“Buona Sera!”—“Good Evening!”
With this commonplace greeting, devoid of any solemnity or unction, Francis addressed the thousands of faithful waiting in St. Peter’s Square for their newly-elected pope. These words set the style of his pontificate: informality, abandonment of protocol and disdain for ceremony.
Ten years later, recently deceased Cardinal George Pell stated that this pontificate “is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.” He added: “Roma locuta. Causa Finita est” (Rome has spoken; the issue is settled), “today it is: ‘Roma loquitur. Confusio augetur’” (Rome has spoken; confusion grows).1
“[Bergoglio] Could Reform the Church in Five Years”
On October 1, 2013, then-Cardinal Theodor McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, in a lecture at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, talked about the behind-the-scenes of the unknown Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election to the papacy.
He recounted that, before the conclave, an “influential Italian gentleman” went looking him at Rome’s North American College, where he was lodging, and told him that if elected, Bergoglio “could reform the Church,” for which “five years” would suffice.2
Whether or not the account of the defrocked archbishop and former cardinal is true, Francis has certainly done nothing else in these ten years but “reform” the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to create a new “Synodal Church” to replace the hierarchical Church.
The Church Is a Hierarchical Society
Our Lord Jesus Christ founded His Church as a hierarchical society and established the Supreme Pontiff as its visible head. This is a truth of faith defined in the First Vatican Council, which cast an anathema on anyone who denies it:
“If anyone then says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honor but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: “let him be anathema.”3
For his part, St.Pius X emphasized the Church’s hierarchical character:
“The Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors (I Ephes. iv. II sqq.) — a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging (Matt. xxviii. 18-20; xvi. 18, 19; xviii. 17; Tit. ii. 15; 11. Cor. x. 6; xiii. 10. & c.) It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.”4
Francis Church: “An Inverted Pyramid”
Contrary to Scripture and the Magisterium, Francis wants to invert the order in the Church by placing at its base the power to teach and govern, as in an “inverted pyramid.”
That is what he said in a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops:
“Jesus founded the Church by setting at her head the Apostolic College, in which the Apostle Peter is the “rock” (cf. Mt 16:18), the one who must confirm his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). But in this Church [the Synodal Church], as in an inverted pyramid, the top is located beneath the base.”5
As a result, this new “Synodal Church” is no longer a teaching Church, fulfilling the command of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Instead, it is a Church that “listens” to the faithful:
“A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realizes that listening ‘is more than simply hearing.’ It is mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2:7).”6
Therefore, it is a Church without Magisterium in which the Holy Spirit “speaks” to everyone equally and directly; a charismatic Church without any defined structure or doctrine as advocated by the Montanist heretics, Wiclef, Huss, or modern-day Pentecostals.7
Does God Want All Religions?
In addition to subverting the Church’s hierarchical order and destroying the notion of Magisterium, Francis goes further by distorting the nature of God Himself.
For example, the “Document on Human Fraternity,” which he signed on February 4, 2019, along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), states that “[t]he pluralism and the diversity of religions…are willed by God in His wisdom.”8
Changing this phrase to the direct order: “In His wisdom, God willed the pluralism and the diversity of religions.”
This implies that God wants to be worshiped as a Trinitarian God by Christians; as a Unitarian God by Muslims, who deny and fight the Trinity; and as a God immanent in creatures by Buddhists and other Eastern religions that do not accept a personal God.
Now, such a “God” would be a contradictory being, a “God” who accepts both good and evil, error and truth. A contradictory being cannot be the Supreme Wisdom; therefore, it cannot be the living and true God. To accept such a conception of God is equivalent to denying the existence of the One and Triune God, leading to atheism or pantheism.
Pantheist and Evolutionist Mysticism Inspired in Teilhard de Chardin
That brings us to the Encyclical Laudato Si’, where Francis presents a pantheistic view of the Holy Trinity.
Indeed, it has statements such as:
“The Son [i.e., the Word] … united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary… The Spirit … is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.”9
This vision runs along the lines of the pantheist and evolutionist mysticism of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., 11 who is referred to in a footnote in that same paragraph:
“In this horizon, we can set the contribution of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin” (No. 83, fn. 53).
“Morals” Without the Notion of Sin
The destruction of certainty in divine Revelation, Scripture and Tradition is another consequence of the affirmation that God desires all religions, however contradictory they may be. It leads to complete subjectivism and does away with universal and immutable rules to guide human thinking and acting.
