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Caution: The Pope is Beefing-up his State Department

Because Pope Francis is willing to sacrifice the freedom of Chinese and Ukrainians for his own personal ambition, and his support and encouragement of right-wing governments to deny women and LGBTQ persons’ human rights, we have ample reason for concern.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State is like the State Departments of other countries. It advises the pope and represents the Holy See – i.e. the government of both the Vatican City State and the global Roman Catholic Church – in international affairs and foreign policy issues.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 183 sovereign states in which it maintains a nunciature (embassy).  It also has official diplomatic relations with countries where there are no resident nuncios (ambassadors) and formal contacts with others without official diplomatic relations.

The Holy See has concordats (treaties) with over 200 countries. A concordat “can set up a theological fiefdom where certain human rights do not apply – and where they can never again be reintroduced without the consent of the Catholic Church. This is why concordats represent a fundamental threat to both democracy and human rights.”

The Holy See is also “active” in 30 international organizations,” such as the United Nations, Council of Europe, Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Unlike previous pontificates, Pope Francis’ Secretariat of State also has “supremacy in financial management” of the entire Vatican. Even the Financial Information Authority, which is supposed to be the Curia’s “watchdog” over monetary crimes, now reports to the Secretariat.

Additionally, it has editorial control of the Vatican Press Office, newspaper  (L’Osservatore Romano), radio and other communications. In effect, the Secretariat of State now controls the rest of the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy).

“No single figure in Pope Francis’s Vatican today is more trusted, or more powerful,” than his secretary of state. “When you look at Parolin, you’re basically looking at the face of authority in the Pope Francis era.”

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop (later Cardinal) Pietro Parolin in August 2013. Parolin had joined the diplomatic corps in 1986. He is described as a “protégé of,” “raised by” and “close to” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, John Paul II’s powerful secretary of state. While nuncio to Chile (1977-1988), Sodano supported the brutal military dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Both Sodano and John Paul II were opponents of liberation theology.  As secretary of state (1991-2006), Sodano influenced the appointment of bishops, especially in Latin America. Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), who also opposed liberation theology, was first appointed auxiliary bishop in 1992 and climbed the ranks to cardinal under John Paul II.

Effective Nov. 9, 2017, Pope Francis created a new “third section” to the Secretariat of State to handle diplomatic personnel matters. The purpose is to “have a Church that is diplomatically more active.” The new department shows “that the overall work of the Secretariat of State is moving in the direction of fostering a new sensitivity to global issues, with renewed content and strong diplomacy.”

Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals reviewed a new constitution April 23-25, 2018, that would govern the Curia. Three of the four suggested revisions were generic mission statements. The fourth specifically refers to “the role and functioning of the new section in the Secretariat of State to oversee the training, assigning and ministry of nuncios around the world.”

The Secretariat’s first section is in charge of the Curia. The second section “deals with the political aspects” of the nunciatures.  Its head is Archbishop Paul Gallagher of Great Britain, the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as Pope Francis’ foreign minister.

Polish Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski was appointed head of the third section. One of the pope’s personal secretaries, Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, served under Pawlowski in African nunciatures between 2009 and 2015.

On Feb. 26, 2018, Pope Francis appointed the Portugese-Canadian José Avelino Bettencourt and Alfred Xuereb of Malta as new nuncios. Xuereb was another of Pope Francis’ private secretaries. Both were elevated to the rank of archbishop. Both will join the ranks of nuncios all over the world with diplomatic immunity to criminal prosecution.

Pope Francis has already protected two of his nuncios. A dossier accusing Archbishop Josef Wesolowski of sex abuse of poor street boys in Santo Domingo was sent to Pope Francis “sometime in July” 2013. The pope dismissed Wesolowski on August 21 via confidential letter, but he never reported Wesolowski to civil authorities. The allegations became public when a local TV program did an exposé on August 31. The nuncio, however, had already returned to Rome where he remained a free man.

The Italian newspaper, Il Corriere della Serra, reported on Sept. 26, 2014, that Wesolowski was finally arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography, some showing the children being tortured. “Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.” (emphasis mine) The archbishop died in August 2015 just before his Vatican trial was scheduled to begin.

