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October 1998

Parochus Supra Papam?
Ad Tuendam Fidem in Perspective

Michael McGrade

"A bishop … [must] encourage sound doctrine and shew the wayward their error. There are many rebellious spirits abroad, who talk of their own fantasies and lead men’s minds astray… they must be silenced. They will bring ruin on entire households by false teachings, with an eye to their own base profits."

Titus 1:7-12

"Has not the failure of bishops to discipline theologians and other teachers under their jurisdiction caused most of the prevalent theological confusion and strange teaching that goes on at virtually all levels of Catholic education. This is the most common complaint I have heard repeatedly in the last twenty-five years from the best of thinking Catholics who love their Church."

Father Paul Marx, OSB

"Most of the theological liberalism in the Church today is not found among the laity, but among the clergy and, right now, they control most of the seminaries and religious education programmes. The clergy have been the heretics in the Catholic Church since Judas."

Dr. Paul Vitz

If a definition of hope is ‘the confidence to attain what one desires by overcoming whatever obstacles stand in the way’, then the Holy Father has every reason to feel deeply pessimistic about the likely impact of his latest Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem - To Defend the Faith. For beyond Church law and the problematic ‘hierarchy of truths’ being dutifully swept and dusted, what the Pope clearly desires, as the title and opening paragraph indicate, is a purge of all heretics, apostates, doubters and obfuscaters poisoning the purity of the Faith - especially those busy proselytising right at this moment in Catholic institutes of learning and formation. This is John Paul’s hope; his vital aspiration. It is, however, ultimately forlorn since the obstacles blocking its achievement, with few exceptions anywhere in the Western Church, are the very prelates to whom the document is addressed; the same men who have nurtured, protected and promoted the very corrupters of God's truth Ad Tuendam Fidem is designed to silence, punish and/or expel!

De-Facto Schism
In Britain, for instance, it is virtually inconceivable that any one of our Shepherds - who the Vicar of Christ is seeking to "confirm" in their duty of preserving the "truths of the Faith" through the ready use of "canonical sanctions" – will take even the mildest steps to restrain the slippery-tongued Modernist demagogues who fill their seminaries and institutes up and down the land, let alone smite them with "a just penalty."

Apart from the common experience of thirty truculent years, we can be sure of this non-response since the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity on which the Motu Proprio is based is itself a dead letter in Britain. Father Francis Marsden recently reminded one and all through his Catholic Times column that this Profession is "supposed to be sworn on the Gospels by all candidates for the diaconate, all episcopal vicars and vicars general, seminary rectors and professors of theology or philosophy, Catholics who lecture in faith or morals in secular universities." Yet it is so neglected in practice that only a few ago, at the time of his induction as parish priest, Fr. Marsden recalled having to seek out and utilise the Latin original after searching in vain for an English translation to recite!

So let us be under no illusions about the fact that Modernists will, for now, continue to be feted and favoured, particularly for those crucial posts of responsibility in promoting the disciplines of sacred theology which John Paul singles out for safeguarding. Take Father Roderick Strange as a prime example. Recently appointed as Rector of the Beda College in Rome, and thus overseer of the spiritual and intellectual formation of our future priests, Fr. Strange is required to take the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity. But even were he to do so, would it not be the worst kind of sacrilegious tokenism given the corrosive brand of Christianity articulated in his book The Catholic Faith? A work abounding in "gross misinterpretations of the teachings of Vatican II" and "neo-Modernist errors" which "involve the corruption of Catholic doctrine and cannot be reconciled with the teachings contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church." [Fr G.H. Duggan, James Likoudis and J. E. Edwards have treated this work in the November 1994 and April 1997 editions of Christian Order)

Truly, one need look no further than this prestigious appointment – symbolically stationed on John Paul’s doorstep - to comprehend just how far from the mind of Christ and His Vicar the English hierarchy has strayed; to perceive the reality of the de-facto schism it cultivates and maintains.

Little wonder, then, that at the first sign of a Roman threat to their Anglicanisation of the local Church, English liberals turn reflexively to that same episcopate for solace and succour. Valerie Stroud of We Are Church told The Daily Telegraph: "that [in the wake of Ad Tuendam Fidem] the bishops of England and Wales were the ‘only hope’ for preventing ordinary Catholics from abandoning the Church." [A rag-tag assortment of apostates closely allied to the IPPF’s nefarious puppet Catholics For a Free Choice, We Are Church is symbiotically linked to the Catholic Women’s Network which in turn controls the National Board of Catholic Women, an official advisory body to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales]. Her non serviam sentiment was shared by the editor of Scotland’s mega-liberal Open House magazine who, like Ms Stroud, had every confidence in the proven ability of modern day prelates to disregard direct papal commands like Ecclesia Dei and Ad Tuendam Fidem: "We get off fairly lightly in Scotland," he told The Scotsman, "where we have a middle-of-the-road and easygoing hierarchy."

