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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Defending Catholic Tradition with Vatican journalist, Aldo Maria Valli

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Defending Catholic Tradition with Vatican journalist, Aldo Maria Valli

"Most bishops are increasingly doubtful about this papacy and there are criticisms. However, these are expressed in hushed tones, never openly." -Aldo Maria Valli

 

Journalist, writer, and television personality, Aldo Maria Valli (born in Rho, Milan, on February 3, 1958) is one of the most esteemed Italian Vaticanists. What initially drew my attention to him is the path he took from a Catholic perspective influenced by the currents animated by the "spirit of the Second Vatican Council" to the discovery of the perennial Catholic Tradition. Today, he is part of the much-needed chorus of voices that denounce the severe crisis we find ourselves in, revealing its main cause: neo-modernism, which has become the "official" doctrine of the new theology and the new Magisterium. Additionally, he is also an enthusiastic defender of the Traditional Catholic Liturgy. Knowing his first-hand expertise regarding the situation in the Vatican and Italy, I invited him to this discussion with the desire to hear his opinions on the most difficult and pressing current issues.

Aldo Maria ValliAldo Maria Valli

Robert Lazu Kmita: Dear Aldo Maria Valli, first of all, thank you for agreeing to this discussion. I will begin our dialogue in a way that is rather theoretical, if not even theological. This is because I consider it important to clarify from the very beginning what the “heart of the matter” is. So, here is my first question: how do you understand the Christian (i.e., Catholic) Tradition (with capital ‘T’) and what does it mean for you? If possible, you can also add brief notes regarding those episodes from your own biography that led to a deeper understanding of this crucial notion.

Aldo Maria Valli: I want to be honest. You are talking to a journalist who graduated many years ago in Political Science. I am not an academic and I don't have a specific background in theology and philosophy. I consider myself simply a baptized person, a child of the Catholic Church, who tries never to take the gift of faith for granted and desires to nurture this treasure I received by grace and not by my own merit.

The bishops chosen by Bergoglio have no specific preparation in theological, doctrinal, and liturgical fields. Or, if they do, it is of a modernist nature. He selects them from the "peripheries," among those who focus on migrants and are attentive to ecological issues. In general, Bergoglio does not trust Italian bishops, and they do not trust him, which determines a situation of stalemate and total lack of planning.

I understand Tradition primarily in the etymological sense of the term: the passing down of a heritage through time and generations. Tradition comes from the Latin word tradere, which means “to hand over.” To hand over beyond oneself, beyond time. Therefore, I have a dynamic idea of Tradition, but not in the modernist sense, that is, in the sense of something that can be modified at one's pleasure to suit changing times. The dynamism lies in the passing on of this great and precious treasure, the Christian faith, which cannot be kept for ourselves but must be given in turn, according to the teaching of Jesus. And it must be given—here's the point—intact, not adulterated. This is why it is important to always subject the faith to verification against the depositumfidei, the one and unchangeable heritage of truth handed down by Jesus to the Apostles and transmitted to us through the Church. It is from this complex of truths that the Church must draw from a doctrinal standpoint. The magisterium of the Church cannot add or take away anything. It cannot make any form of adaptation to the times and the prevailing mentality of the moment. On the contrary, the further the prevailing mentality moves away from the teachings of Jesus, the greater the effort must be to keep the depositum intact, thus complete and untouched. That is why every time there is talk of "updating" in the Church, the baptized person must be on alert. Too often, the idea of updating, as we saw in the case of the Second Vatican Council, has been used to modify and adulterate the depositum. Today, rather than "updating," there is talk of "discernment," but the problem remains the same. Behind it is the claim to modify what cannot be modified. The claim to put man in the place of God. Certainly, discernment is important, but it must be properly understood. Discernment is, precisely in the light of the depositumfidei, seeking to always understand what God is asking of us in certain circumstances. Modernists, on the other hand, see it as an adaptation of the Word of God and the magisterium to changing times.

