The Papal Year That Was: 2
II. Back to the Future
To take up where we left off last month: the unpopular yet urgent Pauline duty to defend the Faith of our Fathers against the pontifical 'mess' of neo-Modernist pottage currently on offer, falls to us. Ensconced behind The Great Facade of naturalistic novelties that separates them from the supernatural faith and traditions of Catholicism, the vast majority of bishops are too busy revelling in the return to fuzzy pastoral themes, notions and verbiage. For although failed and hackneyed, under Francis, a zealous son of the Council, they have all been 'renewed' — again.
I dream of a 'missionary option,' that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation. - Evangelii Gaudium.
This proposed evangelisation is so 'new,' in fact, that it has absolutely nothing to do with the 'old' notion of seeking out converts. "Engaging in dialogue, does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute," says Francis. And again: "Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense."
Well, it can't be more nonsensical than a New Evangelisation that doesn't evangelise. It couldn't be less idiotic than claiming that we are not renouncing absolute Catholic truth by renouncing its absoluteness. It can't get much sillier than rehashing Pope Paul's stale programme and trotting it out for the umpteenth time as something "new." It cannot be more ridiculous than sidelining doctrine — in the deluded pontifical belief that "young people know perfectly well what the Church’s [doctrinal] position is"(!) — in order to re-construct "everything" on the same old dogma-lite foundation that has long crumbled into a post-conciliar missionary 'mess.'
What really "makes no sense" is not "proselytism" but the euphoric episcopal response to the resurrection of this devastating agenda. As an American observer among a massive Francis cheer squad in St Peter's Square remarked: “I wonder what God thinks of this?... This excitement can be dangerous. We can live for the excitement and not for Christ. You know, where I live, it is getting windy. People are starting to talk like they did in the 70s” [Culture Wars, Jan. 2014].
Indeed. Florida's dissident Bishop Robert Lynch, for one, is in full retro mode. Viewing the Pope's scandalous America interview as "absolutely amazing," he blogged about his "restless desire for years to get back to the task of renewing, reinvigorating, reimaging which was the true outcome of the Council." Of course the "true outcome" was not renewal but ruination: as Divine Mercy monopolised and steamrollered doctrine, discipline, and holy fear of Divine Judgement. The sickening fruits of that diabolic imbalance and indulgence of sinful men have never been more apparent in diocesan wastelands the world over. Yet Bishop Lynch seriously believes that "we are losing membership not because of the presence of the truth but because of the absence of mercy"!
His own merciless complicity in Terri Schiavo's unspeakable murder notwithstanding, we are in strife for precisely the opposite reasons, both of which have emboldened the grave diggers of the Church: a yawning absence of truth, and the tyranny of one kind of mercy. Aquinas teaches that mercy is a special virtue adequately distinguished from charity and more related to justice (since it controls relations between distinct persons). But it is also viewed as the spontaneous product of charity: whether caritas severitatis or caritas suavitatis ("severe charity" or "gentle charity"). In a healthy Church there is a healthy equilibrium. In the post-conciliar process of turning towards the world in order to join it, instead of attracting it to the Church, however, clerics have abandoned the former caritas for the latter. None more so than the Holy Father himself. "Never fear the Final Judgment, because Christ will always be at our side," he assures us — pushing caritas suavitatis beyond the theological limits and deconstructing "fear of the Lord" (a gift of the Holy Spirit) in one foul swoop. No wonder our mitred hippies are Feelin' the Love under Francis the Merciful.
"For the rest of my days on earth," gushes Bishop Lynch, referring to the America interview, "I will be grateful to Pope Francis for this exquisite and dead-on observation: 'I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up'."
Superficially this sounds fair enough. Yet the stated priority — "to warm the hearts of the faithful" — has already shifted and tailored "the ground" (the doctrinal foundation of faith) to accommodate perverse and naturalistic social gospel ends. "So what was left on the battlefield as the Pope might see it," concludes delighted Field Marshall Lynch, is "a church where parents are coming to accept and love their gay and lesbian children." (After all, who are the Vicar of Christ and his commanders to judge the life-and-soul-destroying behaviours/inclinations of their troops?).
