I write this to you, dear Remnant readers as someone highly conscious of such truths, eager to do what a man should do, but also aware of great weaknesses in his ability to say what ought to be said comprehensibly and accurately. In short, I feel like I am writing a “View From Rocco’s” at the Front, with all of the sense of immediate danger of a front line soldier and all of the accompanying confusions and terrors as well. I am going to say what I feel that I have to say, but I believe that the final result will be a bit disordered. I have been traveling for the last month, and those trips have taken me twice across the Atlantic: first to Britain for the tenth anniversary of Michael Davies’ death, and now to Rome for the aftermath of the Synod and the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage. While pounding this out in a hotel room near the Vatican, I feel simultaneously tired and sick, but also immensely eager for the battle to come. Please bear with me in my meanderings, and treat it like a chronicle from the seemingly endless Battle of Verdun.
Let me start with the last week in Rome, and with the last event: the mass to a packed congregation in St. Peter’s, celebrated by His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke. This was a totally spiritual experience, founded entirely upon gratitude for the justice done to the Mass of the Ages, without reference to the current insanity of the Synod. God bless Cardinal Burke for having been able to carry this work out with the dignity that he did, which was immense. I would not have had the patience to do so.
Last night, at the Fraternity Church of Santa Trinità dei Pellegrini, Cardinal Pell had another task before him. The mass that he was meant to celebrate was not the Mass of the Pilgrimage, and everyone present expected comments relating to the crisis unleashed by the latest destructive progressive cabal. Cardinal Pell was ill—really ill, not just the victim of a diplomatic illness. His excellent secretary, Fr. Mark Withoos, did yeoman service in his place. He read what I—once again, as a man in the trenches, but with what I believe to be a solid training in history—think was a tour de force of a sermon: the work of a true Prince of the Church, painfully aware of the need for nuance in the midst of the ruins of the day.
Cardinal Pell, through Fr. Withoos, begged us to recognize that nothing that we do can be effective without a Catholic recognition of the absolute necessity for charity with respect to the Papacy in all of our labors. How I remember Dr. von Hildebrand insisting on this point! Without charity, our “victories” would be nothing other than diving boards from which to launch into new disaster. Charity has to be rooted in firm Catholic doctrine, and that includes full loyalty to the See of Peter.
Nevertheless, with tenderly crafted phrases, Cardinal Pell noted that the Pope is not Stalin. There is no changeable Catholic “party line” based on the Leader’s Will. There have been bad pontificates amidst the greater number of good ones; that there have indeed been eras when the Papacy has been taken captive by self-interested factions, and where the “judgment” of the Popes is actually that of their handlers; and, sad to say, that there have been popes who seemed to be “formidable” to their contemporaries whom we look upon now as having been lacking in dedication to their full and proper spiritual mission.
To me, the analogy was clear, as was the call to action. We live in one of those “bad” eras. The action that we are called upon to perform is not that of rejecting Pope and Papacy; the action is that of awakening a pope who, as far as Faith and Reason tell me, is working as a willing ally of a horrible anti-Catholic cabal. Peter is asleep, as the Romans, in their age-old wisdom know that he is all often asleep.
Wake up, Francis/Peter, wake up! Forgive me, Your Eminence, if that is not what you wanted to say, but that is what I, with my own knowledge of just how regularly the Holy See has gone into a dangerous dogmatic slumber, got from your brilliant sermon. Wake up, Francis/Peter! Wake up! And do so, before a Church that Cardinal Stickler long ago declared “dead” from a human point of view goes to the guillotine singing the Marseillaise along the way to the slaughter. Wake up, before the modern world demands of you what the Holy Spirit will directly have to intervene to prevent you from yourself welcoming and promoting.
That brings me back to the rest of what I have seen and heard and discussed in the last month, not just here in Rome, but also in London, and on a one day trip back to my beloved university at Oxford in the company of Chris Ferrara. What I have seen and heard and discussed is both frightening and yet incredibly encouraging.
It is frightening, in that I have talked with a number of very serious sources of information here in the Eternal City who have indicated to me just how clueless most people are in putting two and two together to understand not just the last fifty years, but the last five hundred—since the time of the Lutheran Revolution of Backwoods Mindlessness over Truth. As far as I can see, Pope Francis is, at the moment, a part of this unfortunate company. An old friend of mine told me, not long after his election, that if I attempted to make sense of his actions, I would lose my Reason. I have seen nothing to convince me that he was wrong in his advice. The pope does not seem to operate with a coherent intellectual and spiritual vision in his mind; he works by means of all too fallible instinct and feeling.
His governance by whim is paralleled by what I have heard regarding prelates and institutions. Like the pope, they may all “mean well”, but they don’t know how to combine discreet events, fashions, whims, and flights of fancy with substantive thought and action. Hence, they may have deep Marian devotion and a doctrinal “crotchet” or two, but their daily bread is offered to them by the mindless and soulless ideology of men like Cardinal Kasper and philosophies of chaos like that of Michel Foucault on the one hand, or by Americanist materialists such as Michael Novak, George Weigel, and the Acton Institute on the other.
Friends, we are dealing with a roller coaster that does not know where it is headed, even when it wants to head in a “good” direction.
But the situation is also encouraging. Some prelates and laity are beginning to remember that there is such a thing as a Deposit of Faith, and that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are not legends, but Seeds of the Logos. A friend of mine spoke to me of a cardinal who has finally seen that in his years as an apparatchik for the Vatican Council cabal he really had no “point of view” at all. He did what he did, because that is what one does when the Holy Spirit arrives at the breakfast table of the pontiff (forgive me Father Faber and exaggerated, un-Catholic American conservative ultramontanists!) along with the New York Times, Le Monde, or a recording of the latest ditsy rock song.
