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Friday, February 11, 2022

The Synodal Path: Slowly Transforming Schism and Heresy into “Tradition”

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The Synodal Path: Slowly Transforming Schism and Heresy into “Tradition”

On this year’s feast of St. Blaise, Cardinal Cupich tweeted a picture of himself processing through the streets of Dubrovnik, Croatia with the saint’s relics, adding:

“A great blessing to celebrate the 1050th anniversary of the feast of St. Blase in Dubrovnik, Croatia, today and preach on the importance of Tradition.”


Perhaps someone who knew nothing of Cupich could find this edifying. However, those who have seen the man attack Catholic tradition so viciously in recent years are more likely to see it as malicious gaslighting. Quite possibly he found inspiration in Francis’s own egregious gaslighting in the opening sentence of Traditionis Custodes:

“Guardians of the tradition, the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome constitute the visible principle and foundation of the unity of their particular Churches.”

Both Francis and Cupich routinely engage in malicious gaslighting.

Francis then proceeded to lay out key components of his plan to destroy tradition as much as possible. Although both Francis and Cupich routinely engage in malicious gaslighting, we ought to consider another aspect of their disingenuous homage to Catholic tradition: like their anti-Catholic predecessors, they perversely need to exploit the concept of “tradition” to carry out their demolition of the Church.

We can get a better sense why the anti-Catholic innovators need tradition from St. Pius X’s 1907 monumental encyclical on Modernism, Pascendi; here the pope describes why the Modernists’ heretical conception of the “evolution of doctrine" depends in part upon the conserving force of tradition:

“Hence, studying more closely the ideas of the Modernists, evolution is described as resulting from the conflict of two forces, one of them tending towards progress, the other towards conservation. The conserving force in the Church is tradition, and tradition is represented by religious authority, and this both by right and in fact; for by right it is in the very nature of authority to protect tradition, and, in fact, for authority, raised as it is above the contingencies of life, feels hardly, or not at all, the spurs of progress. The progressive force, on the contrary, which responds to the inner needs lies in the individual consciences and ferments there - especially in such of them as are in most intimate contact with life. Note here, Venerable Brethren, the appearance already of that most pernicious doctrine which would make of the laity a factor of progress in the Church. Now it is by a species of compromise between the forces of conservation and of progress, that is to say between authority and individual consciences, that changes and advances take place. The individual consciences of some of them act on the collective conscience, which brings pressure to bear on the depositaries of authority, until the latter consent to a compromise, and, the pact being made, authority sees to its maintenance.”

As St. Pius X described, the Modernists need a compromise between the conservative force (represented by tradition) and the progressive force (represented by certain individual consciences) to allow for doctrinal evolution. When the actual guardians of tradition do not repel the progressive innovations, those innovations gain at least the appearance of being part of Catholic tradition. Conversely, when the guardians of tradition reject the innovation it cannot openly spread within the Church because there is no “compromise.” Thus the innovators must retain a sufficient connection to tradition to avoid being rejected.

The innovators — like their leader, the Father of Lies — do all they can to convince good Catholics to avoid criticizing their wicked plans.

We can see this same Modernist thinking throughout Fr. Yves Congar’s True and False Reform in the Church, which aims to provide the blueprint for implementing progressive reforms without being forced out of the Church:

“The scholar or reformer who, while affirming a particular aspect of truth, clings to the desire not to deny other aspects and to remain in communion with all the others in the church, remains Catholic. By contrast, the scholar or reformer who insists first on ‘being himself,’ in maintaining the special difference of his own initiative, and in denying compensating elements that modify his special insight, risks falling into schism. When St. Ignatius of Loyola published his Exercises, which were a novelty at the time, he appended to them ‘Rules of Orthodoxy,’ which testified to his concern to keep his initiative in communion with the church. By contrast, even the most powerful religious experiences and the most deeply felt truths risk becoming heresies if they are not regulated by the faith and the life of the entire Catholica.”

Consistent with St. Pius X’s description of the Modernist reliance on compromise for doctrinal evolution, Congar insists that the reformer must have at least some “communion with the Church” to avoid falling into schism or heresy. If the reformers could abandon tradition altogether to accelerate their reforms they would do so; but the risk of being declared schismatic or heretical leads them to take a more cautious approach.