"The primary task for the Church," Francis assured the Italian President who lauds his lack of doctrine, "is to bear witness to God’s mercy and encourage generous responses of solidarity in order to open a future of hope." What a mouthful. Why preach such cart-before-horse confusion when we are called to preach Catholic truth "in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine"? [2 Tim. 4:2]. Isn't that the best "witness to God's mercy"?
The Fathers, Doctors, Saints and Supreme Pontiffs speak as one against the Holy Father's distorted emphases and priorities.
Speaking of the Church, even Paul VI contradicted Francis, plainly stating that "orthodoxy is Her main concern." And that is obviously so because without teaching orthodoxy ("right belief"), faith, hope, charity, mercy and virtues of every hue are robbed of Catholic meaning and purpose. Human "solidarity" then becomes a pipe dream.
St Peter Chrysologus, a fifth century Bishop and Doctor of the Church, used a different metaphor to stress altogether different (rightly ordered) priorities, describing the Church as "a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the Gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labour of the apostles."
While St Faustina, who knew a thing or two about Divine Mercy, said that "The Love of God is the flower — Mercy is the fruit." Clearly, you cannot love God if you do not know Him. So without doctrine there is no flowering of love, and so no merciful fruit. Ergo: no doctrine (not least on the Holy Trinity), no mercy. St. Faustina was in no doubt about this holy nexus, typically stating: "Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church [i.e., the Teaching Church] I trust in You."
Fortunately, amid the rising fog of Modernist nostalgia, not all prelates have lost their Catholic bearings.
Forever dashing liberal hopes raised by his garrulous boss, CDF head Archbishop Müller, a neo-Modernist somewhat constrained by his present grave duty to protect orthodoxy, has stated that "a false call to mercy" cannot subvert the laws of God on matters such as Communion for the divorced and remarried, due for discussion at the forthcoming October Synod on the Family. "Healthy doctrine, the correct practice and eternal salvation belong inextricably together," he says, with merciful simplicity.
Only warped liberal minds would think otherwise. Like the editorial staff of the dissident National Catholic Reporter, who chirped gleefully that "Francis seems far more comfortable applying pastoral theology first and consulting the moral texts and canon law later." Or chortling prelates like Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Texas who delight in the fact that "if Cardinal Bernardin were alive he would be very pleased with what Pope Francis is saying and doing" (not least with his risible belief that "The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.")
Informed and guided by the integral Gospel of Christ, Catholic minds, on the other hand, eschew the humanistic gospel of social solidarity peddling false hope through false charity and self-styled 'pastoral theology.'
Take the old-school American Pope who is worlds apart from the papal duo in Vatican City. Mgr Charles Pope of Washington does not believe in unmercifully stroking egos and putting off what needs saying. A truly bracing breath of fresh air, he refuses to sound an uncertain trumpet that deters souls from "the battle" [1Cor. 14:8].
"Preaching is about saving before it is about consoling," he thunders on the archdiocesan website, bucking the received wisdom. In a passage that resonates with the Martini neo-Modernist school of Pope Francis and his conclave electors, the Monsignor goes on:
Fr. Bill Casey defines superficial preaching as: “watered-down, filled with generalities and abstractions, devoid of doctrinal content and moral teaching, more akin to pop-psychology than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not scriptural, it does not move, it does not inspire, it generates no enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, his Church or the Gospel and it has got to change."
Alas, that is the one 'change' we are least likely to see under this pontificate. Despite the crying need for powerful preaching that elicits the cycle of salvation which, according to Mgr Pope, makes the worldlings mad, then sad, then glad — with the dawning awareness that they've been set free by absolute Catholic truth — playing to the crowd remains the order of the day. A cruel betrayal and abandonment of souls that stands in stark contrast to the Monsignor's successful experience of no-nonsense preaching at Requiems:
I had tried the more subtle approach for years. It didn’t really work and no one really took it seriously, if they even understood what I was “getting at.”
I think prophecy needs to be clear, strong and unambiguous. I get a much better result that way. I can surely attest to the fact that more have returned to Mass on a regular basis as a result of strong words than ever happened in the years when the usual reaction to my ministration was, “Oh Father, you’re such a dear. What a heart-warming and consoling message!