This subjectivism in matters of faith leads to moral relativism: the Church should no longer seek to convert people, to make them abandon error and evil, but only to “accompany them,” accepting their erroneous beliefs and “diversities” of their state of life.
In the name of that “diversity,” Francis opened the gates for adulterers to receive Communion;12 supported “civil union” for same-sex couples;13 acquiesced that Belgian bishops bless same-sex couples;14 and scandalously (and effusively) received homosexual and “transgender” couples.15
If God Accepts Sin, There Is No Hell
Sin is an offense against God for refusing to fulfill His will, as manifested in the Commandments. A serious and voluntary offense constitutes a mortal sin, which deprives man of sanctifying grace and keeps him away from God’s friendship, putting him on the road to hell. Saint Thomas says that “whatever sins turn man away from God, so as to destroy charity, considered in themselves, incur a debt of eternal punishment.”16
In the new conception of God and the Church, there is never any punishment for sin since the Creator, displaying love without wisdom, would not mind being offended; his mercy would disregard his justice. Instead, Saint Thomas states, “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; [and] justice without mercy is cruelty.”17
But if there is no punishment for a sinner who dies impenitent, hell — a place of eternal atonement for an offense against the eternal God—is nonexistent.
In a recent interview, consistent with his doctrine of mercy without justice, Francis denied that hell is a place: “Hell is not a place … Hell is a state, there are people who live continuously in a hell. … Hell is a state, a state of the heart, of the soul, a posture in the face of life…” One already lives in this “state” here on earth. He asks: “And who goes to hell, to that hell, to that state?” And answers, “One already starts living [hell] here.”18
Hell Is a Place
However, the Scriptures, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church have always considered hell – as much as Heaven – not only as a state but also as a place. Taken in their usual sense, Our Lord’s words concerning hell could not designate a place more clearly:
“Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mt 25-41). “The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (id. 13:41-42). “Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not extinguished.” (Mk 9:43, 47).
The idea of place is indicated by Christ’s removal of the damned, casting them out of his kingdom into a furnace of burning fire where the worm of iniquity does not die.
That has always been the belief of the Church. For example, the Second Council of Lyon (1274) stated that those who die in mortal sin “descend to hell to be punished with different punishments.”19 In 1341, upon defining this doctrine, Pope Benedict XII warned: “Whoever thereafter presumes knowingly and persistently to hold, assert, preach, teach, or defend in word or writing the contrary of our aforesaid definitions or determinations, or a single one of them, shall be proceeded against in the manner due to him as against a heretic. … [And] incurs the indignation of Almighty God and his blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”20
Not Even Judas in Hell?
In the interview above, Francis suggests there is no one in hell. Not even Judas.
To “prove” this theory, he mentions a sculpture in the medieval Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene in Vézelay, France. One of its capitals shows a statue of Judas hanging, and another, a statue of a man carrying the suicidal traitor on his back. Francis unfoundedly21 interprets that man to be Jesus, the Good Shepherd:
“If you ask me how many people are in hell,” he tells the journalist, “I answer with a famous sculpture of the cathedral of Deslé [Vézelay]” A capital shows “Judas hanged and the devil pulling him down, and on the other side they have the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who grabs Judas and takes him on his back with an ironic smile.”
He goes on to develop his theory: “What does that mean? [It means] that salvation is stronger than condemnation. That capital is a catechesis that should make us think. God’s mercy is always at our side, and God wants to always be with his people, with his children, and not for them to leave him.”
Despite his words’ somewhat playful tone, he seems to mean that not even a person who died in mortal sin, who committed suicide in desperation, would have condemned himself and gone to hell.
Now, Saint Thomas says that “it is just that he who has sinned against God in his own eternity should be punished in God’s eternity.”22
“Our Poor Brother Judas…”
Pope Francis has spoken affectionately of Judas countless times, implying that the traitor was saved, but without stating this clearly, as is his custom. In this sense, Francis has also quoted Fr. Primo Mazzolari (1890—1959), a revolutionary priest who is considered a precursor of Vatican II.
