Catholics launch appeal urging world’s bishops to break silence on crisis under Pope Francis

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Cardinals and bishops pack the front section of St. Peter's Basilica during the opening Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family on October 5, 2014. John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com

Diane Montagna

Bishops: Speak out on the crisis under Pope Francis Sign the petition here.

ROME, January 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A prominent group of Catholic laity are calling on bishops and priests to break their silence surrounding the “homosexual networks” in the Church’s hierarchy, which many believe are at the “root” of the clerical sexual abuse crisis to be discussed next month at the Vatican.

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In an appeal launched in Italian, English and Spanish on Jan. 5 (see full text below), the president of the Rome-based Lepanto Foundation, Italian historian Professor Roberto de Mattei, is urging Catholic bishops and priests to abandon “the path of absolute silence” about the moral and doctrinal crisis in the Church, arguing that it is only precipitating her “self-destruction.” 

He is also entreating them to place “the interests of the Church, which are those of Jesus Christ,” above their own personal interests, and to join their voices to prelates like Archbishop Viganò who have openly denounced what they call “homosexual networks” in the hierarchy that thrive in “secrecy” as they “strangle innocent victims, priestly vocations, and […] the entire Church.” 

Titled, “Dare, Monsignor!,” the appeal urges bishops and priests to ask God for the supernatural grace needed to respond courageously to the current crisis. 

“If you will dare to ask Him, the Holy Spirit will not fail to suggest to your conscience times, ways, and tones of coming out into the open, in order to be ‘the light of the world, a city set on a hill, a lamp set on a lampstand’ (Mt 5:13-16),” the appeal reads.

“What are you afraid of? The world may attack you with defamation and slander. Your superiors may deprive you of your authority and external dignity. But it is to the Lord that you must render an account, as must each one of us on the Day of Judgment,” it adds. 

Until now, de Mattei observes, many bishops and priests — even those who sympathize with the “unease” and “concern” expressed by cardinals and laity — have adopted “silence as the supreme rule” and counselled others to follow suit in the name of “following the Pope” and “preventing schism.” 

But, he argues, “there is only one way to save the Church from schism. Proclaim the Truth. By remaining silent we will only further the schism.” 

The lay group is therefore urging bishops and priests: “Dare to openly encourage those who defend the Church from within, and who publicly profess the entire Truth of the Catholic Faith. Dare to seek out other confreres who will join you and us in issuing that cry of war and of love which St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort raised in his “Fiery Prayer” [Prière embrasée] with these prophetic words: “Fire! Fire! Fire! There is a fire in the house of God! There is fire even within the Sanctuary!”

In comments to LifeSite, de Mattei explained why the Lepanto Foundation is issuing their appeal now, what they hope to achieve, and also why they focused on the issue of homosexuality. He said:

On February 21, a summit on clerical sexual abuse with presidents of episcopal conferences around the world will open at the Vatican. Pope Francis has just sent a letter on this issue to the US bishops gathered at Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago archdiocese for their week-long retreat. Pope Francis, however, seems to limit the problem of the moral corruption of pedophilia to one of clericalism and the abuse of power, without extending it to homosexuality — which Archbishop Viganò has rightly denounced as a true “scourge” in the Church today.

In issuing our appeal, we are acting as the laity have done many times in the course of history. The laity by their action have contributed to the moral reform of the Church in key moments; for example, through the “Pataria” movement of the eleventh century in Lombardy. 

The Pataria was a religious movement in the northern Italian archdiocese of Milan that sought to reform the clergy and ecclesiatic government, and supported papal sanctions against simony and clerical marriage. The “patarini” — or “ragpickers” as their opponents called them — were generally lay tradesman who were motived by personal piety. 

De Mattei continued: 

Today, however, the problem is not only moral but also theological, because even more serious than the practice of homosexuality is the affirmation by many members of the clergy that a bridge between the Catholic faith and LGBT culture is possible. These pastors and theologians are likely a minority, but they are an active minority, and have been encouraged by the Supreme ecclesiastical hierarchies through a general silence. I often meet both in Rome and in other cities around the world, clergy who privately criticize these positions and complain about the situation of the Church, but do not dare to make their voices heard and lock themselves up in silence.

Our appeal aims not only at shaking the sleeping clergy from their lethargy, but at serving as a symbolic act of indignation and defense of the Church’s honor. We hope that our voice as simple lay faithful will not be despised, but will be listened to and respected, also as a contribution to the debate that must precede the February summit. 

Here below is the official English text of the Lepanto Foundation appeal. It may also be accessed here in pdf format.

 

An Appeal from the Lepanto Foundation

Dare, Monsignor! 

Twenty-five years later...

Twenty-five years ago, on 8 February 1994, the European Parliament voted on a resolution that invited the nations of Europe to promote and give legal protection to homosexuality. In his Angelus address on 20 February 1994, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II appealed to public opinion worldwide, affirming that “the legal approbation of active homosexuality is not morally admissible [...]. The Resolution of the European Parliament has called for the legitimization of a moral disorder. The Parliament has unduly given institutional value to deviant behaviors, which do not conform to God’s plan.” 

