Lake Cadore, 2007: Perhaps in those days nothing said ''New Evangelization'' more clearly to excitable young Catholics than the sight of Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, determinedly praying the Rosary, with Terminator shades, combat pants and hiking shoes. The look of ''cool orthodoxy'' was mimicked by plenty of young priests in sunglasses and cassocks, as well as young adults in ''X-treme Papa'' t-shirts. Ah, but a great deal has happened to make us all grow up a lot since then...
On Monday, the Vox Cantoris blog asked some important questions regarding the ''climate of fear'' in the revolutionary Vatican of Francis. This set me on the whole train of thought which follows...
There was a time when young Catholics used to look to figures like Archbishop Ganswein as models of orthodoxy and evangelization for a new generation. After all, it seemed that he had to be a bit special to have been made an archbishop at such a young age; and to have been picked by Pope Benedict XVI as his very own right-hand man.
And when the aging Benedict's health started to fail him, it was so often consoling to see the smiling Ganswein guiding the frail pontiff by the arm like some devoted, favourite son.
Even when Benedict ''retired'' to pray in his newly ''cloistered'' life in the Vatican enclosure, Ganswein cheerily appeared from time to time to keep the world up to date on all things Benedict.
In sickness and in health: Georg Ganswein always seemed to be there at just the right time.
Articulate, intelligent and dashing, Archbishop Ganswein gave engaging media interviews that seemed to reach out with the Faith to young people and to the interests and concerns of contemporary society.
For me at least, the wheels of that particular bandwagon fell off on Pentecost Sunday 2014. When Pope Francis invited leaders of different religions to ''pray together for world peace'' in the Vatican Gardens, I was bemused by Archbishop Ganswein's actions. I just could not understand how any man, let alone an archbishop with a reputation for orthodoxy, could go along so merrily with something which the Catholic Faith actually forbids.
And yet, as the live television footage showed, there was Archbishop Ganswein grinning and fawning over each of the guests as they arrived.
I was beyond scandalized that day.
The whole thing seemed to be the very antithesis of the real Pentecost; wherein the Holy Ghost brings unity to all peoples in and through the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which was founded by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Indeed, although the sun was shining in Rome - and it was baking down here in England too - I had a strange experience of the sky going spiritually black and much evil being unleashed on the earth on that day.
I also decided to keep a much closer eye on Archbishop Georg Ganswein whenever he appeared at papal events in the future. It began to seem strange to me that he could be such a close assistant to both Pope Benedict XVI and to Pope Francis.
Even the greatest of pontiffs have tended to replace the very best of papal advisors with their own men upon ascending the Throne of Peter. In part, it is just a normal aspect of human nature.
And yet, as Francis' Prefect of the Papal Household and Benedict's Private Secretary, Archbishop Ganswein is the man who continues to spend so much time praying with and closely assisting Benedict, whilst also remaining very closely associated with Francis. Given that Francis is pulling such revolutionary u-turns from several of Benedict's key policies, to say nothing of 2,000 years of Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it does seem odd that no-one has yet wondered about a conflict of interests.
The ''Two Popes'' Hypothesis
Perhaps none of this would seem so strange, if it had not been for Archbishop Ganswein's bizarre speech to the Pontifical Gregorian University in May 2016.
In the same period that Pope Francis' Holy See Press Office suddenly released a statement, purporting to be from Pope Benedict, to deny 1 Peter 5's claims about Fr. Ingo Dollinger and the Third Secret of Fatima - a denial made more unusual by the speed of its release, its failure to express itself in a way that sounded like Benedict himself, and by the lack of Benedict's own signature - Archbishop Ganswein confused the world by seeming to suggest that the papacy was now some kind of diarchy.
As translations from Rorate Caeli demonstrated at the time, Archbishop Ganswein had suggested to attendees, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, that Pope Benedict had ''profoundly and lastingly'' transformed the papacy in February 2013.
His Grace also acknowledged that the Conclave of 2005 had been the ''outcome of a battle'' between the Ratzingerians and the so-called ''St. Gallen group''. He even suggested that this struggle was the background to understanding Benedict's famous ''Dictatorship of Relativism'' homily, as Dean of the College of Cardinals.
