As Pope Leo XIII, citing his predecessor Felix III, teaches: “An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed.” (Inimica Vis ). That is why this article has been written. For the bad news concerning this pontificate shows no signs of abating. On the contrary, it seems to worsen by the day. This lengthy piece will consider troubling developments that occurred in rapid succession during a span of less than three weeks: from February 14 to March 5. I felt compelled in conscience to write it because I must agree with what the prominent moral theologian German Grisez wrote about this pontificate: “Pope Francis has failed to consider carefully enough the likely consequences of letting loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud being provided with such help in subverting the truth it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with fidelity.”
My purpose is two-fold: First, to attempt to give an overview of how serious our situation has become. Second, to clarify what is at stake for the Church in the controversies now swirling about Francis, lest the true teaching of the Magisterium be lost in all the confusion. The controversies to be discussed here—all erupting during the three-week period in view—include:
- Francis’s apparent endorsement of the neo-Modernist drive to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion via “pastoral solution;”
- His intimations of a “pastoral” relaxation of the teaching of Humane Vitae;
- His apparent opening to “gay marriage” in the form of “civil unions;”
- His personal endorsement of the multi-denominational, doctrinally indifferent Protestant “Pentecostal” movement, which Francis gave in a video created for the benefit of a breakaway Anglican “bishop” in that movement;
- His continuing disparagement of the traditional liturgy and the growing numbers of the faithful devoted to it, including young people.
I hope in this way to render a service to the readers of this newspaper. Before I present the details, however, I will address a threshold question: Does a Catholic even have a right to publish an article of this sort?
On Public Criticism of Popes
Some Catholics hold that we must never engage in public criticism of the Pope—no matter what he says, no matter what he does. “We must not incite indignation concerning the Holy Father” say these people, even as they themselves—quite rightly—call for indignation concerning wayward prelates such as Cardinal Dolan, publicly criticizing them without reserve for doing nothing other than what the Pope has done, authorized, encouraged or tolerated himself.
But “incitement” is not my intention here. I write because the Pope’s own words and deeds have already aroused indignation among the faithful. Indignation is not a sin when it is warranted. On the contrary, it is a Catholic’s natural reaction to conduct that threatens the good of the Church and the welfare of souls. The Bishop of Rome is no more exempt than any other member of the hierarchy from the indignation of his subjects when he wounds them or the Church of which he is head. Indignation over a prelate’s behavior—even if that prelate were a Pope—is not to be confused with hatred or rancor toward the one who holds the office; it is, rather, an appropriate reaction to a wrong and a natural impetus for seeking its redress. Nor is seeking redress to be confused with a lack of “charity,” as it so often is in this age of emotivism. One is of course obliged in charity to forgive a wrong, but there is nonetheless a duty to repair it, especially when it harms the common good of the Church.
The origin of the pious prescription “no public criticism of the Pope” is mysterious, as it is certainly not to be found in the official teaching of the Church or the common opinion of theologians. Nor is there any sign of a theology of abject silence in the face of papal wrongs throughout the long history of public opposition—often fierce—to wayward Popes, beginning with Paul’s public rebuke of Peter for his scandalous refusal to eat with Gentiles: “But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed (Gal. 2:11).” To the facile objection that saints may criticize erring Popes, one might offer the facile reply that we ought to imitate the example of the saints. Nowhere, however, does the Church impose any “saints only” limitation on objecting publicly to what a Pope has said or done in public.
There were no known saints involved, for example, in the public opposition to John XXII (r. 1316-1334) when he insisted in a series of Sunday sermons that the blessed departed do not see God until after the General Judgment—thus, among other dire consequences, nullifying the traditional teaching on the efficacy of prayers for the souls in Purgatory. Theologians at the University Paris concurred that, while the matter had never been defined as dogma, the Pope was in error, and they petitioned him to recant his opinion. The Pope ultimately did so, noting that he had never imposed his view upon the Church and that everyone had been free to disagree with him. John XXII’s more energetic opponents, including Cardinal Orsini and King Louis of Bavaria, called upon the cardinals to convoke a council to condemn him as a heretic. None of the papal critics in this affair stands condemned by the judgment of the Church.
To address another facile objection, some Catholics maintain that even if it may be permissible to express criticism of a Pope in given circumstances, one must never do so on the Internet or in the press. But it is precisely on the Internet and in the press that Pope Francis has insisted on making his opinions and gestures known to all of humanity. The Pope has the whole planet buzzing about the latest thing he has said or done—all of it broadcast worldwide nearly every day with the assistance of a public relations team headed by PR “wizard” Greg Burke, a former Fox News and Time magazine correspondent and a member of Opus Dei.
One must dismiss as simply ludicrous the idea that in an age of mass communications the only Catholic way to express an objection to what a Pope has deliberately broadcast to the world is some sort of private entreaty. Reflecting the reality of modern social communications, the 1983 Code of Canon Law provides that the faithful, “according to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess… have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful…” (CCC § 212(3)). The canon does not provide “except when it comes to the Pope.”
Recognizing the right and duty of the faithful in this regard, Pope Francis personally telephoned the late traditionalist writer Mario Palmaro after he and his co-author had published a newspaper article leveling a scathing assessment of the publicity-seeking aspect of this pontificate under the bold title “We Do Not Like This Pope.” During the conversation, after expressing concern for Dr. Palmaro’s health (he would soon succumb to liver cancer at the age of 45), the Pope thanked him for his criticisms, assuring him that he “understood that those criticisms had been made with love, and how important it had been for him to receive them.” Further exercising his right and duty, Palmaro later told the press “he cannot ‘state objectively that Pope Francis met our criticisms.’” Palmaro added the caveat that must guide any Catholic who raises a public objection to a Pope’s actions: “we did not want to judge the Pope as a human person. We distinguish the action from the person.”
