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Pope Francis honored Cardinal Godfried Danneels (2nd from left) by letting him stand alongside the pope on the balcony on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

March 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Four years ago, on March 13, 2013, an unknown Argentinian cardinal was elected to lead the Catholic Church. The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio followed upon 35 years of clear, solid, orthodox teaching under the distinguished pontificates of Saint John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-2013).

As white smoke emanated from the Sistine Chapel chimney that March evening, signifying the election of a new pope, faithful Catholics around the world were eager to see who their next leader would be. They did not know, nor could they possibly have known, the massive shake-up that awaited them.

However, a number of high-ranking prelates did know. Some even let it slip following the election that an influential group of liberal-minded cardinals had been in existence with the goal of influencing the conclave to elect Bergoglio. One cardinal even said he was part of the group. He referred to it as a “mafia.”

St. Gallen ‘mafia’

It was Cardinal Godfried Danneels, honored with standing alongside Pope Francis on the balcony on the night of his election, who revealed the existence of the St. Gallen group. It was Danneels who called it a “mafia” on account of its goal to drastically reform the Church to make it “much more modern.”

The informal group came into existence sometime around 1996. Members, which included Cardinals da Cruz Policarpo, Martini, Danneels, Murphy-O'Connor, Silvestrini, Husar, Kasper, and Lehmann, thought they could have a “significant impact” on future papal elections if each of them used their network of contacts, according to Danneels’ authorized biography co-written by Jürgen Mettepenningen and Karim Schelkens.

The group allegedly lost its impetus in 2006 after failing to have their preferred candidate elected in the 2005 conclave. While the group has been accused of being involved in a plot that led to the resignation of Pope Benedict, these claims have been denied by former bishop of St. Gallen Ivo Fürer.

But while Bishop Fürer stated that the St. Gallen group did not officially meet after 2006, and therefore could not have been involved in a plot to force Benedict XVI to resign, this does not mean that the group was inactive.

According to Austen Ivereigh, Francis’ biographer and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor’s former assistant, days prior to the March 12 conclave in Rome, Murphy-O’Connor was tasked by the St. Gallen “mafia” with informing Bergoglio of a plan to get him elected. Murphy-O’Connor was an old friend of Bergoglio.

As Ivereigh described in his 2014 book on Pope Francis, Murphy-O’Connor was also tasked with lobbying for Bergoglio among his North American counterparts as well as acting as a link for those from Commonwealth countries.

“They first secured Bergoglio’s assent,” wrote Ivereigh. “Asked if he was willing, he said that he believed that at this time of crisis for the Church no cardinal could refuse if asked. Murphy-O’Connor knowingly warned him to 'be careful,’ and that it was his turn now, and was told 'capisco’ – 'I understand.’”

“Then they got to work, touring the cardinals’ dinners to promote their man, arguing that his age – 76 – should no longer be considered an obstacle, given that popes could resign. Having understood from 2005 the dynamics of a conclave, they knew that votes travelled to those who made a strong showing out of the gate,” he wrote.

Because he was over the age of 80, Murphy-O'Connor was not able to vote in the Conclave, but was present at the pre-Conclave gatherings. On March 2, an anonymous cardinal who was not able to vote in the conclave told Italian news service La Stampa that, “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.” Murphy-O'Connor was later named making the same comment in a July 2013 piece that appeared in the Independent.

In early March of 2013, word began to get around quickly in the College of Cardinals that a powerful movement was afoot to elect Bergoglio.

In an astounding talk given six months after Bergoglio’s election, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., revealed how he became part of the plan to elect the new pope.

“Before the Conclave, nobody thought that there was a chance for Bergoglio,” he said in an October 1, 2013 talk given at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

McCarrick, who like Murphy-O'Connor, was too old to vote in the conclave, said that prior to the event a “very interesting and influential Italian gentlemen” visited him at the American College in Rome where he was staying to ask him to campaign for Bergoglio. The conversation, as related by McCarrick, must be quoted at length to reveal its significance.

We sat down. This is a very brilliant man, a very influential man in Rome. We talked about a number of things. He had a favor to ask me for [when I returned] back home in the United States.

But then [the influential Italian] said, ‘What about Bergoglio?’

