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Open Season on ‘Radical Traditionalism’

Using a term coined by the anti-Catholic Southern Poverty Law Center, why do Catholic Answers radio personalities excoriate their fellow Catholics and become water carriers for the Left?

By Peter Crenshaw

POSTED: 6/10/13

Catholic Answers Live Attacks “Radical” Traditionalism As Church Falls Apart

“Catholic Answers” is an organization made up of lay apologists whose stated mission is to “Explain and Defend the Faith.” Despite a growing contingent of Tradition friendly personnel, Catholic Answers remains, for the most part, a staunch defender of all post-Conciliar novelties.  This is no more apparent than in the organization’s radio show, “Catholic Answers Live.” The show consists of a host and an apologist who discuss important Catholic topics and take calls from listeners. As far as important Catholic topics go, the following are just a few of the Catholic news stories that broke on Friday, May 31st ; any of which would have made for a very interesting discussion:

Cardinal Godfried Danneels defends legislation for same-sex marriage

Major Obama backer negotiated Archdiocese of NY’s coverage of contraception, abortion

Canon Law Case Against Georgetown Submitted to Cardinal Wuerl

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked documents prove abortions at Catholic hospital despite Cardinal’s denial

Instead, “Catholic Answers Live” ran a full two hour radio show on May 31st on a much more important epidemic ruining the Church today. Yes, you guessed it: “Radical Traditionalism.” For those lucky enough not to have tuned in, host Patrick Coffin and guest apologist Tim Staples took listeners on a guided tour of the various dangers of believing and practicing the Catholic Faith of 2,000 years if one doesn’t also accept every post-conciliar novelty as a gift from Heaven.

Praise for Fr. Greeley?

One news story of the day that the host did decide to cover was the passing of Fr. Andrew Greely. For those of you who are not familiar with Fr. Greely, he was an outspoken critic of infallible Catholic teaching on contraception, divorce, and the ordination of women. However, when Fr. Greeley wasn’t speaking out on these issues, he found the time to write pornographic novels. In fact, the LA Times reported that, “Glistening loins, unfettered breasts and rapes were so abundant in his fiction that the National Catholic Register said the author had "the dirtiest mind ever ordained."[1] The sale of these novels made Fr. Greely a very rich man, enabling him to buy three homes — one in Chicago, another in Tucson and a third at Grand Beach, Michigan.[2] Despite these expenditures; however, Fr. Greely was somehow able to save enough money to donate thousands of dollars to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in 2008.[3]

While admitting that Fr. Greely wrote some “sexually frank” novels, host Patrick Coffin told listeners that he had friends who, “thought a lot about his attempt to get outside the regular means by which priests communicate, with varying degrees of success.” He also reminded the audience that Fr. Greeley, “was certainly a man of the left in the Catholic Church in America, but did a lot of sociological research and had a voice.” This was apparently the host’s “Catholic” response to the passing of such a priest on a national radio show. Logically, if such “tolerance” can be directed towards such a “man of the left in the Catholic Church” the same should be shown towards those on the right in the Catholic Church, correct? Not so much.

What is a “Radical Traditionalist?”

The discussion began by Coffin and Staples attempting to define a “radical traditionalist.” Coffin managed to graciously exclude those Catholics “attached” to the extraordinary form of the Mass and women who wear chapel veils, before Staples got to the heart of the matter. Staples referred to “radical traditionalists” as those who reject the infallible Catholic teaching of Vatican I that the clergy and faithful must submit to the Pope not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church.[4] The problem here is Staple’s own interpretation of this teaching, which consists of all Catholics being bound to absolutely accept and positively approve of every liturgical novelty allowed by a Pope or bishop as “tradition.”

In examining Vatican I, Staples ignores, as other Neo-Catholic apologists often do, this following key line:

For 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.[5]

This is a restatement by Vatican I of a formerly obvious Catholic truth. Namely that the powers entrusted to the pope are for the purpose of safeguarding and passing down to future generations of Catholics the exact same deposit of faith he was given. Similarly, the pope is given the power to use disciplinary laws in the Church to serve this exact same end: to successfully safeguard this deposit of faith from error and reinforce it. If a novel disciplinary practice is permitted by a pope or a bishop contrary to thousands of years of Holy Ghost inspired organic tradition and as a result there is a great diminution of the very Faith the discipline was supposed to reinforce, does Vatican I forbid faithful Catholics to publicly acknowledge this and actively work towards the removal of this discipline? Apparently Staples says “yes.” On the other hand, Staples seems to have no problem with the faithful lobbying Rome to permit novel disciplinary practices. After all, isn’t this the method by which the left achieved female “altar servers” and Communion in the hand? More on that later…

Thus, right from the beginning, Staples attempted definition of a “radical traditionalist” ended up asking more questions than it answered. A Catholic listener could easily be left with the impression that those who oppose any post-conciliar novelty either in the expression of Catholic doctrine or in liturgical practice are “radical traditionalists.”

