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A turbulent priest goes on the warpath against the ‘bad masters’ of the Italian Catholic Church

A monk, two popular priests and even a Vatican cardinal have felt the wrath of an Opus Dei scholar

By on Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cardinal Ravasi (CNS)

Cardinal Ravasi (CNS)

Italy has just witnessed a quite extraordinary outburst of rudeness from one of the country’s most prominent Catholics. A leading Opus Dei priest has described a monk regarded by some as a new Francis of Assisi as “substantially atheist” and a “prophet of the end of Catholicism”. And he has accused a clutch of clerics, including a senior Vatican cardinal, of being “bad masters” leading the faithful astray.

Who is this turbulent priest? Step forward Mgr Antonio Livi, former dean of the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He was once a pupil of the celebrated French Thomist Étienne Gilson and today is a visiting professor at the University of Navarra in Spain. Mgr Livi is a formidable scholar and a Catholic philosopher of the first rank.

That makes his attack on Enzo Bianchi, prior of the ecumenical Monastic Community of Bose near Turin, all the more wounding. This is what he said about Bianchi: “Catholics consider him a master of spirituality, a new St Francis of Assisi able to re-propose to the Christians of today the Gospel sine glossa. But the scripture in his speeches is not the Word of God preserved and interpreted by the Church but only a rhetorical device for his propaganda in favour of a humanism that is nominally Christian but substantially atheist.”

Mgr Livi said that Bianchi was thus a “prophet of the end of Catholicism”, preaching a “Christianity that has to be modern, open, non-hierarchical and non-dogmatic, that is, in essence, non-Catholic”.

Mgr Livi must have known that his remarks would provoke uproar. Bianchi is one of the most popular Catholic personalities in Europe today, writing regularly for La Stampa, Avvenire, La Repubblica and Famiglia Cristiana in Italy and La Croix, Panorama and La Vie in France.

Mgr Livi has a history of lashing out at widely admired figures in the Italian Church, including the Focolare theologian Mgr Piero Coda and Fr David Maria Turoldo. He has described both men as “bad masters”. And he attached the same label to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, a possible successor to Pope Benedict, accusing the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture of denying the doctrine of original sin.

According to these “theologians,” Mgr Livi argues, “the more you are progressive, against the Magisterium, against Padre Pio, in favour of Protestants and Buddhists, the more you are truly Christian”.

The third-century martyr St Cyprian once said that there is “no lack of lilies or roses” in the Church (Nec lilia nec rosae desunt). He meant, of course, that the Church contains diverse personalities with often sharply contrasting views. It is only natural that roses occasionally prick the lilies. Mgr Livi, one of the roses, is free to criticise Bianchi and the other lilies. But he is wrong to suggest that the lilies have no place in the vast garden of the Church.

  • JabbaPapa

    A finely balanced article, written with an obviously deep understanding of the subtleties and nuances of good Italian.

    Thumbs up !!

  • Benedict Carter

    ” …  prior of the ecumenical Monastic Community …”.

    As soon as you read these words you know that the “new St. Francis” is one of the Nu-Church hop-heads who have destroyed not only monasticism but orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. 

    I am rather heartened by some of the recent actions taken against these post-Vatican II liberal destroyers and barbarians who have betrayed the Faith so grievously, whether in Ireland recently, this attack, and others. 

    Now we wait for the useless Carinal Shonborn in Austria to discipline the openly-heretical priests’ “movement” in that country, Hans Kung to be liacised (fifty years late, but better late than never), ditto Rembert Weakland in the USA, and the SSPX to be regularized. 

    Better days coming, maybe. But why oh why has it taken Rome so long? So much terrible damage done, so much grief caused, so many souls lost.

  • guest

    “…so many souls lost”

    How do you know? You don’t.

  • Warren

    It’s not unreasonable to suggest that many souls have been lost, especially given the circumstance that wolves have been spreading lies among the sheep which has led to a widespread loss of faith. We would be terribly naive to ignore the following signs, two for starters, that many souls are perdition bound: rampant liturgical abuse and the widespread practice among Catholics of artificial contraception.

    The Mother of God, too, has weighed in on the matter. Those messages of Our Lady which the Church recognizes as authentic are worth serious consideration. I’d say there is good reason to fear that many souls have been and are being lost.

  • Wendell

    “But he is wrong to suggest that the lilies have no place in the vast garden of the Church.”

    That is, if they are in fact lilies and not weeds. Surely, as discerning christians, we know better than to equate popularity with orthodoxy.

    Holy Write warns: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. 2Tim 4:3-4.

    That word from the Gardener’s Handbook is sage advice. Like the Good Gardener, Msgr. Livi has a keen eye for weeds. And, like any good gardener, he does not waste time nor words getting on with the job of weeding. Msgr. Livi knows that unless the weed is pulled out by the roots, it will grow back. Let him get on with the weeding.

  • Wendell

    That should be “Holy Writ”.

  • Alan

    We cannot possibly know, or even begin to speculate, about how many souls have been lost, or whose they might be.  Only God can judge.  The words of Christ suggest that the saving of souls is far more to do with feeding the hungry etc. than with accepting a set of doctrinal statements.

  • Morrissey

    Maybe he’s just a ‘prick’ ?   

  • Parasum

    What about the criticisms ? Either they are – in part or entirely – justified; or, they without any justification. Which of these three possibilities correctly describes the criticism of each person mentioned by Mgr. Livi ? And what is the standard by which Fr. Livi makes these judgments ? (He sounds fairly traditional-minded.)

    “And he attached the same label to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, a possible successor to Pope Benedict, accusing the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture of denying the doctrine of original sin.”

    ## Either he did – or he didn’t. Which ? What gives Mgr. Livi the impression that he did ? *If* the accusation is to any degree justified, “bad master” is a very mild description of the Cardinal.

    A certain priest & founder whom a recent Pope called “an efficacious guide to youth” turned out to have feet made entirely of clay. Certain priests in the US who were widely admired turned out to be  somewhat similar. There have been similar lamentable disclosures elsewhere about other priests with very high reputations.
    This is very sad – but such cases (though not numerous; the “other” scandals are a different matter) are realities; these things have either been admitted, or proved in some other way. So such things do happen, even when the accused seems to be the last person on earth to be guilty as accused.

    As for being “rude” – what about the “rudeness” of Isaiah or Ezekiel, or of the Lord Himself  ? Mgr.Livi is exceedingly restrained compared to Isaiah 1 or Matthew 23. But who complains of Jesus or Isaiah for their savage attacks on religious hypocrisy, or on the Jerusalemites & Pharisees & scribes ? Complaining that somnething is rude needs to avoid becoming a pldea for letting sleeping dogs lie, and not rocking the boat.

    “Fr Bianchi is one of the most popular Catholic personalities in Europe today…”

    ## I hope that is not meant to be an argument for him. It is without merit, as popularity is no measure of goodness, & unpopularity no measure or proof of badness. Sometimes, the majority is wrong: as the Bible often shows.

  • Parasum

    I missed the “ecumenical Monastic Community”. That is *foul*. Sounds remiscent of the disgusting “martyrology” one of these Italian groups perpetrated a while ago.

    What is a “hop-head” ? It is difficult to visualise. 

    Here’s the group’s “Ecumenical Martyrology”:

    http://www.monasterodibose.it/content/section/34/484/lang,en/

    This kind of ghastliness *needs* to be attacked, so *kudos* to Mgr Livi. The description of Bianchi sounds spot-on. To compare him with St. Francis, who was utterly Catholic, is grotesque.