I believe I have always loved Tradition, perhaps also because I was formed in the Ambrosian Church, which in its liturgy has proudly preserved the heritage that goes directly back to the bishop and father Ambrose. Being born in 1958, it is clear that I grew up in the post-conciliar Church, and so I breathed the air of the so-called "renewal," but I feel I can say that I have always kept within me a sort of nostalgia. I have a blurred memory of myself as a child in the Marian sanctuary of my city. I must have been four or five years old, attending holy mass with the priest celebrating facing the tabernacle and preaching from the pulpit. Much later, I discovered the figure of Monsignor Lefebvre and asked myself: how is it possible that he has always been portrayed to me as an enemy of the Church when he is actually a true defender of the faith? During the Jubilee of 2000, which I followed as a Vaticanist, I was fascinated by the pilgrimage of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, perhaps the only truly Catholic moment in a Jubilee that often risked turning into a happening with very little spiritual content. Today, unfortunately, I am not always able to attend the vetus ordo masses, but since I rediscovered the ancient rite (which I prefer to call the rite of always), the reformed mass seems to me like something counterfeit if not denatured, and I wonder how it was possible to come to this. However, I do not harbor any form of animosity or rancor. On the contrary, I thank the Lord for having led me to rediscover the traditional rite and for allowing me to grow, even in the post-conciliar Church, alongside good priests.

Robert Lazu Kmita: You mentioned Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre – one of the most important defenders of the Christian Tradition – and the Society of Saint Pius X. Implicitly, then, you have directed our attention to the most important subject: the unprecedented crisis of Tradition, attacked with incredible violence by those who should defend it. For both the Second Vatican Council and the popes of recent decades have developed exactly that vision of Tradition which implies its betrayal: a "development" that actually means an „aggiornamento” in the sense of adapting the Gospel of the Savior Christ to modern times and today's secular mentality. As a journalist of Catholic life in contemporary Italy, how would you describe the situation after Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's reaction? Have there been bishops in Italy who followed him? And how do things stand at the present moment?

Additionally, choosing mostly unprepared bishops is also a strategy by Bergoglio, but the result is only disaster and total irrelevance for the Church. There is no bishop who can conduct a worthy analysis on spiritual, religious, and social life. The lack of impact on Italian reality has been proven during the European elections: bishops supported the left, but Catholics chose either abstention or the right.

Aldo Maria Valli: Marcel Lefebvre was an authentic bishop in the etymological sense of the word: he was capable of exercising a role of surveillance and control above the dominant mentality and trends. He was thus visionary and his lucidity strikes us because his love for faith and the Church made him a true prophet. In Italy, we had two cardinals, Alfredo Ottaviani and Antonio Bacci, who already in 1969 sent a letter to Paul VI (Brief Critical Examination of the Novus Ordo Missae) to signal "serious doubts about the 'new mass', and during the Council, some Italian bishops were part of the Coetus Internationalis Patrum, a traditionalist group in theological and liturgical matters. Alongside Ottaviani and Bacci, I recall, for example, Ernesto Ruffini, Luigi Maria Carli, and Ermenegildo Florit, but we never had a Lefebvre. Overall, the Italian episcopate, despite some distinctions, adhered to the conciliar "renewal" line. And today, the situation is, I would say, desperate. The dominant orientation is that of Bergoglian inspiration: inclusivity disguised as mercy, ecologism, brotherhood (in the most Masonic rather than Catholic sense of the term), vague humanitarianism. The bishops chosen by Bergoglio have no specific preparation in theological, doctrinal, and liturgical fields. Or, if they do, it is of a modernist nature. He selects them from the "peripheries," among those who focus on migrants and are attentive to ecological issues. In general, Bergoglio does not trust Italian bishops, and they do not trust him, which determines a situation of stalemate and total lack of planning.