But the most startling of ''revelations'' made by Ganswein that day in Rome, was his claim that Pope Benedict had not abandoned his papal ministry. Instead, he suggested that Benedict had built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry, as if he had wanted to reiterate once again the invitation contained in his motto of co-workers with the truth. In the next section of his speech, Ganswein even went so far as to contend that there are not two popes but de facto an expanded ministry, with an active member and a contemplative member.
As we responded last May, this is completely illogical.
Just as disturbing was Ganswein's oddly relativistic summary of different viewpoints that have emerged since February 2013. He stated: ''So it is not surprising... that some have seen it as revolutionary, or otherwise as entirely consistent with the Gospel, while still others see in this way a secularized papacy as never before, and thus more collegial and functional, or even simply more humane and less sacred. And still others are of the opinion that Benedict XVI, with this step, has almost - speaking in theological and historical-critical terms - demythologized the papacy.''
The irony in Ganswein's weirdly convoluted discussion, is that he seemed to legitimate the claims of the likes of Fr. Paul Kramer and Antonio Socci regarding the invalidity of Benedict's abdication. After all, Our Lord founded the Church on St. Peter and his successors; there simply cannot be two popes validly reigning at one time. The papacy can be a monarchy, but never a diarchy.
What can be said of the Catholicism of a man who believes, thinks and speaks in this manner?
What's with the Hand-Signs Georg?
This will be the third time that I have drawn attention to something which has likely already lost me credibility with a number of folks. So be it, the truth needs to be studied.
Many of us were deeply disturbed by the highly choreographed event that marked Pope Benedict's 65th anniversary of priesthood during the summer of 2016. Catholics around the globe were confused when they could not reconcile the medicated-looking Pope Benedict's touchy-feely speech to Francis, with the deeply rational and nuanced articulation that had always typified his actions, speeches and copious writings before.
Not only that, but his famous request for Catholics to pray for him that he would not flee for fear of the wolves took on a distinctly creepy quality, when he said to Francis: ''Thank you Holy Father - your goodness - from the first day of your election, every day of my life here moves me interiorly, brings me inwardly more than the Vatican Gardens... Your goodness is the place in which I live and where I feel protected''.
Frankly, that un-Ratzingerian squishyness and philosophical improbability - ''your goodness is the place''??? - raises the question: from whom, or even what, does the Emeritus feel protected? And why does he need protecting?
Anyway, where I perhaps skated onto thinner ice was my request for readers to view the footage of those 65th celebrations. At the 35:20 mark, at the very moment that the camera focuses on him, Archbishop Ganswein is seen looking intently at the speaking Benedict, whilst also perfecting the kind of Diamond hand-sign so favoured by elites in the world of global government, international banking and world-wide pop-culture.
Careful observation in slow-motion - and this has been confirmed by two people in different countries - reveals that Ganswein moves his head forward a little at a time, whilst always looking right into Benedict's face. He appears to be trying to attract Benedict's attention; or else to subtly communicate something to him.
At that point, Benedict actually closes his eyes, whilst simultaneously making the Diamond hand-sign himself.
As soon as Ganswein sees this hand-sign being formed by Benedict, he visibly relaxes, drops the hand-sign himself and adjusts his stole slightly.
Francis is then shown clasping his own hands. At the very moment that Francis appears to be forming his own hands into a Diamond, the camera moves off and a close-up image of Benedict making the Diamond hand-sign fills the screen. Thus a subliminal link between the hands of Benedict and Francis could be said to have been established.
These events, including the camera work, are highly choreographed. If one watches Archbishop Ganswein at work, through video footage, it becomes clear that he is a very efficient and focused ''M.C.'' at papal events.
This continues with Pope Francis. For example, moments before Francis scandalized Catholics everywhere - on the 13th October anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima - by receiving a giant bound-copy of Luther's 93 theses, Ganswein can again be seen on film momentarily making the Diamond hand-sign toward those making the presentation.
As these things are so clearly ''hidden in plain sight'', it would be interesting to learn what exactly is being conveyed by them. Especially since a pontiff receiving the anti-Catholic theses of an arch-heresiarch is both heretical and scandalous.
Is Georg's Religion Fideism Rather than Catholicism?
Two bishops dressed in white: an unusual picture in the entire 2,000 year history of the Catholic Church. Closer inspection reveals the face of Archbishop Georg Ganswein grinning on from behind the scenes (at left).
