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COLOGNE, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leftist Vatican expert is alleging that one-third of Catholic clerics are against Pope Francis, even working to incite a "cultural war" to undermine the pontiff's influence.
"You shouldn't underestimate that [number], it's just the tip of an iceberg," Marco Politi, former Vatican correspondent for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica said an interview with Domradio.de, the media station of the archdiocese of Cologne.
"It is not a minority," Politi said. "I would estimate that 30% of the clergy, the committed laity and bishops of the world church are on this line," which he describes as "a very strong, conservative, traditionalist line."
"There has been opposition to Francis for years," he said. "Some bishops and cardinals are always in the front row, but behind them is a not inconsiderable part of the clergy and laypeople who are against Francis and any reforms in the Church."
As an example of the opposition the pope faces, the Vaticanista pointed to Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's recent "very aggressive" manifesto warning of the "creation of a world government" related to the pandemic measures of the Church and the government.
Bearing the brunt of Politi's critique were the signatories of the manifesto, including former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cdl. Gerhard Müller and Hong Kong archbishop emeritus Cdl. Joseph Zen, whom he accused of representing the "part of the Church hierarchy that wants the culture struggle."
Politi chastised the signatories as ignoring the "commandment of charity and solidarity" which "require" the faithful to "stay at home."
Moves like Viganò's, he argued, contradict "Pope Francis and the many episcopal conferences that ask the faithful to stay at home and do without public services" as well as all those who obediently "stay at home in order not to infect others."
Politi expressed surprise at the emphasis on "the importance of Holy Mass" for many faithful who considered it "a sign of tyranny that one cannot go to church for six or seven weeks."
He castigated faithful who are hungering for the sacraments, alleging they are the "same people [who] don't care about the regions in the Amazon, where Christians can only celebrate Holy Mass once a year because there aren't enough priests." In fact, opposition to married clergy on the part of prelates like Cdl. Robert Sarah has less to do with promoting convenience than preserving the sanctity of the priesthood.
Politi pointed to Islam as an example of how to behave safely during the pandemic. "Mecca is completely empty," he said, adding that Muslims "had to organize the festivities of Ramadan differently" while the signatories "obviously don't care."
Speaking to what he sees as a crescendo of attacks on Francis, he said, "There has been an escalation in recent years," adding, "Viganò has already asked the pope to resign, bishops have accused Francis of heresy and his authority is being undermined. The clergy and bishops have never had so many attacks on a pope."
Politi did not, however, talk about the pre-emptive moves the pope himself has been making in the midst of the cultural war.
Reflecting on the appointments, Catholic World News editor Philip Lawler said they represent a turn to the Left: "You have leading representatives of what you might call the liberal bloc in the European bishops' world, and that's the way these appointments are trending."
Other observers said the pope was setting the stage for the next papal conclave, maneuvering chess pieces on the papal board game to ensure that his vision endures for generations to come.