Is Neumayr being "relentlessly ideological" when he claims: "The ambitions of Pope Francis go well beyond an unusually aggressive political dilettantism...by championing the radical political agenda of the global left, but also subverting centuries-old Catholic teaching on faith and morals...in his drive to dilute the Church's moral and theological commitments?" Perhaps Cardinal Burke was also "relentlessly ideological" when he stated, "...at this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a rudder." Before proceeding further, a reader may ask, "Who is George Neumayr?"
A Californian and graduate of U. San Francisco (Philosophy), who also studied at Oxford, Neumayr began his writing career as a columnist for the California Political Review, then proceeded up the journalist ladder as Editor of Catholic World Report, along with the title of "Media Fellow" at the prestigious Hoover Institution at Stanford U. However, it was at The American Spectator on-line, where he is currently a Contributing Editor, that Neumayr "made his bones," for it was there that he began a crusade against what he saw as the growing separation between the actions and lifestyles of the episcopate, leading to a growing distance from the Faith and the Faithful. However, this time his audience included millions of Internet viewers.
To Neumayr, a perfect example of that disconnect existed in the behavior of the former archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. Until his removal by the pope, Wuerl claimed he didn't know about the rumors of the predatory homosexual behavior of his predecessor i.e., Cardinal, now Mr. McCarrick, — which is, Neumayr claims, "... a 100 percent lie." Neumayr: "The image of the Church this leaves is one of a hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy in which bishops hide behind the most minimalist pro forma actions while keeping known predators in circulation and then lying about it. In a church where holiness is the first, not the last, consideration, a responsible bishop would have followed up on the matter and been greatly troubled by it." Wuerl's demotion is unlikely to upset the applecart of "a hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy:" his successor, Bishop Wilton Gregory is a good friend of Wuerl, who, with papal approval, may have played a role in choosing his successor. But is there a larger question here: does the "hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy" extend into the higher reaches of the Vatican?
Political liberals said of Barack Obama that he was, "the one they have been waiting for." In the realm of religion, the same could be said of Church liberals and Pope Francis, for Neumayr is convinced the Catholic world is witnessing nothing less than a revolution, with results that have wrought havoc among the Faithful.
In seeking to "fundamentally transform" the institutions they encountered on their arrival, the former president and the current pope share a mindset that is strikingly similar: President Obama was influenced by Marxist mentors, and then began his career as a "community organizer in the rectory rooms of Holy Rosary Parish in Chicago," with the financial support of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, whose "seamless garment" movement is still touted by the Church's "lunatic fringe." This post-Vatican II theological novelty claims the death penalty is just as intrinsically immoral as abortion, or that the minimum wage is just as serious as euthanasia. Neumayr reveals another Obama-Church connection: "The faculty at Jesuit Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. ranked as one of the top donors to Obama's campaign." It is ironic that, in 2009, a year after his election, Obama received an honorary degree from Notre Dame University, and then proceeded to prosecute Catholics such as the Little Sisters of the Poor for their refusal to accept his "ukase" regarding the contraceptive and abortifacient mandates. With friends like these, one does not need enemies.
Neumayr had previously written of the threat that the Obama Administration posed to constitutionally protected religious liberty; in 2012, he, along with the late Phyliss Schaflay, published, No Higher Power, which described the Obama administration's secularist policies, which "... represented the greatest government-directed assault on religious freedom in American history."
If President Obama represented the greatest threat to religious freedom, Neumayr believes that this pope's radicalism represents the greatest threat to Catholic tradition in centuries. Neumayr: "Pope Francis is a product of political leftism and theological Modernism. His mind has been shaped by all of the post-enlightenment heresies and ideologies from Marx to Freud to Darwin. He is the realization of Cardinal Carlo Martini’s vision of a Modernist Church that conforms to the heresies of the Enlightenment." "Relentlessy ideological?" Let us proceed.
Prior to his ordination as a Jesuit, the future pope came under the indoctrination of noted communists, among them, Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, "who taught me so much about politics." After ordination, he helped her family hide Marxist literature from the investigating authorities, which may have been understandable in the circumstances of the moment of Argentina's "Dirty War." However, according to Roberto de Mattei, Pope Francis even today "ignores the red thread" in many clergy when he welcomes priests who are, or were, communist sympathizers, or who supported "social justice" terrorist groups such as Italy's "Red Brigades," whose leader, Cesare Batttisti, was involved in four murders, personally committing two. But that was not all, for another influence was also part of the future pope's surroundings in Argentina: Liberation Theology.
