CRONIES, CROOKS AND CRISIS POPES
As Father Paul Marx, OSB, the great pro-life apostle and founder of Human Life International put it to me a few years ago, "the Church is in total chaos." I knew it was. But when that familiar fact is confirmed by someone of his stature who has observed the Catholic crisis first-hand in close to 100 countries, it gains new resonance. Thirty-six years after the Council the Body of Christ remains deeply sick, and from Capetown to Quebec, from Christchurch to Cork, with a mere handful of noble exceptions in between, there is no cure in sight. When scandal becomes scandalously routine - so much a part of the Catholic landscape that one is astonished if a priest gets through Holy Mass without improvisation, sacrilege or heresy, or one sighs with blessed relief when a cleric gets caught with a female rather than a male - when it comes to that, you know that "crisis" has become "chaos" has become "basket case."
And so we ask ourselves why Rome does not act with the same zeal as Pius X to combat the Modernists; to at least discipline them if not drum them out of the Church? We repeatedly ask the question yet in our hearts we know the answer well enough: that Pope Paul's famous "smoke of Satan" - the pyscho-spiritual corruption of priestly souls rooted in doctrinal, moral and liturgical dissidence - has penetrated the Church at every level. Above all, it has laid waste to bedrock Catholic teachings on "authority" and "obedience." The bishops themselves have been to the fore in that corrosive process, undermining their own authority through active or tacit complicity in a million-and-one scandals and daily nose-thumbing in the direction of Rome. At the same time, Rome has contributed mightily to the decay by not only failing to act against episcopal transgressors but often, instead, preferring to honour even the worst of them.
The red hat dispensed by the Pope early last year to German Archbishop Karl Lehman of Mainz is probably the most celebrated of such rewards for episcopal dissidence in recent times. It was generally thought that the arch-liberal Lehman did not have a chance of being elevated due to his outspoken call for Communion for the divorced-and-re-married among his other Modernist war-cries. Notwithstanding the massive financial clout that Germany always brings to the table in these matters, the Pope's decision shocked just about everyone (except Inside the Vatican magazine which rather too readily accepted the new Cardinal's view that he was greatly misunderstood!) "I'm pleased with the recognition of my work as a bishop and also as head of the German bishops' conference,'' Lehmann said. An interesting comment, considering he has virtually no vocations in his thoroughly Protestanised diocese and that on the day he collected his red hat in St. Peter's Square (22 February 2001), the German episcopal conference received the most pointed rebuke from the Holy Father. As head of that conference, Lehman was handed a hard-hitting letter for all German bishops in which John Paul II lamented the state of the Faith in Germany and personally demanded major orthodox reforms in the areas of priestly formation, ecumenism, the role of the laity and married life (reiterating for the umpteenth time the ban on Lehman's hobby horse: reception of Holy Communion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics).
Closer to home, the consecration last month of England's Bishop Peter Smith as Archbishop of Cardiff is the latest glaring example of Vatican contradiction in this country. "I am an orthodox Catholic believer and a bishop," stated Bishop Smith on his elevation. Well, he is a bishop. Beyond that, however, he is plainly deluding himself. His track record of not only failing to defend orthodoxy but publicly supporting purveyors of heresy and heterodoxy has been made well known to the powers in Rome, who themselves forcibly intervened to correct him on one occasion. Then again, Archbishop Smith's appointment is only the latest in an endless line of similarly dismal decisions in this country. The Protestantised state of disrepair in which Cormac Murphy O'Connor left his former diocese of Arundel and Brighton and the undermining of basic tenets of Catholic doctrine during the ARCIC talks he oversaw - which the Vatican itself was required to point out and correct at length - hardly constitutes a record worthy of promotion to Westminster. Yet for his woeful efforts, not to mention his repeated acts of negligence in the Fr. Michael Hill paedophile scandal, which should have earned him at the very least a token suspended sentence (like that recently handed out in France to the Bishop of Lisieux for similar complicity), he was further rewarded with a red hat.
One could go on endlessly citing similar examples in every country. The honouring of men who have so dishonoured the priesthood and episcopal office in so many ways indicates that there is something dreadfully wrong with the appointment process. "It's the system," shrugged a sympathetic Vatican official to an exasperated English delegation last year, going on to explain that the bishops simply nominate their fellow bishops or underlings, the nuncio rubber stamps the recommendations and Rome pretty much follows suit. It all deteriorated greatly after the Council as papal nuncios switched allegiance, hitching themselves onto the collegiality bandwagon and reinventing themselves as episcopal nuncios. (It is hardly coincidental that the recent upturn in Australia's episcopal fortunes has coincided with the arrival there of a sympathetic papal nuncio for the first time in a generation. Meanwhile, Britain must bear with Mgr Pablo Puente, a bishops' man par excellence.) But the truth of the matter is that we are stuck with the appointment process we have (has anyone heard of a better one that won't play further into liberal hands and turn it into a free-for-all?) - and it's success or otherwise is a cyclical thing. It seems only designed to work well - to consistently elevate worthy men - when Holy Mother Church is in a healthy state and led by an uncompromising Pope who both ensures the appointment of thoroughly loyal and orthodox nuncios and personally scrutinises each episcopal candidate. Whenever She is in crisis from top to bottom, however, it becomes a diabolical recipe for the very catastrophe we now face; a formula for toadying careerism as ambitious liberal clergy work their way up the greasy pole of Holy Church Inc. In recent years Rome itself has been moved to speak out against this pernicious but widespread tendency in the modern episcopate (making its continual elevation of such liberal time-servers even more contradictory).
Cardinal Bernadin's nefarious circle, as outlined by Stephen Brady elsewhere in this edition, epitomises the rampant cronyism of our age and the ease with which the most corrupt can exploit the system during times of apostasy. The sort of sponsorship or patronage which leads on to a mitre often starts in the seminary, where a particular student is taken under the wing of a rector or vice-rector and finds himself afforded special treatment - veritable 'golden-haired boy' status - from day one, perhaps becoming a Superior's personal secretary or assistant. A close bond is forged between student and mentor and doors are opened thereafter. This holds true in both traditional and Modernist seminaries. Although many great priests and prelates and pontiffs have emerged via such sponsorship, one must have experienced the system from the inside to appreciate just how questionable (to say the least) can be the preferred students, and the leeway afforded them, even in the most traditional of seminaries. Nowadays, however, it hardly matters whether such patronage commences during seminary de-formation or later on. With Modernists monopolising priestly and Religious life, the present clerical supply line is clearly geared to delivering only one type of episcopal candidate.
