On the Eve of Another Conclave

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

By the time this issue of The Remnant reaches our readers, the death of Pope John Paul II will be part of history.  Pundits and commentators will no doubt go on analyzing the pontificate of the “Pilgrim Pope” for decades to come.  And, even as the world media have already begun canonizing the “World’s Pope” in a media circus that defies description, we here at The Remnant do not wish to let this most significant moment pass without pleading for the eternal repose of the soul of Pope John Paul. The late Pope now stands before the awesome judgment seat of God Himself, and this is not the time for either canonization or condemnation…it is the time for  Requiem.

While watching some of the constant live feed from the Eternal City this past week, compliments of the cable news networks, it occurred to me to wonder if we were not perhaps viewing, in a sense, a Requiem for the old Catholic Faith itself.  For whatever his strengths and weaknesses, Pope John Paul II is likely the last Pontiff who will have deep roots in the old Church and who will have clear memories of the way the Church once was but is no more.  His pontificate was the bridge from the old to the new; with his passing, the bridge is no more.  The next Pope is apt to have had his priestly formation solidly rooted in the new Church of Vatican II. What this will mean for the immediate future of the Church remains to be seen, but if the new Pope can’t even remember the old Church…well, let us wait and see.

As traditional Catholics we felt so terribly alone this past week, asking, even as Mary Magdalene asked at the tomb, “What have you done with him?  What has become of the Catholic Pope?”   One priest commentator on Fox News summed it up perfectly:  “Previous popes were popes of the Catholic Church; Pope John Paul was the pope of the world!”  With few exceptions, they praised him, they eulogized him, some even seemed intent upon deifying him.  What does it all mean?  Humanly speaking, it may well mean that the Revolution has triumphed, or at least believes that it has triumphed, to such an extent over the past fifty years, and the Catholic Church has fallen so low in her human element, that the world no longer fears her or her human leaders.  In its heart and soul, of course, the world knows that there is only one true Church and that it is the Catholic Church.  But in true demonic fashion, the world also seems eager to test its apparent triumph over the Church by holding aloft like some trophy the Catholic pope and saying:  “Wasn’t he a great man!  He was one of us.”  The same world that vilifies Pius XII on a daily basis now claims Pope John Paul as one of its own.  Indeed, these are dangerous times.

And so we look on in sadness and silence and grief and fear as our Holy Father passes and as the world transforms the Catholic Pope into an icon of secular triumph.  How ironic it is that with the avalanche of words and accolades from the world’s bishops and dignitaries, one of the very few who said anything at all about praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased Pontiff was none other than Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X.  One wonders who history and God will credit with having truly loved Pope John Paul.

We have no desire to sit in judgment of the Pope (even if it were within our competence to do so), but in charity we must recall that for the past twenty-six years the forces of Hell were ceaseless in their attacks against Peter’s successor.  In the long hours and days of his final sickness, one can only imagine what terrors the Vicar of Christ faced in his last battle against those same forces of Darkness.  How did he fare? Only a fool would pretend to know.  But the prayer vigils we saw on the television screens always seemed to be more about his recovery than his spiritual battle…more about us than about him! We couldn’t face the prospect of losing the most famous pope in history.  What is certain is that the Pope in life and now in death needed and needs our ceaseless prayer.  And how many of us, who were sometimes so quick to judge, prayed enough for him while he was still with us?  I mean really prayed…as if our souls and his depended upon it?  If we were remiss in this regard while Pope John Paul was alive, let us make amends by redoubling and tripling our prayers for his soul now that he has passed beyond this vale of tears and is in God’s hands. 

A prayer is certainly called for at this most important moment, not only for the repose of the soul of Pope John Paul, but also for our world in cataclysmic chaos from which he has so recently departed. This year may indeed be one of the most momentous in history, for how much longer can the status quo continue unabated without either direct Divine intervention or the rise of Antichrist? For the sake of the souls of our children, it cannot go on like this much longer. It is essential, then, to resolve to pray—most especially from now through the upcoming Conclave—for two intentions:  The repose of the soul of Pope John Paul and the direct intervention of the Holy Ghost in the upcoming Conclave.  For if the current Cardinals are left to their own devices, I fear greatly that even darker storm clouds will gather.

