Thursday, February 29, 2024


IMO, Seems to be a sound program for the upcoming Conclave! What do you think?

The New Daily Compass is publishing an exclusive document in six languages, intended to circulate among cardinals in view of the forthcoming conclave and among the faithful as food for thought on the priorities of the Church. The text was written principally by a cardinal after he collated the suggestions of other cardinals and bishops. They have chosen to remain anonymous for the reasons explained in the letter.

The Vatican Tomorrow

(February 29, 2024) In March 2022, an anonymous text appeared – signed “Demos” and titled the “The Vatican Today” – that raised a number of serious questions and criticisms regarding the pontificate of Pope Francis. Conditions in the Church since that text appeared have not materially changed, much less improved. Thus, the thoughts offered here are intended to build on those original reflections in light of the needs of the Vatican tomorrow.

The concluding years of a pontificate, any pontificate, are a time to assess the condition of the Church in the present, and the needs of the Church and her faithful going forward. It is clear that the strength of Pope Francis’ pontificate is the added emphasis he has given to compassion toward the weak, outreach to the poor and marginalized, concern for the dignity of creation and the environmental issues that flow from it, and efforts to accompany the suffering and alienated in their burdens.

Its shortcomings are equally obvious: an autocratic, at times seemingly vindictive, style of governance; a carelessness in matters of law; an intolerance for even respectful disagreement; and – most seriously – a pattern of ambiguity in matters of faith and morals causing confusion among the faithful. Confusion breeds division and conflict. It undermines confidence in the Word of God. It weakens evangelical witness. And the result today is a Church more fractured than at any time in her recent history.

The task of the next pontificate must therefore be one of recovery and reestablishment of truths that have been slowly obscured or lost among many Christians. These include but are not limited to such basics as the following:  (a) no one is saved except through, and onlythrough, Jesus Christ, as he himself made clear; (b) God is merciful but also just, and is intimately concerned with every human life, He forgives but He also holds us accountable, He is both Savior and Judge; (c) man is God’s creature, not a self-invention, a creature not merely of emotion and appetites but also of intellect, free will, and an eternal destiny; (d) unchanging objective truths about the world and human nature exist and are knowable through Divine Revelation and the exercise of reason; (e) God’s Word, recorded in Scripture, is reliable and has permanent force; (f) sin is real and its effects are lethal; and (g) his Church has both the authority and the duty to “make disciples of all nations.” The failure to joyfully embrace that work of missionary, salvific love has consequences. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.”

Some practical observations flow from the task and list above.

First: Real authority is damaged by authoritarian means in its exercise. The Pope is a Successor of Peter and the guarantor of Church unity. But he is not an autocrat. He cannot change Church doctrine, and he must not invent or alter the Church’s discipline arbitrarily. He governs the Church collegially with his brother bishops in local dioceses. And he does so always in faithful continuity with the Word of God and Church teaching. “New paradigms” and “unexplored new paths” that deviate from either are not of God. A new Pope must restore the hermeneutic of continuity in Catholic life and reassert Vatican II’s understanding of the papacy’s proper role.

Second: Just as the Church is not an autocracy, neither is she a democracy.The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. She is his Church. She is Christ’s Mystical Body, made up of many members. We have no authority to refashion her teachings to fit more comfortably with the world. Moreover, the Catholic sensus fidelium is not a matter of opinion surveys nor even the view of a baptized majority. It derives only from those who genuinely believe and actively practice, or at least sincerely seek to practice, the faith and teachings of the Church.

Third: Ambiguity is neither evangelical nor welcoming. Rather, it breeds doubt and feeds schismatic impulses. The Church is a community not just of Word and sacrament, but also of creed. What we believe helps to define and sustain us. Thus, doctrinal issues are not burdens imposed by unfeeling “doctors of the law.” Nor are they cerebral sideshows to the Christian life. On the contrary, they’re vital to living a Christian life authentically, because they deal with applications of the truth, and the truth demands clarity, not ambivalent nuance. From the start, the current pontificate has resisted the evangelical force and intellectual clarity of its immediate predecessors. The dismantling and repurposing of Rome’s John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and the marginalizing of texts like Veritatis Splendor suggest an elevation of “compassion” and emotion at the expense of reason, justice, and truth. For a creedal community, this is both unhealthy and profoundly dangerous.

Fourth: The Catholic Church, in addition to Word, sacrament, and creed, is also a community of law. Canon law orders Church life, harmonizes its institutions and procedures, and guarantees the rights of believers. Among the marks of the current pontificate are its excessive reliance on the motu proprio as a tool for governance and a general carelessness and distaste for canonical detail. Again, as with ambiguity of doctrine, disregard for canon law and proper canonical procedure undermines confidence in the purity of the Church’s mission.