On Aug. 21, 2017, the U.S. State Department asked the Vatican to lift Msgr. Carlo Capella’s diplomatic immunity but the request was denied. Capella, posted by Pope Francis to his Washington D.C. embassy in 2016, was charged with possession of child pornography. The next month, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Capella accusing him of “accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.” Prior to working in Washington, Capella had worked in Rome at the Secretariat of State.

Capella remained a free man in Rome until the Vatican arrested and detained him on April 7, 2018, on child pornography charges.

China

“I think of the great Chinese sages, theirs is a history of knowledge, of wisdom,” Pope Francis said in August 2014. “The world looks to your great wisdom,” he told Xi Jinping in February 2016. “The Catholic Church has the duty to respect [Chinese civilization] with a capital ‘R,’” he added.

All religion was outlawed when the Communist Party took control of China in 1949. As is usual under persecution, religion thrived. So the government decided to put five religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism – under control of the Communist Party. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) was established but an underground Church remained loyal to the pope. Anyone professing any religion, however, is still barred from a government position and subject to persecution, torture, imprisonment and death.

Both groups of Catholics have their own bishops. Those in the CPCA have been appointed by the government; those in the underground Church have been appointed by the popes. Both the Vatican and China had maintained their sole right to appoint bishops. No pope up to now has ever recognized the CPCA as a legitimate form of Catholicism.

In June 2014, Chinese and Vatican delegations met in Rome. The Vatican said the question of bishop appointments would be the first issue addressed.

Pope Francis rejected a meeting requested by the Dalai Lama in December 2014 because negotiations with China were at a “delicate” stage. “China describes the Dalai Lama as a separatist and reacts angrily when foreign dignitaries meet him.” South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu responded, “”I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father should give in to these pressures.”  A Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China “noticed” the pope’s decision not to receive the Dalai Lama and that “China will continue to hold constructive dialogue with the Holy See.”

Throughout 2015 to 2017 the negotiations continued in spite of China’s continued persecution – arrest, torture, deaths – of non-government religious practitioners and officials.

In 2016, Pope Francis’ intentions became clear. On May 4, Parolin said he hoped that “the blossom [of relations with China] will flourish and bear good fruits for the good of China and of all the world.” On Aug. 27, Parolin gave a speech that the new relation with China would “benefit not only Catholics in the land of Confucius but of whole country, which boasts one of the greatest civilizations on the planet. I would dare to say that this will also be to the benefit of an orderly, peaceful, and fruitful coexistence of peoples and nations in the world … This is a matter of writing a page unheard of in history.”

Pope Francis and Parolin said that their dialogue with China will bring “a more fraternal world society,” would “achieve peace,” can be “an example for the world as a whole, building bridges of fraternity and communion everywhere” and would have “immense benefits for world peace, very, very big benefits.” Pope Francis even went so far as to admonish other governments that “fear of the rise in China’s economic and geopolitical influence is not a good counselor.”

Clearly, the goal was to portray Pope Francis as world’s best diplomat who would be invited as a negotiator on the international stage. Parolin had even considered creating an “Office for Papal Mediation.”

In February 2017, it was announced that an agreement had been reached. The Communist Party would select the candidates for bishop of a newly united Catholic Church and the pope would have the right of veto. No other government on earth is accorded this control over a national Church.

However, in 2018 the yet-to-be-finalized deal became widely publicized.

In January, the Holy See asked the papal-appointed bishop of Guangdong province to retire so that he could be replaced by a CPCA bishop. Another Vatican-appointed bishop was asked to downgrade himself to be the assistant of another government-controlled bishop.

The voices of underground Catholics, whose forbears sacrificed even with their lives for refusing to obey the Church of the Communist Party and thought the Vatican had betrayed them, were now being heard in the U.S. media: New York Times, Washington PostWall Street JournalReutersAssociated Press.