  • Patrickhowes

    Why has it taken so long?We had to wait for Benedict as the Jews waited for a Messiah!.
    Man is the instrument of his own destruction and Man has always been disobedient through original sin.The Holy Father has set the record straight and has returned the Church to orthodoxy.His brilliance has allowed him to show people the error of their ways rather than judging them.He is successfully able to judge the sin and not the sinner.He has not excommunicated thousands of confused religious but rather pastorally held up a mirror to their face.Time to Thank God and encourage people to start acting and thinking like Catholics again.A time for celebration at long last and to look forward….Msgr Livi is a,living expression of the courage that Opus Dei has always shown and that is why it has survived in tact,despite all the negative propganda thrown at it

  • nytor

    ” …  prior of the ecumenical Monastic Community …”.As soon as you read these words you know that the “new St. Francis” is one of the Nu-Church hop-heads who have destroyed not only monasticism but orthodoxy in the Catholic Church.”Hear, hear!

  • Eriugena

     Enzo Bianchi is NOT a priest, and not even a deacon; so he can’t be referred to as “Fr. Bianchi”.

  • licjjs

    The point is not who is offended or not, not who is rude or not, but: what is the truth of the matter?  Who is preaching the Truth?  As St Paul says: “If we ourselves or an angel from Heaven should preach to you a Gospel other than the one I have already preached, let him be anathema.”  If it is true that someone is questioning Original sin, then he is hardly a lily or a rose, is he?  Theologians cause more problems in the Church than any other group of people.  I have often wondered whether they become intoxicated by their own ideas of God?  Any ideas that help us to come closer to God are of course to be welcomed, but an idea about God is not God and it is only in the revelation of Christ, in Christ Himself,  that we have any insight into what God is like.  As St John of the Cross says, Christ is a deep mine in which the deeper one digs the greater the riches one finds.  In the Church, the main role of the Bishop is to be the latest in a long line stretching back to the first apostles of witnesses to the Resurrection.  If it is not up to the Bishops to make stuff up but to mine the deep riches of Christ and preach him in a way that rouses up our Faith and confirms it, then it is certainly not up to theologians. 

    “O veritas, veritas! quam intime etiam tum medullae animi mei suspirabant tibi” (St Augustine)

  • Charles Martel

    No one told this Monsignore that he should restrict himself to constructive criticism, avoiding all polemics, and not presume to set himself up as a judge over fellow clerics. I think we’ll have to slap a Doctrinal Preamble on him.

  • http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/ The Catholic Herald

    Thank you for pointing this out. We will correct the post

  • JByrne24

    Mgr Antonio Livi is possibly an element in a campaign to help ensure that the present Holy Father’s successor is also a conservative traditionalist.
    I trust (and expect) a similar campaign to get under way to foster an alternative view.

    Cardinal Ravasi for Pope!!

  • JByrne24

    QUOTE: “the Nu-Church hop-heads  - 
    destroyed not only monasticism but orthodoxy - 
    liberal destroyers and barbarians - 
    betrayed the Faith so grievously - 
    useless Carinal Shonborn - 
    openly-heretical priests - 
    Hans Kung to be liacised - 
     terrible damage done - 
    so much grief caused, so many souls lost - 
    total rubbish”- and a few more.  

    Is Benedict a Nu-Protestant?

  • JByrne24

    Maybe Warren has Fatima in mind (?)

  • Caterina

    Bianchi is a heretic and you must know it otherwise you would not have written this fatuous article.

  • Parasum

    TY for the correction :)  – that’s what one gets for trusting a secondary source (the CH) over a primary source (the website of Monasterio di Bose)

  • Paolo Gambi

    The mistake was mine. Nobody in Italy would ever call him “Father”, but we call him “Fr Enzo Bianchi”. “Fr” in Italian means “Fratel’”, that is “Brother”. Paolo Gambi

  • Paolo Gambi

    The mistake was mine. Nobody in Italy would ever call him “Father”, but we call him “Fr Enzo Bianchi”. “Fr” in Italian means “Fratel’”, that is “Brother”. Paolo Gambi

  • Benedict Carter

    I don’t, no. But one can certainly infer it. Since Vatican II millions have voted with their feet and have stopped assisting at Mass and have stopped going to Confession. 