Father Andrew Summersgill
To this end, Archbishop Worlock, always on the lookout for Modernist talent, took a personal interest in seminarians. According to former students he knew everything about those studying at the Venerable English College in Rome. He doubtless knew and approved of Father Andrew Summersgill, one of the recent insider appointments who is clearly being groomed for episcopal elevation. Father Summersgill's speedy rise has been a classic of the said type. He entered the English College in 1980 at the tender age of 18 and was ordained in Bradford in 1986. He returned to Rome for a further two years of studies and spent barely one-and-a-half years in a Leeds parish before becoming secretary to Bishop Konstant of Leeds, the Modernist power-broker of the English episcopate, in September 1990. He took on other administrative roles in the diocese - Vice-Chancellor (1991) and Judicial Vicar and Chancellor (1995) - and has now been appointed General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, as of April 2001. On learning of this latest promotion, a well-respected, peaceable family man from the Leeds diocese wrote to Christian Order, reflecting in his letter the disgust of the 'man in the pew' at the Modernist gravy train:
Too harsh? Those who think so miss the point entirely and stand accused of either gross naivety or cowardly denial about the spiritually corrupt system being perpetuated here. The underlying cause of the writer's heartfelt cry of exasperation - that the bishops continue feathering their Modernist nest while the Church burns - was evident as he went on to describe his appalling experience as a teacher in the Leeds diocese where Father Summersgill has cut his teeth under Bishop Konstant. In particular, RE continues to revolve around the infamous catechetical text Weaving the Web (1989 edition), which our correspondent neatly summed up as "100% rubbish." Of his recent time in one leading school he wrote: "You would be shocked by what I saw taught there. The head of RE, a very nice lady but not well educated in the truths of the Faith (an ex-Anglican I suspect) taught that: "In the Mass the 'nature' not the 'substance' changes into the Body of Our Lord. This is called Transubstantiation." Further, she stated and taught to the class that: "The change in the bread and wine takes place by the faith of the Priest and the faith of the people." An Anglican idea. I taught the class differently of course. But boy do they teach all about Islam! - and with such respect! No wonder the kids just don't want to know anything about religion. They will all leave as agnostics except perhaps about 1%."
In light of that, it may seem paradoxical that Bishop Konstant recently involved Father Summersgill in the translation of a largely orthodox, pocket Italian catechism titled The Faith of the Catholic Church. This, however, is just another time-honoured way for Modernist prelates to shore up the episcopal credentials of their spiritual sons. Similarly, cronies are often sent to undertake further studies to enhance their curriculum vitae. Or a public platform is afforded them to showboat their supposed orthodoxy. Archbishop Worlock once arranged for his then liberal protege Mgr Vincent Nichols (now Archbishop of Birmingham) to give an orthodox address in Liverpool Cathedral for public consumption. Nichols, renowned for his ambivalence about contraception and promotion of Humanae Vitae dissenters, duly obliged with a one-off address which held the Church's line. (Even during these self-serving exercises, however, Modernists often betray themselves. In answer to question 15 of the abovementioned catechism, "Who is God?" - a pivotal query if ever there was! - the Summersgill/Konstant team has preferred the erroneous, dangerous, quintessentially Modernist answer - "I AM WHO I AM" instead of the unambiguous Catholic response - "I AM WHO AM.")
Bishop Kieran Conry
Father Summersgill, of course, can afford a 'sticks and stones…' response to all this, because he is on track for the episcopal heights and controversies are not about to derail him. Should he ever strike trouble, however, he need only phone Bishop Kieran Conry for reassurance. Recently installed in Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's former diocese of Arundel and Brighton (or what is left of it after his tenure), the former Mgr. Conry was earmarked for higher things by Cardinal Hume during his time as Director of the Catholic Media Office. Despite one priest's assessment of his time there as being "by any objective standards a disaster," Mgr Conry became one of the sponsored 'untouchables' - and acted accordingly. "For a period I saw quite a bit of Conry," a deacon confided. "He seemed to live in a secular, corporate world rather than a priestly one. I never once saw him dressed as a priest. His point of view was unfailingly liberal." In other words, he was left to do his own thing. And if that is considered par for the priestly course nowadays, I guess one could say the same about his 'special friendship.' "Kieran was often seen out and about with his female friend," a London priest informed me. "Everyone knew about it in the same way that everyone, including the bishops, knew about the homosexual relationship between Martin Pendergast [ex-Carmelite priest] and Julian Filochowski [Director of CAFOD, the bishops' overseas aid agency]."
Several years ago, around the time of the Roddy Wright scandal, I explored how British bishops turn a blind eye to the "occasion of sin" in which a priest "keeping company" places himself, tempting fate and grave scandal ["Six Bishops and a Funeral: Why The Common Good was Dead on Arrival," CO, Jan. 1997]. At that time, in commenting on the routine breaking of vows of chastity acknowledged by the hierarchy in a message to the Pope, Mgr (now Bishop) Arthur Roche had assured The Times that "… the bishops of England and Wales are realists." Just how "realistic" they are I indicated by relating, among other cases, the example of the London priest well known to be living with his Pastoral Assistant, who he took along to Deanery meetings at the Bishop's house! In that context, Mgr Conry 'merely' keeping regular company in such public fashion is hardly surprising. Yet even if such increasingly common 'relationships' are purely platonic, the point is that scandal is given, above all to those of simple and delicate conscience who are offended by it and interpret it in a bad sense. St. Joseph Cafasso, a nineteenth century version of the Cure of Ars, called this kind of scandal "the scandal of the little ones." A priest's life is not his own, and so the Saint exhorts him to absolutely abstain from any behaviour which might give scandal, even if caused by appearance only and the result of the ignorance of others.
