In 2017, news broke that Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia had commissioned a gay artist to do a mural for the inside of his cathedral. The mural was shockingly homoerotic, and even featured a depiction of the archbishop himself. I wrote about it here.
Pope Francis moved sexy Archbishop Paglia over to be Grand Chancellor of Rome’s John Paul II Institute, described by George Weigel “the hub of several affiliated institutes around the world, was a key instrument for deepening the entire Church’s reception of John Paul’s 1993 encyclical on the reform of the moral life, Veritatis Splendor.” It has now become indisputably clear that Paglia is destroying the institute — this, as a move by senior Vatican progressives to reverse the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Weigel:
So these stubborn and, it now seems, ruthless men bided their time. In recent years, they have continued to lose every serious debate on the nature of the moral life, on the morality of conjugal life, on sacramental discipline, and on the ethics of human love; and the more intelligent among them know it, or at least fear that that’s the case. So in a bizarre repetition of the anti-Modernist purge of theological faculties that followed Pius X’s 1907 encyclical Pascendi, they have now abandoned argument and resorted to thuggery and brute force in order to win what they had failed to win by scholarly debate and persuasion.
That unbecoming score-settling is why the senior faculty of the John Paul II Institute was abruptly dismissed last week, and that is why there is absolutely no guarantee that, in the immediate future, the Institute that bears his name will have any resemblance to what John Paul II intended for it. Cardinal Angelo Scola, emeritus archbishop of Milan and a former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, described what is afoot in Rome these days as “torpedoing” the John Paul II Institute through an academic “purge.” 150 students of the Institute signed a letter saying that the changes underway will destroy the institute’s identity and mission; in the present Roman circumstances, they have about as much chance of being heard as Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky had at the Moscow Purge Trials in 1937-38.
That these Stalinistic acts of intellectual brigandage against the theological and pastoral heritage of Pope St. John Paul II are being carried out by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia – who came to international attention in 2017 for having commissioned a homoerotic fresco in the apse of the cathedral of Terni-Narni-Amelia – is ironic in the extreme. Paglia was simply another ambitious cleric when his work as ecclesiastical advisor to the Sant’Egidio Community drew him to John Paul’s attention. Years of sycophancy followed, during which Paglia would brag about how he had turned the pope around on the subject of murdered Salvador archbishop Oscar Romero by telling John Paul that “Romero was not the Left’s bishop, he was the Church’s bishop.” Paglia’s appointment as Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Institute – a position for which he had and has no discernible qualifications – was puzzling when it happened two years ago. But now it, too, comes into focus: he is acting precisely like those who manipulated the Synods of 2014, 2015, and 2018, i.e., another cabal of ambitious (and, frankly, not-so-bright) clerics who continually lost arguments and then tried to compensate by brutality and threats.
Gay-enthusiast Archbishop Paglia may be the hatchet man, but the responsibility for this belongs to Pope Francis. It is shocking to realize that most of the work of one of the Catholic Church’s greatest and most consequential popes, St. John Paul II, can be undone in a single papacy. Francis is making the rock (“upon this rock”) look like Silly Putty. (See Josh Harris’s line.)
The times are evil.