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Cardinal Cupich celebrating Mass March 25, with other conference participants including Nuncio Christophe Pierre and Cardinal Tobin.Chicago Catholic/Twitter screenshot

CHICAGO (LifeSiteNews) — A select group of high-ranking U.S. prelates, along with the Papal Nuncio and Vatican curial officials, secretively gathered in Chicago recently to “understand the spirit of what they call the ‘opposition’” to Pope Francis, and to promote the ideology of Vatican II.

Between March 25 and 26, as Pope Francis was praying the act of consecration of Russia and Ukraine, a conference was held at Loyola University Chicago entitled “Pope Francis, Vatican II, and the Way Forward.” 

Jointly sponsored by Boston College’s Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, along with Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, and Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, the conference was conducted almost entirely under the media radar. 

Writing March 25 (in the only report of the event at the time), The Torch revealed that the event was the brainchild of Fr. Mark Massa, S.J. – the director of the Boisi Center – and Michael Sean Winters, a senior editor for the dissident National Catholic Reporter (NCR). 

The conference itself was billed as a place wherein theologians and clerics could meet and discuss, in imitation of the Common Ground event, begun in 1996 by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, known for his promotion of ecumenism and reputed homosexual tendencies.

Meeting of ‘centrist bishops,’ prominent prelates bound by moderate secrecy

Fr. Massa told The Torch of the selectively invited participants, saying that in addition to unnamed members of Catholic media, the participants included “centrist bishops … who are open to having a conversation.” 

Among the participants were a number of high-ranking prelates, including two of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers – Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga; the Papal Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre; and prominent Vatican nun Sister Nathalie Becquart, who plays a key role in the Synod on Synodality. 

Chicago’s Cardinal Blaise Cupich also attended, along with Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishops Mitchell Rozanski, John Wester, Charles Thompson and Roberto González Nieves, as well as Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, the president of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America. 

The Pillar’s J.D. Flynn noted how “several” journalists from the NCR were in attendance, along with “liberal theologian” Massimo Faggioli, and theology professor M. Therese Lysaught, who is a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a promoter of the abortion-tainted COVID jabs.

Adding to the secrecy surrounding the event, Chatham House Rules were in effect, by which, as Fr. Massa stated, “the quotes can be quoted but nobody can be ascribed.”

Aim to link ‘opposition to Pope Francis … to Vatican II’ 

Speaking to The Torch, Massa revealed the aim of the conference was to link “opposition” to Pope Francis to opposition of the Second Vatican Council: “We want to show that opposition to Pope Francis, not universally, but to a large extent is opposition to Vatican II. Francis is trying to cash the check that Vatican II wrote: synodality was the big thing.”

Praising the theme of synodality, Massa said that its aim and meaning was for a localized re-orientation of the Church, in which “every national church, every group of dioceses, should have a synod to talk about local things in conversation with each other.” This would eliminate the process of appealing to Rome, he added.

Speaking to the National Catholic Reporter after the conference, scandal-ridden Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga shed further light on the meeting, saying it was to “understand the spirit of what they call the ‘opposition.’” 

“We have this what they call ‘opposition’ to the Pope,” he said. “It’s trying to build walls, going backwards — looking to the old liturgy or maybe things before Vatican II.”

Maradiaga lamented how “Vatican II is unknown by many of the young generation,” adding that “it’s necessary to come back and to see that all the reforms of Pope Francis are rooted in Vatican II.”

Among the keynote speeches delivered at the conference were “Opposition to Francis Rooted in Abandonment of Vatican II as a Source of Renewal” by Faggioli; “Reclaiming the Moral and Intellectual Tradition from the Culture Wars” by Lysaught; “The Money, Media, and Networks that Oppose Pope Francis” by Fr. Massa; “Pastoral-Theological Ideas for Affective Collegiality with Pope Francis and Receiving Vatican II” by Boston College theologian Hosffman Ospino.

Long-term goals of secretive Chicago meeting 

The Chicago meeting does not appear likely to be an isolated event, according to Fr. Massa, who suggested the meeting would be held either as an “annual or semi-annual event” at which “bishops and theologians can talk frankly to each other about important things that really get buried in the press.”

The goal, he stated, was to move the Catholic Church in America “away from these culture wars divided between conservatives and liberals … to a united position where it’s possible to be on a spectrum of positions and still be considered a good Catholic and not be called names by people who disagree with you.”

Such a goal appears to be behind the selective invitation of “centrist” bishops, along with members of the media noted for their deviation from Catholic tradition. 

LifeSiteNews contacted the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Archdiocese of Boston and Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center, seeking further information about the conference, as well as the reason for general avoidance of the media. No response was received at the time of publication. 

Shedding some light on the importance and predicted outcome of the event was Faggioli, who tweeted on the conference’s opening day about “interesting days today and tomorrow for the US Catholic Church,” adding later how he was “honored” to be speaking at “this great conference.” 

Some Catholics have likened the conference to meetings of the Sankt Gallen Mafia, the secretive clerical group which is thought to have been behind Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.

“Looks like the USA has its very own Sankt Gallen group,” wrote Deacon Nick Donnelly.