Watch the Church closely enough and eventually you’ll start to see patterns emerge that don’t always fit into the churn of the news cycle.

One such trend – that seems to have experienced an uptick in recent days – is the traditionalist resistance to Pope Francis.

  • The ultraconservative wing of the Church is hell-bent on insisting that the “German Bishops” are funding the Amazon Synod just to impose married priests and women deacons on the worldwide Church.

This despite official denials and explanations that the primary purpose of the Synod is to highlight the importance of the region for the global climate, economy and its indigenous people.

  • The ex-nuncio in the US, Carlo Maria Viganò – who accused Pope Francis of covering up the sexual abuse of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick – has emerged from hiding to claim “the figure of Christ is absent” from the Amazon Synod working document. A document that marks “the emergence of a post-Christian Catholic theology”.
    “What we are now seeing is the triumph of a 60-year-old plan, the successful execution of a well-thought out plan to bring a new sort of thinking into the heart of the Church, a thinking rooted in elements of Liberation Theology containing strands of Marxism, little interested in traditional Catholic liturgy or morality or theology, but rather focused on ‘praxis’ in the field of social justice. And now this plan has achieved one of its supreme goals, with a Jesuit on the See of Peter…”, declared Viganò.

Viganò’s latest remarks have been hailed in conservative circles as “deserving of consideration” and “fascinating”.

Never mind the fact that the self-appointed whistleblower’s credibility has been completely shot.

Earlier this month, for example, Viganò accused Pope Francis of covering up for Vatican Secretariat of State Substitute for General Affairs Edgar Peña Parra.

Christoper Altieri at the Catholic Herald called Viganò’s new allegations “a serious overstatement”, adding the accusations “offer precious little in advancement of the cause he claims to serve”.

  • The anti-Pope Francis faction persists in amplifying the concerns of a minority of students at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome.

240 students, out of the thousands who study at the Institute, are concerned that Pope Francis is dismantling the legacy of his Polish predecessor.

So concerned that they went public with a letter of complaint before giving the direction of the Institute a chance to respond.

  • Much of the muck-racking directed at Francis comes from what Washington Post writer Michelle Boorstein famously called “an influential and tightly knit conservative Catholic digital media network”.

But Franklin Strong at the faith and social justice website Sojourners in a very important article exposed this week the webs connecting these ‘traditionalist’ Catholics with white nationalists.

Even Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, after a recent visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp, hit out at the “hate speech that speeds across the internet linking like-minded bigots”.

Particularly “in the delusional minds of those who continue to deny the reality of the Holocaust”, but also in the “hate speech that targets others who are easily marginalized in society — Muslims, migrants and refugees —  all for the purpose of stoking fear in people who feel disaffected in a changing world”.


‘Open Democracy’: Ultraconservative Catholics, other Christians funding European far-right

But what’s the common thread linking, and emboldening, these elements of the ultraconservative resistance to Pope Francis?

It is the figure of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who last Thursday ventured out of the Vatican for the first time in four years to enjoy a private dinner with Bishop of Frascati Raffaello Martinelli, a former colleague at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Not only that, but the Vatican also published Monday a message from Ratzinger to Jacek Peleszyk, parish priest of Romano Canavese, in the diocese of Ivrea, Italy, encouraging him to “mobilise all positive energies to give security and hope in this difficult moment of the social and cultural context”.

But that is exactly what Benedict himself is doing.

By going on excursions and publishing messages, the Pope Emeritus is giving “security and hope” to the resistance to Pope Francis in what the anti-Francis conspirators consider to be a “difficult moment” for the Church.

It is time for Pope Emeritus Benedict to be true to the promise he made when he resigned the papacy in 2013.

To “withdraw into prayer” and “remain hidden to the world”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.