As for further reflection upon this long and in so many respects tragic pontificate, which now recedes into the past, into the judgment of history, we would strongly urge that immediate sober thought be given by all faithful Catholics to the future of Christ’s beleaguered Church and what it is that we, the faithful, might be advised to hope and pray for.  For, ultimately, it is to the future that we must look, to God and human history, for clearer judgments than we are in a position to give to Pope John Paul’s pontificate.  And it is likewise to God by Whom we must expect to be judged ourselves for whatever we did or failed to do in the much less exalted positions He gave to each of us on the Barque of Peter.

The Conclave

To this end, then, let us recall the traditional prayer of the Church for the election of a new pope.  The original Latin text of this prayer can be found in the Collect of the Traditional Missal for the first of all Masses in the section near the end entitled "Missae Votivae ad Diversa". The Mass is entitled "Pro eligendo Summo Pontifice" and the prayer reads as follows:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, in humble supplication, to bestow in  Thy great mercy upon the Holy Roman Church a Pontiff whose piety and zeal for our welfare will be pleasing to Thee, and who will merit constant veneration, to the glory of Thy name, by his sound governance of Thy people.  We ask this through Thy Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In our opinion, it is incumbent upon all of us to make unceasing use of this precise prayer at this precise time, especially now that the Novus Ordo liturgists have completely eliminated the Mass specifically for the election of a new Pope. Presumably in deference to the fad of "collegiality", the Novus Ordo has a Mass entitled merely "For the election of a Pope or Bishop." But even in the specific prayers of that Mass, the distinction is blurred still further – for neither the word "Pope" nor the word "Bishop" actually occurs in any of the prayers. Both offices are just sort of jelled together under the word "pastor"!  And so the traditional prayer of the Church—the one prayed for centuries by Catholics at moments such as these—will have to be raised to heaven by traditional Catholic priests and laymen alone.  The Novus Ordo has opted out of it.

I would like to here recall something my own father wrote in these pages before the Conclave of 1978, for, indeed, nothing has changed since then save for the sad fact that the crisis in the Church has become even more deeply entrenched. As this new Conclave convenes, traditional Catholics, even as they did twenty-six years ago, must still storm heaven with prayers for Divine intervention that will break the Modernist grip on our Church and restore our souls:

On the eve of this forthcoming Conclave of Cardinals for the election of the next Pope, we hope and pray that something in the nature of the Syllabus of Errors decreed by St. Pope Pius X at the beginning of the last century, be again seriously considered by the new Pontiff, especially those solemnly condemned propositions of the Modernists which then, even as now, so dangerously undermined the dogmatic constitution and stability of Holy Mother Church.  We refer especially to the condemned Proposition 59: “Christ did not teach a determinate body of doctrine applicable to all times and to all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted for different times and places.”  Or Proposition 65: “Modern Catholicism cannot be reconciled with true science unless it be transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity or into a broad and liberal Protestantism.”  These as well as all of the rest of the condemned Propositions must be reaffirmed at this critical juncture, as they are at the root of many of the chief errors and falsehoods rampant today. 

It is more than abortion, my friends!  Being pro-life IS NOT ENOUGH!  Abortion, like euthanasia and contraception and all the rest, is but a symptom of a much larger and more deadly disease—the modernization of the Catholic Church through the watering down of her doctrine and her sacred liturgy.  It is no coincidence that abortion was legalized in this country and throughout the world just a few short years after the close of Vatican II.  Restore the traditions of the Catholic Church, and abortion will be “automatically excommunicated” from our society.

