Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis at the Crossroads

I have intentionally not posted anything for a few days because I wanted to take some time to think and pray. My thoughts on the new pontiff are mixed, but overall he has my confidence and I believe (hope?) the Church will be in a better place at the end of his pontificate.

Much of the concern and discussion is due to the fact that we simply don't know anything about this man, save for a few anecdotes and some Youtube videos from Argentina. He could be a pope the Lord has blessed us with, or he could be a pope the Lord is inflicting upon us; either really is possible. His pontificate could go good or bad.

Thus, in as objective a manner as possible, I have here reflected on seven ways the pontificate of Francis could really go wrong, and seven ways it could really be successful. Because I want to save the hopeful stuff for last, let's start with what I perceive are seven ways the pontificate of Francis can really get derailed.

Seven Ways the Pontificate of Pope Francis I Could Go Bad

1. Initial reports of Pope Francis' management style when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires are not good. Regardless of his personal piety, it appears that his archdiocese is in disarray and his priests are out of control; this comes from anecdotal stories of Catholics in the federal city of Buenos Aires. He may be sincerely humble, but if his humility gets in the way of effective management, the problems in the Curia, the homoheresy, etc. could only get worse under this pontificate, especially if he appoints the wrong people in the wrong places.

2. At his first appearance on the loggia, Pope Francis deliberately dispensed with two symbols of the papal office, the red ermine mozzetta and the papal stole (although to be fair, he did wear it during his blessing, but took it off immediately afterward, unlike Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I and earlier popes who have retained the mozzetta and stole throughout their entire appearance on the loggia. Presumably, the pope dispensed with these symbols in favor of a more simplistic approach, perhaps out of a disdain for 'pomp'; there is nothing wrong with this prima facie - many saints and popes have disdained 'pomp' and sometimes shocked their contemporaries by their simplicity. I don't want to make too much of this; a pope can do what he wants. This one issue is not a real problem; the only problem would be if Pope Francis universally and consistently associates beautiful or elaborate things with pomp and ends up unwittingly (or wittingly) dispensing with some of the last symbols of the papal authority in acts of misguided humility.

3. Decay of the liturgy is a big concern. Though there is much debate still going on about the true implementation of Summorum Pontificum in the federal city of Buenos Aires (and Rorate Caeli has demonstrated pretty persuasively that it was not only not implemented but positively obstructed), it is undeniable that precision in the liturgy is not one of the overriding concerns of Pope Francis. Liturgies he has presided over as Cardinal represent the Novus Ordo at its worst, and it looks as if we might be in for a throwback to the papal Masses of John Paul II. While most are in agreement that Summorum Pontificum itself is in no danger, a pope who does not care about precision in the liturgy denies with his actions that there is an intimate link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi. Given that, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out so poignantly, papal masses are liturgical paradigms of how the Church should worship, the dumbed-down liturgies of a "low church" pope could thus spread throughout the Church, effectively undoing the intimate connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi that Benedict tried so hard to emphasize and which was truly the center message of his papacy. In effect, the practical liturgical gains made during Benedict's papacy could be completely undone.

4. Reform is a tricky word. We all want reform, but what reform looks like comes down to semantics. While we all want 'reform of the Curia', there is the chance that Pope Francis might believe that reform means weakening the Curia at the expense of strengthening regional episcopal conferences; in other words, decentralization. His words on the night of his election omitting any reference to the office of Universal Pastor, Supreme Pontiff or Vicar of Christ, choosing instead only to refer to himself as Bishop of Rome and to speak only about the Diocese of Rome, could mean that he intends to be viewed as a first among equals, just another one of the guys who takes the bus to work. This may be just his style, but if his style translates into policy and governance, then we can expect to see a great strengthening of episcopal conferences at the expense of a weakened Curia, which is absolutely not the kind of reform we need.

5. Judging from his time as Archbishop, and from videos going around the Internet, our present pope supports interreligious activities of the most vulgar sort. Should this tendency carry over into his papacy, we could see an Assisi IV, or perhaps something worse, as from the above video, it seemed that the then-Cardinal made no effort to even attempt to maintain the fictional distinction between prayer in common and commonly praying separately that John Paul 2 did, which was hogwash anyway. Bergoglio clearly prayed in common with Jews and pagans, and there is unfortunately the real possibility that this sort of thing will become more common.