In a March 8 interview, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen condemned the Vatican’s betrayal of the underground Church and her bishops. “They are delivering the whole administration of the Church into the hands of the so-called Patriotic Association , which is just a puppet in the hands of the government …. I am not a cartoonist. [If I were] I would make a cartoon showing the pope kneeling, and offering the keys of the kingdom of heaven, saying, ‘Now, please, recognize me as pope.'”

Greg Burke – former Fox News journalist and member of Opus Dei, appointed by Pope Francis to head his Press Office – announced on March 29 there is no “imminent” agreement between the Holy See and China but dialogue would continue.

Russia

The bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in April 2017 that “Russia be designated as a country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

On Aug. 21, 2017, Parolin made a three-day trip to Russia at the invitation of the government. He met with Vladimir Putin, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, and his counterpart, the Russian Orthodox foreign minister, Metropolitan Hilarion. (The Russian Orthodox Church is an arm of the Russian government.)

“This is an important event to the Kremlin, because in the world of today Pope Francis is a very influential authority,” said Alexander Avdeev, the Russian Ambassador to the Holy See. Parolin’s trip “will contribute to a further happy development of the bilateral relations” between the two governments especially in Ukraine and Syria, he added.

Avdeev also made reference to two prior events demonstrating the “harmony” between Pope Francis and Putin:

1) Although the massacre of civilians had been ongoing since the day the pope was elected, only after Pres. Obama proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons against civilians did the pontiff hold a peace rally for Syria in September 2013. Putin credited Pope Francis “with being decisive in halting the momentum with the G8 towards supporting the initiative.” The pope had “advanced a resolution that favored the interests of both Assad and Putin.

Pope Francis met with Putin in the Vatican shortly thereafter in November and again in June 2015. “In both cases, the geopolitical situation was at the center of the talks, with a special focus on the Middle East and Ukraine.” No world leader other than Chancellor Angela Merkel has met more than once with the pontiff.

Between Pope Francis’ first and second meetings with Putin, “some 1.2 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced [while] Pope Francis is working to build diplomatic relations with Russia … especially to advance some of the Vatican’s other diplomatic interests.”

2) In February 2016, the pope met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. That meeting would not have happened “without a green light from Putin” and would benefit Putin. It was “important to reduce Russia’s isolation amid Western sanctions over Ukraine and criticism for its Syria bombing campaign.”

The Economist: “Did the Pope just kiss Putin’s ring?”

Russia wants its people to believe that Western republics are not as hostile as their leaders. Pope Francis just helped. [The meeting] is a diplomatic victory for Putin [and] helped to underscore Russia’s renewed standing as a global power…
Francis made clear in his interview before the meeting that on certain issues he agrees with Mr. Putin and disagrees with America and its allies…
The joint declaration issued after the meeting hewed close to the Kremlin’s positions on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine…
The joint declaration deplores “hostility” in Ukraine, but omits any mention of Russia’s role, casting it as an internal struggle…

On Aug. 21, 2017, Parolin’s first day in Russia, he met with the Russian Orthodox foreign minister, Metropolitan Hilarion. “Above all,” they recalled the meeting between the pope and Patriarch Kirill. “I hope that the stimulus that meeting has given to our relationships will have further development,” Hilarion said,

On the second day of his trip, at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Parolin said they “discussed issues of international concern.” Yet no mention was made of the war in Syria.

Parolin declared himself “honored and thrilled” with his one-hour meeting with Putin on Aug. 23, “but critics note the cardinal had to travel to Sochi on the Black Sea for the privilege, a location pointedly close to eastern Ukraine and Crimea.”

Parolin said his meetings with government officials were designed to express “Pope Francis’ interest in bilateral relations between the Holy See and Russia as well as his concerns in the sphere of international affairs.” The pope was “obviously pleased by the impressions he’d made” on Putin and Kirill, and about the positive results of the visit, Parolin said.

“Russia will have scored diplomatic gains in hosting a top Holy See representative,” noted Marcin Przeciszewski, director of Poland’s Catholic Information Agency. “There’s been absolutely no change in Russia’s policy at home and abroad, and that’s what most concerns people in this region,” he said. “The trip sparked fresh anxieties among Greek Catholics in war-torn neighboring Ukraine, who were denounced by the Orthodox side during [Parolin’s] visit, and misgivings among Russia’s own small Catholic minority, whose Church is not recognized as a ‘traditional religion’ and still faces discrimination and hardship,” according to Przeciszewski.