And I was surprised at the question.

I said, ‘What about him?’

He said, ‘Does he have a chance?’

I said, ‘I don't think so, because no one has mentioned his name. He hasn't been in anyone's mind. I don't think it’s on anybody's mind to vote for him.”

He said, ‘He could do it, you know.’

I said, ‘What could he do?’

He said, ‘[Bergoglio] could reform the Church. If we gave him five years, he could put us back on target.’

I said, ‘But, he’s 76.’

He said, ‘Yeah, five years. If we had five years, the Lord working through Bergoglio in five years could make the Church over again.’

I said, ‘That’s an interesting thing.’

He said, ‘I know you’re his friend.’

I said, ‘I hope I am.’

He said, ‘Talk him up.’

I said, ‘Well, we'll see what happens. This is God’s work.’

That was the first that I heard that there were people who thought Bergoglio would be a possibility in this election.

McCarrick went on to say in his talk that when his time came to speak to all the cardinals prior to the vote, he urged them to elect someone from “Latin America” who could identify with the poor.

He then went on in his talk to praise Pope Francis to the American Catholic students as a “pastor” greater than previous popes. “I think we have maybe never had a ‘pastor’ in so long a time,” he said.

He continued: “[Francis] has an understanding of human nature, an understanding that, though he says some things that maybe would surprise us, but the interesting thing is that if you examine what he is saying, it is what the Church has said all the time. Maybe not what the canonists have said all the time, or what different theologians have said all the time. But the teaching of the Church all the time is the teaching of Pope Francis.”

McCarrick predicted at that time that Francis “if he has two years, he will have changed the papacy.”

“The longer he is in, the more I think it is likely that we could say that he has changed the papacy,” he stated.

‘Four years of Bergoglio’

What liberal prelates like McCarrick, Murphy-O'Connor, and Danneels knew about Bergoglio’s capacity to “make the Church over again” has only slowly and confusedly become evident to faithful Catholics over the last four years, but especially in the last year. Based on a mistaken notion of papal infallibility, many Catholics have defended Pope Francis to the point of absurdity. But sober-minded Catholics who know the traditional teachings, history, and practices, are alarmed at the clear fact that many of the Holy Father’s actions and statements are at odds with what has gone before.

In Bergoglio’s four years as Pope Francis the four marks that set the Catholic Church apart from every other religion on the face of the earth, namely that she is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, have become obscured and even undermined.

The oneness or unity of the Church in her submission to Christ as head, in her doctrinal integrity, and in her confession of one faith has been obscured and undermined in various ways under Francis’ pontificate:

  • He has called for a “decentralized” Church, and allowed individual bishops’ groups to determine for their own “regional” churches what is moral and right. In this way, it is supposedly permissible for adulterers to receive Holy Communion in Germany while across the border in Poland it is gravely sinful.
  • His ambiguous speeches and especially his papal writings have turned cardinal against cardinal, bishop against bishop, and lay-faithful against lay-faithful.
  • He has refused to answer Church leaders earnestly begging for clarity on points of contention.
  • He has allowed Catholic doctrine to be minimized in the name of religious “dialogue” with other Christian denominations with a history of hostility towards Catholic doctrine on marriage, the Eucharist, and the papacy. Under his leadership, the Vatican has even hailed Luther, the founder of Protestantism, as a “witness to the gospel.”

The holiness and sacred reality of the Church as the bride of Christ has been obscured and undermined in various ways under Francis’ pontificate:

The Catholicity or universal mission of the Church to ceaselessly toil for the salvation of souls has been obscured and undermined in various ways under Francis’ pontificate:

The apostolicity of the Church where the deposit of faith is authentically handed down from the apostles through their successors the bishops and cardinals has been obscured and undermined in various ways under Francis’ pontificate:

Pope as ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’

In his October 2013 speech to the Catholic students of Villanova University, Cardinal McCarrick ended his panegyric of Pope Francis by comparing him to the “Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

“He will walk across the stage of the world and people will follow him. They will find in him like they found in the Pied Piper of Hamelin, they will find in him a certain charism, that reminds them that this is what God's love is all about. And this is what Francis is all about,” he said.

