[UPDATED OCTOBER 30: More signs of an Anti-Francis alliance between Küster and TFP with English-speaking papal detractors emerge:
On October 29, two days after the synod came to a close, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register was seen having dinner with Küster on in a restaurant in Rome. This highlights the professional and social ties between the Brazilian social media influencer and portions of the Catholic media world, pointing to the involvement of nationalist populist movements in the opposition to Francis.
Today, Pentin published an essay by José Antonio Ureta, whose bio states that he belongs to the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute, which is named for TFP’s founder and professes to carry on his legacy by promoting his principles and teachings.
WPI will be keeping a close eye on the connection between TFP and the Anglophone instigators of the rebellion against the Holy Father.]
[The original article starts here:]
A social-media influencer who has been endorsed by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has emerged as the leading supplier of conservative media lines of attack on the Amazon synod.
Bernardo Küster, a Brazilian writer who owns a bookshop in São Paulo, is a traditionalist Catholic and outspoken critic of Pope Francis. The synod has given him a platform to expand his influence.
Not that he needs any more exposure. Küster, who is in his thirties, is a vocal supporter of the nationalist President Bolsonaro and runs a YouTube channel with nearly 800,000 subscribers.
He uses his online pulpit to criticize what he considers the “communist presence” and corrupt finances of the Church’s summit on the Amazon, lines that Francis’s critics in U.S. Catholic media have taken up with gusto. Küster has been in Rome for the synod, where he has been seen at press briefings, and sat down for a 40-minute interview with LifeSiteNews, one of the most fervently anti-Pope Francis agencies in the English-speaking Catholic world.
At the start of the Synod, Küster published a video detailing supposed financial contributions made by the Ford Foundation to the Vatican to back the summit on the Amazon. He painted the contributions as a “pro-abortion” influence on the Synod’s activities.
Küster and those close to him claim to have evidence that the Ford Foundation gave money to Red Eclesial Panamazónica (REPAM), a Latin American group that helped organise the synod. REPAM, however, is separate from the Vatican, which is the sole source of funding for the synod.
The Ford Foundation is not a Catholic organization, but they support many good works and have made significant donations to Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops’ humanitarian agency.
Nevertheless, the National Catholic Register, owned by the US-based EWTN television network and known for its repeated criticism of the Francis papacy, has made the Ford Foundation funding an obsession. The outlet’s Rome reporter Edward Pentin has repeatedly asked Vatican officials questions about alleged Ford Foundation support for the Synod, continuing to press the issue even as the officials deny the allegations.
On 23 October, Küster published a video claiming that the synod was a mere theatrical show and that it “did not in actual fact exist.” To back up this assertion, Küster claims that the membership of the team commissioned to compile the final document of the synod is clouded in uncertainty. The Vatican has, however, released the names of those working on the final text.
“Who is writing this document?” Küster says in the video, quipping that it might as well be “the mummies of the catacombs” — alluding to the Pact of the Catacombs of 20 October, which reaffirmed the Church’s preferential closeness to the marginalised.
Küster has also accused the synod of being under the influence of “communist delegates”—a rhetorical ploy often used by Bolsonaro against his opponents.
LifeSiteNews on 25 October asked a synod briefing panel if it would comment on a “meeting with the deputies of the socialist and communist parties of Brazil.” Bishop Evaristo Pascoal Spengler replied that the meeting was with parliamentarians involved in the protection of human rights in the Amazon.
Küster, who calls himself an “ex-communist” and onetime atheist, says he came to his Catholic faith through Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP). The group is known for its support for the Brazilian dictatorship, criticism of the Second Vatican Council and, more recently, opposition to Pope Francis.
Dr Rodgrio Coppe Caldeira, professor of Church History at the Pontifical University of Minas Gerais, says “most consider [the] TFP a sect” and that it no longer plays an influential role in Brazil. Its influence was at a peak from the 1960s to 1980s. The group does not have the support of the Brazilian Church, says Dr. Coppe Caldeira, although it is close to Bolsonaro’s government.
Küster’s connection to TFP is more than just intellectual. On 11 and 12 October, Küster attended the Conservative Political Action Conference event in Brazil. At the conference, TFP was represented and was given one of the largest stands. Video evidence can be found of Küster giving an interview at the CPAC event, which was co-organised by Eduoardo Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president’s son.
One group closely associated to Corrêa de Oliveira and the TFP are the Heralds of the Gospel, who have recently rejected the legitimacy of a papal-approved investigation.
Catholic commentator Dawn Eden Goldstein has asked why the Register’s Rome Correspondent, Edward Pentin, recently published an article by a TFP member known for his anti-Semitic views and favourable take on the Catholic Inquisition on his personal blog. The article of the TFP member, which described an Amazonian statuette some have called “Our Lady of the Amazon” as an object of pagan worship, was also reprinted by LifeSiteNews.
Goldstein, known for her investigative work into conservative Catholic networks, has also asked about a potential financial relationship between EWTN and the ultra-traditionalist Brazilian group.
Küster considers the President Bolsonaro’s intellectual “guru,” Olavo de Carvalho, as a mentor.
Living in the US, de Carvalho is known for his far-right views and defense of the Brazilian dictatorship of the 1970s. After Bolsonaro’s election, de Carvalho gained a profile as an informal aide to the president. He is a close friend of Steve Bannon, founder of Breitbart News and former chief strategist to President Donald Trump.
Küster is a frequent guest to de Carvalho’s ranch in the US and has called the Bolsanaro aide his personal “professor.” The two regularly speak about Church and politics.
Küster’s presence at the synod is even more intriguing given Bolsonaro’s nervousness about the bishops’ summit, which concludes on Sunday. Before it started, the Brazilian president, who has been heavily criticised for his policies on the Amazon rainforest, sent a delegation to the Vatican to lobby synod organizers. It was also reported by the newspaper O Estado de São Paolo that Brazilian secret services had been monitoring bishops chosen to attend the gathering.
After the Synod came to a close today, its final document was released, which detailed the Church’s obligation and responsibility to the region. The document specified possibilities of opening up priesthood in the region to married deacons and official ministries for women.
A proposal for a fund and a collaboration between the region’s different episcopal conferences has also been proposed.
At the final briefing, members of the conservative press continued to bring up the same issues they have been raising throughout the summit. In response, Vatican officials reiterated the Church’s call to conversion and pastoral need to provide for — and listen to — the people of the Amazon.
Image credit: Kenneth Murphy, via Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0). Link to original photo (cropped).
Daniele Palmer is a freelance journalist. He studied history in London and is preparing a PhD on French Political Thought. He currently works from Rome as the Vatican correspondent for Where Peter Is.