Fifth: The Church, as John XXIII so beautifully described her, is mater et magistra, the “mother and teacher” of humanity, not its dutiful follower; the defender of man as the subject of history, not its object. She is the bride of Christ; her nature is personal, supernatural, and intimate, not merely institutional. She can never be reduced to a system of flexible ethics or sociological analysis and remodeling to fit the instincts and appetites (and sexual confusions) of an age. One of the key flaws in the current pontificate is its retreat from a convincing “theology of the body” and its lack of a compelling Christian anthropology . . . precisely at a time when attacks on human nature and identity, from transgenderism to transhumanism, are mounting.

Sixth: Global travel served a pastor like Pope John Paul II so well because of his unique personal gifts and the nature of the times. But the times and circumstances have changed. The Church in Italy and throughout Europe – the historic home of the faith – is in crisis. The Vatican itself urgently needs a renewal of its morale, a cleansing of its institutions, procedures, and personnel, and a thorough reform of its finances to prepare for a more challenging future. These are not small things. They demand the presence, direct attention, and personal engagement of any new Pope.

Seventh and finally: The College of Cardinals exists to provide senior counsel to the Pope and to elect his successor upon his death. That service requires men of clean character, strong theological formation, mature leadership experience, and personal holiness. It also requires a Pope willing to seek advice and then to listen. It’s unclear to what degree this applies in the Pope Francis pontificate. The current pontificate has placed an emphasis on diversifying the college, but it has failed to bring cardinals together in regular consistories designed to foster genuine collegiality and trust among brothers. As a result, many of the voting electors in the next conclave will not really know each other, and thus may be more vulnerable to manipulation. In the future, if the college is to serve its purposes, the cardinals who inhabit it need more than a red zucchetto and a ring. Today’s College of Cardinals should be proactive about getting to know each other to better understand their particular views regarding the Church, their local church situations, and their personalities – which impact their consideration of the next pope.

Readers will quite reasonably ask why this text is anonymous. The answer should be evident from the tenor of today’s Roman environment: Candor is not welcome, and its consequences can be unpleasant. And yet these thoughts could continue for many more paragraphs, noting especially the current pontificate’s heavy dependence on the Society of Jesus, the recent problematic work by the DDF’s Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, and the emergence of a small oligarchy of confidants with excessive influence within the Vatican – all despite synodality’s decentralizing claims, among other things.

Exactly because of these matters, the cautionary reflections noted here may be useful in the months ahead. It is hoped that this contribution will help guide much needed conversations about what the Vatican should look like in the next pontificate.



Mark Thomas said...

"Global travel served a pastor like Pope John Paul II so well because of his unique personal gifts and the nature of the times. But the times and circumstances have changed."

"The Church in Italy and throughout Europe – the historic home of the faith – is in crisis."

"The Vatican itself urgently needs a renewal of its morale, a cleansing of its institutions, procedures, and personnel, and a thorough reform of its finances to prepare for a more challenging future. They demand the presence, direct attention, and personal engagement of any new Pope."


The above shatters a tremendously important aspect in regard to Pope Benedict XVI's Pontificate. Pope Benedict XVI insisted that jet travel revolutionized the manner in which the Papacy is exercised.

Pope Benedict XVI made it clear that it has become unacceptable for a Pope to remain confined to Rome. It is imperative for the spiritual health of the Church that a Pope engage in worldwide Apostolic Visits, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

To accomplish that, Pope Benedict insisted that the physical energy level of a Pope is a major factor in determining as to whether a Pope should continue to exercise the Petrine Office.

The bottom line, according to Pope Benedict XVI's revolutionary thinking in question: A Pope who is unable to cope with a demanding worldwide travel schedule would do well to resign.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

"Demos II" said..."Global travel served a pastor like Pope John Paul II so well because of his unique personal gifts and the nature of the times. But the times and circumstances have changed. The Church in Italy and throughout Europe – the historic home of the faith – is in crisis."

We are aware that during the early 1960s, Joseph Ratzinger insisted that the (Latin) Church, at least from the Council of Trent to the dawn of Vatican II, had been mired in liturgical, as well as spiritual, doldrums.

Therefore, Joseph Ratzinger had recognized the need for radical Church reforms. Among Churchmen of that era, Joseph Ratzinger was far from alone in that regard.

The point is that during a time (centuries) when Popes did not engage in worldwide travel, the Church had been mired in liturgical/spiritual doldrums.

One could argue that worldwide Papal travel has not erased the Church's overall liturgical/spiritual crisis. However, I would offer that worldwide Papal travel, in particular, to Africa, has, in certain ways, benefited Holy Mother Church.

