Settimo Cielodi Sandro Magister 

25 feb 17

A Lone Man In Charge, To the Crowd’s Acclaim


[Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum]

Popularity and solitude are the two faces of the current pontificate, contradictory only in appearance. {bipolar: relating to a major affective disorder that is characterized by episodes of mania and depression}

An umpteenth proof of the popularity of Pope Francis came on February 17 with his visit to the university of Roma Tre, amid the rejoicing of teachers and students (see photo), a spectacular comeback over the ban that in 2008 prevented Benedict XVI from entering and speaking at the other university of Rome, the more noble and storied, that of La Sapienza, for the crime of having wanted to bring God and faith into the inviolable temple of the goddess reason.

At Roma Tre Francis did speak, and did he ever, off the cuff and interrupted dozens of times by applause. He spoke about dialogue and multiculturalism, migration and youth unemployment, with what stems from it according to him: “They say that the true statistics about youth suicide are not published; something is published, but not the real statistics.”

But in the 45-minute speech not even once did he utter the words God, Jesus, Church, faith, Christianity.

It is the same neutrality that Francis adopts when he enunciates for the “popular movements” his alter-globalization and anti-globalization political vision. Because it is in the people – “a mystical category,” as he calls it – that he sees the genesis of redemption. And it is to the people, Christian or not, that the pope appeals when he denounces the misdeeds of the world markets, of the economy that kills, of the anonymous powers that foster wars, as also of the antiquated, sclerotic, merciless ecclesiastical institutions.

But his is precisely the popularity of a pope who isolates himself from the institutions in order to contest them better, a fan favorite. It is no coincidence that he praises Latin American populism, as he did in a recent interview with “El País,” he who as a young man was a Peronist.


However there are a few key points behind the ideology of Juan Peron himself and Argentina’s most political movement Peronism that can be gleaned.

Peron called his movement “Justicialism”, a blending of the Spanish words for social justice and this is also the name of the party of Argentina’s current president Cristina Fernandez.

It is an idea founded on Christian social values that has three basic principles: social justice, political sovereignty and economic independence. To do this Peron said his movement was in a “third position” which counterposed itself equally to capitalism and communism. He also aimed to create a social model of an organized community with direct state intervention to mediate between labor and capital. Although not the same as a traditional Scandinavian welfare state, the model has similarities in its mixed economy and a central role for Unions.

In a speech in the Congress in 1948, Peron himself said, “Peronism is humanism in action; Peronism is a new political doctrine, which rejects all the ills of the politics of previous times; in the social sphere it is a theory which establishes a little equality among men… capitalist exploitation should be replaced by a doctrine of social economy under which the distribution of our wealth, which we force the earth to yield up to us and which furthermore we are elaborating, may be shared out fairly among all those who have contributed by their efforts to amass it.”

The populist program of higher wages and better working conditions, which was actually developed by the Public Works minister Juan Pistarini could well be the classic ideological core of Peronism, but it was always dependent on the structural circumstance of Argentina.  For example, in the late 1940s, Peronism was more concerned with the women’s vote and the export market, and in the 1990s attempting to rebuild Argentina under a neo-liberal pro market guide.

Indeed, over time it has been an odd mix of socialism, liberalism and populism Peron himself, and therefore the movement became a symbol of and a champion of what he called the “shirtless ones,” (descamisados) appealing to the dispossessed, labor, youth and the poor.

Peronism accepts that the state should coordinate society for the common good and that it can do this without serving class interests.

Peron, and Peronism is hostile to many of the tenets of classic liberalism, although at times concedes such as considering that democratic and republican institutions are the only ones that can guarantee freedom and happiness for the people, and a political opposition is admitted as necessary. – teleSUR


At the Vatican Francis has taken up residence in Casa Santa Marta, which is a guest house, precisely in order to distance himself as much as possible from that curia which he has never loved and has very little interest in reforming organically.

He prefers to select his closest colleagues himself. And he has taken one of them from the Catholic university of Buenos Aires: Víctor Manuel Fernández, his favorite theologian. {Fernandez is the “l’Eminence Grise” to Francis.  He is a layman, and so he cannot replace Cardinal Mueller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Of course,  Francs could appoint him a Cardinal and then he could replace Mueller, but first he would have to be ordained a priest and then a bishop in quick succession.}   Another from “La Civiltà Cattolica”: Jesuit confrere Antonio Spadaro. Not to mention monsignors Konrad Krajewski, Fabián Pedacchio Leaniz, Battista Ricca, Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo: the first his “almoner” and the second his personal secretary.

Each one of them, however, involved in only a sliver of the pope’s heap of activities and none able to get an overall view. Jorge Mario Bergoglio has always kept a personal calendar of his own that only he compiles and consults.

When it works, the curia does not obstruct the popes, it helps them. It tempers their absolute powers with “checks and balances” analogous to those of the modern democracies.

The congregation for the doctrine of the faith, in particular, should guarantee that all the acts of the magisterium are impeccable, inspecting them in advance word for word. This was what happened between John Paul II and the prefect of the congregation of the doctrine of the faith at the time, Joseph Ratzinger.

But with Francis this balance has gone haywire.

The current pope increasingly shelves his written speeches and prefers to improvise. And when he has to write an encyclical or an exhortation, here too he goes his own way, {quizzas un camaleon?} with the help of his ghostwriters Fernández and Spadaro, assembling as he pleases the materials made available to him.

And then, as a matter of routine, he sends the draft of the document to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and this sends it back to him with dozens or even hundreds of annotations. But he systematically ignores these.

This is what happened with “Evangelii Gaudium,” the agenda-setting document of his pontificate, and with “Amoris Laetitia,” the exhortation on marriage and divorce that is dividing the Church on account of the conflicting interpretations that it has unleashed.

It has also been discovered that entire paragraphs of “Amoris Laetitia” were copied from articles published ten and twenty years ago by Fernández. In whom Francis has by no means lost faith.

On the contrary. None other than Fernández is the most ferocious critic of Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, the sidelined prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, against whom he levels the unheard-of charge of wanting to “control” the pope’s theology.


This commentary was published in “L’Espresso” no. 8 of 2017 on newsstands February 26, on the opinion page entitled “Settimo cielo” entrusted to Sandro Magister.

Here is the index of all the previous commentaries:

> “L’Espresso” in seventh heaven


The speech of Pope Francis at the university of Roma Tre was not published – a rarity – in any official transcription. While on the contrary Benedict XVI made public the speech that he was not allowed to deliver at the university of Rome “La Sapienza” on January 17, 2008:

> Lecture by the Holy Father Benedict…

The complete visit of Francis is however available in a video produced by the Vatican Television Center:

> Visit to the University Roma Tre

For a more in-depth analysis of the singular character of this visit:

> Pope Francis and the University Visit that Benedict XVI Did Not Make

(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. abyssum says:

    You must have read my post too rapidly and you missed what I wrote on this subject. Here is what I wrote:

    {Fernandez is the “l’Eminence Grise” to Francis. He is a layman, and so he cannot replace Cardinal Mueller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Of course, Francs could appoint him a Cardinal and then he could replace Mueller, but first he would have to be ordained a priest and then a bishop in quick succession.}

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the secular state of Victor Manuel Fernández is no bar to his being appointed a Cardinal by Francis. Wasn’t the offer of a cardinalate made to Jacques Maritain, a married layman? He rejected the idea, but not because he needed to become a religious.

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