Which just left John Wilkins, editor of the Cardinal Hume-favoured Tablet, to epitomise the vacuity of the liberal establishment’s response to the Motu Proprio. In the course of an insulting, ad hominem attack on its author, Wilkins informed The Guardian: "There is a lamentable mindset in the Vatican at the moment. It’s a dreadful period. He [John Paul] has become an old man; his attention span has dropped off. He can’t listen and follow an argument through." Routine Tablet fare, to be sure, but no less squalid for that.

Grassroots: The Trickle Down Effect
Following the lead of the bishops and their uppity minions, a burgeoning number of the rank and file have now abandoned any hint of subtlety in their embrace of this schismatic mentality. Consider these everyday episodes recently passed on by readers in which the unrestricted "false teachings" of "rebellious spirits" - diffused through literature and lectures, conferences and committees, bureaus and bulletins – are acted out under the guidance of clerics around the nation:

  • a parish in a northern diocese actually devising and proceeding to implement its own version of the Mass with express disregard (when challenged) for the Vatican’s view of such a pass.

  • a cleric down south instructing his flock from the pulpit with deliberation and emphasis: "Many of you think that the Church is run by the Vatican, that little man in white, well it’s not. It’s run by you and me!"

  • a defiant pro-priestess article in a parish magazine stating: "The Pope’s infallible statement saying there will never be women priests has not extinguished the debate on women’s ministry and ordination, rather it has fuelled it."

  • an insidious sign outside a northern church which reads - "St. Matthew’s Parish: A Christian Community in the Roman Catholic Tradition" (sitting alongside the nearby Protestant signpost - "A Christian Community in the Anglican Tradition").

  • a southern priest employing husband and wife Church of Scotland "ministers" to teach his parishioners "Celtic spirituality," while opining about the priest shortage in his newsletter thus: "It is not because there are not people who could be ordained but because the authorities of our church obstinately refuse to ordain men who are married and, of course, women too."

  • mocking the Holy Father’s right to use the Peter’s Pence collection as he sees fit, a cleric tells his congregation: "Just think what he can do with the money. He can send us some more of his encyclicals, oh dear, oh dear!"

  • a priest, described by one of his peers as an "active, aggressive homosexual… totally unsuited to any form of pastoral work" - yet ever protected by his bishop despite his open affiliation with the pro-sodomite lobby and his notoriety for frequenting gay bars and men’s health clubs (‘for pastoral reasons’) - lauds the Anglican ordination of women priests as "inspirational" and advertises a meeting of the Catholic Women’s Ordination group in the local Cathedral.

  • a notorious dissenter, lauded by a southern bishop and sponsored by one of his priests, vilifies the Papacy and the priesthood throughout a talk at the diocesan Pastoral Centre, following which several clerics speak of their support for married and women priests, their encouragement of re-marriage after divorce and their "colluding with the system."

And then there is the report from an inner-London parish which really sums up the alien spirit identified above. In order to justify himself before a written complaint about the usual array of infractions (‘Eucharistic Minister’s’ et. al.), the priest concerned hijacked a saying which the Holy Father had delivered to a group of clergy in Rome: "parochus supra Papam (The Parish Priest is above the Pope)." He laid out the text of the Papal address in his parish newsletter as if this light-hearted phrase from John Paul’s student days - delivered in the context of stressing the importance of parish life - somehow rationalised his liturgical ‘anomalies.’

Now, I am led to believe that even some reasonably well-informed orthodox - presumably in denial about the annual loss of 40,000+ souls from the sacramental life of the English Church - would prefer to consign this routine sample of "goings on" from the Christian Order mailbag to a loud but unrepresentative clique of lunatic-fringe newchurch dilettantes. In response to such regressive wishful-thinking, one can only proffer that 1968 was a long time ago and that a lot has happened in the three decades since. Indeed, in 1998 we find that the erstwhile harmless adage parochus supra Papam has become de rigueur in England; that it positively encapsulates the anarchic/schismatic attitude now wringing the Catholic life out of parishes everywhere. It is again exemplified in the following extract from a Portsmouth parish newsletter of May this year:

The Church asks us to focus on vocations to the priesthood and religious life next weekend. In publicity material received from the ‘Commission for the Ordained Ministry’ we have been told, "this year, for the first time… we presented no candidates for the selection conference at Wonersh"… For some people, the future of Parish life, as we have known it, is very bleak…. For other people, God is clearly telling us something beautiful…. Here is one proposal for St. Joseph’s Parish before we are informed that the Bishop has no priest to send us.

We at St Joseph’s Parish, following a period of prayer and discernment and discussion, select 2 people to be our priests. The names of these candidates will be submitted for approval to the Bishop and to the Commission for Ordained Ministry in the Diocese. As sharers in the baptised priesthood of the people of God, we request that these candidates be ordained in the Jubilee Year of 2000. For a period of 7 years, they will provide for our Sacramental and spiritual needs. Nothing further will be asked of them. A second term of office could be renewed with the consent of all concerned. By the year 2003, the Parish will have selected 4 other candidates (for the same period of time) for the Ordained Ministry. 2 of these will serve in the Parish and 2 could be ordained to serve the wider Church.

The moral here is that if the lunatics are running the asylum, as clearly they are, then it is just as evident that without Catholic bishops and priests, Canon Law and Motu Proprios are not worth a carrot; that without some kind of Ad Tuendam Fidem II, dealing with "just penalties" for bad Shepherds who foster or tolerate mutinous flocks, then we are in this for the long haul.