Coffin then attempted to subdivide the “radical traditionalists” into further categories. He termed sedevacantism as the more “radical form” of “radical traditionalism” before moving on to describe “lesser forms” of “radical traditionalism.” He referred to these lesser forms as including “endless bitter complaining about the Second Vatican Council” and sarcastic recriminations against the Novus Ordo. He referred to these attitudes as “pernicious” and “against the Gospel.” Apparently Coffin finally found the words to appropriately describe the actions of Fr. Greeley earlier in the show. Instead he chose to use those words against traditional priests and laity for being frustrated at the primary causes of 50 years of Catholic decline. To be fair, shouldn’t Coffin have referred to these practices as an, “attempt to get outside the regular means by which priests communicate” by men of the right “in the Catholic Church in America” who have “a voice?” Apparently only if said priests publicly dissented from infallible Church teaching on the left would they get such a pass by Coffin.

Archbishop Lefebvre to Blame for Sedevacantism and “Rad Trads?”

Staples then tried to pin sedevacantism on Archbishop Lefebvre, even though the Archbishop was not a sedevacantist and his Society of St. Pius X is one of the foremost advocates against this position.[6] Staples then recounted the common politically correct Neo-Catholic version of the history of the Society St. Pius X already handily dealt with by the great trilogy by Michael Davies on the topic.[7] In Staples’ fanciful version of history there was apparently not a crisis in the Church at all during the late 1960’s through the 1980’s, and thus the sanctions of Paul VI and John Paul II on Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX are to be considered in a legalistic vacuum.

Of course, Staples is only being consistent with his own flawed view of tradition. For if tradition is simply whatever a present pope or bishop says it is at the time, then novelty ceases to exist. Thus, in Staples’ paradigm, there can never be a circumstance of necessity that justifies any action against any practice the pope or bishop permits, even when the pope is not exercising his infallible authority.

Staples then went a step further, incredibly calling the Archbishop’s attempt to use the canonical defense of “necessity” in performing the 1988 consecrations a denial of Vatican I’s teaching that the pope has universal jurisdiction over matters of Church discipline.  This is an interesting take, especially as the pope’s own canon law, which is part of the Church’s disciplinary law, allows for Catholics to assert the defense of necessity when charged with a violation. Ironically, it is Staples’ view that truly contradicts Vatican I as he presumes to exclude from use by the faithful a disciplinary law of the Church issued by the pope himself. Thus, whether one agrees with the Archbishop’s actions in 1988 or not, one would, at the very least, have to admit that attempting to utilize the defense of necessity provided for in canon law is in no way denying the pope’s authority.[8] In fact, if Archbishop truly denied the pope’s authority, why would he appeal to canon law at all?

 Staples then repeated the statement of Pope Benedict from 2009 that the SSPX has no “canonical standing” in the Church to stress that the SSPX is “separated” from us and is not in “full communion.” Of course Staples never defines the term “full communion” though one could presume from his comments that he is referring only to canonical standing. Thus, by this standard Staples presumably would have to believe that the recently deceased Fr. Greeley died in “full communion” with the Catholic Church and that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Nuns on the Bus, Cardinal Danneels, etc. are currently in “full communion” with the Catholic Church. For if he denies they are in “full communion,” he finds himself contradicting his own interpretation of Vatican I by denying the pope’s authority over disciplinary matters and substituting his own judgment.

The Magisterium of Coffin and Staples?