I do not recommend readers to consult NovusOrdoWatch, due to that group's hardline sedevacantism. Nevertheless, they have done a service by providing a translation of an interview with Archbishop Ganswein that was released - amazingly on Christmas Day! - by the Austrian ORF channel.
At the very end of that interview - just as you may have been lulled to sleep by the mundanity of the rest of the interview settling on your Christmas turkey and mulled wine - Ganswein appears to deny the basic principle that the existence of God can be known by natural reason alone.
As the First Vatican Council magisterially affirmed in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius: the existence of God can be known through natural reason. Whilst to know Who God is, as the Most Holy Trinity, we require the grace of Divine Revelation. And so, faith and reason go together. This is a bedrock of the Faith that we often imparted in the days that we were involved in the formation of lay catechists around England.
It is so foundational that the First Vatican Council went so far as to declare anathama sit! on any who deny the capacity of natural reason to discover the existence of God.
And yet, in contradiction to the First Vatican Council, the teaching of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi, Bl. Pope Pius IX's approved decree in the Sacred Congregation of the Index, and St. Thomas Aquinas' 5 Proofs for the Existence of God, Archbishop Ganswein's Christmas interview appears to promote the heresy of Fideism.
For, if the translation is accurate, he suggests that: ''There is neither proof that God exists, nor proof that God does not exist. Faith does not operate based on rational proof.''
Although the archbishop does go on to talk about the importance of witness, I am sure you will agree, his is a strange message for such a high-ranking prelate to be spreading abroad as the Church celebrates the Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus on Christmas Day!
The report of his words sounds a lot more akin to the heresy of Fideism, than to anything close to orthodox Catholicism.
Who are You Georg?
Last night, we read Dr. Maike Hickson's article at 1 Peter 5, regarding Pope Francis' seemingly heavy-handed intervention to rid the CDF of three good and faithful priests on the staff. Men who, in two cases at least, appear to have been reported by someone for speaking too loudly against Francis' revolution...
This seems to be all of a piece with Francis' third harsh Christmas address in as many years to the Curia; and his radical re-staffing and re-structuring of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Academy for Life.
As various commentators have observed, it seems that good and orthodox men in Rome not only live in fear now, but also face dismissal for remaining too visibly faithful to the True Faith.
Given that scenario, it does invite the question as to what kind of men find promotion in the days of Francis?
Well, we already have our answer when it is remembered that faithful men like Cardinal Burke are sidelined, or undercut like Cardinal Robert Sarah, whilst sacrilege-enabling figures like Blase Cupich, Joseph Tobin, Kevin Farrell and Jozef De Kesel are raised to the cardinalate by Francis...
To caricature Socrates' final days in prison, if it has become a crime to tell the truth, then why are you not in prison? In the same way, if good men get the boot in Francis' Vatican, then what does it mean to still be near to the top?
Archbishop Ganswein has publicly done a number of questionable things in terms of Catholic orthodoxy.
As this article has demonstrated, he has: promoted a heretical-sounding concept of the papacy; spoken breezily of a secularized and ''demythologized'' papacy; acknowledged the existence of a St. Gallen group that was against Benedict (and yet with whom Ganswein now seems quite content to work closely with); taken part with Francis in the reception of Luther's heretical 93 theses; been seen to make unusual hand-gestures at key moments during choreographed meetings with Benedict and Francis; seemingly uttered the heresy of Fideism during a Christmas interview.
I don't ever remember Archbishop Ganswein behaving in this manner when his close friend Benedict XVI was Pope.
At the same time, he has remained smilingly silent in the face of the grave problems surrounding Amoris Laetitia, the papal silence regarding the Dubia, the elevation of, let us say, ''problematic'' men to the cardinalate, and the persecution and sidelining of orthodox men.
Last night, the Canadian Vox Cantoris blog asked: ''How does someone like Archbishop Ganswein remain in the service of Francis to witness directly the destruction of the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI? Is Ganswein a ''double-agent''? Is he Benedict's keeper in his monastic prison only to be let out for a circus now and then?''
Under the circumstances, these seem legitimate questions to be asking.
Given that orthodox men seem to be no longer welcome in Rome, faithful Catholics everywhere must ask of Georg Ganswein: What is your religion? Who do you serve? Why do you remain so popular with Francis when so many orthodox men are toppled or live in fear? Why are you not speaking out to defend Catholic orthodoxy?
In sum: Who are you, Georg Ganswein?
St. George - Pray for us!