Politically, under the guidance of Cardinal Zuppi, the Italian Episcopal Conference has aligned itself with the Democratic Party, which speaks volumes about the situation. When speaking with each of them individually, it becomes clear that, aside from some BergoglianPasdaran, most bishops are increasingly doubtful about this papacy and there are criticisms. However, these are expressed in hushed tones, never openly. There is a disconcerting lack of courage. The parresia that Bergoglio talks about does not exist. Additionally, choosing mostly unprepared bishops is also a strategy by Bergoglio, as he thinks it will ensure their consent and allow him to govern them more easily, but the result is only disaster and total irrelevance for the Church. There is no bishop who can develop an original vision and conduct a worthy analysis on spiritual, religious, and social life. The lack of impact on Italian reality has been proven during the European elections: bishops supported the left, but Catholics chose either abstention or the right.

Robert Lazu Kmita: The details you provided about the situation in Italy only serve to confirm the general picture. Starting with Humanae Vitae (1968) by Pope Paul VI, when we saw entire Episcopal conferences distancing themselves from the traditional teaching of the Church, up to the recent actions of the German Episcopal Conference, we observe this lamentable situation of the Catholic hierarchy. Furthermore, if we think about the pontiffs of the last decades, with the exception of Pope Benedict XVI, we see the same line characterized by what we could call "neo-modernism." How do you explain such a disastrous situation? How did we get here?

Aldo Maria Valli: I don't completely agree that Benedict XVI was an exception. It seems to me that he only applied a more moderate approach, but always remained within the framework of post-Vatican II neo-modernism. And it’s not surprising, considering he was one of the protagonists of that Council. Certainly, later on, he realized the dangers and applied the brakes, but he couldn’t prevent the car (to continue with the same metaphor) from crashing. On the other hand, we must be aware that the problems we are dealing with, and which cause us so much suffering, originated well before the Second Vatican Council. Analyzing how we got here would require a treatise, and many works have been written on the subject.

For centuries and centuries, the Church has taught that Truth is such regardless of our consent. The desire to appear sympathetic has instead led the Church to manipulate the truth in order to adapt it to the world, and the consent of the world has acquired a decisive role. Hence the manipulation of the very concept of Christian love and mercy. Sentimentalism has prevailed.

In short, I would say it has been a progressive surrender of the Church to the world. For various reasons of different natures (including psychological ones), the Church began to desire to be in harmony with the world rather than in perpetual opposition. I realize this is a simplification, but if we think about it, to be more in tune with the world and more "sympathetic" (in the etymological sense of the word: to suffer together, to share emotions), the Church gradually set aside the issue of Truth and embraced the relativism and ethical subjectivism that dominate the world. In all this, the advent of mass-media has played a central role, although often ignored. As a journalist, I can testify that the fascination exerted by mass media (especially television) on men of the Church has led many of them, in order to be welcomed into the communication system, to show a more cordial, more friendly face, which has contributed to a decline on the doctrinal, moral, and cultural levels.

From a Church that is a magistra vitae, we have transitioned to a Church that is a companion on the journey. The very figure of the priest has undergone this metamorphosis. No longer the alter Christus but the friend, the companion. For centuries and centuries, the Church has taught that Truth is such regardless of our consent. The desire to appear sympathetic has instead led the Church to manipulate the truth in order to adapt it to the world, and the consent of the world has acquired a decisive role. Hence the manipulation of the very concept of Christian love and mercy. Sentimentalism has prevailed, emptying the evangelical message and reducing it to humanitarianism. And certain fundamental notions ("My kingdom is not of this world" and we, as creatures, are collaborators with God in the plan of salvation) have been swept away.

Within this framework, Italy has been no exception. Perhaps here, attendance at Holy Mass and the sacraments has shown less devastating numbers compared to Northern Europe, but in essence, the pastors have progressively bowed to the world. The key word in this process has been "dialogue." The Church has stopped teaching and started dialoguing. It has ceased to consider itself as the most important and decisive educational reality to become a sort of listening center and a large Caritas (in the sense of a relief agency) within which it is forbidden not only to practice apostleship but even to talk about it because it sounds bad to the ears of the world. The responsibilities of Catholic universities and seminaries are enormous. The philosophy being taught is imbued with anti-Christian thought. Thomas Aquinas has been sidelined, and in his place, we have existentialism and agnosticism. Classical Thomism has been regarded as an artifact to be put in the attic. And what about the concept of the social kingship of Christ? Completely omitted, eliminated. All in order to "embrace" the world. How can we be surprised, therefore, if today the Church, even in a country with an ancient Catholic tradition like Italy, reduces its thinking to ecologism and homosexualism?