But this cardinal now sees that fact! So do members of the Curia who are dedicating themselves to telling the truth to believers in the media (and there are a good number here in Rome). This is a truth involving the obviously non-Stalinist character of the Catholic Papacy that conservative Catholics of the Shea-Mirus-Voris camp do not want to know. Nothing will convince them that Peter is asleep; that he is sleep walking; and that he is babbling nonsense while doing so. I have given so many historical examples of Catholic recognition that this is not just possible but that it has happened over and over again, that I am sick to my stomach repeating them. Why bother? They will respond as always, like Hegel is said to have remarked to his students when they brought up historical contradictions to his theories: “So much the worse for the facts”.
Our “awakened” cardinal had many “followers” at the Synod. Prelates awakened in numbers unheard of in the last half a century. The cabal, this time round, was smaller, and much more stupid in its arrogance. Yes, the world press has not given the Nazi Interview of Cardinal Kasper the publicity that was its due, but numerous Synod participants got the message. They now understand what the “progressive”, “democratic”, “open” Church really means: the fascist Triumph of the Will. That is all that it has ever meant, from the very beginning. Its liturgies and its ceremonies are mere Rousseauian “happenings” celebrating the ability of the irrational strong to dominate the naïve and weak sheep of the faithful. That the Church of Christ should ever have bowed before this oppression is sickening in the extreme.
When I went back to Oxford for one single day, I remembered what my four and one half years there meant for me: the chance to study the truth, which, in my case, involved being able to write a dissertation on Blessed Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors of 1864. Thinking back on my visit to Britain after hearing talk of the serious “awakening” of a sizeable group of powerful and potentially powerful men here in Rome reminds me of an historical analogy; a comparison of the actions of the English bishops at the accession of Elizabeth compared to those at the time of Henry’s “troubled” marital relations; marital relations which the bishops of his day ended in a more “happy” and Kasper-like fashion for the benefit of the satisfaction of the king’s libido. The Catholic-minded Elizabethan bishops at the start of her reign stood up to this tyrant; the Henrician bishops went along with theirs.
God bless our own more Catholic-minded bishops of 2014; those who have learned something since Vatican II; those would not have said that a grotesque “pastoral compassion” required their approval to a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. God save their “Henrician” ancestors of the 1960’s who set us on this path to perdition! May God save those earlier men and their Cardinal Kasper heirs in our own day. Some of the Henrician bishops of the 1530’s went on to become the more serious Defenders of the Faith of the later reign. Some of our earlier similar bishops have as well. What a victory for Catholic Truth if would be if Cardinal Kasper were to take the same path of change today.
God save the Pope from his enemies, as Cardinal Pell said. May he find a consistent vision to guide him as pastor of the Universal Church. Awake Francis/Peter! Be the man that Christ wants you to be! And by your model, teach our misguided American Stalinist Catholics that the Catholic message is not some fuzzy Dylan tune jus “blowin’ in the wind”. It is as unchangeable as some in Rome are once again beginning to grasp.
Rocco’s at the Front: A Necessary Addendum
I have asked Michael Matt to post this addendum to my View From Rocco’s “at the Front” due to the large number of negative emails I have received from people regarding what I said therein. Clearly, I did not get my message across. It seemed necessary, therefore, to add the following points as a footnote to my earlier report:
1) My statements regarding “awakening the pope” did not mean awakening him to the manipulations of the cabal responsible for the Synod. As I thought I had indicated, he is a willing and eager part of that cabal. Whether he or Kasper was its first creator I do not know. That he was happy with the horrible program his cabal proposed and promoted at the Synod is obvious.
2) My statements regarding “awakening the pope” did mean awakening him from his lack of all coherent philosophical or theological vision; awakening him to the fact that he values his strange will as Francis over his role as Peter and guardian of the full Deposit of the Faith. He is too incoherent to be classified as a deep Modernist thinker. His real danger comes from his personal willfulness.
3) My statements regarding the need for deep devotion to the Papacy while still criticizing the current willful pontificate were based upon recognition of the demands of the Faith and historical reality. We must not say or do anything in response to a truly unfortunate pope (Cardinal Pell called him “unusual”) that will cause harm to the Papacy as such in the future. On the other hand, we must never accept the absurd conservative Catholic argument that criticizing an often very erroneous Pope is wrong. Vatican One defined papal infallibility within very limited boundaries. There have been many bad popes in history, and many good people who have openly and justly fought against their words and actions. Without the work of such critics, openly opposing papal madness in the past, there would have been none of the glories of the Gregorian Reform leading to the High Middle Ages, and no massive change in papal mentality giving us the Catholic Reformation of the 1500’s.
4) What else can we do while strongly criticizing the current pope than use all the tools available to us to “awaken” him? Do we see any cardinals calling him an antipope and demonstrating willingness to overthrow him? Do we have a Holy Roman Emperor ready to intervene to do so? Can we call our own Conclave in Avignon and elect another pontiff? What else can we do but what we already are doing?---namely, vigorously pointing out the pope’s errors and blunders, trying to maneuver around them in our daily actions, rejoicing in the “rethinking” of the whole post-conciliar situation on the part of significant prelates manifested at the recent Synod, and praying that the Holy Spirit reveals to the pope his true role as Peter, the Rock-Man who defends Catholic doctrine, and the need to treasure such a mission above that of being an all too Zeitgeist-friendly and politically correct Francis. More Peter and less Francis should be our motto. Is it wrong to ask Traditionalist Catholics to pray for a man whose ideas and policies we all dislike…especially when that man is the pope? Again, what else can we do?