March 13, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – Friday the 13th of March marks the 7th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as pope. The evening I draft this article, March 12, marks the 7th anniversary of the start of the conclave which elected Cardinal Bergoglio to be pope.
The number seven appears often in prophecies found in scripture. For example, there are the seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine foretold by Joseph (cf Genesis 41). I am not saying such a thing applies when we consider the now seven years of Pope Francis’s pontificate. However, it is curious on the eve of the 7th anniversary of his election, the first day of the 2013 conclave, that the Vicar of Rome ordered all Roman churches closed and all public masses prohibited (see here and here). I could not help but be struck by the seeming coincidence. Then I remember the old saying from a prior career: ‘there is no such thing as a coincidence.’
Many troubling things have happened over the course of this pontificate, too numerous to even recollect at times. There was, of course, the pope’s exhortation, Amoris Laetitia which allowed communion for adulterers in some cases. Catholics, for a time, had hoped that Cardinal Burke and the other Dubia Cardinals would issue a seemingly ‘promised’ a public correction of Pope Francis. Even though the correction has not emerged, a number of brave Catholic scholars did publish an Open Letter which accused Pope Francis of the delict of heresy (see Prominent clergy, scholars accuse Pope Francis of heresy in open letter). Unfortunately, the bishops of the world to whom this letter was addressed did nothing, and have remained silent. Then there was the Abu Dhabi statement signed by Pope Francis wherein it was affirmed that ‘the diversity of religions are willed by God‘ (see here). While there has been some push back against Francis on this statement by a few bishops — most notably Bishop Athanasius Schneider, he continues to unabashedly advance the document. Then there are the unrefuted Scalfari interviews (see here).
There was also the horrific scenes of the Pachamama idol on the grounds of the Vatican this past October, and some claims that a form of the idol was placed on the high altar of St. Peter’s during mass — a veritable “abomination of desolation” (cf Matt 24:15) if true (see here). Now with the aforementioned ending of the daily and public sacrifice at St. Peter’s and throughout Italy, for the time being at least(!), one may recall the scriptural passage in Daniel 12 in which the prophet speaks of the time “when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away” (cf Daniel 12:11-13). And, strangely, it is a Roman Pontiff — Head of the Vatican City State — who bears sole and direct responsibility for this decision to end the ‘daily sacrifice’ in the temple, not some worldly prince.
I am neither saying this is the time spoken of in Daniel nor am I saying this event is a type of it. Still, given all that has happened over the last seven years of this unsettling pontificate and the coincidence of the timing to its rise, a Catholic might — perhaps — be forgiven for entertaining the passing thought that recent events are Heaven’s judgment brought down upon this pontificate on the 7th anniversary of both the conclave and Bergoglio’s election.
But as it is the 7th anniversary of the conclave and election of Pope Francis, I would like to take this occasion to reflect back on those days for a few moments as much controversy still surrounds them. There are questions that some have (I know I do), such as:
1) The role of the St. Gallen mafia in campaigning for the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, and whether or not there were violations of the rules (Universi Dominici Gregis) governing papal conclaves.
2) Whether the United States under the Obama administration or other foreign parties played any role in influencing the election of Cardinal Bergoglio. An open letter published by the Remnant Newspaper first raised the question (see here). See also here and here.
3) There appear to have been one or more violations of UDG oaths, as many cardinals continued to talk to the press during the period of the General Congregations — and even by at least one non-voting cardinal while the conclave was underway (see 2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?).
4) The role of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick remains a puzzling one.
- Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor admitted that the role of third world cardinals was key to electing Bergoglio (see here).
- Do to his age, McCarrick would not be eligible to vote in the 2013 conclave.
- However, McCarrick was known as a potential ‘pope-maker’ who had strong influence with third world cardinals would could vote.
- Thus for any Cardinal hoping to become pope, McCarrick would be a natural and important ally to seek out for any Cardinal ‘ambitioning’ to become pope.
- These points are discussed in greater detail here.
- Did someone reach out to McCarrick to seek his support for Bergoglio’s candidacy?
- By McCarrick’s own unforced admission, he reported an “influential Italian gentleman” did ask him to “talk up Bergoglio” to other cardinals.
- This Italian made this request while visiting McCarrick at the North American College in Rome shortly before the start of the General Congregations (March 4, 2013).
- These congregations were a prelude to the conclave which began on March 12. This would place the visit sometime between March 1st and March 3rd.
- I’ve written about this enigmatic Italian here and here.
- Did the “influential Italian gentleman’s” request simply express his own wish for a Bergoglian papacy, or was he sent by or acting at the request of another? If the latter, who was it?
- Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was the key cardinal who led the campaign for Bergoglio. Did he send the “influential Italian gentleman“?
