The human will was the centerpiece of that despicable age. Riefenstahl’s most famous film is surely her 1935 propaganda epic Triumph of the Will. In this black-and-white mosaic of the National Socialists’ rise to power, Riefenstahl gives the world her entrancing, hypnotic vision of a continent subject to a Fuhrer’s designs. Germany has become spokes radiating out from the mad, magnetic leader barking out wild speeches on a gigantic stage all alone. Nothing else is needed. A paunchy corporal’s will suffices for the entire Volk.
In both Festival of Nations and Triumph of the Will we see the nature of the twentieth century among the ideologues of all parties: the quest for the New Man. Long before, from the times of Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, and Marx, the “enlightened” had sought the same thing, namely human centrism in the universe. The old ways were seen as so much trash to be discarded. People were hectored into throwing off their sentimental attachments to their families and homes and swearing allegiance to the new gods: race, class, science, progress, the state, blood and iron, Social Darwinism.
Some still clung to the old ways, but those who refused to embrace the New World Order were gradually culled. Cemeteries, unmarked mass graves, battlefields, abortuaries, and camps are littered with the remains of those who would not, or could not, adapt to the world the human will had made anew. All who failed at being the New Men of the Party, the Nation, or the Thousand-Year Ideology were cast out. Old men were unworthy of the brave new world. The main reason for huge rallies in Nuremberg in the 1930s, and for the mass starvation of peasants in the Ukraine, and for the slaughter of a quarter of the population of Cambodia, was always the same—people were deemed not to have conformed to the dominant will.
Traditionis Custodes is not a work of care for what has been handed down, but an attempt to will the entirety of the Christian heritage out of existence.
But why don’t people do as they’re told, when they’re told to give up all they hold dear? The question answers itself. The New Man demands submission, but the cumulative loves and sorrows of the past embroider us all into a community stretching across space and time. Look closer at the shrill commands of the New Men and you’ll see that the will, although it feels strong on the inside, is the weakest of human powers. The will seeks to impose itself on the cosmos, but the cosmos is almost entirely indifferent. The will also seeks to enter into the psyches of other people, to control what goes on in other souls and minds. There, too, the will fails. The will rages and commands, but, really, it is a will-o’-the-wisp. No one knows better than he who seeks to make his will law just how weak his will actually is. Hence, the terror of the twentieth century, the century where the New Man willed by the possessed few just wouldn’t stick in reality. The will is shown almost immediately to be impotent—after that, for those who won’t recognize the will’s weakness, there is only the twisting of arms, the cracking of heads.
Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes is a document which could only be written by a man who had sensed his own impotence to will reality, but had not yet repented of dictating terms to God’s Creation. The document’s apparent translation errors (https://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/fetzen-fliegen/item/5494-cardinal-burke-statement-on-traditionis-custodes) and the overall appeal to the very thing—tradition—which the document overtly seeks to destroy make it clear that Traditionis Custodes is not a work of care for what has been handed down, but an attempt to will the entirety of the Christian heritage out of existence. Francis has proclaimed that all Catholics must be New Men. He must surely understand, even before he made the crazed decision to declare war on the Deposit of the Faith, that such attempts are bound to end in failure.
Why this is so is a matter of historical context. First, to understand Traditionis Custodes, one must understand Vatican II. Francis was hardly the first Churchman to hate tradition. In Vatican II, many of the leaders of the Church tried to revolutionize the Deposit of the Faith. The spirit of Vatican II was aggiornamento. It sounds lovely in Italian, but in plain English it means “update”. The arrogance hidden in that one simple word is breathtaking. The pope is, at best, middle management—he does not innovate, he only cares for what he has received. And what he has—and we all have—received is nothing less than the means of our salvation, the graces of Christ mediated by Our Lady and Holy Mother Church. Vatican II wanted to “update” the divine plan for saving the human race. Traditionis Custodes doubles down on this rejection of tradition—a rejection which has utterly failed because no sane man or woman wants to throw onto the dustheap the riches of tradition, or especially the promise of eternal life.
