Faithful Catholics as well as dissidents react to Pope Francis’ new ‘brotherhood’ encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’
ROME, Italy, October 7, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― As Catholics slowly come to grips with Pope Francis’ latest book-length encyclical, pundits have begun to publish their opinions. Reactions to Fratelli tutti are mixed, with enthusiasm from the Freemasons and opponents of the death penalty, sharp remarks from the pontiff’s usual critics, and more cautious assessments from others.
The Masonic Lodge of Spain praised the encyclical on Twitter, stating: “#FratelliTutti is the latest encyclical of @Pontifex in which he embraces the Universal Brotherhood, the great principle of modern [freemasonry] ‘Recognizing the dignity of each human person, we can revive together a worldwide desire for brotherhood’ https://cutt.ly/Yf56vbE”
Fr. James Martin, SJ, underscored in America magazine his belief that “Francis has shown that Church doctrine can be changed.”
“Pope Francis’ new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” does something that some Catholics believed could not be done: It ratifies a change in church teaching. In this case, on the death penalty,” he wrote.
Martin said that the Church had previously permitted the death penalty, but the Pope Francis had presented a “theological thread” showing that has “always” been opposition to it. “It is a clear example of the development of doctrine over the centuries,” he stated.
Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., a more prominent abolitionist, was quoted by Fr. Martin in America magazine.
“I rejoice in Pope Francis’s ringing proclamation of the inviolable dignity of all human life, even the life of murderers, and I am heartened by the church’s unequivocal opposition to governments’ use of the death penalty in all instances,” she said.
“In killing chambers, I’ve seen close-up the torture and suffering of human beings, rendered defenseless and killed by the state, their lives stripped of all dignity,” she continued.
“I rejoice that now this clarity of church teaching will help end this unspeakable suffering and spark the Gospel of Jesus to be lived in its fullness: restoration of human life, not humiliation, torture and execution.”
Michael Sean Winters, writing for the dissident National Catholic Reporter, found Pope Francis’ structure “jarring” and stated that “it does not sound like the kind of magisterial text to which we are accustomed.” He chose for illustration a passage whose style he found “more homiletic than magisterial.” However, Winters praised Francis’ insights which “demonstrate the keen eye of a pastor who has been immersed in the work of helping the people of God navigate the complexities of their times.”
The columnist was particularly pleased by the pontiff’s critique of market economics, writing, “Pope Francis' critique of market economics in this chapter really shuts the door on the attempt of neoconservatives like George Weigel and the late Michael Novak to open Catholic social teaching to a greater valuation of free market ideas.”
Winters was similarly enthusiastic about Pope Francis’ call for “gratuitousness” in accepting migrants and for “respect for others”, saying that the first should challenge conservative Catholics who support President Trump and the second Catholic bishops “in their religious liberty campaigns” and “in their treatment of gay and lesbian employees”.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò stated on journalist Aldo Maria Valli’s blog that the “spiritual dimension was totally absent” from Fratelli tutti. He believes that a “cursory reading” would lead someone to believe it was written by “a Freemason, not by the Vicar of Christ.” The former papal nuncio alleged that Fratelli tutti was inspired by a “vague deism” and that it contained a “serious distortion”’ of the concept of fraternity, which “for Catholics is only possible in Christ if one has God as his Father through baptism.”
The archbishop accused Pope Francis of replacing the Catholic concept of “freedom of religion” with “religious liberty” and of “bartering” for “divine right” of the Catholic Church to preach the truth with his recognition of a right for the error of “false religions” to spread, even in Christian countries.
On the subject of the encyclical’s agreement with the principles of freemasonry, Vigano was particularly scathing.
“This encyclical is the ideological manifesto of Bergoglio,” he wrote, “his profession of masonic faith, and his candidacy for the presidency of the Universal Religion, handmaid of the New World Order. So much ... subordination to mainstream thought may bring him the applause of the enemies of God, but it confirms the inexorable abandonment of the evangelizing mission of the Church.
John-Henry Westen, Editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews, pointed out how the Pope ignored the plight of the unborn in his new encyclical, stating that “pro-life Catholics are confronted with a political emphasis that ignores abortion.”
“In line with U.S. bishops who have eschewed the fight for the right to life of unborn children, Pope Francis has explicitly excluded abortion from the political concerns laid out in his latest encyclical.”
“In paragraph 188 of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis says politicians’ “biggest concern should not be about a drop in the polls, but about finding effective solutions to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime,” he wrote.
“The fact that abortion is left out of this laundry list is scandalous. Especially since he follows up this list by saying, “Such is the magnitude of these situations, and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism that would assuage our consciences,” he added.
Professor Roberto de Mattei stated for RadioRomaLibera.org that the encyclical was political, “like all Pope Francis’ pontificate.” He also observed that Pope Francis values “fraternity” over Christ himself:
“The absolute truth [inTutti fratelli] is not Jesus Christ, in whose name and in whose baptism Christians are brothers,” De Mattei wrote.
“Fraternity is a value superior to Christ himself because it has the ability, according to Pope Francis, to reconcile Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists themselves, who also have their faith and convictions.”
De Mattei accused the pontiff of substituting the principles of the French Revolution (liberty, equality, and fraternity) for the Catholic faith and of wanting to create a utopia. Francis’ “keywords” “fraternity” and “social friendship” constitute a new kind of Christian love that replaces the vertical love of God with the horizontal love of neighbor as its measure, the professor believes.
De Mattei noted that Pope Francis did not talk about the evils of communism, or China’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic, or of sins beyond not welcoming migrants. Like Archbishop Viganò, the professor observed that there is no supernatural dimension to the document.
Steve Skojec, the editor-in-chief of the OnePeterFive online magazine, called Fratelli tutti a “party-sized portion of word salad” and voiced his surprise that Pope Francis had used “the masonic motto of the anti-Catholic French Revolution”― liberty, equality, and fraternity―in his encyclical. Skojec resisted the idea that Pope Francis has actually changed Church teaching on the death penalty, “his most favoritest ever heresy”, saying that the “teaching on the moral liceity of the death penalty — not just as a means of rendering an aggressor harmless, but as an act of retributive justice — is an infallible expression of the ordinary and universal magisterium. As such, it is impossible for there to be a universal ban on its use.”
Dr. Samuel Gregg wrote in online magazine Catholic World Report that Francis’ representation of St. Francis is “wanting” and that his treatment of economic questions is “insufficient”. For example, Francis declares that people no longer trust in the market; Gregg pointed out that, in fact, they do. He believes that Pope Francis needs to talk to conservatives, not just the left, on how to help the poor. However, Gregg praised the document’s “emphasis on the destructive role played by moral relativism in contemporary societies (206)” and “the perennial importance of forgiveness in a world in which conflict is part of the human condition (236-249).”
“Genuine insights which spring directly from the Gospels and often profound meditations on the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures go hand-in-hand with dubious historical claims, generalized assertions about highly prudential matters which are unsupported by evidence, and a fair amount of what I can only describe as utopianism,” he wrote.
Robert Royal, a frequent guest on EWTN’s “The World Over” talk show, writes in The Catholic Thing that Fratelli tutti was “all but unreadable.”
“Only those of us who love the Church and are loyal to the pope will get through it, from duty, not intellectual or spiritual interest,” he wrote. “And that’s a serious shortcoming for a text addressed not only to Catholics but all people of good will.”
Royal said that if Francis were one of his students and had submitted Fratelli tutti as an essay, Royal would praise his passion and ambition but tell him that his “large assertions” need to be better explained. He would like to see acknowledgement of the fears of citizens in host countries of international institutions and “the international ethos they are spreading”, as well as an understanding of what “walls” are built for. The encyclical left Royal unconvinced that the death penalty is indeed “inadmissable” and, given the 60 million annual executions of unborn babies, he wonders why abortion only gets a short mention.
Royal noted that Francis has limited himself by addressing “all people of good will” and continuing the interfaith Abu Dhabi document. “Thus, Francis can speak about but not fully draw on the only person that Christians believe can change hearts and breathe the fire of love into our efforts: Jesus Christ.”