To His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

An Open Letter from Traditional Catholics

Most Holy Father,

The undersigned were privileged to be among the great crowd in Saint Peter’s Square who first encountered Your Holiness in person upon his election as Roman Pontiff.  We knelt, with tears in our eyes, to receive your first apostolic blessing “urbi et orbi,” administered from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.

As Your Holiness pronounced the Latin formula absolving the faithful of venial sins and imploring the grace of final perseverance, our hearts were overjoyed; for in that blessing the Church and the world were reminded once again of what your own predecessor, Pope John Paul II, admitted has been all but forgotten since the Second Vatican Council: the Church’s perennial preaching on the Four Last Things, which is to say, her preaching on the very reason for her existence. 

As we participated in that supremely Catholic moment, it seemed that a turning point had been reached in the ecclesial crisis of the past forty years, during which God’s people have been wandering in the desert of what some still dare to call the postconciliar “renewal” of the Church. As that biblically significant period draws to a close, Catholics throughout the world are hoping that, at long last, the beginning of this pontificate might also be the beginning of true reform and restoration in the Church.

It is with this hope in mind that we, ordinary laymen, address Your Holiness in this public way. We do so in keeping with the law of the Church, which -- providentially enough in an age of mass communications, but an inaccessible Pope -- provides that “The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires…they 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…”[1]

We write to Your Holiness from what has come to be known in the Church (for want of a better term) as the “traditionalist” perspective. The very emergence of the term “traditionalist” bespeaks the magnitude of the ecclesial crisis that now confronts Your Holiness, for never before in the Church’s history has it become necessary to coin a special term to describe Catholics whose practice of the Faith has simply remained unchanged in the midst of a totally unprecedented liturgical, pastoral and even theological upheaval.

Candor requires us to note that the traditionalist polemic has consistently raised serious objections not only to certain statements and actions by the conciliar popes in the name of the Council, but also certain statements and actions of the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Yet Your Holiness, when he wrote and spoke as Cardinal Ratzinger, more than once expressed respect and sympathy for the traditionalist position contra the manifestly unfavorable postconciliar innovation of the Church. In 1984, for example, you said:

The results of the Council seem cruelly to have contradicted the expectations everybody had, beginning with John XXIII and Paul VI…. [W]e have been confronted instead with a continuing process of decay that has gone on largely on the basis of appeals to the Council, and thus has discredited the Council in the eyes of many people. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church. [2]

It is this “continuing process of decay” that Your Holiness is charged by God Himself to arrest and reverse for the good of the Church and the world.

The Liturgical Collapse

This ecclesial decay, whose existence every sensible Catholic now admits, is certainly related to the de facto suppression of the traditional Latin Mass by your predecessor Pope Paul VI, a decision that even Your Holiness, then Cardinal Ratzinger, rightly described as “a breach into the history of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic.”[3] Your Holiness, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, explicitly linked the ecclesial crisis to this liturgical tragedy: “I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part on the collapse of the liturgy.”[4] 

Holy Father, the liturgy has collapsed!  How is this possible in the Roman Catholic Church, wherein such a thing has never happened before and would have been considered absolutely unthinkable by any pope before the Council?  The answer is that for the first time in Church history a pope, Paul VI, allowed the received and approved rite of Mass to be abandoned in favor of what you yourself, as Cardinal Ratzinger, called “fabricated liturgy… a banal, on-the-spot product.”[5]

These words of yours come from the preface to the French language edition of The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by the eminent liturgist Monsignor Klaus Gamber.  In that groundbreaking work, Msgr. Gamber, with your personal endorsement as Cardinal Ratzinger, described the suppression of the traditional Latin Mass in favor of the Mass of Paul VI in the most dramatic terms possible, exceeding even the harshness of some traditionalists in his assessment:

[T]he traditional Roman rite, more than one thousand years old and until now the heart of the Church, was destroyed. The real destruction of the traditional Mass, of the traditional Roman Rite with a history of more than one thousand years, is the wholesale destruction of the faith on which it was based, a faith that had been the source of our piety and of our courage to bear witness to Christ and His Church… Many Catholics agonize over the question: what can be done about the loss of our faith and of our liturgy? [6]

The consequences of the postconciliar liturgical experiment launched by Paul VI speak for themselves. Do not those consequences, so clearly tragic for the Church, bespeak divine disfavor of the experiment?

And should we be surprised at this, given that the new liturgy (while valid in essence) exhibits every one of the basic features demanded by Luther, Cranmer and Calvin in their attack upon what Luther called the “sacrilegious and abominable Mass” : i.e., the abolition of the Latin language and the traditional Offertory prayers (redolent of the sacrificial nature of the Mass); the de facto elimination of the sacrosanct Roman Canon through its reduction to a mere option that is hardly ever used; the replacement of the eastward-facing high altar with an altar table facing the people; and communion in the hand.

As your illustrious predecessor Leo XIII observed in declaring Anglican priestly orders absolutely invalid, because the Protestant “reformers” were “fully cognizant of the necessary connection between faith and worship, between ‘the law of believing and the law of praying’, under a pretext of returning to the primitive form, they corrupted the Liturgical Order in many ways to suit the errors of the reformers.” How can Catholics ignore the evident correspondence between what the “reformers” demanded and what was produced by the postconciliar “liturgical renewal” in the Catholic Church?

With Msgr. Gamber and millions of other Catholics, we ask: “What can be done about the loss of our faith and of our liturgy?”  Holy Father, we are constrained to declare to you in conscience that the answer to this question can only be to restore the Roman Rite fully and completely to its traditional form.

Restoring the Traditional Mass

Holy Father, we implore you to restore the sacred liturgy without delay!  Release the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite from the preposterous quarantine to which it has been subjected since 1970.  The long-buried truth, now widely known in the Church, is that the traditional Latin Mass was never legally forbidden in the first place, because Pope Paul’s promulgation of his Novus Ordo Missae in 1970 did not equate with a de jure prohibition of the traditional Missal. 

As Cardinal Alfons Stickler revealed ten years ago, in 1986 John Paul II convened a commission of nine cardinals to advise him on the legal status of the traditional Mass. Your Holiness (then Cardinal Ratzinger) was a member of that commission, along with Cardinals Stickler, Mayer, Oddi, Casaroli, Gantin, Innocenti, Palazzini, and Tomko. As Cardinal Stickler explained, by a vote of 8 to 1 the commission agreed that Paul VI had never legally suppressed the traditional Mass as opposed to merely promulgating the Novus Ordo. By a vote of 9 to 0 the commission agreed that every priest remained free to use the old Missal.  

Indeed, speaking as Cardinal Ratzinger, you observed that a de jure prohibition of the Church’s own received and approved rite of Mass would be contrary to her very nature:

It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church…. The authority of the Church has the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them. Thus the Council ordered a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not prohibit the former books….[7]

Only last year the faithful learned that Paul VI himself acknowledged he had never forbidden the traditional Mass. In an interview with Father Jean Marie Charles-Roux, 90, one of the priests who celebrated Mass for Mel Gibson in Rome during the filming of The Passion of the Christ, it was revealed that “Charles-Roux said to Paul: ‘For 18 months I have celebrated the new Mass, but I cannot continue. I was ordained to celebrate the old Mass, and I want to return to it. Will you permit me to do so?’ And Paul said: ‘Certainly, I never forbade celebration of the old Mass; I have only offered an alternative.’”[8]

It is manifest, therefore, that no “indult” is really required to have recourse to that which was never forbidden and which, according to her very nature, the Church never could forbid. Holy Father, we humbly submit that it is your duty as Roman Pontiff to nullify the legal sham by which the traditional Roman Rite -- the very heart of Catholic worship and piety for 1500 years -- has been unjustly suppressed. You yourself acknowledged as Cardinal Ratzinger that the very credibility of the Church as an institution is at stake in this matter: “A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.”[9]  In the name of God, Holy Father, we beseech you to end this madness!

We beseech you also, Holy Father, to restore the traditional rubrics of the Mass as well as its text: Let the altar be oriented once again to the East, as it was from the first days of the Church, rather than toward the people, who are not the object of divine worship. Your Holiness himself has lamented the sudden loss of this crucial element of the Mass.  Abolish the abuse of communion in the hand, which allows the Sacred Host to be purloined and sold to Satanists in Rome itself, and even to be auctioned on the Internet.[10] Put a stop to the scandalous spectacle of altar girls, whose very presence on the Altar of God contradicts 2,000 years of tradition and undermines the doctrine of a sacred priesthood configured to the manhood of Christ, the High Priest of our religion. Act decisively, Holy Father, on the very words you pronounced as Cardinal Ratzinger in your meditations this past Good Friday: “How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!” 

