Pope Francis’ annoying gadfly

Finding Viganò: In Search of the Man Whose Testimony Shook the Church and the World
By Robert Moynihan
Tan Books, 2020, 375 pp.

2 Stars

Following his election to the papacy in 2013, Jorge Bergoglio aka pope Francis increasingly demonstrated that he was not going to follow in the conservative footsteps of his doctrinaire predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. When Francis tacitly lifted the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees via a footnote in his 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, conservative prelates were galvanized. In November of 2017, four conservative cardinals formally submitted five “dubia” (questions) to the pope, requesting that he clarify his “reform” in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but were met with silence. As conservative opposition to the pope increased, a major scandal erupted in the Catholic church in June 2018 when it was revealed that cardinal Ted McCarrick, one of the most powerful prelates in the American Catholic church, was removed from “public ministry” for a long history of sexually abusing boys and seminarians. The scandal was the tipping point leading to large numbers of former victims across the United States coming forward and filing claims of sexual abuse and cover-up against priests and dioceses.

Two months later, in August of 2018, Catholicism was rocked even further when archbishop and former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (2011 to 2016), Carlo Maria Viganò, testified that he had personally informed Francis of McCarrick’s predatory behavior back in 2013, shortly after he was elected, but that the pope had done nothing. Included in the archbishop’s statement were accusations of a powerful homosexual faction within the Vatican curia. Viganò called upon Francis to resign and forthwith went into hiding. In June and October 2020, Viganò issued additional statements supporting then-President Donald Trump and attacking the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Included were comments promulgating several outlandish worldwide conspiracy theories, which served to marginalize Viganò even among conservatives.

In this book, Catholic journalist, Robert Moynihan provides biographical information about Viganò and interviews the archbishop-in-hiding regarding his 2018 testimony and the state of the Roman church under progressive Francis. Conservative opposition to Francis has not coalesced mainly because one of the prime tenets of conservative Catholics is absolute fealty to the papal office. This book is an example. Conservative Moynihan, founder and editor of “Inside the Vatican” magazine, attempts to walk a tightrope by providing a sympathetic soapbox for Viganò without outright endorsing his views.

This book provides some interesting information on Francis’ most vocal critic and “insider” insights into the current conservative-progressive tug-of-war within the the RCC. The significant takeaway from this book is that conservative Catholic priests and prelates realize that Francis is undermining Catholicism’s historic claims to the alleged authority and prerogatives of the papacy. Nowhere in sight within the 375 pages is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this book only for evangelical Vatican watchers.

24 thoughts on “Pope Francis’ annoying gadfly

  1. It struck me that Pope Francis has been around since 2013! Time really goes by so quickly. The coverups are so horrendous. I’m amazed at what they get away with, but I probably shouldn’t be. Thanks Tom for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy! There’s been lots of skullduggery and political tug of wars at the Vatican for centuries, but Francis has made many conservative enemies. I believe Vigano when he says he informed smiling Francis of the abuse by the cardinal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sparing me the time, Tom. It’s not something that was on my top 10 list of things to read but I appreciate the information. I wonder why the guy went into hiding? Was he personally threatened?
    Did the Pope ever clarify his divorcee reform? It seems that the sex scandals have been something he can hide behind so that he doesn’t have to deal with other issues. This is all speculative but I think this Pope has split the Catholics pretty much down the middle. Half like what he does and the other half seems to despise it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris.

      RE: Vigano in hiding

      Yes, he felt Francis’ allies might desire to do him physical harm.

      RE: Did Francis clarify divorce reform?

      No. The footnote in his encyclical stated it would be up to to the parish priest to decide if parishioners living in irregular relationships could receive the sacraments. That’s contrary to traditional Catholic doctrine. The conservative cardinals demanded an explanation, but Francis ignored them. So liberal priests are following Francis’ reform while conservatives aren’t.

      RE: pope causing split

      Yes, what we’re seeing is by design – Francis and his progressive allies are walking a tightrope of reforming the church without causing a schism. The RCC is losing members like a sieve in the West and Francis is trying to make the church more “people pleasing” pastoral. Pragmatic Francis knew the church’s policies regarding remarried divorcees was alienating a third of the membership so he guilefully changed it without answering how allegedly soul-damning heterodoxy is now orthodoxy.

