Making John Paul III
Some years ago when l’Academie française welcomed Cardinal Decourtray into its ranks, André Frossard, the late Catholic writer and Marxist convert, murmured caustically: "One can only hope that this one, at least, believes in God." The same forlorn hope crosses my mind every time the Holy Father welcomes a new clutch of cardinals into the Sacred College. In fact, so many arch-Modernists and subversive fellow travellers have been elevated under this pontificate that even Frossard, one of John Paul II’s closest friends and greatest admirers, would have struggled to defend the Pope’s appointment policy over the past 25 years.
True to form, among the 31 new cardinals named by the Holy Father on 28 September 2003 was one Keith Patrick O’Brien – licit successor of the Apostles; spiritual son of Judas Iscariot. Vatican rewards for infidelity are commonplace nowadays, yet this news still floored everyone, including the flabbergasted Archbishop of Edinburgh himself. A particularly diabolic and cruel promotion, since the far less offensive Archbishop Conti was a ready alternative, it has shattered the faithful Scottish remnant.
CO readers will be well aware of O’Brien’s unholy track record, which we have regularly documented in recent years, notably his severe censuring by Rome for a homosexual-friendly, condom-advocating AIDS study pack he approved for use in his schools [cf. "Great Defenders or Great Pretenders," April & May 1998; "Gilhooleyism," May 1998; "The Lies They Tell," Jan. 2000; "Andy: The Endless Agony Uncle," Dec. 2002; "The Wages of Ecumenism," Nov. 2003]. There is not much point regurgitating all his crimes. Suffice to recall his unflagging public support for the most shocking clerical dissidents, including Father Andy Monaghan who for decades has subverted and disgraced the Church and the priesthood weekly on his Open Line radio talk-back show, where he vigorously affirms sinful lifestyles and refers callers to abortion agencies, gay hotlines etc. Indeed, on 26 September, just a few days before Archbishop O’Brien’s promotion, The Scotsman reported the censuring of Monaghan’s show by the Radio Authority after it upheld a complaint that the priest entertained a prostitute’s obscene conversation at length. O’Brien insists that Monaghan is "doing God’s work and the Pope’s."
He had barely received news of his red hat when the next day - cock-a-hoop after being clapped and cheered to the rafters by 1,000 of his thoroughly protestantised flock during an insufferably smug Mass of thanksgiving in his cathedral - this Toad of Toad Hall caricature informed the press that "issues such as celibacy, married clergy and contraception are Church law and should be matters of debate," and declared he had no problem with homosexual priests.
"Celibacy by priests…can be discussed," he pontificated with Toad-like bravado, his final triumph a mere conclave away. "In other branches of the Catholic Church throughout the world there are married priests and in England there are a number of converts from Anglicanism who are married and who became Roman Catholic priests. So there is no problem about that." Laying down his future pontifical line to imaginary crowds from his imaginary papal balcony, His Holiness Toad I further decreed: "If ten per cent of men are gay, then it’s a reasonable assumption that ten per cent of priests and ten per cent of bishops are gay … If they are living a celibate life then God bless the men."
In this latter regard, one of his journalistic admirers recalled that "When Cardinal Winning made his controversial statement that homosexuality was a ‘perversion’, Archbishop O’Brien was among those uncomfortable with his choice of words." "In many ways," the approving liberal press added, "his views are more reflective of a new, younger generation of Scottish Catholics." One can only thank God that he has so pitifully few youngsters left to corrupt.
The asinine comments above, especially confusing the infallible teaching on contraception with mere "Church law" and his parroting of the long discredited Kinseyan lie that "10 per cent of men are gay," are indicative of the embarrassing intellectual and theological deprivation which Scotland’s representative will bring to the Roman table (an inadequacy underlined by articles on homosexuality, contraception and clerical celibacy carried herein). More generally, however, they typify the faithless ideology by which the burgeoning Modernist faction within the Sacred College will cast its votes and horse-trade at the next conclave.