Andrea Tornielli, currently director of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, wrote in 2016 about the pope’s speech. “[T]he Pope spoke about an ancient medieval capital depicting Judas on one side and Jesus carrying the dead traitor on his shoulders.” And Tornielli says that “Pope Francis quoted the homily on ‘Judas, the traitor,’ given by a pioneer of the Second Vatican Council, Don Primo Mazzolari, parish priest of Bozzolo (northern Italy), on Holy Thursday, 1958: ‘Poor Judas,’ the priest starts by saying, ‘just what went on in his soul I don’t know. He is one of the most mysterious figures in the Passion of the Lord. I won’t even try to explain it to you, all I ask is for you to have some mercy on our poor brother Judas.’”23
This is not the only time Pope Francis has adopted Fr. Mazzolari’s favorable view of Judas. At the April 8, 2020 Mass sermon, he stated: “What is the mystery of Judas? I don’t know … Don Primo Mazzolari explains it better than me.”24
The Vatican’s unofficial daily, L’Osservatore Romano, of April 1, 2021, published the speech by Fr. Primo Mazzolari, which Francis cited. Among other things, he says:
“Poor Judas. … When receiving his kiss of betrayal, in Gethsemane, the Lord answered him with those words that we must not forget: ‘Friend, with a kiss you betray the Son of Man!’ Friend! This word, which shows you the infinite tenderness of the Lord’s charity, also makes you understand why I have called him brother at this moment.”25
The Cainite Heretics and Judas
Ancient heresies present Judas as a hero. St. Irenaeus and other Church Fathers refer to a second-century Gnostic heresy known as the Cainites. Like Gnostics in general, they considered Jehovah as an evil God who fights the good God, the “Supreme Principle.” Jehovah supposedly created matter, which they consider evil. That is why the Cainites venerated all the characters condemned by Jehovah, starting with Cain.
Regarding Judas, they preached that he was the only Apostle who understood Jesus’ hidden doctrine and, at Jesus’ request, handed him over to the Sanhedrin so that with his death, the redemption of men would take place. The French theologian Fr. G. Bareille explains Cainite doctrine: “By delivering Jesus, [Judas] assured his condemnation and torture and at the same time the triumph of the good God and the salvation of the human race.”26
Ten Catastrophic Years
It would be impossible to mention in a simple article (or even book) all the confusion Francis has brought into the Bark of Peter. The effort is all the more difficult because he preaches more by his attitudes, way of being and acting, and informal conversations with journalists than by systematic and coherent teaching.
“Credo in Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam”
However, despite all the confusion, the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ remains firm in Her doctrine, holiness, and tradition. But it takes the light of faith to see Her in all Her splendor despite the “smoke of Satan”27 enveloping Her.
We make our own the words of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira at the close of his masterpiece Revolution and Counter-Revolution:
“Behold the affirmation of the unvarying confidence of the Catholic soul, which kneels but remains firm amid the general convulsion—firm with all the firmness of those who, in the storm, and with a strength of soul even greater than it, continue to affirm from the bottom of their heart: “Credo in Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam” that is, I believe in the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, against which, as promised to Saint Peter, the gates of hell will never prevail.”28
1. Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Pell and the ‘Demos’ Memorandum.“Journalist Sandro Magister, the first to publish the cardinal’s words, says that he received the memo from Cardinal Pell himself, who authorized him to publish it under the pseudonym Demos (people in Greek). https://ewtn.co.uk/article-cardinal-pell-and-the-demos-memorandum/ 3/21/23
2. They gave Pope Francis four years to ‘make the Church over again.’ Here’s how he’s tried. Pete Baklinski. LifeSiteNews. Mar 1, 2017. https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/they-gave-pope-francis-four-years-to-make-the-church-over-again.-heres-how/ ; The “Influential Italian Gentleman.” Posted on June 25, 2019 by Steven O’Reilly. https://romalocutaest.com/2019/06/25/the-influential-italian-gentleman/ Who Is Pope Francis?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3iaBLqt8vg&t=41s; 4/4/2023
3. Denzinger no. 1823.
4. ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS X VEHEMENTER NOS, February 11, 1906, no. 8 https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_11021906_vehementer-nos.html 3/22/23
5. CEREMONY COMMEMORATING THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS, Paul VI Audience Hall, Saturday, 17 October 2015, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/october/documents/papa-francesco_20151017_50-anniversario-sinodo.html 3/22/23.
7. See Joaquín Salaverri, S.J., Suma de la Sagrada Teología Escolástica. Tratado III: De La Iglesia de Jesucristo, Libro 1, Cap. 1, Artículo III, No. 123, BAC, Madrid, 1958, fifth edition. https://mercaba.org/TEOLOGIA/STE/iglesia/libro_1_cap_1_art_3.htm
8. “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Feb. 4, 2019, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html 3/30/23
9. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis On Care for Our Common Home, May 24, 2015, no. 238, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html, 4/1/23.