I have over 50 funerals a year. And for most of them the Church is packed with people I will only see once, or perhaps not until the next family funeral. I cannot wait for a “less delicate” time.
Monsignor Pope for Pope! St. Pius X could not have demolished the evasive, insipid and devastating attitude of the post-conciliar Church of Nice and its Nice Guy papacies more decisively. A few more gems:
• I think we have long enough tried the “nice guy” preaching that is extolled by many, as the model. But all through these past 40 years with that model largely operative, Mass attendance has steadily dropped.
• The fact is, I think there is a general hunger for a return to vivid and strong preaching. I think this is more common among younger people, many of whom have had enough of polite but abstract sermons that preach ideas more than unvarnished Catholic and Biblical truth.
If Pope Francis does not understand this traditional Catholic horse sense and how it speaks to the utter bankruptcy of his liberal programme, perhaps Bishop Fellay's call for him to prioritise the "teaching of sound doctrine to give works for the poor supernatural meaning: leading souls to God," might ring a bell?
Retro facilitator: Unleashing the "Mad Dog"
Tragically, it is not Bishop Fellay but retro arch-Modernist Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras who is the Pope's principal advisor: chair of the group of eight cardinals chosen by Francis to advise him on retro reform (read 'updating'/'newness') of the Curia and the Church.
Previously deposed and marginalised by Rome following his complicity in the humanistic distortions at Caritas Internationalis, which he headed, Maradiaga's stocks have soared off the chart since March 2013. Believed to have been the key driver behind the Latin American bloc that put Francis on the conclave's map in the first ballot, according to Whispers in the Loggia blog "it's not a stretch to say that Rodríguez, 70 – a dynamic polyglot with three decades' experience on the global stage – now enjoys the role of papal 'shadow,' and the near-limitless portfolio that comes with it, which in times past had been the province of the Secretary of State. Indeed, unburdened with the minutiae of running a dicastery as he criss-crosses the globe, perhaps it isn't even too much to cast the first of the 'Super-Cardinals' as Francis' 'Vice-Pope'."
Known as "Mad Dog" for good reason, Maradiaga was recently videoed in church after Mass playing a jaunty Samba number on an electric keyboard, still resplendent in mitre and liturgical vestments. Beyond such routine sacrilege he publicly attacks the Faith and those who would defend it, including the Prefect of the CDF himself, with the insouciance of an untouchable.
In our January number we reprinted Louis Verrecchio's brief critique of just a few of his anti-Catholic pronouncements during keynote talks in America late last year. Typically, he announced that Vatican II "meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and Modernism," hastening to add that "the Church could not continue posing as a reality facing the world, as a parallel 'perfect society,' which pursued her own autonomous course." On the one hand these are pedestrian 'spirit of Vatican II' notions. On the other, they are now being spouted aggressively by the Pope's handpicked spokesman as part of a clear and grandiose statement of Modernist intent.
Continuing to push the retro party line of 'newness' in a recent interview with Germany's Cologne City Gazette, Maradiaga smugly declared: "I'm firmly convinced we are at the dawn of a new era in the Church, just as when Pope John XXIII opened its windows 50 years ago and made it let in fresh air. Francis wants to lead the Church in the same direction that he himself is moved by the Holy Spirit." He then proceeded to savage the Prefect of the CDF in patronising tones, suggesting that Archbishop Müller should be less absolute in his defence of authority in the Church.
"I understand it. He's German and a German professor of theology on top of it. In his mentality, there is only right or wrong, that's it," he sniped. "But I say: The world, my brother, isn't like that. You should be slightly flexible when you hear other voices, instead of just listening and saying, no, here this is the wall. I believe he'll get there, and understand other views. But for now he's still only at the beginning."
Leaving aside the perverse portrayal of Archbishop Müller as incorrigibly orthodox (when the Archbishop of Lima has rebuked him for fraternising with radical liberation theologians and warned him to "defend sound doctrine"), the devilish context of Maradiaga's anti-Müller tirade is clear when juxtaposed with Pope Benedict's contrary remark to the bishops of England and Wales: "In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church's Magisterium that sets us free."