How odd it is that neo-Catholic proponents of the opinion that the Pope may never be criticized in public, who generally tend to be au courant with “the modern world,” blithely ignore the modern reality of instantaneous worldwide communications, exploited by the Pope himself, and insist upon a way of proceeding that was not even morally obligatory in the days of quill pens, parchment paper, and letters delivered by horseback and ship. With all the world agog at Pope Francis, and with damage to the Church’s image mounting in proportion to the praise he garners from her worst enemies, the proponents of this novel ban on public criticism of Popes now find themselves constrained to remain silent about matters uppermost in the public consciousness of virtually the entire human race! Their pious notion, utterly without foundation in Church teaching, confines them—and them alone—to a kind of deep sea diving bell, submerged beneath tempestuous waters, wherein the storms whipped up by Francis cannot reach them, while every other happening in the Church is received loud and clear and is fair game for comment and the harshest of criticism from inside the diving bell, especially the doings of those dastardly bishops, who are to blame for everything. This is the absurdity they imagine is enjoined upon the faithful by a duty that turns out to be nothing more than their view of how things should be.
Paradoxically enough, this notion of papal immunity from public criticism has arisen precisely during an unparalleled epoch—our own—in which a series of Popes has said or done things that have caused public scandal. The idea, I suppose, is that objecting to these scandals publicly might threaten the faith of Catholics who are not equipped to handle such commentary, so that the better approach is to say nothing at all. On the contrary, the better approach is not to ignore papal scandals but to educate Catholics to the historical reality that the history of the papacy is riddled with the scandalous acts and omissions of errant Popes and that this reality does not undermine, but rather demonstrates, the indefectibility of the Church, for not even the worst of Popes has been able to destroy her or to negate any part of the deposit of the Faith. Those who take upon themselves the task of commenting on Church affairs do not serve the Church by hiding historical reality from the faithful, who will learn of the current scandals anyway from the mass media and may suffer a loss of faith precisely because they do not understand that Popes can and do err in matters not within the limited scope of papal infallibility.
Indeed, the work of the Holy Ghost can be seen in the First Vatican Council’s narrow dogmatic definition of the Pope’s infallible teaching authority. The Pope is infallible only when he: “speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church…” (First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Sess. 3, cap. 4). Of course, the Pope has no power to define doctrines as he pleases, for as Vatican I also teaches: “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” A Pope, or a Council approved by a Pope, can define as dogma only what the Church has always believed as doctrine, albeit without a formal definition. Accordingly, even in defining the dogma of papal infallibility itself the Fathers of Vatican I were at pains to demonstrate that they were “faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith…”
Therefore, when a Pope is not defining dogma or simply repeating doctrine the Church has always taught, he is susceptible to errors of judgment, false opinions, and prudential blunders, as the long history of the papacy demonstrates. (Cfr. Dr. John Rao’s definitive historical study Black Legends and the Light of the World). Which brings me to the merits of this discussion.
“Let us make no mistake: Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations over this divorce issue…” Father Brian Harrison, O.S., Inside the Vatican, Feb. 2014
A Warning Come True
Immediately after Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, the Rorate Caeli blog site presented a dire report by an Argentinian journalist, who wrote that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires the Cardinal was a “sworn enemy of the traditional Mass,” that he was “[f]was “loose in doctrine and liturgy,” and that “he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against
Honesty compels one to admit that every element of this grim assessment has been borne out by the brutal dismantling of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate on the Pope’s direct order, and by his astonishing plenitude of disturbing statements and actions during the scant year he has been in office. These include the phrase that will be emblematic of his entire pontificate, which is now appearing on "Who am I to judge?" tee shirts marketed to gay-rights activists and assorted other radical liberals in order to taunt the Church.
Alarming Adulation by a Hostile World
In the case of Pope Francis the fallibility of Popes in matters not involving doctrinal definitions is remarkably evident. It does no good to deny this when the entire world is heaping praise upon him for his unheard-of pastoral novelties (e.g. the jailhouse foot-washing ceremony, including a Muslim woman), his numerous statements suggesting a revolutionary relaxation of Church discipline in the name of a false “mercy,” and his repeated public insults of traditional Catholics and the traditional liturgy, which he has cavalierly belittled as a “just a kind of fashion” to which certain members of the faithful are “addicted.” As if to reward his behavior, Francis has been lauded as “Person of the Year” by the world’s most prominent left-liberal news magazine (Time), the world’s leading “gay” magazine (The Advocate), the world’s leading “rock culture” magazine (Rolling Stone) and the world’s leading “rock culture” video outlet (MTV). Even the trashy libertine quarterly GQ Magazine joined the adulation by naming Francis “Best Dressed Man of the Year,” using the occasion to mock the overdressed Pope Benedict. All of these tributes, and innumerable others of like kind, have been bestowed explicitly at the expense of Francis’s predecessor and the Church’s teaching on faith and morals. Any Catholic who still retains the sensus catholicus must view with alarm this unprecedented torrent of praise from the realm of Belial. Something is seriously amiss.
The Pope’s Praise for Cardinal Kasper’s Attack on Holy Matrimony
Over the past few weeks Francis has continued to delight the makers of world opinion with one bombshell after another, the explosion of which our brethren in the diving bell resolutely refuse to mention. Let me begin with Cardinal Kasper’s keynote address to the College of Cardinals on February 20—the only address the Pope called for. Pope Francis later praised this two-hour oration as “a beautiful and profound presentation that will soon be published in German…” Kasper is one of the Church’s most notorious post-conciliar Modernists, who, among other heresies, has denied the historicity of the Apostolic Succession. Not surprisingly, then, his address to the cardinals calls for a “pastoral solution” that would allow certain divorced and “remarried” Catholics, living in a state of public adultery, to receive Holy Communion.
Kasper’s proposal comes in the section of the address entitled “The Problem of the Divorced and Remarried.” In the first place, a divorced Catholic, married in the Church, cannot “remarry” as any subsequent civil ceremony is not a marriage. I will put that obvious point aside for the sake of discussion.