- An examination of Murphy-O’Connor’s timeline of pre-conclave events indicates the campaign for Bergoglio didn’t take shape until days after the “Italian gentleman” visited McCarrick. That fact would seem to suggest that if the “Italian gentleman” was sent by somebody on Bergoglio’s behalf…it probably wasn’t Murphy-O’Connor.
- That is, unless Murphy-O’Connor did not fully and honestly recount his efforts on Bergoglio’s. There is at least one possible discrepancy in Murphy-O’Connor’s timeline. He states he had dinner with Bergoglio on March 3rd, while Gerard O’Connell’s book places that dinner on March 1st…the first day following the effective resignation of Benedict XVI (February 28). Furthermore, words attributed to him are quite similar to those used by the “Italian gentleman” in his visit with McCarrick (see here). There is also the possibility that he was the source of insider information received by Gerard O’Connell just before Bergoglio’s election (see 2013 Conclave: Was there a violation of Universi Dominici Gregis 12?).
- More details found here and here.
- Did Bergoglio have something to do with the “influential Italian gentleman” who visited McCarrick between March 1-3?
- Bergoglio had dinner with several Italian journalists — including “vaticanisti” — with whom he was a close friend, the night before Benedict XVI’s resignation date.
- One of these journalist now has a high level position in the Vatican (see here and here). Was he the “influential Italian gentleman”?
- Pure speculation, but if Bergoglio had sought support of an Italian journalist or some other layman to approach McCarrick for his support — because he could not do so directly, would that have been a fatal violation of UDG and or other canons in that this discussion may have occurred while Benedict XVI was still pope?
- Would such hypothetical involvement of a layman — at the direction of a cardinal, papabile or not — be a violation of the papal legislation governing papal elections, Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG), which explicitly prohibits “…all possible forms of interference, opposition and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree, or any individual or group, might attempt to exercise influence on the election of the Pope” (cf. UDG 80).
- If it was a violation…what would that mean to the validity of the election?
5) There have been reports that Cardinal Bergoglio as Archbishop of Buenos Aires allowed communion for adulterers at least in certain cases (see Amoris Laetitia: A history of doctrinal development or of doctrinal dissent?).
- If this were the case, it is impossible to believe Cardinal Bergoglio was unaware of Pope John Paul II’s teaching to the contrary on the question, as well as applicable canon law (915).
- Therefore, on the face of it, the Cardinal’s actions would appear to have been schismatic ones (see Canon 751, and Canon 752).
- Does Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio have any role in considering the question of Cardinal Bergoglio’s election? Granted, there are many fine arguments to suggest it would not (e.g., see Cum Ex Apostolatus and the loss of office 6, i-vi).
6) There is also the interesting question regarding the status of Cardinal Bergoglio’s Jesuit vows going into the conclave on March 12.
- The Jesuit vows include: “I also promise that I will never strive for or ambition any prelacy or dignity outside the Society; and I will to the best of my ability never consent to my election unless I am forced to do so by obedience to him who can order me under penalty of sin.” (see here)
- Had these vows been dispensed prior to his entry into the conclave, and if not, would this have possibly invalidated the election?
- The hypothetical question being: while the election of Cardinal Bergoglio may have been valid, was his acceptance of that election invalid because he was not free — by vow — to accept it?
- The topic came to me from within the Jesuit order. Exploring it, I found — like the Jesuits whence the suggestion came to me — that other Jesuits friendly to Pope Francis seemed to implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledge this might be a potential problem.
- My research looked into what scripture, St. Thomas Aquinas, and canon law might say that was relevant to the question (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows? and A Discussion of Cardinal Bergoglio’s Jesuit Vows and the 2013 Conclave).
These are the questions that I have regarding the election of Cardinal Bergoglio — seven years ago, today. There are those who question Bergoglio’s validity based on the belief that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was, somehow, invalid. However, I reject these arguments for reasons I have stated before in detail on this blog (see Summa Contra the BiP Theory (Why Benedict XVI is NOT the pope).
Things look bad. But they have looked so before in history (e.g., the Arian heresy, here) — though it’s hard to imagine a worse time than now. Many questions about Pope Francis are swirling around: the validity of his election, the validity of his pontificate, and whether he may have lost his office due to heresy and or apostasy. One cannot help but think back to the prophecies of Our Lady of Fatima when thinking of events under this pontificate, e.g., communion for adulterers, Pachamama idols, ‘the diversity of religions is will by God’, etc. Cardinal Ciapi, who read the secret, once confided to another that ‘the great apostasy in the Church begins at the top.’
Confusion certainly abounds. However, it is not for us — as the laity — to determine or declare what are the definitive answers to these questions. By all outward form and procedure, Francis is pope. If he is not pope, that determination must come from an (unlikely) imperfect council (e.g., here, here, and here), or what is more probable, a future pope. In the meantime, know your faith, keep it, and ‘always pray and never give up’ (cf Luke 18: 1) – especially in dark times, and do not worry – because it is the Lord who has promised the Church “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Victory is assured.
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of the recently published Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA)