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The Mainstream Awakens
Phil Lawler on "the ideological purge at the Vatican"

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 27, 2017

From this Fatima perspective, the rising crisis of the current pontificate brings not surprise but recognition. Have we not known for quite some time that, as Cardinal Ciappi revealed, the Third Secret of Fatima pertains to an apostasy that "begins at the top"?

For too long, however, recognition of the reality of our situation has been largely confined to circles unjustly derided as “Fatimist” or “traditionalist.” Under Francis, however, there has been a radical change for the good as more and more members of the “mainstream” Catholic press are coming to recognize what is indisputable: the current pontificate represents a clear and present danger to the Church.

Perhaps these new voices have yet to recognize that Francis merely represents the end point on a downward trajectory that began after 1960, the year the Third Secret was to have been revealed because, as Sister Lucy said, “it will be clearer then.” But it is imperative that these new voices of the “mainstream” be heard because their awakening will provoke the awakening of vast numbers of Catholics who might otherwise have remained asleep. 

Consider, for example, Phil Lawler’s just-published column on “The Ideological Purge at the Vatican,” appearing on the website of catholicculture.org. This was a subject I had already aired repeatedly on these pages, as one can read here, here and here, but Lawler’s contribution is worthy of note and praise.

Writing in the wake of Francis’ brute-force intervention into the affairs of the Knights of Malta, effectively destroying its centuries-old status as a sovereign political entity, Lawler rightly warns that “the unprecedented papal intervention into the affairs of that venerable body fits into a pattern that should, at this point, worry all faithful Catholics.”

The pattern to which Lawler refers is not a purge of wayward theologians who undermine the doctrines of the Faith, of which the Modernists loudly complained during the reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI even though the purge never really happened.  Rather, the purge now in progress is something quite the opposite: “Now a crackdown really is occurring — instigated by the Pontiff who famously asked, ‘Who am I to judge?’ And the objects of the current crackdown are not theologians who question established doctrines, but Catholics who uphold the traditional teachings of the Church.”

Consider the implications of this assessment, coming as it does from a commentator who can hardly be dismissed as a “Fatimist” or “radical traditionalist.”  Lawler now recognizes that the current Roman Pontiff is actually conducting a purge of the orthodox. It began, Lawler notes, with “Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was exiled from the Roman Curia soon after Pope Francis took office, and given a mostly ceremonial post as patron of the Knights of Malta. It is ironic — and perhaps not coincidental — that the latest incident involves his new charge.”

In addition to the forced resignation of the Knights’ head, Matthew Festing, Lawler mentions the following stages of the purge already discussed on these pages:

“The wholesale replacement of the prelates on the Congregation for Divine Worship: another unprecedented move, producing an entirely new panel that will be more friendly to the preferences of Pope Francis, and less supportive of the tradition-minded prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah.

“The abrupt dismissal of three clerics on the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No explanation for the firings was given, and according to published reports, the Pope made a point of saying that he was not obliged to give an explanation. But reliable Vatican sources explain that the clerics had been accused of making unflattering comments about Pope Francis — not in public, but in private conversations with colleagues.

“The contemptuous treatment of the four cardinals who submitted dubia about Amoris Laetitae, by people who are perceived as surrogates for the Pope. And for that matter, the Pontiff’s own studied refusal to answer questions from prelates who should be his trusted advisers.”

Lawler is clearly angry, and justly so. For his is the righteous anger of a faithful Catholic who can no longer remain silent while our beloved Church is scourged in this manner.  His conclusion could not be stronger:

“All these incidents have occurred in a Vatican where the climate has already been formed by the Pope’s tongue-lashings of the Roman Curia, by the blatant manipulation of the Synod of Bishops, by the Pontiff’s daily denunciations of ‘doctors of the law’ and ‘rigid’ clerics. A clear picture emerges: of a Roman Pontiff determined to impose his own will on the universal Church.”

Nothing I have written here is any harsher than the truth Lawler so courageously enunciates from a position in the so-called mainstream — from which it is much more difficult to speak frankly.

Lawler ends on a note that should be echoed by every Catholic worthy of the name.  Noting the arch-liberal Fr. Thomas Reese’s frank admission that he would have been outraged if John Paul II or Benedict XVI had stacked the College of Cardinals as Francis is now doing, Lawler remarks:  “Outrage would have been a reasonable response then, if those earlier Popes had restricted promotions to men who shared their personal opinions [as opposed to sound orthodoxy]. It is a reasonable response now.”

Indeed it is.  It is, in fact, the only reasonable response for a Catholic who cares about the state of the Church today. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!