Buenos Aires – Congress Building and Square
Carlos Caso-Rosendi

For those who do not follow the “exciting” re-runs of this soap opera we call Argentine politics — now running its ninth uninterrupted decade — I offer here a brief history of the country:

After the so called independence wars — mostly fueled by impatient European banks, watching the Spanish Crown hang on to the old feudal system of governance on one third of the planet — Argentina went through a long period of anarchy which lasted arguably from the mid-1810s through the mid-1850s. Finally one of the country’s strong men with some help from neighboring countries, managed to keep things quiet long enough to pass a Constitution. By 1865 when the US was about done fighting the Civil War, Argentina was beginning to organize. Back then the “Liberals” were what we call now “Conservatives.” It was them who put together the country, organizing it like a gigantic farm. A very incipient state oversaw banking, education, the military, etc. copying the best models from around the world. Our education system was fashioned after the American model, our banking followed the British model, the Army adopted the Prussian ways, etc. The economy exploded. Argentine money was accepted all over the world, it was as good as the gold and silver that backed it. Argentine commodities flooded Europe. Soon immigrants from all over Italy, Spain, France, England, and the Central-Eastern European countries started to arrive in droves. Their skills fueled the beginnings of industry. When the end of the Great War came, Argentina boasted one of the top economies in the world and a reasonably organized political system. But the new immigration carried with them the egg of the serpent. “New ideas” began to fester: communism, socialism, anarchism, and all sorts of radical movements began to operate in the country.

In 1909 there was a watershed moment when Simon Radowitzky, an anarchist with Ukrainian roots, killed the Chief of Police heralding an era of violence rooted in radical ideas. The Radical Party, a populist movement that had been involved in seditious activities, managed to win the elections in 1916 with a more moderate approach. They remained in power until 1930 when a military coup organized by Freemasons and Nazi sympathizers in the Army, took the power by force to avoid Argentina’s alignment with Britain against Germany. That was the beginning of the long reign of populist-military governments that gave us General Juan Perón, a disciple of Mussolini who was one of the seditionists participating in the coup d’état of 1930. Peron, elected in 1945, took the ideas of Fascism adapting them to local politics. Deposed by the military in 1955 returned in 1973 after two decades of influencing Argentine politics by remote control from his exile in Spain. After his death, chaos ensued and the military came back. The military government collapsed for good in 1982 after a failed attempt to take over the islands in the South Atlantic, occupied by the British since 1833. Now it was time for elections again.A cadre of more or less ridiculous incompetents without any talent for administration or politics took turns to ransack the country’s treasury since then. The future looks bleak. Argentina is now in the lower half of the list of world economies, after being counted among the top contenders only one hundred years ago.

Presidents of Argentina 1983-2016

Our current Pope comes from that age, that long season of the same old soap opera. His family arrived from Northern Italy at the time when the decline was beginning. The Bergoglio family was originally anti-fascist but young Jorge Mario developed a sympathy for Perón, the disciple of Mussolini that ordered the burning of the churches of Buenos Aires in the early 1950s and whose leftover-leftist followers desecrated the Cathedral several times recently. No one can explain that sympathy. No one can explain the current support of Pope Francis for a number of Peronist operatives, most of them accomplices in a long list of criminal activities that left the country bankrupt again and again in the last three decades.

Since the days of the Spanish colonial dominance, the Catholic Church has been most obviously not interested in forming the character of her Argentine flock. It is no surprise that a country that was solidly Catholic only a century ago, is now the home of innumerable sects and esoteric movements of all kinds. The Church sleeps as the country continues its descent into darkness. Our current president, a graduate of Newman College, is also a practicing Buddhist. His third wife belongs to the Muslim faith. Recently a “cleansing ceremony” was performed at the presidential palace, “to dispel bad vibes” presumably left over by the previous administration. I am not making this up. Check our local news.

A reader from the United States contacted me yesterday. Here is his message slightly edited for privacy. I share it with you to highlight how we as a Church are – for the most part – failing “to be the salt of the earth.” After we read this candid analysis, fruit of a lifetime of being Catholic in our times, I will again share with you a strangely prophetic hypothesis presented by an Argentine Catholic priest in the 1970s.

“It is the general lack of humility (in every quarter) that I find so ominous in this era. Most comment threads are so filled with angry opinions put forward as if having the power of direct revelation as to be repulsive. I have stopped commenting. It seems to me that events have moved beyond a point where comments could offer some value. I don’t think I have changed a mind in twenty years of “dialogue” and “encounter”.   People know what they want to know. There are very few questions proffered and thousands of answers. The ratio is probably thousands to one. It means that very few are listening, because one has to be silent to listen. I am old enough to have lived through the initial challenge of the Catholic structure by the neo-iconoclasts in and out of the church. I remember that the church as a body was unable to give convincing argument against the “reformers”. I understood at the time that many of the shepherds of the faithful had strayed from the sheepfold. They were outside of its fences and thus outside of its protections. The wolves not needing to enter the sheepfold were free to mix with the scattered flock. After World War II, religion, as I experienced it – and I was an altar boy – had become somewhat formulaic and legalistic. It was brittle. Pastors proposed unreachable and largely emotionally based standards of behavior to parishioners struggling with serious sin. When the reformers offered to mark down the sin without the need for repentance – like a bankruptcy proceeding with merchandise offered for cents on the dollar, the deal was too good to ignore. They are still selling the idea in a year of mercy with no (or a very modest) mention of repentance. Thus even religion has found the way of Peron, the wide way, the easy way where the people may have what they wish with no cost – or at least the cost is fully hidden. If the father goes out into the world to find the prodigal son and carries a bag of cash to give to the son to meet all of the debts and leave plenty for living, the prodigal son will not be motivated to make the long and arduous (and fearful, humiliating) trip home. How long before he takes up once again with worldly women drawn to the moneybag, bringing their flatteries and comforts? No. Without the famine, the son stands pat.”

