Matthew Fox says Pope Francis is fighting against the fascist Catholic order Opus Dei and has demoted an American right-wing cardinal
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re continuing our discussion with Matthew Fox about Pope Francis — a Pope who, in many ways, has brought liberation theology, or much of it, to the Vatican. But this is a Vatican that relentlessly fought against liberation theology, and anyone who advocated it, for decades. But as I said in part one — and you really should watch part one before you watch part two, it’ll make more sense — but this Pope, more or less, compared Trump’s election to the rise of Hitler, and the rise of the far right in Europe. Has called the entire capital system, as we know it today, as one worshipping the god of money and ruining the Earth. And this has let loose a big fight within the Catholic Church, or a continuation of a fight, except this time the Pope seems to be on the liberation theology side of the barricades. Now joining us to talk about all this is Matthew Fox. He’s the author of over two dozen books, including, “Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War and Occupy Spirituality.” He’s a former Catholic priest. He was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and creation spirituality, by Cardinal Ratzinger. Then he was expelled from the Dominican Order, to which he had belonged for 34 years. He’s now an Episcopal Church priest. Thanks for joining us again, Matthew. MATTHEW FOX: Yes, Paul. Good to be with you. PAUL JAY: So, as I said in the first episode, we expected a more conservative Pope, based on what we knew of his history. Do you think the cardinals who voted for the Pope, do you think they were expecting a more conservative Pope? Is the whole church a little surprised of what he’s become? MATTHEW FOX: Definitely. I think there’s a certain buyer’s remorse, among some of the more conservative cardinals. I think, on the other hand, the few progressive are quite pleased. And then, now of course, Pope Francis is trying to create some more progressive appointments. For example in America, the Bishop of Chicago, he named a cardinal, and a new bishop he appointed. And then in Newark they just appointed a pretty forward-looking fellow as cardinal of Newark. And interesting enough, he’s not made the Archbishop of Los Angeles, which is a huge diocese, a cardinal at all, which is very unusual. But that fellow is young, and he’s Opus Dei. And I don’t think, as long as Pope Francis is around, that Opus Dei bishops are going to be made cardinals in the United States, or anywhere. PAUL JAY: And for those who don’t know, Opus Dei is a very right-wing sector, trend, within the church. MATTHEW FOX: Yeah, it’s a religious order founded by a Spanish fascist priest in the 1930s, Escriva. And, yeah, it’s extremely secret, and it’s extremely fascist, explicitly fascist. They worked with Franco; they were on his cabinet, in fact, Opus Dei, lay people. But under Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, Opus Dei really came into its own, and they banished, if you will, the liberation theology cardinals in South America, for example, and reinstated them with Opus Dei bishops and cardinals. So, it’s a huge shift that happened in that time. PAUL JAY: But was the Pope playing a bit of a game, in the sense that, not letting the other cardinals know the kind of politics that he was going to espouse? ‘Cause it seems like, you know, kind of a 180, in some ways. MATTHEW FOX: Well, actually he was a runner-up in the previous election, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger and — who became Benedict the XVI. So, he was in the running even back then. But remember, too, he’s the first third-world Pope. And this is one reason why I think he has this very clear, and explicit understanding of the opprobrium of savage capitalism, his phrase, because he’s felt it, being in the third world. And I think he’s lived long enough to have diagnosed, and analyzed, what’s really going on. I think that’s one reason he speaks with such passion, about the fallout of trickle-down economics, for example, which he’s very fierce against, and Wall Street in general. So yeah, I think it comes from his experience as a third-worlder. PAUL JAY: Now you yourself, were the target of what you said in a previous interview, was something like akin to an inquisition within the church, targeting liberation theology priests and running them out of the church, as you were, yourself, by Ratzinger. Has that stopped under this Pope? Has that inquisition been closed down? MATTHEW FOX: Yes, it has effectively stopped. Yeah, he’s not doing that. They still have a fellow, a German cardinal in charge — another German cardinal — in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, which