Members and friends of the Roman Catholic Church around the world have watched with alarm as Pope Francis has used the recent Vatican “Synod” to promote radical changes in Catholic teaching and practice. For instance, “transgender” people and those in same-sex “marriages” are now eligible to serve as godparents at baptism; that is, as the sponsors and models of Christian living to new Christians. The Stream‘s John Zmirak interviewed an expert on Pope Francis, Catholic philosopher John Gravino, to find out what’s going on.


Could you briefly explain what the Vatican “Synod” is?

What makes the present synod strange and unprecedented, in a subversive way, is that many of the participants are not bishops. Many lay people are included. If their ideological composition reflects that of the participating bishops, they are progressive and reformist.

Francis has stated that this move to include lay people is to make the Church more open and democratic. There are good reasons to be suspicious. He directly appointed one-third of the voting delegates, according to a report by the Catholic News Agency. Francis made room for the laity by leaving out any bishop that disagrees with him. Look at the American delegation for example. It includes Fr. James Martin and Cardinals Cupich, McElroy, Tobin, and Gregory, the most progressive priests and prelates in America.

And then you’ve got the German delegation. Everyone agrees they’re heretics, no question. And Francis made Cardinal Hollerich the relator general. Hollerich rejected the authority of Scripture on live TV. On the other hand, orthodox Bishop Strickland of Texas was just fired by Francis for no apparent reason other than the fact that he is a faithful outspoken critic of the pope.

John Gravino

The church is governed by the authority of bishops. But if Francis only includes those bishops who agree with him, how does that promote inclusiveness? Is Francis fighting marginalization or promoting it? The firing of Strickland answers that question, in my opinion. If the sole criterion for inclusion in the synod is that you agree with Francis, then how is that inclusive or democratic? Effectively, there are not 364 voting members. There is only one. Pope Francis himself. The rest are all just window dressing.

An LGBT Coup?

With Christians persecuted around the world, war in Europe, and terrorism in the Holy Land, Pope Francis has chosen to focus on the supposed “exclusion” of Catholics who identify with the LGBT movement. He claims that they are “marginalized” and that the Church must act to further “include” them. What do you think is behind this papal initiative? What will it lead to if successful?

As I showed in my book, LGBT inclusion in all facets of Church life was a major seminary initiative of the 1970s. And in 1970s seminaries, “gay inclusion” meant gay acceptance. This was due to the influence of psychology and its advocacy for sexual freedom. Psychologists and “sexologists” like Masters and Johnson declared homosexuality to be natural and normal. This directly contradicted Church doctrine that came from the Bible, and so some theologians began rewriting moral theology. They argued for a “science-based,” pro-LGBT moral theology. One of these theologians was Charles Curran. Pope John Paul II fired Curran and banned him from teaching Catholic theology. As I showed in a recent article, the very same ideas that got Curran banned are found in Amoris Laetitia.

If the bishops allow Pope Francis to get away with this, total heresy and apostasy will become the ‘official’ teaching of the Church.

Pope Francis just reaffirmed those heretical ideas in the apostolic letter he published at the conclusion of the synod. There, he described his call for an “inductive theology” as a “paradigm shift” and a “cultural revolution” in theology. Indeed, it is. For it is precisely the same science-based theology that Charles Curran promoted and which got him banned by Pope John Paul II. It is the very same science-based theology being promoted by the German bishops, which rejects the Bible’s authority in order to promote LGBT equality. My detailed podcast on this will appear at the Soul Science blog.

If the bishops remain silent and allow Pope Francis to get away with this, the result will be the official adoption of LGBT equality by the Catholic Church — in other words, total heresy and apostasy will become the “official” teaching of the Church. As you and I have discussed before, this will bring political and legal persecution to those brave souls who defend the true faith.

Freud Replaced the Bible

You wrote the best book on Pope Francis, Confronting the Pope of Suspicion. In it, you examine how the LGBT movement and the Sexual Revolution infiltrated the priesthood and other Catholic institutions. What were the philosophical roots of that infiltration? How was it accomplished practically?

