'No Conversions, Please, We're On Team Francis'
Cardinal-designate reveals end game of pontiff's revolution now being consolidated
The crisis of the Catholic Church just got much deeper. Pope Francis has named twenty-one new cardinals, announcing his intention to confirm them as members of the College of Cardinals in September. Eighteen are eligible to vote in the next conclave, which will choose his successor. This means Francis has further stacked the College with men who owe him and are presumably in his theological mold. He is working to institutionalize his progressive revolution.
The list is idiosyncratic, typical of Francis, and once again ignored the Archbishop of Los Angeles, one of the largest dioceses in the world. You might say that L.A. already has a cardinal, in the retired Roger Mahony. Well, a city having two cardinals — two active cardinals — didn’t stop Francis from naming the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, Americo Aguiar, as a new cardinal, despite that fact that Lisbon’s archbishop is already one.
“We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all,” said Bishop Américo Aguiar, the head of World Youth Day (WYD) Lisbon 2023 who will be created a cardinal by Pope Francis in September.
World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1–6.
Bishop Aguiar, an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, made the statement July 6 in an interview with RTP Notícias, three days before Pope Francis announced the creation of 21 new cardinals, including the prelate.
In the interview, the bishop said that in his opinion the intention of World Youth Day is to have young people journey together, respecting their diversity.
For the cardinal-designate, the goal is to enable each young person to say: “‘I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life in a different way, but we are brothers and we go together to build the future.’ This is the main message of this encounter with the living Christ that the Pope wants to provide to young people.”
“We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all,” Bishop Aguiar continued. “We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.”
The prelate stressed that it’s important “that we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty of Fratelli Tutti, brothers all, that the Pope has made a enormous effort so that this enters the hearts of all.”
There it is. What else can one say? To the new Church midwifed by Pope Francis and his team, observing diversity and inclusivity matter more than truth — matter even more than salvation.
Back when The Benedict Option came out, some Catholic critics said it was directly against Pope Francis’s instruction to “go to the peripheries” with the Gospel message. Not at all, I would respond. As the book says, evangelism is non-negotiable for Christians. The problem is that you can’t take to the peripheries, or to anywhere else, what you do not have — and the research is very clear that Catholics today, especially young Catholics, know very little about their faith. The Benedict Option is about grounding oneself strongly in one’s faith, so that when one goes out into the world (as all of us non-monastic Christians do), one can authentically and boldly preach Christ.
In 2018, when the book was published in Italy, someone high in the Vatican — I was not given a name, but I have a good sense of who it was — phoned around different dioceses of Italy, encouraging local bishops to discourage the faithful from coming to see the author of The Benedict Option, because it is “against Francis.” I don’t think anybody agreed (if they did, my publishers did not tell me), but I know for sure that Cardinal Bagnasco, at the time the Archbishop of Genoa, not only welcomed me to his archdiocese, but also bought a copy for each of his priests. He’s a conservative, so maybe that’s no surprise. But in Bologna, the liberal Archbishop (now Cardinal) Zuppi, though a Francis ally, also welcomed me, and joined me onstage for a discussion.
Still, I always found it weird that the Vatican identified this book of mine — which does not mention Francis, and which counsels Catholics (and other Christians) to deepen the knowledge and practice of the faith, to be a bulwark against the increasingly anti-Christian world — as against the interests of the Church, and this papacy.
Now I know why.
It’s crystal clear to me now why the old monk told me in 2015 that any Catholic family that wanted to make it through the darkness to come had better do some version of the Benedict Option. What the new cardinal-designate of Lisbon praises, and characterizes as the thrust of papal teaching, is open surrender to the world, and the abandonment of the Holy Spirit for the Zeitgeist. “Go forth, build a better future!” the pope said to the young. In 2019, he signed, along with a prominent imam, a document in Abu Dhabi that proclaimed, “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings.”
This is a direct contradiction of Scripture, and of authoritative Catholic teaching. The Abu Dhabi statement expressed the desire to be unified with humanity — but without Christ. And now we have a papal choice for cardinal, the bishop in charge of the next gathering of the youth of the Catholic world with the pope, boasting that “we don’t want to convert the young people to Christ.”
Let the reader understand the signs of the times. And let the Catholic reader understand what he has to do to get through this great religious deception without losing his faith.
Oh, and by the way, I can’t recommend strongly enough this bold recent talk by the respected orthodox Catholic theologian Janet E. Smith, talking about the sexual corruption in the Church. She says, “I think it’s very, very, very bad, and I don’t think I’ve hit bottom yet.” This is very hard to listen to, but very important. Dr. Smith’s reputation is unassailable — and her message is prophetic.