Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Real Pope Francis Stands Up - commentary

Yes, this week the real Pope Francis did finally stand up, even if only in secret in meetings with the Cardinals who elected him two years ago mainly to save their hide. For two years, he has craftily fed into the media and diverse Catholic religious factions, who delusionally saw their own opportunities and dreams in Francis’ contradictory and/or ambiguous, but also intentionally quotable, remarks. What do we now know after two years? We now know much about Francis, including ten matters he strongly prefers:

A secretive absolute monarchy with rubber stamp Cardinals,
Barefoot and pregnant women without plastic surgery,
Exclusive Vatican control over criminal bishops and priests,
Pumping up the Catholic birth rate to “outbreed” Muslims,
Putting gay folks back in “the closet” with the many priests there,
Maximizing German tax subsidies from divorced Catholics,
Electing a right wing US president, preferably Jeb Bush,
Pleasing China and “low tax” billionaire Vatican donors,
Invading the Middle East to protect oil interests, and
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Sodano’s protege, as next pope.

Many of these Francis priority matters were focused on in the interview of rising star Houston USA Cardinal DiNardo, here,

Francis is accelerating the sinking of the Vatican Titanic. It is not too late, however, for Pope Francis yet to salvage the Vatican Titanic. As Pope Francis told the Spanish daily newspaper la Vanguardia, “At my age, I don’t have much to lose.” My own preference is for Pope Francis to exercise the papal equivalent of a “nuclear option” — he should declare unequivocally that no pope is or ever was personally infallible. There is no single statement or action that Francis could make or do to help save the Catholic Church more from the unaccountable “popolatry” that is destroying the Church than making that declaration ending permanently the myth of infallibility. And Francis must know it is true.

Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify selfishly supreme papal power .

Significantly, these permanent changes to a democratic Church structure, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, differ ultimately from what many misguided clerics in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess” before the collapse of the “house of cards” (Francis own phrase!).

The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions.

Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The mounting governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the UK, the USA, Germany and in many other countries, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.

Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable. Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic Wall Street, Big Media, Big Oil, et al., elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other European powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.

Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870. Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?

Pope Francis must end now the Vatican’s pervasive secrecy and media manipulation policies that he inherited from ex-Pope Benedict. Francis bravely confronted corrupt Vatican officials at Christmas. Now before Easter, Pope Francis must confront their longtime incompetent leader, ex-Pope Benedict, whose proxies still seek to stymie Francis’ reform efforts.

Francis must now release the so-called Gay Lobby Report and make the ex-Pope’s butler available with impunity for media interviews. Francis will begin his 80th year in less than ten months and is running out of time. It is now or never for Pope Francis.

Papal moral authority, the main source of modern papal power, will continue to decline as escalating governmental investigations and insider leaks from the ex-Pope’s proxies and others steadily erode worldwide trust in Catholic Church leaders.

When criminal actions have occurred, as evidently they have at the Vatican, it is inevitable (and proper) that official refusals, to meet reasonable requests for access to relevant information and records, will be seen as hiding the truth.

The latest demand for reasonable archive access is from Jesuit educated Gerald Posner, author of the important new expose, “God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican” , see at [Amazon]“.

Posner’s latest plea for transparency about opening Holocaust victims’ related secret archives at the Vatican, almost three quarters of a century later, is now set forth in the usually conservative Los Angeles Times, “It’s high time for Pope Francis to open the Vatican Bank’s files” here, [Los Angeles Times] .

As Francis faces continued opposition from the ex-Pope’s proxies, likely with the ex-Pope’s acquiescence if not encouragement, it is even more important to set the full record straight now, please see, ” ‘There is an ‘anti-Francis faction’ in Rome, says Irish priest” here, [Irish Independent].

Please see also, “Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict: Who is Infallible ? ” here, [Christian Catholicism] .

The overall implications and fatal flaw of Francis’ present approach are discussed in my remarks, “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” here [Christian Catholicism] .

Meanwhile, reporters often object to their colleagues being bullied, as they should. Vatican bullying also impedes reporters’ digestion of persistent papal propaganda. Vatican reporting is already a tough enough assignment without “Jesuit bouncer tactics”.

Yet, an Italian TV reporter who dared to ask, at the recent sex abuse commission’s farcical press conference about holding bishops accountable, why there were delays in the Vatican’s controlled criminal trial of Archbishop Wesolowski (who is accused of sexually abusing five youths in the Dominican Republic), had her microphone taken from her at the direction of Jesuit Fr. Lombardi, the pope’s spokesman, for daring to press the question. So much for accountability and transparency!