On the eve of this conclave, we laymen might also echo the plea from some thirty years ago of the late writer and journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, who in an article entitled “If I Were the Pope,” declared that he would first of all “suspend any prohibition of the Tridentine Mass and the traditional Latin liturgy, which would thenceforth be permissible whenever and wherever there was a demand for it.” Secondly, if he (and perhaps also we) were the Pope, “I should concentrate all my attention and effort on one single enterprise: This would be, very discreetly, to prepare the way for an underground Church to go on functioning when the open one has been either forcibly disbanded or so corrupted and disorientated from within that it can no longer fulfill its traditional role as laid down in the Gospels and expounded in the Pauline Epistles, of keeping the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” 

Muggeridge’s idea is that one day – “when the extravagant hopes placed in the kingdom-of-heaven-on-earth prove, as they must, to be utterly fraudulent, when the seemingly overwhelming strength of nuclear weaponry is exposed as capable only of destruction, when the abounding wealth of an ever-expanding economy turns out to be only so much paper, and the offerings of ever more vociferous and portentous media, so much fantasy—then my Catacombists, I should hope, would stand ready to give back to a spiritually impoverished and materially, morally and culturally bankrupt world the inexhaustible riches of Christ.  That would be a Papacy indeed!  Perhaps—who can tell?—some unexpected papabile is even now being divinely groomed to take it on!”

Unrealistic?  Impossible?  Yes, in human terms; but with God all things are possible and He can make all things new again, and, at some point, unless this is the end of history, God will not be mocked and He will right His Church again.  As my father wrote in these columns before the Conclave of 1978, it will be difficult even for Peter; it may even seem impossible, but it will happen:

But the kind of restoration and reconciliation which we, if we may, would humbly bespeak and propose here would be based not indeed on ringing words or shallow compromise, but on an honest-to-goodness and totally realistic reappraisal of the present Church situation as we know it to be, with an awareness of the wholesale defection of Catholic priests and religious, of empty convents and monasteries, with full realization  of the widespread corruption of Catholic doctrine and discipline, particularly the ongoing mutilation, disfiguration and outright Protestanizing of the once august Mass and Sacred Liturgy.  To heal these wounds and bridge these glaring gaps in the seamless robe of Christ will be by no means an easy assignment for anyone, even if he be an extraordinarily gifted and strong successor to the See of Peter.  It will, in fact, take infinitely more than Peter!  All of the angels and saints, plus the willing hearts and hands of each and everyone of the faithful will be required to repair the damage.  And yet the next Pope, whoever he may be, could—if he be a realist!—set many things straight by one swift move:  restoring the immemorial Mass to those uncounted millions who rightly prefer it and are willing to fight and die for it.  And if the Mass were to be restored, it must follow as night follows day:  the Bible, the Catechism, and many other precious things that were allowed to be destroyed, must eventually be restored as well, with the result that the present unheard of warfare within the Church of Jesus Christ might well be brought to an end.

To this I would only add that it seems no longer enough to petition merely for the partial restoration of the old Mass for those who prefer it.  Now, at the eleventh hour, it is time, it seems to us, for Catholics to beg God on bended knee to arrange it so that the next Pope will be given the grace to see the absolute necessity of abolishing that catastrophic experiment called the New Mass—that unmitigated disaster that has failed so completely to preserve and protect the Faith, and that has, instead, proven itself expertly capable of destroying within the Catholic masses the belief in the Real Presence—once and for all, while using the full weight of his august office to reinstate the sacred Mass of the Roman Rite…the Mass of the Saints…the Mass of the Ages…the Mass of Tradition! 

If there is to be a restoration this is the essential first step, and, even if it doesn’t happen today or next week or next year, it will happen one day. There is no other way. Lex orandi, lex credendi—the New Mass must go if there is to be any hope for the world!

For this, on this eve of the Rome Conclave, let us earnestly pray the Lord!

The Remnant at the Conclave

Chris Ferrara and I will be in Rome covering the Conclave, posting daily dispatches on The Remnant web site and holding at least one press conference during the Conclave which will, we hope and pray, help to put before the world press the traditionalist mission and message of total restoration of traditional Catholicism and the traditional Latin Mass throughout the world. 

Please pray for the success of this venture and do “stay tuned” to The Remnant web site for details and reports on the Conclave.  A full report will also appear in the May 15th issue of The Remnant.