Yes, the Year of Mercy can be wasted by some. For others it is also a great opportunity to start over and do things right, rescue the good from our past and wipe out what is evil. Our reader makes a good point. One can really misunderstand mercy and forgiveness as a mere ceremonial cleansing that allows the sinner to continue doing “business as usual” with no positive effect on the soul. But one day, the day of reckoning arrives. For most of us that will be the day when we enter eternity, for countries, and for the Church at large, that terrible day is implied in the phrase of Our Lord: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Here is that piece from Fr. Meinvielle (my translation) an Argentine priest also:

“It boggles the mind to attempt comprehension of how the promises of assistance to the Church by the Divine Spirit in this cabbalistic era are going to be fulfilled, and how it will come to pass that the gates of hell shall not prevail. But just as the Church began as the smallest of the seeds and became a huge tree, in the same manner she can be reduced in size and acquire a more modest shape. We know that the mystery of iniquity is already at work but we do not know the full extent of its power. However, there is no difficulty in admitting that the Church in public view can be conquered by the enemy, thus converting from Catholic Church to Agnostic Church.

There could be two churches: one in public view, a Church magnified in propaganda, with well-advertised bishops, priests, and theologians, even with a pope with ambiguous attitudes; and another Church, a church of silence, with a pope faithful to Jesus Christ in his teaching and with some loyal priests, bishops, and faithful spread about as pusillus grex (little flock) all around the earth. This second church would be the Church of the promises, while the other defects or apostatizes. The same pope could preside both churches that would seem to be one in appearance. The pope, with his ambiguous attitudes, would validate the confusion. Because on one hand – being the head of the Church of promises – he may profess an impeccable doctrine, while on the other hand, by sending confusing, even reproachable signals, he would appear to be advancing the subversion and pastoral message of the public Church.

The possibility we propose here has not been studied enough by ecclesiology. But if we look at it thoroughly, we shall see that the promise of assistance [by the Holy Spirit] to the Church is limited to: a) avoiding the introduction of errors in the Roman See and in the very Church and: b) that the Church shall not perish or be completely destroyed by her enemies. None of those promises contained in the Gospel is invalidated by the hypothesis hereby proposed. On the contrary, both hypothesis gain feasibility if we consider the scriptural passages that refer to the great apostasy. Such defection will be complete but must coincide with the perseverance of the Church until the end. Our Lord is quoted in the Gospel asking “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 8.)

St. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3, calls that defection of the faith a universal apostasy that will coincide in time with the manifestation of the man of wickedness, the son of perdition. That universal apostasy is the total secularization of public and private life that is proceeding apace in today’s world. The only alternative to the Antichrist shall be Christ, and Christ will dissolve the Antichrist with His Breath thus fulfilling the final act of liberating History. Mankind will not remain alienated under the evil one. It has not been announced that Christ will save the masses though He shall save His Church, the little flock (Luke 12: 32), for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom.”

Going back to Argentina, and also to the first comment by our kind reader: both stories have in common a disillusion with a form of false “liberation” that grew mostly from the apathy of the Church, from her failure to preach and practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is mainly aiming to save our souls but that duty is inextricably united to the temporal task of forming us as Catholic men and women so we can preserve order on Earth, so we can be “the salt” that prevents rotting and decay. The duty of the Church is to be Mater et Magistra, Mother and Teacher.

In the centuries after Trent, there grows a form of apathy candidly described by our reader first, and also by Fr Meinvielle. That former apathy is now turning into a form of collaboration — with the futile political efforts to keep the decrepit Peronist system running — predicted pretty precisely by Fr Meinvielle as that Church with “two faces,” [1] and by Fr Leonardo Castellani (another great Argentine Catholic and a prophet)  as a  “Church that will fornicate with the kings of the world.” [2]

In my humble opinion, Pope Francis appears to be trying to help the Peronist remain as a fighting power in the Argentine political system, in a misguided attempt to protect the poor – whom by the way are the most numerous victims of Peronism and other forms of corruption. There is a strange sense of topsy-turvy there: religion being instrumental to the continuation of chaos and decay, instead of being an agent for the preservation and growth of order. The question, the ominous question remains: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

[1] The Lord does not appreciate deception in a person, much less will He appreciate it in His Church: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael asked: “How do You know me?” and  Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” John 1: 46-48

[2] “Assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Church obstructs its manifestation and reduces it, grounded on the human order that the Roman Empire organized in one political and legal body; but a day will come when we’ll arrive to the end of that age, and when that happens, the Obstacle shall be removed. Perhaps the Holy Ghost will then abandon that historical social body, called Christendom, carrying with it the elected to the most absolute solitude, giving it two wings of a great eagle that they might fly into the wilderness. And then the Church’s temporal structure will be Antichrist’s prey, and will fornicate with the kings of the earth, or at least with most of them, as has happened before, and the abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place.”  Is Christ ever coming back? by Fr Leonardo Castellani.