The dynamic duo then proceeded to quite openly usurp the role of the pope in disciplinary matters by confidently informing their listeners that SSPX confessions and marriages are invalid. Thus, acting on their own canonical authority as individual lay Catholics (none), they made an apparent public judgment on behalf of the Church that those penitents absolved by Society priests were still in sin and those married by Society priests were currently living in sin. Of course, these authoritatively pronounced statements have absolutely no canonical weight as it is up to the Church to definitively and publicly make a decision on these matters and the Church has not done so. [9] [10] Thus, if one were to disagree with Staples and Coffin’s private judgment on this issue, one would be considered a “radical traditionalist” and not in “full communion.” It makes one wonder whether Coffin and Staples are referring to “full communion” with the Church or “full communion” with Coffin and Staples.

Coffin then opened the phone lines to callers. Mike in Topeka called in asking how to convince his sedevacantist family that sedevacantism was erroneous. Staples then proceeded to give Mike some tips on how to deal with sedevacantists. Ironically, Staples tried to use these tips later without much success when well-known sedevacantist priest, Fr. Cekada, entered the fray as a surprise caller.  Out of Catholic charity I feel obliged to inform Mr. Staples that if he needs help effectively responding to the arguments of the sedevacantists he can feel free to check out some of the  “radical traditionalist” answers contained in the Remnant. Just be sure to give us credit.

Host Patrick Coffin, who previously referred to the dogma denying Fr. Greeley as “a man of the left in the Catholic Church in America,” then proceeded to ask Staples if a good synonym for “radical traditionalism” might be “high church Protestantism” as “radical traditionalists” arrogate to themselves the role of arbiter that only belongs to the Roman Pontiff. Staples then repeatedly remarked about the irony of that statement, but not for the obvious reasons. Staples said the statement was ironic because “radical traditionalists” start out trying to defend Tradition and end up denying the authority of the Church. However, the true irony that the duo failed to see is that they, and other lay Catholic apologists, are the ones who continually arrogate to themselves the papal role of arbiter. They do this by constantly declaring their own conclusions, drawn from their private interpretation of Church documents, as official Church teaching.

The Novus Ordo Only a “Revision” of the Traditional Mass?

The show then advertised an upcoming cruise filled with Catholic Answers apologists for any listeners who wished to work an extensive amount of time off purgatory. After more extensive and lengthy advertisements, Stan called in from Harrisburg, PA. Stan could barely get out the words, “In Vatican II, when they changed the Mass…” before being promptly cut off by Coffin who then asked Staples, if Vatican II, “jettison[ed] the extraordinary form and implant[ed] the vernacular Mass?” As poor Stan tried to continue his question in the background, Staples, undeterred, launched in to his answer. 

Incredibly, Staples assured listeners that the new Mass is not a change from the old and that they are both essentially and substantially the same Mass. Staples asserted that the new Mass was merely a “revision” of the Traditional Latin Mass. This assertion is not credible on its face, as anyone has only to look at the texts of the two Masses or attend them to know one is in no way a “revision” of the other but a wholesale replacement. It is like saying that New Coke was simply a “revised” version of Coca-Cola back in the 1980’s when, in fact, they were two completely different products with similar labels.[11]

The “Ancient” Practice of Communion in the Hand?

 After Staples authoritatively laid down this false premise, Stan was allowed to finish his question. Stan then asked about the “radical traditionalist” claim that taking “the bread” in the hand was against long standing Church teaching. The fact that Stan, presumably a proponent of “bread in the hand” actually used the term, “bread” to describe Holy Communion, should have been the duo’s first clue that there is something wrong with the practice. Instead, after correcting Stan to use the term “Holy Communion,” Staples continued on to his seemingly knee-jerk defense of all things novel.

Staples’ response was a textbook Neo-Catholic talking point on the topic that has been repeated ad nauseam by conservative apologists. I could almost recite it verbatim along with him as he gave it. Staples claimed that while dogmas are not changeable, matters of discipline are, so the changed method as to how we receive Communion should be accepted humbly and without complaint.

Staples then predictably quoted from the Mystagogical Catecheses attributed to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem from around 350 A.D. as validation that Communion in the hand is an “ancient practice.” Unfortunately for Staples, and other similar apologists, the text purported to be from St. Cyril also contains the following advice: “Do not cut yourselves off from Communion; nor deprive yourselves of these sacred and spiritual mysteries, not even if you are defiled by sins.”[12] This admonition obviously contradicts I Corinthians, 11, 27-29 which states:

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.[13]

