Pope Benedict's New Encyclical
A Hopeful Sign

Brian McCall

Pray for the Pope!

(Posted Dec. 28, 2007 www.RemnantNewspaper.com) And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.  (Romans 13:11)

As we listened to these verses from the Epistle for the First Sunday of Advent in our chapels and churches and other catacombs, we could glimpse a new meaning of these words for our time.  In Rome, Our Mother that seemed dead (or possessed) for decades was showing signs of rising from the post-counciliar ashes. On November 30, 2007 (a date which may become as important, or maybe more so, than July 7, 2007), Pope Benedict XVI issued a landmark encyclical, Spe SalviI say perhaps more important than the date of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontifcum, because that date saw the release of the True Faith and Worship from prison, November 30 saw it projected out into the world. 

Before I begin an examination of the encyclical itself, I have to state that I was among the most skeptical with respect to Benedict XVI.  When many Traditionalists hailed his election as a great sign of hope, I feared another Modernist, of a more aesthetically cultured stripe perhaps, bringing more of the viruses of the Spirit of Vatican II.  I warily remembered the evidence amassed by Father Kramer in The Devil’s Final Battle of how Cardinal Ratzinger could play the old liberal Vatican II trick of encouraging traditionalists with one breadth and undermining them with the next.  Was this not the same man who saw Vatican II as the Church’s coming to terms with 1789?  I thought we might see some freedom for Traditionalists as Michael Davies had predicted, but this would be mixed with the typical post-counciliar theological double speak.  His first encyclical and visit to the Turkish mosque seemed to confirm it. 

Although Deus Caritas Est, had some good truly Catholic statements in it, like all modernist writing it interwove these with offering incense to the god of ecumenism.  Out of fear of another disappointment, I actually delayed reading this new encyclical for some time.  Hoping against hope, as St. Paul says, I finally read it and found the Church speaking as herself again as if she had found her soul.  This is some of what I found.

Of primary importance, this over 70-page document contains a grand total of references to Vatican II and John Paul II of zero (0).  Yes, that is—none, nothing, not one. This fact in itself is of extreme historical import.  It assassinates the lie that Vatican II and its delphic oracle of John Paul II hold the key to understanding what Christianity has been trying to figure out for millennia.  Every encyclical, document, address and book issued by the post-counciliar Church has been dominated by references to Vatican II and John Paul II. Some traditionalists would become ecstatic when a document like the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church would make one or two grudging references to Rerum Novarum within a see of euphoric quotations from Guadium et Spes, Lumen Gentium and John Paul II’s gnostic writings.

Yet, here we have a document which with great theological and philosophical precision elucidates a central tenet of the Faith, the theological virtue of hope, without a single reference to that great council of “hope,” without even mentioning the so much touted proclamation of hope, Gaudiam et spes.  For years we have been saying that we can know the Faith without reference to the ambiguities of the past forty years, and now a pope has proven us right.  We have real reason for joy and hope.  Yet our hope lies not only in this historic omission; for although not mentioned once by name, the essence of the false hope of Vatican II, the aggiornamento with the errors of the modern world, is under attack in this encyclical. 

The topic of hope could have easily turned into the vague gaudium et spes of “don’t worry almost everyone is probably saved in their own way” which has been coursing through the veins of the Church for so long.  As recently as last April, the International Theological (sic) Commission took a giant leap of faith off the precipice entitled “the presumption of God’s mercy” charted by Vatican II.  This document attempted to suggest that notwithstanding the contrary common doctrine of the Church for two thousand years, we may, without understanding and without logical reason, “hope” that the unbaptized were saved.  Almost as if an answer to these wolves in sheep’s clothing, Benedict’s new encyclical clearly teaches that there is only one source of hope, the Truth as revealed by the true God.  “To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.”  (emphasis added)

Speaking of St. Paul’s position towards false religions we can hear in the words of Benedict XVI the condemnation of Pius IX of the error that any religion can be salvific:   “Of course he [St. Paul] knew they [the pre-Christian Ephesians] had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were ‘without God’ and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future.” (emphasis added) 

The necessity of the true faith is confirmed later when the Pope writes: “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God.” 