McCarrick surely didn’t realize how disturbing the comparison was. According to the children’s tale, when the town’s families refused to pay the piper for ridding them of a rat infestation, he took his revenge by using his pipe on their children. Enchanting them with his charism and delightful tunes the piper led them away into a secret mountain cave and they were never seen again.

If, as McCarrick said, Bergoglio is the Pied Piper, perhaps fewer would have followed his tune if they had known where it would lead them.

But one Argentinian journalist who knew Bergoglio well warned the world on the day of his election what kind of tune the new pontiff piper was about to play. These words posted online at Rorate Caeli on March 13, 2013, the day of the election of Pope Francis, are so on the mark one might suspect that the journalist had somehow managed to time travel four years ahead from that date to today so as to accurately depict what was about to unfold.

The day Bergoglio was elected, Argentinian journalist Marcelo González of Panorama Católico Internacional wrote that he was “terrified” for the future of the Catholic Church. It is worth quoting the post in its entirety:

Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and morals seem to have been irrelevant to him.

A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum.

Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.

His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehavior.

He has not missed any occasion for holding acts in which he lent his Cathedral to Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and even to partisan groups in the name of an impossible and unnecessary inter-religious dialogue. He is famous for his meetings with Protestants in the Luna Park arena where, together with preacher of the Pontifical House, Raniero Cantalamessa, he was “blessed” by Protestant ministers, in a common act of worship in which he, in practice, accepted the validity of the “powers” of the TV-pastors.

This election is incomprehensible: he is not a polyglot, he has no Curial experience, he does not shine for his sanctity, he is loose in doctrine and liturgy, he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual “marriage” [approved with practically no opposition from the episcopate], he has no manners to honor the Pontifical Throne.

He has never fought for anything else than to remain in positions of power.

It really cannot be what Benedict wanted for the Church. And he does not seem to have any of the conditions required to continue his work.

May God help His Church. One can never dismiss, as humanly hard as it may seem, the possibility of a conversion… and, nonetheless, the future terrifies us.

Trial, the Church’s path to glory

Like Cardinals McCarrick and Murphy-O'Connor, González knew that Bergoglio had the capacity to “make the Church over again” in ways that would leave her practically unrecognizable.

A source who works in a Vatican dicastery told LifeSiteNews earlier this month that the changes in the Vatican under Francis have created a climate of fear inside its walls.

“The impression for many here is that this is a totalitarian kind of regime, with no Catholic agenda or values at heart. It’s one that follows the major modernist spins and is politically-minded through-and-through. It’s totalitarian in the sense that it usually shows no real regard for due process, for law, and for reason itself, only for will and arbitrary trampling of whatever lawful obstacles face them,” the source said.

“Many here, knowing that the regime is totalitarian are also simply waiting for it to pass, to end, as they usually do eventually, since only God is absolute. They might seem to support it, by staying silent. But, in fact, many are either afraid or indifferent. All are waiting for it to end, since nobody likes to live in fear,” the source added.

Jesus Christ told St. Peter, the first pope, that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. Every faithful Catholic believes that the battle against evil has already been won by Christ who has definitively conquered Satan through his death and resurrection. This does not mean, however, that Satan will not do his best to destroy the Church. He will try, and it might even look like he is succeeding, but he will fail.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about an “ultimate trial” that the Church must undergo before the second coming of Christ.

“Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth,” it states.

But like every trial the Church has ever faced in her 2000-year-old history, this trial will only make her stronger and more glorious.

Continues the Catechism: “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.”

Jesus Christ has compared himself to the “corner-stone” which the builders rejected. It is upon this unmovable stone that the Church has been forever established. It is from this stone that she receives her solidity and unity. For those with the eyes to see it, it is “marvelous” to behold.

In these perilous times for the Church, we must hold fast to Christ’s promise that no one in any age will ever destroy his bride, the Church, whom he sanctified with his blood: “He who falls upon this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

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Pete Baklinski is Director of Communications for Campaign Life Coalition, a Canadian pro-life organization working at all levels of government to secure full legal protection for all human beings, from the time of conception to natural death. He has a B.A. in liberal arts from Thomas Aquinas College and a masters in theology (STM) from the International Theological Institute.