One assumes that this is the case with Mgr Conry. But regardless, does it not leave the gravest questions about ecclesiastical propriety? Not to say about his prudential judgement and ability to offer wise moral leadership and counsel to others? Especially when shortly before his episcopal consecration Mass he is seen in Italy strolling hand in hand and enjoying leisurely outings with his lady friend at Palazzola, the residence on Lake Albano belonging to the English College. Again, it was the appearance of scandal that upset those who viewed the liaison, including one priest who was sufficiently disgusted to make representations to a Vatican Congregation. Word quickly spread and it is said that Church authorities may have queried Mgr Conry about the matter. Whatever the case, it is a measure of the unqualified protection afforded to Modernist cronies that not only did Mgr Conry's less than discreet romantic entanglement not disqualify him from consideration for a bishopric in the first place, but that the Palazzola coup de grace did not even delay his elevation by a single day. It is especially shocking in light of the numerous sexual scandals in recent years which have caused such harm to the Church in general and episcopate in particular, and which, one might have thought, would have seen Rome acting swiftly to snuff out the slightest possibility of further tabloid headlines. Not on your life. Ensconced in a plum see, Bishop Conry is now fulfilling the standard expectations of his liberal patrons: Protestantising and bureaucratizing his diocese behind a welter of Modernist buzz-words about "community," "renewal" and "change."
One could go on. Interminably. But enough of cronies-in-waiting and cronies-consecrated. Bizarre, self-contradictory appointments, exemplified most recently by Archbishop Peter Smith, raise all sorts of deeper issues about the spiritual and moral corruption of a Vatican which rubber stamps them. Radiating outwards from the centre like ripples in a pond, these waves of wicked enthronements, mixed-messages and tolerance of scandal have swelled to that tidal wave of "total chaos" now overwhelming local Churches, threatening the very existence of some.
At one end of the spectrum Rome's complicity has entrenched the sort of mainstream Modernist cronyism treated above; with all its attendant liturgical, doctrinal and moral dissidence. At the other, it has led to the sort of criminality associated with Bernadin-style cronyism; extended networks of sexual predators protected at the highest levels, cultivated and maintained by the flourishing homosexual subculture now openly tolerated in the Western Church. The two ends, however, are inextricably linked. If, in the secular criminal sense, only a small minority of Modernist cronies are crooks, it is also true that the crooks are almost always Modernist cronies. Much as cannabis is a gateway to more deadly drugs, the seductive doctrinal and moral ambivalence of Modernism opens the door wide to deadly sin and the ultimate possibility of depraved behaviour. "Experience has taught us," writes Stephen Brady, President of Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF) which is dedicated to fighting heterodoxy and corruption within the Catholic hierarchy, "that, more often than not, when we find a priest or bishop whose flock has been subjected to liturgical abuse or heresy, you will find a priest or bishop with a sexual weakness or perversion" [CO, November 2000].
Bishop Daniel Ryan
RCF has experienced the Vatican's refusal to act upon clear-cut evidence of the dissolute and criminal behaviour of clerics on a number of occasions. Throughout the second half of the 1990s, Mr Brady had sought the removal of his own ordinary, Bishop Daniel Ryan of Springfield, Illinois, for his soliciting of male prostitutes and propositioning of priests over many years. Indeed, the path to Mr Brady's fight for justice in this particular case represents a classic unfolding of the unholy sequence outlined above: his concern about church re-ordering and liturgical abuse under the new Modernist parish priest progressing to outrage at rampant sex-education, heterodoxy and heresy in the local school and finally on to the truth about Bishop Ryan's sordid activities, as priests came forward to complain of physical sexual harassment by their bishop and evidence of his long history of soliciting local homosexuals and lewd public acts emerged. One priest interviewed by The Wanderer acknowledged that Bishop Ryan had offered him the parish of his choice and stated he could make him a bishop in return for sexual favours. It goes without saying that Ryan's own brand of Modernist theology had been on display from the time he was installed in Springfield in 1984. A local Catholic recalled how at one Mass the new bishop had explained away the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes by stating that the small boy with the food had merely "shared his lunch with others, and this act inspired others to do the same. He concluded by saying that he believed the real miracle was a miracle of the heart which caused people to share with others who had nothing…"
All the while assisted and advised by wise and holy priests like the late Father John Hardon, S.J. (who told him: "These are the worst times in the history of the Church"), RCF pursued every step of the case with great probity. But not only did Ryan refuse to resign quietly when Stephen Brady formally advised him that the game was up, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, betrayed Brady's trust by providing Ryan with the strictly confidential statements of his priest-accusers and then declaring the case "closed." Brady, who had also provided material to the Sacred Congregation for Bishops in Rome, then held a press conference on 11 February 1997, and that same day an RCF Board member and lawyer wrote to the nuncio:
Around that time, Fr. Hardon, who himself had been in contact with Bishop Ryan, found safe haven for one of Ryan's accusers, since the Bishop was attempting to force priests who posed a threat into undergoing psychiatric examination in order to discredit them (a shocking but common Modernist ruse). Fr. Hardon also travelled to Rome in late February 1997 with one of Ryan's priest-accusers and met with Archbishop Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who listened to the evidence against Ryan. And yet time marched on and nothing was done. As The Wanderer later noted:
Meanwhile, further incriminating evidence of the most sordid kind was accumulating against Bishop Ryan and other clergy. Brady notified the nuncio and Archbishop George of Chicago of a press conference scheduled for 30 December 1997. A representative of Archbishop George then contacted him, requesting him to postpone the conference and promising a thorough investigation of the matter. Brady had agreed to this same course of action a year before only to be sold out. Nevertheless, he once again agreed to postpone the conference and hold off releasing new charges - only to be double-crossed by the Archbishop's representative. Brady then scheduled another press conference for 15 January 1998 and, immediately, high-ranking ecclesiastical officials descended on him to try once more to convince him to cancel it. It was one of these officials who admitted that the Vatican had known all about Ryan's homosexual activity for many years. For Brady this astonishing admission was the last straw and he went ahead with the planned press conference. Who could blame him? As Dr. Thomas Drolesky noted in The Wanderer, by this stage Brady was convinced that "Too much harm had been done to the state of the Church in Springfield to permit this new evidence to languish in the Vatican bureaucracy for another five or six years." And Drolesky concluded his report with the damning question: "What price is the Holy See willing to pay to keep Bishop Daniel Ryan in power?"