      Most evangelicals could not care less about any of this, but Francis is de facto undermining Catholicism’s claims regarding authority and the papacy. Catholic conservatives have to rationalize historical claims with the realty of a heretical pope.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me, Tom.
        All of this makes the Pope and his disciples look pretty bad.
        A Catholic leader fears personal harm by Francis while said Pope weasels out of making any kind of concrete statement regarding sacraments for those living in irregular relationships and leaves the entire “church” in limbo.
        If things like this continue, Francis is going to have his design wrecked by perhaps the greatest schism the Catholics have ever seen.
        Catholic conservatives must be even more hopeful than those in the Southern Baptist Convention who are trying to hold that body together.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Chris!

        RE: If things like this continue, Francis is going to have his design wrecked by perhaps the greatest schism the Catholics have ever seen.

        It’s been fascinating to watch Francis walk a tightrope: introducing liberal reforms without provoking outright schism. I imagine Francis and his advisors have had MANY discussions on this specific topic. Conservatives are hog-tied to a great degree by their traditional fealty to the papacy. They’re undoubtedly hoping Francis’ successor is a conservative like JPII. The strong reaction to Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees has gone silent after five years. It seems like Francis’ refusal to engage the conservative opposition is grinding them down.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Fascinating is, indeed, a good word to use when describing Francis, Tom.
        I’m not near as educated on the well discussed tightrope you have identified. But, I have watched him in action.
        Whenever he has done a podcast for the masses, I can think of one that I saw in particular, it is obvious that his words are chosen with a great amount of precision. His tone is the thing that always amazes me. He comes across as a wise old grandpa type figure with words that seemingly drip with honey. His tone may seem very loving but he is basically causing huge division sometimes by those same words. I have noticed that he never seems to make straightforward commitments when it comes to certain societal/theological issues of the day. I can see how this would cause a great amount of confusion and disappointment.
        I don’t know how he was ever chosen to be the pope but it is surely indicative of the direction of the Catholic “church.”
        I liken it a bit to the recent choice of president of the Southern Baptists. The guy they voted for is the most theologically liberal of the four possibilities. The vote was very close and that will probably hold the thing together to some degree at least until the next election.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Excellent observations regarding Francis. His conservative critics say he is causing great deal of “confusion” because he “introduces” his reforms ambiguously as he did with the footnote in his Amoris Laetitia encyclical and his approval of same-sex civil unions via an interview clip in a docu-bio. He’s making reforms not by fiat, but by studied ambiguity.

        If you’re interested, a dedicated core of liberal-progressive prelates, the Saint Gallen Group, brokered Francis’ election.


        Liked by 1 person

      5. And we know which direction purposeful ambiguities normally wish to push. Until the pope feels he has more support he will probably continue to make such statements. Catholic leaders really need to pressure him on such statements. I know some are but as he appears to be walking a tightrope of public sentiment, there are way too few voices questioning his vague statements. He is getting off way too easy in my opinion.

        Thank you for the link. It is very interesting and not surprising to me in the least. According to the wiki article, “The year after Ratzinger’s election, what remained of the group met for the last time.”

        At the same time it mentions how three members were influential in the election of Francis.

        I’m wondering if the group still exists.

        This article seems to imply that the group still exists. What is your opinion on this, Tom?


        Liked by 1 person

      6. From what I’ve read, the group is defunct. Many of the original members of the SG “mafia” have either died or are very elderly. That said, there’s little doubt that the reform-minded liberal-progressive cardinals actively network just as the most intransigent conservatives do.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy. This book is actually very interesting for its bottom-line takeaway – that Francis’ progressive pragmatism is undermining Catholicism’s lofty claims about papal authority.

      RE: work! Thanks! I was grateful for the help. I found out yesterday that the plant is partially shut down over the July 4th week so I’m getting 7 days off instead of the usual 4. Yippee!

      Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow this review shows me the benefit of this book showing the internal division in the world of Romanism with its politics and left-right spectrum. Thanks for the warning its best for Catholic watchers and not just a resource for the every day Christian without sound grasp of biblical doctrines. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! I added the following at the bottom of the post:

      “The significant takeaway is that conservative Catholic priests and prelates realize that Francis is undermining Catholicism’s claims to papal authority.”

      These days, Francis is doing more to expose the fallacies of papal authority than evangelical apologists (who mostly embrace Rome and turn a blind eye to the controversies).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 👍🏻
        Thanks! Yup, he knows he’s undermining foundational Catholic dogma, but like all liberal Jesuits, he thinks that’s a good thing.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The average Catholic layperson has no idea about the serious political infighting that goes on between the prelates. This book provides some good insights into that, but of course few Catholics will read it. It also shows the pope is a pragmatic opportunist rather than the Spirit-led “vicar of Christ.”

      Liked by 1 person

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