In this second part of my consideration of The Dictator Pope, the book on the present pope by Henry Sire, I shall summarise and review the first three chapters. This is a hard read, particularly if you have – or ever had – made some personal investment in the Catholic Church. This blog post is illustrated by images of Rome in December 2008 when dark skies gathered over Rome and the River Tiber was in flood; Pope Benedict XVI was in the Vatican and I was in the Beda College seminary. Little did we know that one attempt had already been made to elect Jorge Bergoglio as pope, in the previous conclave when the St Gallen group (the “mafia” in the words of Cardinal Danneels, one of its leaders) tried to manouevre its man into place and lost to Cardinal Ratzinger, as he was then.
If you are already lost, this post may not be for you! As I said in a comment to a follower of this blog yesterday, don’t rush out and buy this book. You will not find it either informative or entertaining unless you have some connection with Vatican politics. (It is Dan Brown without the entertainment.) I shall therefore attempt to do my best to summarise and explain, before reviewing the book as a whole. In the world in which we live, where Kremlinology, and White House politics, and Brexit take up the major part of our news space, the power politics of the Vatican get very little coverage these days. (As Damian Thompson in The Spectator last week pointed out, this is because most newspapers have now abandoned the post of Religious Correspondent.) However, this story of the current pope is enormously relevant to the news we shall see in the coming weeks and months because the Catholic Church in the USA, and possibly in the wider world, is going to implode. This is not a wild idea: it is a simple fact, if you understand what is going on behind the scenes, and which is not being reported by the media who no longer have any competence to understand the back story.
Henry Sire originally published The DictatorPope online in 2017 under the pseudonym Marcantonio Colonna, and the print edition was updated in 2018. The author is not a journalist or Vaticanista, but part of the Catholic establishment and was a Knight of the Order of Malta. Since the publication of the book he has been expelled from that ancient and distinguished order, which was taken over by the place man who was sent in by the subject of his book, the current pope.
In this review, I will try to avoid referring to the pope by his chosen name of “Francis” as I found it offensive from the first moment in 2013 that he should lay claim to the spiritual tradition of the Poor Man of Assisi. Pope Jorge Bergoglio is a scoundrel and a fraud and a I have said it from the beginning. I now have no pleasure in seeing my assessment underscored by everything that is now taking place. It is a sad fact that the Vatican cardinals were the first to elect a fraudulent mafioso, long before the Americans elected a fraudulent mafioso to the White House!
So I shall refer to him simply as Bergoglio. He no longer commands any respect whatsoever in my view. (This is not to say that I am a Sedevacantist: i.e one who argues the Chair of Peter is vacant. Apart from one minor irregularity in the 2013 vote, there is no reason to suppose this is a pope who was elected illegally. He is – for the moment – the pope; just as Trump is undoubtedly the president, however unsuited both these frauds may be to their exalted positions.)
In the beginning Sire’s book systematically takes us through a carefully documented assessment of the St Gallen group, a self-described “mafia” (according to Cardinal Danneels, one of its main members) who met from 1996 onwards in St Gallen, Switzerland, with the idea of forming a political opposition to the strong leadership of Pope John Paul II, and eventually replacing him with their man. All this went wrong in 2005 when the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected in the conclave to become Pope Benedict XVI. Few people were aware at the time, but the runner up had been the man promoted by the St Gallen group, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their plan had failed but they would return in 2013 after undermining the papacy of Benedict XVI and forcing his abdication.
It is important to recognize in all of this the role played by the English Catholic bishops, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, in particular. The more critical English Catholics refer to this little mafia as “The Magic Circle”: they appear like a free and easy, wishy washy bunch of liberal prelates, but they have a sharp and crafty approach to politics and use all the wiles of the English establishment to get their way. Bergoglio was their choice, and although the English Catholics don’t count for much in Rome, their ability to swing the vote of the American Catholics is absolutely crucial in this story. The key quote from Cardinal Murphy O’Connor was: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.”