It seems that Rome was prepared to pay a very high price indeed. Because Bishop Ryan was left to tender his resignation at his leisure. He finally did so in October 1999 - just nine days before a lawsuit was filed accusing him of multiple sexual encounters with male prostitutes and at least one priest. Denying the charges to the end, he smugly notified his flock of his intention to spend his retirement in Springfield, "our diocese, which I have come to know and to love as my home." And with the blessing of his successor Bishop Lucas, Ryan remains active - offering Mass publicly around the diocese and even confirming children at parishes in the neighbouring diocese of Joliet.
Bishop Reg Cawcutt
Another egregious example of Rome's seeming paralysis in the face of public scandal of the most shocking episcopal kind, was its virtual non-response to RCF's exposure in late 1999 of the "St. Sebastian's Angels" e-mail list/website for homosexual Catholic clergy. Around 60 priests from America and several other countries conducted filthy chatroom conversations on this pornographic site and shared dirty photos, incuding hard-core images of male genitalia. One of the most willing participants was Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, the auxiliary bishop of Cape Town and Chairman of the AIDS committee for the South African Bishops' Conference. Known for having advocated the legalisation of 'homosexual marriage,' his messages posted on the site were replete with four letter words, ("bury me in an old vestment - the f**k they will"); sexually explicit suggestions ("Rick, if you use the oral/tongue method for measuring - you could measure me anytime"); encouragement to freely engage in sodomy ("despite wot [sic] holy mother church says"); and deep hatred for Cardinal Ratzinger ("kill him? pray for him? Why not just f**k him??? any volunteers"). Other clerical participants described orthodox laity as "despots" and at least one priest hoped that John Paul II would die. A San Diego Superior related how he spent his day off at "the gay section" of the local nude beach wearing "Speedo's or the briefest I can find. Several friends are heavy in to leather, S&M and MORE. Me, I like gentle, warmth and no pain…" This is just the merest and mildest taste of the filth on offer.
RCF contacted the nuncio and five US Cardinals, only one of whom (Cardinal George) replied and he expressed no interest. Following this lack of response and disinterest on the part of the hierarchy in calling those involved to repentance and conversion, Brady decided to post some of the e-mail messages and photos on the RCF website as of 14 January 2000. RCF also contacted the superiors of those participants they identified. In response to the controversy which followed, Bishop Cawcutt issued a statement in Cape Town defending the internet group and accusing RCF of "illegal, unchristian, irresponsible and immoral scandal mongering" (there was, of course, nothing illegal about accessing the very public website). South Africa's Sunday Times of 20 February 2000 reported that local "Catholic officials praised Cawcutt as a progressive force in the Church, saying he was renowned for his compassion." Despite the considerable publicity generated by the site in the secular and Catholic press worldwide, however, the Vatican barely stirred. Once again, it was left to RCF to call for the resignation of a disgraced prelate, which Stephen Brady did on 21 April 2000, noting that: "Cawcutt, it seems, would have us believe that his foul-mouthed, vulgar comments and his participation in the distribution of nude photos were all part of his 'pastoral plan' to 'minister' to his fellow homosexual clergy." CO readers should know that Bishop Cawcutt was finally called to Rome by Cardinal Ratzinger. He turned up only to be turned away - the Cardinal having been privately apprised in advance of derogatory comments made by Cawcutt about the proposed meeting. And so, incredibly, Cawcutt remains in office, and spokesman for the South African Bishops conference, as if nothing had ever happened.
The non-response to such ecclesiastical corruption should come as no surprise to the English and Welsh following a year in which scandal and blatant episcopal disobedience and dissent reached ever greater heights, to be met with restrained reaction all round. One might have thought that public revelations about rampant homosexuality in English seminaries would have raised the roof rather than a few understated words of concern, especially when a prime time television documentary devoted to the subject related tales of depravity at the Venerable English College in Rome ["Queer and Catholic", 5 May 2001, Channel 4]. A homosexual ex-seminarian recalled one particular Trinity Sunday when "noises were heard coming from one of the students rooms. And they were obviously two people having sex [sodomising]. It became even more obvious when his neighbour, to cover the noise of what was happening in the room, put on a Take That CD, on full volume, which got the attention of most of the students in the College. They all came down the corridor to tell him to turn the music down. Which he did, and the noise of the two people having sex was still coming from the student's room." Viewers were further informed by ex-students that homosexual seminarians frequently engaged in one-night stands "in a bush, in a park, in clubs frequented by gay men, in the middle of Rome." The diabolical rationalisation of this behaviour being that "you were still being celibate, in the sense that your heart belonged to the priesthood and the Church and what you did with your body was just flesh."
It is hard to imagine a greater humiliation for the Church on national television. Yet there was no vigorous and sustained pressure for the English College to be hosed down and scrubbed out (and exorcised!) and its superiors sent packing. Nor any sign of flaming indignation at the contribution to the programme of the Rector of St. John's Seminary in Wonersh, Surrey, whose casual acceptance of homosexual infiltration was insidious; smugly accepting homosexual seminarians as very much part of the furniture, and viewing the whole gay integration process as an adventure through "unchartered territory" currently in the process of being mapped out! For all the fuss it caused, one could well conclude that the Vatican's only significant response to this ghastly documentary was to change its mind about arch-Modernist Bishop Peter Smith - whose astounding promotion to Cardiff came only months after he conveniently upheld orthodox Catholic teaching on the programme.
Within a month of this came the CAFOD-gate scandal: Bishop John Crowley's agreement to offer Mass in public celebration of a twenty-five year homosexual 'friendship' between an ex-priest and the Director of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, only to withdraw at the eleventh hour when the press caught him out. Some orthodox commentators consider that this particular scandal caused a "rude awakening" in Rome about the rock-bottom state of the local Church. Time will tell. Yet whatever disquiet and minor response it elicited from the curia in the short term, such as its alleged blocking of dissenter Fr. Robert Esdaile's appointment as theology tutor at the English College - it was surely overshadowed by the later Smith appointment. Moreover, the very fact that the Mass in honour of the homosexual partnership proceeded despite the harmful publicity generated by both CAFOD-gate and the earlier TV documentary - with Fr. Jim O'Keefe, head of Ushaw seminary, celebrating and Bishop John Rawsthorne, Chairman of CAFOD, in attendance - spoke volumes about the unchanging state of British play.