The text of the Mystagogical Catecheses Staples quotes from on the show also goes on to describe the odd practice of touching the Host to ones eyes before consumption. Then it describes the equally odd practice of taking the moisture from one’s lips after receiving the Precious Blood and applying it to one’s eyes, forehead, and sensory organs. The Rev. Father Giuseppe Pace, S.D.B. made sense of these oddities when he described who is believed to be the true author of this text. In an article from 1990 Fr. Pace stated:

The description of such a bizarre Communion Rite, which concludes with the exhortation to receive Holy Communion even if you are defiled by sins, was most certainly not preached by St. Cyril in the Church of Jerusalem, neither would it have been licit whatsoever in any other Church. What we have here is a rite which is a product of the imagination, oscillating between fanaticism and sacrilege, by the author of the Apostolic Constitutions: an anonymous Syrian, a devourer of books, an indefatigable writer who poured into his writings, indigested and contaminated figments of own his imagination. In the book VIII of the aforementioned Apostolic Constitutions, he adds 85 Canons of the Apostles, attributing them to Pope St. Clement, canons that Pope Gelasius I, at the Council of Rome in 494, declared apocryphal: «Liber qui appellatur Canones Apostolorum, apocryfus (P. L., LIX, col. 163). The description of that bizarre rite, even if not always necessarily sacrilegious, became part of the Mystagogical Catechesis through the work of a successor of St. Cyril, who most (scholars) retain was “Bishop John,” a crypto-Arian, influenced by Origen and Pelagius and thus, contested by St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome and St. Augustine.[14]

In reality, the true ancient and apostolic practice of receiving Communion is on the tongue. Laypersons in the ancient Church were only permitted to touch the sacred species in times of extreme necessity, such as to save the Eucharist from desecration. This is evident from the words of the Council of Rouen in 650, which stated:

(The Presbyter) must be mindful also of this: give Holy Communion to the faithful only by your own hand; Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or woman but only in their mouths, with these words: ‘May the Body and Blood of the Lord help you in the remission of your sins and attain eternal life.’ Whosoever will have transgressed these norms, disdains God Almighty and in doing so will have dishonored himself and should be removed from the altar.[15]

To his credit, Staples went on to assure Stan that the “ordinary” way of receiving Communion today in the Latin Rite is on the tongue and that Communion in the hand has only been permitted by indult. While this is technically true, it is of little consolation as the overwhelmingly predominant practice of receiving Communion in the Latin Rite today is in the hand. Staples did admit that there are “many people” who believe the fruits of Communion in the hand have “not been so good”[16] and Coffin interjected that 80% of the bishops at Vatican II were not in favor if it. However, in the end Staples said that we have to get to the point where we say, “the Church has said it and therefore I’m fine with it.” He said we should receive the disciplinary teachings of the Church like Communion in the hand with docility. Catholic liberals everywhere must have applauded this notion as it means even the conservative apologists have now accepted “with docility” the fraud of Protestant Communion in the hand the same liberals successfully perpetrated on the Church in the 1970’s.[17]

Married Priests? Ha! That Would NEVER Happen….

Unintended irony then returned to the show when Staples lectured Coffin not to get too cozy with the idea that Church discipline can be changed on a whim and then must be accepted. Why? Because the practice of celibacy amongst priests of the Latin rite is also a discipline and that discipline could change as well. But, assured Staples, the Church has made very clear in Her law, in canon law, and in a statement from John Paul II in 1979 that clerical celibacy is a cherished tradition. So, in other words, as far as Coffin and Staples are concerned, the practice of clerical celibacy isn’t going anywhere.  Coffin would later make a joke comparing the chances of the pope allowing married priests to pigs flying.

This time liberal Catholic listeners must have guffawed. Indeed once upon a time nobody in the Church ever thought that the pope would allow girl “altar servers” either. In fact, a Vatican document approved by John Paul II in 1980 even stated explicitly that they were not to be permitted[18] Canon law also seemed very clear on the matter at the time. Yet a mere decade later the very same canon law was reinterpreted to allow the novelty and John Paul “the Great” himself reversed course and approved it in 1992.[19] Thus no appeal to “cherished traditions” or clear canon laws can save Staples or any of the conservatives from having to, by their own logic,  “accept with docility” any innovation the liberals are successful in instituting. Indeed this proves true the old maxim that conservatism merely preserves the gains made by liberals.

