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(LifeSiteNews) – In conversations with different sources – all of them Vatican experts or members of the Vatican who wished to remain anonymous – LifeSite has learned that there is an expectation that Pope Francis intends to implement his motu proprio essentially suppressing the Traditional Latin Mass with the help of a spy system and especially of the head of the Congregation of Religious, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz. Braz de Aviz has a record of harshly persecuting tradition-oriented religious communities, most prominently the Franciscans of the Immaculate. In his July 16 motu proprio (art. 7), the Pope gave the Congregation for Religious, as well as the Congregation for Divine Worship under Archbishop Arthur Roche, the duty to supervise the implementation of his instructions.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in his new response to the July 16 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes also speaks of the persecution of faithful communities that has been taking place both under Braz de Aviz and Pope Francis. He refers here to the fact that Pope Francis has now placed the communities dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass under the direct authority of Braz de Aviz, “as a sad prelude to a destiny that has already been sealed.”

“Let us not forget,” Viganò continues, “the fate that befell the flourishing religious Orders, guilty of being blessed with numerous vocations born and nurtured precisely thanks to the hated traditional Liturgy and the faithful observance of the Rule.”

Two sources told LifeSite that the Pope will use a “spy system” or “spy network.” As one Vatican source wrote: “They will use the spy system. There are everywhere overly zealous ones who will report to Rome that somewhere the Ancient Rite is being celebrated, or they will accuse those bishops who do not intervene.” The information gained by these “spies,” the source continued, will be used against those bishops who are anyway already being regarded as unpleasant.

“The greatest damage will be done by Cardinal Braz de Aviz and his secretary,” the source continued. They will accuse people of “being against the Second Vatican Council or against the Pope.”

As one well-experienced Vatican observer who asked to remain unnamed puts it: “I think the pope will punish in every way possible any bishop who defies him directly. He has used his spy networks to good effect during his entire career, and he has never ceased.” This source thinks that the Pope might even use accusations of cover-up of sexual abuse as a tool to silence the resistant bishops.

This source fears that the bishops of our day have already a weakened disposition to start with, and that they therefore might very well easily fall. “We have a mental illness in the Church right now that makes weak minded people want to prove their loyalty by committing ritual suicide.”

As an example, this source points to religious communities who have already eagerly implemented papal directives, even though they led to the destruction of their communities, thereby becoming “their own enemy in order to prove their obedience.” This source points out that it is not only Braz de Aviz, but also his secretary, who are behind many harsh measures taken against good communities.

As our friend and colleague, Marco Tosatti wrote in a 2017 First Things article about these two clergymen:

It seems that Rome keeps a particularly piercing eye on religious orders that revere tradition, and that happen to enjoy many priestly vocations. The eye belongs to two persons: João Cardinal Braz de Aviz, a Brazilian sympathizer of Liberation Theology; and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, a Spanish Franciscan. The former is the prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the latter is its secretary.

Tosatti went on to describe the different cases in which Braz de Aviz and his secretary have destroyed good traditional communities. He mentioned the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), the Family of the Incarnate Word, and the Heralds of the Gospel.

About the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the Italian journalist wrote that they are a “relatively new order, rich in vocations both in Europe and in Africa, the FFI was inspired by St. Maximilian Kolbe and approved by John Paul II.” In 2013, the FFI was placed under the authority of a Vatican commissioner, and its founder, Father Stefano Manelli, has been segregated from his order, “in order to limit his influence,” as Tosatti wrote.

Adds the journalist: “The only known accusation against him and his followers is that of ‘Lefebvrist drift.’ One of the problems seems to be FFI’s love for Church tradition, and for the old form of the Mass. Vocations of both sexes to FFI dropped after this intervention by the Vatican.”

As one member of the FFI, Father Paolo M. Siano, said in 2018: “over these past six years I have witnessed the objective devastation of my Religious Family (Friars, Nuns, Laity) the persecution (still going on) of our Founding Father and our authentic FI [Franciscans of the Immaculate] charism approved by Pope St. John Paul II.”

About the Family of the Incarnate Word, Marco Tosatti reported in 2017:

There is the similar case of the Family of the Incarnate Word. This religious order, begun in Argentina in the 1980s, has more than one thousand members in twenty-six countries on five continents, including in regions where nobody else is willing to go. The Family has roughly 800 seminarians. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then archbishop of Buenos Aires and president of the Argentine bishops’ conference, did not care for the Family. He made reference to it, while addressing the bishops: “In Latin America we happen to find in small groups, and in some of the new religious orders, an exaggerated drift to doctrinal or disciplinary security.” At one time, he blocked the ordination of the Family’s priests for three years. The founder, again, is more or less segregated from his order.

In 2017, there was also an impending apostolic visitation of the Heralds of the Gospel. Here, Tosatti tells us that “the Heralds are an association of pontifical right, begun in Brazil in the last years of the twentieth century, from a highly traditionalist order known as Tradition, Family, and Property. The Heralds have many priests, many seminarians, and great vitality. The reasons for the apostolic visitation are far from clear.”

As the Vatican Insider had it, the Heralds were believed to have some “occult doctrine” and therefore, their visitation was not part of a “witch hunt against those more traditional and conservative associations.” Comments Tosatti: “It seems likely that the Vatican anticipated criticism of this investigation and sought to silence it.” (See also Hilary White’s later 2019 analysis of the situation of the Heralds of the Gospel – who received special attention from Pope Benedict XVI – which gives more background information.)

Next to these cases mentioned by Tosatti, the Spanish website Infovaticana reports that Braz de Aviz is also responsible for the destruction of the Familia Christi, a small Italian priestly fraternity community which had been founded in 2014 by Ferrara Archbishop Luigi Negri whom Francis quickly removed once he reached his retirement age.

Next to these cases, Braz de Aviz is known for the following troubling facts:

  1. During the Amazon Synod, he expressed support for the idea of ordaining married men to the priesthood.
  2. In 2006, he participated, together with the founder of Liberation Theology, Leonardo Boff, in an interreligious event that was co-hosted by Freemasons.
  3. Already in May of this year, Braz de Aviz made it public that the Pope is concerned that some young priests “go a bit far from the Second Vatican Council” and take “traditionalist positions.”
  4. In 2019, when talking about the “transformation of the formation” of religious communities, the Brazilian stated: “Many things of tradition, many things that are from the past culture, are no longer useful.”

In light of these facts, let us listen here to more voices concerning the future of traditional communities. One Vatican observer told LifeSite that for now, during the summer, “nothing will happen,” and that it will be difficult to say what will happen. But it is clear that “the Vatican is a regime, and it is obvious that Bergoglio wants to eliminate the traditional Latin Mass.” This pope, the source went on, “has a deeply rooted ideological hatred” against this Mass, and he is an “aggressively autocratic man of power who does not accept opposition.”

“Therefore,” this Vatican expert continued, “I can well imagine that we have to prepare ourselves.”

The shocking news that Cardinal Wilton Gregory decided to cancel a Traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., that would have been celebrated by the recently retired nuncio of Switzerland, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, might give us an idea what might soon come to many of us.

To prepare ourselves for the worst case – Rome’s clamping down on every bishop in the world who tries to preserve the traditional liturgy – we might listen to the British journalist and Catholic commentator Damian Thompson. He stated on Twitter on someone’s estimation that some bishops will maintain the status quo with regard to the traditional Mass: “Let’s hope so. But the head of the CDW [Congregation for Divine Worship, which was also appointed by the pope to supervise the implementation of his motu proprio] is Arthur Roche, a veteran enemy of the TLM who, despite his affable roly-poly appearance (he is an unlikely former champion ice-skater), is one of nature’s witch-hunters. There are few more unpleasant bishops in the entire Church.”

Abbé Claude Barthe, one of the organizers of the yearly Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage that drew thousands of Catholics to Rome, also has issued some warnings. He said in a new interview that this new motu proprio Traditionis Custodes “is of course very painful. It will hinder the diffusion of the traditional Mass. It will start new persecutions.”

Barthe declared that religious communities formerly under the protection of the Ecclesia Dei commission will be “affected.”

“They are also in the crosshairs … The document says it clearly, the Pope’s letter indicates it in a cynical way. It is a question of destroying the traditional celebration of the Mass by ensuring there will be no more priests to celebrate it.”