Greek Catholics in Ukraine, members of the Eastern Rite obedient to Rome, “are worried … When the pope met Kirill in 2016, their 30-point declaration contained negative references to Greek Catholics, fueling fears they could be sidelined in the interests of wider diplomatic advances. These were stirred again when Hilarion attacked Ukrainian Catholics during his talks with Parolin, accusing them of ‘politicized statements and aggressive actions,’” Przeciszewski explained.

After Parolin’s trip, Pope Francis met with Hilarion in his residence in St. Martha’s House on Sept. 26, 2017, not the Apostolic Palace where audiences with foreign ministers are customarily held. These private meeting “makes accountability difficult.” The pope had said that Hilarion “has come many times to speak with me.”

In January 2018, Hilarion thanked the Holy See “for its balanced position regarding the conflict underway in Ukraine.” “Did anyone in the Vatican blush in shame at that compliment?” asked George Weigel, remembering the “Russian invasion and a low-intensity war which has already cost more than 10,000 lives while displacing over a million persons and wreaking economic and social havoc.”

In February, Parolin spoke about “the bilateral collaboration” including “foreign politics” between the Vatican and Russia in a “sign of a growing relationship.”

On March 16, the Russian ambassador to the Holy See affirmed the “growing respect” between Russia and the Vatican with “political consultations, correspondence and meetings.” This was in contrast to the animus of the West towards Putin following the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England on March 4.

After the Russian-backed Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad resumed the use of chemical weapons against civilians, Pope Francis asked on Easter Sunday that the “extermination taking place in Syria” be stopped “immediately.” A week later, on April 8, the pope again referred to the “extermination” in Syria.

Will this shift in public opinion be enough to cast a more permanent shadow over the pope’s diplomacy with Putin similar to the new distance between the Vatican and China?

Shared “Moral Values” with Russia

There is one big difference between Pope Francis’ relationship with Russia as compared to China. There is a secondary alliance between him and the Russians based on anti-human rights for women and LGBTQ persons.

“Abortion must be made equal to murder” in the criminal justice system, Patriarch Kirill’s representative said in an address to the Russian parliament.

Pope Francis has also said that abortion is “murder.” Regardless of the mother’s life and health, it’s “a crime … it’s what the Mafia does, taking one life to save another.”

Putin “sides with the [Russian Orthodox] Church in opposing gay rights.” After he “signed two bills making so-called ‘gay propaganda’ and actions that ‘insult religious feelings’ both crimes, a crackdown on gay rights protests and online support groups followed.”

Pope Francis has referred to same-sex marriage as an “anthropological regression,” “disfiguring God’s plan for creation” that will “destroy the family.”

Pope Francis held a Vatican conference on “traditional marriage.”  One attendee was Alan Spears,  president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the U.S.

Pope Francis approved a Vatican document repeating that homosexual men couldn’t be priests, thereby reaffirming what the Church teaches: “this inclination is objectively disordered.”

Pope Francis has also condemned transgender persons in harsh terms. Like nuclear weapons, transgender people “do not recognize the order of creation,” he said. This is a “new sin against God the Creator,” the pope added. On another occasion, the pope said that ideologies that propose children can “choose their gender” is an “epoch sin against the Creator” and “constitute the very annihilation of man as image of God.”

Pope Francis has consistently preached against “gender theory” or “gender ideology” – i.e. transgender persons should have full human rights – in his encyclical on the environment, his apostolic exhortation on “The Joy of Love” and many addresses around the world.

The pope has combined his opposition to abortion, contraception,  same-sex marriage and transgender persons into the term “ideological colonization,” meaning the imposition of “Western values” by affluent countries on developing societies through restrictions on foreign aid.

Pope Francis has used the term on dozens of occasions. As recently as March 5, 2018, the pope’s representative in addressing the UN Human Rights Council, repeated the pope’s denunciation of international agencies that promote “modern forms of ideological colonization.”