There is a thorough treatment of the background of Bergoglio in the Church in Argentina, where he worked his way up from the Jesuit novitiate to running the Jesuits in Argentina during the time of Juan Perón and there is a considerable analysis of his political and psychological methods, which are described as perfectly understandable if you realize he is a Peronist. “Bergoglio is Juan Perón in ecclesiastical translation.” His Jesuit superior put up a very strong argument to say that Bergoglio was psychologically unfit to be promoted to auxilliary bishop, but he was overuled by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The damning report (1991) explaining in detail why Bergoglio was unfit to be a bishop has mysteriously disappeared from the Jesuit archive. Some who saw the report at the time say it included accusations of deviousness, disobedience, bad language and lack of psychological balance. And so Bergoglio continued, being made Archbishop in 1998 and Cardinal in 2001 under Pope John Paul II.
One quote which really struck me from this part of the book was in a section devoted to the way that Bergoglio would feign humility and poverty, seeking out the appearance of the man on the side of the poor for political reasons, to advance his career. He has said as pope that the true shepherd has “the smell of the sheep upon him”, but Sire says in this man’s case the smell of the sheep “was an applied aroma”.
When we see the theatricality of Bergoglio’s claims to a simple life as pope, the game of poverty – offensive to many who see the Saint Francis tradition being distorted and used as a cynical political exercise – becomes quite comical. “Professor Lucrecia Rego de Planas noted how she would attend meetings with bishops and they would drive up, on time, in their cars, whereas Bergoglio would arrive late, in a flurry, loudly explaining his vicissitudes on public transport. Her reaction was ‘Phew! What an itch to attract attention!’ ” (p. 51). Sire’s comment: “Bergoglio is an accomplished politician who knows image is everything.”
However, some people in Argentina who knew Bergoglio before he became pope remarked that the man with the foul language, the bullying temperament and the manipulative ways of a dictator had suddenly become something else, as reported by Omar Bello, Bergoglio had become “a papal Lassie“, a priceless image that fits the photo reportage of the early days in Rome in 2013 so very well.
Sire then spends a considerable time analysing the steps taken by Bergoglio to command and reform the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank. I shall not go into this in any detail – although it is fascinating if you like to read about church politics – but the picture of Bergoglio that is painted in this section is a compellingly argued, with the ultimate impression that he is a tyrant who has done nothing to clean up the sewer which is the Vatican. Indeed he has simply used all of the corruption to his own advantage, as detailed in the step by step account that Sire presents to us.
“The true corruption in the Roman Curia, whether administrative or moral, is not something that Francis has so far shown any signs of reforming; on the contrary, it is a weakness that he has been exploiting and that has been growing under his government.” (p. 67).
The way that Bergoglio has handled the clerical child abuse crisis is remarkable. For all his fine words on this subject, and the appearance of a “zero tolerance” approach, his record is that of a man who has some of the worst offenders as his closest advisers. Again, this is fully dealt with in the book.
At present the situation the Church is facing in the USA after the revelations by Archbishop Viganò suggest that this crisis will actually bring down Bergoglio, and indeed Viganò asked for Bergoglio’s resignation, before he went into hiding, and the Vatican secret agents are now looking for him. But this is outside the scope of the book review! Suffice to provide a quote from Sire: “The Vatican has taken internal espionage to a level unknown since Ceausescu’s Romania.”
Sire’s analysis of the present systemic chaos of the Vatican under Bergoglio finishes with these remarkable questions:
“How long will the Italian judiciary wait before demanding the names of the Italian citizens who have broken Italian law, in acts from money laundering to tax evasion? … And finally, and most historic of all, will Francis’s failures prompt the Italian government to denounce the Lateran Treaty of 1929, ending Vatican City’s status as an independent state, in order to clean up the lawless, corrupt playground the Vatican has become?” (p. 94)
This review of Henry Sire’s book will be continued in the next blog post. Meanwhile, the mainstream news media have begun to report the most extraordinary homily given by Bergoglio in his papal chapel, when he said that the revelations about the abuse cases involving bishops are the devil’s work. Astonishing. Uncovering the truth is the devil’s work?
This man must go.