6. The pope has personally "distanced" himself from liberation theology, whatever that means - I would prefer that he absolutely and unequivocally repudiated it altogether - but there is the possibility that the election of Pope Francis could not only mean that a Latin American Cardinal has taken the throne of Peter, but that this represents the beginning of an entire Latin American surge within the Church and emergence of Latin American prelates to other positions of power in Francis' pontificate. Since liberation theology is so rife in Latin America, there is an equal danger that an emerging interest in the Latin American Church might mean a renaissance in interest in liberation theology. The pope would not be personally responsible for this, but it is possible that his background and the growing power of Latin American prelates might lead to this.

7. Finally, and most terrifyingly, since Benedict XVI decided not to make the dossier known to the College but instead opted to hand it over to the new pope after the Conclave, there is always the possibility that Cardinal Bergoglio himself was one of the names mentioned in the dossier, in which case, the worldwide episcopal homoheresy will never be rooted out and can in fact be expected to deepen. If so, God help us.


Seven Ways the Pontificate of Pope Francis I Could Become Very Successful

1. Having previously been the Ordinary for Eastern Rite Catholics in Argentina, Pope Francis is familiar with the liturgical diversity of the eastern churches and may be the right man to pursue genuine ecumenical talks with the Orthodox. It has also been noted that the Pope has only one lung, and that John Paul II has famously referred to the Eastern Orthodox as the other "lung" of Christendom. Thus, it would be particularly appropriate if steps towards reconciliation were taken during this pontificate, and Francis would have the right background to facilitate such a reconciliation.

2. Whatever else we want to say about Pope Francis' background, he is clearly vehemently opposed to homosexuality. His opposition seems to be very straightforward and even borders on revulsion, which is a positive thing. We will certainly not get any sort of gaffes out of him akin to Benedict's condom statements. His strong opposition to homosexuality could hopefully translate into an incentive to root out the homoheresy from the Curia and truly crush the Lavender Mafia. Even now he has met with ex-pope Joseph Ratzinger and presumably has the dossier in hand and, Lord willing, will act on it.

3. It is a fact that in Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio did not have the best reputation as an administrator. But it is also acknowledged by all sides that he has a profound, almost monastic humility. If Benedict "taught" us that it is humble to know when you can't do your job, then hopefully the humility and meekness of Francis will lead him to understand that he needs to appoint very strong and faithful men to the Curial dicasteries and commissions. It is indeed a mark of humility to know when you need someone else to do a task, and his appointments will be critical. If what I am saying is true, look for more promotions of men like Burke. Hopefully the pope will follow this path and promote men who compliment his strengths.

4.Pope Francis seems to be the sort of man given to dramatic gestures. This could be a very positive thing for the Church, which is in dire need of dramatic, radically commitments to the faith. When in his first homily he stated that "He who does not worship Christ worships the devil," it became evident to me that here we have a pope who will not communicate in 95 page encyclicals full of philosophical jargon, but who is capable of truly speaking plainly and directly, which is something the Church sorely needs. If the pope can employ this candor in the defense of truth, he will quickly become the scourge of the progressives and will teach the truths of the faith very clearly. He only needs to open his mouth and speak.

5. The pope is clearly no friend of laissez-faire capitalism and has made some very strong statements against it. If he keeps this message up, we may see a broader interest in the Church's social teaching and Magisterial critiques of capitalism, which would be very welcome.

6. I know this is a real long shot, but many are chattering about this pope's intense Marian devotion and the possibility that he could consecrate Russia if he firmly believed it was God's will. He has also apparently maintained a cordial relationship with Father Gruner over the years and has some parishes in his diocese dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. I agree that a consecration is unlikely, but I see that he is more likely to do this than, say, Benedict or John Paul II.

7. Finally, and most importantly, it is possible that God has chosen someone with nothing too promising about them according to the world so that He might do mighty works through him and receive all the glory, even as Moses did, who was "very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). God often chooses the meek, the unpromising, the clumsy or the simple to put to shame the proud, the gifted, the skilled or the sophisticated. The grace of the office may work upon him, and we may stand with our jaws aghast as the pope does mighty works in the name of God, things we would have never expected out of him or seen it coming, things that we will look upon and say, "Surely, the hand of God was behind this." His extraordinarily decisive banning of Cardinal Law from his presence was one such move of boldness that I would have never expected from such a man but which I welcome with joy. I eagerly await what else the grace of the office might work through him; if he treats the Curia and the bishops of the world with the same candor he treated Law, he will work out just fine.