Putin “also takes the position held by Pope Francis that ‘tolerance of gender choice results from a Western imperial ideology.’”

These “moral values” have placed the pope in line with right-wing governments around the world, including the U.S.

United States

 ABORTION

Pres. Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, 2017. It directs U.S. overseas family planning funding away from organizations that perform or support abortions. Then Trump ordered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend the policy to other forms of monetary aid, like global health assistance, provided by all U.S. departments or agencies. A February 2018 report from the U.S. State Department is evidence that the “vast majority” of NGOs are “willing and able to comply with this policy,” said the prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

In April, 2017, Trump signed into law a bill granting states the right to defund Planned Parenthood. Dolan cheered the loss of benefits to “abortion providers.”

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

On April 20, 2018, the first State Department annual human rights report that reflects the Trump administration’s priorities omitted “a section labeled ‘reproductive rights’ that outlined access to contraception and abortion, as well as maternal mortality rates, for every country.”

Reproductive rights are human rights, and omitting the issue signals the Trump administration’s latest retreat from global leadership on human rights,” said Joanne Lin, head of advocacy and governmental relations for Amnesty International USA.

TRANSGENDER

On April 21, 2018, it was announced that the Trump administration “plans to get rid of a rule issued by President Obama that prevented health-care providers and insurers from discriminating against transgender people … LGBTQ advocates say that Trump’s planned move would erase gains made for transgender Americans and get rid of treatments that transgender people have been denied in the past.”

“The move is the latest in what critics see as the Trump administration’s effort to scale back transgender rights. In the past, Trump has worked to ban transgender people from the military and the Education Department got rid of guidelines for how to accommodate transgender students at schools.”

BIRTH CONTROL

Pope Francis met with the Little Sisters of the Poor while in the U.S. in September 2015 in support of their lawsuit challenging the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ mandate that contraceptive coverage be provided by employers as part of Obamacare. Churches and other houses of worship were already exempt. However, like other religious organizations, the nuns are required to notify HHS in writing of their religious objection to contraception in order to be exempt.

The year before, the pope had granted a private audience to Hobby Lobby’s Green family, asking them “how their Supreme Court fight [Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores] against President Obama’s contraception mandate was progressing.”

As of October 2015, over 100 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts at enormous taxpayer expense challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. The vast majority were brought by Catholic bishops and their affiliated institutions.

In September 2016, Trump promised that “If I am elected president … the Little Sisters of the Poor will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.”

In the final days of the campaign, Trump gave an interview on the Catholic EWTN, “the largest religious media network in the world.” Trump again mentioned the Little Sisters of the Poor. “People who are faith-based are not being accepted in our country anymore,” Trump stated.

CATHOLICS WIN ELECTION FOR TRUMP

Trump won 52% of the total Catholic vote, 60% of non-Latino white Catholics, while receiving only 46% of the national popular vote. As public opinion seesawed during the 2016 campaign, every poll that included the respondent’s religion showed Catholics choosing Trump at higher percentages than the general electorate. (See also herehere and here.) Trump won the highest percentage of Catholic voters for a Republican candidate since 2004 with white Catholics casting more ballots for Trump than for Romney in 2012.

As expected, Trump carried the South. But he was elected because he won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – all states with large numbers of non-Latino Catholics.

Parolin praised the president-elect: “[T]he future leader has already spoken like a leader.”

Before signing his executive order on “religious freedom” on May 4, 2017, Trump again decried the “attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Trump told the nuns whom he invited to stand next to him at the podium, “Your long ordeal will soon be over.” An HHS draft rule that would extend the houses-of-worship exemption to all religious organizations was prepared the same month.

On Oct. 6, HHS issued a rule allowing virtually any employer to claim a religious or moral objection to Obamacare’s birth control coverage mandate. A federal judge blocked the new rule in December.

Even so, U.S. Catholic officials are less enthused about Trump than Evangelicals. “Am I ever grateful for his judicial appointments, his pro-life stand, for his solicitude of our schools … these are things that we’d all say ‘Alleluia,’” said Dolan. “Then there are other things where we might say ‘Oh my God, I wish he wouldn’t do this.’”