Now, whenever a Modernist contrives to undermine some aspect of the Faith, he labels it a “problem” for which there must be a new “solution.” In this case, Kasper advocates a “change of paradigm” respecting the Church’s perennial practice of excluding the divorced and remarried from Holy Communion to protect the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. According to Kasper, “between the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family and the ‘real life’ convictions of many Christians, an abyss has been created.” But today this same “abyss” exists between all manner of Church teaching and the “real life” of “Christians.” The name for this abyss is apostasy, as in the “silent apostasy” John Paul II lamented not long before his death. For a Modernist like Kasper, however, the proper response to apostasy is to accommodate it.
With all the deviousness of the ecclesial termite he is, Kasper begins by arguing that if a divorced and remarried Catholic can make a spiritual communion “why can he not then receive Sacramental communion? If we exclude divorced and remarried Christians from the sacraments (…) do we not perhaps put up for discussion the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church?” The outrageous implication of Kasper’s “beautiful and profound presentation” is that the Church has unjustly denied the sacraments to the divorced and remarried for centuries, indeed throughout her history.
Kasper introduces his revolutionary proposal for a change in practice with the disclaimer: “I wish only to pose questions, limiting myself to indicating the direction of possible answers.” The Modernist typically employs “questions” to sow doubts about what the Church has always taught, only to supply an “answer” that destroys fidelity by suggesting that the Church has erred. Thus did Satan proceed in the Garden of Eden, opening his deadly dialogue with a seemingly innocent query to Eve: “Why has God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree in paradise?” followed by the suggestion that Eve has been misled: “No, you shall not die the death…. (Gen. 3:1-5).”
One of the “questions” Kasper poses involves another outrageous implication: “The question that is posed in response is: is it not perhaps an exploitation of the person who is suffering and asking for help if we make him a sign and a warning for others? Are we going to let him die of hunger sacramentally in order that others may live?” In other words, the Church has cruelly inflicted spiritual starvation on the divorced and remarried by not allowing them to receive Communion because of their adultery, sacrificing these poor souls for the benefit of the pious. This rank calumny of Holy Church is Kasper’s “beautiful and profound” assessment of her perennial practice for protection of the Holy Eucharist from sacrilege by open adulterers.
Kasper praises the “heroic virtue” of abandoned spouses who never remarry, only to declare immediately that, nevertheless, “many abandoned spouses depend, for the good of the children [!], on a new relationship and a civil marriage which they cannot abandon without committing new offenses.” These new relationships, Kasper declares, “prove their new joy, and even sometimes come to be seen as a gift from heaven.” So Kasper’s “profound and beautiful” view of divorce and remarriage is that the good of children is served when a parent takes up with a new lover and brings him or her into the former marital home, destroying the children’s respect for the sanctity of marriage while inflicting profound trauma and often permanent psychological harm upon them, and that this adulterous relationship can even be seen as a gift from heaven. How can any Catholic remain silent in the face of this despicable subterfuge, which conceals the terrible evil of divorce behind a lie about its “benefits”? “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil… (Isaiah 5:20).”
Kasper then discusses “two situations” involving the divorced and “remarried.” The first concerns those whose marriages in the Church might well have been contracted invalidly but who have not obtained a decree of annulment and are now in second “marriages” by way of civil ceremony. Showing just how devious he is, Kasper argues that the Church cannot simply make annulments easier to obtain because, as he rightly observes, the spouse opposing annulment justly protests that “we lived together, we had children; this was a reality that cannot simply be declared null…” So Kasper proposes, not to avoid laxity in granting annulments, but rather to dispense with the traditional annulment process altogether.
Many pastors, he argues, are “convinced that many marriages celebrated in a religious form were not contracted in a valid manner” and the traditional presumption of validity should now be viewed as a “fiction.” But, without an annulment, how can a marriage in the Church be ignored at the “pastoral” level? Kasper proposes that since the annulment process is only a matter of ecclesiastical law, the Church could simply allow a local bishop to empower a priest “with spiritual and pastoral experience” or the diocesan penitentiary or episcopal vicar to make some sort of “pastoral” decision that the prior marriage in the Church ought not to impede reception of the Blessed Sacrament because it was probably invalid. But, under this absurd proposal, who would defend the marital bond against such “pastoral” determinations and who would review the local “pastoral” decision? Apparently nobody. The potential for marital chaos and the destruction of the divinely ordered nuclear family is self-evident.
The second situation Kasper presents is that “most difficult situation” of a marriage that was “ratified and consummated between baptized persons,” yet “the communion of married life is irremediably broken and one or both of the spouses have contracted a second civil marriage.” In other words, a valid Catholic marriage followed by a civil divorce and an adulterous civil union on the part of one or both spouses. Here Kasper contends that “[t]he early Church gives us an indication that can serve as a means of escape from the dilemma.” Dilemma? What dilemma? The one Kasper has invented.
As we know, when a Modernist wishes to attack some element of the Faith through a change in discipline, he typically appeals to some alleged practice of the Church around 2,000 years ago. I will not tarry over Kasper’s bogus Modernist scholarship, devoid of a single citation to a patristic source quoted in context, or his fraudulent claim that the Council of Nicaea (325) authorized the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion. Let the reader consult Roberto de Mattei’s demolition of Kasper’s specious arguments.
Having imagined an historical foundation in the always-useful “early Church,” Kasper calmly lays out his five-point plan for de facto approval of divorce and remarriage in the Catholic Church. He presents this as “a way beyond rigorism and laxity”—meaning, of course, a way to laxity:
If a divorced and remarried – 1. Repents of the failure in his first marriage, 2. If he has clarified the obligations of his first marriage, if going back is definitely excluded, 3. If he cannot abandon without other offences to his commitments in the second civil marriage, 4. If however, he makes an effort to live in the second marriage to the best of his possibilities, starting from the faith and bringing his children up in the faith, 5. If he has the desire for the sacraments as the source of strength in his situation, must we or can we deny him, after a time of a new course (metanoia) the sacrament of penance and then Communion?
Kasper claims this is not “a general solution,” or “a wide road for the great masses,” but rather “a narrow way on the part of probably very few of the divorced and remarried, interested in the sacraments.” If we would believe that, we would be prime customers for the purchase of the Brooklyn Bridge. Kasper assures us that this “solution” calls for “discretion” and is “not compromise between rigorism [i.e. what the Church has always required] and laxity [i.e. what Kasper wishes to achieve].” Kasper is right. This is not a compromise between rigorism and laxity; it is simply a prescription for laxity.
But Kasper’s “beautiful and profound” suggestion for authorizing mass sacrilege is neither profound nor beautiful; it is evil, as seen immediately from the obvious objections:
First, having “repented” of the “failure” of a sacramental marriage, the divorced and remarried person still remains in an adulterous second union based on nothing more than a civil ceremony. Here Kasper attempts to patch the gaping hole in his argument by defending civil marriage, arguing that a civil marriage “with clear criteria is distinct from other forms of ‘irregular’ cohabitation, such as clandestine marriages, common law couples, above all fornication and so-called primitive marriages.” Really? On what authority does Kasper so declare? On the authority of his own worthless opinion, which the Pope endorses as “beautiful and profound.”
Second, the idea that the Church could countenance “living in the second marriage to the best of [its] possibilities” without the traditional requirement of abstinence from sexual relations is nothing short of monstrous. Consider what Kasper is really saying: that a couple living in an adulterous union should “perfect” it and persist in it until death, thus defying Saint Paul’s very warning that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers… shall possess the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6-10).”
Third, even more monstrous is the idea that someone living in a continuous state of adultery, having repented only of the “failure” of a sacramental marriage, could be allowed to approach the confessional on a regular basis without having to confess, repent of, and promise before God to cease his continuing adultery.
Fourth, and most monstrous of all, is the idea that an adulterer in this situation should have recourse to Holy Communion as a “source of strength” while he continues to enjoy the fruits of an adulterous relationship.
In a most infuriating Modernist fashion, Kasper presents his suggestions for the subversion of Holy Matrimony under the guise of defending its indissolubility: “The indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage during the lifetime of the other partner is part of the tradition of the Church’s binding faith that cannot be abandoned or undone by appealing to a superficial understanding of cheapened mercy,” he piously affirms. He does so in the very process of outlining a plan to dispense cheapened mercy that would undermine the indissolubility of marriage. His proposal, he claims, would be a way for the Church “to tolerate that which in itself is impossible to accept.” Nonsense. Kasper is proposing to accept that which is impossible to tolerate.
Echoing the Pope’s own sentiments, Kasper declares that “[a] pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency and indulgence” would affirm that “the sacraments are not a prize for those who behave well or for an elite, excluding those who are most in need…” On that bizarre premise, everyone in a state of mortal sin would be entitled to receive Holy Communion because he is in a state of mortal sin, while those who “behave well” would be hogging spiritual goods they don’t require.
What Kasper is really after—as if anyone didn’t know it—is simply the Catholic Church’s practical defection from the indissolubility of marriage, while affirming it in principle (the defection in principle can always come later). Insulting Holy Church yet again, he declares that his “solution” is necessary to “give witness in a credible way to the Word of God in difficult human situations, as a message of fidelity, but also as a message of mercy, of life, and of joy.” In other words, until now the Church has been without credibility and mercy toward the divorced and remarried, her discipline joyless and lifeless, because she heeds Our Lord’s divine warning that the divorced and “remarried” are guilty of adultery! Kasper’s “beautiful and profound” conclusion is thus an implicit attack on God Himself. But that, after all, is what Modernism always involves.
Finally, consider the immense stakes involved in this insane pursuit of a way to admit public adulterers to the sacraments. Here I will quote from Father Brian Harrison’s recent letter to Inside the Vatican:
[W]on’t this reversal of bimillenial Catholic doctrine mean that the Protestants and Orthodox, who have allowed divorce and remarriage for century after century, have been more docile to the Holy Spirit on this issue than the true Church of Christ? Indeed, how credible, now, will be her claim to be the true Church? On what other controverted issues, perhaps, has the Catholic Church been wrong, and the separated brethren right? …
Admitting [the divorced and remarried] to Communion without a commitment to continence will lead logically to one of three faith-breaking conclusions: (a) our Lord was mistaken in calling this relationship adulterous—in which case he can scarcely have been the Son of God; (b) adultery is not intrinsically and gravely sinful—in which case the Church's universal and ordinary magisterium has always been wrong; or (c) Communion can be given to some who are living in objectively grave sin—in which case not only has the magisterium also erred monumentally by always teaching the opposite, but the way will also be opened to Communion for fornicators, practicing homosexuals, pederasts, and who knows who else?
Let us make no mistake: Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations over this divorce issue….
Diabolical is not too strong a word for Kasper’s proposal. Yet our friends in the diving bell will pretend that the Pope did not solicit and then praise it. Meanwhile, the world exults over the potential for an overthrow of the Church’s uncompromising defense of Holy Matrimony. Will Kasper’s proposal become a reality? We must pray that the Holy Ghost prevents such a disaster. Nevertheless, Catholics deceive themselves, and each other, if they pretend it is not the Pope himself who—whatever his subjective intention—has stoked the fires of dissent and rebellion by commissioning and then lauding Kasper’s “profound and beautiful presentation.”
Still More Insults for Traditionalists
Pope Francis has publicly insulted faithful traditional Catholics so many times that one wag at CNN has compiled what he calls “The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults.” The insults keep coming.