I observe that having "split" the papal figure in two is something that clashes with the entire previous tradition. In a certain sense, it is as if Ratzinger had secularized the papal figure, stripping it of its sacredness in favor of a vision that prioritizes functionality and efficiency. But along this path, doesn't the Church risk losing its identity?

Robert Lazu Kmita: I fully share the opinions regarding Pope Benedict XVI. I am also aware of the articles you have dedicated to the controversial topic of his resignation. I strongly recommend everyone to read the post on your blog from June 15.[i]For our readers, I would ask you to present the essence of your interpretation: was Ratzinger's resignation valid or not? And consequently, what can you tell us about the election of Pope Francis?

Aldo Maria Valli: Regarding Benedict XVI's resignation, it seems evident to me that he renounced the ministerium but not the munus. He renounced actively exercising the papal function but did not renounce being the pope. The proof lies in the fact that he declared himself pope emeritus, thus still a pope. He did not revert to being Cardinal Ratzinger but kept the white habit, allowed himself to be called pope, signed messages as pope emeritus, and imparted the apostolic blessing multiple times. In various statements, especially immediately after the Declaration of resignation, he said he had renounced the "Petrine ministry."

According to some, having only renounced the active ministerium and never the munus, Benedict XVI remained the only true pope until his death, and the conclave that elected Francis was, consequently, invalid. From the Declaration until Benedict XVI's death, we would have been in a situation of an impeded apostolic see, while since Pope Ratzinger's death, we are in a situation of a vacant see.

I have not come to any conclusion on this matter, nor do I think it is my place to do so. I observe that having "split" the papal figure in two is something that clashes with the entire previous tradition. In a certain sense, it is as if Ratzinger had secularized the papal figure, stripping it of its sacredness in favor of a vision that prioritizes functionality and efficiency. But along this path, doesn't the Church risk losing its identity? Bishop Ambrose said Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia (“Where Peter is, there is the Church”). But what if there are two Peters? And how can we not fear that the split of the papal figure might bring about a process of relativization of authority?

Robert Lazu Kmita: Reading your words, I reflect on them and on all the responses and interpretations I have read over the past ten years. It is obvious and predictable that we all try to find the correct answer for the current situation. Yet, every time, we feel that something eludes us, that something surpasses us. We feel small and powerless. This might hide the lesson that God Himself wants to remind us of. That from the Gospel of John (15:4): “Without me, you can do nothing.” In this sense, I will ask you a question that I consider, from the perspective of our lives, the most important: What can and should we do in such a context to ensure that we are with God? What virtues should we practice? How should we pray? How should we live while awaiting the outcome of this unprecedented crisis in history?

The outcome of the crisis will not depend on us. We are asked to be vigilant. Let us stay prepared, with our lamps lit. My sensitivity is far from any form of millenarianism, but I must admit that the times we are living in are exceptional in many respects, and everything that followed Benedict XVI's resignation cannot leave us tranquil and undisturbed, as if nothing had happened.

Aldo Maria Valli: In these years, after the election of Francis, I have gone through different phases. Initially, out of the natural deference that every Catholic has towards the pope, I wanted to accept the situation. However, I must say that every time I saw the image of the two popes, I was disturbed, and something inside me rejected it. I found it incongruent and unsettling. Two popes? How is that possible? Peter is one! Our Lord entrusted him alone with the mission and responsibility of being the rock. How can we expect to divide the rock? And what might happen in the future? When you start dividing, isn't there a risk that everything will shatter?

Then came the pronouncements and acts of Bergoglio, and from there, the Lord granted me a great gift: a veil fell from my eyes. This was a highly providential phase because, after living for so long as an unconscious modernist, I drew closer and closer to Tradition and rediscovered the Holy Apostolic Mass.