Long gone are the good old days when the Judas Factor of 1 in 12 held sway and the rogues and worldlings were dominated by solidly orthodox plodders, scholars and saints. It has been replaced by what we might call the O’Brien Factor: the disproportionately high number of self-satisfied, vacuous, preening apostates like Lehman, Kasper, Mahoney et. al. who have been introduced to the College to keep the runaway postconciliar train careering on. The papal rationalisation seems to be that they act as a political stabiliser: helping maintain a desirable "balance" and "tension" between opposing viewpoints. Through this Hegelian dialectic, the conservative likes of Sydney’s new Cardinal George Pell (thesis) are supposed to be offset by the liberal likes of O’Brien (antithesis) giving rise to a purer form of Catholicism (synthesis). But it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Australian neo-cons are excited by Cardinal Pell’s promotion, because he is a strong pro-lifer and a ‘John Paul man.’ Understandably they take great delight in watching mega-liberals like the appalling Bishop Power of Canberra squirm and squeal over his appointment. But they conveniently overlook the fact that Pell, regarded by the Holy Father as a model bishop, has voiced heterodox and/or heretical views on the Resurrection, Holy Scripture and the priesthood and consistently revealed an astonishing ignorance of the nature of the crisis within the Church and reluctance to get involved [cf. "Debunking the Deconstructors," March 2002]. His consistent support for the heretical nun who heads his diocesan Liturgy Office is a scandal and his refusals to act on orthodox pleas to clean up liturgically and theologically decrepit parishes, schools and universities legion. Even a life-saving request to prevent morning after pills being dispensed at a major Catholic hospital was waved away. One could go on. "He thinks his new position might help him to do something about the asylum seekers," lamented one of his disenchanted flock. "Shame he can’t do something about the Church!"
Yet Cardinal Pell is one of the best neo-con prelates around. "I am a loyal son of the Second Vatican Council," he says defiantly. But Cardinal O’Brien could make the same claim with a perfectly straight face. And there’s the rub: Vatican II. The progressive Conciliar spirit that unites them - and thus the conclave factions they represent - is greater than the (admittedly significant) degree of liberalism that separates them. Readers might bear this in mind when the conclave arrives and media clichés about ‘dogmatic right wingers’ pushing a hard ‘conservative’ line are duly trotted out. If only things were that clear cut.
The pathetic reality is that our emasculated Western episcopate is rather like a big gelatinous theo-philosophical blancmange. Are there even a dozen convinced Catholic men among the whole sorry lot? If so, is there a single one in the Sacred College? A real man who doesn’t just talk a good fight but would be prepared to act on his beliefs; to halt the inexorable decline by robustly setting aside catastrophic Conciliar ideology in favour of uncompromising Catholic tradition?
Sadly, these are rhetorical questions. On the evidence before us and barring a miracle, we must presume that the Conciliar milieu of liberalism and quasi-liberalism-masquerading-as-conservatism that has corrupted Keith O’Brien and contaminated George Pell has already fashioned the next pontiff. Thesis + antithesis = John Paul III. Habemus (Hegelian) papam - a hybrid ecclesiastic born of that suicidal dialectic which has shaped the postconciliar episcopate and thus the profile of the current College. Based on interminable "dialogue" and the Holy Father’s quietist "let error destroy itself" strategem, it has stifled unyielding defence and promotion of Catholic truth while corroding it in consequence. For more than a generation it has merely served to embolden the Modernists and enfeeble the orthodox. Which has left us with an impending no-win conclave: slow ‘liberal-conservative’ decay, or rapid ‘liberal-liberal’ dissolution. Perhaps, for our sins, it is all we deserve.
One could speculate endlessly about the underlying reasons for papal endorsement of heinous prelates, the distressing calibre of papal candidates and our dire predicament in general, but it can only ever be truly understood in terms of supernatural reality: not "flesh and blood" but "principalities" and "powers" and "spiritual wickedness in high places" [Ephesians 6:12-13]. With that in mind, the dual review immediately following is offered as food for thought and fervent prayer, always looking towards the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary yet ever conscious of our essential obligation here and now:
"What then is our duty?" asked Cardinal Manning. "Not to lament the past nor to dream of the future, but to accept the present. Dreams and lamentations weaken the sinews of action … We must learn the duty and the necessity of seeing things as they are, in their exact and naked truth."