio had refused because the SSPX is not sanctioned by the church, but Bergoglio supposedly said, “no, no, you are Catholic, that is evident; I will help you.” After he became pope, SSPX said their lawyer met with Bergoglio over their continuing problems with the Argentine government and “asked him to please designate a bishop in Argentina with whom we could sort out this problem. The pope told him, ‘Yes, and this bishop is myself, I promised to help, and I will do it….Those people there, they think I will excommunicate them, but they are mistaken. I will not condemn them, and I will not stop anyone from visiting them.’”

In the same report, SSPX Superior-General Bishop Fellay said that Bergoglio had “read twice Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ book on Archbishop Lefebvre, and this book pleased him.”

On the return flight from Rio de Janeiro on July 29, 2013, Pope Francis said, “Being gay is not the problem, lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby… political lobbies, masonic lobbies, all lobbies.”


Granted, the pope’s handlers have every reason to believe that seeking reunion with fascists will not be covered by the media any time soon. But you can only fool all of the people some of the time. Sooner or later folks are going to notice that nothing’s changed except ostentatious displays of wealth are frowned upon and the pope’s men are as skilled in talking nicely as Republicans pretending to be populists.

The SSPX has both money and extremely loyal members. No matter how exaggerated, the new pope’s image has not been enough to reverse the mass exodus of parishioners in Europe, Australia and the Western Hemisphere. Like the Legion of Christ (with more than two dozen other events and/or addresses scheduled for his May 24-27 trip to the Holy Land; Pope Francis found time to promote a new tourist center run by the Legion of Christ, founded by the disgraced Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a serial pedophile who fathered three illegitimate children with two common-law wives) and Opus Dei, the SSPX recruits from well-heeled right-wing elitists who are attracted to a fundamentalist vision of Catholicism, people who will not leave because of the church’s continuing heinous record of child torture or policies which promote the suffering and death of gays and women.

Up until now I have asserted that the Vatican wouldn’t need their money because the church’s secular “donors” keep shelling out in return for the pope’s continued support through his appointments of the global plutocracy. But I’ll admit that “envisioning full reconciliation” with fascists shocked me into days of rethinking my position and looking at recent events in a new light. Now I think that the Vatican must indeed need the financial support of the SSPX, Legionnaires, Opus Dei and other similar groups enough to risk the mainstream media someday changing their reporting.

The quid pro quo of the neocon formation of the Religious Right in the late 1970s was that Catholic and Evangelical clergy would support the Republican Party and the GOP would make sure these clergy received deference and billions of dollars from the government. (See “Bush Huddles With Catholic Leaders, Plans Strategy to Push ‘Faith-Based’ Partnership Plan in Congress”) Additionally, plutocrats could make tax-deductible donations to clergy who would spend tax-exempt dollars to advance “moral values” championed by conservative politicians. The availability of the Catholic Church’s financial network to move “dark money” was also an attractive part of the deal. However, the Religious Right’s former secular big donor base now has more effective organizations – think tanks, “dark money” PACs and Super PACs – in which to spend their money.

The Religious Right can no longer decide elections. The New York Times is correct: “For years [Democrats] were cowed by the religious right into changing the subject when abortion or birth control or same-sex marriage came up. But now, increasingly assured that public opinion supports their positions, Democrats have become more aggressive in challenging Republicans about their beliefs,” according to a Sept. 29 editorial, “The Tide of the Culture War Shifts.” Although “not necessarily true in the most conservative states,” and perhaps “not enough for Democrats to keep the Senate this year [b]ut over time, it may help spell an end to the politics of cultural division.”

Where once the combination of Catholics of European descent and Evangelicals came close to Cheney’s “50 + 1 percent” needed for an electoral victory, white Evangelicals are down to 19 percent of respondents (72 percent were Republican or leaned Republican) and non-Latino Catholics down to 13 percent (49 percent were Republican or leaned Republican) in a Pew Research national poll conducted Sept. 2-9, 2014. Although there is a large margin of error due to the relatively small numbers, this was the most recent poll of religious affiliation I could find.

While white Catholics always voted in larger proportion than their number, perhaps the greatest success of the Religious Right was in energizing previously nonpolitical Evangelicals into becoming partisan activists and voters. This is still reflected in this Pew study: “Both groups, however, had the highest percentage of those who ‘will definitely vote in the upcoming election.’”

I believe the Religious Right has now reached a zero-sum game. At this point, would the “moral values” electorate be voting Republican without direction by their clergy? Are the number of women and millennials encouraged to vote by the “wars against women and gays” equal to or greater than the population voting based on religious dogma?

As noted by the New York Times:

The decision [by some Dem candidates] to go on the offensive is in part designed to incite the anger of women and draw support in the November elections, particularly that of single women, who tend to vote in small numbers in midterms. But it is also a reflection of the growing obsolescence of traditional Republican wedge issues in state after state. For a younger generation of voters, the old right-wing nostrums about the “sanctity of life” and the “sanctity of marriage” have lost their power, revealed as intrusions on human freedom. Democrats “did win the culture war,” Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, admitted to The New York Times recently,”[Although] that’s not necessarily true in the most conservative states.”

Yes, the Catholic bishops still have the resources and expertise to “mastermind” the opposition to Obamacare at great cost to tax-payers. (Few if any Evangelical pastors voiced opposition to birth control before the Affordable Care Act.) Opus Dei’s NOM, however, has thrown in the towel on same-sex marriage and redirected their efforts to other countries. Opus Dei’s Robert George – once touted as “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker” – hasn’t had a fresh idea since his 2009 Manhattan Declaration. Only conservatives with little chance of being the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidate showed up for the Sept. 26-28 Values Voters Summit.

So unless the Vatican/Opus Dei can come up with a more effective plan to support plutocratic governments, Pope Francis is going to need the Society of St. Pius X et al to replace the lost income from his secular donors.

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))


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