In sum, Holy Father, we urge you to follow the advice of the great liturgist whose criticisms of the New Mass you endorsed before your election to the papacy. As Msgr. Gamber has written—again, with Cardinal Ratzinger’s endorsement: “[T]he traditional rite of Mass must be retained in the Roman Catholic Church, not only as a means to accommodate older priests and lay people, but as the primary liturgical form for the celebration of Mass. It must become once more the norm of our faith and the symbol of Catholic unity throughout the world, a rock of stability in a period of never-ending change.”[11]

The Bane of “Ecumenism” and “Dialogue”

But reversing the “continuing process of decay” Your Holiness himself has lamented surely involves more than ending the failed liturgical experiment, as urgent as that task is.  Two other novelties, also quite unknown in the Church before the Council, are clearly afflicting her most grievously today. We mean, of course, “ecumenism” and “dialogue.”  

The organs of world opinion are unanimous in praising Your Holiness for remaining “committed” to ecumenism and dialogue. The world evinces a curious determination to hold Your Holiness to this “irrevocable commitment” by making certain that you “follow the path” of your predecessor.  With boundaries set by their praise, outside of which lies the implicit threat of their denunciation, the voices of the world are seeking already to fix strict limits to the Pope’s freedom of action in addressing the ecclesial crisis. But the Catholic’s first instinct is to be suspicious of the world’s approval of these novelties and its insistence that Your Holiness continue to pursue them. Our Lord Himself taught us that He would be a sign of contradiction to the world and that the world would hate Him and His disciples for the very reason that they are not of the world, but were sent by God to oppose the world’s designs and topple its many idols.

What the world applauds, therefore, is hardly likely to aid the cause of the Gospel. Is this not obvious in the case of ecumenism and dialogue? After forty years of the ceaseless invocation of these unheard-of novelties, we have seen only confusion, disorder and a waning of the faith of Catholics.  At the same time, the members of non-Catholic religions have drawn no closer to the Church.  Quite the contrary, they are farther from her than ever, even on matters as fundamental as the natural law, and the entire Western world now exhibits what John Paul II himself called “a silent apostasy.”[12]

Holy Father, it is not as if ecumenism and dialogue were doctrines of the Faith the Church is unable to abandon. These vague notions, never sufficiently explained to the faithful, emerged in the Church only an historical moment ago. They are not new doctrines which require our assent, for the Church has no power to devise new doctrines. As the First Vatican Council solemnly declared: “For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”[13] Ecumenism and dialogue cannot, therefore, be the objects of faith, but only contingent pastoral undertakings which are either successful or unsuccessful, rather than true or false.

Can the Church not admit that these undertakings have failed, and failed miserably? Ever since ecumenism and dialogue rather mysteriously assumed the status of programmatic imperatives for the Church, every empirical indication of her well-being has deteriorated drastically.

After the sudden emergence of ecumenism and dialogue around 1965, the Church witnessed an immediate, precipitous and quite unprecedented decline of conversions, vocations, Mass attendance, and even adherence to the doctrines of the Faith on the part of those Catholics who have not formally defected from the Church since the Council.

And yet in the very address that opened the Council, your own predecessor, John XXIII, hailed the Church’s robust health and praised the zeal and fidelity of her members.  What is the difference in the Church between then and now?  Aside from the destruction of the Roman Rite, whose impact cannot be underestimated, the difference is this: ecumenism and dialogue.

Your Holiness, the vast panorama of ecclesial decline taking place immediately following the introduction of these novelties, and in precisely the areas the novelties impacted, nullifies any possible objection that the decline is a mere “coincidence,” an instance of the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. The introduction of the new liturgy, which, as we say, fulfilled the principal demands of the Protestant “reformers,” was followed immediately by drastic declines in Mass attendance and loss of faith in the Real Presence.

The introduction of the “ecumenical” concept of “convergence” with the members of non-Catholic confessions instead of their conversion and return to the Church, was followed immediately by a rapidly declining number of conversions and adult baptisms, so that today that are far fewer converts as an absolute number than there were forty years ago, when the world population was far smaller.

And the introduction of “dialogue” in place of direct preaching was followed immediately by what has rightly been called “a ‘demissionization’ of the Catholic Church” and a “suicide of the missions.” For the open-minded observer, the inference of cause-and-effect is a datum of common sense. But for those who insist upon empirical evidence of what is plainly apparent, such is available.[14]

Holy Father, we implore you to free the Church from the veritable tyranny of these novelties, imposed upon us in the name of a merely pastoral Council, even though they are not doctrine, have no roots in Tradition and thus have no claim on our faith.  Worse, at the same time ecclesiastical authorities insist upon these novelties, the integrity of the Faith itself is no longer enforced. What a mystery of iniquity this is! Again, as Cardinal Ratzinger, your own remarks have confirmed the “traditionalist” view of our situation:

The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy -- the form in which the liturgy was handed down -- suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited. It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith -- for instance, the corporal virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, etc. -- nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation. I myself, when I was a professor, have seen how the very same bishop who, before the Council, had fired a teacher who was really irreproachable, for a certain crudeness of speech, was not prepared, after the Council, to dismiss a professor who openly denied certain fundamental truths of the Faith.

All this leads a great number of people to ask themselves if the Church of today is really the same as that of yesterday, or if they have changed it for something else without telling people. The one way in which Vatican II can be made plausible is to present it as it is; one part of the unbroken, the unique Tradition of the Church and of her faith.[15]

Holy Father, the only way Vatican II “can be made plausible” is to cease the effort to persuade people that the Council has imposed dialogue and ecumenism (along with the liturgical experiment) upon the Church -- as if, per impossibile, these were new doctrines of the Faith. How much more evidence is needed before those in authority will finally admit that these novelties of praxis are poisoning the life of the Church and that we should be done with them?

Abandoning Ecumenism

Regarding ecumenism, with its the endless pursuit of an ill-defined “path to unity” with the Protestants and the Orthodox, we ask in conscience: When will the Church abandon this plainly fruitless activity and return to what your predecessor, Pius XII, called the teaching of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of the dissidents to the Church”?[16] As your predecessors taught us, Holy Father, all that is necessary for Christian unity is that those who are outside the Church return to her.  A mere 37 years before Vatican II, Pope Pius XI addressed the following words to the Protestant members of the nascent “ecumenical movement” which that great pope had rejected as a threat to the integrity of the Faith:  “[I]f, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, ‘the Mother and mistress’ of all Christ's faithful? Let them hear Lactantius crying out: ‘The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned...’”[17]

Holy Father, how can the Church deny or in any way obscure the revealed truth that the only “path to Christian unity” is the path to Rome? For too long Catholics have been told that they must engage in a “search for unity” with non-Catholics, as if to say that we will all end up somewhere other than Rome. How could this notion fail to cause confusion in the minds of the faithful, while leaving the non-Catholic interlocutor confirmed in his errors? Even John Paul II admitted the legitimacy of this concern:

There are people who in the face of the difficulties or because they consider that the first ecumenical endeavours have brought negative results would have liked to turn back. Some even express the opinion that these efforts are harmful to the cause of the Gospel, are leading to a further rupture in the Church, are causing confusion of ideas in questions of faith and morals and are ending up with a specific indifferentism. It is perhaps a good thing that the spokesmen for these opinions should express their fears.[18]

Yes, Holy Father, we believe it is a good thing that these fears are expressed, for in the 26 years which have passed since your predecessor wrote those words, it has become increasingly apparent that these fears were entirely justified and have been confirmed by the existential fact that ecumenism has not only failed to draw the Protestants and Orthodox into unity with the Church, but has also produced among Catholics confusion, indifferentism and even defection from the Faith. And how could it be otherwise if Catholics are no longer being taught that the only center and source of Christian unity is the very Church to which they already belong, but rather are taught that they must make an “ecumenical journey” somewhere with those who are outside the Church?