We see in these diametrically opposite viewpoints the precise meaning of Maradiaga's ensuing comment that the cardinals who elected Pope Francis in March knew that "much had to change in the Church." Forcing out the Pope who appointed the 'rigid/authoritarian/moralistic' Müller to the CDF being the first step.
Changes now "high on the agenda," says Maradiaga, include plans to make the Synod of Bishops a "useful and powerful tool of collegial leadership," rather than a body "meeting in Rome every three years," and the creation of a new Congregation for the Laity to reflect the fact that laity "constitute the vast majority of God's people." Which is to say that treacherous Western episcopates and their heretical diocesan advisers and employees [cf. "A Catholic Report from Modernist Reality" herein] are to be given even more power to take down the Church.
No wonder the geriatric Tablet/National "Catholic" Reporter flower-power crowd are cock-a-hoop. Post-Benedict they too are reinvigorated. Cardinal Maradiaga is even championing their impossible causes célèbres — Communion for the divorced and remarrie, and the normalising of sodomy.
The Church was "bound by God's commandment" that "what God has joined together, man must not divide," he was careful to state by way of introducing the inevitable but... there were "many ways to interpret" the commandment, and "still much room for a deeper interpretation" without reversing the teaching. Cranmer could not have advised Henry more adroitly.
As for oxymoronic 'same-sex partnerships' (i.e., unbridled buggery with endless 'partners'), which Maradiaga claims were "not even visible on the horizon" at the last Family Synod in 1980, he said: "We have the traditional doctrine, and, of course, the traditional teaching will continue. But pastoral challenges require timely answers. They can't any longer come from authoritarianism and moralism" (i.e., from Tradition).
In case we missed his retro thrust, the 'Vice Pope' promised that a new constitution on the structure and responsibilities of the Curia would be "something completely new, not just a modification
But enough already with the faux 'newness'! We get it! Time to retrieve the flares, bad ties and platform shoes from the attic, and get back in the disco (samba?) groove. In a scathing critique of Maradiaga and his (read Francis') programme, respected Italian journalist and media pundit Antonio Socci wrote that it "takes us back to ... the dark years of the Seventies, to the self-demolition of the Church (as Paul VI defined it)." Alarmed, Pope Paul had described the "self-demolition" thus:
So Christian truth is undergoing fearful shocks and crises. They will not accept the teaching of the magisterium […] There are some who try to make the faith easy by emptying it — the whole, the true faith — of those truths which appear to be unacceptable to the modern mind. They follow their own tastes, to choose a truth which is considered to be acceptable... Others are looking for a new faith especially a new belief about the Church. They are trying to bring her into line with the ideas of modern sociology and secular history.
All very familiar. Though Dylan was wrong: the times are not a-Changin' (as the retro caption under Rolling Stone's cover photo of Francis claimed) but Regressin' — to eras and attitudes condemned long before the '60s & '70s. Most famously, of course, St. Pius X railed against glib and reckless appeals to "newness" in word or print, quoting his immediate predecessor Leo XIII:
"It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new social vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilization, and many other things of the same kind." Language of the kind here indicated is not to be tolerated either in books or in lectures.
Neither Pius nor Leo, of course, would recognise our current Church of Nice wherein all those novelties are not only entrenched, but capped off and cemented by a shiny simulacrum of the Mass. All the newness and niceness does not fool Socci, however. Though not a traditionalist himself, he queries Cardinal Maradiaga's slippery verbiage and precisely what he means when he speaks of "more pastoral care than doctrine," denouncing this "typical way which is spreading in the Church today, to raise questions without providing answers" (a trait shared with Pope Francis, as noted in Part I).
Fumes Socci: "St. Thomas Aquinas had this to say, 'Well, these ones are false prophets, or false doctors, inasmuch as, raising a doubt without resolving it is the same as conceding to it.' (Sermon Attendite a falsis prophetis)." He concludes: "This is not renewal, but a return to the most disastrous past. ... the 'Franciscans of the Immaculate' are being repressed for having defended the dogmas of the Church. The self-demolition has recommenced in earnest."
