The author of a book on the US opposition to Francis that the Pope himself praised as a “bomb” has denounced that a group of rich lay Americans is lobbying to take down this pontificate.

Driving the news

“There’s a caste of Catholic powerbrokers, really laymen, super-rich, who managed to take control of the Church in the United States and North America”, Nicolas Senèze, author of Comment l’Amérique veut changer de pape (“How America Wants to Change Popes”), told RFI.

“It’s something that’s been known for a long time: being one of the great financiers of the Vatican, they had a lobby group.

“They probably influenced a number of decisions and sanctions against trends that went against their interests.

“But Francis didn’t go in for that game of financial blackmail”.

The Pope himself praised Senèze’s book on a September flight to Mozambique, calling it “a bomb” and saying “it’s an honour that the Americans attack me”.

The Vatican Pontifical Academy for Life later tweeted a review of Senèze’s book, describing the volume as “brilliant”.

Go deeper

The comments of Senèze – Rome correspondent for French Catholic paper La Croix – are significant in that they take down the ‘fake news’ that it is German and not US Catholics who are the most active lobbyists in the Vatican.

The rich and conservative US Catholic lobby “has for years been imposing its vision” on the Church, according to Senèze: “a vision that is very liberal on the economic level, very moralistic and opposed to the vision that Francis promotes”.

“There’s also the fact that Francis is an Argentine and comes from South American Catholicism: from the beginning that generated a form of contempt.

“It’s a sector of American Catholicism, deeply rooted in Anglo-Saxon Catholicism, which despises the whole of the Latin American world.

“It’s also influenced by Protestantism, a Protestantism called the ‘Prosperity Gospel’.

“That is, if I’m rich, it’s because God has blessed me: he has rewarded me for my good deeds.

“On the other hand, if you are poor, like those Latin Americans who cross the border, it’s because God is not on your side.

“There is always that vision, deeply rooted in certain Catholics in the United States: a certain superiority.

“It’s something that we’ve seen from the beginning in the way Pope Francis has been regarded”.

Why it matters

Despite the best efforts of those conservative, rich US Catholics – who pump millions of dollars into the Vatican each year, trying to sway Vatican policy – Francis has resisted all attempts to control him, Senèze said.

When their lobbying failed, the rich and conservative US Catholic lobby instead tried to smear Francis with the abuse cover-up claims of Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio in the US, which was an “initiative condemned to failure but which managed to erode the public’s trust in the Pope”, the journalist explained.

“Even the victims of sexual abuse themselves quickly realized to what extent they were being used in order to accuse Francisco of collusion with a number of abusers, to discredit him”, Senèze lamented.

“Monsignor Vigano, the nuncio in the United States and Francisco’s accuser, reproached [the Pope] for protecting certain American cardinals, when in fact Francis was the first to adopt sanctions against them.

“There’s a clear will to attack the Pope’s credibility under the pretext of denouncing abuse”.

What’s next

Today the lobby’s idea “is to continue and put a lot of money on the table to prepare the next conclave”, Senèze claimed.

“Since they couldn’t achieve their goal in this pontificate, they went on to a second stage, preparing the next one.

“If they don’t get a candidate who is an ally, they’ll try and get someone weak enough to control and manipulate, so as to impose decisions on him.

“They’ve put a lot of money and resources into this, hiring, for example, former FBI agents who are investigating all the cardinals who will participate in the election of the next pope.

“The idea is to exploit all the rumors, verifiable or not, that can get out of the way the cardinals likely to continue Francis’ reforms”.

For the record

Senèze explained that the rich, conservative opposition to Pope Francis – who in his writings “attacks the American vision of unbridled consumerism” – was on show during last month’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican.

“One of the principal goals of this synod was to examine the ecological and social situation”, the La Croix journalist explained.

“Clearly questioning certain economic and financial interests, such as agribusiness or extractivism, which benefit from political complicities.

“[For those sectors] the word of the Church is unbearable, which is why they tried to focus [the synod] on exclusively ecclesiastical issues, such as celibacy, so as not to address the issues that bother them.

“We see a collusion between those ultraconservative interests -which stir up opinions on internal issues – and large economic groups, who do not want the Church to say something against their interests”.

As for how Pope Francis will respond to the lobbying, Senèze said “he is perfectly aware of these plots against him, but he’s not afraid and won’t back down on or stop the great reforms he has launched in the Catholic Church”.

“Francis was elected by at least two thirds of the cardinals with the clear mission of reforming the Church.

“In other words, strong support, even if a minority continues to resist.

“Recently there have been appointments of cardinals who share this reformist sensibility.

“Francis will turn 83 and he’s on the way out; then there’ll be a conclave.

“I don’t think that the reform he has begun is reversible, but there’s a risk that, discrediting a significant number of cardinals – the famous Red Hat Report – the next man chosen as Pope is weak and can’t take the reforms further. That things end up halfway done”, Senèze warned.

Next on Novena:

Pontifical Academy for Life praises “bomb” book on conservative US Francis opposition

German bishop slaps down ‘Pachamama’ protesters for quoting him in anti-Francis screed