|Viva Il Papa!|
Michael J. Matt
|Editor, The Remnant|
We at The Remnant — America’s oldest traditional Catholic newspaper which, for forty years (as of November 2007), has had the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as its primary reason for existence — wish to express our profound gratitude to God and to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007, which granted unrestricted use of the immemorial Mass of Tradition throughout the universal Church.
Pope Benedict’s historic decision has already brought to fruition much of what traditional Catholics prayed and labored for over the course of four decades. By September of this year the so-called “Indult” will no longer exist, the Tridentine Mass will have become officially reinstalled into the life of the Church, and the traditional Sacraments will be restored.
In other words, the essential first step toward restoration has been made by the only competent authority on earth who could make it—the Holy Father himself. Traditional Catholics have long contended that since the Church is not a democracy no lasting restoration is possible unless and until it is initiated at the top. This appears to have begun, at least at the liturgical level, and for that we say: Deo gratias and long live Pope Benedict XVI!
Could His Holiness have gone further? Would we have preferred if one or two points had been omitted or rephrased? Yes, certainly!, but Summorum Pontificum is only a first step of many (please God!), which, given the fascistic opposition that it faced prior to its release, has vastly exceeded all of our expectations. Whatever its weaknesses, tradition-minded Catholics can already celebrate its central thesis: The Supreme Pontiff has at considerable political risk to his pontificate, lent the full weight of his office to confirming a key, 40-year-old traditionalist contention that the old Mass had never been abrogated and that the battle for its restoration, far from being indicative of a “schismatic mentality” on the part of those who waged it, has been noble and justified from the beginning.
In other words, Pope Benedict has blessed the efforts of traditional Catholics living and long since deceased who gave their lives to the holy Cause of restoring the old Mass, so much so, in fact, that veteran journalist Patrick J. Buchanan immediately called it a “Triumph for Traditionalists”. Rightly so!
Liberals such as Luca Brandolini of Italy evidently agree, but unlike Buchanan are not at all happy about it: “I will obey the Pontiff,” sobbed Bishop Brandolini, “but it is a day of grief. The reform is canceled.”
The reform is canceled? If the maxim lex orandi lex credendi means anything at all then the Bishop’s concerns may not be completely unwarranted, given that Benedict, at least in the potential, has set up a vast network of traditional Catholic cells throughout the world which, exposed to the traditional Mass on a regular basis, will certainly begin to believe as they pray and pray as they believe. Such a network could change history. Such a network could cancel the “reform” of Annibale Bugnini.
After forty years of wandering in the conciliarist desert I don’t anticipate an immediate turnaround, but I can tell you this much: If I were a Modernist I’d weep too!
For forty years the venerable Roman Rite underwent a passion whereby it was stripped, buffeted, scourged, mocked, crucified and declared dead. Today, thanks to Benedict XVI, the passion has ended and the old Mass has risen from the dead. Against tremendous opposition from his own bishops, various liberal Jewish groups, and far-left political extremists, this courageous Pontiff has breathed new life into the traditional Mass movement that will sustain it for decades to come. The ‘most beautiful thing this side of heaven’ is here to stay!
We do not deceive ourselves: Pope Benedict is not a traditionalist in the strict sense. He makes no claim to be. He has not rescinded the Council nor recalled the Mass of Paul VI. But he is aware that the Church under the conciliar orientation is in full blown crisis. He is cognizant of the fact that those who attribute that crisis to the liturgical revolution and the spirit of Vatican II may well be taken seriously by history itself. He knows full well that the Second Vatican Council's “springtime” has turned into bleakest winter. Thus, he’s ordered the correct translation of “pro multis”, called for a ‘reform of the reform,” reaffirmed the existence of hell, infuriated modernists everywhere by ordering the restoration of the old Mass, and even disrupted ecumenical “progress” by calling into question the ecclesial status of Protestant “Churches”. And by the way, whatever happened to that fast tracking of the canonization of John Paul II we heard so much about a couple of years ago?
