Father Missigbètò: The Pope’s New Clothes

on the dismissal of Bishop Joseph Edward Strickland
Cotonou (Benin); 25 November 2023
Memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Patron Saint of philosophers

Dear Father,

May Jesus Christ, Our God and Lord, Supreme Wisdom and King of the Universe, bless you abundantly! My open letter of 18 November 2023 announced today’s letter, which will be a philosophical justification explaining, with humility and respect, why Bishop Joseph Strickland was right to criticize publicly the moral and doctrinal errors of your magisterium.

May St. Catherine of Alexandria, Patron Saint of philosophers, whose feast day it is, obtain from Jesus the Holy Spirit, Who will help us to meditate on the following lines! May this letter help us to better understand the sad situation of the Church today, to which Pope Francis has presented as “authentic magisterium” what in reality is not! To explain the problem better, we can use a tale by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) which will serve as a parable…

A. The Emperor’s new clothes

Many years ago, there lived an emperor who loved new clothes more than anything else… One day, two swindlers arrived who claimed to be weavers and to be able to weave the most beautiful fabric imaginable… but the clothes made from it would have the astonishing property of being invisible to those who were not suited to their functions or who were simply stupid… They set up two looms but pretended to work, because there was absolutely no thread on the loom. They asked for the finest silk and the most precious gold, which they took for themselves, and remained on their empty looms until well into the night.

“I’d like to know where they’re with the fabric,” said the emperor to himself… “I will send my old and honest minister to the weavers.”… So the old and good minister went to the workshop where the two swindlers were sitting, working on their empty looms… “My God!” he thought, “Am I stupid?… Would I be unfit for my job? No, I mustn’t say I can’t see the fabric.” “Well, what do you think?” asked one of the weavers. “Oh, it’s lovely, the most beautiful thing!” replied the old minister… “That pattern and those colors! I’ll be sure to tell the emperor that I like it all!”… The emperor soon sent another honest official to see how the work was progressing… “Yes, it’s quite wonderful!” he told the emperor… and the emperor wanted to see it with his own eyes… “How!” thought the emperor, “But I can’t see anything! How dreadful! Am I stupid? Am I not cut out to be emperor? It would be the most terrible thing that could ever happen to me.” “Magnificent, ravishing, perfect!” he said at last, “I give my highest approval!”…

All the members of the suite who had accompanied him looked and looked; but as with all the others, nothing appeared to them and they all said, like the emperor: “It’s really very beautiful!”… The emperor took off all his beautiful clothes and the swindlers pretended to put on him each piece of the new garment… The chamberlains who were to carry the train of the court mantle groped the floor with their hands, pretending to catch and lift the train… This is how the emperor walked in front of the procession under the magnificent canopy, and everyone in the street or at their window would say: “The emperor’s new clothes are admirable! What a beautiful mantle with train, how splendidly it is spread out!” No one wanted to let on that they did not see anything, since that would have shown that they were incapable in their function or simply stupid. No new emperor’s clothes had ever been so successful.

“But he has no clothes at all!” cried a little child in the crowd. “Hear the voice of innocence!” said the father; and everyone whispered to his neighbor what the child had said. Then the whole crowd began to shout, “But he has no clothes at all!” The emperor shivered, for it seemed to him that the people were right, but he said to himself: “Now I must stand my ground until the procession is over.” And so the procession went on its way, and the chamberlains continued to carry the train, which did not exist.

B. The new clothes of Pope Francis and the drama of today’s Church

O my Father, let us now analyze the previous tale by applying it to the current reality of our Church. The philosophical tool suited to this task is the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). It consists of observing facts attentively and analyzing them objectively and without prejudice in order to arrive at their essential content. We will then have a better understanding of the drama being experienced by Pope Francis’ Church.

O my Father, on 19 March 2016, in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, you spoke of “remarried” divorcees in the following terms: “in such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’” (note 329). On 5 September 2016, together with some Argentine bishops, you stated that “the commitment to live in continence can be proposed. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option… the mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible” (Letter from the Bishops of the Pastoral Region of Buenos Aires, 5-6). On 5 June 2017, you ordered Cardinal Pietro Parolin to publish the Argentinian bishops’ letter (containing the above three sentences) in the official Vatican archives, presenting them as “Magisterium authenticum” (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 108; pp. 1071-1074; www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/2016/acta-ottobre2016.pdf).

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