Bullying always backfires, at least with the media. Fr. Lombardi should publicly apologize to the reporter, who was just doing her job, well and bravely at that!

Lombardi cannot expect the “softball treatment” from all reporters that he too often gets, for example, from the Boston Globe’s John Allen or the National Catholic Reporter’s Josh McElwee. Indeed, these two papal promoters, evidently in conformity with the wishes of their employers’ “low tax” billionaire financial supporters, have barely, if at all, yet commented on the Australian Royal Commission’s recent major findings about Cardinal Pell’s disgraceful conduct, as they dwell on Pell’s and Francis’ nonstop platitudes. Thank God for brave reporters like the one who lost her mike to Lombardi’s inquisitorial methods.

In the Internet Age of instant communication and democratic openness, secrecy can no longer possibly succeed as sound organizational policy. Even powerful US Presidents like Clinton and Nixon learned the hard way that they could not keep relevant evidence of likely criminal behavior secret indefinitely.

Pope Francis cannot succeed in regaining, or even maintaining, the world’s trust with his current stonewalling strategy, or with counterproductive tactics like his press spokesman’s recent intimidation efforts.

Moreover, the pope must open all the Vatican’s files now, especially those relating to financial misdeeds and to sex abuse cover-ups, to independent and responsible researchers and reporters. He must also order all of his bishops to do the same.

Sooner or later, government investigators from Australia, the UK, Ireland, and even the USA and Germany, will get access to the evidence anyways, as the US Congress did with Nixon and Clinton. There is only so much “legal cover” that the pope’s pals, “right wing politicians” and “low tax billionaires”, can provide.

Even if the pope succeeds in helping Jeb Bush get elected as US President next year, even US Presidents are subject to the rule of law, as Nixon’s and Clinton’s cases proved.

The pope, despite his well publicized call for transparency, is continuing Vatican secrecy. He just met in secret with his world’s cardinals. He continues to stonewall on releasing files to government investigators, including the Australian Royal Commission, and to Holocaust victims’ advocates.

As cardinal, the pope said that the Holocaust era files should be released. As pope, he continues the Vatican’s stonewalling on opening its secret archives. In 2010, when asked as cardinal about the Vatican’s sealed Holocaust era files, the future pope replied: “What you said about opening the archives relating to the Shoah [Holocaust] seems perfect to me. They should open them and clarify everything. The objective has to be the truth,” the future pope said.

Despite pleas to open these secret archives from Jewish groups and leaders during his highly hyped visit to Jerusalem several months ago, Francis has done nothing. Once again, there is a huge gap between Francis’ inspiring words and less inspiring deeds.

The Vatican stonewalling also continues even in the financial area. After the commencement of Italian criminal investigations of Vatican financial misconduct and the seizure of millions of Vatican Bank funds and the termination of Vatican Museum credit card access, the Vatican finally had an audit of the Vatican Bank.

But so far, Pope Francis has not after two years as pope even selected an independent auditing firm for the Vatican’s much larger portfolio assets, the so-called APSA assets.

Pope Francis needs to get off the dime and select and hire now an internationally recognized auditing firm to review and report on the Vatican’s large financial holdings. He also needs to make fully public the final audit reports promptly each year, so that the Catholic 99.99% can see how their donations are being spent.

Just having the report go to the pope alone, as has been reported to be the current plan, is a mistake and another farce. The main reason outside auditors are needed is that popes and their staff have failed so often to manage the Catholic Church’s financial assets competently and honestly, no?

What is the pope still trying to hide? For me, as an experienced international financial lawyer, cardinals’ and even popes’ words lack any credibility on financial matters at this point.

Pope Francis has now been compelled recently, in secret meetings with Cardinals, finally to reveal his real plans and timetable, after two years of spinning the media and worldwide Catholics with vague cliches and pious platitudes. Despite his disarming public smile and massive media efforts, the pope’s current plans are basically a continuation of his two failed predecessors’ oppressive policies and teachings, only now under tighter papal control.

Holding bishops accountable for child abuse has this week been buried in a farcical “do nothing papal sex abuse commission”, that is now even being promoted by two well intentioned but misguided abuse survivors. These survivors on the commission panel, it seems, have been completely beguiled by Pope Francis and Fr. Robert Oliver, the papal commission’s top staffer, who had been disgraced Boston Cardinal Law’s canon lawyer. In fairness about the abuse survivor members, having been sexually abused as a child by a priest hardly qualifies a person to be an effective member of a rigged investigation panel dominated by clerics that the the pope appears to have set up as the latest cover-up move.