So, the pontificate can certainly go either way. No doubt there will be joys and sorrows, victories and defeats. I am committed to supporting and praying for him one way or another and I do not think a sincere Catholic could take any other position. I admit he is not what I wanted - not even close - but it is Christ's Church, and I probably would not have chosen Peter either had the decision been left up to me.

A few general points to sign off on: People keep praising the pope's humility and his Marian devotion as if these are strong points in his favor. I agree that they are points in his favor, but not in any extraordinary way. Praising a pope because he is humble and Marian is like praising a pope because he believes in God and goes to Mass on Sunday. Every pope is humble and Marian. Benedict XVI was an extraordinarily humble man, as was John Paul II, who was also very Marian. John XXIII was an extremely Marian pope, and Pius XII was humble, too. Every pope is supposed to be humble and Marian, so pointing these general characteristics out about Francis is really saying nothing at all other than saying something because we don't know what else to say.

Second, many today are reacting with indignation against the way certain Traditionalists, specifically those affiliated with Rorate Caeli, have reacted to the new pontiff's election. I admit that I found some of the comments in the Rorate Caeli comboxes to be over the top and distasteful. I must, however, note that there are very substantial reasons why Trads are concerned, reasons that go beyond protocol on the loggia on election night. The former Cardinal's Masses were some of the worst I've ever laid eyes on; he has openly prayed in common with Jews and pagans, emulating and even going beyond John Paul II; he has stated that he did not think the Anglican Ordinariate was necessary because the Church "needs" them more "as Anglicans"; he has intentionally obstructed the implementation of Summorum Pontificum in his diocese save for a single NO-EF hybrid.

I want to remind everyone that it is right to be upset about these things. It was because the scandalous Masses of John Paul II and the same pope's gestures towards other religions so disgusted me that I would become a Traditionalist. And while I agree that as pope, Francis has done none of these things yet, it is true that he as a man has in fact done these things, which I and many other Traditionalists consider to be gravely wrong. I certainly do not believe his conduct as a bishop will determine his conduct as pope, and I am as willing as the next person to give him the benefit of the doubt, but we do not need to go back retroactively and con ourselves into believing that everything this guy has every done has been awesome. It has not. By his own actions (not by the malice of Trads), he has earned a reputation as an enemy of Tradition, and I am flabbergasted as to why all of the focus is on the alleged anger of Traditionalists and not on the scandalous activities of then Cardinal Bergoglio that have justly merited the concern. It's just like when people say we have the problem because we can't get on board with John Paul II encouraging pagans to pray to their false gods in Catholic shrines. This may be John Paul II all over again.

Having faith in the Holy Spirit, I trust that things will be better than that, though. Francis' priorities may not be my priorities, but God knows what is needed. God bless Pope Francis and may his pontificate be truly blessed.

30 comments:

The Punisher said...

I hope he does to Mahony what he did to Law but I won't hold my breath.

Alan Aversa said...

We must redouble our prayers for the papal MC, Msgr. Guido Marini.

ALG Bass said...

Thank you.

As a traditional Ordinariate Catholic, you have written precisely what has been in my thoughts since the election of Pope Francis.

Those Catholics who are, for lack of a better term, 'low church', cannot possibly understand the dread and uncertainty that we feel at this time. The Mass is the absolute centre of our life here on earth. I pray that our new pope will realise that and do all he can to preserve and promote its integrity and solemnity, in *all* its legitimate forms, especially those most ancient and reverent.

durandinquisitive said...

Excellent article. I was waiting for a thourough analysis of the recent events from you.

A couple comments from an Orthodox perspective, if I may. I am very happy for the first "good" reason as you can imagine, but this may be in conflict with two of your other points. Number four on your "bad" list mentions Francis may intend "to be viewed as first among equals." I understand the broader implications you are addressing concerning the Roman Church, but hearing this as an Orthodox Christian makes me hopeful. Again, this is from our perspective.