Neo-Catholics Psychoanalyze the “Rad Trad” Mind

Coffin and Staples then kicked off the second hour again treating “radical traditionalists” as Protestants. Staples implied that traditionalists see their “authority” as perhaps Archbishop Lefebvre, or Fr. Cekada, while his authority consisted of Benedict XVI and his successors. First, it was strange that Staples cited Benedict XVI as the source of his own authority when the current pope is Francis. Second, Staples’ quip was unintentionally ironic as it could be said that Staples’ authority is indeed only whoever the current pope is and his successors, ignoring or giving short shrift the teachings of all past popes and councils.

Later Theresa in Seattle called in and proposed that “radical traditionalists” were psychologically analogous to the older brother in the prodigal son story in desiring more stringency in the requirements to “be eligible for Heaven” and “despairing of the Father’s mercy.” Instead of correcting the multiple flawed premises in Theresa’s thinking, Staples and Coffin went a step further and proceeded to psychoanalyze the “radical traditionalist” mind. Thus the duo moved from one area they have no competence to make binding judgments in (Catholic theology) to another (psychology). Coffin suggested that there is a certain personality “drawn to”  “radical traditionalism.” Staples agreed and likened the rigorist personality of these traditionalists to a cavalcade of heretics including the Montanists, Novations, Donatists, and Jansenists. No judgment here! Meanwhile, recall, that far from being compared to every heretical sect in the history of the Church, Fr. Greeley, a man who denied three infallible Catholic teachings, was earlier described by Patrick Coffin as “a man of the left in the Catholic Church in America…who had a voice.”

Quo Primum Supports Eradicating the Traditional Mass?

Next Staples moved on to analyze “radical traditionalist” claims regarding the Bull Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V. Staples proceeded to set up a straw man argument that no serious Traditionalist makes. Namely, that Quo Primum forbade in perpetuity any changes or modifications of any kind to absolutely any part of the Roman Missal it thereby codified. Staples then cited to another Bull of Pius V, Quod a nobis, which established a uniform Roman Breviary for the Latin Rite and used similar language to Quo Primum in forbidding future revisions. Staples then pointed out that the Breviary was revised four times since Pius V, once by Pius X himself. In addition, Staples pointed out that the Roman Rite of Mass was also revised by popes more than once after Pius V. Thus, Staples argues that clearly Quo Primum did not intend to mean that the Mass of the Roman Rite could not be changed and thus the Novus Ordo Mass of Paul VI in 1969 is in complete and absolute conformity with the express will of Pius V and is entirely Traditional.

The response to this is simple. All one has to do is look at the revisions that were made to the Mass and the Breviary by popes after Pius V and up to Vatican II. From Staples argument, one would expect each of these change to be quite major, stripping large parts of prayers here, rewriting others, providing options, etc. along the lines of the Novus Ordo. In reality, one finds none of this. Instead one finds minor common sense modifications to the calendar providing for the addition of new feast days for newly canonized Saints and similar minor administrative revisions. Proof that Pope Pius V never intended his own Bull to ridiculously forbid such obvious logical revisions is that he himself added the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to the missal following the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. How about the “revisions” of St. Pius X? He simply reformed the calendar. Pius XI? He added a preface for the feast of Christ the King. Pius XII? He revised rubrics and ceremonies for Holy Week. John XXIII? He added St. Joseph's name to the Roman Canon. What do all of these revisions have in common? None of them substantively change in any way the Mass of the Roman Rite of Pius V.

Fr. Adrian Fortescue was one of the foremost historians of the Roman Rite who ever lived. In 1910, he wrote the following, commenting upon the development of the Roman Rite from Quo Primum up to his time:

Finally came uniformity in the old Roman Rite and the abolition of nearly all the medieval variants. The Council of Trent considered the question and formed a commission to prepare a uniform Missal. Eventually the Missal was published by Pius V by the Bull "Quo primum" (still printed in it) of 14 July 1570. That is really the last stage of the history of the Roman Mass. It is Pius V's Missal that is used throughout the Latin Church, except in a few cases where he allowed a modified use that had a prescription of at least two centuries. This exception saved the variants used by some religious orders and a few local rites as well as the Milanese and Mozarabic liturgies. Clement VIII (1604), Urban VIII (1634), and Leo XIII (1884) revised the book slightly in the rubrics and the texts of Scripture. Pius X has revised the chant (1908.) But these revisions leave it still the Missal of Pius V. There has been since the early Middle Ages unceasing change in the sense of additions of masses for new feasts, the Missal now has a number of supplements that still grow, but liturgically these additions represent no real change. The new Masses are all built up exactly on the lines of the older ones.[20]