The apologists for Liberation Theology have been of major influence in this pontificate, and that mindset propels Pope Francis to act in ways that are unique for the Vicar of Christ. Despite Pope Benedict's condemnation of liberation theology as a "singular heresy," the pope sees it as a "high concept of humanity." A sign of Pope Francis's continuing admiration of Marxist belief adorned in Church rhetoric was seen shortly after he was elected pope: he welcomed the "founding father" of liberation theology, the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez, to the Vatican as an honored guest. Gutierrez was not alone in receiving accolades from the pope: so has the openly Marxist former priest, Leonardo Boff. In what can be seen as a snub to a recent predecessor, Pope Francis restored the priestly duties of Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who had been suspended from the priesthood by Pope John Paul II. Boff believes, "...that after the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis will eventually rehabilitate all of the condemned liberation theologians from Latin America." Further, the pope is a student of Modernist Biblical Scholarship, which interprets the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes contrary to Catholic Tradition: “This is the miracle: rather than a multiplication, it is a sharing, inspired by faith and prayer. (Emphasis mine.) Everyone eats and some is left over: it is the sign of Jesus, the Bread of God for humanity.”
The Italian communist, Antonio Gramsci, is credited with saying that, for communism to succeed, it must "make the long march though the cultural institutions." He noted that those who control the levers of cultural power are able to impose their will on others, including maintaining power in capitalist societies, using ideology rather than violence. There are innumerable situations in which the pope has demonstrated a soft spot for communist agitprop, but none is more revealing than Neumayr's description of the pope's 2015 visit to Bolivia: "It was an electric moment for the Left, proof that the papacy had fallen into its hands." On the platform with the Marxist President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who wore a jacket with a picture of Che Guevara, the pope, "...exhorted the radicals in attendance to continue their social agitation." And who can forget Morales's gift to the pope: a crucifix shaped in the form of a Marxist hammer and sickle, which was accepted. There can be little doubt that, "The winds of liberalism" are sweeping through the Church, and in the Chair of Peter is an advocate of such a development. That was confirmed when none other than the ultra-Modernist, Cardinal Kasper, said to a reporter after the pope's election: "...(we) now have the wind at our backs." The long march through the institutions had begun.
There is another aspect of the young Jesuit's liberal theological path that Neumayr describes in some detail, for without the radical changes introduced by the Jesuit's Superior General, Pope Francis might have evolved differently. That prelate was Pedro Arrupe who, from 1965 to 1983, "began a period of unprecedented liberal ferment within the order." The changes were revolutionary, many of which remain with the Jesuits to this day. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pedro Arrupe was from the Basque country of Spain, which led to wags joking: "One Basque founded the Jesuits; another one is going to destroy them." But to Church liberals, Padre Arrupe was "a re-founder of the Society in the light of Vatican II." To Neumayr and others, that focus was detrimental, "...for Arrupe was enormously permissive, allowing socialism, loose morals, and liturgical irregularities to spread throughout the order."
Arrupe's rise within the Jesuit Order was not foreordained. During our conversation in the Jesuit House in Tokyo four years ago, the late Fr. Peter Milward, S.J., mentioned that four Jesuits had, of their own volition and at their own expense, decided to travel from Japan to Rome to lobby against (my emphasis) Arrupe's candidacy as Superior General. Father Milward, who was in Japan at the time, made it clear that Padre Arrupe was not a Jesuit "of the old school," a description that would play out during Arrupe's tenure. Not mentioned in the Neumayr book is that when Fr. Arrupe died on February 5, 1991, his Funeral Mass was held at the Jesuit Church of the Gesu in Rome. I was at our Embassy to The Holy See and remember reading descriptions of the many outside the church; cardinals, bishops, and the Prime Minister of Italy in attendance. Conspicuously absent, however, was Pope John Paul II, who sent a representative, a clear break from past. It can be said that the significant role of the Jesuits in papal affairs was a major casualty of Padre Arrupe's tenure.