Before we address the defining case of the Franciscan friars, we should remind ourselves that while the "self-demolition" is self-evident to us, it is not so to the hierarchy. Describing this suicide (à la Paul VI) yet not acting to prevent it is a head-banging rupture with reality that is incomprehensible and inexplicable if not viewed in supernatural context; in terms of "the mystery of iniquity" in general, and Sr Lucy's inspired reference to "diabolic disorientation" at the highest post-concililar levels in particular.
There is a very long list of fantastical utterances attesting to the parallel universe in which our shepherds (despite occasional handwringing) dwell. A quick recap of our analysis thus far will help put some of these fanciful statements in context:
Far from a robust revitalisation of the ranks of the Church Militant, one perceives that the Pope's metaphorical vision of "the Church as a field hospital after battle" only serves to confirm Modernist mercy (pandering to sin) in lieu of Catholic mercy (setting sinners free). Like Bishop Lynch, the Holy Father sees the effects (the casualties and wounds) but not the root cause: the subjective/emotive neo-Modernism of the anti-Scholastic Nouvelle Theologie in which he was schooled. Despite its having cut a swathe of destruction through the Church for the past several decades, Francis, unable to link theological cause with pastoral effect, can only offer empty soundbites and clichés.
Shortly after his election, writing to the Argentine bishops, he regurgitated John XXIII's tired and cataclysmic open-up-the- windows line. "A Church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms." The Pope cannot help but concede that at times, like anyone else, in going out the Church risks running into accidents. But, he added, "I prefer a thousand times over a Church of accidents than a sick Church."
True to form, the precise nature of the illness is left undefined and there is no effort to state plainly why the Church is sick. Like the documents of Vatican II, elastic papal phrases can be stretched to accommodate the broad church of Modernist dreams, and further expanded by slippery either/or rhetoric — e.g., either the Church goes "out of itself" or it will become "sick" and "stale." Yet if the Church both went "out of itself" (whatever that means) and did so in orthodox and traditional fashion there would be no ecclesiastical sickness, and any "accidents" would be far happier ones. Indeed the toxic fumes of subjective Modernism Francis mistakes for the fresh air of objective Catholicism would quickly dissipate. The inability to differentiate between the two is simply down to his having conflated the Faith with the ubiquitous Spirit of Vatican II.
"Vatican II, inspired by Pope John and by Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open to modern culture," Francis enthused in his interview with Eugenio Scalfari. That the "spirit" in question, liberal and alien to Catholicism, is condemned out of hand by earlier popes, does not concern Francis. Eyes firmly fixed on the glorious "future," those neanderthalic pre-conciliar judgements have had their time-bound day. We've evolved. Matured. Moved on, as they say.
Unwittingly afflicted with this tunnel vision, such damage as Francis perceives is, to his eyes, a carryover from less enlightened times. There is simply no liberal "self-demolition" in his line of sight, never mind a need for the traditional remedies that heal and rebuild always and everywhere: doctrine and discipline, reinforced by the lex orandi exemplified in the classical Roman Rite.
But it is not just Francis. It's as if we're stricken with a sort of 'retro paralysis'; forever frozen in the '70s. Pope after pope we are forced to relive the apocalyptic vision that informed the Council: as if the ensuing nightmare of ecclesial crises and the Culture War against the Church never happened; as if all the Gaudium et Spes-pandering to the alleged maturity of modern man within and without the Church had been vindicated by a universal explosion of faith, hope, charity, unity, peace, tranquillity, and conversions; as if the evisceration of the Mass and death of Scholasticism had filled the seminaries, convents, religious houses and pews to overflowing with faithful souls; as if Cardinal Ratzinger 'misspoke' when he depicted a Church riddled with "filth," and like a "boat on the point of sinking."
On 16 September, during a meeting with the clergy of the Diocese of Rome in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis emphasised the need for holiness before the manifold scandals, then cheerily concluded that "Far from collapsing, the Church, I dare say, has never been as well as today." A claim so shamelessly false it would make a New Labour spinmeister blush. It could be the most outrageous proclamation of ecclesiastical unreality since England's Cormac Murphy O'Connor crowed: "I do not believe these are gloomy times for the Catholic Church in our country."