If there is some way of construing all this to be anything less than a series of papal steps in the right direction I’d like to hear it. Benedict has done enough already, in fact, to induce us to form a line of defense around him against his many enemies—our enemies, Christ’s enemies, the enemies of the unborn—who are now rising in rage against him from every quarter.
If we’re disappointed in the weeks and months to come, so be it. We’ve been disappointed before. But at the moment all indications suggest that this Pope, despite the disorientation that influences the thinking of nearly all modern churchmen, is nevertheless calling a crusade almost despite himself. Before this is over, Peter and the remnant may find themselves allied on the same battlefield against a common, Godless enemy.
Thomas More, Edmund Campion, John Fisher, Margaret Clitherow—what did they have in addition to the old Faith that caused them to smile at the headsman? The blessing of the Pope, of course, which gave them all the confidence they needed to move ahead, despite their apostate bishops. Whether or not our bishops will carry out the Pope’s will as expressed in the Motu Proprio remains to be seen. But at this eleventh hour Peter has come down firmly on the side of the traditionalists. Though over forty years it never wavered, confidence in the rightness of this holy cause just went through the roof!
Still, some among us are not convinced. Fine, after so many betrayals who could blame them! I certainly don’t. But imagine for a moment if Benedict had never broached the subject of the restoration of the Mass. What if he were still encouraging us to celebrate the “new Pentecost” rather than ordering the liberals to restore the old Mass? By what peculiar logic would that be an improvement over what we have now: a worldwide debate over Vatican II and the New Mass, prompted by a courageous Pontiff’s Motu Proprio? This is the stuff of which history is made! It may not be perfect in every respect but for the modern papacy it’s perfectly astounding!
Traditional Catholics must be careful, therefore, not to make this “all about us”. Benedict has awakened a sleeping giant, and the question is: Why? Merely to seduce the SSPX? Perhaps, but there are a number of points in his Motu Proprio which virtually rule out any chance for a quick rapprochement with the SSPX, chief among them being the following:
Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, also the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.
By definition as well as by charter, the SSPX is exclusively Tridentine. They will never offer the New Mass! If this document were designed solely to entrap the priests and bishops of the Society why would it erect such obvious roadblocks? It makes no sense, unless the inclusion of such a paragraph is politically charged to diffuse the anticipated opposition of the liberals.
Perhaps we should consider the possibility that the whole issue of a resolution of the Traditionalist “schism” is itself nothing more than a device to silence opposition to the Motu Proprio. After all, traditionalists already have the old Mass, the Sacraments, “personal parishes”, schools, etc. We made our difficult decisions decades ago, left our parishes, found oases—both approved and unapproved—where the faith of our children could be preserved. Why would the Pope climb so far out on a limb, then, just to hand us what amounts to a monumental moral victory? It seems unlikely that he would, which leads us to believe that something larger than mere traditional Catholic “rightful aspirations” is here being addressed.
Decades ago my father wrote in these pages that when the old Mass would be restored one day it would be necessary for the New Mass to be gradually phased out and not ripped from the life of the Church in a way that would traumatize sincere Novus Ordo Catholics as traditionalists had been in 1969. A “pastoral approach” would have to be taken, my father argued, for the good of those who by then will never have known anything other than the New Mass.
Are we perhaps witnessing the initial stages of just such an approach? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but must we not allow for the possibility that the Holy Father is responding to the Grace of the Holy Ghost? Isn’t this why we pray for him day and night? Isn’t that why the SSPX presented him with a spiritual bouquet of over two million rosaries? Besides, what lessons have actually been learned from the Indult phenomenon? The Indult Mass itself has long been a favorite target for those who, despite having never set foot inside an Indult church, nevertheless fancy themselves experts on what goes on there, arguing that all sorts of horrific compromises have been demanded of traditionalists in exchange for the Mass “we like”. They call it the “Insult Mass” or some such clever thing.