    As Christ’s own words are that without the Eucharist “you have no life in you”, it is certain therefore that millions have placed their immortal souls in grave jeopardy as the Great Apostasy has taken hold. And with no Confession of any mortal sins these millions upon millions may have committed, and therefore no forgiveness, hell is the destination at death, isn’t it?

    It’s all basic Catholic stuff, isn’t it? Surprised you couldn’t work it out for yourself.

  • Alan

    But, as I have already pointed out, none of us can possibly know the state of somebody’s soul at death, let alone whether they have committed unforgiven mortal sins.  And what makes you so sure that, without Vatican II, mass attendance etc. would have held up?  Personally I think it would have fallen even more.

  • Benedict Carter

    Hop-head: occasional slang for a user of marajuana. 

  • Benedict Carter

    You are free to think so.

  • annodomini6

    you are really living in a dream world. Do not write such nonsense.

  • annodomini6

    It sounds like you have not heard of the fatima message. Our Blessed
    Mother showed the children a vision of hell where they saw many many souls in the fires of hell and She told the children that many souls are lost because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices
    for them.I would say the words of Christ suggest that it is better to enter into heaven maimed or with missing eyes or feet than with one’s
    whole body well fed to be cast into the fires of hell.

  • buckle

    The new movements (including Focolare) are essentially unregulated and herectical. Opus Dei is, for the most part, an exception. It’s good to see this type of debate launched.

  • huanggua804

     http://www.choosegoods.org

  • Benedict Carter

    100% right Buckle. One of the worst is the Neo-Catechumenate way, whose foundational writings by “Kiko” or whoever it is are entirely LUTHERAN is nature. There is a good website on the heresies of the Neocats here:

    http://www.cathud.com/links/pages_MR/Neocatechumenal_Way_Kiko_Arguello.htm

    I am astonished that the Pope signed off on this movement not long ago (albeit with very serious reservations about its scandalous liturgy). They may be strongly pro-life, but they are protestants. 

  • buckle

    The problems arise from the refusal of these movements to be of service and professing obedience to the parish priest and ultimately the bishop. This is exasperated by the diminished role of the priesthood which the bishops have made worse by seeing their own function grow exponentially along the lines of a corporate CEO and the role of the priest reduced to no more than a defective bishop. Worse still, the emergence of conferences has seen bishops modelling themselves on cabinet ministers with Vincent Nichols for example, functioning as primeminister.

  • Al_Kilo

    Criticisms coming from the worshipers of “ordinary little things” instead of Loving God and Neighbor?
    Criticisms of those for whom “holiness” only comes from “intransigence, coercion and shamelessness”, instead of practicing theological and cardinal virtues?
    Criticisms from those that co-poted St Benectics Opus Die that meant for centureries, prayer?
    Criticisms of those that adopted the Masonic saying “work is prayer”, against specific teachings of doctors of the church for centuries?
    Criticisms from those that use double speak, to say that to be poor is to be rich, thus releasing their members from Biblical obligations?
    Criticisms form those that have undermined canon law for the last 3 decades?
    Criticisms from worshipers of a fraudulently appointed “saint” after their operatives removed the office of promoter of faith?
    Criticisms from those that protected Fr Maciel?
    Criticisms from those that helped cover up sex abuse allegations for decades?
    Criticisms from those that supported corrupt banks in Spain, and now control the Vatican Bank and lie about fraud (“mistakes”), and dare lecture world on “ethics”?
    Criticism from those that now self appoint their Vatican “police” to shut people up, as not to have leaks reveal their corrupt dealings in the curia over the last decades?
    What a fringing joke!
    Look in the mirror, Mgr Livi

  • Al_Kilo

    “Opus Die” is as bad, if not worse, with their non christian theology of cheating.