Moral, doctrinal and liturgical dissolution continues apace. The likes of Bishop Ambrose Griffiths of Hexham and Newcastle and Bishop Crowley call ever more publicly and adamantly for Communion for the divorced-and-remarried, with Bishop Griffiths insisting that a second marriage (i.e. adultery) can help you "become a better person." Bishop Regan of Wrexham formally endorses calls demanding the use of "inclusive language" and "more sensitive language from Rome (immediately if not sooner)," the scrapping of the phrase "non-Catholic" and an end to the "exclusion of other Christians from the Eucharist." Cardinal Murphy O'Connor broadcasts his Modernist conviction that in our lifetime we will be united with all the Protestant bodies under "a Pope for all Christians . . . who will preside not with jurisdiction but with love" - a statement at once "rash, pernicious, injurious to the Supreme Pontiffs, contrary to the authority of the Church, fostering schism and savouring of heresy," to use the time-honoured language with which Holy Mother Church has always condemned erroneous ideas endangering orthodox belief. And so it goes. ICONS, the bishops' latest RE programme for Catholic senior schools in England and Wales, summarised in the ensuing article herein, confirms how comprehensively this alien, schismatic spirit now informs the hierarchy. It has effectively transformed them into a chorus of Anglican vicars after the fashion of their Reformation forebears. As no less a personage than a Cardinal Prefect of a Vatican Congregation candidly put it to an English priest during a recent monastic retreat in France: "Some of your English bishops are heretics."
Episcopal dissidence of this sort may not always produce a Reg Cawcutt or a Daniel Ryan - who couldn't lie straight in bed - but it is the first sign of a bankrupt spirituality. And it is because dissent from on high has been tolerated by Rome for so long that corruption has deepened and broadened. This passivity in response to the chaos, allied with the mixed-messages and contradictions pouring out of Rome for several decades, is clearly rooted in fluctuating power-plays within the curia, about which outsiders can only speculate. It appears, however, that the Modernist likes of Cardinal Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Re, Prefect of the Congegation for Bishops, may currently hold the upper-hand over Catholic Cardinals like Ratzinger and Hoyos. The interlocking influence of the homosexual network and ecclesiastical Freemasonry is never far from such speculation and, certainly, Bishop Daniel Ryan is not the first clerical deviant who seems to have had someone fighting his corner both at home and at Headquarters. After what they had endured for 15 years, who could blame the Catholics of Springfield for drawing their own conclusions when the first act of Ryan's successor, Bishop Lucas, straight after his installation, was to hold a reception at the local Masonic Temple. Suspicions heightened after a subsequent meeting between Stephen Brady and the Bishop, where Brady asked him why he would not end the liturgical abuses which had become commonplace in the diocese under his predecessor. Bishop Lucas replied: "I choose not to."
This issue of Christian Order carries an article that provides an insight into the apparently baffling phenomenon of ecclesiastical Freemasonry in the Vatican. But what of England and Wales? One can only say that anecdotal evidence of deep-rooted clerical Masonry here is compelling. I am aware of a senior priest of the Westminster diocese who has been approached more than once about joining the Brotherhood by Lodge members who take ecclesiastical Freemasons for granted. I know, too, of at least one parish priest recently forced to receive into the Church a known Mason - a friend of the bishop - following severe pressure from diocesan curial officials. Which is not to say that the bishop concerned is necessarily a 'paid up' member of the Lodge. But at the very least it is indicative of the complicitous and corrupting mindset presently overseeing Catholic faith and praxis in these Isles.
One also observes that, together with its secular spirit, the very language of Masonry has penetrated the Church, especially increasing references to the "New World Order." There was a time when such language could be dismissed as no more than a common cliché picked up and regurgitated for effect by posturing churchmen. Considering the sort of anecdotes just related, however, it assumes a deeper significance. Especially when the bishops themselves display a studied grasp of the meaning of such language. In the November 2000 Christian Order, for instance, I noted how during Cardinal Hume's funeral, his former private secretary Bishop Crowley had quoted the dying Cardinal's words about "the Gospel values of Jesus, the New World Order of Justice, Peace and Love." In the printed text of his panegyric, however, Bishop Crowley personally excised the phrase "New World Order" so that the Cardinal's sanitised comment became: "the gospel values of Jesus - justice, love and peace." I am now reliably informed that even greater care has been taken to similarly remove the mention of "New World Order" from the video of the funeral. Cardinal Hume, of course, mixed in Masonic circles such as London's City Livery Companies and more than anyone betrayed Masonic leanings in his addresses - his secular manifesto delivered in 1986 at All Hallows College, Dublin, being worthy of a Grand Master [see CO, June/July 1999, pp.334-35].
At this point, when inquity reigns supreme and the cronies and crooks seem to have won the day, it is time to turn to the history books. And the repeated lesson one finds there above all others, apart from the fact that essentially there is nothing new under the sun, is that when Holy Mother Church is at Her lowest ebb, hanging on by Her fingernails and peering down into the abyss, only the papacy stands between life and death - survival and ecclesiastical extinction. More to the point, we find that only a very special calibre of pontiff is capable of hauling the Church out of these impossible predicaments; men who combine personal sanctity, a heart of gold and paternal solicitude with unremitting vigilance, holy discipline and a hand of iron in dealing with heretics, revolutionaries, schismatics, rebellious prelates, liberal clergy and anyone else who threatens Catholic truth and the independence and sovereign rights of the Holy See. Saintly and courageous Popes, in other words, whose deep and often heroic fatherly concern for the most sinful of men (such as Pius VII's amazing solicitude for his vile tormenter Napoleon) is tempered by a healthy disregard for human respect; pontiffs who will sooner or later draw a line in the sand and say: 'this far and no further' - and mean it!