Money matters are being dealt with by disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell, who proved by his brutal treatment of priest abuse survivors in Australia that he can be expected always to put the financial fortunes of the Catholic Church’s clerical leadership ahead of Jesus’ Gospel mandates. Pell just “announced” via the Boston Globe’s resident “papal apologist”, John Allen, that he told the assembled Cardinals that ” … the Vatican has more than $1.5 billion in assets it didn’t previously know it possessed …”.

After both (1) the Australian Royal Commission’s overwhelmingly negative report this week about Pell, including about his waste of money on Church lawyers to punish priest abuse survivors, as well as (2) Posner’s new expose, “God’s Bankers”, no prudent person should trust Pell’s unsubstantiated remarks in my view.

Pope Francis is evidently and calculatingly postponing making already overdue “formal infallible papal decisions”, including on divorced and gay Catholics, on women’s perpetual inequality, on confirming the contraception ban, et al., (1) to help US bishops and their low tax billionaire donors elect Jeb Bush as US president next year — with further help, and Francis’ subtle concurrence, from Cardinal Burke’s contrived anti-gay marriage pitch to fundamentalist US voters, and (2) then to help German bishops thereafter to save their $7 billion annual tax subsidy. This continuation of the essential elements of the last two pope’s disastrous policies is captured in “a thousand words” in a revealing photo, at the initial secret Cardinals’ meeting, of Pope Francis and Cardinal Sodano running the show as a team, see here, [National Catholic Reporter] .

Cardinal Sodano has been the most powerful Cardinal since the 1870 Vatican Council I first made popes “infallible”. Sodano’s longtime protege, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is being groomed by “interim Pope Francis” to be the next pope, likely to occur soon after next year’s critical US elections since Francis’ friendly facade is needed to help get more US Latinos to vote for a US Republican presidential candidate.

Sodano was “de facto pope” during much of John Paul II’s reign. He treated the priest sex abuse scandal as an annoying distraction. Sodano’s Easter 2010 world televised address to Pope Benedict referred dismissively to the abuse scandal. Sodano arrogantly told the bewildered Benedict and the world that “… The People of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers” . (emphasis mine). Has Cardinal Sodano really ever asked the People of God — his biggest mistake, no?

In practice, is Pope Francis’ media staged lip service to holding bishops accountable and his do nothing sex abuse commission really any different than Sodano’s petty gossip dismissal?

The “trial” that made the difference and the one that shook up the ex-Pope and Sodano the most, leading to Benedict’s inevitable removal to his retirement convent retreat with Georg Ganswein and Mozart, was the near trial of Benedict and Sodano at the International Criminal Court (ICC). It involved very extensive and well documented allegations of crimes against humanity for covering up the rape and other sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of innocent Catholic children by priests, that even today are still protected by their bishops.

The ICC deferred moving forward against top Vatican officials, including Sodano and the ex-Pope at present, at least until ongoing national investigations of the Vatican have had an opportunity to do their work. This was unsurprising, given the ICC’s procedures and precedents.

For almost three decades, Sodano had contained much of the international political pressure directed at the Vatican’s many oppressive policies mainly by his close alliances with powerful right wing politicians and dictators and “low tax billionaires” seeking support for laws that keep taxes low on the extremely wealthy. These allies have included US President Reagan and the Bush presidents, and and the likes of Carlos Slim, Rupert Murdoch, Tom Monaghan and Peter Sutherland.

Jeb Bush and Tom Monaghan have had close Florida connections. Bush, almost certainly through his family at least, is likely well connected to these other papal plutocrats, as well as to Middle East oil interests including the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Reuters reports (2/13/15) that Jeb Bush, an early front runner, has not yet formally declared his 2016 US presidential candidacy, but he has been aggressively raising money through his political action committee in a bid to secure the support of wealthy donors and Republican party insiders.

For years, Peter Sutherland has been the Vatican’s top economic adviser. Sutherland is Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and was for many years Chairman of BP, the huge oil company with major interests in the Middle East.

Now Sodano and Francis, and likely Peter Sutherland along with them, are working hard to get Jeb Bush or his right wing equivalent to save the Vatican from Hillary Clinton, who also will likely be seeking support from her longtime Goldman Sachs contacts in next year’s US presidential elections. Over the course of her political career, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup have been among her top political donors, in addition to giving heavily to the Clinton Foundation. In October 2013, Clinton received $400,000 to speak at two Goldman Sachs events and delivered what was described as a “reassuring message” to the assembled bankers. Please see here Hillary Clinton vs. Pope Francis in 2015 ?

There is some irony that Gerald Posner, a Jesuit educated lawyer whose former law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, has represented Goldman Sachs often, has so explosively just revealed in stark detail the Vatican’s sordid and continuing financial misconduct, including misdeeds involving Holocaust victims’ stolen assets, in his explosive and comprehensive book, “God’s Bankers”.

Francis had given Catholic wishful thinkers worldwide some slight short term hope that he was different from his two predecessors; that corrupt Cardinals had miraculously elected a saint as pope. Vatican media managers created Francis’ public persona, with help from Rupert Murdoch and other right wing billionaires and their media outlets, including the Boston Globe’s CRUX and the National Catholic Reporter. Independent media prophets are now dismantling Francis’ false facade as Francis’ actual deeds are almost daily contradicting his media hype. Pope Francis, authoritarianism and dissembling, by many recent indications, are being uncovered to reveal one “tough man” who appears to mistaken often, but rarely in doubt. Unwittingly, Francis has almost singlehandedly destroyed permanently the mythical image of an “infallible pope”, by his frequent public inconsistencies and missteps.

Just follow some of the latest Papal Wizard’s misleading meanderings down the Yellow Brick Road (in bold italics):

Don’t breed like rabbits, just don’t use the Pill.

It is selfish not to have children, and more are surely better.

Help the poor, but honor, like he (the pope) seems to do, the crony capitalist billionaires from Wall Street, Big Oil and Big Media who help keep the poor, well poor, and the Catholic Church’s leaders rich.

Protect children, but don’t report priest child abuse to the police unless legally obligated to do so, unless you are a bishop like Finn, then you do not even have to obey the law.

Say loudly that bishops should be held accountable, then study how to do so forever.

Slap your kids, but do so respectfully.

Protect women, but keep them pregnant and oppose treaties that actually seek to protect women.

Be nice to abuse survivors, but go bankrupt to avoid compensating them justly, or if you are in a hierarhcical position like Cardinal Pell,then grind the victims mercilessly into unconditional surrender.

Don’t judge gay folks, just ostracize them from Catholic Church institutions, as Archbishop Cordileone is now doing in San Francisco, as he prepares to attend Francis’ “womenless” and absurd Final Family Synod in less than eight months.

At the secretive Cardinals’ meetings, according to the Holy See Press Office director, “cardinals expressed their appreciation for the {Curia} reorganization work that has taken place and their conviction that this constitutes a convincing reform that prioritizes transparency, integrity and competence.” Only in the “Alice In Wonderland”/”1984″ surreal world of the Catholic leadership could a reorganization plan formulated in secrecy, then announced in secret among Cardinals, be acclaimed for its “transparency and integrity”! “Up is down” and “black is white” if a pope says so, it appears.

The rising waves from government investigations, from Australia, to the UK, to Minneapolis USA and elsewhere are hammering the Vatican Titanic. And the international priest abuse survivor group, SNAP, has finally called for US Federal officials to pursue a national investigation, like Australia has and the UK is just beginning. A USA investigation is coming in due course, unless Pope Francis is successful in getting a right wing ally like Jeb Bush elected US President next year in the expectation of burying any US national investigation.

Yet Catholic Church leaders this week are continuing to sail blindly, full steam ahead, into the priest child abuse iceberg, with their latest secretive meetings of over 150 Cardinals in their full red dress uniforms. The Cardinals are meeting to discuss re-arranging the crews’ deck chairs on the sinking Vatican Titanic to enhance papal power.

Please see “Pope Francis Must Fire Cardinal Pell Now‏” here, [Christian Catholicism], “NY Times Pulls Punches As SNAP Jabs Pope & US Pols On Abuse Ploys“, here, [Christian Catholicism], and “Will UK Probe of Teresa May Compel Ex-Pope Benedict To Testify?‏‏‏” , here [Christian Catholicism]. Please see also prominent Australian abuse advocate, Aletha Blayse’s persuasive case for a US presidential investigation commission like Australia already has, here,”Child Abuse, War, and the Need for a National Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse”, here, [Christian Catholicism]

By now many Cardinals must be worried that they jumped too fast out of ex-Pope Benedict’s overheating frying pan into Pope Francis uncontrolled fires. Authoritarian Francis is often wrong but rarely in doubt, as mentioned above.

Is Pope Francis really shrewd, or just opportunistic, or even duplicitous and hypocritical? Perhaps his advanced age and overwork and excessive traveling has caught up to him? He had planned to retire several years ago. He may have to soon enough.