“Indulters” must swear oaths of allegiance to Vatican II! Really? If this is so, then why have we never done any such thing in the 23 years since the Indult Mass came to St. Paul? Why has The Remnant become only more outspoken against the spirit of Vatican II and the New Mass since 1988? And how do they explain the dozens of young priests operating traditionalist enclaves from within the very heart of the Indult movement? What about them? They’ve returned to the traditional breviary, the cassock, the biretta, the Baltimore Catechism, the correct translation of pro multis, the old Mass in private. Were it not for the Indult Mass (as imperfect as it is) they might still be wearing muumuus and slogging through Kumbaya rather than intoning the asperges me every Sunday morning. God writes straight with crooked lines, they say, which is why Archbishop Lefebvre can be credited (not blamed!), in our opinion, for the universal backfire in favor of Tradition that is the Indult movement.
I’ve written often against the Indult Mentality (that bizarre Faustian bargain whereby traditionalists were cajoled to offer silence against the Revolution in exchange for permission to have the Mass), but I disagree with those who still spend time engaging in popgunnery against Indulters. It seems they’re missing the larger point. Such mud-slinging no doubt makes for effective fund-raising but it doesn’t line up with the reality of what’s actually been happening. Far from traditionalists being led by the nose into the Novus Ordo by the Indult, the most obvious demographic shift over the past ten years has been an exodus of thousands of Novus Ordo Catholics into the Indult, and, in many instances, on into the Society of St. Pius X.
Now, if I know this and can prove it based on reports out of Mass centers all across the country, and if the leadership of the Society of St. Pius X know it (which they certainly do!)—it only stands to reason that the Vatican is well aware of it, too. So, answer me this: If Rome’s generosity where traditionalists are concerned is merely an end around to reduce the power and influence of the SSPX, why would the Pope issue yet another motu proprio in favor of the old Mass when every indicator since 1988 proves that the Indult has not harmed the SSPX in the least but rather has siphoned thousands of Catholics out of Novus Ordo holding tanks and into vestibules of Tradition?
In our opinion, therefore, and despite whatever residual Modernism still remains in his heart, Benedict has the Faith and could well be attempting a last ditch effort to save Europe, restore Christianity, and invigorate the Catholic Church with a healthy dose of Tradition. After all, everywhere inside traditional Catholicism – from the Pilgrimage to Chartres, to the universal demand for the services of the Society of St. Pius X, to the dramatic flourishing of the Fraternity of St. Peter and the other traditionalist orders—he sees youth, Faith, vitality, vocations and growth in abundance. If you were pope wouldn’t you give Tradition a try at this point?
Granted, the discussion over doctrine and Vatican II hasn’t even been initiated (which is why we support Bishop Fellay’s decision to keep the SSPX right where it is for the time being). Much work still must be done if the restoration is to take root. But this much can be said already: As far as the world is concerned Pope Benedict has allied himself with traditional Catholics — you know, those “haters”, “anti-Semites”, “integrists”, “perennialists,” “schismatics”, “gnostics”, and “extremists” that have been on a “dangerous trajectory towards schism” since 1967. As far as the world is concerned, the Pope officially joined that “rabble” on July 7, 2007.
Benedict proceeded with an initiative he knew full well would be regarded by friend and foe as total vindication for traditional Catholics. In other words, he didn’t shy away from a perceived papal endorsement of everybody’s favorite whipping boy. He’s run the risk of having history and the whole world associate his name with ours. This would be, it seems to us, an exceedingly unlikely course of action for one who harbored absolutely no traditionalist sympathies whatsoever.