Abandoning Dialogue

As for the novelty of dialogue, we ask Your Holiness to consider the marvelously concise assessment of the brilliant scholar Romano Amerio, a member of the Council’s Central Preparatory Commission:

The word was completely unknown and unused in the Church’s teaching before the Council.  It does not occur once in any previous Council, or in papal encyclicals, or in sermons, or in pastoral practice.  In the Vatican II XE "Vatican II"  documents it occurs 28 times, twelve of them in the decree Unitatis Redintegratio.  Nonetheless, through its lightning spread and an enormous broadening in meaning, this word, which is very new in the Catholic Church, became the master-word determining postconciliar thinking, and a catch-all category in the newfangled mentality.  People not only talk about ecumenical dialogue, dialogue between the Church and the world, ecclesial dialogue, but by an enormous catechesis, a dialogical structure is attributed to theology, pedagogy, catechesis, the Trinity, the history of salvation, schools, families, priesthood, sacraments, redemption—and to everything else that has existed in the Church for centuries without the concept being in anybody’s mind or the word occurring in the language.[19]

When in the history of our Church has she become harnessed to a term that has no sanction whatever in the usage of Tradition? The answer, we believe, is never. And what, Holy Father, does “dialogue” mean in the context of the Church?  Amazingly enough, we have been given no clear answer to this question, even though, for the past four decades, the entire Church has been engaged in this ill-defined activity in the name of the Council. As Jean Cardinal Daniélou admitted in his book Why the Church?: “Dialogue is an essential theme of the Council, perhaps the most essential . . . But this word ‘dialogue’ can have extremely different meanings. One of the tasks of the Church since the Council is to define precisely what ‘dialogue’ means.”[20] The confusion is further evidenced in the Vatican document “Dialogue and Proclamation,” issued by the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue in 1991. This document frankly declares that “Interreligious dialogue between Christians and followers of other religions as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council is only gradually coming to be understood.”[21]

Holy Father, what besides grave alarm should the faithful feel when they see the leaders of the Church, for the first time in her history, committing her members to an activity they themselves are unable to define with any precision? How can this pursuit of the nebulous be anything other than what Sister Lucia of Fatima referred to as “a diabolical disorientation” in the Church?

In all candor Holy Father, we must ask: Instead of dialoguing with the world, when will the Church resume teaching the world with the authority of God speaking, as Our Lord Himself commanded when He said: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded thee.” If the Church whose mission is to teach busies herself with endless dialogue, when will she provide a clear answer to the question that is most important to man: “Teacher, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? (Matt. 19: 16-24).” And if the Church no longer answers that question with clarity and a peremptory authority conferred by Christ Himself, then what is the reason for her existence?

Fatima and the Return to the Tradition

Only eight years after the Council’s end, Paul VI, surveying the early results of the Council’s much-vaunted “opening to the world,” was forced to admit that “the opening to the world has become a veritable invasion of the Church by worldly thinking. We have perhaps been too weak and imprudent.”[22] This remark was an implicit admission by the Vicar of Christ himself that the entire conciliar aggiornamento had been a failure: instead of the Church penetrating the world with greater effectiveness, the world was penetrating the Church and subverting her.

Holy Father, we respectfully maintain that the time has come for the Church officially to recognize what has long been manifest: that the new liturgy is at war with liturgical tradition, that ecumenism is at war with evangelization, that dialogue is at war with the Church’s duty to teach with divine authority the truths necessary for salvation.  By these novelties the Church’s ramparts have been breached, and the enemy has invaded her. Can it be denied any longer that the “opening to the world” is the postconciliar crisis in the Church?  We realize that what we are saying is that somehow the very leaders of the Church have allowed her to suffer a massive insult to her integrity, just as they did in the 4th century.  But a Catholic must admit this rather than continuing to call “evil good, and good evil.”[23]

It has been reported that Your Holiness plans to travel to Fatima to canonize Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the beatified Fatima seers who preceded Sister Lucia to their eternal reward.  As the “continuing process of decay” extends into nearly every corner of the Church, we are convinced that the Message of Fatima not only predicted, but also provides the key to ending, the ecclesial crisis. 

