The Pope’s Latin American Coup

By Joseph D'Hippolito Published on July 6, 2023

In a recent four-week period, three events showed how Pope Francis holds no respect for Christian doctrine, faith or practice. Even worse, these events reflect the pope’s desire to redefine the Catholic Church in his own image.

First, Francis showed that he rejects Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations.” Next, the pope celebrated an artist who created a shockingly blasphemous work. Finally, Francis cracked down on an American bishop who resists LGBTQ activism.

Converts? We Don’t Need No Stinking…

On May 29, during an audience with members of the Barnabite order and its lay supporters, the pope demonstrated his contempt for evangelization by telling a brief story from his days in Argentina. In that story, the future pope met and talked with a wealthy woman who bragged to him about converting two children.

“‘Father, I am happy because I have converted these two,’ ” Francis said. “I was angry, you know, and I said, ‘You haven’t converted anyone, you lack respect for these people: You have not accompanied them, you have proselytized, and this is not evangelizing.’

“She was proud to have converted! Be careful to distinguish apostolic action from proselytism: We do not proselytize. The Lord never proselytized.” (Emphasis in original)

Well, if “the Lord never proselytized,” then how does Francis explain the following?

All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:18-20)

If “the Lord never proselytized,” then why did John describe Jesus referring to himself as “the way, the truth and the life,” and as the only way to God? (John 14:6)

If “the Lord never proselytized,” then why did the Catholic Church spend untold time and treasure throughout the centuries to found schools, universities and teaching orders? Why did it engage in missionary activity in the first place?

Francis tried to cover himself with this comment: “Our missionary proclamation is not proselytism — I stress this strongly — but rather the sharing of a personal encounter — if you want, the Lord is like this, this is life, but not proselytism — that has changed our life! Without this, we have nothing to proclaim, nor do we have a goal to walk towards together.”

But what’s the point of sharing such a personal encounter if it doesn’t lead to repentance and recognition of Jesus as savior? And what’s the point of repentance without conversion? 

Dumping on Jesus?

Then on June 23, Francis held an audience with about 200 artists, writers and musicians to commemorate the Vatican’s 50-year-old collection of modern art. Among them was Andres Serrano, an American photographer whose most infamous work featured a photograph of a crucifix immersed in his own urine.

Serrano practices transgressive art, whose practitioners often use human body parts, blood, feces and urine as artistic media. Serrano also used menstrual blood, semen, human breast milk and photographs of corpses in other works.

So why invite such a man to the Vatican?

“We’re ready for a conversation,” said Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary in the Dicastery for Culture and Education. “We want to hear and talk with, meet with, dialogue with artists, because we think artists have perspectives and ways of seeing the world that we need to take account of.”

But in his address to the artists, Francis expressed hope for more than dialogue.

“You are a bit like prophets,” he said. “You can see things both in depth and from afar, like sentinels who strain their eyes, peering into the horizon and discerning deeper realities. In doing so, you are called to reject the allure of that artificial, skin-deep beauty so popular today and often complicit with economic mechanisms that generate inequality.

“As visionaries, men and women of discernment, critical consciences, I consider you allies in so many things that are dear to me, like the defense of human life, social justice, concern for the poor, care for our common home, universal human fraternity.”

Then Francis made a simple gesture that spoke more loudly than any prepared remarks.

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When Serrano — who said he was surprised to be invited — asked for a papal blessing, Francis placed both hands over Serrano’s right hand and gave him a “thumbs up” sign.

Can you imagine either John Paul II or Benedict XVI making such a gesture when asked for a blessing, or even inviting Serrano to the Vatican?

No Dialogue for You!

As Francis offered Serrano public support, news leaked June 24 that the pope investigated one of his most orthodox American critics: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. Canon law calls such investigations “apostolic visitations,” in which Vatican representatives scrutinize seminaries or dioceses for moral, theological or financial malfeasance. An apostolic visitation is an “exceptional initiative” that any pope can start.

Officially, the Vatican was probing alleged financial irregularities. But Strickland’s outspoken opinions and Francis’ previous behavior suggest an attempt to intimidate, if not remove, bishops who oppose the pope’s policies.

On June 16, when the Los Angeles Dodgers honored the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a performance troupe of homosexual and transgender men whose act mocks Catholicism (as The Stream reported), Strickland went to Los Angeles and led a prayer march to Dodger Stadium. Strickland also uses Twitter to encourage Catholics to oppose gender ideology.

Strickland’s activism provides a marked contrast to Francis’ duplicity in dealing with gender ideology. While the pope calls it “ideological colonization,” he supports and promotes clerics who engage in LGBTQ activism or publicly oppose historic Catholic teaching on homosexuality, as The Stream has often reported.

Francis’ “Program of Undermining the Deposit of Faith”

One month earlier, Strickland tweeted a stunning criticism for a Catholic to make of any pope, let alone Francis: “(I)t is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus.”

Two facts make the Vatican’s response suspicious. First, as the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick never received an apostolic visitation despite personally engaging in sexual abuse of a child. Long a power broker in Washington and Rome, McCarrick negotiated the Vatican’s provisional treaty with China. In 2018, in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Vatican forced McCarrick to resign from the College of Cardinals, then defrocked him the next year.

Second, Francis summarily removed Puerto Rican Bishop Daniel Fernandez last year because Fernandez refused to segregate parishioners who received COVID-19 vaccines from those who didn’t. Fernandez also defended conscientious objectors who refused to get vaccinated. In 2021, Strickland tweeted opposition to the vaccines because fetal cells were used to produce the vaccines’ spike proteins.

By contrast, Francis not only demanded vaccination as a moral imperative. He promoted one of the manufacturers, Moderna, at the Vatican’s 2011 conference on health care, as The Stream reported. Moderna — which provided major funding for that conference — used fetal cells to develop its COVID-19 vaccine’s spike proteins.

Even as evidence of the vaccines’ deadly side effects mounts, Francis has yet to repudiate his previous position.

Buenos Aires on the Tiber

So why does Francis act like the ultimate “cafeteria Catholic,” free to pick and choose what to promote and enforce? Because he can, stated a canon lawyer who supervised the reorganization of the Curia, through which a pope governs the Catholic Church.

Jesuit Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda “holds the view that everything popes have said or done in the course of Church history is a dogma or a de jure divine law,” said Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s leading theological body. “This contradicts the entire Catholic tradition, and especially Vatican II.”

When Francis and his cardinals met in August, “there was no opportunity to debate the burning issues, for example, about the frontal attack on the Christian image of man by the ideologies of posthumanism and gender madness or about the crisis of the Church in Europe,” Müller said. “Critical contributions referred to the theory of the papacy as an unlimited power of divine right over the whole Church, as if the pope were a Deus in terris.”

In other words, as a god on Earth.


Joseph D’Hippolito has written commentaries for such outlets as the Jerusalem Post, the American Thinker and Front Page Magazine. He works as a free-lance writer.

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