used to be called The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Inquisition. But this fellow is definitely tempered by the present Pope. And the present Pope talks about, “Let’s hear from all sides,” when he held this congress a year or so ago, about family and all this, he was real explicit about, “Let’s hear everybody.” And he’s definitely inclusive, and this is one reason a lot of the right-wing forces in the church — and among the cardinals — are up in arms. A good example is this Cardinal Burke, who has a big influence in the Trump administration. Because none other than Stephen Bannon, who, as we know, has an office right next to Trump there in the White House, he and Cardinal Burke have a thing going. Because they met a few years ago, and Bannon really liked Cardinal Burke, and vice versa and, of course, they both like power. So, it’s scary. One author who studied it, has called it theofascism. He said, “Previously we’ve had theoconservatives in the White House under Bush and all this, but now we have Theofascism in the White House.” PAUL JAY: Okay, go back to Burke. Now, when the Pope had this session on the family, Burke and some other cardinals, I believe, actually signed a letter publicly disagreeing with the Pope, which seems a bit much– MATTHEW FOX: And demanding that he retract it… PAUL JAY: …given that the Pope is supposed to be never wrong. MATTHEW FOX: Well, this Pope does not invoke infallibility, thank God. But, you’re right, it was very unusual, four Popes said that he has to retract this– MATTHEW FOX: Yes, four cardinals. Excuse me, yeah. And they went public with this, which again, is very, very unusual. But he kind of sloughs it off and he just says, “Let’s hear from everybody”. And he’s not backing down from what he’s written. PAUL JAY: Well, he’s actually; he’s gotten rid of Burke, right? He sent him to Guam, and took away his big job, and he’s willing to fight these guys. MATTHEW FOX: That’s right. First he sent him to the Knights of Malta, as a chaplain. He took him away from being head of the Tribunal of Justice, and the Supreme Court really, and that was a tremendous demotion. I didn’t even know about him sending him off to Guam. That’s pretty… PAUL JAY: I think that just happened in the last day or two. MATTHEW FOX: No kidding, that’s amazing, that’s a long way away… PAUL JAY: But he sent him there to adjudicate some kind of sexual abuse case, where he has to hear evidence and things. But, the way the newspaper, the article playing it, is essentially; it’s a kind of exile to get… MATTHEW FOX: …A one-way ticket. He gave him a one-way ticket, uh? PAUL JAY: I’m not quite sure, but it might have been. So, what message does that send? MATTHEW FOX: I feel for the people of Guam. I feel for the people in Guam, but that is a pretty interesting solution… What’s that now? PAUL JAY: Yeah. So, how big a deal is Burke? What message does that send within the church, and how seriously organized is the right, to try to oppose Pope Francis? And what can they do against him? I mean, they can’t get rid of him. MATTHEW FOX: Uh, no, but of course they’re all praying for an early death. And, of course, his health is not the best. And he’s not a young man. And a lot of these Opus Dei cardinals, and Archbishops, that were put in by the previous two popes are young people. Like here in San Francisco, the Archbishop is in his fifties, I think. He’s Opus Dei. And then the Archbishop in Los Angeles is Opus Dei, and he’s also young. So, these guys are going live longer than Pope Francis. So, it’s going to be very interesting what happens after Pope Francis dies. He’s trying to appoint new cardinals more in his mindset, but it’s kind of a slow process. But, there’s no question, I mean, if Burke is on the phone and e-mail with Stephen Bannon, which he is, then clearly the right-wing has a lot of power, even in the circumstances, not directly given the Pope’s world view, but certainly indirectly. Then, of course, a lot of money, a lot of right-wing money, follows the Opus Dei movement in the Catholic Church, and people like Cardinal Burke. And Burke is really the lightning rod to attract all the extreme right-wing forces; he’s kind of risen to that status. Probably because Pope Francis was so explicit about demoting him, and now sending him to Guam, I just think that’s really interesting news. PAUL JAY: And talk but the Pope’s health. How serious are his afflictions? In one of his interviews — I think it’s that same interview with the Spanish newspaper — he’s asked about corruption, and he says, “Well, corruption is pervasive, but it’s not just now, it’s been like that even our church.” And he mentions the Borgias, and then he particularly mentions the daughter of Borgia, who he says was