In fact, one of your great predecessors seems to have been convinced of this. In 1931, when he was still Vatican Secretary of State serving under Pius XI, the future Pope Pius XII made an astonishing prophecy about the coming upheaval in the Church, which he expressly linked to the Message of Fatima:

I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to little Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that would be represented by the alteration of the faith, in her liturgy, her theology and her soul…. I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her ornaments and make her feel remorse for her historical past.[24]

A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted.  She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, “Where have they taken Him?”[25]

Holy Father, have we not witnessed since the Council precisely a suicidal attempt to alter the faith in the Church’s liturgy, theology and very soul? Have we not searched in vain for the red lamp in the denuded sanctuaries of the postconciliar “liturgical renewal”? Is not this state of affairs predicted in the Third Secret of Fatima, whose contents Pius XII must somehow have learned, as the portions of the Fatima Message thus far revealed to the Church say nothing of the things he foresaw? Did not Our Lady promise the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart if her request for the consecration of Russia were heeded, while warning us that, if it were not heeded, the Church and the Holy Father would have “much to suffer” and that “various nations will be annihilated”? Could not the ecclesial crisis have been avoided¾could it not, even now, be ended¾if the Pope and the bishops would simply consecrate Russia by name to the Immaculate Heart, instead of deliberately avoiding such mention (as Cardinal Tomko has admitted) for the sake of continuing useless “ecumenical dialogue” with the perpetually obdurate Russian Orthodox Church?

What has been the result of the attempted ecclesial suicide foreseen by Pius XII in light of the Fatima Message?  Here too Msgr. Gamber speaks with the most dramatic frankness:

Great is the confusion!  Who can still see clearly in this darkness? Where in our Church are the leaders who can show us the right path? Where are the bishops courageous enough to cut out the cancerous growth of modernist theology that has implanted itself and is festering within the celebration of even the most sacred mysteries, before the cancer spreads and causes even greater damage?

What we need today is a new Athanasius, a new Basil, bishops like those who in the fourth century fought against Arianism when almost the whole of Christendom had succumbed to the heresy. We need saints today who can unite those whose faith has remained firm so that we might fight error and rouse the weak and vacillating from their apathy.[26]

Msgr. Gamber’s direct analogy to the Arian crisis of the 4th century is a message to the whole Church that the current crisis is of a similar¾or rather, an even greater¾magnitude. In fact, Cardinal Newman’s own description of the Arian crisis serves to describe the condition of the Church today:

The body of bishops failed in their confession of the Faith…. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicea of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years. There were untrustworthy Councils, unfaithful bishops; there was weakness, fear of consequences, misguidance, delusion, hallucination, endless, hopeless, extending into nearly every corner of the Catholic Church.  The comparatively few who remained faithful were discredited and driven into exile; the rest were either deceivers or deceived.[27]

Holy Father, a growing number of the faithful are coming to realize that the crisis in the Church has arisen precisely from a misguided effort to change her in the name of the Second Vatican Council, just as Pius XII foresaw in his apprehension of the “innovators” all around him.  The evidence of our senses, and reason itself, tells us that this effort has been an incalculable blunder of prudential judgment.  Here again Msgr. Gamber speaks the truth with fearless candor: “Is this the spring people had hoped would emerge from the Second Vatican Council? Instead of a genuine renewal in our Church, we have seen only novelties. Instead of our religious life entering a period of new invigoration, as has happened in the past, what we see now is a form of Christianity that has turned towards the world.”[28]  In your own sermon before the conclave, you too, Holy Father, seemed to concede the magnitude of this undeniable disaster:

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain…

Catholics of good will can no longer disagree on the diagnosis, but now the question remains: What can be done to cure the disease? All the evidence of our bitter experience with the postconciliar “renewal” points to only one answer: abandon the worthless novelties of the past forty years and return wholeheartedly to Tradition.  Restore the Mass. Bring an end to “ecumenism” and forthrightly seek converts once again, as the Church did for nearly two millennia after Saint Peter converted 3,000 of his fellow Jews with a single sermon exhorting them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Terminate the fruitless “dialogues” that have lead nowhere and produced nothing, and return to the divine teaching that transformed pagan nations into Christian commonwealths and laid down the moral and spiritual foundations of Western civilization.

Only the Roman Pontiff can accomplish such a massive task of true reform and restoration. And we dare to say to Your Holiness that only the Roman Pontiff will be held accountable for the consequences to the entire Church and the world if that task is not accomplished, and if, instead, the Church continues to be held in thrall to manifestly destructive innovations which have only harmed the cause of the Gospel.