Notice that Fr. Fortescue does not say that the period after Quo Primum is the “current stage” of the history of the Roman Mass or is the “most recent stage” in the history of the Roman Mass, as if there could be future stages. He says it is, “the last stage of the Roman Mass.” It is the last stage because it had been perfected in its substance under the guidance of the Holy Ghost for 1500 years. Unlike the Novus Ordo of Paul VI, Pope Pius V did not “create” this Mass, nor did a committee under the advisement of Protestant ministers concoct it. The origins of this Mass go back to the apostles themselves. As Fr. Fortescue writes:

Indeed its text goes back to long before [Pius V’s] time to the Gallicanized Gregorian "Sacramentary" of the ninth to eleventh century, and, in its essential characteristics, behind that to the Gelasian book of the sixth century, and so back into the mist that hangs over the formation of the Roman Rite in the first centuries.[21]

Furthermore, Staples’ argument that the Novus Ordo is simply a “revision” of the Traditional Mass is contradicted by Pope Benedict’s admission in 2007 that the Traditional Mass had never been “abrogated” or replaced by the Novus Ordo. All true “revisions” of Masses replace the previous version of the same Mass. In reality, what Paul VI did was entirely novel and unprecedented.  Paul VI had Abp. Annibale Bugnini, later suspected by Paul VI to be a Freemason[22], create an entirely new Rite of Mass by commission with the input of six Protestant ministers. Then Paul VI personally approved the result. His personal approval of the Novus Ordo is one of the few marks by which we know it to even be a Catholic Rite. In most other respects, the following entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia regarding Protestant Rites, can also sadly be said of the Novus Ordo:

The Reformation in the sixteenth century produced a new and numerous series of rites, which are in no sense continuations of the old development of liturgy. They do not all represent descendants of the earliest rites, nor can they be classified in the table of genus and species that includes all the old liturgies of Christendom. The old rites are unconscious and natural developments of earlier ones and go back to the original fluid rite of the first centuries. The Protestant rites are deliberate compositions made by the various Reformers to suit their theological positions, as new services were necessary for their prayer meetings. No old liturgy could be used by people with their ideas. The old rites contain the plainest statements about the Real Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, prayers to saints, and for the dead, which are denied by Protestants. The Reformation occurred in the West, where the Roman Rite in its various local forms had been used for centuries. No Reformed sect could use the Roman Mass; the medieval derived rites were still more ornate, explicit, in the Reformers' sense superstitious. So all the Protestant sects abandoned the old Mass and the other ritual functions, composing new services which have no continuity, no direct relation to any historic liturgy. However, it is hardly possible to compose an entirely new Christian service without borrowing anything. Moreover, in many cases the Reformers wished to make the breach with the past as little obvious as could be. So many of their new services contain fragments of old rites; they borrowed such elements as seemed to them harmless, composed and re-arranged and evolved in some cases services that contain parts of the old ones in a new order. On the whole it is surprising that they changed as much as they did. It would have been possible to arrange an imitation of the Roman Mass that would have been much more like it than anything they produced.[23]

Continuing on, Staples then points out that the Clement XIV’s papal decree suppressing the Jesuits used similar language as Quo Primum regarding Clement’s wish that the decree be valid in perpetuity. Then Staples pointed out that 41 years later, Pope Pius VI overturned Clement’s suppression so this language about perpetuity really has no meaning at all. What Staples did not mention is that Clement XIV did not issue a papal Bull like Pius V, but a lesser and more easily revocable “Brief.” As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out:

It should be noted that the Brief was not promulgated in the form customary for papal Constitutions intended as laws of the Church. It was not a Bull, but a Brief, i.e. a decree of less binding force and easier of revocation; it was not affixed to the gates of St. Peter's or in the Campo di Fiore; it was not even communicated in legal form to the Jesuits in Rome; the general and his assistants alone received the notification of their suppression.[24] 

Vatican II Not Responsible For Church Decline?