It is worth repeating that, according to Neumayr, "... the first Jesuit pope emerged at the very moment the Jesuit order was at its most corrupt and chaotic," especially in its acceptance of "situational ethics, with its free-floating concepts of mercy and sin, and the primacy of conscience" which was refuted by both of Pope Francis's predecessors. "Francis was infected by the virus of 1960s liberalism," wrote one author, and no better example of that mindset can be seen than in Pope Francis's papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. According to Archbishop Bruno Forte, who helped him draft it, the pontiff instructed Forte "to use ambiguity to loosen up the Church's prohibition on Communion for adulterers." But that is not all.
He has scolded "small time traditionalists" for their pastoral incompetence, and has insisted that, "there is no going back" to Tradition. The results have been disastrous: a dramatic loss of vocations to the priesthood is but one effect, and in Argentina, disaffected Catholics joined expanding evangelical Protestant sects.
There is an interesting parallel between Pope Francis and the late Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe. As mentioned earlier, four "old-school" Jesuits lobbied against Arrupe's candidacy, but to no avail. The pope's biographer, Paul Vallely, quotes a Jesuit Provincial in another Latin American country, who saw the wrecking ball's potential impact on the Church: "It will be a catastrophe for the Church to have someone like him in the Apostolic See. He left the Society of Jesus in Argentina in ruins, with Jesuits divided, institutions destroyed, and financially broken. We have spent two decades trying to fix the chaos this man left us."
That chaos is evident in examining the pope, his acolytes, and the current policies regarding the Church's former acceptance of "the death penalty as a last resort," "just war," illegal immigration, and the recent acceptance of allowing the Chinese Communist government to select bishops of the Church. The last was so egregious that the Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong considered counseling Chinese Catholics, "to resist the pope." In describing the pope's apparent "romanticizing" of communism, Zen told The Wall St. Journal: "So the Holy Father knew the persecuted communists killed by the government, not the communist governments that killed thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. I'm sorry to say that in his goodwill he does many things which are simply ridiculous." Each of these topics is discussed in separate chapters of the book.
This article appears in the May 31, 2019 Remnant Print edition. Click the Pic to Subscribe today!
One cannot leave reviewing this book without referring to Neumayr's chapter entitled, "I Don't Want to Convert You." In it, one finds an accounting of the pope's unwillingness to identify Islam as a potential, if not active, threat to Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular. Perhaps the most telling criticism addressed to Pope Francis on his attitude vis-à-vis Islam comes from former Muslims who have converted to Catholicism. On Christmas Day, 2017, a group of them sent a letter to Pope Francis which included, "...allow us to say frankly that we do not understand your teaching about Islam. If Islam is a good religion in itself, as you seem to teach, why did we become Catholic?" They then noted that their conversion to Christianity marked them for death, for that is the penalty for apostasy to Islam as spelled out in the Koran. But that is not the end of it...
The almost maniacal attempt by the pope to bring "unity" to all Christian faiths is also dissected with precision. This pope is not the first to seek this form of "unity:" Pope Paul VI tried in 1967 to achieve it with the Anglican Church, setting up the Anglican Roman Catholic International Committee (ARCIC). When the Anglicans ordained women, the sessions were suspended, but never eliminated. They continue to this day. In a similar vein, Neumayr asks how this "unity" would come about given that the Swedish or Norwegian Lutheran Churches share little in common with Church teachings? His answer is undiplomatic, but accurate: "...a shared commitment to left wing politics." Perhaps the most telling comment that puts much of what has preceded in perspective was offered by "a Church insider" who Neumayr interviewed for the book: "Things are spinning our of control. When you go to the Vatican, you look up at the papal apartments and the light is out. That is as metaphor for this pontificate."
At the turn of the 20th century, a group of U.S. journalists began to chronicle the actions of various corporations, and how they corrupted the democratic process, a practice known today as "investigative journalism." Upton Sinclair, for example, described the skullduggery that went on in the meat packing industry; Lincoln Steffens, the corruption in city governments; Ida Tarbell, that of Standard Oil. President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term "Muckraker" for these reporters, which, although not a term of endearment, has stuck over a century.
George Neumayr has done for the Faithful what "Muckrakers" did for the American public: he has shone a spotlight on the gross failure of Pope Francis's actions and policies, which have had a corrupting and corrosive effect on the Church. There is more - a lot more - of the known and unknown aspects of this pontificate in this book that will disturb the Traditionalist...and that is putting it mildly. For those interested in a "relentlessly" unfavorable view of this pope's policies and actions, this is a book for you, with one caveat: don't read it if you have high blood pressure.
Center Street Publishers, 2017 (221 pp.)