Conservative Catholics are as active as Evangelicals in defending “moral values.” But there is a geographical and cultural difference. There are fewer Republican Catholics because we are more urban, multi-cultural, many with roots in the Rust-Belt and the Northeast. Evangelicals chose Trump by 81%.  They are more rural, culturally homogeneous, many with roots the Farm-Belt and the South.

IMMIGRATION

As has been widely reported, in February 2016, Pope Francis said that someone who would build a wall is not Christian and Trump responded that it was “disgraceful” for the pontiff to question his faith.

Both sides walked back their criticism. Trump said that he likes the pope and what he represents – “I don’t think this is a fight.” The official Vatican spokesman said that the pope’s comment was “in no way a personal attack, nor a voting indication.”

Asked about the words between the now-elected Trump and the pope about building a wall, Parolin responded, ‘Let’s see how the president acts ….  It seems premature to make judgments.” On the day of Trump’s inauguration, Pope Francis was asked about the new president. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion” – which he still has not offered.

Pope Francis does have some agreement with Trump on border policy. The week before the U.S. elections, the pope said, “The migrant must be treated with certain rules, because to emigrate is a right, but it is a very regulated right.” On the occasion of Trump’s inauguration, he said, “Yes, each country has the right to control its borders, who comes and who goes, and those countries at risk – from terrorism or such things –  have even more the right to control them more, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.”

When Trump was elected, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that “migrants and refugees can be humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security.” A week later, the USCCB promised that their pro-immigration efforts would “honor and respect the laws of this nation,” still echoing Pope Francis’ position. Unlike religious leaders of other faiths, no Catholic prelate has offered any of his properties be made available as a sanctuary where cooperation with the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law would be limited. Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich specifically instructed his priests not to do so.

The Vatican has sponsored only six refugee families even though it owns “thousands” of apartments in Rome.  They are cared for by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic charity. Pope Francis and the Vatican do help out with some expenses. This is not very impressive considering Pope Francis’ personal income can be estimated in the billions of dollars and Vatican assets (securities, gold, bank accounts, commercial properties) have been estimated to be around 15-17 billion euro. It’s all very secret so no firm figures are available.

SOLID DIPLOMATIC TIES

Last May, Washington D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Pope Francis’ nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christopher Pierre, and Russia’s Metropolitan Hilarion were present when Vice Pres. Mike Pence made an address in a Washington hotel.

Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington in September.

Vice Pres. Mike Pence met with Parolin in the White House in November.

Trump’s new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is expected to vigorously support the Mexico City Policy.  “All in all, he could very well turn out to be the most pro-life secretary of state ever,” said Stefano Gennarini, director of legal studies for the Center for Family and Human Rights.

As a congressman, Pompeo voted to defund Planned Parenthood. He also voted in favor of a prohibition on funding the United Nations Population Fund.

Pompeo co-sponsored the State Marriage Defense Act that would have allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriages. He co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act in order to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit organizations with religious objections to same-sex marriage. Neither bill passed.

The thrice-married Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and early Trump supporter, and his wife, Callista, Trump’s Vatican ambassador, backed Pope Francis by attending the December funeral Mass for Boston Cardinal Bernard Law whose repeated and widespread covering-up of pedophile priests was the subject of the movie Spotlight. Pope Francis gave the Final Blessing in the ceremony held in St. Peter’s Basilica, albeit “before an unusually small congregation.”

Many pundits suggested that Newt is the de facto ambassador. The Vatican has often been referred to as a “prime listening post” among the diplomatic corps. At an April 2018 dinner at the Pontifical North American College in Rome – the seminary where future U.S. bishops are trained – he was photographed conversing with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Gallagher (the 30th photo down). That is only to say there are many opportunities for off-the-record meetings in the city.