We can see this cautious approach even more clearly in Congar’s insistence on the need for patience when promoting reforms:

“In any reform movement, impatience threatens to ruin everything and to make an ambivalent initial inspiration evolve in a sectarian direction. In a passage worthy of status as a classic, Newman offered some reflections about this that Jean Guitton has taken and aptly applied to Newman himself. The innovator, whose reform turns into schism, lacks patience. He does not respect the slowness either of God or of the church, or the delays that come into everyone’s life. He moves with a kind of inflexible and exasperated logic toward ‘all or nothing’ solutions, in which viable possibilities are rejected along with problems. For a while, he insists that the church should satisfy his demands immediately, or otherwise he will leave. The heretical innovator doesn’t know how to wait for an idea to mature; rather, he launches his idea, immediately and inflexibly pushing it to its consequences. In so doing, such people not only risk failing to achieve the change they seek, but they spoil for others the possibilities for change that might have come about. So many times impatience or excessiveness has seriously harmed causes in the church which of themselves were perfectly appropriate.”

For Congar, the question is not whether a particular reform is actually Catholic in the sense that it corresponds with the Truth that God entrusted to His Church; rather, it is a question of whether the reformer is able to spread his novelties without being declared heretical or schismatic. Thus, as Congar sees it, the reformer must learn to have patience to avoid running so far ahead that he is declared outside of the Church.

Given that Francis opened the Synod by quoting Congar in support of “creating a different Church,” we ought to reflect on whether St. Pius X would consider it a “crime” to wait and see how the Synod proceeds before manfully defending the Catholic Church.

Congar of course realizes that the Church hierarchy plays the all-important role of safeguarding the deposit of Faith:

“The hierarchy is the guardian and interpreter of the tradition. It confirms and it condemns. Its first instinct, faced with a prophetic initiative, is to pull back (or at least to be reserved) and sometimes even to refuse or disown it. In the process of discernment and purification, by way of returning to the depth of principles, this moment of checkmate or even of condemnation plays an important role that can be positive, despite appearances. For this precisely is what forces a return to the sources. It obliges the reformer not to be satisfied with a mechanical adaptation or a simple introduction of some new element.”

The hierarchy should confirm those reforms that are consistent with the Catholic Faith and condemn those that conflict with it. What happens, though, when the “guardians of tradition” fully embrace the spirit of the reformers and have open disdain for actual “tradition”?

This question (and the relevance of the entire topic) becomes more relevant when we consider the words of Francis to open his Synod on Synodality:

“Dear brothers and sisters, may this Synod be a true season of the Spirit! For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy. The Holy Spirit guides us where God wants us to be, not to where our own ideas and personal tastes would lead us.  Father Congar, of blessed memory, once said: ‘There is no need to create another Church, but to create a different Church’ (True and False Reform in the Church). That is the challenge. For a ‘different Church,’ a Church open to the newness that God wants to suggest, let us with greater fervour and frequency invoke the Holy Spirit and humbly listen to him, journeying together as he, the source of communion and mission, desires: with docility and courage.”

So an important inspiration for Francis’s Synod is the work of Congar quoted above, which is essentially a blueprint for heretics and schismatics to remain in good standing in the Church by having adequate patience with their reforms. And, tragically, after six decades of the innovators having successfully pushed their lies within the Church, Francis no longer needs to hide his intention to “create a different Church” with his Synod. For purposes of Congar’s analysis, the Spirit of Vatican II has effectively created a “tradition” of openly overturning “tradition.”

Silence tacitly endorses the work of the innovators, allowing them to freely destroy the Church.

Thus architects of the the disastrous Synod on Synodality can openly promote heretical and schismatic ideas while claiming to be “grounded in Tradition,” as we see from the Synod’s Preparatory Document:

“Enlightened by the Word and grounded in Tradition, the synodal path is rooted in the concrete life of the People of God. In fact, it presents a peculiarity that is also an extraordinary resource: its object—synodality— is also its method. In other words, it constitutes a sort of construction site or pilot experience that makes it possible to immediately begin reaping the fruits of the dynamic that progressive synodal conversion introduces into the Christian community. On the other hand, it can only refer to the experiences of synodality lived, at different levels and with different degrees of intensity: valuable elements for discernment on the direction in which to continue to move are offered by their strengths and achievements, and also by their limitations and difficulties. Of course, here, reference is made to the experiences activated by the present synodal journey, but also to all those in which forms of ‘journeying together’ are already being experienced in ordinary life, even if the term synodality is not known or used.”