But there are many challengers for the Most Deluded Ecclesiastic Award. According to Francis:
Vatican II produced a renewal movement.... Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.
"It's nice to know the reform was a success on Mars," responded America's Latin Mass Magazine. "I wonder if Pope Francis will have more sober thoughts when he returns to Earth."
Not even the sickening sight of empty pews and closing parishes and schools all over his de-facto schismatic German homeland serves as a reality check for the pope's right-hand man at the CDF. Resolutely on message, Archbishop Müller insists that "All Catholics who think and feel with the Church realize that the reform was a success." Against the backdrop of the Church Vacant, he also describes the Novus Ordo as "a good means of evangelising." More ludicrously still, he claims it has saved us from secularism:
It is precisely because the liturgy was renewed in spirit and rite that it has proved an effective remedy against a godless culture.
Insanity. Pure and simple. And yet both men are only repeating John Paul II's whopper that
The vast majority of the pastors and the Christian people have accepted the liturgical reform in a spirit of obedience and indeed joyful fervour.
Periodically, flashes of truth interrupt the liberal narrative, as when Vatican II-diehard Joseph Ratzinger dared to state in his memoirs:
I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy.
And again in his address to the bishops of Chile on 13 July 1988:
The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral Council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest. ... It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the faith ... nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation.
But by and large we dwell in an Orwellian madhouse where heterodoxy is orthodoxy, division is unity, failure is success, and fantasy trumps reality every day of the week. Francis further claims, for instance, that "the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing." It beggars belief that this supposed People's Pope could so misrepresent life on the ground; in the parish trenches where talk of "moral and religious imperatives" is studiously avoided year on year.
The liberal mind, it seems, simply filters out every distasteful reality, such as meltdown — as in the closing of religious orders throughout the West. Hence the papal surprise caught on the answer phone of a Spanish convent during one of those impromptu calls: "What are the nuns doing that they can't answer the phone? This is Pope Francis. I wanted to offer you greetings for the end of the year. Maybe I'll try and call again later." … Holy Father: they've all scarpered!
In effect, Francis has sparked a revival of that "utopian-progressive atmosphere" which pervaded "Rome and Vatican City and Western Europe itself, only sixteen years after the formal conclusion of World War II." Analysed by Robert Hickson in our April 2013 number, the mood was encapsulated by John XXIII's depiction of the wary as "prophets of doom," and the view that 'we can have fruitful dialogue with the Soviets.' It was an era of religious and socio-political complacency and false optimism: when "the dreamers dreamed" and "the sleepers snuggled back."
This corrosive global vibe returned in retro symmetry last year, as the celebration of two deceased liberal icons converged with Francis hysteria. Fifty years after the opening of the Council and the assassination of JFK, the new Pope began re-channelling the bogus 'spirit' of Vatican II just as the media was reviving its bogus 'Camelot' depiction of the venereal Kennedy tenure, and white-washing the violent life and times of Nelson Mandela.The nostalgic nexus between all three media 'events' was captured by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in his 1982 (neo-Modernist) treatise Principles of Catholic Theology:
[S]omething of the Kennedy era pervaded the Council, something of the naïve optimism of the concept of the great society. We can do everything we want to do, if only we employ the right means. It was precisely the break in historical consciousness, the self-tormenting rejection of the past, that produced the concept of a zero hour, in which everything would begin again, and all those things that had formerly been done badly would now be done well. The dream of liberation, the dream of something totally different, which, a little while later, had an increasingly potent impact on the student revolts, was, in a certain sense, also attributable to the Council; it was the Council that first urged man on and then disappointed him….
In other words, we are back at square one: when liberal fantasy became the new reality as formerly censured neo-Modernist dreamers and wreckers assumed control of the Council, then the Church, with papal blessing. (The Vatican-funded presence of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist organisation renowned for serious criminality, at a Vatican seminar last December, is indicative; as also the positive words of support afforded the group via video by Francis.)