In saying this we know that we are doing nothing less than publicly reproving the Vicar of Christ. But at this point in the ecclesial crisis, after so many years of incalculable suffering in the Church, it would be a failure of charity and a betrayal of our duty as confirmed soldiers of Christ not to convey these concerns to the Pope in the only way that we can.  Speaking of the moral duty of a subject to reprove even the Roman Pontiff when there is reason to believe the Faith is endangered, Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches: “when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, ‘being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger’…”[29] 

Holy Father, you have asked for the prayers and support of all the faithful as you carry the immense burden of the Vicar of Christ. In your sermon at the papal installation Mass you specifically implored the faithful to “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”  That is a prayer we do indeed address most fervently to God through His Blessed Mother.  But have you not considered, Holy Father, that the wolves you rightly fear include not only those who openly attack the papacy and the doctrines of the Faith, but also those who would have Your Holiness continue on the same course that has nearly reduced the commonwealth of the Church to ruins?

The radical crisis Your Holiness himself recognizes cannot be ended by anything less than a radical correction. The replacement of certain elements of the destroyed Roman Rite cannot begin to repair the damage done to the Church in the name of the Council.  We beg you, Holy Father, to abandon the course of novelty so recently established and return to the ancient and unbroken course of Tradition, which is the only way to safety and salvation: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”[30]  Surely this divine prescription is what Our Blessed Mother had in view when she said at Fatima: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”  God grant that Your Holiness will be the Pope whose bold actions in favor of Tradition, taken with the aid of Our Lady of Fatima, will bring on her heavenly Triumph and restore the Church for God’s glory, the salvation of the elect, and the good of the whole world.

Your loyal subjects in Christ,

Christopher A. Ferrara

Michael J. Matt

The Remnant



[1] CIC (1983), Can. 212, §2.

[2]L’Osservatore Romano, November 9, 1984.

[3] Ratzinger, Joseph, Milestones: Memoirs: 1927-1977 (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1998), p. 148.

[4] Ratzinger, Joseph Card., La Mia Vita, quoted by Michael Davies in The Latin Mass, Fall 1997.

[5] Preface to French edition of Reform of the Roman Liturgy, by Msgr. Klaus Gamber.  See, n. 6.

[6]Msgr. Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy (Una Voce Press: San Juan Capistrano, CA: 1994)., pp. 98-99.

[7] Address by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ergife Palace Hotel, Rome, Saturday 24 October, 1998.

[8] “Restore the Old Mass,” Inside the Vatican, May 2004.

[9] Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, p. 176.

[10]As reported by Catholic News Agency on July 15, 2004 (quoting Fr. Aldo Buonaiuto in Famiglia Cristiana magazine): “A true ‘market’ for consecrated hosts exists. They sell for 80-500 euros, depending on the size of the host, the prominence of the church from which they were stolen, and who consecrated them…. Some cults perform rituals with the consecrated hosts while under the influence of LSD or cocaine, led frequently by ex-priests who have offered themselves in the service of Satan.” The world’s press has abounded with reports of how Hosts consecrated at the papal Masses of John Paul II were being auctioned on “EBay,” the online auction service.

[11] Gamber, op. cit., p. 114.

[12] Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (2001).

[13]Denzinger, 1836.

[14] Address to the Bishops of Chile (1988).

[15]AAS 42-142.

[16]Cfr., Kenneth C. Jones, “Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II,” which presents an overwhelming empirical case to support the common sense observation of cause-and-effect. For a compelling mathematical representation of what the empirical evidence shows, see, “Springtime Decay,” by the mathematician David L. Sonnier, at

[17] Mortalium animos (1925), n. 11.

[18] Redemptor hominis (1979), n.6.

[19]Iota Unum, p. 347.

[20]Jean Cardinal Daniélou, Why the Church? trans. M. F. DeLange. (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1975, p. 6.

[21]Dialogue and Proclamation (1991), n. 4b.

[22]Speech of November 23, 1973.

[23] Isaias 5:20.

[24]Roche, Pie XII Devant L’Histoire, p. 52.

[25]Ibid., p. 53.

[26] Gamber, Reform of the Roman Liturgy, p. 113.

[27] John Henry Newman, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1961), p. 77.

[28]Msgr. Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, p. 102.

[29]ST, IIa-IIae, Q. 33, Art. 4.

[30]Jer. 6:16.