known for her poison. I mean poison and the Vatican are not strangers to each other. MATTHEW FOX: No, they aren’t. No not at all. And yeah, from the day he was elected, I think, I was certainly advising people to have a good taster to check his food out. Well, John Paul I, the Pope before John Paul II, who lasted only a month, all the evidence is that he was murdered, and that would have been in the early 1970s. So, this is recent history, this is not just new history. And John Paul I definitely represented the progressive awareness of Pope John the 23rd, who called the Second Vatican Council, and yet he was young and very healthy and very vigorous. And he gave a talk, the day before he died; he gave a talk as God as mother, and not just father. And he also gave a talk on his committing to reform the Vatican Bank. Within 24 hours he was dead. And there’s been a serious investigation by an English detective of that, he wrote a book called, “In God’s Name.” And he concludes that definitely it was a murder, and definitely it had some inside help from some of the cardinals, participated in that demise– PAUL JAY: The Pope that follows that death had fairly close relations with the CIA. MATTHEW FOX: Very close relations, I was told by a CIA agent, that he was their man in Poland for 25 years, when he was Bishop and Archbishop. So, he was groomed. And I have all the facts on this in my book, “The Pope’s War”, that after Reagan was sworn in, within two months, there was a gathering of the NSA people in Santa Fe, and there, one question was, “How can we destroy the liberation theology in Latin America?” And they concluded, “We can’t destroy it, but we can split the church.” And so, they went after Pope John Paul II. Jim Casey, the head of CIA, who’s a very right-wing Catholic. He went to the Vatican 29 times personally, with satchels full of cash to give to J.P. II, for solidarity, and in exchange J.P. II would go after liberation theologians, and base communities in South America. PAUL JAY: Solidarity being the very pro-Vatican trade union in Poland, that led… help lead to the fall of the communist — whatever you want to call it –regime in Poland… MATTHEW FOX: That’s right. One priest in Latin America told me that John Paul II murdered at least 10,000 people in Latin America, because of his policies on behalf of the CIA. To destroy base communities, base community leaders, and the liberation theology. That’s what this very sober priest told me. PAUL JAY: So, in terms of global politics, in the previous interview, you compared him to the Dalai Lama. How significant do you think the Pope’s voice is in pushing back in this rise of the right, how much does it influence broad public opinion? MATTHEW FOX: Well, it’s interesting how little of it gets into our news, in America. PAUL JAY: Now! You know, for a while he was all over the news, and now the more progressive he is, the less we hear of him. MATTHEW FOX: Exactly, is that a surprise? But, yeah, I think that — and then too, the left in America tends to be so secular, in the sense of anti-religious, and I think it’s a big mistake, you know? Because, look at the red and blue states. The red states are kind of into religion, so we should be confronting bad, and hypocritical Christianity. For example, I’ve just written a public letter to Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan carries his Catholicism on his sleeve, but he contradicts everything that the Pope is for. For example, the whole issue of global warming, and caring for the earth. He completely ignores that. He completely ignores the whole bit about the one percent, and the god of money, and the savage capitalism the Pope is talking about. So, I think it’s time for us to really get proactive, with the hypocrisy of all these so-called Christian politicians who are running things. And so, I think the left is really dumb, if it thinks that you can change America without addressing religious concerns. There’s good religion and bad religion, and Pope Francis represents traditions of justice, which is the prophetic tradition of Judaism, and really the healthy tradition in Islam, and the rest. So this, I really think is one of the left’s biggest mistakes in American, is thinking that you can change people without a sense of spirituality. And what it does, it leaves open the whole arena, to the crackpot Christians. And there are a lot of them, as we know. And it’s ridiculous. And, of course the media’s in on this. As you say, they’re not letting us know what Pope Francis is saying, and I think they should. PAUL JAY: All right. MATTHEW FOX: He’s an important figure. PAUL JAY: Well, thanks very much for joining us, Matthew. MATTHEW FOX: Thank you, Paul. PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real New Network.