Unfailingly, Almighty God has raised up such men to effect these miraculous recoveries: like those presented in Professor Robin Anderson's Crisis Popes: the lives and reigns of five Roman pontiffs reigning in particularly difficult times . A magnificent labour of love for the papacy compiled under the inspiration of the late Cardinal John Wright, who originally suggested the need for such a work to the author, this tome is a veritable compass allowing us to gain our historical bearings and perspective in relation to the present strife. While the contemporary crisis is certainly unprecedented in degree, exacerbated by the miracle of modern communications and astonishing technological advances, the reigns of the Popes treated by Anderson - St Gregory VII (c. 1073-1085); Saint Pius V (1566-1572); Pius VII (1800-1823); Gregory XVI (1831-1846); Pius XI (1922-1939) - consistently evoke strikingly familiar issues and confrontations. As with the ecclesiastical battles of every age, ours has its particularities. Yet we too readily assume that the hellish Culture of Death (without) and the "synthesis of all heresies" (within) which define our present crisis are so unique and crushing as to render consideration of the life and times of past papal strategies irrelevant. Not so. Again and again, rampant disobedience and dissent compounded by inhuman external pressures brought to bear on the Church have been met and faced down by tenacious Popes.
Stamping on Dissidents
Surely nothing could be more contemporary than Pope Gregory XVI's nineteenth century struggle with the anti-clerical and revolutionary liberals largely organised by secret societies on the one hand, and his running battle with liberal Catholics on the other, many of whom were priests demanding freedom of local, national churches from Rome, freedom of education from clerical control and freedom of the press. In particular, Gregory had to contend with the very "father of modern liberalism," Felicite de Lamenais, the French priest whose ideas laid the foundation for Modernism and have had a lasting effect upon the whole of Western Christianity. A restless post-Vatican II clerical archetype whose inadequate intellectual formation left educational gaps which were never filled, his promotion of "the Church of the Future" and "the making of a new Church" would have certainly earned him a mitre and probably a red hat today. Lamenais' novel theories flooded European countries infecting clergy young and old alike, to the delight of the revolutionary secret societies of the day, who noted in their own documents that "more and more" clerical minds were being won "to the point of persuading them that Catholicism is no more than a democratic system…" Similarly, Gregory's Secretary of State, Bernetti, wrote to an un-named person in 1845: "Our young clergy have become thoroughly imbued with liberalistic doctrines. They have little care of becoming wise theologians. They are priests, but they want, they say, to be 'men'; and it is beyond belief all that they mix up with this claim of being 'men' like others… But the human perversion of youth is not what preoccupies and torments us most here in Rome: a great part of the older clergy having charge of affairs is a thousand times more caught up in the vice of liberalistic notions." That this assessment was no exaggeration was borne out by what the Roman seer Blessed Anna Maria Taigi saw and noted from her supernatural sun regarding the state of affairs in Church and society: "Religion is being suffocated and ruined with such general efficacy that there remain scarce a hundred priests (in Rome) who have not been infected…" All of which might have been written yesterday.
Pope Gregory handled his gargantuan crisis in a very public way, confronting Father Lamenais and his disciples with wisdom, resolve and fatherly severity of a kind largely unknown in our postconciliar age. In 1832, Gregory issued the encyclical Mirari Vos, strongly condemning the views propagated by Lamenais. With a strong measure of self-reproach, the Pope explained that he had delayed publishing the encyclical for eighteen months due to "the veritable storm of disasters and sorrows" he had encountered from the outset of his reign, during which time he lamented that "unrestrained fury seemed rather to have been fomented and increased rather than calmed by long impunity and extreme indulgence" on his part. But now he was not for turning. When attempts were made to persuade people that the encyclical did not refer to Lamenais, the Pope published a Brief declaring that Mirari Vos was indeed a condemnation of errors stemming from France. In a paternal letter addressed to Lamenais in 1833 through the Cardinal Secretary of State, Gregory also explained to Lamenais that lines had to be drawn: "… No authority on earth knows better than the Holy See the value of reserve and moderation in commanding," wrote the Pope. "But this same authority also knows that moderation has also to moderate itself and set limits beyond which there would be danger to the Faith, and to the good of peoples…" Finally, when Lamenais ignored the Holy Father and published another rebellious work, the Pope immediately condemned it in the most severe language via a further enyclical letter, Singulari nos. Noting that Lamenais had "forgotten the fatherly indulgence shown him," Gregory wrote of how the author of a booklet "small in format but enormous in perversity" had "taken it upon himself to attack and destroy the teaching contained in the first encyclical... brandishing the banner of revolt… making use of sacred precepts to maintain his manifold errors and flaunt them in the face of unprepared or imprudent persons… abusing with dexterity matched by audacity God's own Word, the better to inculcate in people's minds his baleful notions…" These encyclicals have become more relevant with time, since what Gregory found particularly deserving of reproof were Lamenais' views on political and civil liberties, which tended to create a seditious spirit of independence and revolt from authority. This spirit has ultimately led to the frightening individualism of the "civil rights" ideology which is now feeding our insatiable "compensation culture."
Singulari nos exhorted bishops to greater watchfulness and was followed up by a papal decree obliging every ecclesiastic prior to priestly ordination to sign a declaration of submission to the teaching contained in the two enyclicals Mirari vos and Singulari nos. Furthermore, as Professor Anderson notes: "Ecclesiastics were further required to abhor, with all their heart, the ideas, opinions and views there condemned, as well as to shun the attempts of any persons who, at any time and in any place, under any pretext whatsoever, might seek to minimise the authoritative teaching of the two enyclicals, or endeavour to misinterpret their sense in such a way as to favour their own opinions and ideas. Ordinands were finally required to pledge themselves neither to do, write nor say anything that might be understood as approving, or supporting, the new ideas." In this rigorous way, and by taking positive aspects of Lamenais' work and putting them to use for the Church, Gregory did in fact succeed in leading many rebellious clergy back to true obedience.
This robust, resolute, pro-active defence of the Faith accords with St Cyprian's view that the poisoning of minds is a worse and more murderous evil than persecution. It stands in stark contrast to the passive and morally dubious "let error destroy itself" approach of the modern postconciliar papacy, which has allowed Lamenais' progeny - our liberal priests and prelates - such free and devastating rein.