In May of that same year, the Lepanto Cultural Center [Centro Culturale Lepanto] handed out a manifesto in Strasbourg to parliamentary representatives, called “Europe at Strasbourg: Represented or Betrayed?”. The manifesto made an indignant protest against the promotion of a vice condemned by both Christian and Western conscience, and asked the European bishops “to unite their voices to that of the Supreme Pastor [John Paul II] in order to multiply it in their dioceses, by publicly denouncing the moral fault with which the European Assembly has stained itself and warning the flock entrusted to their care of the growing attacks of anti-Christian forces in the world.”

Today, one after another, the principal European nations, including many of those with the most ancient Catholic tradition, have elevated sodomy to a legal right by recognizing, under different forms, so-called “same-sex marriage” and introducing the concept of the crime of “homophobia.” The Pastors of the Church, who should have formed an unbreakable dam of opposition against the homosexualization of society promoted by the political class and by the media-financial oligarchies, have in fact fostered it by their silence. Even at the highest levels of the Church, the practice of homosexuality and of a so-called “gay-friendly” culture that justifies and encourages homosexual vice has spread like a cancer. 

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Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan, said in a message dated 28 July 2018, that “We are witnessing an incredible scenario, in which some priests and even bishops and cardinals, without blushing, are already offering grains of incense to the idol of homosexuality or gender ideology, to the applause of the powerful ones of this world, that is, to the applause of politicians, social media giants and powerful international organizations.”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in his historic testimony of 22 August 2018, denounced — using precise names and circumstances — the existence of a “homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality” and the presence of “homosexual networks, which are now widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, religious orders, etc.,” and which “act under the concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles, and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations, and are strangling the entire Church.” 

These courageous voices remain isolated even until today. The climate of indifference and cover-up which reigns within the Church has profound moral and doctrinal roots that date back to the Second Vatican Council, when the ecclesiasticalhierarchies accepted the process of secularization as an irreversible phenomenon. But when the Church subordinates herself to secularism, the Kingdom of Christ becomes conformed to this world and is reduced to a mere power structure. The militant spirit dissipates, and the Church, instead of converting the world to the law of the Gospel, surrenders the Gospel to the world’s demands.

How we long to hear resounding once again the fierywords of a new Saint Peter Damian or Saint Bernardine of Siena, instead of the infamous statement of Pope Francis, “If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge them?” If it is true that the meaning of this statement was distorted by the media, such misuse should have been combatted by means of clear and solemn documents condemning sodomy, as St. Pius V did with the two constitutions Cum Primum of 1 April 1566 and Horrendum Illud Scelus of 30 August 1568. Instead, Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia of 8 April 2016 not only was silent about this most grave moral disorder but also relativized the precepts of the natural law, opening the path towards the approval of cohabitation and adultery. 

And this is why we now make an appeal to you, Monsignor. 

[Translator’s note: In Italian and several other European languages, the term “Monsignor” is an honorific form of address used with prelates of the Catholic Church below the rank of cardinal and patriarch, including archbishops, bishops, and priests to whom the title has been granted. It is in this broader sense that “Monsignor” is being used here.]

To Serve the Church

The term “Monsignor” evokes a certain dignity, not a power or a bureaucratic function. Each one of the bishops, as Successors of the Apostles, are recognized with the title of “Monsignor,” but simple priests are also able to receive this title. The word “dignity” seems to have lost its meaning today, despite the fact that there was an entire declaration of Vatican II dedicated to it. Dignity means an awareness of a role and mission given by God. Respect for a person’s dignity is the source of a feeling of honor. Your dignity, Monsignor, derives from the honor which you have of serving the Church, without seeking either your own interests or the approval of the powerful. You have received the dignity of Monsignor from the Church, not from the men of the Church, and it is to the Church that you must render an account. The Church is the divine society founded by Jesus Christ, ever-perfect and ever-victorious, both in time and in eternity. The men of the Church may either serve the Church or betray her. Serving the Church means placing the interests of the Church, which are those of Jesus Christ, ahead of one’s personal interests. Betraying the Church means placing the interests of a family, a religious institute, or an ecclesiastical authority taken as a private person ahead of the Truth of the Church, which is the Truth of Jesus Christ, the one Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6). 

We would be insulting your intelligence, Monsignor, were we not to suppose that you already have a certain awareness of the crisis in the Church. Certain eminent cardinals, on various occasions, have manifested their unease and concern over what is happening in the Church. The same unease is displayed by the common man, who is profoundly disoriented by the new religious and moral paradigms. In the face of this unease, Monsignor, many times you have put up your hands, seeking to calm the person speaking to you, using words like: “There is nothing we can do but be silent and pray. The Pope is not immortal. Let’s wait for the next conclave.” That’s all we can do, you say. We cannot speak; we cannot act. You adopt silence as the supreme rule of your behavior. Is this attitude the result of human self-serving; of a selfishness that seeks above all else to live quietly; of the opportunism of those who are able to adapt themselves successfully to every situation? To assert this would be to make a judgment about your intentions, and a judgment about intentions cannot be made by men; only God can do this on the Day of Judgment, when we will each stand alone before Him, to listen to His lips pronounce the un-appealable sentence that will send us either to eternal happiness or to eternal damnation.

