News from Rome
World waits for Indult to come and Sodano to go

Christopher A. Ferrara

ROME, March 5, 2007  -   Whatever happened to the motu proprio on the “liberation” of the traditional Latin Mass, whose publication was “imminent” more than four months ago? Why is the Pope (as he himself has stated) devoting every spare minute of his time to a book on “my personal search for the face of the Lord,” when the reformed liturgy of Paul VI is in a worldwide state of collapse and the vital signs of the visible Church are plunging toward a flat line nearly everywhere?  And why has Cardinal Sodano failed to vacate the Vatican apartment and offices of the Secretary of State, despite having been removed from that position nearly eight months ago with Pope Benedict’s appointment of Cardinal Bertone as Sodano’s successor?

There is, I believe, one answer to all three questions. But before I venture my opinion, let me first focus on the third question, which prompted an assignment from The Remnant during this otherwise personal visit to Rome. A well-placed source within the Vatican city state has confirmed to me the existence of a scandal that has received little (if any) attention in the Italian press.  Cardinal Sodano has indeed hunkered down in the apartment and offices he occupied as former Secretary of State and is, at this moment, defying the Pope to remove him.  Worse, says my source, Sodano has threatened that any attempt to remove him will be met by Sodano’s revelation of “where the bodies are hidden” from the last ten years of John Paul II’s pontificate—meaning the many things that went terribly wrong on account of the Pope’s declining capacity during that period.

By the way, just how little we know of the hidden life of John Paul II is shown in the recently published biography of the late Pope by his trusted secretary, now Cardinal Dziwisz.  As reported in the latest issue of Inside the Vatican, the biography reveals that on more than 100 occasions during his pontificate the Pope went on secret skiing and hiking “getaways” at public resorts, dressed as a member of the general public. Picture the Vicar of Christ clad in a ski jacket, beret and sunglasses, standing in line with his lift ticket.  “And the odd thing was that, for a long time, no one recognized the Pope,” Dziwisz told Inside the Vatican.  On the first such occasion, Dziwisz’s biography recounts, the Pope smiled and said: “We did it!”  Would that we had heard such an expression of triumph from the late Pope over the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

My source further informs me that Pope Benedict is reportedly “dejected” over the Sodano situation, but does not seem to have the will to do anything about it.   Hence the Vicar of Christ would appear to be the abject victim of an extortion scheme perpetrated by an overfed ecclesiastical Mafioso, whose long career of thuggery with a bella figura—including, of course, his clumsy attempt to bury the Message of Fatima in a shallow grave of revisionist fabrications—has yet to come to an end.  Sodano’s own victim has named him Dean of the College of Cardinals, and he continues to serve on certain Vatican commissions. Sodano acts like he has nothing left to live for but the keys to his Vatican perks, which it appears will literally have to be pried from his cold, dead hands.  The depiction of Sodano as an ecclesiastical criminal in The Devil’s Final Battle (cited repeatedly by Antonio Socci in his groundbreaking work on the Third Secret) has never seemed more justified.

My source also tells me that months after news of the motu proprio first surfaced, it now seems that only two cardinals of the Curia support the document: Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos of Ecclesia Dei and Cardinal Medina Estevez, former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.  Only a draft has surfaced at CDW and no one knows for sure whether the document has been signed. No doubt every conceivable barrier to publication within the Vatican apparatus, including those still under the control of “Dean” Sodano, has long since been moved into position. The document could, therefore, be either a complete dead letter or on the verge of publication, having somehow overcome every barrier.  But if the document never sees the light of day, it will be for the same reason that Pope Benedict will not oust the holdover tenant in the apartment and offices of the Vatican Secretary of State: the so-called Panzer cardinal is really a mild-mannered academic with an aversion to the exercise of any form of coercion, no matter how justified.

To return to our riddle: What do the mysterious non-appearance of the motu proprio, the Pope’s preoccupation with his book of personal reflections on Jesus and Sodano’s defiance of the Pope have in common?  I believe that the answer is this: The persona of Modern Man, created by the Enlightenment, has imposed itself even on the human element of the Catholic Church.

And who is Modern Man?  To borrow from the seminal insights of Pierre Manent into the great fraud that is modernity, he is the man who, for the first time ever, lives in History and is governed by “the authority of the New.” Modern Man takes as his metaphysical motto the epigram of Heracalitus: “All is flux, nothing stays still.” He is the man who has rights—rights that he discovers with the never-ending progress of History, rights that multiply endlessly and contradict each other. Modern man is his rights, rights have replaced his nature, and no one may tell him what he ought to be.

Detached from both the law of God and the law of nature, from both the Greek and Christian traditions which were synthesized in the culture of Christendom, and thus detached from the very idea of man as a living substance with an eternal end, Modern Man gives himself the law of History—a law that changes from moment to moment as Modern Man moves inexorably toward an illusory Future that is always a flight from the past. The telos of Modern Man is expressed in Manent’s question: “How could anything possibly resist ‘the demands of the present time?’” But there is no law of History. Modern Man invented it, just as he invented himself.  By positing as an objective law his own rebellion against God and nature, Modern Man, as Manent puts it, “surrenders to the most bombastic illusion that has ever enslaved the thinking species.”