Second, I am not sure if a consecration of Russia would be a great diplomatic move. I am not completely informed about this, but I feel consecrating an area with a Orthodox Church tradition as old as Russia's may send the wrong message to some.

Your fifth "bad" reason is worrisome, but honestly, if attending a Hanukkah celebration is all we have to worry about then we should be fine. I mean, couldn't you make the claim that it is a Biblical celebration?

All in all, I am joyous for my Catholic brothers and sisters as this is an exciting time. Prayers will be said for your faithful and for the continued healing of schisms.

Joe Potillor said...

Best analysis I've seen...great post

Jack Tollers said...

Sir, your post is pretty much the best I've read on the new Pope.

Balanced, too.

I could never write a thing like that, if only because I'm an Argentine, live in Buenos Aires, and know the man.

For a bunch of us, over here, this is a perfect nightmare.

(Want to know, who we are, what we represent? Check my website: www.cuadernas.com.ar/etvoila.php)

Sorry about all this, but I suppose it is my duty to tell you... things couldn't be worse.

J.T.

BONIFACE said...

Jack,

As someone from Buenos Aires, can you give us a little synopsis of why this is a perfect nightmare? I went to the link but, being a stupid American, I cannot read Spanish. What are some of the reasons we should be alarmed?

Boniface

Alan Aversa said...

@Jack Tollers: ¿Cuál artículo de su sito, específicamente, debo leer?
gracias

Alexander said...

I have rad today that the Holy Father praised Cardinal Kasper. yay

There are bunch of neo-Modernists and liberals who are happy about this. I hope they wrong and are just bolstering because of their pride.

Jack Tollers said...

Boniface, no I cannot (not right now, anyway) write a little synopsis on the man, as you suggest.

When one lives a perfect nightmare, one cannot write or think properly... feelings are, how shall I put it, overwhelming just now.

Maybe in a couple of weeks, if I settle down a bit... certainly not now (my sons and daughters keep coming at me with questions and I can't even answer them, believe me).

But, in a nutshell, he's a Jesuit of unbelievable jesuitry.

Alan Aversa, on my web page you'll find no specific article on Bergoglio (not worth it). I only pointed to it, so you could, as it were, gauge, what sort of a person is telling you this terrible news (the authors he cares for, the subjects he's interested in).

But if you have a strong hold of Spanish, maybe you'll want to check out

http://frayrabieta.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/cuarto-misterio-rabioso

where I talk about the man (if in a somewhat irreverent way).

In Domino,

J.T.

Andrew said...

I think there is another reason to get excited about Pope Francis — namely, his association with Comunione e Liberazione. Truth be told, I know next to nothing about CL, but if Leftist "Catholics" like Jamie Manson are disturbed by this association, I take it to be a sign of hope.

This traditionalist priest also takes Pope Francis' association with CL as a good sign. His entire reflection on Bergoglio's ascension to the papal office is worth reading in its entirety.

I have been, and shall continue to pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Boniface. I always appreciate your ideas and thoughtful perspectives which are always worth reading and pondering.

I hope your positive points come to fruition.

I was one posting comments at Rorate that were such a scandal to others. While I can understand and accept that, what I can not understand is why the puissant Prelate gets a pass; that is, why is it that laymen with absolutely no power are under such intense scrutiny by The Brick By Brick Bund and other weak-conservative-catholics while the lot of them refuse to even address the actual praxis of a puissant Prelate?

The Brick By Brick Bund has, rightly, mocked Masses with huge puppets -well, what about the mockable Masses of Bergolio?

Fear.

Laman are much safer targets of criticism but you can bet everything you have ever had or ever will have that were one of us soi disant trads to have authority, there would NEVER be Puppet Masses with shitty salsa songs or interfaith prayers with those who hate our guts etc etc

BONIFACE said...

DurandInquisitive:

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond.

Regarding "first among equals", yeah, you're right, Orthodox, Anglicans etc. would love to see this because it would fit more with their ecclesiology and would be a denial of the authority the popes have traditionally claimed.

The consecration of Russia was specifically commanded by Our Lady at Fatima. You are right - it would send the message that the Orthodox ought to seek formal communion with Rome, meaning accepting the authority of the pope. It might not be diplomatic, but for Catholics the need for the consecration is set in stone.

Regarding Hannukah, well technically, no, it is not biblical as the ceremony is not found in the Bible.