Thank you for the compliment! The Sexual Revolution traces its intellectual origins to developments in early 20th century psychology, courtesy of Sigmund Freud. Freud argued that Christian sexual morality was psychologically unhealthy because it was too restrictive and led to neurosis and mental breakdown. Of course, if you believed this, then vows of celibacy would be the worst thing you could do for your sanity. So Catholic priests and nuns became a natural target for psychologists.

In the book, I tell the story of psychologist Carl Rogers and the Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns. He convinced the order to participate in his “encounter” therapy groups where members opened up about all their feelings. Members of the encounter groups became sexually active with each other. After only a couple of years working with Rogers, half the nuns left the order and all but one of their 60 schools were shut down. That was the fruit of sexual liberation. Actually, the fruits of the sexual revolution were abundant in the Catholic Church. They include the clergy sexual abuse crisis. I explain all that in the book.

We have seen similar infiltration in evangelical churches, and of course the Mainline Protestant denominations have largely succumbed to it. What explains why Christians would adopt such an alien worldview?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the worldview of pop psychology and fertility goddesses is not the alien view. Christianity is. “Sexual liberation” resonates with the thing most present to the consciousness of Our desires and our fallen human nature. The hard-wired imperative of the reptilian brains says: “I must increase!” But Christianity teaches the very opposite. Christianity is correct. But its correctness can be counterintuitive. It needs to be properly taught. Thus, every generation, if not properly educated and formed in the Christian Way, will fall into hedonism and selfishness. One bad generation of religious education can lead to mass apostasy. I’m afraid that is where we are today.

How Can We Evangelize?

What is a good starting point in dealing with fellow believers who have begun to succumb to this insidious, overwhelming pressure from Caesar, Mammon, and Sodom? Some biblical texts? Historical analogies? Testimonies from penitent sinners who’ve escaped the LGBT trap?

I think healthy doses of libertarianism and empiricism are the bitter medicine that this rebellious generation needs. This was the formula that saved the prodigal son, and I think it can work again. Give these people the freedom they demand. In return, we demand that they take an honest and empirical look at the consequences of their policies.

Let me give you two examples. “Drag Queen Story Hour” and Pride Month are the two greatest evangelizing forces today. Just keep the cameras rolling while these revolutionaries parade naked in front of children and crawl around on the ground, barking in dog masks. I think Bill Maher is just one more tragic Chloe Cole story from an altar call.

The fruit of the sexual revolution is really quite repugnant. In the Catholic Church, it was directly responsible for the epidemic of clerical sexual abuse. People are fed up. And that’s why parents are protesting at school board meetings to get pornography out of public school libraries — all of this madness the diabolical fruit of sexual liberation. People are waking up to the truly evil spirit lurking in secularism.

And we are seeing conversions. Some very high profile ones. The former “New Atheist” Ayaan Hirsi Ali just penned a deeply insightful account of her conversion to Christianity. People need to read her essay.

Will the Church Shatter into Pieces?

Will the Catholic church split over this? Or will Catholics simply succumb to the power of authority, which they are accustomed to trusting and obeying?

The Arian heresy looked like it was going to destroy the Church, and it did not. Nor did it produce a permanent schism. So we really do not know how this will turn out. Our concern should be solely to do what is right and just, and let God sort out the consequences.

How can your book help people to understand the present crisis?

Just last week, Cardinal Gerhard Müller raised the heresy question in regard to Pope Francis. He is right to do that. And as a recent head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the same high position held by Benedict XVI under Pope John Paul II — his opinion demands serious attention from other Catholic bishops who have been cowardly silent, as Archbishop Vigano stated on Twitter.

My book settles the heresy question by locating the intellectual history of Amoris Laetitia. Once you understand the historical context, you can see that Pope Francis is a formal heretic because he follows Charles Curran in rejecting the divine authority of the Bible on matters of sexual morality. On their view, the Ten Commandments have no validity or authority. Indeed, Francis is calling for a “cultural revolution” as he stated in his apostolic letter. But we must reject his “paradigm shift” because it leads straight to hell.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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