My old friend and mentor, Michael Davies (RIP), had come to believe before he passed away in 2004 that Cardinal Ratzinger had become more or less a closet traditionalist thirty years after the close of Vatican II, at least where the liturgy is concerned. It’s beginning to appear as if Michael wasn’t too far off. Even Father Joseph Fessio adamantly insisted on the Hugh Hewitt radio show (July 9, 2007) that Benedict’s Motu Proprio was not issued solely for the sake of the SSPX situation, but rather for the good of the whole Church. Indeed! This is a new chapter in the history of the Catholic Church!
But the Motu Proprio didn’t go far enough! Didn’t it? It went far enough to bring down the wrath of the world on the Pope’s head. It went far enough to rattle the notorious French and German bishops’ conferences to their Modernist core. It went far enough to throw liberal pundits on both sides of the Atlantic into a panic. It went far enough to vindicate the heroic stand taken by Michael Davies, Walter Matt, Hamish Fraser, Archbishop Lefebvre and so many lions of Catholic tradition who gave there lives defending many of the contentions Benedict has now carved in papal stone.
Not bad for a first step!
True, the Holy Father does not see eye-to-eye with traditionalists on some vital issues, we know this! But to the Christ-hating, family-destroying, baby-aborting, war-mongering secularists who now rule most of the modern world, Benedict is a traditionalist who just drew a thick line in the sand. It seems to us incumbent upon all traditional Catholics to stand on his side of that line, ready to defend him against the satanic machinations of the ugliest mob the world has ever seen!
Just one day after the last conclave criticisms against the election of Cardinal Ratzinger began to surface in the secular press in Europe. It became obvious to us at the time that the enemies of the new Pope were also the most outspoken enemies of life, tradition, family and Christianity in Europe. In the face of that opposition, I wrote the following from Rome as part of our coverage of the conclave:
One thing is sure, however, Pope Benedict XVI is about to be crucified by the left-wing rabble who think they belong to the Catholic Church. An open schism may be in its nascent stage. The modern world, so intoxicated with love for Pope John Paul, is at this moment massing its forces for all-out war against Benedict. If the new Pope has the fortitude of mind and soul to resist rather than acquiesce, then a new day is indeed dawning. That rabble will do their best to chase Benedict our way—back in the direction of Catholic tradition—and when that happens he will find several million loyal traditionalists rising up around him, manning the walls of Vatican City, and vowing a fight to the death in defense of the new Pope.
Given the vitriol being spewed against Benedict by the world press in the wake of Summorum Pontificum, that day may well come sooner than anticipated. Benedict himself may be the “bishop in white”. But no matter what happens now the battle for the old Faith has taken a turn decidedly in favor of the traditional Catholic counterrevolution—that little hapless band which the world considered out for the count four decades ago. Who would have imagined that a day would come when Peter himself would stand with us in this all but forgotten battle for the defense of the touchstone of the old Faith—the immemorial Mass of Tradition! Who would have imagined it! Obviously, there’s more at work here than mere human deliberations. The Holy Ghost is with His Church. The power of the papacy is such that Hell itself can be driven back if God raises up a Pope to do the job. Let us pray that we have in Benedict the Shepherd God has chosen to at least begin the process of driving the wolves out of the Church.
Let us pray that Joseph Ratzinger, like Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti before him, is beginning to see the light. On April 20, 2005, I wrote the following from Rome:
What it all means remains to be seen, but at least now, in Rome, it is a new day for the Church. A new Pope sits on Peter’s Throne. And, just as the liberal Pius IX surprised the world and shocked the cardinal electors whose liberal choice turned himself into a lion of unyielding orthodoxy, there is at least hope that something similar could happen again now—with the help of the Holy Ghost, of course.
Wouldn’t it be grand!
Until we know exactly in which direction all this is heading, it seems only right and fitting to take Peter at his word and rally to his defense as our upside-down world prepares to crucify him for his courageous defense of Tradition. What else can we do? After all, he’s just restored the Mass and granted what amounts to a decree of total vindication to traditional Catholics the world over. For the moment at least, there’s nothing left to say…except:
Viva il Papa!