Confronting Corrupt Hierarchies
As for potentially cataclysmic clashes with national episcopates, it has all been seen and done before. After reading this book, no Catholic could fall prey to the commonly raised objection that a present day pontiff dare not take a harder line with the recalcitrant episcopates of the West for fear of provoking formal schism. Time and again, the Crisis Popes of Anderson's study were cautioned in the same way against taking "drastic action" in delicate situations that might have split the Church. But these Popes largely kept their own counsel and, like the great Hildebrand, as Pope Gregory VII was known, pinpointed the cause of the evil in the Church of their day and determined to quash it despite storms of opposition from every quarter.
The root causes of the eleventh century crisis faced by Hildebrand were again utterly contemporary: the obscuration of the power and rights of the Pope and the Roman See, and simony and clerical incontinence resulting mainly from the appointment of Shepherds and clergy who lacked the essential spiritual and moral requisites, pursuing their own personal, economic, social and political interests. "As long as this root of evil remained living and vital, efforts to achieve true reform were inefficacious, as also the Church's condemnations, when the tree continued to produce, and reproduce, its evil fruits," writes Anderson - as if addressing the vicious circle of cronyism depicted in this very article, or Fr. Paul Shaunessy's comment in the New Oxford Review last year that the U.S. hierarchy is now too corrupt to purge itself of bad apples! While knowing full well the unprecedented uproar and crushing weight of opposition his determination to root out this evil would bring - not just from corrupt bishops and clergy but also from Emperors, civil princes and local parish administrators throughout the Empire (a weight lifted from modern pontiffs) - one of Hildebrand's first acts was to denounce most of the bishops of Lombardy and Germany for their worldliness, simoniacal dealings and neglect of their sacred ministry. His letter to the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1074, a shocking indictment of most of the bishops and priests of the time and perfectly suited to our age, includes this familiar observation: "The people, like sheep without a Shepherd, are unguided and fall into error and sin; and Christianity is no more than a name to them…"
Rather than issuing depositions and excommunications, however, Hildebrand prudently tried to induce bishops to amend their ways and assist his reforming policy, only the most extreme heretics incurring his intransigent condemnation and excommunication. But with evil rising inexorably he called a Council, held at the Lateran Basilica in 1074, which issued important decrees. Among much else they forbade priests guilty of unchastity from celebrating Mass as well as attempting to shame priests who defied the Council decrees into acknowledging their faults, by enjoining the faithful to absent themselves from Masses and religious ceremonies celebrated by such men. Just as we would expect today, few bishops evidenced willingness to obey the Council. This did not deter Hildebrand, who sternly rebuked these prelates. The situation in France then became so rebellious that he threatened to put the kingdom under interdict (whereby priests and faithful were to be excluded from administering or receiving the Sacraments until amendment was forthcoming). The entire episcopate of Lombardy refused obedience. So Hildebrand abandoned his earlier conciliatory attitude, henceforth "recognising bishops as true insofar as they were obedient to God's Commandments, the commandments of the Church and to Peter's Successor the Bishop of Rome."
Isolated and without any support or aid from the men of his time, Hildebrand implored prayers for strength to pursue his reform lest he die under the unbearable pressures: "…my life, to say true," he wrote to the Abbot and monks of Cluny, "has become a living death." As in our own age, the national episcopates were the chief culprits in the abandonment of religion, faith and morals, and their laxity in the matter of clerical chastity was the subject of a scathing letter addressed by Hildebrand to all the clergy and laity of the German kingdom in 1075. The recent letter addressed to the equally culpable German bishops by John Paul II comes to mind, but is timid in comparison. Pointing out that Holy Scripture promises equal punishment for "those that commit an evil and those that consent to it (Romans 1:32)," he wrote: "We have heard that certain bishops who reside in your country either condone, or fail to take due notice of, the keeping of women by priests, deacons and subdeacons. We charge you on no account and in no way to obey these bishops or follow their precepts or example, even as they themselves do not obey the commands of the Apostolic See or heed the authority of the early Church Fathers." The response to this letter from a meeting of clergy summoned by the German Bishop of Mayence, who was in sympathy with the priests and made no attempt to command obedience when the majority of them openly favoured marriage, reads like a caricature of every dissident statement we have read about priestly celibacy in the last thirty years: "The Pope," they declared, "must be a heretic or a madman. He would compel all men to live like angels. We would rather abandon our priesthood than our wives. Let the Pope, who thinks men not good enough for him, see if he can find angels to govern the Church."
In his fight against clerical corruption and episcopal negligence rooted in personal ambition, cupidity and incontinence, Hildebrand endured the sacking of Rome, an anti-Pope, being declared deposed by German bishops under King Henry IV and finally died in exile at Salerno, broken in health and deserted by most of his cardinals. Yet all this and much more he faced down with undaunted and indomitable courage in order to successfully re-establish the primacy of Peter, not as first bishop among others, but as first above others: not as primus inter pares, but primus super pares. This was the main instrument and goal of Hildebrand's policy and work of true ecclesiastical reform. One prays that Divine Providence will inspire John Paul II's successor to firmly correct the widespread and understandably liberal interpretation of his call in Ut Unum Sint for an ecumenical rethink about the operation of the papacy, since Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's treacherous preference for a future Pope presiding "not with jurisdiction but with love" is just part of the 'collegial' clamouring by Modernist prelates to reshape the papacy in their own image. They have seized upon Ut Unum Sint as a way of compromising all that Hildebrand - not to mention Pius VII - suffered appalling spiritual and physical torments to uphold.
Further Pontifical Lessons
It is a measure of the greatness of both Gregory XVI and Hildebrand that they have remained despised and derided figures in revolutionary anti-clerical and democratic liberal-modernistic circles up to our own day: symbols of "Roman tyranny." Crisis Popes tend to be "either…or" pontiffs; either loved or hated. There is no middle ground of opinion as there is today towards John Paul II, a loveable, charismatic pontiff whose personal popularity and undoubted strengths are tempered in orthodox circles by his aversion to discipline and preference for collegial "dialogue" with recalcitrant prelates no matter what the ongoing cost to local Churches. It is inconceivable that a modern day Crisis Pope would allow a theologically dubious concept like "collegiality," however entrenched, to deter him from the drastic, public action now needed to restore the Faith. His strength of character, ethereal clarity of vision and absolute confidence in wielding his unique, divine authority would allow of no such compromise.