The French liturgy expert goes on to describe what will happen under the new leadership of Braz de Aviz:

The Congregation for Religious, presided by Cardinal Braz de Aviz, is very much aligned with Francis and is going to get work to put things in order. For example, they will make canonical visits to the seminaries to verify that the teaching given there is in conformity with Vatican II, and to ensure they study and celebrate the new liturgy there. In short: the goal will be to discourage vocations. When we object: “But you are going to cause these institutes’ vocations to dry up”, they answer, “But we don’t need these people, they are useless.” (That was the actual response of a certain person I shall not name!)”

Regarding the question as to what we need to do in preparation, we learned from Bishop Athanasius Schneider that he expects many traditional priests and laymen clandestinely continuing the traditional liturgy and devotions. What this specifically would entail, we would like to learn.

Archbishop Viganò, in his own assessment of the current situation after the motu proprio, wrote that “the Bishops, priests and clerics incardinated in dioceses or religious Orders know that hanging over them is the sword of Damocles of removal from office, dismissal from the ecclesiastical state, and the deprivation of their very means of subsistence.”

He pointed out that Pope Francis usually gets what he wants to achieve, and His Grace mentions, as an example, the recent synods, which the pope was able to use for his goals. “We all know,” writes the Italian archbishop, “that if Bergoglio wants to obtain a result, he does not hesitate to resort to force, lies, and sleight of hand: the events of the last Synods have demonstrated this beyond all reasonable doubt, with the Post-Synodal Exhortation drafted even before the vote on the Instrumentum Laboris [which is the preparatory text written before the synod starts].”

Further describing the pope’s methods, Viganò explained that “in order to prevent the ontological superiority of the Mass of Saint Pius V from becoming evident, and to prevent the criticisms of the reformed rite and the doctrine it expresses from emerging, he prohibits it, he labels it as divisive, he confines it to Indian reservations, trying to limit its diffusion as much as possible, so that it will disappear completely in the name of the cancel culture of which the conciliar revolution was the unfortunate forerunner.”

Pope Francis’s goal is “to cancel every trace of Tradition, relegating it to the nostalgic refuge of some irreducible octogenarian or a clique of eccentrics, or presenting it – as a pretext – as the ideological manifesto of a minority of fundamentalists.” This prelate is concerned about the “overall tyrannical nature accompanied by a substantial falsity of the arguments put forward to justify the decisions imposed.”

Archbishop Viganò also calls upon Catholics “to prepare ourselves for a strong and determined opposition, continuing to avail ourselves of those rights that have been abusively and illicitly denied us,” explaining that “our resistance to abuses of authority will still be able to count on the Graces that the Lord will not cease to grant us – in particular the virtue of Fortitude that is so indispensable in times of tyranny.”

He expects that not all of the bishops “will be willing to passively submit to forms of authoritarianism” and he points out that “the Code of Canon Law guarantees the Bishops the possibility of dispensing their faithful from particular or universal laws, under certain conditions.”

According to Archbishop Viganò:

It will be our duty, whether as Ministers of God or as simple faithful, to show firmness and serene resistance to such abuse, walking along the way of our own little Calvary with a supernatural spirit, while the new high priests and scribes of the people mock us and label us as fanatics. It will be our humility, the silent offering of injustices toward us, and the example of a life consistent with the Creed that we profess that will merit the triumph of the Catholic Mass and the conversion of many souls.

As LifeSite reported today, the Italian prelate further clarified his thoughts on what priests should do in circumstances where the Traditional Mass is being persecuted, stressing “that in continuing to celebrate the Mass of Saint Pius V no priest performs any act of disobedience, but on the contrary he exercises his right sanctioned by God, which not even the Pope can revoke.”

He invites priests to reach out to their bishops and to make their hearts known to them and even to invite them to celebrate themselves the ancient rite of the Mass, which possibly could work a “miracle” in their own hearts.

Archbishop Viganò says that a priest has to make a decision as to how to proceed in light of where his own bishop stands with regard to the Mass of Ages. Some bishops might try to help these priests. In some cases, it might be better to continue the traditional Mass in hiding, but in other case, a priest might have to resist his bishop, and the latter solution might very well be the response of the saints. States the archbishop:

The priest must therefore consider whether his action will be more effective with a fair and direct confrontation, or by acting with discretion and in hiding. In my opinion, the first option is the most linear and transparent, and the one that responds most to the behavior of the Saints, to which we must comply.

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Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.

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