His Holiness does not suggest, as did his predecessor, that we need to dialogue with or learn from the freemasonic vague notion of an abstract god of nature or the Darwinian atheistic god of science: “It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person.  And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free.”  Significantly, this statement is not followed by any of the typical post-counciliar qualifiers and ambiguities about knowing this person in our own way or other religions containing elements of this truth.  There is one road to freedom, God – the true God.  The ramblings of John Paul II about “evolution” being more than a hypothesis have given way to the recognition of the real forces that govern the universe – the real last Word.

In explaining this true faith that leads to hope, the Holy Father commits some great post-counciliar crimes against the new “virtue” of ecumenism.  First, the encyclical reaches its crescendo by clearly and plainly discussing some of the most un-ecumenical topics (ones that Bugnini thought he had rooted out by his “conquest” of the Catholic Church by nearly eliminating them from the Novus Ordo) - the Last Judgment, Hell, Purgatory and Our Lady.  In refuting the modern utopianism in all its varied forms, the Pope reminds us that our only hope of justice is not in these flawed ideologies but in the Last Judgment.  The fear of this great day of judgment gives us hope that things will eventually be set right, not by us and our petty political ideas but by God. 

The Pope quotes the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857) to remind us that no matter how arduous our sufferings here they are only the image of that “everlasting Hell.”  Unlike the sappy sermons of the past forty years that separate justice from God’s mercy, the Pope shows that mercy (or grace) are inseparable from justice.  Justice is impossible without Hell, confirmation of the existence of which is seen in our own material sufferings here.  Further, the doctrine of purgatory is demanded by God’s justice.  Yet, this justice is tempered by the mercy of God who allows us to intervene and soften the burning fire of those in that state. 

So notwithstanding all the funeral sermons preached recently, Purgatory has not been cast aside by the “spirit of Vatican II” after all!  The Church has found its wits again!  The Holy Souls must have rejoiced to know that a Vicar of Christ is once again after so long acknowledging that they exist and can benefit from our efforts.  

Finally, the encyclical ends with the type of loving invocation so common in the Traditional Mass and removed from its deformed step child:  “Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!”  You could just hear Bugnini chattering “You can’t say that; it might offend Protestants who have a different understanding of the role of Mary!”

In advancing the highly nuanced theological argument, the Pope gives us an example of true ecumenism in contrast to the false one of the past forty years.  True ecumenism is the rejection by the heretics of their errors and a return to Catholic truth.  The pope does not hesitate to expose the favorite technique of the arch-heretic Luther and his progeny, alter sacred scripture to fit in with your chosen heretical theology.  The Pope explains that to fit with his false ideas, Luther mistranslated a critical term from Hebrews 11:1 and his error lamentably spread from the time of the reformation and even entered the Catholic (sic) Ecumenical Translation in Germany.  (As an important aside, I note that this criticism of this German translation is the only time in the entire encyclical that the Pope uses the word “ecumenical,” another sign of hope.)  With arguments from linguistics and theology and citing St. Thomas (whose ears must have perked up at being cited once again in papal encyclicals), the Pope proves this Protestant position to be so “untenable” that even some Protestants are attaining a common understanding by rejoining Catholic orthodoxy on this point.  Unlike all the failed post-counciliar attempts to attain unity through ambiguity, here the Pope is showing the true way, abandoning untenable Protestant error!

In addition to coming to terms with true unity in the truth, the Pope comes to terms with history. The man who once welcomed Vatican II as a coming to terms with the French Revolution has now become the Pope to say that the misery of the twentieth century is owed to the work of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.  For a millennium and a half, men looked for redemption from the fallen world brought about by our first parents from faith in Jesus Christ.  The Enlightenment offered instead the promises of “reason” and “freedom.”  These promises brought neither true reason nor true freedom but only failed and totalitarian utopian visions of man becoming himself with all his economic woes cured.  This brutal phase of modern history (the twentieth century) the Pope says “we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction.”