Anyway, Pope Benedict XVI called it when he noted that jet travel had rendered obsolete the practice of confining a Pope to Rome.


Mark Thomas

Jerome Merwick said...

This is a remarkably restrained and balanced evaluation of the current crisis the Cardinals created in 2013 with the questionable election of the current alleged pontiff. (Note I did not say he was NOT the pope--I merely reaffirm the well-known reality that there will ALWAYS be a question mark hanging over the validity of the 2013 conclave, especially given the brazen boasts of various members of the Sankt Gallen group).

Of course, there will no doubt be several long and tedious cut-and-paste posts by the resident popesplainer for this site, expressing some dissent with these observations, all rooted in a misguided belief that conclaves are uniformly controlled by the Holy Spirit and incapable of error--utterly ignoring the horrible results of some past conclaves, some resulting in antipopes who were denounced after their pontificates. It is also a matter of verifiable historical record that many conclaves were interfered with by outside forces, resulting in popes that were compromise candidates or compromised themselves.

In one respect, the current alleged pope has been in over his head from day one. Lacking the intellectual gifts of his two immediate predecessors as well as a poor grasp of canon law, he is a reminder that we need popes who know what they are doing. On the other hand, he knows exactly what he is doing when it comes to ruthlessly executing the agenda he was elected to do, especially de-centralizing the authority of the Vatican, Protestantizing the Church and creating an appallingly dishonest prohibition and animus towards the Traditional sacraments. Yet I maintain that he is not so much the problem as a symptom of the bigger problem. Was Vatican II a legitimate Council? It apparently was, but something inside of that Council was wrong and books by smarter men than I have detailed the behind-the-scenes manipulations and conflicts that shaped the Council. But there can be no denying that what we are left with and what has happened since that Council has been discouraging, confusing, inconsistent and an ongoing decline of the Church that is obviously being managed by what some might call the "deep Church" or some nefarious force, perhaps what Malachi Martin called the "Superforce"--a satanic grip that resulted from a diabolical ceremony in the Vatican around the time of Paul VI's election--which has, again, been verified. No, the pope believes, truly believes he is doing God's work and he is the anointed one who will finish the work of "implementing Vatican II" according to the vision of those who saw Vatican II as the creation of a New Church.

This papacy is a train-wreck. Its "fruits"--suspicion, confusion, fear of reprisals and unjust firings--speak for themself. But no matter how good the next pope might be (or likely won't be) it's going to take a lot more than a better pope to fix the mess we're in. I fear we are at the point where the cure is going to be so extreme and so painful that we cannot imagine it. But God will not abandon us. I'm just not looking forward to the well-deserved spanking we're about to get.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Pope Paul VI was the first to venture out of the Vatican on major pilgrimages including the New York City, but his travels were novel and with jet service more feasible. Pope John Paul II took it to a new level but still novel. We all were so proud about the number of people who would turn out at his various pilgrimages. Pope Benedict continued the travels but in a bit more limited way.

I think it is time to critique and curtail these pilgrimages.

What is new today is that we can watch the pope on the internet and in real time, something never experienced until the internet age and various social medial platforms. There is no need for the pope to make himself visible in various places of the world. He is now “seen much too much” on social media platforms and each and every day.

The cost of these pilgrimages is staggering for local Churches and the civil governments. That should demand a bit of a more sober approach.

I think, though, raising the travels in this particular statement is a distraction from the very good and sound concerns that Demos II raises which show that the Church is a mess and it needs to be cleaned up as best as possible by the next pope. He’ll be dealing with the schism in the Germanic countries and the silent schism of progressive Catholics who no longer believe what the Church teaches and have left it altogether. In the Germanic countries less than 5% actually attend Mass. And the abysmal Mass attendence has plummeted under the current pope as have vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Are there an Francis seminarians and priests out there like there was with Pope JPII?

Jerome Merwick said...

John Paul II had a very unique papacy in many ways, not the least of which was his constant travels--often to very undesirable destinations where he reached out to people who would otherwise be ignored by important world figures.

And I will admit that, at the time, I did not approve of this. At first, I enjoyed the novelty, but after a few years of the "traveling papal roadshow" and watching the Church continue to decline and so many bad bishops helping that decline accelerate, I opined to any Catholic who would listen that John Paul needed to stay home and govern his Church.

