The Purge Begins

 

“At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew

Come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do.”

                        Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

 

While the prophetic interpretations in my book Apokalypso – Prophecies of the End of Time (AuthorHouse 2004) proved wrong regarding the identity of the Antipope identified by St. Malachy as Gloria Olivae, “The Glory of the Olive Tree”, they have quite prescient regarding his agenda.  Benedict XVI hardly waited for the dust to settle on his papal coronation to begin his assault on the Jesuit Order, beginning with the forced resignation of Fr. Thomas J. Reese as editor of their weekly journal America.  And the Grand Inquisitor’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is reportedly preparing similar pre-emptive strikes against two other Jesuit theological journals.  In Chapter One of my book (p. 41 in the print version), I say the following:

“ …the Quatrains suggest a period of schismatic, perhaps even violent struggle between this Antipope and the Jesuits.  If we speculate that the apparent successor to John Paul II will be even more strongly linked than he to Opus Dei, then such a mortal combat between the Vatican and the Society of Jesus would be entirely foreseeable.  Indeed, it would almost be inevitable, considering that Opus Dei has repeatedly exhorted the Polish Pontiff to either strip the Jesuits of their autonomy or disband the order altogether. 

One would have to anticipate, therefore, that a new Pope who is totally committed to the Opus Dei political agenda would move swiftly and aggressively to suppress the Jesuit order.  The resulting showdown between these two powerful factions would surely split the Roman Catholic Church wide open:

 

The bark will then become schismatic,

False liberty will be proclaimed throughout the land.

[Century VI, Quatrain 22]”

Along the same lines, in Chapter Six (p.265 in the print version) I anticipate the “Olive Tree” Antipope launching his reign with “a purge of liberal prelates who have resisted the atavistic theology of Opus Dei and its allies”.  It now appears that the purge has begun in earnest.

Antipope Ratzinger has wasted no time signaling that his will be a dictatorial pontificate, as it must be, because falsehood cannot withstand rigorous intellectual scrutiny.  Thus extends into theology the same abysmal trend we have suffered in political discourse:  the exclusion of viewpoints even slightly to the left of center.  As the window of genuine public discourse closes, we find Church and State converging on the threshold of a new totalitarianism that cynically calls itself “freedom”.   The Catholic magazine Commonweal (editorial 5/20/05) has aptly characterized Fr. Reese’s dismissal as a “scandal”:

“For those who had hoped that the pastoral challenges of his new office might broaden Benedict’s sympathies, this is a time of indignation, disappointment, and increased apprehension. For those who know Reese and his work, the injustice of the CDF’s action is transparent. No intellectually honest person could possibly claim that Reese’s America has been in the business of undermining church teaching. If the moderate views expressed in America, views widely shared by the vast majority of lay Catholics, are judged suspect by the CDF, how is the average Catholic to assess his or her own relationship to the church?

Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, which did so much to enfranchise lay Catholics and to encourage their engagement with the great intellectual resources of the church, it is inexcusable that the CDF would censor a magazine as respectful and responsive to the church’s tradition as America. At a time when elites are as polarized as they are now in the American church, Reese’s dismissal will embolden those eager to purge “dissenters,” while making it nearly impossible for a reasoned critique of the agenda of church reformers to be heard by those who need most to hear it.”  

 

The message to Catholic clergy and laity couldn’t be more clear:  Turn off your minds, we — the infallible hierarchy of your Church — will tell you what to think.  America magazine, under Fr. Reese’s stewardship, did not attack or subvert Church doctrine, it simply aired issues from a scholarly perspective.  Rather, it is the Antipope’s repressive actions which have undermined the credibility of Church teachings, to the extent that they must be imposed by fear and blind obedience rather than spirit-inspired inquiry.

One must suspect that part of the reason for summarily sacking Fr. Reese was his steadfast unwillingness to downplay the Church’s sexual abuse scandal.   According to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, some 11,000 minors have been sexually assaulted by 4,400 priests to date in the U.S. alone.  Yet Cardinal Ratzinger went on record as opining that the American media was making a mountain out of molehill.  Even worse, he actively protected one of the most notorious pedophile priests, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the powerful Legion of Christ, which recruits boys to leave home to study for the priesthood.

At the Legion of Christ seminary in Rome, Fr. Maciel is reported to have molested about 30 of the boys in his charge during the 1950s, often telling them that he had a special dispensation from Pope Pius XII to do so.  Eight of his former students — a retired priest, three professors, a lawyer, a rancher, an engineer, and a teacher, now all in their 60s — have submitted to the Vatican sworn affidavits documenting their abuse at the hands of Fr. Maciel.  But when the victims filed suit under Canon Law to have Fr. Maciel excommunicated, Cardinal Ratzinger intervened to halt the proceedings, without any investigation of the allegations whatsoever.  According to Brian Ross of ABC News, when he tried to question Ratzinger about this episode a few years ago, he refused to discuss the matter, “became visibly upset and actually slapped this reporter’s hand”!

It now appears that Antipope Benedict has chosen one of his own kind to be his successor as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  In his handling of abuse complaints as Archbishop of San Francisco, William J. Levada has been described by a victims’ advocacy group as “slow to act, harsh to victims, and committed to secrecy”.  A psychologist appointed by Archbishop Levada to a panel investigating allegations of sex abuse by the local clergy characterized the panel’s work as “shameful” and an “elaborate public relations scheme” designed to reinforce a “culture of silence”.  He felt compelled to resign from the panel to keep his “personal and professional integrity intact”.  According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Levada has kept secret the names and locations of up to 20 diocesan priests accused of sexual abuse and has refused to suspend accused pedophiles from active ministry.

Levada’s credentials as an enforcer of knee-jerk orthodoxy must also be to Ratzinger’s liking.  As head of the American bishop’s committee on doctrine, he condemned a theologian whose book discussed the possibility that non-Christians might achieve salvation and saw to it that the author was banned from teaching at Catholic universities.  Which reminds us of the words of Fr. Tom Reese’s last editorial in the America magazine:

“During the last couple of decades, there have been too many issues taken off the discussion table. This has been very unhealthy for the church. By some estimates, over 100 theologians have been silenced or reprimanded by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A church that cannot openly discuss issues is a church retreating into an intellectual ghetto. And the issues are many: birth control, divorce, women priests, married priests, homosexuality, the selection of bishops, the overcentralization of decision making in the Vatican, inclusive language, inculturation of the liturgy, catechetics, intercommunion and the role of the laity in church governance. There are no simple answers to these issues, and reformers must recognize that every change has both positive and negative effects. But without open discussion, church life will become more and more dysfunctional.”

 

Amen, Father Tom, Amen.