10. See Merriam-Webster (online): fulcrum: “the support on which a lever moves when it is used to lift something.” Here we follow the Italian original that says: “…Cristo risorto, fulcro della maturazione universal.”
11. See Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira, Notes on the Unacceptable Philosophy and Theology of Laudato Si’, August 2, 2017. https://www.tfp.org/notes-unacceptable-philosophy-theology-laudato-si/
12. Francis, POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION AMORIS LÆTITIA, Footnote 351: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 , 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’ (ibid., 47: 1039).” https://www.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf; see also: CARTA DEL SANTO PADRE FRANCISCO A LOS OBISPOS DE LA REGIÓN PASTORAL DE BUENOS AIRES EN RESPUESTA AL DOCUMENTO “CRITERIOS BÁSICOS PARA LA APLICACIÓN DEL CAPÍTULO VIII DE LA AMORIS LAETITIA”, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/letters/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160905_regione-pastorale-buenos-aires.html 4/1/23.
13. “Pope Francis calls for civil union law for same-sex couples, in shift from Vatican stance,” CNA Staff, Oct 21, 2020 https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/46295/pope-francis-calls-for-civil-union-law-for-same-sex-couples-in-shift-from-vatican-stance 4/1/23
14. “We Belgian bishops bless gay couples, with the Pope’s approval,” https://newdailycompass.com/en/we-belgian-bishops-bless-gay-couples-with-the-popes-approval 4/1/23
15. See Marissa Marchitelli, “Pope Francis Hugs US Gay Couple at Vatican Embassy,” BBC.com, Oct. 2, 2015, www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-34428408 ; Jesús Bastante, “El transexual recibido por el Papa: ‘Muchos obispos te hacen agachar la cabeza y pedir perdón por existir,’” ElDiario.Es, Oct. 2, 2016, // www.eldiario.es/sociedad/diego-neria-existe-obispos-haciendo_128_3815505.html
16. Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 87, a. 3c.
17. Super Matthaeum, Cap. V, l. 2.
18. Pope Francis: “Se puede dialogar muy bien con la economía, no se puede dialogar con las finanzas,” [One Can Dialogue Quite Well With the Economy, But Not With Finances] https://www.perfil.com/noticias/periodismopuro/papa-francisco-se-puede-dialogar-muy-bien-con-la-economia-no-se-puede-dialogar-con-las-finanzas-por-jorge-fontevecchia.phtml 3/20/2003
19. Denzinger-U, 464.
20. BENEDICTUS XII, BENEDICTUS DEUS, 29 Ian. 1336, Acta Clementis PP. VI (1342-1352), vol. IX, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1960, pp. 10-13, https://www.vatican.va/content/benedictus-xii/it/documents/constitutio-benedictus-deus-29-ian-1336.html 4/2/23.
21. See: “Pope Francis and His Obscene Judas Painting,” by Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, April 22, 2021. https://www.tfp.org/pope-francis-and-his-obscene-judas-painting/
22. I-II, q. 87, a.3 ad1.
23. Andrea Tornielli, “The Good Shepherd who carries Judas on his shoulders,” La Stampa/Vatican Insider, June 18, 2016, https://www.lastampa.it/vatican-insider/en/2016/06/18/news/the-good-shepherd-who-carries-judas-on-his-shoulders-1.34989269/ 4/4/23.
24. Kathleen N. Hattrup, “Satan pays badly, warns pope, calling us to find the ‘Little Judas’ we have within,” Aleteia, Apr. 8, 2020, https://aleteia.org/2020/04/08/satan-pays-badly-warns-pope-calling-us-to-find-the-little-judas-we-have-within/ . (Our emphasis.)
25. Nostro fratello Giuda, https://www.osservatoreromano.va/it/news/2021-04/quo-074/nostro-fratello-giuda.html 4/4/23
26. G. Bareille, Cainites, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, Paris, 1932, t. II, col. 1308; The Full Text of the Gospel of Judas, https://www.noncanonicalchristianity.com/gospel-of-judas-full-text/ 4/4/23
27. “Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father says he has the feeling that ‘through some crevice, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.’” IX ANNIVERSARIO DELL’INCORONAZIONE DI SUA SANTITÀ OMELIA DI PAOLO VI Solennità dei Santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo Giovedì, 29 giugno 1972, https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/it/homilies/1972/documents/hf_p-vi_hom_19720629.html 4/4/23.
28. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, https://www.tfp.org/revolution-and-counter-revolution/ 4/4/23
29. The City of God, Bk 1, Chap. 17, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120101.htm 4/6/23