He Called Pope Francis a Dictator. Now Francis Proves Him ‘Wrong’ by Punishing Him.
An interview with Henry Sire, author of "The Dictator Pope."
First, would you please remind our readers of the main thesis of your book, The Dictator Pope?
The thesis of my book is, basically, that the cardinals in 2013 elected Jorge Bergoglio without knowing what sort of man he was. That he was in fact a prelate who represented some of the most corrupt aspects of the Latin American Church. Or that he had always shown himself not so much a churchman as a politician, and a life-long follower of the Argentinian dictator Perón. That he has deceived the Church by a false image of amiability and liberalism. And that his reputation as a reformer is a fraud. He in fact governs the Church in a political and dictatorial style such as none of his predecessors conceived of.
I’ve read in news reports that because of this book, you’ve been expelled from the Order of Malta. Can you please share with us how the Order informed you of this? What justification did they give?
I was first suspended in March 2018, pending a judicial procedure to decide upon my expulsion. Two weeks ago I received a letter from the Grand Chancellor with a decree of the Grand Master. It announced that the Order had decided to cut through the procedure, skipping the hearing before a tribunal to which it was supposed to lead, and to expel me by simple fiat. The decree also falsely states that my expulsion was voted for unanimously by the Sovereign Council. In fact it was not submitted to the Council’s decision at all. The justification given is, of course, that my criticism of Pope Francis is incompatible with my membership of the Order.
Please tell our (mostly evangelical) readers a bit about the Order, its history, and the recent changes imposed upon it by Pope Francis.
The Order of Malta is the medieval order of the Knights Hospitaller. It was founded at the time of the Crusades to defend the Holy Land. It gets its modern name from the period 1530-1798. That’s when it governed Malta and served as a naval force protecting Christian shipping in the Mediterranean. Since the 19th century it has been based in Rome and devotes itself to charitable activities.
The change imposed on it by Pope Francis consists in his having forced the previous Grand Master, Fra Matthew Festing, to resign in January 2017. That was after he had tried to dismiss the Grand Chancellor Baron Boeselager. Why? For his responsibility in the Order’s distributing condoms in the Far East as part of its charitable work. Boeselager was reinstated on the Vatican’s insistence. He is now in absolute control of the Order. Thus, the superior who tried to uphold Catholic moral teaching has been punished by Pope Francis. The man who violated it has been rewarded.
How do you answer this decision by the Order?
I will of course appeal. Before the decree arrived, I was in the middle of conducting a very effective defense, with the help of my lawyers. It was based on the glaring irregularities committed by the Order in initiating my prosecution. The decree of expulsion is fully of a piece with that irregularity. So are the lies which have been used to justify it. It is important to expose the lawless domination that Grand Chancellor Boeselager is exercising over the Order.
Is your expulsion part of a pattern of coercion, intimidation, or slander aimed at those critical of Pope Francis? Can you list some other recent instances?
The Grand Chancellor has acted in this way towards me because his position in the Order is based on his having been forced back upon it by the Vatican. He has no alternative but to act as the Vatican’s stooge. Is there a pattern of intimidation of Pope Francis’s critics? Of course there is. The essential thing to grasp about the coup d’état of 2017 is that it was not aimed at the Order of Malta. It was aimed at Cardinal Burke, who served as Cardinal Patronus of the Order (after Pope Francis had demoted him from Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura).
Bear in mind that Francis is now nearly eighty-two. He is not going to last for ever.
Burke was gaining great influence from his position, as one might expect from the Order’s worldwide prominence. In Fra Matthew Festing, Cardinal Burke had a good friend who was fully in sympathy with him in matters of doctrine and liturgy. By dismissing Festing, Pope Francis was taking away Cardinal Burke’s main support. And reinstating Boeselager, who had been Burke’s enemy from the beginning. The Pope simultaneously suspended Cardinal Burke de facto. It was a classic act of power-politics, undeterred by any consideration of the Church’s moral teaching.
How does this papal policy of trying to silence critics match up with Jorge Bergoglio’s previous career in the Church?
Bergoglio’s critics in Argentina were mainly members of his own order, the Jesuits. Many of them resented his time as their national superior in the 1970s. By 1990 Bergoglio had been sent into a virtual internal exile by his order. But he was able to gain the sympathy of the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino, to get himself appointed auxiliary bishop and eventually successor to Quarracino as archbishop.