But the problem is that Catholics have long been forbidden from formally worshipping with non-Catholics (communicatio in sacris). Bergoglio violated this when he worshipped with Jews and pagans. See Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1925.

Alan Aversa said...

@Andrew: After 3 years of being in CL, I’m now an ex-ciellino. CL’s founder‘s writings are steeped in Modernism. You can even tell by the title of his top-selling book: The Religious Sense. Click here for how it harbors Modernism.

servusmariaen said...

I appreciate your balanced commentary. I can hope but I have no illusions. As I read elsewhere, Papa Francesco is very much in the "Catholic mainstream". Watching the Mass from the Sistine Chapel the other day where the free-standing table was brought in complete with a very large microphone, I have no illusions. I saw people coming to the kneelers to receive and kneeling to receive in the hand... I have no illusions. This is the new reality. It is what it is. I have promised to pray for Papa Francesco with an extra daily rosary. I have also promised myself to pray and watch from a distance in as detached a manner as possible but again I have no illusions....anymore about a Catholic restoration especially in the liturgical sphere nor for a clarification of Vatican II. Those illusions are gone for the most part.

durandinquisitive said...

Boniface,

Yes, we have agreed to disagree on the first two items here. Hopefully our hierarchs can find a way to communicate a compromise. I realize Russia has been a problem in the recent ecumenical talks. We will se how it plays out. Lord have mercy.

Regarding Hanukkah, I thought it is indeed referenced in the scriptures in 1 Maccabees 4:52-59 and then in John 10:22 where Jesus was actually in the temple during the Feast of Dedication. Don't let me pull you into a discussion on Hanukkah in this thread.

Orthodox are not supposed to worship with non-Christians (some would even say non-Orthodox) either, so I don't want to make light of this issue. Certainly if the Pope began attending Hanukkah services it would at best create confusion and at worst violate Catholic dogma. My point was mainly to suggest that too much not be made of this as of now.

Alexander said...

Boniface, this might interest you:

http://networkedblogs.com/JrYrZ

Alexander said...

Oh sorry, it is the blog post "New Pope approves of Medjugorje"

jeff said...

I'm sorry to say it but he didn't ban Cdl Law from his mansion. It was a massive mis-report on the part of the Italian media.

Andrew said...

Alan, forgive me, but the link you provided that supposedly shows that Msgr. Guissani's works are "steeped in Modernism" strikes me as a kind of knee-jerk, superficial reaction. If by "steeped in Modernism" you mean that Guissani uses existentialist language, and that this existentialist language implies a commitment to Modernism, then you'd have to say that Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky were both committed to Modernism as well. That would be strange, considering they were both deeply anti-Modernist.

Furthermore, I don't see what the problem is with the use of the term "religious sense." What Guissani seems to be driving at with that term is the notion that man finds himself in a dynamic spiritual state wherein he naturally seeks after meaning, truth, happiness, etc. I don't see how that's controversial. Even though St. Thomas Aquinas doesn't use existentialist language, he says essentially the same.

And again, check out that traditionalist priest's comments. He speaks highly of Guissani, and his trad credentials are stellar; he is, after all, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, and it would be pretty hard to tar and feather them with the Modernist label.

BONIFACE said...

Yeah, I reported the Cardinal Law thing before that was sorted out...why is there so much misinformation coming out about this pope's deeds?

Flambeaux said...

Boniface, I have read some speculation that there is an active campaign of disinformation encouraged and funded by the Kirchner Regime in Argentina coupled with the natural inclination of the press to try to "run with a scoop" without verifying claims.

Alan Aversa said...

@Andrew: Pope St. Pius X's encyclical on Modernism, Pascendi, says "From beginning to end everything [i.e., agnostic, idealist, Kantian philosophy, from which originates the Modernists' history and theology] in it [i.e., in Modernism] is a priori, and a priori in a way that reeks of heresy." Thus, if Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky wrote about Catholic theology while forcing themselves to adopt an a priori philosophy, they would really be doing Modernistic theology, a corruption of Catholic theology. Pope St. Pius X wrote in Doctoris Angelici: "we must reject that old opinion which held as irrelevant for the faith what anyone thinks about creatures, if he thinks rightly about God." A priorism disregards creatures.