More recently, I have been grappling with a question that I cannot avoid: how to reconcile Francis's counter-witness with his being pope? I find myself in this situation and entrust everything to the Lord. Certainly, there are ups and downs, and sometimes weariness and discouragement seem to prevail, but I do not give up the battle. Humanly speaking, concern for the state of the Church is strong, but I have absolute certainty that if God has sent us this trial, He has done so, and is doing so, for our greatest good. The Lord is inviting us to be awake and vigilant, with the certainty that evil cannot come from God.

All this means intensifying the life of prayer, cultivating the health of the soul, lifting our gaze towards the Absolute. And for me, it means focusing on the essential, setting aside everything that is merely peripheral. I am trying to rediscover and cultivate the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1831): wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In prayer, I ask to discern God's will, to be courageous, and to submit myself to God, acknowledging His power.

The outcome of the crisis will not depend on us. We are asked to be vigilant. Let us stay prepared, with our lamps lit. My sensitivity is far from any form of millenarianism, but I must admit that the times we are living in are exceptional in many respects, and everything that followed Benedict XVI's resignation cannot leave us tranquil and undisturbed, as if nothing had happened.

I thank the good Lord for this trial, which has a highly purifying content, and I seek to serve Him with the talents He has given me.

I regret that a large part of the Church hierarchy, especially now, is opposed to this liturgical and spiritual treasure. I believe that many Churchmen are blinded by the ideology of the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps it is also a generational issue. In fact, I see that younger priests willingly embrace Tradition, and the same goes for many young families. We must pray intensely so that the traditional Latin Mass is no longer persecuted.

Robert Lazu Kmita: Considering that I am currently living in a country where the traditional Roman Catholic liturgy is not celebrated anywhere, it took quite some time before I could discover this treasure. However, every time I meet Catholics who have discovered it, I am always eager to hear their story. In your last response, you spoke about discovering Tradition and the Gregorian liturgy. Specifically, how did this happen for you? And what does this liturgical treasure of our Church mean to you?

Aldo Maria Valli: I've always had a certain interest in the old rite. I was curious to know how Mass was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council, what the Holy Masses attended by our grandparents and parents were like. But my true approach to Tradition dates back only to the year 2000. During the Jubilee, when I saw the pilgrimage of the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, I was, as I have already said, very struck by it.

Thus, I began to learn more about the figure of Marcel Lefebvre, especially regarding his dramatic relationship with Paul VI. Later, thanks to my blog, some friends encouraged me to experience the Vetus Ordo Mass, but it was only after I retired in 2019 that I was really able to attend it regularly because I have more time available for travel. In the city where I live, it is not celebrated.

For me, it was truly like discovering a hidden treasure. I asked myself: how is it possible that Mother Church has given up all this? How is it possible that she let me grow up without ever showing me this richness before? We Italians have a saying: better late than never. And I am grateful to the Lord for His gift. I arrived late, but I arrived.

When one discovers the Holy Vetus Ordo Mass, the reformed Mass seems like a poor copy of the original. In the old rite, there is no human protagonism and none of the verbosity that characterizes the "messanuova"("new Mass"). In the old rite, true glory is given to God, and He is at the center of everything, not the priest, not the faithful. It is not simply a meal but truly a Eucharistic sacrifice. And everything works together to prefigure the beauty we will enjoy in Heaven.

Sometimes I meet Catholics who say to me: "But I don't understand the Latin Mass." So I try to explain that it's not about understanding, but about allowing oneself to be embraced. It's about entering into the Eucharistic Mystery like children, trusting the Father and letting ourselves be led by the hand. Understanding every word is not important. On the contrary, the desire to understand reveals that we are not like children, but rather putting ourselves before God. Gradually, with frequency, the words will be better understood, but the important thing is to surrender to the beauty and contemplate the Mystery. If one enters into this dimension, there is a desire to kneel and prostrate oneself, because what happens before our eyes is something immeasurable: the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ! It is Jesus returning, for us, for our salvation! In the reformed Mass, all this remains in the background, submerged in a human-centrist perspective. In the traditional Mass, however, the Mystery of love stands out and we can contemplate it in all its greatness.