After further maligning “rad trads” for apparently being simple-minded, the duo took a call from Richard in Cincinnati. Richard brought up the obvious decline of the Church in all statistical measures after Vatican II, the elimination of communion rails after the council, religious no longer wearing habits, the elimination of kneelers, loss of reverence, etc. Faced with this mountain of indictment, Staples then started predictably reciting the “correlation does not equal causation” argument. In other words, it was pure coincidence that the rapid decline and crisis in the Catholic Church started just after Vatican II or else it was all the fault of the cultural and societal revolution going on at the time. Unfortunately for Mr. Staples, the statistics don’t bear this out. Consider the following answer by Kenneth C. Jones to the question of whether the decline of Catholic Mass attendance after Vatican II was due to cultural reasons:

The data on church attendance of U.S. Protestants which we plotted in Figure 3 together with the data for Catholics that we have just reviewed provide evidence on this question. The Protestant series is, so to speak, the ‘control group.’ The contrast between its behavior and those of the two Catholic series is stark indeed. In the Protestant data, we see no downward trend at all. Church attendance is lower than that for Catholics during most of the period but is certainly not declining. In fact it may have even begun to trend up. If the temper of the times had been the cause of the decline in Catholic Mass attendance however, there is no reason that similar forces should not have operated within Protestantism too. Church attendance should have declined there also. [25]

Unfortunately, Staples did not stop there. He then went so far as to claim that “virtually zero” problems were brought about by the Vatican II reforms themselves. Staples then went on to say that Vatican II was somehow a smashing success in places like Poland, Africa, and Asia. Of course neither Staples, nor any other Neo-Catholic apologist who makes this claim ever gives a shred of data or evidence to back it up. Then Staples even went so far as to indirectly credit the success of the Vatican II reforms in Poland with bringing down Communism! Quite a feat indeed. Especially since Communism, the most widespread and pernicious world error at the time of Vatican II was not once condemned in Vatican II so as to ensure that Russian Orthodox observers would be allowed to attend the Council. Then, Staples excitedly assured the listeners that we are “seeing the reforms of Vatican II just now beginning to bud.” Yes, Mr. Staples. Any minute now…

Patrick Coffin then criticized focusing on “minutiae,” such as which way the priest is facing during Mass, instead of Jesus and the message of His Gospel. He said this makes for an inward looking Church instead of outward looking. This is an interesting criticism. If which way the priest is facing is “minutiae” then why did liberals fight so hard to have the long held Catholic tradition of the priest only facing East abolished?  Apparently it was not minutiae to them. A priest offering the Sacrifice of the Mass on behalf of his people to God, facing the direction that symbolizes Christ and the Resurrection serves to focus everyone on Christ. What does the priest facing the people focus everyone on? Does it not, quite literally, make for an inward looking Church?

Vatican II Defended at All Costs

The Duo then moved on to Justin in New Jersey. Justin was a Protestant convert who dabbled in SSPX Masses before “pulling himself off that ledge.” Yet he still had difficulties reconciling some of the post-conciliar documents with pre-conciliar documents. Coffin then rather presumptuously told the caller he was glad the caller was “still in the bosom of the Church” as if Catholics who assist at SSPX Masses are somehow not. If this is Coffin’s position, it is contrary to the position of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei [26], although you would not know it from the matter of fact way Coffin passed his own opinion off (once again) as that of the Church.

Justin then intelligently pointed out to the duo that the primary difference in Vatican II and previous councils is that Vatican II was not called in response to a heresy.  Therefore there was no clearly definable objective for the Council beyond a vague updating of the way we present the faith, which is not easily implemented. Justin also pointed out Vatican II “did away with the anathema” which he explained “did away with that clear delineation between heterodoxy and orthodoxy.” Justin said while the Church still teaches the Faith in Vatican II, one cannot deny that parts of it, such as the document Gaudium et Spes, is hopelessly naďve, especially when it calls for a new international order.

At this point it would have seemed reasonable for Staples to concede these rather modest points, gain some credibility, and move on. Instead, Staples, not able to tolerate even modest criticism of Vatican II, rejected even these common sense statements. He instead pointed to other councils not called in response to a heresy. Staples named the Fourth Council of Constantinople as well as other “reform” councils he did not mention the names of. As regards the Fourth Council of Constantinople it was called at the request of Emperor Basil I to resolve a burning controversy over what to do with priests and bishops ordained by the heretic Photius. Thus it seems this example still makes the larger point that there was zero burning reason to call Vatican II whether it be to refute a heresy or to resolve a controversy.

Staples then makes the technical point that Vatican II didn’t “do away” with the anathema in the sense that it eliminated the power of the Church to use it. Staples then stated that Vatican II decided not to use the anathema because it chose to use a more “pastoral style.” Staples then praised one section of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, which actually spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He marveled to the listeners that “you’ve never had an ecumenical council close to the level of Vatican II when it comes to teaching Marian dogmas” and referred to this section on Mary as “phenomenal.” What Staples did not mention is that Vatican II deliberately chose not to give Our Lady her own separate document and also specifically declined to declare her “Mediatrix of all graces” out of fear of upsetting the Protestants.

Staples then, incredibly, defended Gaudium et Spes’  naiveté when it spoke of a “new world order and so forth” comparing it to Christ establishing His kingdom on earth. He then ironically asks Justin how he would present this teaching and if he would not agree that the Church should effect government and change the world order. Coming from an apologist who no doubt rejects the traditional Catholic teaching of the Social Kingship of Christ for the religious liberty of Vatican II, this was rich.

Justin then said that if Pius IX and Pius X saw the error of Modernism brewing in the Church it seems counterintuitive to him that the solution would be to open the doors of the Church. Justin believed instead that the solution would be to root it out. With this complete logical and common sense conclusion now exposed for all listeners to hear, our dynamic duo were pressed into quick action. Coffin promptly told Justin that the doors were already “shut down, double bolted” by “those popes that you mentioned” and then asked Staples to confirm that the liturgical renewal was not a 1962 invention. Staples quickly chimed in that Pope Pius X talked about the need for liturgical reform leading to Pius XII who really was a “mover and a shaker” in this area leading us to John XXIII. Then the duo quickly moved on without really responding to Justin’s point. Obviously any implication that the Novus Ordo Mass of Bugnini was the liturgical reform envisioned by Pius X and Pius XII would cause me to quickly move on as well as the notion is patently absurd.

The show then mercifully ended with a surprise call from sedevacantist priest, Fr. Anthony Cekada. I won’t go into detailed analysis here, as the particular strain of “radical traditionalism” I subscribe to, otherwise known as “Catholicism”, doesn’t have a dog in the fight between sedevacantism and Neo-Catholicism. However, it is a shame that the irony of these two positions arguing against each other was lost on both sides. For Neo-Catholics and sedevacantists realty are two sides of the same coin. Both treat every papal act, decree, teaching, sermon, or permitted practice as something that must be automatically revered and obeyed at all times. If what comes from the pope does not seem to square with past teaching, the Neo-Catholics say we must accept it anyway because it comes from the Pope. On the other hand, the sedevacantists say, that since these new teachings contradict that which came before, the man who is saying them cannot be the pope.

Catholics, on the other hand, know that the pope is not impeccable and not infallible in every act, decision, or speech he makes. As Vatican I makes clear, the Holy Ghost gives the pope his powers not to make known some new doctrine but to safeguard and promote the deposit of Faith. As long as he does this, which is a vast majority of the time, he acts within his authority and must be obeyed with docility. However, in those rare times we are living in today when not only the pope on occasion but more frequently the bishops and priests permit certain things that clearly tend to contradict the purpose for which they were given their power, it is our duty to resist these things and to publicly point the harm they are causing as St. Paul did to St. Peter, our first pope.



[2] Id.


[4] Session 4, Chapter 3 of Vatican Council I found at:

[5] Id.; Session 4, Chapter 4


[7] This trilogy should be required reading for any Catholic who wants to discuss this topic publicly.

[8] Of course the issue of the excommunications resulting from the 1988 consecrations is now moot since Pope Benedict XVI remitted them in 2009.



[11] Msgr. James T. Byrnes, PhD brilliantly deepens this delicious analogy here:


[13] Douay-Rheims translation


[15] Id.

[16] Does Staples consider these people “radical traditionalists?”

[17] For an historical account of how Communion in the hand came to be allowed in the Church see Davies’ excellent booklet, “Communion in the Hand and Similar Frauds” which can be found online at:



[20] Fortescue, A. (1910). Liturgy of the Mass. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from New Advent:

[21] Fortescue, A. (1910). Liturgical Books. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from New Advent:


[23] Griffin, P. (1912). Rites. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from New Advent:

[24] Wilhelm, J. (1908). Pope Clement XIV. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 9, 2013 from New Advent:

[25] Jones, Kenneth C. "Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II." 75. New York: Oriens Publishing, 2003.


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