Because it arises entirely from the effects of the persona of Modern Man, who never existed before the Enlightenment, there is no precedent in Church history for what we call “the postconciliar crisis,” which is essentially Modern Man’s invasion of the Church.  Papal irresolution and failure, curial intrigues and scoundrels like Sodano there have always been, but never has there been a change in the metaphysical framework within which Churchmen operated. It was Gaudium et spes that first imported the notion of Modern Man into the Church, declaring that “Modern man is on the road to a more thorough development of his own personality, and to a growing discovery and vindication of his own rights”—a clear acceptation of Modern Man’s own denial of an eternally endowed and unchanging human nature.

In lending credence to the claims of Modern Man, the same document asserted “the autonomy of earthly affairs,” according to which “created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values….”­—a statement that would mean nothing if it were not a reference to autonomy from all supernatural claims and thus the Church, for Modern Man has not demanded any other sort of “autonomy” for his “earthly affairs.” And it was Sacrosanctum Concilium that first subjected the Church’s timeless liturgy to “the needs of our own times,” leading to a human creation by committee that was no longer ever ancient and ever new, but merely ever new—the Liturgy of Modern Man.

No one understands the problem of Modern Man better than Pope Benedict, who has provided many diagnoses of the metaphysical disease that has produced him.  Yet he too finds himself carried along by the flux of History whose lord and servant both is Modern Man.  The Pope labors on a book of private theological reflections from which he has stripped all teaching authority in deference to the “autonomy” of the biblical experts of postconciliar historical-critical exegesis and Modern Man’s rejection of the very idea of a Vicar of Christ.  As for the restoration of the Roman liturgy—so necessary to dispel the bombastic illusion of History and reawaken Modern Man to his nature as an immortal substance made for eternal beatitude—the Pope seems to feel constrained to confine himself to expressions of a largely formal concern for “liturgical diversity” and “the spirit of the Church” which are not at all inconsistent with “the demands of the present time.”  If the quarantine of the old liturgy is to be relaxed at all, it will be without prejudice to the continuing predominance of the Liturgy of Modern Man.

And as for Sodano, that master technician of modernity within the postconciliar Church, practitioner of Ostpolitik, dialogue, ecumenism and Fatima revisionism—the very model of the prelate as Modern Man—what is the Pope to him but a nominal superior who can safely be defied after a prudent calculation of risks and benefits?   Modern Man has no fear of the papacy, because the papacy no longer claims any real authority over Modern Man.

Via Pio X

At the point where Via Pio X (Pius X Way) meets the Tiber River it changes to Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, the long thoroughfare named after the Masonic “king” whose forces drove Blessed Pius IX from Castelgandolfo on the way to “liberating” and “unifying” Italy under the new regime of “rights” that plagues the whole of the Western world to this day.  The way of the Popes terminates where the way of Modern Man begins. As I walked along the Corso with my son, we happened across a small park in which a modestly but quite elegantly attired woman was seated on a bench, utterly motionless, her eyes closed and her head cradled in one hand. Her face bore a look of grief and pain so exquisite it could have been etched in marble.  For minutes on end she sat this way, a living sculpture in an attitude of the most intense suffering, while the interminable flux of modern Rome moved and chattered about her. In my entire life I have never encountered such a scene, and doubtless never will again.   Perhaps my son and I were meant to perceive it as an icon of the suffering of the Church in the midst of that immense turmoil Modern Man has brought upon himself.

I am reminded of these lines from Eliot’s Dry Salvages, the third of his Four Quartets:

But to apprehend

The point of intersection of the timeless

With time, is an occupation for the saint

Only the greatest of Popes will be able to bring the human element of the Church back to the occupation of the saints, especially in her liturgy. But, even at this very worst of moments, there is still hope.  As I write these lines Pope Benedict and the members of the Curia are attending a Lenten retreat directed by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi.  In a meditation he delivered three days ago to the retreatants, Biffi cited the prophesy of the Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev that “the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist. He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one.... Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values.”

Speaking directly of the worldly projects of Modern Man in which the postconciliar Church has become so deeply involved, Biffi warned the Pope and the others that “there are relative values, such as solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature. If these become absolute, uprooting or even opposing the proclamation of the event of salvation, then these values become an instigation to idolatry and obstacles on the way of salvation.” And then what appears to be a condemnation of the entire aggiornamento as it has played out over the past 40 years, and in particular during the disastrous pontificate of John Paul II: “If Christianity – on opening itself to the world and dialoguing with all – dilutes the salvific event, it closes itself to a personal relationship with Jesus and places itself on the side of the Antichrist.”

Here in Rome, the intersection of the timeless with time is still visible, if only intermittently. The reign of Modern Man has not yet culminated in the arrival of the Antichrist, the Son of Modern Man.  There is time yet for the great restoration Our Lady of Fatima promised us.  The Church and the world await the Pope who will bring it about.