OPUS DEI

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power. Their secret, self-contained, self-perpetuating, and robotic conformity are indicative of a cult. In discerning the real nature of Opus Dei, one must not listen to what the Prelature says, but rather look at what it does,” Robert Hutchison wrote in the preface to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was appointed by Trump as his ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in January 2018. Brownback’s conversion to Catholicism by Opus Dei’s Fr. John McCloskey has been widely reported.  As governor, Brownback “launched a ‘real live experiment’ in conservative governance.” The result was “disastrous.” “By the end of 2015, the state had lost nearly $3 billion in revenue and was behind most other states in job growth. And when the courts challenged the constitutionality of the bare-bones budgets, Brownback and his allies launched an all-out war on the state’s judges.”

McCloskey was director of Opus Dei’s K Street center in Washington D.C. from 1998-2002. His other notable converts to Catholicism include economist Lawrence Kudlow and conservative columnist, Robert Novak.

Lawrence Kudlow is Trump’s National Economic Council director. Plutocracy is “just what America needs,” according to Kudlow’s December 2016 article. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea. Mick Mulvaney, director of Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget and interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “has reportedly met with a long list of lobbyists, corporate executives and wealthy people with business interests before the government.” His meeting with Opus Dei’s Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, covered “religious and political matters.

Robert Novak publicly identified Valerie Plame as a covert CIA officer in 2003, not long after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized Pres. Bush for exaggerating evidence to justify the Iraq war. Novak said unnamed administration sources had identified Plame. After a two-year investigation, Vice Pres. Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was indicted. Libby was charged with obstruction of justice, false statement and perjury in the CIA leak case and was found guilty by a jury. Bush commuted his prison sentence. Trump pardoned him.

In April 2018, the U.S. vicar of Opus Dei summarized some of the ways Pope Francis has supported Opus Dei.  This pontiff has greatly increased Opus Dei’s influence in the Vatican through multiple appointments.

Conservative International

“The Kremlin leader’s full-throated defense of Russia’s ‘traditional values’ [is an example] of Putin attempting to place himself at the vanguard of a new ‘Conservative International.’” In most cases, “the European populist parties share a common set of priorities” and view Putin “as an ally.”

“Putin made his preferences in the [May 2017] French presidential election clear by hosting far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin.” Le Pen’s platform as “defender of conservative national values against Western globalization appeals to the Kremlin.”

When asked about the French presidential election, Pope Francis responded, “I don’t know where [Emmanuel Macron] comes from” but “I know there is a candidate from the strong right.” The remarks, which Marine Le Pen “used in a campaign rally to mock her opponent, were nothing short of ‘astonishing,’” Le Monde pointed out in a front page editorial. “Contrary to the pope’s vague statements, the National Front leader is not from the ‘strong’ right. She is a pure product of the French extreme right, hailing from a political dynasty whose roots stretch all the way back to France’s darkest days of Nazi collaboration,” reported the Washington Post.

Similarly, the French-based, anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X with whom Pope Francis is seeking to reunite, also has roots stretching back to Vichy Nazi collaborators.

After the French election, Pope Francis sent a telegram to Macron exhorting him to “support the rich moral and spiritual traditions of the country, including that of  Christianity.” Recently, Macron called for stronger ties between the state and the Catholic Church.

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, also of France’s National Front party, blasted “gender theory delirium” at the American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. She also complained that France is losing its Catholic identity.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared that Christianity is “Europe’s last hope.” He was the only European political leader who made positive comments about Trump during the American presidential election campaign. “Orban openly brags of his aim to build ‘an illiberal state based on national foundations’ and cites Russia and China as exemplary models.” .

Slovenians voted to reject a referendum allowing same-sex marriage and adoption. Four days earlier, Pope Francis had “urged Slovenian politicians to stand up for family values.”

Pope Francis supported a Slovakia referendum against equal marriage and gay adoption rights in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.

In March 2017, commenting on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that created the European Economic Community, Parolin stated, “The Christian roots of Europe are Europe’s lifeblood” and “Christianity is one of its fundamental elements.

Two days later, Pope Francis addressed the heads of state in Rome marking the anniversary and echoed Parolin: “At the origin of European civilization there is Christianity.”

Poland: Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Europe should return to its “proper values.” His dream was to “re-Christianize the EU.” Morawiecki’s government, backed by the Catholic Church, supports further tightening the country’s already strict anti-abortion laws.