That was my position until I listened to several different interviews of Malachi Martin by Bernard Janzen. Martin was no fan of John Paul II either, but he knew a heck of a lot more about the inside machinations of the Vatican than most people. I found his testimony credible, but I could be wrong. Anyway, according to Martin, Pope Wojtyla soon realized that he didn't have enough reliable personnel to clean up the "smoke of Satan" in the Church that Pope Paul openly lamented. He would have had to fire about 90 percent of the bishops, which would have been impossible. He had people in the curia and other Vatican offices sabotaging his initiatives at every turn, even "losing" messages that were meant to be sent to bishops conferences. It was when he realized that his papal "wings" were "clipped" that he decided to take his case to the people--all people. He could not do what he wanted to do in the Vatican, so he did his level best to bring Christ to the world by speaking directly to as many people who would come to see him. He was the Church's "Great Communicator" and, he had the talent, the looks and the ability to pull THAT part of his job off--albeit a bit of a "new " job for a pope.

So I no longer hold that part of his papacy against him and, to some degree, have grown in admiration for him. But I also have to agree that such a mission has been taken about as far as it can and, face it, not everyone is a Karol Wojtyla. But in retrospect, the traveling papal roadshow wasn't such a bad idea for its time. In fact, it was quite clever and innovative--just like its creator.

Nick said...

For all of the good Pope John Paul II did, it should be noted that the trend of terrible episcopal and cardinalatial appointments was, at best, only somewhat lessened from the Paul VI years. I don't mean to assign blame--that is way over my head.


Mark Thomas said...

Demos II has rehashed tired, old, anti-Pope Francis sentiments.

In contrast to Demos II, Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI portrayed Jorge Bergoglio as a holy, kind man, as well as excellent Pontiff. In addition, such supposed "enemies" of Pope Francis as Cardinals Pell and Sarah insisted that Pope Francis has been a positive force for Holy Mother Church.

Cardinal Pell, for example, declared that Pope Francis is "very, very concerned for the day-to-day life of the people, and for those who are suffering, those not well off and those in difficult situations.'

"He’s a completely faithful exponent of Christ’s teaching and the Church’s tradition."


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Demos II has presented Pope Francis as a Pope who has governed the Church in oppressive fashion. Demos II questioned His Holiness' willingness to listen to the advice, as well as concerns, expressed by others.

None of that corresponds to reality.

The "Dictator Pope" nonsense attached to Pope Francis is a false narrative that may be defeated with ease.

From the dawn of his Pontificate to date, folks critical in various ways of Pope Francis have acknowledged that His Holiness is open to advice and dialogue. Numerous examples exist of Pope Francis' willingness to listen, as well as respond positively, to concerns offered by various folks.

-- The FSSP, just today, released a positive statement in regard to their private audience yesterday with Pope Francis. His Holiness responded in positive, productive fashion to concerns that the FSSP expressed to him yesterday.

-- In February 2022 A.D., Pope Francis listened, as well as responded in positive, production fashion, to FSSP concerns.

-- Cardinal Ambongo noted recently that Pope Francis listened to, as well as responded in charitable, productive fashion, to concerns expressed by various bishops in Africa in regard to the implementation of Fiducia Supplicans within Africa.

-- Bishop Schneider has attacked often Pope Francis verbally. Nevertheless, Bishop Schneider noted the following in regard to his ad limina visit with Pope Francis:

"Regarding our meeting with the Pope, he is the Vicar of Christ on earth in this time, and he was very fraternal and kind to us. It was a very kind atmosphere. Our meeting with him lasted two hours.

"I consider this an act of great generosity on the part of the Pope, to spend so much time with our group of 10 bishops and ordinaries of Kazakhstan and Central Asia."

"During the meeting, the Pope invited us to freely express our concerns and even our criticisms. He stressed that he likes a very free conversation."

-- Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church holy bishops last year praised Pope Francis in regard to His Holiness' willingness to listen, as well as respond positively, to concerns that they had expressed to him.

The "Dictator Pope" narrative in regard to Pope Francis is false, absurd, and countered with ease.

Folks who advance said false narrative would do well to embrace the praise that Pope Benedict XVI heaped upon His Holiness in regard to Pope Francis' holy, skillful, governance of the Church.


Mark Thomas

Jerome Merwick said...

What is tired and old is Mark Thomas' ever-predictable, blind, boot-licking defense of his hero.

TJM said...

Dictator Pope. This can be confirmed with ease. Crushing the TLM Community while giving the evil German bishops a pass.

Jerome Merwick said...

One would think the popesplainer/bloghog/realitydenier MarkT would have figured out that his lengthy, tedious, prolix, half-truthful, slobbering fan-fiction pieces would have neither convinced nor persuaded the rest of us here. He's been cutting and pasting his sycophantic blather here for years now.

Then again, that would mean a grasp of reality.

TJM said...

Jerome Merwick,

Not a person trained in mental health issues, MT either gets his jollies from his non sequitur approach or it is a cry for help

ND said...


Perhaps a pay-by-the-word rate.