Reliving the leitmotivs
With that explanatory background we can better comprehend the incomprehensible: how flourishing works of God can be destroyed by our spiritual fathers in the Faith with such blithe disregard for the life of souls. Which leads us to the FFI [Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate] explosion — set off, ironically, by a mercy-peddling pontiff who took the name of the order's seraphic patriarch.
Of course, it would not be the retropapacy we have painted if it did not regress to those defining leitmotivs of the '70s: ridicule, marginalisation, and oppression of those who hold fast to Tradition and the ancient Mass that radiates and protects it. On cue, therefore, Francis quickly imprinted such Catholics with every derogatory label under the sun: Pelagian; Legalist; Restorationist; Ideological; Small-minded; Addicts.... As the Associated Press [AP] pithily summed up last December after nine months of these pejoratives: "Francis has made clear his disdain for traditionalist Catholics, saying they are self-absorbed retrogrades who aren't helping the church's mission to evangelize."
The insults were a mere prelude to the sort of punitive action never taken against Jesuit heretics. Indeed the latter are afforded special care, attention and favours; exclusive papal interviews denied the likes of Christian Order, for instance. But as I wrote in the May 2013 editorial apropos our likely fate under Jorge Bergoglio, "Modernists are insatiable wreckers who will never be satisfied until dogmatic Catholicism and all its organically-associated traditions are reduced to rubble." Hence the frontal attack on the TLM-offering Franciscan Friars that quickly ensued when five priests in an order of several hundred priests, seminarians and nuns complained that the Order was "taking on an overly traditionalist bent, with the old Latin Mass being celebrated more and more at the expense of the liturgy in the vernacular" [AP].
In July, the Pope sent Capuchin friar Fidenzio Volpi as a special commissioner to run the FFI and sort things out liturgically and financially. In the same decree appointing Fr Volpi, Francis forbade the friars from celebrating the Traditional Mass without special permission. Even the secular press understood this to be an attack on Summorum Pontificum: "A clear rollback from Benedict's 2007 decision" [AP].
With 80-year-old FFI founder Fr Stefano Manelli consigned to a religious house, Volpi set about making all manner of fierce accusations against Fr Manelli, the Order and its supporters, including the charge of a "distorted mentality" among the Friars and a "crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift." In fact, the FFI are not a radically traditional group by any means. They simply hold to theological and liturgical tradition. Regardless, various Volpi charges were strongly refuted by the FFI priests and nuns. "We retain that such accusations are totally unfounded, and because of the generalizations, they offend our entire Institute," responded the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.
FFI supporters, including Italian academic and leading layman Roberto de Mattei, quickly called for Fr Volpe's resignation as commissioner. Such criticism of his words and actions only infuriated the Capuchin, who, on 8 December, issued a series of extreme sanctions in the name of the Pope: He closed the FFI seminary and sent its students to other religious universities in Rome; suspended the activities of the Friars' lay movement; suspended ordinations of new priests for a year and required future priests to formally accept the teachings of Vatican II and its New Mass or be kicked out; decreed that current priests must commit themselves in writing to following the existing mission of the order.
"Further down the list of measures," noted Rorate Caeli, "Fr. Volpi also orders the suspension of the distribution to the public of Casa Mariana Editrice publications, which include many books and articles championing what might be called a moderate Traditional Catholic viewpoint on the liturgy, on theology, and on Vatican II."
In his open letter calling for Fr Volpi's resignation, de Mattei noted the striking pontifical paradox:
Fr. Volpi accuses all those who criticise him of being against the Pope, but this tyrannical regime, apart from being unknown in the history of the Church, is it not in complete contrast to Pope Francis, who has recommended the avoidance of every kind of authoritarianism and the use of mercy and tenderness towards friends and enemies? An objective expert on Vatican affairs, Mark Tosatti, also took note of this, asking himself in La Stampa dated 4th December “But what have these poor religious done? Have they gambled, abused minors, led an immoral life? They have done none of these things.”
In the eyes of Francis and his Capuchin comrade what they have done is far worse.