On February 14, during an audience with Bishops of the Czech Republic, the Pope was informed of the growing numbers of young people who are attracted to the traditional Latin Mass. Instead of expressing approval of this development as a sign of true renewal in the Church, Francis dismissed the development, stating that “he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it [the Latin Mass].” With amazing condescension he added: “When I search more thoroughly, I find that it is rather a kind of fashion. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us.”
It must be said that Francis appears to be guilty of the very fault of which he publicly accuses others: liturgical superficiality, and this to an astonishing degree. In all candor, it is Francis who has not “gone deep” at all but rather rendered the shallowest of judgments on a matter that could not be more profound. How is it possible for a Roman Pontiff to dismiss as “a kind of fashion” the Church’s received and approved rite of divine worship down through the centuries, going back at least to the time of Pope Damasus (r. 366-384), if not to the Apostles themselves, a work of the Holy Ghost that is nothing less than the liturgical foundation of Christian civilization?
If anything is “a kind of fashion” it is the new rite of Mass concocted by committee a mere 45 years ago, which almost immediately collapsed in a welter of previously unthinkable abuses and profanations, including the “Pinocchio Mass” and the “Tango Mass” over which Francis himself presided as Cardinal Bergoglio. How can Francis defend and even participate in what his own predecessor admitted is the “collapse of the liturgy” (Ratzinger, Milestones, p. 148) while disparaging the Mass that nurtured the faith and heroic virtue of legions of saints and inspired the world’s most sublime works of art and architecture and music, including Gregorian and polyphonic chant?
Contrast Francis’s shallow view of the liturgy with the deep understanding so evident in the thinking of Pope Benedict, which motivated his determination to “liberate” the traditional Mass from its false imprisonment after the Council. As Benedict so famously observed in his letter to the world’s Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” Pope Benedict knew well what was at stake in freeing liturgical tradition from its captivity by the liturgical fashion police who have thoroughly banalized Catholic worship since the Council: “But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence?” (Milestones, 149). Where else indeed?
Francis’s remark that preserving the Church’s precious liturgical patrimony is merely a matter of showing “patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion” evinces a disturbing incomprehension of the vital function of the sacred liturgy in the Mystical Body. Even the young people whose attraction to the traditional liturgy Francis professes he cannot understand are able to see the reality of the ruinous liturgical impoverishment that has been visited upon the Church, the massive theft from the Church’s treasury of spiritual goods. As Pope Benedict observed in his historic letter to the Bishops, it is precisely young people who recognize what we have lost and are now leading the movement for its recovery:
Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.
But where Pope Benedict sees a powerful attraction in young souls to that which is objectively beautiful, sublime, and most appropriate to the worship of God—the primary purpose of the liturgy—Pope Francis, with yet another expression of contempt for his own subjects, sees only an “ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy,” as he declared in Evangelii Gaudium. His remarks in the Corriere interview reflect the worrying persistence of an irrational hostility toward the Church’s liturgical tradition, which it is his duty as Pope to protect and preserve, not belittle and disdain.
The “Bishop Tony” Affair
Also on February 14, Pope Francis continued to indulge his hazardous penchant for off-the-cuff interviews by speaking into a smart phone video recorder wielded by one “Bishop” Tony Palmer during a visit at the Pope’s personal residence in Casa Santa Marta. “Bishop” Tony, an old friend of the Pope’s, is the “International Ecumenical Officer” for a breakaway Anglican sect called the Anglican Episcopal Church of the CEEC (Celtic Anglican Tradition), which ordains women as “priests.” Palmer, it must be noted, did not request a recorded interview. Rather, the Pope asked him “why don’t we make a video?”—knowing that Palmer would show it at an upcoming “Pentecostal gathering” conducted by “prosperity Gospel” Protestant ministers.
During the video Francis stated: “I am here with my brother, my bishop brother, Tony Palmer. He told me about your conference, your meeting, and it is my pleasure to greet you.” But Palmer is no bishop. He is a layman in a clerical costume. Are we to conclude from the Pope’s remark that he, like Kasper, does not accept the infallible teaching of his own predecessor, Leo XIII, in Apostolicae Curae (1896) that “We pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void”? That would be a grave embarrassment to Pope Emeritus Benedict, given that in the CDF’s doctrinal commentary on John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem (1998), Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, enumerated Pope Leo’s solemnly declared invalidity of Anglican orders as “among those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively…”
Francis proceeded to express to Palmer the usual “ecumenical” bromide that the division of Christians is not the result of anything like the spread of Luther’s heresies, but rather “a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame….” The Protestant rebellion against divinely constituted authority, apparently, had nothing to do with it. In proper ecumenical fashion, Francis alluded vaguely to a future Christian unity based on feelings of brotherhood rather than acceptance of revealed truth in its entirety: “We must cry together like Joseph did. These tears will unite us. The tears of love…. And let’s pray to the Lord that he unites us all. Come, we are brothers. Let us give each other a spiritual hug, and let God complete the work that he has begun.”
Palmer promptly exploited the video at the conference, calling it “special and historic,” and using it to demonstrate that the Catholic Church was coming around to the Protestant way of thinking. “Diversity is divine; it’s division that’s diabolical,” declared Palmer in praise of the 33,000 Protestant denominations that have arisen since “Luther’s protest.” In other words, there must be “unity in diversity,” regardless of doctrinal differences. Speaking of the “charismatic renewal,” Palmer exulted: “It’s the glory that brings us together, not the doctrine. If you accept that Christ is living in me, and the presence of God is in me, and the presence of God is in you, that’s all we need. Because God will sort out all our doctrines when we get upstairs.” This is the heretical nonsense to which the Pope lent the dignity of the Petrine office.
Quoting from the 1999 “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” a meaningless piece of paper signed by the non-authoritative Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation, “Bishop” Palmer falsely asserted: “This brought an end to the protest of Luther. Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over.” He failed to mention the Vatican’s companion document, which stated that “there are many points of convergence between the Catholic position and the Lutheran position” and that “[t]he Catholic Church is, however, of the opinion that we cannot yet speak of a consensus.” In other words, the supposed agreement between Catholics and Lutherans concerning the defined dogma of justification is, like all other claims of “ecumenical progress,” illusory. “The protest of Luther” goes on, just as it always has, along with divorce, contraception, abortion, and the “ordination” of women and professed homosexuals in the Protestant sects—all the “fruits” of fifty years of useless “ecumenical dialogue.”
The Twisting of Matthew 19:3-9
A week after Kasper’s “beautiful and profound” attack on Holy Matrimony, the Pope delivered a sermon (February 28) in which he turned the famous account in Matthew 19:3-9 on its head in order to justify his apparent preoccupation with finding a way to admit objective public adulterers to Holy Communion. Francis spoke of the Pharisees’ attempt to trap Our Lord respecting divorce and His reply that in marriage “the two become one flesh.” Yet the Pope conspicuously omitted any mention of Our Lord’s declarations immediately following: “what God hath joined together let no man put asunder” and “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.”
The key verses intentionally passed over in silence, Francis somehow converted Our Lord’s fearsome vindication of the absolute indissolubility of marriage during His encounter with the casuitical Pharisees into a thinly veiled suggestion that present day Catholics are Pharisaical for upholding without compromise Our Lord’s teaching against the Pharisees! As Francis opined:
when this love fails, because it fails so many times, we have to feel the pain of the failure, we have to accompany those persons who have experienced this failure of their own love. Not to condemn them! To walk with them! And to not take a casuistic attitude towards their situation.
Ironically, the Pope’s twisting of Matthew 19 into a reprimand of those who defend Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage required precisely what he condemns in supposedly “rigorist” Catholics: casuistry.
A few questions on this sermon:
First, what does Francis mean by “love fails”? Marital love is not a mechanism that breaks down under stress through no fault of the operators; it is a continuing act of the will, aided by the grace of Holy Matrimony. It is not the sacramental marriage that fails, for that is an indissoluble bond, but rather one or both spouses in the obligation to respect the bond “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” The results of that moral failure are indeed tragic, but life is filled with tragedies the Church cannot simply sweep aside in the name of mercy. As Cardinal Müller put it in the CDF’s recent doctrinal letter, which Kasper was evidently authorized to contest in his address to the cardinals: “A further case for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in terms of mercy…. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice…. God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church.”
Second, who, according to Francis, is “condemning” the divorced and remarried? Perhaps it is Our Lord Himself, who calls them adulterers in the very verses Francis failed to mention. But no one, in fact, is “condemning” particular individuals in the sense of judging the state of their souls, much less the imaginary “rigorists” the Pope seems to see under every bed and around every corner at a time when laxity is all but universal in the Church.
Third, what is the “casuistic attitude” to which Francis refers? Perhaps it is the Church’s “rigoristic” bimillenial insistence—maintained by John Paul II, Pope Benedict and even Cardinal Müller!—that the divorced and remarried, without exception, are not permitted to partake of the Blessed Sacrament unless they commit to ceasing their adulterous relations.
Fourth, how exactly should we “walk with” the divorced and remarried other than to lead them in the way the Church has always indicated? Cardinal Kasper has clearly been assigned the task of finding a way to “walk” with them by proposing “solutions” that would allow people living in adultery be treated as if they had been validly married by civil authorities—despite the continued existence of a sacramental marriage with an abandoned spouse!
Our friends in the diving bell would have it that no one may discuss publicly the immense implications of what the Pope is saying, and what he is doing by lauding Kasper as point man for a potentially catastrophic change in Church practice that would reduce her infallible doctrine on marriage to a virtual dead letter. They would counsel keeping quiet about the scandal while the mass media and the Modernists who have infested the entire hierarchy, including the upcoming Synod, run riot with it and create immense pressures for the change. We must not be quiet. We must exercise our duty as Catholics and confirmed soldiers of Christ to defend the Church’s traditional doctrine and practice in the worldwide public debate the Pope has improvidently ignited, which the Catholics in the diving bell propose to ignore.
While Pope Francis has not altered any Catholic doctrines in his interviews and disquisitions, he is sowing seeds of confusion among the faithful, a high price to pay, even for “skyrocketing” poll numbers".…Patrick J. Buchanan
Yet Another Explosive Newspaper Interview
The Pope continues to give free-ranging, explosive interviews to Italian newspapers. The latest edition of this “magisterium” by newspaper is an interview with the editor of Corriere della Sera on March 5. As with all the other interviews, this one contains bombshells whose detonations the world media duly note while the diving bell constituency covers its ears. I will address six key statements from the interview:
First, confirming exactly what Antonio Socci was widely ridiculed for suggesting, Francis explicitly declares that the Church now has two Popes—a reigning Pope and a retired Pope: “The Pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum. It is an institution. We weren’t used to it. 60 or 70 years ago, ‘bishop emeritus’ didn’t exist. It came after the (Second Vatican) Council. Today, it is an institution. The same thing must happen for the Pope emeritus. Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others.”
Notice that Francis does not say that the other Popes who have resigned in centuries past had this status, for in fact they became cardinals and lost all indices of the papal office. No, this is yet another post-conciliar novelty in the Church. Now, a bishop emeritus is still a bishop because, in receiving the fullness of Holy Orders according to a sacramental formula, including the laying on of hands, he received an indelible mark on his soul that can never be effaced. But a man who ascends to the office of Vicar of Christ does not undergo any such ontological change. So what precisely is Francis suggesting here? Who knows? But one thing is certain: we are witnessing still more confusion about the distinction between one thing and another that has bedeviled the Church since the Council. And confusion in the Church is always a sign of the Adversary at work on her human element.
Second, Francis revealed that he and Pope Emeritus Benedict jointly agreed that Benedict would in effect “come out of retirement” despite his earlier statement that he would remain “hidden from the world.” Said Francis: “We [Benedict and he] have spoken about it and we decided together that it would be better that he sees people, gets out and participates in the life of the Church. He once came here for the blessing of the statue of St. Michael the Archangel, then to lunch at Santa Marta and, after Christmas, I sent him an invitation to participate in the consistory and he accepted. His wisdom is a gift of God. Some would have wished that he retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. I thought of grandparents and their wisdom. Their counsels give strength to the family and they do not deserve to be in an elderly home.”
So, as Francis sees it, the newly created Pope Emeritus serves as a kind of consulting Pope to the reigning Pope. But what if the consulting Pope publishes advice that contradicts the reigning Pope—say, in a newspaper interview with Corriere della Sera? Well, what’s a little more confusion in the post-conciliar Church? As Socci has written regarding Francis’s revelations: “The tempests approach.”
Third, taking aim at the Church’s traditional discipline respecting the divorced and remarried, Francis continued his theme that it would be Pharisaical “casuistry” to continue to refuse to admit them to Holy Communion:
There are many separated families in which the project of common life has failed. The children suffer greatly. We must give a response. But for this we must reflect very deeply. It is that which the Consistory and the Synod are doing. We need to avoid remaining on the surface. The temptation to resolve every problem with casuistry is an error, a simplification of profound things, as the Pharisees did, a very superficial theology. It is in light of the deep reflection that we will be able to seriously confront particular situations, also those of the divorced, with a pastoral depth.
In other words, Francis is at least considering a “correction” of the supposedly superficial, Pharisaical theology concerning the divorced and remarried that the Church has always defended. (If not, then what “superficial theology” is he referring to?) This would apparently involve something along the lines suggested by Cardinal Kasper. Francis left no doubt of this during the interview:
Corriere: Why did the speech from Cardinal Walter Kasper during the last consistory (an abyss between doctrine on marriage and the family and the real life of many Christians) so deeply divide the cardinals? How do you think the Church can walk these two years of fatiguing path arriving at a large and serene consensus? If the doctrine is firm, why is debate necessary? [Good question!]
Francis: Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation that will soon be published in German, and he confronted five points; the fifth was that of second marriages. I would have been concerned if in the consistory there wasn’t an intense discussion. It wouldn’t have served for anything. The cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented many different points of view that are enriching. The fraternal and open comparisons make theological and pastoral thought grow. I am not afraid of this, actually I seek it.
Fourth, Francis clearly opened the door to “civil unions” as an acceptable legal substitute for civil “marriage” between homosexuals.
Corriere: Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Francis: Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.
But there are no “different cases” of “civil unions.” It is only homosexual activists who are promoting them as a compromise on “gay marriage.” Hence the mass media immediately seized on the obvious implication that the Pope has opened the door, at least a crack, to the Church’s acceptance of “gay marriage” so long as it is called “civil union.” As CNN declared, for example: “Pope Francis: Church Could Support Civil Unions.” Meaning, civil unions for “gays,” who are the only ones demanding them.
Given the media storm the Pope’s remark had stirred up, the Vatican issued yet another of its urgent “clarifications” of Pope Francis’s remarks. But the clarification only confirmed the media’s interpretation. Father Thomas Rosica, the English language spokesman for the Holy See Press Office issued this statement:
The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions. In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens…. Pope Francis simply stated the issues and did not interfere with positions held by Episcopal Conferences in various countries dealing with the question of civil unions and same sex marriage.
Just a moment! The state has absolutely no “responsibility toward its citizens” to invent civil unions for sodomites who demand the benefits of marriage. On the contrary, it has a responsibility to forbid such unions for the common good, and Catholics have a duty to oppose them and refuse to cooperate in their implementation. Accordingly, in 2003 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the future Pope Benedict, declared as follows in a document that John Paul II specifically approved and ordered to be published:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. [Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 3 June 2003].
Father Rosica’s “clarification” portends Francis’s disastrous abandonment of this teaching in favor of the local bishops’ conferences that have already caved in on “civil unions.” Then again, it must be said that Father Rosica himself seems to be at sea over what Francis said to Corriere. As he states: “We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms.” Has he not conferred with the Pope on exactly what he meant? Or is Rosica, on his own initiative, engaging in frantic damage control regarding another spontaneous remark Francis uttered without consulting anyone?
Fifth, Francis dropped a thinly shrouded bomb concerning Humanae Vitae, which the interviewer blatantly prompted him to undermine by reference to the infamous Cardinal Martini, who declared in 2008 that “Jesus would never have written Humanae Vitae.” Francis, who has praised Martini as “a prophetic figure” and “a man of discernment and peace,” took the interviewer’s hint:
Corriere: At half a century from Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, can the Church take up again the theme of birth control? Cardinal Martini, your confrere, thought that the moment had come.
Francis: All of this depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.
What does Francis mean by “how Humanae Vitae is interpreted”? There is nothing to interpret: affirming what the Church has taught for all time, the encyclical unequivocally forbids as “intrinsically wrong”—that is, wrong under any circumstance—“any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”
What does Francis mean by “much mercy”? One of the spiritual acts of mercy is to admonish the sinner. Moreover, the Church has always taught that a sinner cannot be granted absolution absent a firm purpose of amendment: “I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace… to amend my life. Amen.” The Church does not dispense her own “mercy” as a sort of kindly gratuity, but rather obtains Christ’s mercy through the Sacrament of Confession. But the mercy of God’s forgiveness cannot be obtained without a sinner’s repentance. How can priests show “much mercy” respecting the mortal sin of contraception unless a penitent repents of it, vowing not to commit it again?
If, in the name of “mercy,” people were to be excused from the obligation to cease contracepting based on “concrete situations” and what “it is possible for people to do,” what mortal sin would not be excusable on those grounds? How does this not represent the threat of a total collapse of the Church’s moral edifice within the confessional?
On the other hand, if Francis is not suggesting that confessors allow for the sin of contraception out of “mercy,” what does he mean, and what exactly does he have in mind when he says “also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.”