We who live on earth can only judge facts and words as they objectively appear. And the words with which you explain your behavior, Monsignor, at times appear to be more noble than your true feelings. “We ought to follow the Pope, even when he displeases us, because he is the Rock on which Christ has founded His Church,” you say; or “we ought to avoid a schism at any cost, because this would be the most serious disaster for the Church.”

Noble words, because they state truths. It is true that the Pope is the foundation of the Church, and that the Church can fear nothing worse than a schism. But what we would like you to reflect on, Monsignor, is that the path of absolute silence that you want to follow will bring harm to the Papacy and will hasten a schism in the Church.

It is true that the Pope is the foundation of the Church, but before being founded on him, the Church is founded on Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the primary and divine foundation of the Church, while Peter is the secondary and human foundation — even if it is true that he is divinely assisted. The divine assistance does not exclude the possibility of error or the possibility of sin. In the history of the Church, there has been no lack of popes who have sinned or erred, without this fact ever prejudicing the institution of the papacy. To say that “we need to always follow the Pope and never depart from him,” while refusing to respectfully correct him in exceptional cases, means attributing to the Church all of the errors which, over the course of the centuries, have been made by the men of the Church. The absence of this distinction between the Church and the men of the Church enables the enemies of the Church to attack her, and many false friends of the Church to refuse to truly serve Her.

Equally fraught with (disastrous) consequences is the assertion that to break silence, to tell the truth, and to denounce – if necessary – the infidelity of the same Supreme Pastor, would lead to a schism. The word “schism” means division, and never as in this moment of her history has the Church appeared so internally divided and fragmented. Within each nation, within each diocese, even within each parish, it is impossible to agree on a common way of living according to the Gospel, because each one experiences and lives a different Christianity – both liturgically and dogmatically – with each one constructing their own religion in such a way that the only thing  remaining in common is the name “Catholic”, but the essence of Catholicism is no longer present. What are the reasons for this fragmentation? The star that lights the way has disappeared, and the faithful make their way in the darkness of night, following opinions and personal sentiments, without even one voice being raised to remind them of the unchanging doctrine and praxis of the Church. The schism is being caused by the darkness, which is the daughter of silence. Only clear voices, crystalline voices, voices which are entirely faithful to the Tradition, are able to dispel the shadows and permit good Catholics to overcome the divisions which have been provoked by this pontificate, and to avoid new humiliations to the Church beyond those which have already been inflicted upon her by Pope Francis. There is only one way to save the Church from schism: Proclaim the Truth. By remaining silent we will only further the schism.

An Urgent Appeal

Monsignor, you who enjoy a certain dignity, you who exercise a moral authority, you who have received an inheritance – what are you afraid of? The world may attack you with defamation and slander. Your superiors may deprive you of your authority and external dignity. But it is to the Lord that you must render an account, as must each one of us on the Day of Judgment, when everything will be weighed and judged according to measure. Do not ask us what you ought to do concretely. If you will dare to ask Him, the Holy Spirit will not fail to suggest to your conscience times, ways, and tones of coming out into the open, in order to be “the light of the world, a city set on a hill, a lamp set on a lampstand” (Matthew 5:13-16).

What we ask of you, Monsignor, is that you assume an attitude of filial criticism, of deferential resistance, of devout moral separation from those responsible for the Church’s self-destruction. Dare to openly encourage those who defend the Church from within, and who publicly profess the entire Truth of the Catholic Faith. Dare to seek out other confreres who will join you and us in issuing that cry of war and of love which St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort raised in his “Fiery Prayer” [Prière embrasée] with these prophetic words: “Fire! Fire! Fire! There is a fire in the house of God! There is fire within souls! There is fire even within the Sanctuary!”

Tongues of fire like those of the day of Pentecost, as well as flashes of fire like those of Hell, seem to be hanging over the earth. A destroying fire, a purifying fire, a restoring fire – destined to engulf the entire world, to consume it and transform it. May the divine fire flare up within us before the fire of God’s wrath does, which will reduce our society to ashes as happened to Sodom and Gomorrha. And this is the reason why, twenty-five years after the unfortunate resolution of the European Parliament, I now make this appeal to you, for the good of souls, for the honor of the Church, and for the salvation of society.

Monsignor, please accept this appeal, which is also an invocation to the Blessed Mother and to the Angels, that they may intervene, as soon as possible, in order to save the Church and the whole world. 

Dare, Monsignor, to take up this holy cause in 2019, and you will find us battling at your side in this good fight!

 

Roberto de Mattei President of the Lepanto Foundation

 

Written at the foot of the Manger,  on this First Saturday of January 2019,  the Vigil of the Epiphany of the Lord

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