If it were not bad enough that they are flourishing and faithful, the FFI have dared to help mainstream the Old Mass: the liturgical bulwark that stands between the Modernists and the final realisation of their neo-aggiornamento (read wholesale protestantisation) of the Church. For the Mass of the saints and martyrs serves always and everywhere as the litmus test of Catholicity par excellence; by its very existence laying bare and decrying every Modernist proclamation, programme or pretension (embodied as one in Vatican II). According to journalist Jean Guitton, his close friend Paul VI knew it well, telling Guitton that "This Mass, called the Mass of St. Pius V, as it is viewed at Econe, is becoming the symbol of the condamnation [sic] of the Council."
Despite Fr Volpi's self-serving protests to the contrary, it is that ongoing "condamnation" of the Council and the Modernist revolution it set in train — the silent yet deafening rebuke of the invisible throngs of saints and martyrs bowed down before the same solemn Sacrifice they defended with their lives, still professing the same dogmatic Faith with the same symbols, gestures and sacred tongue — that accounts for the FFI clampdown. Nothing else but that unbearable, tamper-proof affront to their Cult of Change can explain the visceral hatred for the Traditional Mass underlying such severity; especially when indulgence and lethargy define the Roman response to real scandals.
Back to the future
After the liturgical lull under Benedict, this iron-fisted treatment of the Friars is the wake-up call we needed, recalling as it does the grave words penned in 1976 by the great liturgical scholar Mgr Klaus Gamber, which still hold:
The Roman rite is at the present time the rock amongst the breakers of faithlessness. The innovators are well aware of this: it explains their blind hatred for the "Tridentine Mass." Its preservation is no matter of aesthetics but of the life of the Church.
Since the futuristic Church they desire is a very different creature, full of wide gates and broad ways [Matt. 7:13], we should not wonder at the whoops of Lynch-like gratitude sweeping Western episcopates. Benedict's attempted liturgical restoration threatened their Final Solution: the eradication of the Mass he rehabilitated. Summorum Pontificum seemed to mark the beginning of the end of their long Modernist walk through Tradition: the ecclesial version of Gramsci's non-violent cultural revolution. Instead, to their huge relief they can now retrieve Pope Paul's "programme" from the archives, and resume their great march onwards and upwards to humanistic, syncretic Utopia — or, contrariwise, as Blessed Emmerich foresaw, onwards and downwards to "the false Church of Darkness," wherein Protestantism gains "the upper hand" and "the Catholic religion" falls "into complete decadence."
Preferring the humanistic gospel of social solidarity to the moral and doctrinal evangelism of the Gospel of Christ, the Pope is casting shadows of that decadent counter-Church at every turn, placing action above contemplation. "You get to know Jesus out and about in your everyday, daily life," he preached at St Martha's House on 26 September. "You can’t know Jesus where it’s peace and quiet, or in the library," he scoffed, writing off a thousand years of Carthusian solitude and intimacy with Christ at a stroke.
With its broad bands of angelic silence, how incomprehensible, counterproductive, even dangerous the traditional liturgy must seem to such a disoriented pontiff. Speaking to Vatican radio about his exchange with Francis after he had formally addressed the Bishops of the Czech Republic during their 14 February ad limina visit, Archbishop Jan Graubner said:
When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, ... he made a quite strong statement when he said that he ... cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. "When I search more thoroughly - the Pope said - I find that it is rather a kind of fashion. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion."
Thus, viewed as faddish 'addicts' and contemplative obstacles to 'knowing Jesus,' propagators of the Mass of Ages must be targeted on any flimsy pretext; the Friars and their "addicted" ilk harassed, hedged in, made to fall in line, or shut down.
In this papal light, Roberto de Mattei's take on the forbidding FFI episode makes perfect sense. His open letter effectively explains the attack as a perverse yet consistent liberal desire to create a secularised level playing field:
to normalize the Franciscans of the Immaculate, making them similar to the other religious orders who are going astray. To achieve this, it is necessary to transform their spiritual and moral doctrine, destroy the internal discipline, put an end to the regaining of the traditional liturgy and for them to become open to the corruption of the world, just as [Fr Volpi] and his Capuchin order have done, with disastrous results.
Welcome back to Future Church.
To conclude next month.