As Leo XIII did in Rerum Novarum, Benedict XVI holds up the Middle Ages (the time in Church History in which John Paul II found so much to “apologize” for) as the antidote to the French Revolution and Marxism.  After recommending the great monasticism of the Middle Ages, the Pope asks in pointed comparison of our own time to the dark pagan period that preceded that Age of Faith “Are we not perhaps seeing once again, in the light of current history that no positive world order can prosper where souls are overgrown?”  The hope of the Middle Ages the Pope tells us is in the monasteries that cultivated the soul of those in vows and those on whose behalf they prayed and sacrificed. 

In addition to a pointed critique of post Enlightenment history, the Holy Father calls for a critique of modern Christianity.  His call could have been made by a Traditionalist speaking of the false promise of the liberal revolutionaries of the Second Vatican Council:  “Flowing into this self-critique of the modern age there also has to be a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding setting out from its roots. On this subject, all we can attempt here are a few brief observations. First we must ask ourselves: what does ‘progress’ really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise?” (emphasis added).  Could this also be a self-critique of the young peritus Father Ratzinger who once thought that the church’s future lay in the progress unleashed when the Rhine flowed into the Tiber? How has modern Christianity “progressed?” The answer he gives is that it progressed by abandoning its great cosmological mission: “Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. In so doing it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task.”   What is the Holy Father describing but the abandonment of the teaching on Christ the King by what Archbishop Lefebvre called his uncrowning at Vatican II:  “Thus Biblical hope in the Kingdom of God has been displaced by hope in the kingdom of man, the hope of a better world which would be the real ‘Kingdom of God.’” 

In almost a paraphrase of an argument made by Michael Davies against the implications of the Novus Ordo moving the feast of Christ the King to the end of the liturgical year, implying its import is only for the end of time, the Holy Father says: “His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us.”  As if correcting a deficiency in his first encyclical (which when dwelling on works of assistance for the needy failed to emphasize that true communion with our neighbor is not through material aid but through union with Christ the King), the Pope proclaims:  “He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others.”  (emphasis added)

Although much more could be said about the Holy Father’s theological explication of the virtue of Hope, for our purposes we will end by looking at how liturgy and devotion are used by the Holy Father in this encyclical.  First, his only explicit reference to the official liturgy of the Church is to the Traditional, ‘extraordinary’ form: “I would like to begin with the classical form of the dialogue with which the rite of Baptism expressed [i.e. before it was butchered] the reception of an infant into the community of believers and the infant's rebirth in Christ. First of all the priest asked what name the parents had chosen for the child, and then he continued with the question: ‘What do you ask of the Church?’ Answer: ‘Faith’. ‘And what does faith give you?’ ‘Eternal life.’”[1]  (emphasis added)  The Holy Father goes on to correct the erroneous understanding of baptism, brought about by the Novus Ordo, as a mere social, community welcoming.  “According to this dialogue, the parents were seeking access to the faith for their child, communion with believers, because they saw in faith the key to ‘eternal life’. Today as in the past, this is what being baptized, becoming Christians, is all about: it is not just an act of socialization within the community, not simply a welcome into the Church. The parents expect more for the one to be baptized: they expect that faith, which includes the corporeal nature of the Church and her sacraments, will give life to their child—eternal life.”  (emphasis added)  A stinging rebuke of all the Novus Ordo baptisms I can remember attending where the priest-presider droned on about Baptism being a welcoming! 

Next the Pope explains the Catholic understanding of the interrelation of private prayer and public liturgical prayer, an understanding alien to the Novus Ordo:  “For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.  Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer.” (emphasis added)  Obviously the “great” prayers of the Church are the only prayers the “saints” knew, the Traditional ones, since the Novus Ordo has produced no saints nor any great prayers.  This statement can only be true of the Traditional Liturgy which respected this interplay between personal intimate prayer and the public action of the priest. 

The tyrannical “freedom” of the Novus Ordo demands submission of word and action to the assembly’s words and action as interpreted and adapted by the dictates of the president of the assembly.  There is no place for our personal, intimate, quiet union with God.  Only in a Traditional Mass can the liturgical payers of the sacrificing priest, a mother devotedly praying the rosary and meditating on its mysteries, a father studiously following the text in his missal, a woman reading a lay Mass devotional book, a child looking at the pictures of a children’s missal and another man simply meditating on the mercy of God be united in this intermingling of public and private prayer.  Just as the political freedom promised by the Enlightenment is merely freedom of tyrants to oppress, so too the freedom of the Novus Ordo is the freedom of the assembly to drown out our private prayer in a cacophony of noise. 

Yet, as the Remnant has always argued, the counter-revolution involves much more than the Mass – it involves the restoration of devotional practices, signs, symbols and sacred architecture (in short, culture).  Again the Holy Father joins this sentiment as to the traditional devotions: “I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practiced today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of ‘offering up’ the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating ‘jabs’, thereby giving them a meaning.”   (emphasis added) 

As to sacred architecture he says:  “In the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, which were intended to make visible the historic and cosmic breadth of faith in Christ, it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king—the symbol of hope—at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgment as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives.”  Such a pointed commentary on the value of the old ways in contrast to the barren, imageless utilitarian temples to men could have appeared in The Remnant

In another part of the encyclical the Pope condemns this modern iconoclasm thus:  “In any case, for the believer the rejection of images [in the first commandment] cannot be carried so far that one ends up. . . by saying ‘no’ to both theses—theism and atheism. God has given himself an ‘image’: in Christ who was made man. In him who was crucified, the denial of false images of God is taken to an extreme.”  The whole background of liturgy, sacraments and prayer of the encyclical is the image of the Traditional Mass, prayers, saints, practices and architecture and not the imageless tyranny of the Novus Ordo.

In conclusion, I will briefly anticipate the letters which may pour into The Remnant denouncing me as a hopeless dupe falling for yet another modernist trick.  Yes, I know we must not forget we are to be as cunning as serpents.  Yes, we must still be careful.  This great event may yet be followed by a return to the viruses of Vatican II, another Assisi syncretistic meeting, another papal knighthood for an enemy of the Church.  Yes, all these things are possible and it is not time to close our catacomb chapels and go home.  A period of Julian the Apostate may still lie ahead. But this necessary guarded skepticism must not prevent us as gentle doves from rejoicing when our Holy Father speaks with a Catholic intellect and soul again after so long.  When he has ascended a height looking beyond the jungle of Vatican II and can in clear language condemn the “intrinsically evil” ideas of atheism, progressivism, naturalism and freemasonry and speak of the faith in its old forms and practices, we need to rejoice.  When the Pope does not fear to offend by correcting the errors of Luther and, as if striking the rock to release water in our 40-year desert, speaks once again of the non-ecumenical topics of the Kingdom of God, Judgment, Hell, Purgatory and Our Lady, we need to intensify our prayers for his intentions. 

We need to hope that our long years of sacrifice on behalf of our wounded and virus infected Holy Mother are having an effect.  Perhaps the time of our salvation is nearer than when Walter Matt and Michael Davies and Archbishop Lefebvre began our crusade!  So do not misinterpret me, I am not calling for a laying down of our spiritual arms.  Just as the crusaders were revitalized by the fall of Antioch so they could continue on the road to Jerusalem proclaiming “it is the will of God,” so too this victory for the ancient Faith should encourage us with new hope that the night has passed and the day near at hand. 

Let us continue putting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light in this spirit the Pope recommends: “Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance [the post-counciliar period?]. . . . However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behaviour is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history.”  Spe Salvi facti sumus!


[1] The equivalent part of the Novus Ordo states “Celebrant: What name do you give your child? (or: have you given?) Parents: N. Celebrant: What do you ask of God's Church for N.?  Parents: Baptism.  The celebrant may choose other words for this dialogue. The first reply may be given by someone other than the parents if local custom gives him the right to name the child.  In the second response the parents may use other words, such as, ‘faith,’ ‘the grace of Christ,’ ‘entrance into the Church,’ ‘eternal life.’”  With this plethora of options, Novus Ordo baptism can be whatever it means to you.  Maybe you want eternal life but maybe just entrance into the Church.