I regret that a large part of the Church hierarchy, especially now, is opposed to this liturgical and spiritual treasure. I believe that many Churchmen are blinded by the ideology of the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps it is also a generational issue. In fact, I see that younger priests willingly embrace Tradition, and the same goes for many young families. We must pray intensely so that the traditional Latin Mass is no longer persecuted.

The Pope does not confirm the brothers in the faith but rather confirms the distant in their distance. Let's be honest: nowadays, the Pope speaks and is perceived by most as just another “influencer.” Nothing distinguishes him anymore from the myriad of voices that fill the mass media system. And I really don't know how the pontificate, as an institution, will recover from this process of degradation.

Robert Lazu Kmita: After such a wonderful personal testimony, I believe we can conclude, but not before thanking you for this dialogue, full of suggestions and reflections that will help all of us to move forward with hope and calm through the dense darkness of the current crisis. Now, a double question that pertains to your experience as a journalist and Vaticanist. We have all heard about the possible total prohibition of the traditional liturgy. What do you think would follow from this? And above all, what do you think will be the outcome of this unprecedented situation where the Vatican is no longer a bastion of the Christian faith but a hotspot of neo-modernism?

Aldo Maria Valli:In the Vatican, there are various trends and sensitivities regarding the liturgical issue. The progressive faction itself is not as unified as it might seem. Unfortunately, there is an extremist fringe, connected to academic circles, that truly wants to reach a "final solution" by completely prohibiting the traditional Holy Mass. I don't know if it will come to that, but I doubt it. I hypothesize that even Bergoglio will not accept this line. Not so much because he cares about the liturgy, but for political reasons. He prefers that the traditionalist camp can survive in a sort of "Indian reservation," so as not to create too many problems and to be controlled through a system of concessions.

Unfortunately, I see that even today the Vatican, in many respects, is no longer a bastion of the Christian faith but a hotbed of neo-modernism. In fact, it is the main hotbed. The Pope does not confirm the brothers in the faith but rather confirms the distant in their distance. From the supreme chair come ambiguous or distorted messages. And not on marginal issues, but on the very heart of the faith. During this pontificate, the Trinitarian harmony has been denied, the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been questioned, and the divinity of Jesus Christ himself has been doubted. Divine justice and punishment have been abolished in the name of a distorted sense of mercy. Sodomite unions have been legitimized.It has been asserted that in certain circumstances God himself may ask to live in a situation not in line with the divine commandments and that God himself willed the diversity of religions. Hence the abolition of the idea of apostleship. We have also seen that proselytism is considered something to be forbidden. More recently, a Vatican document has openly questioned the primacy of Peter by subordinating the mandate entrusted to Peter to the criteria of synodality and ecumenism. The list of distortions and lies is now long and well-known.

At the moment, the result is a de facto schism. It seems to me that there is very little in common between a neo-modernist Catholic and a traditionalist one. But the disastrous outcome of this pontificate is also an unprecedented crisis of papal auctoritas. Let's be honest: nowadays, the Pope speaks and is perceived by most as just another “influencer.” Nothing distinguishes him anymore from the myriad of voices that fill the mass media system. And I really don't know how the pontificate, as an institution, will recover from this process of degradation.

But I repeat: if we persevere in the faith of the Fathers, this is also a time of deep purification. We are called to complete our sanctification in the fear of God, without pandering to the dominant mentality. We are engaged in a tough battle and we must not stop asking for the gift of a steadfast spirit.

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[i] Rinuncia di Ratzinger, conclave del 2013, pontificato di Francesco, situazione attuale. “Duc in altum” a cuore sempre più aperto”: https://www.aldomariavalli.it/2024/06/15/rinuncia-di-ratzinger-conclave-del-2013-pontificato-di-francesco-situazione-attuale-duc-in-altum-a-cuore-sempre-piu-aperto/ [Accessed: 19June 2024].

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Last modified on Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Robert Lazu Kmita | Remnant Columnist, Romania

A Catholic father of seven and a grandfather of two, Robert Lazu Kmita is a writer with a PhD in Philosophy. His first novel, The Island without Seasons, was published by Os Justi Press in 2023.