His main ally in this ascent, incidentally, was the criminal Monsignor Roberto Toledo, the general secretary to Cardinal Quarracino. He was later found to have forged Quarracino’s signature in a multi-million-dollar fraud. He has never been punished, being protected by Bergoglio once he became archbishop.
The most serious criticism Bergoglio had to face as Archbishop of Buenos Aires? It came again from two Jesuits, Fathers Yorio and Jalics, who accused him of having betrayed them to the military dictatorship while he was Jesuit superior. Bergoglio was able to massage his record in that respect. The full facts remain unclear to this day.
What aspect of Pope Francis’ decisions and statements do you find most troubling as a Catholic?
Pope Francis’s critics tend to concentrate on his doctrinal quasi-pronouncements, whether official or off-the-cuff. For myself, I see the main evil in the practical effect that Francis’s ambiguity is having in the Church. Everyone sees that he is giving a free rein to heresy. I am especially appalled by the horrendous condition of the Society of Jesus. Its General, Fr. Sosa, is an outright heretic. Propagandists like Fr. James Martin are allowed to undermine Catholic moral teaching day by day.
Then there is the de facto Blitzkrieg against Catholic Tradition. See the destruction of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. And now of the Little Sisters of Mary, which has just been revealed. The latest word is that the Italian bishops want to ban the Traditional Mass again and to get Summorum Pontificum revoked. The damage that Pope Francis has contrived to do to the Catholic Church in a mere five years and a half is beyond belief.
The damage that Pope Francis has contrived to do to the Catholic Church in a mere five years and a half is beyond belief.
What advice do you have for Catholics whose faith has been shaken? Do they need to develop a more realistic, historical sense of the narrow limits of papal authority? Can you recommend some good, accessible reading on the subject? (Maybe The Bad Popes, but what else?)
It is true that Catholics need to emancipate themselves from the papolatry which has developed over the last century and a half. It has taken the place of a traditional understanding of the papal office. There have been some very bad popes in our history. It’s in such an exceptional situation that we now find ourselves. As to the reading I would recommend, there is my own book Phoenix from the Ashes. I wrote it precisely to address the point you raise. And to put the present crisis in historical perspective.
How should Catholic bishops, priests/religious, and laymen respond to Francis?
We need to continue to affirm Catholic truth. Not to let Pope Francis think he can revolutionize the Church without opposition. For the same reason, we should not be contemplating anything resembling schism. Bear in mind that Francis is now nearly eighty-two. He is not going to last for ever. His behavior is provoking strong revulsion. We may expect that the next pope at the very least will not continue in the Bergoglio line. Pope Francis and his minions represent the last gasp of the sixties generation. They are making abundantly clear that the result of their antics is the destruction of the Church. The younger generation has not been subject to the sixties mythology. As they rise to the top we can expect to see in the next twenty years a return of true Catholicism. And a realization that the “Spirit of Vatican Two” has been totally discredited.
Do you expect to see a schism before, or perhaps during, the next Conclave to elect Francis’ successor?
If a schism occurs under Pope Francis it will probably be from the left. For example from the German bishops. They are showing that they are determined to do as they please, regardless of Catholic teaching. Your suggestion of a schism in the Conclave itself is interesting. Pope Francis has already taken us back to the age of the Borgias, with his unscrupulous maneuvering and his suppression of opponents.
One can’t rule out that the next Conclave will take us back even further. To the divided conclaves of the Middle Ages and the election of an anti-pope. I suggest that the first step of the popes of the Modernist obedience will be to take a leaf out of the book of the past sixty years. To canonize themselves while living, without waiting for the inconvenient preliminary of death. The pope-worship that Francis relies on for his ascendancy will thus be granted its perfect expression.
What would you say to non-Catholic Christians who are puzzled by all these events?
Various historians have pointed to the clearest proof that the Church is of divine foundation. Namely, the appalling rulers it has endured over the last two thousand years. No merely human institution could have survived such scandals. I myself find it difficult to say anything to non-Catholics at the present time. I can only hang my head in shame. But the answer has always been in the results. Invariably the Church has recovered from its scandals. Its worst periods have always been followed by times of glorious resurgence. There is no doubt that the same will happen again. Those who are young today can expect to see an age of good popes. And the full recovery of Catholic tradition. The rejection of contemporary heresy. And a great florescence of the religious life of the Church.
Henry Sire is author, most recently, of The Dictator Pope.