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(LifeSiteNews) — Last week, a bombshell went off in Catholic media.

Peter Seewald, the official biographer of the late Pope Benedict XVI, accused Francis of being an “authoritarian” attempting to “break out” of Catholic Tradition, and warned that Francis’ recent appointments, especially Archbishop Victor Emmanuel Fernandez as the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, could lead to a “flood” that “destroys” the rest of the Church in Europe.

He also says that when Francis issued Traditionis custodes, limiting the permissions that Benedict made for the Latin Mass in Summorum Pontificum, it was as a “stab in the heart” for Benedict from which he never recovered. 

On this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show, I am joined by LifeSite’s own Jim Hale and Andreas Wailzer to discuss what could be a watershed moment in the Francis pontificate.

Wailzer summarizes Seewald’s remarks, made in an interview for the German language website, stating that Seewald holds that Francis’ pontificate is getting more and more radicalized as time passes, and that Francis is attempting to “destroy the legacy of his predecessor.”

“He actually said that his agenda is getting unveiled,” Wailzer noted. “He also said, ‘Well, this seems to be that Francis was planning this from the beginning, to undermine Tradition and Church teaching.’”

Wailzer also opined that the appointment of Fernandez as head of the DDF possibly counts as a “watershed moment” in Seewald’s eyes, and that he is “speaking out in a way that I think he hasn’t spoken out before, in that stark and strong language.”

Hale, commenting on the interview, emphasized that Seewald is not a “fire-breathing conservative,” let alone a traditionalist, but a secular journalist. “You cannot … overestimate how significant … this is,” Hale told me, noting that Seewald in no way attacks Francis in his biography of Benedict.

“What Seewald … is doing right now … this is something that commands attention,” Hale continued. “This is serious. And I believe he’s absolutely right. The appointment of Fernandez to basically the number two man at the Vatican is beyond disgrace.” 

Wailzer further pointed out that Seewald noted what appears to be a dig at both Benedict, who before his election in 2005 served as the head of the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under St. John Paul II, and Cardinal Gerhard Müller in his letter to Fernandez appointing him as head of the DDF, saying that the dicastery had hitherto used “immoral methods” at a time when it pursued doctrinal errors rather than “theological knowledge.”

Noting that Müller, Benedict, and Benedict’s former secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, appear in the interview, Wailzer stated that “Seewald is basically saying is that [Francis] is attacking [them].”

Hale, meanwhile, noted that Benedict, while head of the CDF, upset a good deal of conservatives for an apparent lack of action, adding that the accusation of using “immoral methods” could not be applied to him. “That is such a slander,” Hale said of the accusation. “That’s the only way you can describe it.”

Wailzer further commented on Seewald’s juxtaposition of Francis’ public persona as a “Pope of Mercy” while really acting like an “authoritarian” and, at the same time, not preaching the truth in charity to those who should be told to amend their lives. He called Seewald’s remarks “very strong words of condemnation.”

“It’s not really merciful … to ignore the sins of people and to not point them to redemption and to call them to redemption, which is … the calling of every Catholic, but especially … the bishops and priests, and the Pope, first and foremost,” Wailzer stated.

“[Francis is] very authoritarian on how he deals with things inside [the Church], but outside he presents himself as this merciful Pope, while undermining the faith and not pointing people to their sins and to redemption, especially … sexual sins.”

Wailzer also discussed the situation of the Church in Germany in the episode.

According to him, a good deal of orthodox Catholics in Germany know that the Synodal Way pushed by the German Bishops’ Conference, headed by Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, constitutes a break with the Church of Rome. He also explained that there are practically no conservative bishops in the country anymore.

“There’s about … as most LifeSite readers know, probably between 70 and 80 percent of these bishops voted for heretical documents during the Synodal Way,” he explained. “So, you can say … at least 70 to 80 percent are at least complicit with heresy or actively pushing it.”

Wailzer also explained that in his experience local Germans know which parishes to avoid in order to avoid heterodoxy. “It’s easier to point out the churches that you can actually go to … rather than eliminate those that you cannot go to or you should not go to,” he explained. “It’s only a few pockets of orthodoxy, unfortunately, in my experience.”

The John-Henry Westen Show is available by video on the show’s YouTube channel and right here on my LifeSite blog.

You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.