This article appears in the August 15th Remnant Newspaper.
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There is more. To understand Vatican II, one must understand Vatican I. Vatican I was the council at which Pastor aeternus (1870), the bull of papal infallibility, was decreed. At the time, the Papal States were under literal bombardment by the armies of the Enlightenment. Pope Pius IX felt very strongly that ratifying the traditional primacy of his office by imbuing certain papal pronouncements with the same charism as the Magisterium itself would help the Catholic Church continue to save souls despite the loss of Christendom to the forces of darkness. The Church had lost the culture, in other words, but the pope became in his person powerful enough—so the thinking went—to counter the outrages of the Enlightenment devils and keep the faithful strong worldwide.
The reasoning held for a time. But then the armies of the Enlightenment shifted tactics. Instead of launching cannonades at the Vatican, they infiltrated the Church from the inside. Subtly, with much guile and Jesuitical double-speak, the Enlightenment—the Modernists, the Freemasons, the “updaters,” the “encounterists,” the Footnote 351ists, the ecumenicists, the Seamless Garmentians, the LGBT platoons—crept into the halls and offices of the universal Church. Vatican II was General Raffaele Cardona’s victory lap, his second and far more consequential fusillade. With but a rustling of papers and a smattering of polite applause, the Enlightenment took the Church as a prize in 1965.
(Ironically, the Second Vatican Council closed on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the dogma of which was infallibly declared by Pope Pius IX in a prelude to his full declaration of infallibility in 1870.)
For many years, though, and despite the undeniable break with Christian teachings and heritage—not least of which was the “New Mass” requiring the priest to turn his back on the tabernacle and the laity to palm Our Lord after gladhanding one another in the pews—the Second Vatican Council was passed off as a “continuity” of Christian tradition. Pope Benedict XVI, the “pope emeritus” who still lives and breathes in virtually the shadow of his successor, is the most prominent exponent of the hermeneutic of this continuity. As John Paul II’s “bulldog” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict—then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger—was tasked with rooting out anyone who declared that Vatican II was tainted with the hermeneutic of rupture. The emperor had no clothes, but if you said so you were creating “disunity” and were declared a conspiracy theorist. All of the novelties of the Second Vatican Council—even, especially, those which directly contradicted nearly two thousand years of tradition—were to be understood (or else) as flowing uninterruptedly from the rough hands of the Apostles.
Traditionis Custodes finally reveals that all of that was bunk. By an act of pure will, Francis insists that Vatican II outstrips the lex orandi that Catholics have held dear—for which Catholics have fought and died—for two millennia. The fiction of the New Mass coexisting with (to use one of the Enlightenment’s favorite terms for “rendering extinct”) the Latin Mass was finally dropped by Bergoglio in July of 2021. Without seeming to understand the contradiction, Francis both decrees that the Latin Mass is to be phased out, and also attacks anyone who declares that Vatican II is not valid. Clearly, if Vatican II is valid under the rubric of continuity, then the Latin Mass must endure. But if the Latin Mass is canceled, then Vatican II was never about continuity at all.
But let us give thanks to Francis, for in dropping the charade of continuity and going all in on Newchurch, he has guaranteed that God’s will—not his—will be done.
Francis is untroubled by trifles such as these. Traditionis Custodes is a stunning confession of belief in the triumph of the will—Francis’ will. Francis has not attempted to reason with his interlocutors. They are not interlocutors at all, really, since Francis does not even speak to anyone who disagrees with him. Francis has yet to answer the 2016 Dubia of Cardinals Brandmüller, Meisner, Caffarra, and Burke. He refuses to meet with Cardinal Zen. He treats Archbishop Viganó like the dead. Instead, in his fatuous homilies Francis ventriloquizes, as asides, the voices of those who dislike his policies. He mischaracterizes their arguments, presenting ridiculous straw men which he proceeds to clear away with platitudes and meaningless gibberish, off-the-cuff theological claptrap of which even atheists are ashamed. It has long been apparent that Francis wills his way through life. Nobody who truly values the opinions of others spouts off about “dialogue” so much. Those who want to have a discussion do so, they don’t talk endlessly about how nice it would be to chat. Traditionis Custodes is Francis’ triumph of will. It is his fatwa, his fiat, his order to the faithful that they are just going to have to throw out all they hold dear, and that’s that.