Sixth: Pursuing his vision of a “synodal” Catholic Church and a “conversion of the papacy” in line with Orthodox theology (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 246) the Pope told Corriere that “Orthodox theology is very rich. And I believe that they have great theologians at this moment. Their vision of the Church and of synodality is marvelous.”
Consider: With the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X suddenly back in the “schism” penalty box, even though they affirm the Pope’s authority and indeed appeal to it for an end to the crisis in the Church, Francis looks to the theology of true schismatics for a “marvelous” “vision of the Church” premised precisely on denial of the Pope’s authority! Moreover, “marvelous” Orthodox synodality involves autocephalous national churches, which, if applied to the Catholic Church, would mean the destruction of her very unity, if that were possible. No further comment is necessary.
When Pope John XXII gave his errant sermons on the Beatific Vision 700 years ago, he encountered fierce public opposition until he retracted his error, even though the sermons were heard by few and were probably completely unknown to the vast majority of Catholics. Some 700 years later, the statements of a Pope become known to the entire world within hours of their utterance and are amplified and repeated with enormous impact by the global mass media. Today, we are witnessing almost daily scandal provoked by a Pope who has rocked the Church and delighted the Church’s enemies, not with a single erring opinion, but with a cascade of disturbing remarks and suggested radical innovations the media exploit to attack the very foundations of the Faith, followed by frantic attempts at “clarification” by the Vatican Press Office. This has been going on almost from the moment Pope Francis said “Good evening” on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica a year ago, and it has only gotten worse.
In the mere three weeks covered by this article, the Pope has managed to do and say enough to suggest what Roberto de Mattei called “a cultural revolution proposed in the name of praxis,” speaking only of Cardinal Kasper’s stunning advocacy of de facto Church approval of divorce and remarriage in an address Francis solicited and then praised as beautiful and profound. Yet in the midst of the booming explosions Francis has been setting off to the world’s rapturous applause—one after another in seemingly endless succession—the diving bell constituency continues to insist that we ignore the thunderous noise emanating from Rome, act as if all is well with the papacy, and continue to blame the bishops alone for everything that has gone wrong in the Church since Vatican II.
It is time for Catholics to unite in recognizing that the post-conciliar crisis began with, and is being perpetuated by, acts and omissions of the conciliar Popes, and that it will end only when some Pope—please God, this one—finally acts decisively to steer the Barque of Peter back to the course from which it deviated nearly half a century ago. It is time to stop pretending that the Pope’s subordinates are solely to blame for what the Pope has done, authorized, or tolerated for decades. This pretense has inflicted immense harm upon the Body of Christ because it effectively dispenses with the essential role of the Pope as supreme ruler of the Church, who is ultimately responsible for her state, and discourages the faithful from exercising their right to protest publicly the consequences of papal misrule, which the Church’s enemies are left free publicly to praise and promote.
Pope Benedict’s liberation of the traditional Mass, which immediately launched a worldwide movement for its restoration, is but one indication of the Roman Pontiff’s singular power to renew and reform a Church undergoing the deepest of crises. Pope Francis, however, is seemingly intent on disparaging, if not halting, that liturgical revival and dragging the Church back to the liturgical, theological, and pastoral tumult of the 1970s—with the threat of even more unheard-of novelties to come. To continue to insist on the ridiculous proposition that the Pope Francis must not be criticized in public in the midst of public scandals of worldwide magnitude provoked by Francis himself, is nothing less than to become complicit in accelerating the ecclesial auto-demolition Pope Benedict at least attempted to arrest. What Pope Francis is doing and saying publicly to the Church’s detriment must be opposed, just as publicly, by loyal Catholics who love the Church and cannot bear to see the spotless Bride of Christ humiliated before a gloating world.
Yet not a word of this article has been written against the person of Pope Francis. Like the late Dr. Palmaro, whom the Pope thanked for his severe public criticism in a newspaper, we do not “judge the Pope as a human person. We distinguish the action from the person.” Indeed, we ought to presume that Francis is well-intentioned; or even perhaps that his deliberation, focus and sense of restraint are somewhat compromised, as would be natural with anyone of his advanced age. But this does not change the objective signification of the words Francis utters, or their dangerous ambiguity, or the confusion and division they have caused. Nor can even the best of intentions avoid the damage Francis is unquestionably inflicting on the Church’s divinely mandated witness against the errors of this world.
Four years before his death in 1977, the great Dietrich von Hildebrand, hailed by Pope Pius XII as a “twentieth century doctor of the Church,” wrote that “the poison of our epoch is slowly seeping into the Church herself, and many have failed to see the apocalyptic decline of our time.” (The Devastated Vineyard, p. 75). Forty years later the poison of our epoch has penetrated into nearly every corner of the Church. Now there is almost a palpable sense that time is running out, that the Church’s human element is surrendering almost entirely to the spirit of the age, that the apocalyptic decline of our time has reached a depth that presages divine chastisement.
By now it should be self-evident to any Catholic who understands the nature of the Church that only the Pope has the power to avert what is coming, and that therefore it is the height of folly to pretend that only the Pope is immune from criticism concerning the disastrous misrule of the Church over the past half-century. At this turning point in salvation history, when virtually every word and deed of the Pope is a matter for worldwide discussion, no Catholic worthy of the name should be counseling silence about what is happening in the See of Peter. To remain silent, to refrain from expressing our conscientious opposition, is to refuse to dispel scandal among our brethren when we have the obligation and the means to do so, and to allow them, and ultimately ourselves, to succumb to the reigning confusion, which has led to nothing less than mass apostasy.
There will be no such silence on these pages. There never has been. For silence in the face of grave harm to the Bride of Christ is not the Catholic way, especially when that harm results from the notorious public conduct of a Pope. May Our Lady of Fatima, to whom Pope Francis’s pontificate is consecrated, intercede for us, illumine the Pope, and deliver the Church from the peril to which her own leaders have exposed her.