Pope Francis en General Audience

Vatican Chronicles: Difficult Week for the Pope: Four Schisms, A Lawsuit, An Uncomfortable Request and A Mourning

Week of June 17-23

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 24.06.2024).- Thirty-six years have gone by since the Ordination of four Bishops by Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre without papal mandate. That act merited excommunication, which, out of mercy, Pope Benedict XVI lifted in 2009. At that time, between 1986 and 1992, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was studying in Germany for a doctorate, which he didn’t finish. Then he worked in Buenos Aires at’ El Salvador College, subsequently in a church in Cordoba and finally he was called to be Auxiliary Bishop of the Argentine capital.

Today Jorge Mario Bergoglio is Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and 266th Successor of the Apostle Peter and, as such, he must take a decision in face of an announcement advanced by the Superior of the French district of the Lefebvrists — Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X — Father Benoît de Jorna, in a letter to the benefactors.

“(. . . ) on June 30, 1988, Monsignor Lefebvre carried out a “survival operation” of the Catholic Tradition when consecrating four Auxiliary Bishops. These Bishops, who were quite young at the time, evidently are less so thirty-six years later. As the ecclesiastical situation has not improved since 1988, it has become necessary to think of giving them assistants, who one day will become their substitutes.

When a Superior General announces a decision of this sort, we can expect a media frenzy against the “fundamentalists,” the “rebels,” the “schismatics,” the “disobedient,” to name just a few. At that moment we will have to face disputes, insults, contempt, rejection, perhaps even ruptures with individuals close to us.”

Unless it is an Ordination approved in some way by the Pope (a quite improbable event if one thinks of the recent Vatican negative on liturgical matter to a New Zealand Archbishop), an Ordination without papal mandate implies the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae established in the Code of Canon Law (n. 1382). Incurred in the penalty is not only the one who ordains but also the one ordained and those that act as co-consecrators.

However this, which in practice implies a schism, is not the only one the Pope faces, which made news this past week.

Former Nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano made it known on his X account (former Twitter) that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith summoned him to the Vatican for a canonical trial for schism. “I consider the accusations against me as an honour. I think the formulation itself of the charges confirms the thesis I have defended repeatedly in my different addresses. It’s no accident that the accusation against me refers to the questioning of the legitimacy of Jorge Mario Bergoglio  and to the rejection of Vatican II: the Council represents the ideological, theological, moral and liturgical cancer of which the Bergolian “synodal Church” is the necessary metastasis,” wrote the Archbishop contemptuously on his social networks, who has increasingly been left alone for his radical positions in this area and who in the recent past was the object questionings for the use of money collected through donations.


In a press release, Vigano confirmed that he will not appear at the trial and refuted the badly informed America Magazine of the Jesuits in the United States, which stated that he had appeared on Thursday, June 20.

Neither did those appear at trial who are, unfortunately at present, the most famous nuns in Spain — the Poor Clare nuns of the Belorado Convent near Burgos, who have incurred in a schism for the same reasons as the Lefebvrists and Archbishop Vigano: rejection of Vatican Council II and non-recognition of Francis as Pope.

Last Friday, June 21, the nuns published the following on their Instagram account:

The Poor Clare nuns of Belorado express, and have so communicated in this moment, that it is their will not to appear to the appointment scheduled today by the Ecclesiastical Court of Burgos, having separated themselves from the Conciliar Church in virtue of the formal decision adopted by them dated May 8, the Canonical Law, therefore, not being competent to know any question related to this aspect, and communicate that they have referred their representation to a Negotiating Commission in which this firm is located and GTRS, in order that they mediate and negotiate with the homologous Commission of the Archbishopric’s Commission of Burgos, to find a peaceful and extrajudicial solution to the conflict, which will enable the recognition of their personal and patrimonial rights that are being plundered by the Archbishopric.

On May 13 that group of nuns announced its separation from the Catholic Church, ignoring the Pope as an authority. Behind this statement were two men who perceive themselves one as Bishop and the other as priest, although they haven’t succeeded in demonstrating who conferred on them validly the respective Sacrament.

The Archbishop of Burgos, the Vatican’s Commissioner for this event, did everything possible to maintain communion, but in the end, they alone have isolated themselves . . . although as they intend to keep the Convent, which is the Church’s property, they will go to trial.

A fourth schism is that of 500,000 Catholics of India of the Syro-Malabar Rite. The underlying problem is the Liturgy, specifically, the way of celebrating Mass. A uniform way for all was agreed in 2021, but the most numerous Archdiocese did not agree. Fights followed, fights came. The Pope called them to order; he sent them a Commissioner and he also changed their Major Archbishop. And it was the latter who gave them an ultimatum that ends on July 3: either they obey or they will be excommunicated. An agreement was announced last week; however, as the last week of June begins, we know that everything has collapsed and that it seems that 10% of the members of the Catholic Church of Syro-Malabar Rite will stay outside communion and, in that sense, but hopefully not, it is the most numerous schism that will materialize since that of Lefevbre 36 years ago.

This was not the best week for the Pope. Businessman Raffaele Mincione, who lost a trial in the Vatican, has taken his cause to the United Nations Organization, accusing the Holy See of violations in the judicial process. As ZENIT noted, the matter can have repercussions on the Holy See’s reputation in the rea of the administration of justice.

Moreover, the subject of the words used by the Pope – a few weeks ago — to refer to homosexuals has been an uncomfortable subject, which the Pope experienced first hand. On Thursday, June 20, the Holy Father was connected to the virtual event “Building Bridges Across Asia and the Pacific.” At a certain moment, a young Filipino took the floor and said to him directly:

“I am Lorez Acevedo, from Tondo, Manila, a fellowship student of the Faculty of Psychology of the Athenaeum of Manila University. I myself was marginalized and harassed for being bisexual, because of my homosexuality, my identity, and because I am the son of a single mother. My mother was unable to divorce my father. Please, authorize divorce in the Philippines and stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community. This cause great pain.”

Finally, the most human and close sorrow has touched the life of the Pope, as his Confessor died. The Hoy Father’s gratitude and affection for him is so great that on Sunday, June 23, he went to the place of the wake in Rome to recollect himself in prayer for him.

These are the most recent events in the difficult life of the one who carries the barque of Saint Peter. We can add — to conclude now and out of a desire to offer a more complete vision –, that last week (the penultimate of June 2024) the Pontiff also dedicated time to meetings with his Council of Cardinals and a few women. During those meetings the subject of the role of women in the Church was addressed again, but also that of Canon Law and of the economy in a broader context. The three were the subject of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

Among the topics addressed in the Pope’s speeches this past week were the big-bang and black holes (where he claimed the role of Belgian priest and theoretical physicist Georges Lemaître; ecumenism with Lutherans and Artificial Intelligence (topic on which he has been developing his own teaching).

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter: https://twitter.com/web_pastor, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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