St. Pius X would recognize this as the work of the Modernists he condemned over one hundred years ago. And, fittingly, Francis and his collaborators would see St. Pius X as rigid and divisive. As the Preparatory Document suggests, those who think like St. Pius X are the “extra” actors in the Synod, the only people in the world who are not especially welcome in the Synod:

“Then, there is the ‘extra’ actor, the antagonist, who brings to the scene the diabolical separation of the other three. Faced with the perturbing prospect of the cross, there are disciples who leave and mood-changing crowds. The insidiousness that divides—and, thus, thwarts a common path—manifests itself indifferently in the forms of religious rigor, of moral injunction that presents itself as more demanding than that of Jesus, and of the seduction of a worldly political wisdom that claims to be more effective than a discernment of spirits. In order to escape the deceptions of the ‘fourth actor,’ continuous conversion is necessary.”

Alas, when the true “guardians of tradition” fail to banish the heretical innovators they will eventually find that tradition itself has been banished.

The problems are so deep now due, at least in part, to a generalized apathy which stifles such an instinct precisely when it is most needed.

As a result, the situation now is dire and the path to a Catholic restoration does not appear clear. But that does not mean we are powerless to oppose the attacks on the Faith. As St. Pius X wrote regarding his own role as pope in Pascendi, it is essential for those bishops and priests who still have the Faith to break their silence:

“Still it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the cross of Christ has in these last days increased exceedingly, who are striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ's kingdom itself. Wherefore We may no longer be silent, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty, and lest the kindness that, in the hope of wiser counsels, We have hitherto shown them, should be attributed to forgetfulness of Our office.”

“Wherefore, as to maintain it longer would be a crime, We must now break silence, in order to expose before the whole Church in their true colours those men who have assumed this bad disguise.”

The innovators — like their leader, the Father of Lies — do all they can to convince good Catholics to avoid criticizing their wicked plans. Several priests and bishops have raised their voices in opposition of Traditionis Custodes to prevent the harm to souls deprived of the Tridentine Mass, but how many bishops and priests have spoken out against the Synod, which threatens the entire Mystical Body of Christ? Given that Francis opened the Synod by quoting Congar in support of “creating a different Church,” we ought to reflect on whether St. Pius X would consider it a “crime” to wait and see how the Synod proceeds before manfully defending the Catholic Church. Indeed, such silence tacitly endorses the work of the innovators, allowing them to freely destroy the Church.

Beyond defending Catholic Truth as valiantly as possible, it is clear that we must pray that God intervenes for the good of souls and His Church. It seems that in healthier periods of Church history many more faithful Catholics would realize the need to become saints — but the problems are so deep now due, at least in part, to a generalized apathy which stifles such an instinct precisely when it is most needed.

We should ask ourselves how much longer God will tolerate that apathy.

But we should ask ourselves how much longer God will tolerate that apathy. As Our Lady of Fatima said a decade after St. Pius X wrote Pascendi, “I have come to ask men to repent of their sins, to change their lives, to stop offending Our Lord who is already offended so much, and to recite the Holy Rosary.”

Francis and Cupich mock our Catholic Tradition, thinking that they will face no real opposition from Catholics who meekly beg them to let us keep what God has given to us. Let us instead fervently beg God to give all of us the graces we need to fight like saints. And may God grant the bishops especially all the grace, wisdom, and strength St. Pius X prayed for them to have: 

“Meanwhile, Venerable Brethren, fully confident in your zeal and work, we beseech for you with our whole heart and soul the abundance of heavenly light, so that in the midst of this great perturbation of men's minds from the insidious invasions of error from every side, you may see clearly what you ought to do and may perform the task with all your strength and courage. May Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, be with you by His power; and may the Immaculate Virgin, the destroyer of all heresies, be with you by her prayers and aid. And We, as a pledge of Our affection and of divine assistance in adversity, grant most affectionately and with all Our heart to you, your clergy and people the Apostolic Benediction.”

Immaculate Virgin Mary, destroyer of all heresies, pray for us!

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Last modified on Friday, February 11, 2022
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.