Regarding "religious sense" in Giussani's understanding of it, here is what Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange would say (The Principles of Catholic Apologetics p. 43): "[The New Apologetic] is founded also on an aspect of the doctrine of immanence. If Catholic Faith is demanded by our nature, that Faith is not in truth the supernatural. In truth the Supernatural is above not only the powers but the exigencies [needs] of human nature. These Apologists fail to see that it is natural happiness arising from the natural knowledge and love of God that our nature strives to attain."

BONIFACE said...

Alan,

For those of us who have not read Giussani, can you clarify the difference between his teaching on "religious sense" the the idea, taught by the Catechism and in other places, that mankind has an innate religious disposition that leads him to seek truth, that man is fundamentally a "religious being"? If that is all Giussani means by, I can't see it as problematic - to say all men are impelled towards "faith" by natural law and that all men are in a sense religious is not to say that men can naturally come to the "Catholic Faith", which is different.

Alan Aversa said...

I don't see how the natural desire to know makes one religious. Would you consider the pagan philosophers religious?

Men are "impelled towards 'faith' by natural law" if by "faith" you mean the naturally-acquired preambles of faith (præambula fidei), which even the demons have; however, faith is a supernatural gift, since its object, God, is supernatural. Against the Pelagians "the Second Council of Orange defined the statement that [infused] grace is necessary even for the beginning of faith, for the pious willingness to believe." (Reality ch. 50).

The issue with Giussani is naturalism.

BONIFACE said...

Okay, I should have been more precise with my terminology. I was referring not to supernatural faith of course, which as you point out, is a gift of God, bur rather the disposition to believe, not just a natural desire to know, but a natural desire to worship...worship something.

Mainly, I am thinking of this passage from the Catechism:

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being" CCC 28

How is this different from what Giussani says?

Alan Aversa said...

Yes, the 1st Commandment is a part of natural law.

Also, that CCC passage is certainly using a very broad definition of "religious", according to which even the pagan philosophers would be considered religious.

BONIFACE said...

Alan,

Yes. Precisely. It is a broad definition, as it applies to all humanity, and it is proper for it to be so broad and it does encompass pagans. To be "religious" in the sense the CCC uses it means simply to want to seek absolute truth and worship something - and the multiplicity of the world's religions testifies to this truth that man is a "religious" being by nature. That's not to pass judgment on any religion; that's not to say other religions are not false; its simply to state the fact that humans are religious innately.

If you object to the use of the word "religious" with reference to pagans, what do you make of St. Paul's use of the word with reference to pagans?

"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious." Acts 17:22

I personally don't see the problem with admitting that pagans are religious; to say it is not to say God is pleased with their religion. At any rate, if this is all Giussani means by it, I don't see a problem, but I don't know anything about the man.

Alan Aversa said...

What translation translates δεισιδαιμονεστέρους as "religious"? In the Greek it literally means "fearing the gods" or "very reverent to demons (δαιμονες)." St. Jerome translates it as superstitiosiores ("too superstitious").

Also, St. Paul's apologetics skill is very keen here because he plays on the ambiguity of the good and bad senses of δεισιδαίμων to help the Athenians discover the Holy Trinity.

BONIFACE said...

Alan,

Just doing a cursory glance at the bibles I have around, the RSV, NAB, Benzinger Confraternity Version, Jerusalem Bible and Knox Bible all use the word "religious." It looks like only the Douay does not. That being said, after comparing translations I can see what you mean about the different senses of the word, how it can be positive or negative.

I believe we are both in agreement but emphasizing different aspects of the issue. I am emphasizing the simple FACT of the religious impulse natural to humans that is found in every human being as a result of man's inherent desire to seek transcendence. I am making no judgment on the merit of any individual religion, only noting the existence of many religions as evidence that God created in man a disposition to seek Him, even if that gets obscured.

You are emphasizing the OBJECT of religious belief, that which makes the belief either meritorious (if it is the Triune God) or blameworthy (if it is false gods). The fact of religion is universal in man (as the CCC teaches), but it only becomes salvific when the object of that religion is the true God.

The danger is in emphasizing the universality of religion as a fact without the corresponding truth that the fact that all people's are "religious" does not mean their religion is pleasing to God. To teach the one without the other gives the false impression that religion qua religion is pleasing to God apart from its object. Is this what Giussani teaches?