Indeed, such a Pope would have few counsellors and eschew the over-consultation that now plagues the Church. "Pius XI at times," writes Anderson, "decided questions of maximum importance without consulting the curia… Nor had [he] overmuch confidence in commissions. Those he had to appoint were composed of small numbers, lest they become good only for wasting time." As for the normally gentle and mild-mannered Pius VII, in crucial moments he "assumed a most severe, almost fierce aspect," and while perfectly content to delegate temporal matters to his ministers, "in spiritual matters, as the Church's head, he as a rule consulted none but God." Simliarly, quoting St Bernard, Gregory XVI told Czar Nicholas I: "He who governs his portion of the Church by means of others, loses the merit and reward with God." Gregory himself, who had gained curial experience as Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide, examined decisions of the Curia scrupulously. He dealt directly and personally with difficult and delicate matters and would have "entire voluminous documentation brought to him for perusal." Cardinal Wiseman recalled finding him penning in Latin a letter to a German bishop on a crucial disciplinary matter: a masterpiece of tact, firm rejoinder and charity - which had the desired effect. Inevitable cries of derision about allegedly outdated, imperious, autocratic views of the papacy never worry such men in the slightest, their only concern being the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
The lives of these truly inspired pontiffs would provide the first elected Pope of the twenty-first century with many other salutary lessons. They scream off virtually every one of the 654 pages Anderson has devoted to them. Though too plentiful to address fully, here are just a few more of their major papal precepts: uniformity of liturgical rite and language safeguards purity of faith, worship, doctrine and morals; too much leniency is usually more risky than too great severity; holy severity has a place in the exercising of charity for the glory of God and is not incompatible with tolerance and diplomacy; since bad priests are the ruin of the people, zealous reform of the clergy is always a first priority; enlargement of the Sacred College detracts from its prestige and quality; cardinals and bishops must be chosen personally, with the greatest care and attention based on "maturity, sound doctrine, irreproachable conduct" and regardless of political or national considerations; reprimands issued to national episcopates must be followed up to ensure that abuses are definitely remedied and demands, such as bishops teaching and propagating the Catechism, actually met; intransigence against novelty and innovation in religion is inseparable from recalling the faithful to justice, peace and love; rebellious universities and colleges should be closed down and only re-opened after teaching staff are duly approved, with severe penalties for non-compliance; priestly and Religious Orders that have sunk so low as to be beyond reforming should be dissolved, the rest returned to strict discipline and observance.
Professor Anderson could easily have devoted a similar sized book to each of his five Crisis Popes. But as the above snapshots reveal, there is more than enough information in his brilliant summary analyses to indicate the sort of attitude and methods that John Paul's successor will need to adopt and tailor to the situation he inherits if he is to call the Modernists' bluff and achieve his primary task: the seemingly impossible job of restoring orthodox Catholic faith and practice to thoroughly Protestantised and rebellious local Churches, many on the brink of dissolution. As it stands, Rome's veritable paralysis before this endgame scenario seems conditioned by a belief in the 'historical moment'; a sense of inevitability which holds one captive to events. During personal interviews, Italian writer Vittorio Messori has seen it in the resigned attitudes of Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul II - commenting about the Pope's reference at one point to problems in the Church: "I had the impression that he felt powerless to intervene." This mentality is confirmed time and again in papal documents that simply endorse the disastrous liturgical and pastoral status quo at local Church level and urge more of the same - as in John Paul's Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Ineunte ("At the Beginning of the New Millennium," Jan. 2001.) St. Pius V, on the other hand, who also inherited a thoroughly corrupt and compromising Church full of false optimism in the aftermath of a General Council [Trent], was never passively resigned to the present course of events and knew no half measures in his dealings. "Nothing could make him change his mind once convinced of what had to be done", writes Anderson, "nor did he shrink from simply beginning over again and making due rectification if by its results a course of action embarked on proved defective."
Thus, despite appearances and every rationalisation and excuse to the contrary, Rome's muted response to disobedience and dissent and even complicity in our postconciliar tumult can be turned around. History reveals that an extraordinary pontiff can change the internal course of the Church, even while still attending to geo-political affairs and contributing to the arts, culture, science, social justice, dialogue with other faiths and the whole panoply of temporal concerns that occupied the indefatigable Crisis Popes every bit as much as they do John Paul II (probably more so, seeing as they were temporal rulers as well!). And this reversal is possible in any era, even one stymied by the weighty Novus Ordo millstone. Because, as Evelyn Waugh wrote in explaining St. Pius V's ability "to see things and situations with such complete clarity" - overwhelming historical circumstances are not as important as contemplation of "the abiding, abstract principles that lie behind the phantasmagoric changes of human affairs." It was his constant uniting of this spiritual contemplation with direct action that enabled St. Pius V to find simple answers to complex problems, and to bring about the most radical and far-reaching spiritual and temporal reforms in only six years!
With society once again overflowing "like a sewer swollen by the mingling of every sort of baseness and infamy" [Mirari vos], and the Church in "total chaos" as Modernists contrive to close parishes, laicise the clergy, Protestanise our children and profane or withhold the Mass and Sacraments, the increasingly marginalised orthodox must pray that God will yet again raise up a strong and holy Pope to save the day. "I am left with my back to the wall," cried Pius VII in 1809 while captive in Savona and the Church all but lost to Napoleon. "God Himself will see to the saving of His Church." And so He did - drawing greater good from a great evil as Catholicism in several countries underwent a drastic purging and, miraculously, emerged stronger. Such is the eternal cycle, though not every local Church rises again - a fact that should weigh heavily upon all the British faithful, but not crush them. For though it would appear that a Crisis Pope is their last hope against the machinations of local cronies and crooks - as the long-suffering Pius VII also declared on 26 September 1814, soon after his liberation and triumphant return to Rome: "A fundamental truth recognised in the Holy Catholic Church, founded by Christ, is that trouble serves to give greater strength, and oppression greater glory." Thus we live and suffer gladly in the shadow of the Cross, and watch and pray always in Christian hope.