The Cardinals began with greetings this week from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and the dominant Vatican bureaucrat for most of a quarter century. His longtime protege and likely next pope, Cardinal Parolin, was at Pope Francis’ right hand during the past two days as the elite Council of Cardinals rubber stamped the pope’s reorganization plans to consolidate the pope’s power.

The pope had a basic choice: he either could have worked to return power to the Catholic 99.99%, as in the early Church, or he could have worked to maximize popes’ control of the 0.01% Church leaders under the pope, while also maximizing papal wealth. Unwisely and futilely, the pope has elected to maximize his power in a secretive setting, while cynically calling for “absolute transparency”. Now he must get the world’s Cardinals to help him circumvent the Vatican bureaucratic forces who oppose him. None of the 99.99% of the world’s Catholics were even invited to the closed door meetings!

Incidentally, the pope’s spokesman, Jesuit Father Lombardi, after the Cardinals’ initial secret session, when asked if a new “congregation for the laity” being proposed, might be led by a layperson, Lombardi said no. “It is not realistically thinkable that a layperson might be named the head of a congregation,” the spokesman said, saying that heads of congregations are normally Cardinals. Of course, Lombardi is also on record as confirming laypersons, even women (of all things!), can be made Cardinals.

So, in effect, Lombardi is saying that the Vatican department dealing with the 99.99% Catholic lay majority will be headed by a member of the 0.01% clerical hierarchy because that is what Pope Francis wants. Touching the sheep seems OK with Francis, just so long as he doesn’t have to listen to them. Let’s be honest!

And you know what? When government investigators begin prosecuting Cardinals as they will, if not before then, lay people will be running several Vatican departments. Just wait and see.

Pope Francis gave a brief initial address to the 150+ Cardinals, saying in pertinent part (in italics): “Welcome to this communion, expressed in collegiality”, he began, thanking the Commission of the nine cardinals … . The aim is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various … offices, … to achieve more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency that edifies authentic synodality and collegiality”, he continued, commenting that “reform is not an end in itself, … Reform, strongly advocated by the majority of Cardinals … before the Conclave {that elected Francis two years ago}, must continue to enhance the identity of the Roman Curia itself, that is, that of assisting Peter’s Successor in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and in the service of the universal Church and the particular Churches, in order to strengthen unity of faith and the communion of the people of God, and to promote the mission of the Church in the world, … ” continued the pope. Francis concluded. “ …. With this spirit of collaboration our meeting begins; it will be fruitful thanks to the contribution that each one of us is able to express … fidelity to the Magisterium and the awareness that all this contributes to the supreme law … . Thank you”. (emphasis mine)

My translation as a lawyer of Pope Francis’ message to the world’s Cardinals : Francis is telling the world’s Cardinals, in effect, that: “I have demoted and/or eliminated selected officials in the Curia — please rubber stamp and approve that here and now, or else!” Ex-bouncers are impatient with long debates. The Cardinals remember well the pope’s Christmas tirade against and to Vatican officials. including Cardinals, as Pope Francis surely knew they would. The pope’s spokesman has confirmed that the obedient and likely intimidated Cardinals will not get to vote on the important management changes. Welcome to the 99.99 %, Cardinals!

Father Federico Lombardi, the pope’s spokesman, interestingly indicated after today’s session that the Vatican is considering setting up an environmental think tank, which could influence the opinion of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on such issues as climate change. He indicated, in effect, that the proposal was discussed secretively at the closed-door meeting of Cardinals.

Francis is unable and/or unwilling to address sensibly, honestly and openly the pressing issues he can address — like priest child abuse and shortages, women’s equality, respect for same sex couples, divorced and remarried Catholics, et al. He errs on issues like spanking children, planning families, etc. Now he is going to pontificate on the science of global warming. Is he losing it or what?

Then again Big Oil and the Saudi’s, Chinese, et al. have Big Bucks and a keen interest in wrapping global warming in a papal mystical smokescreen.

Has Pope Francis’s top economic adviser, Peter Sutherland, former BP Chairman and Chairman of Goldman Sachs International been whispering into Francis ear?

The Bush family is also very close to the leaders of Saudi Arabia. Francis called six months ago for new Western troops on the ground in Iraq/Syria, a key beneficiary of which new invasion would be the Saudi’s.

What’s up Pope Francis? Why not fix your own house before you start meddling in areas you have little competence in?

Christian Catholicism

Jerry Slevin
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