Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Bombshell memo to cardinals on next papal conclave

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 15, 2022

After years of doctrinal confusion and disciplinary inconsistency, prominent cardinals are clearly growing restive about the leadership of Pope Francis.

Today Cardinal George Pell issued a highly unusual public statement, calling for a Vatican rebuke to two other prominent prelates whose public statements have suggested a “wholesale and explicit rejection” of Church teachings on sexuality.

And on the same day, a prominent Italian journalist made public a memorandum which, he said, is now circulating among members of the College of Cardinals, pronouncing “that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects: a catastrophe.”

Sandro Magister of L’Espresso, who published the bombshell memo, is a veteran Vatican-watcher, with excellent sources, who does not shy away from controversy. Magister writes that the author “is unknown, but shows himself a thorough master of the subject. It cannot be ruled out that he himself is a cardinal.”

The memo—like the public statement from Cardinal Pell—points to the German hierarchy, whose “Synodal Path” has become an open conduit for dissent from Church teaching, and to Cardinal Hollerich—to whom the Pope has entrusted the leadership of the next worldwide Synod of Bishops—who (as the memo puts it) “rejects the Christian teaching on sexuality.” The silence from the Vatican in response to these expressions of dissent, the memo’s pseudonymous author continues, contrasts sharply with the “active persecution of the traditionalists and the contemplative convents.”

“If there was no Roman correction of such heresy, the Church would be reduced to a loose confederation of local churches, holding different views, probably closer to an Anglican or Protestant model, than an Orthodox model,” the memo warns.

The memo’s author, who identifies himself only as “Demos,” goes on to issue a blanket indictment of current Vatican leadership. He devotes several paragraphs to financial mismanagement, but also bemoans the chaotic administrative style that has exacerbated tensions within the Vatican and demoralized the faithful. Among his complaints:

  • ”Phone tapping is regularly practiced.”
  • “The financial situation of the Vatican is grave.”
  • There has been “…no public support for the loyal Catholics in China…,” nor “for the Catholic community in Ukraine, especially the Greek Catholics…”
  • The College of Cardinals has been “weakened by eccentric nominations…” and because the Pope has not allowed for meetings of the College, the cardinals are now “unknown to one another.”
  • The extensive preparations for the Synod on Synodality will “consume much time and money, probably distracting energy from evangelization and service…”
  • The Amazon Synod heard virtually no mention of the “disastrous decline in Catholic numbers and Protestant expansion in South America.”

There are hopeful signs, Demos says, noting for instance that young priests are “almost completely orthodox, sometimes quite conservative.” But the overall situation, he insists, is grave, and calls for decisive action. In his memo, looking forward to the next papal conclave, he summarizes the challenge that the cardinals reading this memo will face:

The first tasks of the new pope will be to restore normality, restore doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, restore a proper respect for the law, and ensure that the first criterion for the nomination of bishops is acceptance of the apostolic tradition.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Mar. 20, 2022 1:52 PM ET USA

    Another commenter has already noted Francis’ frequently-expressed disdain for “rigidity.” But rigidity itself isn’t really what Francis hates; it’s rigidity in support of positions he disapproves of. He himself insists on it when his own positions are challenged.

  • Posted by: FrHughM - Mar. 17, 2022 4:55 AM ET USA

    Perhaps promote Archbishop John Wilson!

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 16, 2022 2:29 PM ET USA

    Bravo for Cardinal Pell, but will his request receive the treatment that the dubia in 2016? One of the prominent cardinals (Hollerich) rejecting the Church's teaching on sexuality is clearly in the Pope's inner circle. "Queer worship" Cardinal Marx is also another member of Pope Francis' inner circle. Thus, Cardinal Pell's request has a high probability of receiving the same treatment the dubia received. But of course, we will have to wait and see what happens.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 16, 2022 1:44 PM ET USA

    Something went terribly wrong at the conclave that resulted in Francis. The First Eucharistic Prayer (The Roman Canon) is offered in its opening words for "those who, holding to the truth, hand on the Catholic and Apostolic faith." Holding to the Truth and handing on the Catholic and Apostolic Faith seem to be too "rigid" for the current pontiff. It is significant that someone who points out the very obvious, would opt to hide his identity, and yet, the anonymous memo exudes moral authority.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Mar. 16, 2022 10:14 AM ET USA

    Now let's see what our American bishops have to say and do in response to this indictment. I predict crickets, or at least a struggle to say nothing of consequence when being interviewed on the subject. I continue to be astounded by their collective negligence for the care of souls, including their own. I'm particularly sensitive though, by virtue of travel, to the observation about the destruction of the universality of our churches from place to place.

  • Posted by: DanS - Mar. 15, 2022 6:54 PM ET USA

    From the pen of Demos to God's ear, let it be so!

  • Posted by: Sciamej1913 - Mar. 15, 2022 5:44 PM ET USA

    This article corroborates that which the average practicing Roman Catholic feels today. We pray all for a change, but there must be a better level of administration of our Church and its future. As one reads of the comments by the two Cardinals as mentioned, this does not strengthen one's commitment to their faith in the organized church.

  • Posted by: filioque - Mar. 15, 2022 5:37 PM ET USA

    Demos for pope.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Mar. 15, 2022 5:33 PM ET USA

    The good reverend Demos is writing what many of us clergy have felt almost since the papal election. Our family prays frequently that the Lord restrain the papal tongue.

  • Posted by: GMDFinke - Mar. 15, 2022 5:27 PM ET USA

    That really IS a bombshell.