Austria: Sebastian Kurz was appointed chancellor in December “after sealing a controversial electoral pact with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party” which has a friendly relationship with Putin.  Kurz said Austria’s “Judeo-Christian heritage … needs protecting.” A conservative Catholic, Kurz is strongly anti-abortion.

Italy: Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right Northern League, said he was “proud of a Christian tradition.”

Bavaria: The government of Bavaria declared all state administrative buildings would display a cross in their public entrances. The premier tweeted this is a commitment to Christian values.

Germany: The far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) “stunned the establishment” by finishing third and entering parliament for the first time in September. “The party has built its political manifesto on traditional values [including] promoting family values.” The AfD enjoyed its strongest support in the largely Catholic southern states and those in the former East Germany.

Not only in Europe and the U.S., but also in Latin America right-wing parties are anti abortiongender ideology, other LGBTQ human rights, for example in Paraguay and Chile.

___

None of the above should be a surprise to serious students of Western Civilization. Twice, Pope Francis has said that he is a “son of the Church” – a Church that, for the past one thousand years, has supported and formed alliances with some of the most reactionary, regressive and brutal governments in history. I will cover this subject in my next blog.

(I am author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America and more than 150 blogs about the Catholic Church.)

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3 Responses

  1. Very well and accurately written….Some day there will be more than a few doctoral dissertations about Francis …..

    Jack

    ————————————

    John Alonzo Dick, PhD, STD Geldenaaksebaan 85A 3001 Heverlee Belgium

    >

    • Thanks so much. From your lips to God’s ear.

  2. Emmett Coyne’s comments posted with his permission:

    While everyone of BC’s pieces have doggedly unearthed what is hidden in the public posturing of the Vatican, this current revelation is one of her most superb!
    She has demonstrated how the institutional church is consumed with the political rather than the pastoral.
    Easy to imagine Jesus’ lament!

    Once the institution got a boost from Constantine it has tasted the power of “this world” and has been consumed every since with pursuing it at any cost.

    The temptation of Jesus to have all the kingdoms of the world which he resisted has been embraced by the papacy. The papacy has capitulated to the pursuit of power unashamedly and relentless under various forms at different historical epochs.

    It has become the tradition for the papacy to be a key player with the “big boys” of power. Rather than being “first among equals” with religious leaders, it has sought to be “first among equals” with political players.

    BC again is incisive in making the links, crossing the dots in the maneuvers of the current Francis papacy, especially through his appointment of Parolin.

    BC exposes the agenda of the current papacy to engage political entities to support its programs which especially targets women and marginalized persons; the very persons, the least ones, at the heart of the Jesus gospel.

    Rather consuming and being expended in the service of the least ones, the institution has betrayed the gospel in shamelessly going to bed with any political bedfellow and compromising any semblance of moral witness.

    Rather than expend its energy in translating the gospel to “read the signs of the times” it ignores any vigorous theological investigation and development.

    What should be its primary focus, the pastoral issues of its own vineyard, it scandalous ignores them to parlay with power to impose an narrow interpretation of theology and morality.

    Five years in Fancis’ papacy and he has failed to resolve the number one universal issue which has scandalized the world – the clerical sexual abuse of children. This pastoral priority is at the bottom of concern in dallying with the kingdoms of this world. Were it not for the spotlight of the international media, Francis and company, would be untrammeled in pursuing power. This pastoral irritant will not go away but Francis is now complicit in more younger persons being damaged for life. He refuses to resolve its own self-inflicted wound to the Body of Christ.

    Rightly, BC underscores “where your treasure is there is your heart. It treasures the pursuit of power, not heart fully embrace persons who are hurting in humanity, especially its own children. “What father will give his son a snake when he has for bread?” Papa Francis!

    BC’s work is prophetic. She receives no profit in the pursuit of the papacy’s pursuit unashamedly of power. The voice and witness of a woman is no little thing in a church crushed with the male abuse of power.
    __________________________________

    My own response to the above is to appreciate EC’s knowledge and insights. He is always able to state the issues with better clarity than I can.

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