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Pope Francis speaking to TG1.Video screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — Frank Wright and Father Charles Murr once again join John-Henry Westen on this week’s episode of Faith & Reason to discuss a new open letter cataloging the crimes of the Francis pontificate, a homosexual “blessing by a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the federal persecution of Catholics and pro-lifers, and more.

Early this month, a group of prominent Catholics released an open letter to the cardinals and bishops of the Catholic Church detailing the “crimes” committed by Pope Francis during the course of his pontificate, including the alleged heresies he has promoted, the protection of sex abusers such as disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Pachamama scandal, and the like. Among the signatories include liturgist Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Fr. Linus Clovis, classicist and theologian Dr. John Rist, Westen himself, and Faith & Reason regular Elizabeth Yore.

The signatories call on Francis to resign the papacy, repent, and do penance, and call on the cardinals and bishops of the Church to “make every effort” to get Francis to resign. Should Francis refuse, they ask the cardinals and bishops to declare that Francis has lost the papal office for heresy. Should a minority of them do this, however, the signatories ask that a group of prelates be formed to call Francis’ tenure as pope into doubt, warn of his “crimes and heresies,” and warn the faithful not to obey him “unless it is clear on independent grounds that these statements and orders should be respected.”

Wright, detailing the sexual abuse scandals of the pontificate, says the section dealing with it in the letter is “an extremely long list, including some ‘princes of the Church’ who have committed the most heinous acts, or defended and protected people who have, and who have remained unpunished.” Naming a few as examples, Wright notes the mention of Fr. Julio Grassi, who abused boys at Happy Children homes in Argentina, the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, and others, all of whom Wright says “can only be described as the most profound profanation of the Catholic Church and its faith.”

“It is more than reputational damage. It’s evil, and it has been institutionally covered up,” he says.

Murr admits that he read the letter a couple months ago, though he did not recall there being any clergy who signed it. To him, the reason why so few clergy signed the document – he claims he knows hundreds who would – is because they are “afraid for [their] future.” Further, he maintains that the letter “goes hand-in-hand” with the concept of the cover-up.

“We’re living under fear,” says the priest. “There is a tyrannical spirit today in the Church from above, from the highest authority. And this is what is not permitting us to go forward and do a lot of house cleaning.”

When Westen says that the laity have a certain freedom in action regarding criticism of ecclesial affairs, he notes that clergy have to contend with the possibility of suspension, removal, and laicization. Murr tells Westen that he is aware of a case in which a priest was threatened with laicization for something he believes unserious.

However, Murr observes something regarding laicization: that if a man in his 50s, 60s, or 70s is told that he needs to find his own way in life while having little money, he may not be able to find employment after having dedicated his life to philosophy and theology – and that this is why clergy are afraid to speak out. Such men, he continues, would need to have friends with the means to support him.

Meanwhile, Paulette Harlow, 75, a defendant in the Washington, D.C., Freedom to Access Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act trials and a devout Catholic, has been refused allowance to attend Mass at a Catholic church while under house arrest despite her express request to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly while in court. While Harlow’s legal counsel made the request, Department of Justice (DOJ) lead prosecutor Sanjay Patel specifically moved that the request be denied, and Kollar-Kotelly granted it. According to LifeSite journalist Louis Knuffke, the move appears as a “targeted persecution.”

Murr, reacting to the move, recalls that when growing up, the Catholic Church was the moral and almost physical force against communism in the world. The moral block that was the Church, however, was destroyed by the Church herself, in particular by the hierarchy. As such, the Church has lost her strength, and Catholics their strength as a people. “We’ve lost all moral authority,” he laments.

He also says that for the federal government to “stoop” to the level of playing a game by telling someone that they cannot go to Mass as part of their punishment is “unbelievable,” since he is “coming from a place where it wouldn’t even be a question. This would not even exist as a question; all of a sudden, it exists as an answer, and it’s supposed to be understood as perfectly normal.”

Wright says that the federal government’s actions regarding Harlow’s denied request hints at “late-stage liberal democratic jealousy of any competing explanation of the world.” While the act is “heinous,” it also betrays “a certain desperation.” Explaining the history of propaganda, Wright notes that philosopher of education John Dewey said a public religion must be created to sustain the population, with propaganda serving as the means to do so rather than the overt force used by foreign autocracies. Hence, liberal democracies need to control ideas in order to remain in power.

“What we can see here is as the liberal managerial bureaucracy gradually loses control, not just of events, but also of the propaganda that it uses to control its own populations, it’s becoming increasingly desperate, and that desperation is leading it to suppress and crack down on the most powerful counter-narrative to its own utopian system, which is the true religion of the Catholic faith,” Wright maintains.

Wright believes liberal democratic elites’ own belief system is undergoing a crisis more “severe” than the one racking the Catholic Church. He also contends that one of the reasons the Church is undergoing crisis is because it has lost its dedication to doctrine and has become a “modern managerial bureaucracy,” leading it to “enmesh” itself with a globalist agenda, seen in the “intrusion of hypersexualized lifestyles” and “the emancipation of women’s rights.”

Meanwhile, the DOJ exonerated the Federal Bureau of Investigation from any wrongdoing regarding the memo from the Richmond, Virginia, field office targeting “Radical Traditionalist Catholics.” According to the DOJ, the memo “failed to adhere to FBI standards” but showed “no evidence of malicious intent,” absolving the agency of wrongdoing. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz delivered the DOJ’s findings to Congress in a 10-page report, which some conservative politicians and Catholic commentators believe leaves important questions unanswered.

Repeating what he said about the treatment received by Harlow, Wright says that the DOJ’s findings show an “institutional fear” not just for a competing way to explain the world, but a better one. While he admits that it may sound conspiratorial to suggest that the “architects and managers of liberal democracy” attempted to create a secular religion, the “trouble” is that Catholics “tend to make a lot more sense than their official narrative of fairy tales.”

For him, this is why Traditionalism is labeled “extremism”: it is grounded in reality, and any philosophy grounded in reality and “recall of reality” is “embarrassing to an administration whose [practically] every policy is insane.”

“It’s a contradiction of the basic reality in which people live,” he says. “Whether they are believers or not, they now know that the government is telling them lies, and that they have no plan to get them out of the mess they’ve made.”

Murr says that the DOJ’s report reminds him of a story told by Jewish leaders in New York at a conference he attended. One of the leaders discussed behavior at concentration camps, noting that the Germans sought to remove any sense of liberty. According to the speaker, the Germans hated that the prisoners would, in a fit of madness, run into an electric fence, as it was something they would do of their free will. For Murr, that those on the political left would be upset about people attending the Old Rite of Mass shows they have no toleration for freedom or any thought other than their own.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives, under the auspices of fighting antisemitism, voted in favor of amending Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin, to “consider” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism “for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws.” Among those things listed as “antisemitic” in the IHRA’s definition is the claim that Jews killed Christ – something expressly noted in the New Testament.

Conservatives have reacted negatively to the law. Prominent Orthodox Jew and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro noted that the law is “unconstitutionally vague,” and Tucker Carlson quipped on X that it banned the New Testament. A similar bill is being considered in the Canadian Parliament, though it is written to include any “hate speech” whatsoever, even speech uttered at any time before the law’s passage.

For Wright and Murr’s reactions to this and more, tune into this week’s episode of Faith & Reason.

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