The Crowning Disloyalty to God
Still, having said all that and put the media nonsense about Papal crackdowns and the imminent suppression of liberal protagonists in perspective, it is not all bad news and wet blankets. While our Lady of La Salette (1846) has forewarned us that "Rome will lose the Faith" (an apparition approved by Rome itself!), Ad Tuendam Fidem per se is a timely confirmation that Rome is neither completely lost to the liberal cause (often felt to be very near the case) nor altogether indifferent to life in the orthodox trenches. Somewhere within that stifling Vatican bureaucracy, which so often appears to place ecclesiastical protocol and politics before souls, perhaps there are still one or two cosseted mandarins who actually identify and sympathise with the sense of outrage which has long imbued the orthodox troops of the Lord’s Church Militant.

Not that it has been easy to maintain deeply felt shock and righteous anger through thirty sad years of familiarity with all shapes and shades of clerical villainy; to always react purposefully before workaday horrors like the blasting of sanctuary marble to smithereens or the sex-ed dictates of bureaucratic brownshirts or episcopal recognition and funding of dissident feminazis. Evil is all the more beguiling for being commonplace; all the more compelling for being institutionalised. Thus, worn down by the relentless jackhammer-and-jackboot ideology of the new church, a broad middle-ground of somnolent orthodox has sought a false peace through compromise. Only those who have kept watch with Christ [Mk 14:37-38] have managed to sustain their open revulsion for scandal despite feelings of impotence at having seen and heard it all a thousand times before. Their overt anger, despite fulsome cries by family and friends to desist and fall in line, has signalled a clear refusal to join the ranks of the lukewarm or to acquiesce in the iconoclasm and head-kicking of the pseudo-Catholic elite.

If this unflagging sense of outrage has been a source of aggravation to both newchurch and secular liberals alike, it is due to its being rooted in a politically incorrect view which shakes modern man in his depths - the view that suffering is not the worst thing in the world. No, according to this socially repugnant idea espoused by the Catholic remnant, the worst thing in the world is, in point of fact, sin i.e. doing evil. Further, it is the conviction that all evils are ultimately rooted in the greatest evil, heresy - the most hateful and insidious of all crimes and the crowning disloyalty to God.

Bombarded with media images of physical distress and raised on the incessant propaganda of a man-centred Church, preaching a Social Gospel about the pre-eminence of the here and now, perhaps even believing Catholics might baulk at this apparently abstract view. Well, since a convert often appreciates heresy in a way that escapes the blasé cradle-Catholic, let me simply put the Catholic position via this flaming accusation which erupted from the pen of the celebrated Frederick William Faber, a former Church of England minister who converted last century. If the reader finds it even fractionally disconcerting, if these words make him shift with even imperceptible discomfort - then the humanistic hegemony of three long and dreary decades has surely done its corrupting work:

"It is the sin of sins, the very loathsomest of things which God looks down upon in this malignant world. Yet how little do we understand its excessive hatefulness! It is the polluting of God’s truth, which is the worst of all impurities. Yet how light we make of it! We look at it, and are calm. We touch it, and do not shudder. We mix with it and have no fear. We see it touch holy things and we have no sense of sacrilege. We breathe its odour and show no signs of detestation or disgust. Some of us affect its friendship; and some even extenuate its guilt.

We do not love God enough to be angry for His glory. We do not love men enough to be charitably truthful for their souls. Having lost the touch, the taste, the sight, and all the sense of heavenly-mindedness, we can dwell amidst this odious plague in imperturbable tranquility, reconciled to its foulness, not without some boastful professions of liberal admiration, perhaps even with a solicitous show of tolerant sympathies.

Why are we so far below the old saints and even the modern apostles of these latter times in the abundance of our conversions? Because we have not the antique sternness. We want the old Church-spirit, the old ecclesiastical genius. Our charity is untruthful, because it is not severe; and it is unpersuasive because it is untruthful. We lack devotion to truth as truth, as God’s truth.

Our zeal for souls is puny because we have no zeal for God’s honour. We act as if God were complimented by conversions, instead of trembling souls rescued by a stretch of mercy. We tell men half the truth, the half that best suits our pusillanimity and their conceit; and then we wonder that so few are converted, and that of those few so many apostatise.

We are so weak as to be surprised that our half-truth has not succeeded as well as God’s whole-truth. Where there is no hatred of heresy there is no holiness. A man, who might be an apostle, becomes a fester in the Church for want of this righteous abomination."

Grounded in the same belief, the Holy Father’s Ad Tuendam Fidem is surely an attempt, however imperfect, to put this awareness of heresy back where it belongs - at the top of the Catholic agenda! Those who have lived and acted these past three decades as if it was always the priority when clearly it was not, might well feel vindicated and encouraged to maintain their outspoken, righteous indignation before the unspeakable works of heretics and apostates, now feted more brazenly than ever within our parishes and dioceses. If the document achieves only that much (and in the short-term we cannot realistically expect much more), it will have served an admirable interim purpose.

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