Truth be told, though, when I learned of Traditionis Custodes I became overwhelmed with joy. The Holy Ghost is working among men, God be praised, and Francis is His unwilling agent.
One of the greatest obstacles to the unity of Christendom is papal infallibility. Elevating an officeholder (a sinful man, just like me) into a kind of oracle is, for many (including me), downright off-putting. Popes certainly have graces beyond what the run of pew-warmers receive. They also come under relentless attack—the devil hates no one, except Mary, so much as he hates the Holy Father. As a Catholic, and also as a human being with some experience in the ways of the world, I can testify that rolling the dice on fallen man is a losing proposition. No matter how holy the man, in the end infallibility skirts dangerously close to encroaching on God’s prerogatives.
But God writes straight with crooked lines. There is no evil which men do which God cannot turn into good. In 1995, John Paul II released Ut Unim Sint, a call to Christian unity and an insistence that the spirit of Vatican II must remain the Church’s character. John Paul had his fatwas, too, he was just much cleverer than Francis at couching them in better language. Notwithstanding, since Ut Unim Sint we have seen John Paul’s much-touted “new evangelization” come to nothing. Churches empty out, those who do attend Novus Ordo Masses are woefully uncatechized, and the culture which John Paul thought Novus Ordo would re-energize has treated aggiornamento with utter disdain. As an indication of how bad the “new evangelization” has turned out, consider that bishops have had to take the embarrassing measure (not exactly a ringing endorsement of evangelization tactics) of denying Holy Communion to “Catholic” politicians who do not know that two men cannot marry or that dismembering children in utero is a mortal sin.
The plans which Francis lays, the grand project of which he boasts, the hostages he takes in the process and the uncompromising stands he stakes out against all the good things God has given His faithful—these are already crumbling.
John Paul’s will was thwarted, in that sense. There is to be no unity under the Vatican II dispensation. Novus Ordo is dying, and I personally know many non-Catholics who whisper to me that they would have converted long ago had it not been for the disastrous nonsense at their local Novus Ordo parish. Ut unim sint, indeed, but it won’t happen as John Paul thought it would.
Nor as Francis now wills.
But let us give thanks to Francis, for in dropping the charade of continuity and going all in on Newchurch, he has guaranteed that God’s will—not his—will be done. God desires unity. God also gave us the Latin Mass, and the Son Whose Precious Body and Blood we take there. Christians crave this liturgy of the whole person, dumbstruck every Sunday before the majesty of the Living God made Man. In setting Newchurch’s clock by New Mass and calling for the Latin Mass to be undone, Francis assures that precisely the opposite will happen: Traditionis Custodes is Newchurch’s death warrant, signed by the pope himself. Who’s infallible now? When the real Mass, the Latin Mass, is the universal Catholic Mass once more, then the true remnant of believers will be unified, and Christians can go back to facing the same devils who broke down the Vatican walls one hundred and fifty-one years ago. Ut Unim Sint plus Traditionis Custodes equals the ingathering of the exiles, all in God’s perfect time. God be praised.
Human will is the frailest, most unpowerful of things. It wants to bend all to its puny expectations. Leni Riefenstahl’s transmogrifications of the gods into man, and of men back into political gods, is the very image of the twentieth century. In the twilight of the idols, man himself crowned himself divine. All that came before was deemed useless, and traditions were uprooted to make way for the New Man.
With Traditionis Custodes, Francis also insists that the old ways be discarded. In this disordered tantrum of a text, the triumph of the will is now plain. But God’s will, not Francis’. The plans which Francis lays, the grand project of which he boasts, the hostages he takes in the process and the uncompromising stands he stakes out against all the good things God has given His faithful—these are already crumbling. Francis is an old man, possibly near death. Even now, he insists that his will be done. But God’s will will always be done in the end.
--Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan