Is This the End of Our Exile?

Christopher A. Ferrara


ROME - We have a Pope:  Benedict XVI, formerly known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. In the fortieth year of our exile from Tradition, the new Pope has begun by restoring a verbal link with the long line of his successors. The new Pope has taken the name last taken by the preconciliar pontiff whose advice, had it been heeded by the world, would have avoided the bloodbath of World War I, the triumph of “democracy” under the tank treads of Woodrow Wilson’s armies, and the final toppling of altar and throne in Europe. 

Benedict XV was also one of the Popes cited by Pius XI in his condemnation of social modernists, who (like present-day Catholic “libertarians”) pay lip service to the Church’s social teaching while dissenting from it. As Pius XI wrote in Ubi Arcano Dei

Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labor, on the rights of the laboring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV.

Verbally, at least, the papal line of Tradition has been restored.  This is cause for hope, for the papacy is no merely human office.

Many Catholics (myself among them) have objected, with good reason, to certain of the theological views of the man who was once known as Cardinal Ratzinger.  We have protested, quite rightly, the former Cardinal’s attempt to “deconstruct” the Message of Fatima.  We have even, in keeping with our duty as confirmed soldiers of Christ, expressed our conviction that as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Cardinal did not act in any serious way to protect the Church against her neo-modernist enemies and had even favored some of their errors.

But now we encounter Pope Benedict XVI, and the incomparable grace of the papal office.  And that grace was evident in the Latin benediction, rich with traditional Catholic content, to which Pope Benedict proceeded without ado as he stood on the balcony before a crowd of 100,000 relatively subdued Catholics (compared to the rowdy party atmosphere we were accustomed to seeing during the last pontificate), of which crowd I was privileged to be a part.  There were tears in my eyes as I heard the Latin words absolving us of our venial sins and explicitly imploring for us the grace of final perseverance.  What a joy it was to hear such words from the mouth of a Roman Pontiff again.

After forty years in the postconciliar desert, is this the beginning of the end of our exile?  The period seems biblically appropriate—and if not now, then when? But in this moment of high emotion, when we are clearly witnessing some kind of return to unity with the Church’s past, we can only pray and prudently wait and see.

Will the new Pontiff begin steering the bark of Peter away from the ruinous shoals of novelty and bring it back to a firm place of mooring, as in the prophecy of Don Bosco, between the twin pillars of the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Mother?   Only time will tell. And while we watch and wonder if our deliverance is really at hand, or whether, instead, the modernist subversion of the Church will only worsen, the traditionalist critique of the postconciliar aggiornamento will continue unabated—supported, in fact, by many strong statements found in the writings of the former Cardinal himself. 

But whatever has been said and written before, and whatever will be said and written in the future, every Catholic owes his allegiance to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.  May God bless and protect him in the stormy days to come, and may the Holy Ghost make of him a great restorer of the devastated vineyard of the Church.